Kurt Bielema is a solo artist whose blend of indie, pop, and rock music draws from folk traditions over the past 50 years. Often fingerpicking with an infectious rhythm and sensitive melodies, Bielema’s strength is sincerity that never verges on the saccharine. Straightforward yet poetic, the songs have a very quaint and charming quality to them—they don’t feel too huge, but they touch on timeless emotions and ideas. There is some whimsy, some wandering of the soul, and some comfort in the calmness. Every once and awhile there is a very welcome jolt of energy bolting through the tunes. Kurt Bielema has something to say—There’s nothing left to say.
Eric Christian Stanley-vocals, guitars
Eric Stanley isn’t from C-U, but his music fits right in our twin cities. The impassioned storytelling, the emotive release, with dynamic song structures and bombastic catharsis, his songs feel right at home in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Intertwining guitar lines strewn atop a pummeling rhythm section bring to life angst, celebration, yearning, and confession. This music shimmers and shakes; it digs in and reaches out. This winter they will record at Matt Talbott’s Earth Analog Studio and Minbal Studio in Chicago. Their sophomore EP is due out Spring 2016, produced and engineered by Seth Engel.
Adam Gorcowski—cello, bass guitar
Evan Metz—guitar, vocals
Vivan McConnell—vocals, guitar
Grandkids have discovered a singular combination of indie, rock, jazz, and pop that makes one want to dance and cry—not necessarily at the same time. But the emotion is there. The groove is there. The musicianship from these longtime friends and collaborators is apparent in the execution of fine-penned songs. Noisy guitars, smooth cello lines, and insane beats and dynamics are all brought to life at will, as the four become Grandkids with each song, like a flower endlessly blooming. 2013’s Timeshare was voted the #1 Champaign album of the 10s by Smile Politely, and one spin through the vinyl and you’ll know they’re right.
Brandon Beachum—bass, conducting
Luke Bergkoetter—drums, vibraphone
Bryce Robert Hays—guitar
Michael Kramer—baritone guitar
Marathon is a kaleidoscopic offering of drone music via psychedelic tones inspired by minimalism. Formerly a solo project, often iterated as the guitarkestra: 6 guitarists, 2 drummers, and a vibraphone. A full-length album was recorded by Matt Talbott at his Earth Analog studio in January, and is currently being mixed and mastered for a summer 2015 vinyl release.
Matt Cohn — drums, percussion
Elizabeth Majerus — bass, vocals, guitar
Matt Mitchell — guitar, vocals, bass
Motes are a small, slow-moving musical ensemble from Urbana, IL. The trio features Elizabeth Majerus, formerly of Beezus (Mud RecordS); her husband Matt Mitchell, formerly of Rectangle (Stereoriffic Records); and the latter-day bassist from Rectangle, Matt Cohn—now on the drum kit. The group formed in 2011 and the following year self-released their debut, the “Feel the Summer’s Heat” EP. Their mixture of delicate dreampop and raucous shoegaze alt-rock has earned them attention and appreciation in Champaign-Urbana from fans of myriad scenes. Their focus is on positivity, justice, the groove, and the beauty of noise.
Mother Nature is an American hip hop force made up of Klevah, also known as Shasta Knox from Champaign, IL and T.R.U.T.H, also known as Tierney Reed born in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, IL. The two emcees came together as a duo in the fall of 2015 and in cooperation with Heirship Records will release their first project, Mother Nature EP in Spring 2016. Their high energy live shows elevate Urbana-Champaign’s hip hop credibility with music that slays the spectacular violence that produces (insert name) hashtags and slaughters slow death, the kind that often and specifically haunts Black women and girls. Mother Nature is a delivered promise. As the best of hip hop they mix advanced lyricism, progressive social commentary, and masterful production with abundant love for all people who want to be in the world with their full, free, and creative lives.
Terry Bowen — drums
Scott Kimble — vocals, bass
Don King — guitars
TERMINUS VICTOR was initiated in 2000 to create energetic rock music using a drum machine named ‘She’. Their music described as an “electro-rockomatic-neo-inferno” is captured on the band’s freshman and sophmore records MASTERING THE REVELS and UNDER SURVEILLANCE, created and released in 2002 and 2005 respectively. After two records, the machine and dual human crew felt it may be time to part ways, and pursue new germinations along the Terminus Victor viral strain. Opportunity arose soon after ‘She’ moved to Portland in 2006 when Terry Wathen tried out for the band. Now three members strong, talents and personalities align into a centrifugal serum of music creation, growth and expansion. Fans who loved the 100% performance energy level with ‘She’ measured a boost to 150% with the addition of Terry’s dynamic drumming. At the same time, politely retracting not to offend the work done with ‘She’. Terminus Victor has a contagious future infected with a strong base of current and new songs composed by vocalist/bassist Scott Kimble, and crafted into works of art by the band. Seven years after their last full-length, the band returned with PREVENTION VS INTERVENTION. Replete with aggression and passion, yet at times staid and stoic, these nine tracks act as a declaration of certainty of ambivalence. The voice comes over the PA, declarative yet desperately questioning.
Nicholas Matthew Garcia — vocals, guitar
Matt Yeates — drums
Nick Yeates — bass, vocals
Loud guitars and pop melody on a sincerity-seed bun. Windmills is a three-piece that plays noisy, psychedelic, rocking music. The band can sound bigger than itself, yet at moments the emotions are so delicate. Fontman N. M. Garcia’s melodies and lyrics are an astounding counterpoint to the sometimes overwhelming racket that the rockband behind them can sometimes muster. After self-releasing their debut, “Valuable Coupons Inside,” the band has relocated to Champaign and is currently writing and arranging their sophomore full-length due out summer/autumn 2015 on Heirship Records.
FORMER / INACTIVE ARTISTS
ACKER plays a ferocious music. They slink and writhe about stage like secret agents, until they don’t. Moments of thrash and bombast transform them all into escaped animals and the zookeepers chasing them. With hints of the DC post-hardcore sound, they truly play kinetic, subversive instrumentals worthy of greats from Louisville in the late 80s and early 90s, like Rodan and Slint. With Constantin on the Bass VI and Michael on guitar, riffs and melodies both row the boat. Marsan’s drumming is like the eloquent messenger telling stories secondhand. Daniel Walton’s cello is not a novelty…it is a fucking weapon. ACKER don’t need words, they just need air to push sound through.
Bryce Robert Hays—guitars, vocals, keyboard, looper, et cetera
DR RESPONSIBLE is the solo project from Withershins guitarist Bryce Robert Hays. Enamored of loops and unique sounds, Hays has been experimenting with drones and songs as the Doctor for over half a decade now. “I love sounds in general,” he says. “Not even necessarily just music, just sounds. I try and pull little bits from things I like from whatever I hear, even if it’s the sound of a door slamming or ice cracking.” His second release, Dryads is an exercise in ambience, looping, percussive and melodic reveries, capable of both lulling the listener into a daze, and exciting the mind with inventions and intersections of guitar noodles and swells.
Justin Gee—vocals, guitar
The Hawkline Monster is a book by Richard Brautigan. The Chemicals is a band formed in 2004. With steady drums, jangly, dirty guitar and violently drunk leads, the band has always had a sense of melody—lovingly and lazily drenched in fuzz, reverb, and slop. After several lineup changes, the now five-piece outfit is bigger than ever—both in numbers and sound. The short LP/long EP ‘MONO’ received the honor of being named one of the best records of 2014 by Champaign-Urbana’s online magazine, Smile Politely. Not resting on their laurels, they’re already in the studio making a new album. (RIP The Chemicals, 2000-2015)
John Isberg—vocals, guitar
This band had the market cornered for lush, chill grooves. Frontman John Isberg really came into his own with this project, after delving into rocknroll with The Blackouts, synthpop with REDS, and a combination of the two in The Firebird Band with Braid’s Chris Broach. After existing as a duo for a while, Isaac Arms of Withershins joined on bass. For a special summer show, Chris Broach sat in with the band on lead guitars—an experience which led the band to enlist guitarist/producer Aron Stromberg. The trio had recorded an album at Boombox Studio with Caleb Means (New Ruins, Wicked Walls), and Stromberg both added shimmering lead guitars and a production value that can’t really be overstated. This collaboration came to be the first Heirship Records release.
Evil Tents now seem revived and possibly have new material on the horizon.
Nik Allen—vocals, guitar
Mike Daab—bass, vocals
Hot Cops! have since moved north from Champaign, but Jubilee stands as a testament to Champaign-Urbana moments and sounds. The four-piece wrote these songs in Champaign, played them in Urbana, recorded them in Tolono—their shriek and shine have C-U in their DNA. With the amazing drama and emotion from singer Nik Allen’s performance, and the tightness of the rhythm section and guitars, the punk and indie-tinged rock of Jubilee seems like it could have come from any time…but not anywhere. The midwest is best, even when you’re at your worst.
Jay ‘Moses’ Walker is a 23 year old emcee from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois by way of Highland Park (Detroit), Michigan. He’s an independent poet and artist that specializes in Hip-Hop & Urban music. In 2007, Walker adopted the surname Moses for his stage persona, becoming known as Jay Moses. Feeling that Hip-Hop was in a state of disarray, he needed someone like Moses, who “walked by faith and led his followers, brothers and sisters to freedom.” The Moses portion of his name became a symbol of what he hopes to do as not only an artist, but as a person in Hip-Hop culture.
Champaign-Urbana native, 1/4th of TheGr8Thinkaz, 22-year-old emcee, Tre Brown, best known as Sky, is a passionate and quirky Hip-Hop artist. At a younger age he went by Sky Kidd, but to gain respect from older experienced artists and to show growth in his music and image, he dropped the “Kidd”. He admits to music playing a major role in his life, and that being the case he plans on digging deeper into his creative side. By building on his already credible career to attain as much recognition and success in the very near future as possible.
Swords is Midwest Hip-Hop artist hailing Champaign-Urbana in the 217 District. His style has varied over the years but as a rule these days it borders on garage rock inspired hip hop with an edge of Rick Ruben and the attitude of a young Bob Dylan. Maybe… we don’t know. Over the years, Swords has had the honor of opening for acts such as Brother Ali, AMS, Illogic, Krukid, Braile, Sun Stereo and couple others. He’s known to roll thick with musicians, DJs, rappers, and other rebel scum.
Brendan O’Connor — Guitar
Michael Thies — Bass/Synths/Vocals
Chris Wahlfeldt — Drums
After several years of silence, Teenage Ghosts have returned to (after)life. Despite the warm reception of 2011’s Dreams and the enthusiastic response to a few extremely-seldom-one-off gigs…the band vanished—seemingly to never be heard from again. Revelations now finds the band making sense of their isolation. Exiled within a year of political turmoil, new frustrations are voiced over jagged synths, blistering guitar, and hypnotic beats. Where new homes were found, disembodied spirits found bodies.
Jack Maples — vocals, guitar
Jake Metz — bass, vocals
Dillon Cogan — drums
I tried to get a bio from these guys, but they just rick rolled me a coupla times.
Isaac Arms — vocals, guitar
Luke Bergkoetter — drums
Bryce Robert Hays — guitars, vocals
Colin Larson — keys, guitars, vocals, percussion
Neil Yeager — bass
Withershins started in a garage. But listen for a minute and you’ll know it’s not “garage rock” by genre. Shoegaze, space rock, post rock, and posthardcore are the most common tags attributed to the band. The HUM, Braid, Shiner, and Bearvsshark influences are generally recognized as well. However, “withershins” literally means counter-clockwise – going in the opposite direction. Its figurative meaning is “doomed”—which is the credo or aesthetic of the band: everything’s fucked, but let’s get the most from what we’ve got. In one way this gives credence to the plethora of sounds and structures resurrected from the American and British underground of the 1990s; however, the name’s intent was more in the sense that in 2008 when the band began, guitar rock was out. It still kind of is. But, Withershins is a guitar band. There’s your genre, right there.