A Canopy Above Our Endless Sky, Qajaq's Latest, Out Today!

Click here to skip the reading and listen now!

A Canopy Above Our Endless Sky. That which encapsulates all we know and experience. Qajaq has always held a fixation on the fabrics of existence: the things that drive us forward, hold us back, that which binds us together. Canopy, with its war cries, private contemplations, and interpersonal pleas, is an exploration of the intimate, yet esoteric infinity that we are all a part of.

It’s been 3 years since the release of The Light of Everything, Qajaq's debut full-length. Since then, they've taken to a busy tour schedule this last year, eventually incorporating new songs in their live shows. We’ve finally reached the day of satiated anticipation, as those new songs, such as “The Bad Year” and “Arrow in Flight”, make their recorded debut on Canopy. The release features production work that reflects a fresh musical vision, departing from the 5+ person indie band to wind a careful, solemn spaciousness throughout this collection of songs. But what’s striking is how each track is uniquely arranged, instrumentally, dynamically, atmospherically, conceptually. It’s as if they all took the responsibility to represent the heart of Canopy alone. This album is a glorious snapshot of the perpetually refining Qajaq we’ve come to know.

You can listen to and download A Canopy Above Our Endless Sky on Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp, as well as on all the other major streaming services. There’s physical merch, a CD and t-shirt, to accompany the release as well, which you can purchase through their website qajaqmusic.com.

And if somehow you’re still on the fence, sit down with the music videos for "The Bad Year," “Sun and Rain,” and "What They Could Give You, I Could Not Give You Better." Maybe you’ll change your mind.

Shout Out to the Archivists

This week I want to give a big old shout out to the folks that spend their time documenting and archiving their local music scene.  We all know the importance of the people that organize shows and the people that form bands to play those shows and those that house and feed bands etc. but I’ve been thinking lately about the importance of individuals who spend their time taking photos, videos, recording audio, as well as collecting fliers, t-shirts, ticket stubs, records, and any other relics of the scene they can get their hands on with the intention of sharing the treasures with others.

This is important to me because of how difficult it is to recognize the importance and influence of the current music community on future iterations and the cultural story of an area. I look around to the people making it happen in our local music community and I can see the growth that they have influenced.  Each of those people can all point back to a certain venue, a certain set of bands, or one specific friend that represents the scene and the community of the time that set them on the course to do this work in the future. Showing the path that paved the way and lighting the path currently being built can raise visibility to those who may not know what’s going on and quite often encourage the next generation of facilitators.  

We’re living in a time when a lot of technical and cost boundaries in the audio, photography, and videography worlds are being torn down. Cell phones can take decent photos and video, DSLRs with video capability have become reasonably affordable, multi-track recording gear is well within reach to any hobbyist.  Capturing performances in these ways not only provides a great record of what’s alive and happening, but the content can also be very useful to young bands as promotional material as they grow and work to get projects off the ground.

Capturing live music is not the only way an archivist can work within a scene.  Every good show is illustrated with a flier. The history of a music scene can be beautifully described with a collection of t-shirts and cd’s or a well curated documentary featuring early band footage and interviews.  Find a way to be involved and go out to leave a mark in history for your local scene. Write a zine, record a band, packrat away some fliers and cds. Borrow a camera, see if they have A/V equipment available at your local library, YouTube some basic editing skills. Spread the knowledge, the history, and the influence of inclusive music community.


Artist Spotlight - Dead Birds

I remember vividly the first time I saw and heard Dead Birds.  I was very familiar with Erica’s music through Families and her contributions to Qajaq, but there I was sitting on the couch at House Fitzgerald in early 2018 at one of their many house shows featuring Chroma artists, watching a combo Qajaq/Dead Birds set.  Erica took the lead and calmly carried the whole room into a new space. Though I had never heard these songs before, I was singing along before I knew the words (which I most certainly guessed at, and incorrectly so).

This Erica that I’m referring to is Erica Johnson of Chicago who began finding dead birds as she walked along the sidewalks.  She photographed them and they eventually became the namesake of her new solo music project. Erica blends the simplicity of folk music with wanderlust that comes from traveling across the country. Whether fingerpicking a delicate acoustic guitar melody, strumming an electric guitar, or claw-hammering a banjo, her music evokes a feeling of nostalgia and invites the listener to take part in the story. These are songs that stem from people and places that have left their mark, songs of loss and hope.

Dead Birds’ upcoming release Here We Are (expected in September) is a memento of relationships and a social commentary. Driven by hope but willing to wrestle with doubt, this collection of songs invites both to the table.

In the meantime, be sure to check out this live session that Dead Birds recorded here.  And check out these upcoming tour dates. More info will be available on the Dead Birds Facebook page or Chroma page as details develop.

  • 9/2/2018 Louisville, KY - Surface Noise
  • 9/3/2018 Lexington, KY - Cosmic Charlie's
  • 9/4/2018 Huntington, WV - Ft. Nothing House Show
  • 9/5/2018 Columbus, OH - Hotel Show
  • 9/6/2018 Cleveland, OH - House Show
  • 9/8/2018 Pittsburgh, PA - The Cove
  • 9/9/2018 Lancaster, PA - EastSide Market
  • 9/10/2018 Lock Haven, PA - Avenue 209 Coffee
  • 9/12/2018 Allentown, PA - House Show
  • 9/14/2018 Roanoke, VA - Leftovers
  • 9/15/2018 Carrboro, NC - Open Eye Cafe
  • 9/18/2018 Chattanooga, TN - House Show
  • 10/8/2018 Anderson, IN - The Nest
  • 10/9/2018 South Bend, IN - The Well

Artist Spotlight - Sun Baron

Justin Rose is a sweet and clever man from Chicago who is overflowing with songs to be written and shared and sung. Sun Baron is Justin’s new way to share the songs with all of us. This new project takes us on a path as Justin’s emo roots weave through 7 tracks, taking time to mingle with his folk and indie style that shows up in Families (another of Justin’s projects) through gentle vocal melodies and beautifully controlled finger-picking.

We’re celebrating and enjoying the first Sun Baron release, titled How To Be, which came out on 7/19/18. Justin explains, “It deals with the topic of learning to slow down and experience/enjoy life. I am a very pragmatic Midwesterner and so I know how to work hard all the time. This album is about just being with people and learning to be present.”

How To Be also features a lineup of talented contributing musicians from other projects around the city including Caleb Allan (Jazz Robots, Junia) on bass, Sam Arias (Sam Arias) on piano and David Mantel (Naal) on electric. Proudly recorded by Mantel.

The album greets you with tasty drums that sit right in the pocket, subtle drones, beautiful guitar lines carried with gentle reverb, and meaningful vocal lines that float with no fear of repeating well constructed lyrics. The songs leave room to breath and don’t rush the listener.  I hope you enjoy them.

“Give your soul some rest, Just learn to sit still “

Contagiously Welcoming

With the celebration of the launch of Chroma Collective, I can’t help but think back to where I found my beginnings in local and DIY music.  Many of us have fond memories of the person or people that introduced us to our local music scene, or that one venue and community that made an early impression by making us feel welcome and offered each of us a sense of belonging.  When I was 16 years old, my parents read an article in the local newspaper about a coffee shop in Buchanan, MI that hosted local bands. It was a shocking moment at the dinner table when they told me to borrow the car and check it out with some of my friends. That venue (now an antique shop) was called The Eclipse and through that place I met a group of folks that opened my eyes to the small underground network of local venues that monopolized my life for the next several years.

That small network of punk venues developed into a thriving spiderweb of metalcore shows in the mid 2000’s that ring in the memories of my peers as the heyday of the midwest music scene.  Since that time, we’ve watched the ebb and flow, the rise and fall of popularity of local music. Many of the familiar faces of those mid-2000’s mosh pits have faded away.

15 years later, a bearded 30-something punk/professional (that’s me) shows up early to the basement venue of the day to turn on the lights, flip the switch on the PA, refill the toilet paper, and set out the donation jar.  I find myself sitting in that space and reflecting on the folks that have come and gone as well as the ones who have come and stayed. I’m encouraged by new faces with a new energy that have come to fill those spaces in front of the speakers, next to the soundboard, and on the stage.  This is a simple reminder that it was a feeling of community and belonging that made us all feel at home in these scenes. This is a petition for all of us to be gracious and kind, welcoming and receptive to those who have a new passion and pride in the community. Don’t forget your roots.

"Catechism" by Kevin Schlereth, Releasing 7/3/2018

            Click the artwork to pre-save the new album on  Spotify !

            Click the artwork to pre-save the new album on Spotify!

Update: Clearly, Catechism has been released! All links to Spotify should allow you to listen to and save the album right now.

It's truly an honor to highlight the 5th release of Kevin's 7 year career as a solo artist, and no less is the honor of marking this the first collected work of music released in partnership with the Chroma Artist Collective.

Catechism, the 6-track EP written by the duo comprised of Kevin Schlereth and Jay Costlow, is slated to release tomorrow (though it's been available to Kevin's Patrons for some time now). As a project, they tackle issues of conceit and interpersonal pain by way of friendship and psalms that are desperate for change. This manifests through honest lyricism and a dynamic live show that often breaks the barriers between artist and audience.

It's not too late to pre-save the EP on Spotify, but there's hope if you're itching to catch a glimpse of the album right this moment! Head over to Apple Music to stream the track "Tables", a fan-favorite throughout this most recent year of shows the permatour pair performed (okay, no more alliteration). Once you've memorized all the words, catch the Schlereths and Jay camping out at Audiofeed Music Festival as they debut Catechism's physical release!


It All Started With A Feeling...

It's hard to put into language an idea that has mostly existed inside of my brain for the better part of five years. Historically, it's easy for me to get lost inside my own head, thinking big thoughts, having big dreams. But that's where I usually stop. The head part. So for me, the culmination of some of those Big Thoughts into this, into Chroma, is the fulfillment of something I thought might be too big to be realized; something too big, certainly, to have done on my own.

It all started with a feeling.

When I first started seriously recording music (essentially out of simple necessity to get my own music into tangible form), I knew pretty quickly that this... whatever it was that I was feeling- about art, about the process, about everything I was doing- wouldn't be just for me. I started thinking about my actual beginning. I had done some recording for people in high school. My dad had a Windows98 computer running Cool Edit Pro, and somehow I was able to interface with it. We had one SM58, and I think that's it. I'm still not sure how I thought I could record a whole drum set with that one mic, but I guess I did. There are some surviving MP3's to prove it. But those times with my friends, making music with no stakes or pressure, using the limited tools and knowledge we had available, teaching ourselves as we went, daisy chaining mic cables long enough to run from my bedroom to the TV speakers so we could get a sound clip of American Movie to use in a track... Something about those times infected the way I thought about making art, and deep down, I wanted to find a way to recapture some of that innocent magic and inject it in to the oftentimes too self-serious nature of our DIY music scene; get away from the pressure. Get away from the competition. Just focus on the love of the thing you're making, and the people you're making it with. Nothing else matters.

For me, starting this new chapter is about coming back to that innocence. It's about disregarding all of the noise each of us has to deal with- internal and external- that tells us that what we're doing isn't enough, that we'll never be good enough, and that our value and the value of what we make is tied like a noose to how many likes or shares or downloads we get. Chroma, for me, is a step to push past the bullshit and hold on to what is true and real: what you make is valuable, and who you are is valuable. Full stop.

I know that all sounds a little bit vague right now. That's OK. If I'm going to be completely honest with you, we're still figuring out where all of this is going to take us. But this is our first step. So I invite you to join us as we take that first step. Come alongside of us in a journey toward honest, vulnerable art based in a community with those same values.

We are the Chroma Artist Collective