Local acts prepare new music for 2020

New year, new music. Here’s what some area bands have planned for 2020.

Spirit of The Bear

Formerly of Youngstown and currently based out of Columbus, the indie pop act — James Harker, guitar and vocals; Danny Svenson, keyboards and vocals; Ethan Schwendeman, keyboards; Jamie Vitullo, drums; and Mike Perorazio, bass –is working on a new album.

Schwendeman said that the band rented a cabin in Kentucky in the summer of 2019 and created the songs for the upcoming record, slated for release in early summer.

“With the new album in the works, we plan on releasing two, three singles with music videos from the beginning of 2020 to the release,” Schwendeman said. “These new songs probably are our most Spirit of the Bear songs yet, for each of us were together in almost every part in the making of the songs. We have started to put some of these singles into our live sets. I don’t want to put the names of the songs out yet, because we aren’t ready yet for the names, but expect a single at the beginning of the year and (another) in the spring.”

The band currently making 2020 tour plans and will play the Brite Winter music festival in Cleveland on Feb. 22.


Jordan DePaul, a Poland native now making music in Nashville, has a brand new synth pop project called LVRBOY.

A full-length album under the LVRBOY name will be released in two parts, the first of which is coming in April. DePaul released three singles from the upcoming album in 2019, “I don’t think about u” and two versions of “Now That I’m Leaving,” and one more single is planned for February.

DePaul said that a lot of thought has gone into his release strategy. It was a big part of the planning for the launch of his new project, LVRBOY, he said.

“The current singles will appear on the 2020 full-length album as part of Part 1 (the first EP). There are some songs that have been heard at my shows, and some that have not. All of the songs are about love and heartbreak, as pertaining to my brand and who I am as an artist. The next single is called, ‘change my mind,’ and is about admitting you miss someone, but it is not changing the fact that you don’t want to be with them. That song means a lot to me and was actually the first LVRBOY song I wrote.”

Spy Convention

Spy Convention — Zafar Sheik, vocals, guitars and keys; Asif Khan, drums, guitars and keys; Mike Miller, guitar; and Scott Burns, bass — got regular airplay on The Summit with the song “Baltimore” from its 2017 debut “Tidal.”

Three songs — “Cardboard Boxes,” “Here Now (Waiting)” and “In Between” — are finished and a fourth (“Independence Day”) is in the works for the planned follow-up.

While the songs on “Tidal” were more intimate, Sheik said these new songs are more outward looking and reflect a kind of reaction to the times that we are living in and experiencing.

“In that sense, I think there is more urgency, rawness and anger in some of the lyrics and sounds,” Sheik said. “As for how to release these songs, I would love to have an album’s worth of material, and if we get to that point, I suppose that’s what we’ll do. I’ve already toyed with a couple names for the album, such as ‘Empire’ or ‘The Last Days of Feeling Good.’

“We have discussed perhaps just releasing one single after another sequentially as that seems to be the way that most people consume music. We’ll just plug away, making the songs as we like them and taking it one step at a time. As far as making music goes, that’s what’s worked for us so far,” he said.

Sister Luna

Sister Luna is the new project featuring Hayden Brooke, guitar and vocals; Lexi Kays, vocals and keyboards; and John Sailor, guitar and vocals.

Brooke said that the band took a lot of inspiration and influence from The Doors, Harry Nilsson and The Beatles as well as singer songwriters like Nick Drake, Noah Gunderson and Jason Isbell.

“It started as us just recording demos of songs we had all been working on individually and eventually, through careful selection, we found a new sound for the band that was different from what we had previously released through our individual projects,” Brooke said. “A sound we felt truly represented Sister Luna — blues / folk rock at the core but with tinges of Americana, jazz and country. We tried to create something iconic and unique while staying true to the rock legends of the past. We wanted something people would hear and recognize but at the same time, garnish

some real identity for the band.

“My solo writing has started taking on more of an ambient, dream-pop approach, and I wanted to stray away from that with Sister Luna. I’ve written a lot of songs in the past that I scrapped because it didn’t feel like Hayden Brooke. Through the creation of this new project, they found new life and that was really nice to see,” Brooke said.

Bryan Pegues

Through his production company Geez Musicals, Bryan Pegues writes and records his own music and collaborates with and produces albums by various local musicians.

EPs of his own songs are planned for 2020, but the producer is focused on working with other artists in the new year. In September Pegues worked with Mike Rich, creating the single “Love Song” and an accompanying music video that brought awareness for Domestic Violence Awareness Week.

“I think I have the collaboration bug now,” he said. “You may see me working with some of your favorite artists. I’m really trying to do something great with Jeremy Lucas soon. I heard him play one night at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts. He’s a beast.”

Baroque Monody

The duo (Rick Polo, guitar, and Jennifer Elizabeth Rose, vocals and keyboards) will release a new self-titled EP in early 2020, which will be a compilation of three smaller releases — the “Plan / Pity” single, the two-track Acoustic Sessions EP and a two-track Live Sessions EP.

Polo said there will be new material along with reworked and updated versions of older material, and the new material was co-produced by Samuel Austin of the act DOWNLOWS and Josh Roman at MindRocket Recording Studio in West Middlesex, Pa.

“Musically, this project has been a constant evolution, and the new songs ‘Plan’ and ‘Pity’ pick up where our last release, ‘The Four Loves,’ left off with the use of heavy electronic elements,” Polo said. “It was also kind of cool to rework some older songs into acoustic versions. It’s fun to see how some of our louder songs made for equally powerful, stripped-down versions.”

Rose said that she unintentionally tapped into the William S. Burroughs method of splicing up ideas for the song “Plan.”

“I literally ripped up a piece of paper and fit it back together, and it made sense for the quote in the bridge of the song,” she said.

Jesse Martin

The former Youngstown musician now living in Detroit is busy with three recording projects — DOWNLOWS, Water Armor and a metal solo project.

DOWNLOWS, which also features local musicians Sandi Quotson, Sam Austin and Murad Shorrab, has about 10 tracks all in the final stages of recording and mixing.

“We’re really excited about what the release is shaping up to be,” Martin said. “I would definitely say it’s some of our best material yet. We’ve scheduled to all be in our Boardman studio in February 2020 to get them solid. From there it’s just mixing, mastering, getting art and dropping it.

“We do everything ourselves besides the art, and we have many talented artist friends we can rely on, so I assume it’ll be a fairly expedient process once we all sit down and get to our mission.”

Water Armor is Martin’s ambient recording project, which he said is largely inspired by Japanese ambient artists such as Takashi Kokobu and Hiroshi Yoshimura.

“The debut self-titled release will be out very early in 2020, and I plan to do regular releases from then on,” he said. “It’s a different, more meditative writing process and one which is enriching my life a lot. I set up a configuration of synths and try to make the recorded music as human a performance as possible. The results are very lush, but loose pieces. A contrast to my usually hyper-programmed writing style.”

Martin also is experimenting with a solo metal project, inspired by the death metal he grew up listening to in southwest Florida.

“People are often surprised to learn this, being that they usually know me from the indie rock world or the electronic world or the video game world, but it actually all started with death metal. I decided it was time to return to my roots, but as much as I love knuckle-dragging slam, one thing which ties all my work together is sensitivity and a sense of atmosphere. I think it’s going to be quite the fusion in this project. It will be a process and we are at the start, but it will absolutely see the light of day in 2020.”

The Long Hunt

The Pittsburgh-based instrumental, drone, heavy-psych act featuring former Youngstown musicians Allison Kacmar Richards and Trevor Richards will release its third album sometime in mid-2020.

According to Trevor Richards, “Threshold Wanderer” will be a mix of the spacey and minimalist elements of the duo’s first release, “Wilderness Tales,” combined with the droney, somewhat heavier side of the band’s 2018 album “All Paths Lead to Here”

“The songs will be a little longer on this new one as well, with two tunes clocking in at over the 12-minute mark,” he said. “The six-song track list will include ‘The Tower,’ ‘The Golden Bough’ and ‘Procession of Dust,’ all of which were played heavily at shows throughout much of 2019, as well as previously unheard or rarely performed songs ‘Crossing the River,’ ‘Prelude’ and ‘Night Falls on Black Wings.'”

Turbo Lovers

Look for “Lettin’ It Fly,” the latest album by the trio of B.J. Lisko, guitar and vocals; Keith Dougherty, bass and backing vocals; and Christian DeSantis, drums, by late summer or early fall.

“You know, the album is comprised of complicated songs about complicated things,” Lisko said. “It’s fist-pumping, AC/DC and ’80s rock-inspired anthems that I’m sure everyone’s parents will love.”

Samuel Austin

The local post-punk / synth / industrial artist is releasing a full-length album this month titled “Dissolve.” Austin called Nine Inch Nails the biggest and most obvious influence on the record.

“I definitely have a lot of confessional tendencies from Trent Reznor, but I also take a lot of cues from pop / rock like Stone Temple Pilots or Tears For Fears, and minimalist post-punk like Joy Division, and darker, more abstract stuff like Coil,” Austin said.

The music on “Dissolve” represents a somewhat negative time in his life, and he sees it as drawing a line and moving past the negativity.

“These songs are about me trying to define or come to terms with a lot of the thoughts that have gone through my head over the past few years — always cathartic, sometimes chaotic and sometimes melancholy.

Between The Witches

Guitarist Bob Smrecansky described the music on Between the Witches’ upcoming album “Dark Circles” as experimental, mathy and progressive.

The all-instrumental act also includes Tony Cucitrone, guitar, modular and electronics; Eric Tharp, bass; and Zach Connolly, drums.

“We are releasing a video for the track ‘Sine Nomine’ soon. Our good friend Dan Clark created it using footage from our recording session at Animal Dojo with Kenny Halbert (Wild Wings) at the helm,” Smrecansky said.


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