Velour's 2016 Winter Battle Of The Bands: Brother., Michael Barrow, Elytra | Buzz Blog

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Velour's 2016 Winter Battle Of The Bands: Brother., Michael Barrow, Elytra

A chat with some of the finalists from this year's BOTB.

Posted By on December 14, 2016, 12:01 PM

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This past weekend, I made my way down to Provo to serve as a judge for their 2016 Winter Battle Of The Bands. Every year I get to do this it is an awesome experience, both in meeting the finalists and enjoying one of the best live music vibes in the state. This year's finalists included Elytra, Michael Barrow, Brother., Mojave Nomads and this year's winners (as well as returning finalists) Grey Glass. This by far was one of the most spirited years, with a mix of genres and bands from different parts of the Wasatch Front all playing for a great crowd. Today we chat with the first three bands on that list, accompanied by photos from that evening's performances.

Brother. (Chuck Emery, Erika Goodwin, Nathan Standage & Tyler Gooch)
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Brother. on Facebook

Hey gang, first off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Chuck: Originally we started in St. George in late 2013 as a solo project. After moving to Provo, Brother. became an acoustic trio, but then decided to go full band. So now Brother. is a four-piece indie rock band with Chuck Emery on vocals/guitar Tyler Gooch guitar/bass/vocals, Erika Goodwin guitar/bass/vocals and Nathan Standage on drums.

What first got you each interested in music and what did you enjoy listening to?

Tyler: I got into music because of my family. They’re very musical, so I grew up playing and singing.

Erika: When I was 10 years old, I found my dad’s guitar and just wanted to start writing songs!

Chuck: I really liked the piano, and my dad was big into the band Kansas. Whenever we would drive anywhere, he would have the best of Kansas CD, and I would always try to sing along.

Nathan: My dad is a jazz pianist, and I grew up watching him play and I wanted to one day play my own stuff.

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What was it like for you each to break into the local music scene?

Tyler: It’s surprisingly easy and hard at the same time. It’s cool because everyone around here is really welcoming to new bands. It’s hard just because there are so many people trying to do the same thing, and while you’re friends, you’re still competing against each other to get the same stuff

How did you all end up meeting each other and becoming friends?

Erika: Chuck and Tyler have been friends for a long time, dating back to middle school. Chuck and I have been friends since early college days in Southern Utah, and Nate met Tyler and Chuck while in the same Mormon ward last summer. Our normal drummer was gone doing summer sales, and Nate was asked to fill in. After the first show, we loved him so much and asked him to stay on full time.

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When did you all come together to form Brother, and why Brother for the name?

Chuck: It means family, and family means a lot.

What made you go for an indie-alt sound for your music?

Nathan: That’s what we listen and that’s what we think is cool. Pop music can be too easy, and we found ourselves stretching the most in our indie-alt sound.

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Do you tend to write music a lot as a group, or do you splinter off and then come back together later?

Tyler: Chuck writes most of the songs, and then we all fill it out together.

What was it like recording your self-titled EP back in 2013 and building up an audience?

Chuck: It was a good tim,e and I didn’t think anything would come from it. I was the only one on it, and so it just ended up kind of being my own thing.

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Back in August, you released your first full-length album, Vol. 1. Why the three-year delay between albums?

Nathan: Mormon missions were a big part of it. And sometimes music ebbs and flows. It’s here now and that’s what we’re excited about.

How was it putting that album together and redefining your sound a bit?

It wasn’t so much fine-tuning our sound, but rather converting the feeling that we wanted to through music, about pushing the story forward. And with our next album, it will continue to sound different as to how we want to tell the story of the lyrics. Our next album will probably sound bigger and fuller as we keep moving, but each piece has its own narrative that we have to tell.

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Are you looking to possibly tour down the road or staying in Utah for now?

Tyler: Always tour, man. We played a show in Las Vegas recently and loved it. We’re definitely always looking to tour, but we have to make sure we find the right opportunity

How has it been for you taking part in this year's winter BOTB at Velour?

Erika: It’s been fun and a great learning experience. Playing in the final was one of our favorite shows to ever perform and I think we’re just going to get better and keep playing music and making great things happen.

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What do you think of the other bands playing the finals, and who have you enjoyed the most?

Chuck: We were surrounded by talent all week long and it was a transcendent experience to see all these talented musicians coming together to take part in what is a great Utah county tradition. We’ve played with a lot of them before and it was fun to get out and give it our all in the competition.

What can we expect from all of you and Brother. going into 2017?

Tour dates, a new EP, and a Grammy, maybe.

Michael Barrow (Alessandro Improta, Michael Barrow, Zach Collier, Trevor Harmon, and (not featured) Reed Perkins)
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Michael Barrow on Facebook

Hey Michael, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well hi there! My name's Michael. I'm from Houston, Texas, I'm studying Spanish Translation at BYU, and I graduate in April. Oh, and I like music.

What bands and musicians first got you interested in music early on?

When I was little, I only listened to music in the car with my dad, and he had like two CDs. My favorite was a Simon and Garfunkel record he had. Through junior high and high school, my tastes changed a lot (my favorite band was Muse for a long time), but once I started writing my own music, I kinda subconsciously drew from those early influences. But that also might be because I'm a lousy electric guitar player so I couldn't actually make any music like the stuff I liked at the time. Either way, I'm happy with where I'm at now.

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What drove you specifically to performing as a solo musician?

You know, that's an interesting question. I really don't feel like a solo musician. It's true that most of the songs my band and I play were written by me, but arranging them has definitely been a very collaborative process. So, I'm not really sure I have an answer for that one. I can tell you that I love writing songs and I love making them awesome with my friends.

How was it for you breaking into the local music scene?

Have I broken in? Cool! I feel like my story isn't very different from that of any other local musician. I wrote some songs, did some open mics, people liked what they heard, and now I'm here.

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What was the big influence to forming a band rather than just carrying on as a one-man show?

So, as I mentioned before, I write most of the songs. A lot of what we play are songs that I used to play by myself acoustically. But it just felt like something was missing, you know? I knew some of those tunes had potential. I think it was that desire to push the limits of those original songs that lead us to form the band.

Do you find it easier to write music on your own and give it to people, or is there still a creative challenge?

My band and I have been together for about nine months now, and we've reached the point where I can show them a song I've been working on and we can jam on it together for a couple of hours and end up with something decent. It's never "easy;" we often go months before feeling like a song is "done." For example, in our preliminary show we played a song one way, and in our rehearsal, before the final show, we found a new way to end it that we liked a billion times more. So it's just this ongoing process. It's really quite fun.

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How did you end up signing with Wish Granted Records?

That's a fun one. Grant, of Wish Granted Records, was actually in a songwriting class with me at BYU. We talked to each other at the end of the semester, and he mentioned the label and told me he'd like me to be a part of it. And the rest is history.

So far you've only released a single, “The List.” Are there any plans to release an EP or full-length down the road?

We may or may not have an album in the works as we speak.

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Do you have any plans to tour outside of Utah yet?

We want to hit up the Pacific Northwest in May! Nothing's set in stone yet, but here in the next couple weeks, we're going to try to get that organized. Stay tuned.

How has it been for you taking part in this year's winter BOTB at Velour?

Such a cool experience! Seriously incredible. It's really validating to know your music is resonating with people. And it's also been way rad to get to know some of the other bands. There are cool people in Provo! Who knew?

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What do you think of the other bands playing the finals and who have you enjoyed the most?

I've gotten to know a couple of the members of Grey Glass during this week just coming to the other preliminary shows together. I enjoy their music as well as their company. Saturday I met Brother. and they're the chillest cats around. Their style of music is probably closest to what I like to listen to, and it's been awesome to see them perform this week.

What can we expect from you going into 2017?

Three things for sure: First, an album. Second, tour. And third, Filling in the blank of "Michael Barrow and the _____." My band needs a name.

Elytra (Janet Chotia, Secily Saunders, Chris Murphy, Lindsay Heath & Scotty Ray)
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Elytra on Facebook

Hey, everybody! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Lindsay: I'm a 35-year-old ex-Mormon, lesbian, SLC native. I've been a musician, songwriter, performer and producer for 18 years. I've honestly been in more bands than I can likely recall, and have my own solo career spanning 13 years with three official album releases of my own compositions. I formed Elytra and have co-written and co-produced all of the songs and recordings. I play drums, piano, and backup vocals.

Janet: I'm Janet. I play bass. I'm a Sag.

Secily: I'm a full-time musician.

Scotty: I grew up in a tiny town, came out of the closet when I was 12 and have basically been a big weirdo my whole life. I never quite know how to answer this question because there are so many facets to who I am.

How did each of you first get involved with music and what did you enjoy listening to growing up?

Lindsay: Artistry and musicianship is in my heritage. My maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather were professionals, and music was both their passion and their careers. I follow in their footsteps. Music literally pumps through my veins. It comes more naturally to me than almost anything. It has always been a part of me and has remained a loyal companion to me in this life. I began playing the piano by ear at two years of age, began self-taught guitar at age six, and drums at age 10. Nirvana has always been huge for me, namely In Utero and Unplugged in New York. Erik Satie. Fiona Apple's first record, Tidal. As a teen I also binged on Tori Amos's first several albums. Radiohead's OK Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac and a number of B-sides were most influential to me. Sonic Youth's entire body of work. PJ Harvey is my be all end all favorite, and has been since I bought Rid Of Me when I was 17. I've always enjoyed listening to music of all genres, though.

Janet: It fostered my love of music. I always had the radio on growing up.

Secily: I started in piano lessons when I was eight, studied at The Cleveland Institute of Music into my teens, drums in high school, guitar in college, music ever since. I didn't listen to a lot of music growing up, spent hours daily practicing piano, though.

Scotty: My first involvement with music was choir in seventh grade but I loved singing my whole life. I grew up listening to a lot of '70s music and bubblegum pop.

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How was it for each of you breaking into the local scene?

Lindsay: I've felt mostly accepted and celebrated in the scene. I suppose I "broke into the local scene" with my fifth band, Redd Tape, when I was 19.

Janet: I've been going to shows as much as possible since age 16. I started jamming with various people in local bands almost immediately.

Secily: I started playing with LDS artists. One of my first gigs was with Alex Boye at Kingsbury Hall. Once I left that scene I played with Debi Graham for a year and in that year we won City Weekly's Band of the Year. After that, I was Music Director at School of Rock. So I've been around, played in most venues, but breaking into any scene, as it were, is always a struggle—or at least for me it has been. I'm not really all that liked.

Scotty: My last project, the Bad Kids Collective, was one of those things that just happened at the right time and was very well received for years. It has been a blast getting to showcase a project that is truly filled with my passions through music.

I've chatted with some of you before in other bands and projects over years. How has it been for each of you coming up through the years and finding bands you enjoy playing in?

Lindsay: A never-ending learning process.

Janet: I've played for love and for pay. Among the original acts I've played with, I pursue projects that I find inspiring.

Secily: Hard but worth it.

Scotty: I truly feel like I lucked out becoming a member of this band, everyone else has so much more experience with live music than me but I have been singing since I was a child and doing things like theater and drag for such a long time that the stage is definitely a comfort zone for me.

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Did all of you know each other for years prior or did some of you just barely meet?

I've known everyone for years.

Secily: I've known Lindsay since Debi Graham days, but this is the first time we have ever played together. Everyone else is new to me.

Scotty: I knew Janet through the Bad Kids for about five years before she joined the band, and Lindsay I met a couple years ago. Secily and Chris are both people I met specifically through and for this band.

What made all of you decide to form a new band, and where did the name Elytra come from?

I formed the band two years ago under a different name, Medusa's Cross. I carefully chose each member of this project based on their personalities, being professional, skilled and talented performers and songwriters. Honestly, my goal was to make an all-star band, and I believe I achieved that.

Secily: I was just lucky to be asked to audition.

Scotty: Elytra is the scientific word for the shell that many winged insects have (beetles, fireflies, ladybugs). The word has a lot of powerful symbolism relating to putting up walls and having a shell to protect yourself emotionally. I believe that through being vulnerable and sharing my story through music we can help create a space where people can let that she'll go and still feel safe, knowing that the people around them were drawn to this music and seeing us play live for the same reasons they may be. Because it encourages people to celebrate who they are.

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What was the inspiration being going for a more dance-pop sound?

It began as an experiment for me. I decided to play with writing simple pop songs (for the first time ever) with the intention of combining highly contrasting musical styles, and using a lot of minor keys (not something you often hear in pop music). I like making dance music. I DJ'd with my solo project, DJ Dances With Wolves, for a few years. I continued to study dance lol for years to come, and during the years making my record, Holy Medicine, though the dance-pop influence doesn't reflect on that record. I also wanted to write a foundation that best suits and showcases Scotty's voice. We've built the sound around that.

Janet: I like to watch people shake their butts.

Secily: At least for me I love pop and prefer writing pop guitar. Daft Punk, The Gap Band, Earth Wind and Fire, Fleetwood Mac, Madonna, Tears for Fears—I love clean, electric guitar riffs and these are just a few of my own influences. I think the band significantly changed sounds when I joined because I'm just that into clean stuff and really don't have a rock background.

Scotty: I don't know if I would say our sound is dance pop. It's got a groovy vibe and a lot of soul with some funk and definitely uses a pop format, but the overall sound is pretty fresh and fun without fitting easily into any one category.

Do you usually write as a group or is there some separation in the writing process?

I wrote the first material, then I brought in each member one at a time. Chris and I wrote/began recording weekly for a few months, then I brought Scotty in. Scotty and I have co-written many songs over the last year and a half. Since the rest of the band has been brought in we've all been writing our own parts and co-writing songs together as a full band as well.

Secily: Most of our songs were written prior to me joining, so I just write my own guitar stuff. But the last three/four songs we have written have been shared with the current lineup. "Embers" started as a guitar riff I was playing during our first rehearsal. Other times Scotty and Lindsay sit at the piano. It's all very collaborative.

Scotty: It's been a pairing of myself and Lindsay most of the time but we have done some writing as an entire band.

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Being relatively new, how has it been getting out and building an audience on this new band?

I've worked as a performing musician in the local scene and beyond for over 18 years. I've learned through experience, and earned respect, networked, and accumulated recognition and support from people in the industry for so long that I knew the doors would open once I was ready. I wasn't ready until now with Elytra. As predicted the doors are opening quickly and easily. I know the difference based on hard past lessons learned.

Janet: Social media is an amazing tool. Plus having a group of people who are no strangers to the SLC scene, we all have our long time supporters.

Secily: The music has fortunately been pretty good at getting people to notice us. Scotty's voice draws people in. But seeing that I'm basically 40 and have played in basically a billion bands it's no surprise it's hard to get my friends and family to shows. Also, remember, I'm not really all that liked.

Scotty: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The sky seems to be the limit with this project.

So far you've only released a couple of singles. Are you working on an album yet or just playing for now?

We're focused on releasing singles at the moment, but we have material in the works for an album.

Janet: We are currently working on writing and playing shows.

Secily: We are constantly doing whatever we can to progress, whether that is writing, recording, rehearsing or doing boring ol' office work stuff.

Scotty: We are writing pretty regularly. We have six songs released through Bandcamp, five of them are on iTunes and Spotify as well. We will likely release another EP in a few months!

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Would you like to head out and tour or is that something you're not interested in doing at the moment?

I can't wait to tour. Now that I've years of experience touring and know the challenges, learning from mistakes, and appreciating the unique rewards. I'm ready.

Janet: Our current strategy is to play all the festivals next year. All over the west!

Secily: I'm always up for a worthwhile tour but you won't be seeing me sleeping in a cold van eating ramen—I'm way too old for that.

Scotty: Definitely want to tour!

How has it been for you taking part in this year's winter BOTB at Velour?

It was fun and an honor to play alongside such great talent.

Janet: It was a cool experience for me. I really enjoyed it.

Secily: It was really awesome to even get chosen to play at all. We are really new and from Salt Lake City, which is always a gamble for Velour. We were really surprised to have made it past the first night and consider it quite the honor.

Scotty: For me personally it was sort of terrifying at the beginning because the crowd was so young and primarily made up of kids from BYU. I am used to performing in front of drunk people at places like gay bars, where what I am wearing or how much makeup is on my face does not even faze people, so it definitely gave me a big personal challenge to just do me, and not worry too much about whether or not the crowd liked me for me. It's about the music and the energy, not just the fact that I'm perceivably a male in women's clothing.

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What do you think of the other bands playing the finals and who have you enjoyed the most?

I enjoyed several of them. But second song into Grey Glass, I knew it was their win. They are fantastic!

Secily: I knew Grey Glass was special when they started playing. I'm glad they won—they had a lot of support and that is great to see. We would love to play with them again. And seriously, like EVERY drummer was stellar! What's up with that? Is there like some secret Provo rule now that you must be absolutely amazing on drums to play in any band down there? I loved it.

Scotty: I loved Mojave Nomads from the finals the most, but everyone had something going for them obviously. And offered something specific for their demographic.

What can we expect from all of you and Elytra going into 2017?

So many good things!

Janet: More music!

Secily: We have some behind-the-scenes stuff brewing so you'll have to wait and see. Also, I'm still doing stuff with some members of my other band Canyons and we are really looking forward to announcing what that is very, very soon.

Scotty: Multimedia, touring, cool new merchandise, glitter and glamour and world domination (at minimum).

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