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Curtis Heimburger (Mom Rock) – The BIRN Interview

Founded during their first year at Berklee College of Music, Mom Rock is a lively alternative rock group influenced by bands like Weezer, Talking Heads and Catfish and the Bottlemen. Recently hitting over 333,000+ streams on Spotify and quickly winning over a dedicated following, they’re climbing to success quicker than ever. 

Today, we’re chatting with Mom Rock’s founding member and the BIRN’s station manager Curtis Heimburger, about the story behind Mom Rock’s formation, the scoop on Boston’s underground music scene, and exciting new projects coming up. 

Curtis, congratulations on Mom Rock’s singles “Conversation” and “Grand Romantic Life” reaching over 100K Spotify streams! Can you tell us a bit about how you met the other members of Mom Rock, and what led up to you guys working together? 

Thank you so much! Well at the beginning of my first semester, there was an impromptu jam session in the basement of the 270 Commonwealth Dorms. We were going around the room playing songs we knew and somehow we started playing an Alabama Shakes tune. I was really into them at the time and so was Josh Polack who had been standing next to me playing guitar. So, we connected that way and would see each other and talk at the cafeteria a bunch. After we got back from Christmas break and had started our 2nd semesters, Josh and I were chatting and he said he’d talked to a drummer, Wilson Reardon, about setting up a jam and wanted me to come. After that initial practice we decided we wanted to meet up again and tentatively agreed on trying to form a band. We later recruited our first bass player Miguel Aragon who played with us for our first few shows from March until May when we all had to part ways for the summer. Before the summer ended, he told us he wanted to leave the band so that he could pursue other musical endeavors. So, we’re once again bass-less. At the start of our 3rd semester, we held auditions to find a new bass player and Josh had mentioned he’d recently reconnected with an old friend and bandmate, Tara Maggiulli, who he had invited to audition. Right away we knew we wanted her in the band and a year later, here we are!

Why did you decide to call yourselves “Mom Rock”? 

Well when we were trying to come up with a name, we were trying to go for something that sounded cool. I had come up with a few names and among them was Mom Rock, which was definitely the odd one out. But Wilson, Miguel, and I, half joking and half serious, wanted to name the band that. Josh was hesitant at first but later admitted he’d really come around to liking the name. We see it as a way to thank all moms, but our moms especially, for all the hard work they did raising us and the work they still put in day to day. Plus, we wanted to take the spotlight off Dad Rock for a while.

What were your initial expectations for Mom Rock, if you had any? Did you ever foresee the success you’re currently experiencing?  

I wouldn’t say I had any expectations going into it. I just knew that I wanted to be playing shows as well as writing and recording music again. I never would’ve thought we’d be where we are at all! I couldn’t be more grateful for our fans and friends who attend every show and listen to our music.

Can you describe the (literal) underground music scene in Allston, for those who have never been to a basement show? Do you perform those basement shows differently from more traditional concerts at venues? 

Well, every year when college kids move out of their dorms, most will find two or three friends to split apartment rooms throughout the Boston area. But some will get about 8-10 people to go in on a house together and will use their basement for house shows. Within the year, the venues grow in popularity and have show’s every other, if not every weekend. When the leases are up, the scene resets and we get a new set of venues. Some of course renew their leases or just move houses and keep the name, but for the most part it’s ever changing which is what makes it so exciting. The scene is a win win win situation; people get the chance to go see their friends play as well as listen to new bands for cheap, Bands get a local venue to play at where they know people will attend all the while getting paid, and the venue takes a cut of the door to help with rent or utilities. I think every city/town should have a system like this. Getting shows at bars and clubs isn’t easy when you’re just starting out and having a good place to play can help get anyone’s feet off the ground. As for our performance, it’s definitely where we feel most comfortable. But since we like to move around a lot, it can feel pretty cramped. No matter what though it’s the same moves, same songs, and same energy!

What was your experience at Mom Rock’s first ever show vs. the most recent one? 

Our first show was in March of 2018 at the Great Scott upstairs venue. We were definitely shaky and made quite a few mistakes but it was a bunch of fun and we put on a good show. I remember I wore my favorite Hawaiian shirt and we covered “Lithium” by Nirvana, “Just” by Radiohead, and “My Name Is Jonas” by Weezer. Regardless of how we did though I was shaking with anticipation. I was so incredibly excited to be playing again and to be honest, that feeling doesn’t really go away. Our most recent show was a house show charity event where we played last out of 6 bands. It was a long night and we were all pretty tired before we were about to play but as soon as we got on that stage we lit up and gave the best show we could. The one thing that hasn’t changed is our presence on stage. We love giving people a show and if the audience is into it, then we’re into it.

Looking at your visual aesthetic and musical influences, you definitely have a lot of 80s/90s nostalgia going on. How do you incorporate that into your music while also bringing something fresh and modern to the table? 

At the start, before we even rehearsed, me and Josh wanted to do something in the same vain and style as Weezer. It was one of the few bands we completely agreed on musically and lyrically and we kind of used that as a base. After writing the first couple songs we started to realize that it was a bit of a melting pot of both Josh’s and I’s music taste. We wanted our music to be accessible and fun but also have some grittiness and honesty to it. Plus, we had noticed that there were very few bands in the scene putting on a show with energetic/fun songs. The aesthetic is a much different story though. I was at a friend’s house when I spotted in her closet, this purple and gold two-piece jumpsuit. I had never really seen anything like it. I asked her about it and she said it didn’t fit her so she was going to return it. Being the person I am, I immediately asked to try it on and it turned out it fit! …sort of. I paid her $40 for it and showed the band who also loved it. Slowly over the following months, the band looked high and low for their own unique jumpsuit and color. Having set outfits is of course not a new concept but you rarely see bands in something other than what is basically street clothes. Even just having a set t-shirt you wear is better than nothing. We just really want to give people something to look at as well as help people remember who we are and I think it’s worked out pretty well so far. 

How would you break down Mom Rock’s general writing process? Is there one person who is good at coming up with the concept and lyrics, while another member’s strong suit might be melody and arrangement? 

Josh and I are currently the only songwriters in the band but we always like to bounce our ideas off each other when we can. We both like to write the entirety of a song by ourselves and if we think we’re finished or we get stuck, we’ll go to the other person to get their take. Once we both think we got a good finished song, we’ll show it to Tara and Wilson to get their thoughts. Songs are always open for critique but we also have a rule that every song gets a chance to be played by the band before we make the decision to add it to the set or not.

Mom Rock has been releasing singles pretty consistently, so what’s coming next? Can fans anticipate an album in 2020, or possibly a tour? 

You can definitely expect a few more songs to be released between now and next semester! Most likely not an album but quite possibly an EP. We’ve also actually just booked flights to go to Austin, Texas over our Spring break so we can have the chance to play in SXSW as well some other venues around Texas. Last but definitely not least, I won’t say too much but new outfits are currently in the works and are being handcrafted by my very own Mother so stay tuned!!

Thank you, Curtis! 

Be sure to check out Mom Rock’s performance on birnCORE live, coming up at 8PM on December 5! The show will also feature Weakened Friends and Lady Pills. Tickets are on sale now: https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/8508282

birnCORE Live featuring Weakened Friends, Lady Pills and Mom Rock is next week!

Get your tickets to birnCORE Live, fall 2019! The show is next Thursday, December 5 at 8:00 p.m. featuring Weakened Friends, Lady Pills and Mom Rock.

Admission is $10 in advance, with a student discount for $8, and can be purchased here.

To win a pair of tickets to the show send an email with your contact phone number to tickets@thebirn.com. Make sure you have birnCORE Live as the subject for the email! Good Luck and see you next week.

Ryan’s Album of the Year Pick: Matt Maltese’s “Krystal”

Matt MalteseKrystal – indie rock

As 2019 comes to a close, we can look back and confidently say that it will be remembered as a fantastic year for music. The sheer amount of talent from independent artist this year has been surreal, and picking a favorite album  was incredibly difficult, but I believe that one artist in particular stands out from the rest! Matt Maltese’s Krystal is beautiful, yet hard to describe,  it’s an incredibly complex and dynamic album that leaves you listening over and over again, trying to pick out all the subtle nuances of each track. Matt has such a distinct tone that stands out from the rest and classifies him in a league of his own. Matt uses incredibly satisfying and unique blends of old school arrangements, and modern songwriting to create an incredibly fresh and unique sound that I have yet to hear anywhere else. His lyric’s range from the dark and obscure, to soft and tender and tote the line of pure poetry. Everything Matt has done in the past has taken on a life of its own, and his latest release is no different. If you’ve never heard of Matt Maltese, I cant recommend him enough!

Recommended Tracks: “Rom-Com Gone Wrong” and “When You Wash Your Hair”

Give Krystal a listen below!

Kelsey’s Album of the Year Pick: David Huss’ “Intuition”

David Huss Intuition – folk

2019 has been a great year for music. As I think back to all of the amazing albums I’ve been fortunate to review, one album stands out – David HussIntuition. Each song on Intuition has its own story and feeling, while still working to create a beautiful folk sound that could only belong to Huss. Some standout features of the album are Huss‘ honest vocals, heartwarming lyrics, steady fingerpicking, and smooth fiddle lines. One of the most exciting aspects of Intuition is how well it showcases Huss‘ strength as a songwriter. Each song is a journey, painting a picture for listeners through various instruments, harmonies, and melodic shapes. One great example of this skill is the song “Wings”. The track takes its time to build in a natural and pleasing way; it begins with vocals and acoustic guitar from Huss and slowly grows into a full and welcoming sound with vocal harmonies, brushes, and strumming. “Wings” is an outstanding and gorgeous track from Intuition – one of many that are all worth a listen! Check out Intuition below!

Ryan’s Prime Slices of the Week (11/18 – 11/23): The Districts, Hoops

The Districts – “Hey Jo” [single] – indie rock

Indie rock’s newest shining star is a band called The Districts, and they’re making big strides! Featuring a light ambient arrangement and a smooth emotive vocal cutting through the mix, this song is an up and coming indie anthem, leaving us all excited to hear what’s next! The lyrics of this tune paint an uncertainty and pain of being left behind. This single from The Districts  newest album “You Know Im Not Going Anywhere” that is set to release in the coming months.

Were are all very excited to hear what they come out with next, so give it a listen and see for yourself!

 

Hoops – “They Say” [single] – indie rock

Releasing their newest single in two years, Indiana dreampop trio, Hoops are back after a long hiatus and better than ever! This track breaks into a smooth funk inspired  groove that gets you moving before the first word. The smooth vocal styling swaddles the entire song in warmth, and relaxation tying the entire arrangement together. “They Say” is a feel good song that’s bound for the charts and we’re all excited to have them back! Hoops are on tour for the first time since their hiatus and you can see them live, December 4th at The Dance in New York City!

Listen down below!

Show Review: Gus Dapperton at Royale (11/15)

Friday night was one to remember for Gus Dapperton fanatics and new listeners alike. After opening acts Yendawg and Spencer riled up the crowd, the anticipation was higher than ever as fans were pressed up against the bars, waiting for the big moment. 

Gus’ arrival was just as “Gus Dapperton” as it could get. As each band member took their place while kicking off the opening song “Verdigris”, Gus pranced up to his microphone and greeted Boston warmly with his goofy moves. He then immediately captivated the audience as he smoothly transitioned his classic debut, “Moodna, Once With Grace”–in which he swayed with his bassist in the midst of the performance, a memorable moment for fans. 

His band–consisting of his sister Amadelle and his close friends from home, have a special dynamic and chemistry that is incredibly welcoming. The band felt just as important to the show as Gus Dapperton himself, often a difficult balance to achieve for solo acts. Gus’s band gives him the ability to truly own the show–you can tell by the way he freely moves across the stage, interacts with the other members and engages the audience whenever he wants. His energy radiates into the crowd effortlessly, and I think it’s safe to say that his band plays a significant role in that. 

Before he broke out into “Of Lacking Spectacle”, a fan favorite, he said to the crowd: “I’m gonna put my guitar down for a little bit and dance”. Along with being a skilled guitarist, producer, vocalist, and songwriter–Gus is widely known for his odd yet endearing dance moves. Often improvising along the way, he isn’t afraid to bring his personality into it–even if that means kicking his feet in the air and looking silly. Astonishingly, Gus perfectly kept up his powerful vocals while playing guitar and jumping up and down simultaneously. Depending on the song’s energy, he would either sing with a soft, calming falsetto or break out into raspy metal-like vocals. Gus certainly has a way of bringing great versatility to his synth-based music, even incorporating acoustic guitar into his performance at one point. 

One upbeat song after another, there was finally a pause. You could feel the excitement of the crowd even through the silence–not knowing what was coming next. “You guys can dance for this one if you want to,” said Gus. Everyone immediately screamed, recognizing the opening guitar riff immediately as he began performing “Prune, You Talk Funny”: the song he may be most well known for. Not a single person in the room was standing still, and it was endearing to see his band jumping in sync together. Gus seemed just as excited to play this one as the whole audience was to hear it. Gus’s genuine love for his art shines through the commitment he has to each song he plays, all the while maintaining a steady humbleness. And even when the screams died down during the ballads, you could hear the lingering excitement within the silence. There’s a distinguishable difference between a bored crowd and a crowd that’s listening–and you could tell that most people in the room were hanging onto every one of Gus’ words. 

Seeing the Royale filled with such a wide variety of faces and ages, it’s admirable to see how much Gus’s following has expanded over the past year or so. He puts on such an entertaining show purely by acing the art of performance, something that even some superstars fail at. If there’s one thing I figured out at this concert, it’s that you don’t get the full “Gus Dapperton experience” until you see him perform. 

Show Review: Emily Bear at Cafe 939 (11/8)

On Friday night, Emily Bear captivated a loyal audience of friends, family, and fans that filled the room at Café 939. On tour promoting her new Emotions EP, Emily Bear reinvented the atmosphere of Cafe 939 in a way that was uniquely her own. 

From beginning to end, Bear immediately broke down the walls that separate the artist from the audience with her casual demeanor and charming personality, converting strangers into fans. With every song came personal stories with themes ranging from feeling the pain of heartbreak to owning that same pain and repurposing it in a positive way. She moved the audience with these stories, illustrating them with transparency proving her emotional depth.

One of the most interesting elements of Emily’s performance was the way she utilized her classical piano background to compliment her more contemporary pop songs. With the support of her band (Max Gerl, Kyle Thornton, and Nathan Hicks), her swift piano phrases merged effortlessly with her rich voice. As the show progressed, the intimate nature of the performance was heightened by the distinct chemistry Emily had with her band. During every solo, each band member displayed their reverence for one another, flashing faces of approval as if in a jam session. Some of my favorite moments involved her moving from the center stage keyboard to the grand piano that hung back with the band. It was special to witness her pouring all her energy into complex classical arrangements after being astonished by the tremendous piano skills she maintained while singing her original music. 

The room was especially impressed by her rendition of Elvis Presley’s, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” and The Beach Boys’, “God Only Knows,” showcasing her voice in a way unlike any of the other songs. Throughout the show, Emily progressively proved her songwriting prowess, with every original sounding different from the last. Her capabilities were even more notable when she sang a new original called “Ghosted” that she had only performed once the night before. With relatable lyrical content that elevated in the pre-chorus atop a bassline driven arrangement, “Ghosted” is a strong representation of Emily Bear’s songwriting chops.

 With an exceedingly high level of talent and character, Emily Bear is down-to-earth and carries herself with grace, possessing the potential to command the world stage. As an experienced musician, songwriter, and vocalist, she brings a heavy arsenal to the table and is able to wear a lot of hats. The capability she has to achieve greatness was apparent at her show on Friday and I hope to see more from her in the future.

Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (11/18-11/23): Ásgeir, Låpsley

Ásgeir – “Youth” [single] – singer-songwriter

Ásgeir‘s single “Youth” could not have come at a better time. With mellow fingerpicking and relaxed vocals, it’s the perfect soundtrack for Fall. Ásgeir creates a beautiful aesthetic in “Youth”, using brass, snare, and harmonies to do so. The track features simple lyrics and melodies that work to highlight Ásgeir‘s calming vocals. As “Youth” progresses, the tracks layer and build on one another to create a symphony of various timbres and feels, all while maintaining one inviting and cohesive sound. It’s truly an amazing and unique experience for listeners. Don’t miss out on Ásgeir – check out “Youth” below!

Continue reading “Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (11/18-11/23): Ásgeir, Låpsley”

Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (11/11-11/16): The Deer, Wolf & Moon

The DeerDo No Harm – folk

The Austin-based band The Deer has an eclectic sound that makes the group memorable and lovable. The Deer‘s latest album, Do No Harm, establishes the band’s unique artistry through featuring different sounds and techniques on each song. From pedal steels to strings and group harmonies – Do No Harm is full of lovely surprises that make the album stand out from others. Each track highlights different moods, from the psychedelic ballad, “Dissolve”, to the upbeat and dance-worthy tracks, “Confetti to the Hurricane” and “Swoon”. Overall, Do No Harm showcases The Deer‘s Western influences while also establishing the band’s unique voice and modern take to the folk genre. Each track has its own voice, but they all work together to create one beautiful and fun sound that can only belong to The Deer. Don’t miss out on such an incredible album and band – check out The Deer‘s Do No Harm below!

Continue reading “Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (11/11-11/16): The Deer, Wolf & Moon”

Kate Davis – The BIRN Interview

It’s been a long wait for Kate Davis to finally showcase her debut album to the world. Growing up a jazz musician, Davis’s musical journey took an unexpected turn–she went from a young teen playing bass in the Grammy Jazz Ensemble to becoming an indie rock singer-songwriter as she entered adulthood. After immersing herself in the New York City music scene for years, performing at almost every iconic New York venue you can think of from The Bowery Electric to Carnegie Hall, she is now touring worldwide to promote Trophy— her latest creation.

BIRN: You must’ve written tons of songs leading up to this release, how did you figure out which songs would fit under the theme of “Trophy”? Did you ever feel disappointed about eliminating certain songs?

KD: I definitely eliminated a bunch of songs – my contenders list for Trophy was quite long. I was looking through every song I had ever written just to make sure I had the perfect track listing for my first album. Some of the songs were written very recently and had a different kind of maturity so they were pretty obvious choices. Some of the older songs needed a little reworking, a change of perspective, or a smarter approach to the arrangement. Production helped to bring all of the songs to the same universe. I am really happy with how the songs on Trophy reflect my journey as a songwriter, but also a person.

BIRN: Your song “Open Heart” is such a unique play on the concept of open heart surgery. What’s the story behind it?

KD: I wrote Open Heart a long time ago – I had only been writing for couple of years at that point and was still working on the basics. My dad told me that it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I wrote from my clever side… He was a smart guy and liked smart songs. Around the same time I had a dream about an ex boyfriend involving a game of operation. It was a very surreal and vivid dream. Perfect song fodder. I pieced together a story and tried to be more thoughtful about its construction so that it wasn’t just another song about a relationship.

BIRN: The visuals for Trophy make a pretty bold statement – the album cover is a snapshot of you dressed up in sparkly attire on stage with a frozen facial expression, and your music video for “rbbts” in contrast includes scenes of you drowning in a bathtub and dancing in darkness. Can you talk about what inspired these images?

KD: Life! I think we experience a huge range of emotions as humans and even if our lives aren’t necessarily lived out through emotional bathtub scenes, that doesn’t mean we don’t relate to the experience of feeling the burdens of sadness or grief. The visuals are another way to interpret these pretty basic human experiences that I sing about throughout the record. I hope that the visuals for this album help set the backdrop for the songs and perhaps offer even greater perspective.

BIRN: What do you hope to achieve as an artist between this album release and your next project?

KD: I am of the opinion that good songs are the most important thing an artist can produce and posses. I have been feverishly writing for my next album, but hope that the songs and spirit on Trophy will help take my music and me around the world. I want enough people to care about my work that I just keep getting to make it. Creating a record and refining my aesthetic as an artist has been the most fulfilling part of my life so far.

BIRN: You co-wrote “Seventeen” with Sharon Van Etten on her latest album, which explores the progression of time over generations. What are your personal reflections on witnessing a new generation being born into the same world you live in?

KD: When we were writing the song together, it seemed like I was representing the younger generation that Sharon was sending this empathetic message to. Working with Sharon to relay a message to her younger self was powerful – I took a lot took away from the experience and it encouraged me to be even kinder to my current self. Seeing the younger generation, it’s obvious that they are living in a different world than the one I came up in. In some ways they seem to be more wise and more aware, but still struggle with more modern issues. I feel a deep respect for the younger generation because they have the power and the desire to make change. Not that the older generations don’t – it’s just as much our responsibility – but the younger ppl I know are strong, unique, informed, sensitive (all traits we should all aspire to). Even in the age of living online, they are not afraid to be real.

BIRN: What would you consider to be a “productive” co-writing session?

KD: Anything that yields work that you feel proud of.

BIRN: You’ve performed all over New York City but you’re originally from Portland, Oregon. What would you say are the differences between both cities’ live music scenes?

KD: I love Portland and I am very grateful for the classical and jazz scenes that I got to grow up in. Both deeply affected that musician that I would ultimately become. Since I was much younger, my time in Portland was much more about institutions, education, private lessons, and high school band experiences. It was very specific. I had so many mentors who were so kind and generous and parents who were committed to seeing me through the best possible education in music. Out here in NYC I’ve experienced more of a community of peers. Though I am still a very diligent student of music, I learn and experience things now in a much different way. If anything, the scene out here is more conducive to my current aspirations and learning goals as an artist. It’s amazing to have access to a diverse music community and to a city that is overflowing with artists of all kinds.

BIRN: As a music school alumni, do you have any special words for current Berklee students who are unsure of where their path in music will take them?

KD: Sometimes I wish that I could go back and tell my freshman year self that its ok to take the path less traveled. Music education extends far beyond the classroom walls. Never doubt that you know what you like. Knowing pretty early on that I wanted to break away from what was expected of me, I definitely was working towards becoming a unique artist. It was just hard to go in 100%. I settled into two separate lives where I would “work” for money and write for fun. Life circumstances make everything more complicated, but if you know what you want, be bold. Trust your instincts and work as hard as you can to get to the place that you dream about. Most importantly though, don’t regret anything. Every part of the journey helps guide you to where you gotta go – even if parts are pretty brutal.

Tune into birnCORE to hear indie rock artist Kate’s live performance at Cafe 939 with Jesse Ruben coming up on Saturday, November 16!

The show starts at 8 PM and you can stream it here.

The BIRN has a pair of tickets for you to win to see this show. To win the tickets, send an email and your contact phone number to tickets@thebirn.com by Thursday, November 14 at 11:59 p.m. Make sure to have Kate and Jesse in the subject line. The winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!