“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”
--John F. Kennedy
In my youth, being different was not something you had to be ashamed of. Quite the contrary, being different was almost a badge of honor. It was a simpler time. Where I came from anyone who ever had a rare talent, whether it was in the arts or in science or math was almost revered in school. It is probably a good thing I was born when I was. As a youth I was given to fits of melancholy and had I been growing up today, I may not have made it through high school. I’m not sure when it happened in the youth culture, or maybe it has always been so but today there seems to be a premium put on conformity and hegemony. Anyone who strays from the pack so to speak is ridiculed, ostracized, and yes even bullied. Kids always try to “fit in” so to speak but there was a time when almost anyone could find a clique to “fit in” to. Not so much anymore.
Bullying has become a national and dare I say it an international problem. Kids, especially in middle school and high school years have tremendous pressure these days to conform to whatever standard is set by their peers. Perhaps it is a phenomenon attributed to the rise of social media but I suspect it is more a product of childhood insecurity about “being different” that is to blame. I was looking at recent statistics about bullying and I was shocked at the numbers. Almost every month in the US, over a quarter million kids are attacked, 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of bullying, 10% of the dropout rate is attributed to bullying and sadly, almost a half a million kids either talk about or attempt suicide each year because they were bullied in school.
Ivan L. Wilzig better known as the recording artist Sir Ivan is taking a stand against bullies. Sir Ivan has had several charted songs in the Billboard Club Play Charts and has always been a believer in individuality and inclusion instead of exclusion. Sir Ivan has released a new single called “Kiss All The Bullies Goodbye” and has no less than ten distinct mixes of the song that will appeal to just about any musical taste. Sir Ivan believes that bullying must stop and we should celebrate our differences rather than punish them. Sir Ivan, through his philanthropic Peaceman Foundation has made major donations to anti-bullying organizations such as The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youth. He is also putting his money where his mouth is by donating $100,000 to 10 non-profit organizations that have strong anti-bullying programs, and is giving away the net proceeds from the song “Kiss All the Bullies Goodbye” to these organizations. In this “me” oriented society we live in, it is heartening to see an artist willing to take a stand against an epidemic problem and contribute his time, effort, and yes, money to a cause in which he believes. Look for the song, buy the song, and let’s help Sir Ivan educate and eradicate bullying once and for all.
Imagine, if you will, a band with a lead singer who sounds a little like a young Elvis Costello with better tone, and a backing group writing and playing infectious pop tunes in a variety of styles. Add to that a producer and arranger who knows how to get the most out his musicians and not afraid to experiment with horns, and sounds that complement the songs. If you can imagine that, you don’t have to look farther than the music metropolis of Milwaukee Wisconsin to find it. Ian & The Dream is the band and according to their press, these three high school chums formed the band in 2008. Ian Ash is the lead singer, guitarist, and doubles on keyboards. Chivo is the bass player and Brian Farvour pounds the drums.
I&TD released a 7 song EP in 2012 and have followed that up with a full length album called “California Cauliflower” which was released in September of 2014. The album is a full on assault of the senses and an infectious pop collection guaranteed to have your toes tapping and songs that you just can’t get out of your head. The album starts off with “Girl From California”, an homage to California pop music reminiscent of everything from The Beach Boys to The Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Steppin’ On My Shoes” follows with a happy reggae beat that makes you think of chilling on a deserted beach. The title track checks in as track 5 and again embodies the California pop feel and picks up the mantle and moves the genre forward into the 21st century.
The songwriting on the album is clever and enticing, the production is first rate and the performances are flawless. Ian & The Dream is definitely a band that is going places and if you’re a fan, get on board now. If you’re not, you will be soon enough.
Recently, I have been marveling over song craft. I have wondered if the bands that came out of the music industry in the 70’s and 80’s were really the best that the industry could offer. Not having the opportunity to hear the thousands of songs that were written by “indie” artists during the time period, I wondered. Now having gone back and listened to many of the greats, I am convinced that they deserved to hold that lofty place in the industry. The songs they wrote were just plain good, by any standard. It all starts with the song.
Heavy AmericA is an original alternative hard rock band out of Boston, MA. This power trio was formed in 2013 and have just released their debut album independently. The band is Mike Seguin on guitars and vocals and keys, Dan Fried on drums and vocals and Budd Lapham on bass and vocals. I wish I could gush about how the band “brings forth the change so desperately needed in rock music” but I would not be doing a service to anyone. Not to be all negative, there are some bright moments on their self-titled debut album. The very first track starts off with a Nickleback inspired riff and builds into a hard driving rocker. The fourth song on the album “Under Glass” starts off with a soulful bass line and settles into a very pleasant groove. The song “Daddy” has a riff right out of the Green Day song book. Unfortunately, the songwriting on the album is not up to the standards I would expect from a band looking to bring a change to modern rock music.
The musicians here are skilled and seem to play well together but again, the songwriting leaves much to be desired. I don’t hear much being said here. The best advice I could give would be to have their principal songwriter take a creative writing workshop and learn how to express emotions and instill the sense of imagination and discovery in their music. I think this could be a very talented band but as I said, it all begins with the song and I don’t hear a well written song here in the bunch.
There are pros and cons to almost every situation. I have spoken and written about the music industry many times in the past and as usual, I am on the fence about the state of the industry today. First let’s look at the pros. Music provides a creative outlet for many individuals who otherwise might have none. The cost of entry these days is comparatively small. For the cost of a good microphone and a basic computer program, anyone can record an album. Corporate America is no longer holding the key to what you can discover in the music business. Sites like Reverbnation, Bandcamp and Noise Trade are filled with musicians trying to distribute their products without the need of a corporate master. Now for the cons. Almost anyone can now record an album and distribute it online and that’s not always a good thing. There is so much music available now it can be difficult to sift through the mediocre and find the gems out there. I see lots of artists that compare themselves to known established acts and once you are suckered in to make the click, there is absolutely no resemblance to those established acts.
The fact of the matter is, very few musicians these days are actually making a living off of their music. The reality is that music is a “hobby” or a pleasant diversion from their daily routine. Luca Bash is one such musician living the dichotomy of today’s music business. He states very plainly on his website that he lives in two worlds, the one world of jobs and responsibilities and the other world of creativity and expression. Such is the case for far too many “artists” of today. Luca’s newest project, CMYK is a 5 song EP consisting 1 single “Your Tomorrow” and 4 songs from the CMYK project. “The CMYK is a project made by 4 EPs that represent all the songs written since 2003 by Luca Bash.” The “band” Luca Bash is actually an acoustic duo consisting of Luca Bash & Giova Pes. The two met and started playing together in 2007 but it wasn’t until 2012 that the two embarked on the CYMK project.
Luca is “convinced that a song played properly with two guitar and voice is enough” and we couldn’t agree more. Provided of course that the songs themselves represent quality material and that’s exactly what we have on this particular EP and if you explore further, on all of the EP’s in the CYMK project. Song after song, Luca delivers heartfelt lyrics surrounded by sparse but ample arrangements and showcases the work of a true artist, not a part time hobbyist.
Uncle Duke; a.k.a. Rob Penland is the producer and host of "The Mad Music Asylum" a 4 hour weekly syndicated radio show and now a 24 hour streaming internet station.