Indieterria presents Sammy Zalta

Dear Readers,

We have been planning to make this post for a while now, but due to the outbreak of  corona virus and subsequent cancellations of tours and concerts, we thought that independent artists need immediate exposure to help them. So over the next couple of days, we will be shining some light on artists that are operating far away from the  mainstream, yet their music is so wonderful, so uplifting that it is a crying shame they do not get the recognition they truly deserve.

Normally all you have to do to discover a new artist, is to simply just walk into a pub or a dive bar. You will grab something to drink and suddenly the music coming from the stage will take you to a new exciting place. You will forget about the world, your troubles and after an hour you will be on your way home, happy with a new album in hand and maybe a new tee as well. In current circumstances, it is sadly not possible – but you can still discover new music, and you can do it online.

Sammy Zalta

So let us take you for a short journey to meet one of the nicest and most talented independent artists we have met in recent months. The gentleman’s name is Sammy Zalta, and he is usually seen shredding his guitar mercilessly on stage with New York based band Bambara. He is also an accomplished artist in his own right with three digitally released albums to his name.

Hidden under the alias of Nola Gras on Bandcamp, Mr Zalta has been recording solo material since early 2014. After a few experimental, self released projects that were distributed privately, Nola Gras’s first proper EP “Living In Darkness (Under the Covers)” was released in January 2015 and sadly is no longer available for streaming but you can read a phenomenal review of it right here:
https://www.tinymixtapes.com/chocolate-grinder/premiere-nola-gras-living-in-darkness-under-the-covers-ep

Multi instrumentalist, balancing on the edges of several genres (alternative folk, psychedelic pop, shoegaze electronica, garage, punk and of course gothic revival), Sammy is not easy to squeeze into one musical box. But this is what we absolutely love about him. He is bold and daring, taking chances where other artists do not. You may not hear Nola Gras on the radio, but once you listen to his music, there is an entire musical landscape to discover. From short noise-inspired sketches of a song, to heart breaking renditions of Tim Buckley’s classics.

On 20th of March, for the next 24 hours, Bandcamp will remove any fees, to give the artists 100% of earnings from their music. If you’d like to support Sammy, please take a look what’s available to purchase.

“Paradiso Terrenal”

“Paradiso Terrenal” front cover

Full debut album by Nola Gras released in March 2015. It contains 12 songs, 10 original ones and two covers: very psychedelic version of Tim Buckley’s “Phantasmagoria In Two” and  equally trippy, Jesus and Mary Chain flavoured “For You” by Big Star. “Paradiso Terrenal” translates into “Earthly Paradise” and it’s a very fitting title. If you love lo-fi psychedelia with a hint of western gothic, you will be in heaven listening to the tunes. Our favourite (except for the “Phantasmagoria”) is the title track that sounds like a cross between Elliot Smith and The Deep Blue Something. It is also the last song on the record and surprisingly very radio-friendly.  Well maybe in a shortened version as it stands at nearly 9 minutes! The album was released in physical form on a cassette, but only in 40 copies and they are now all now sold out.

You can listen and purchase the album at:
https://nolagras.bandcamp.com/album/paraiso-terrenal

Album review:
https://bigtakeover.com/recordings/nola-gras-paraiso-terrenal-cs-nola-gras

“O” by Like St. Joan

“O” front cover

Released under a moniker of Like St. Joan, “O” saw the light of the day on June 5, 2017. The middle child of Sammy Zalta, is like a black sheep of the family – resembling no relative, including distant cousins twice removed. “O” is actually a very interesting entity – one look at the credits and we can see entire Bambara as a back up band plus Mike Hentz (Secret Flowers) and Thomas MacDonald (Plate of Shrimp). And the Bambara’s dark, unpredictable spirit is clearly visible in every track. It starts with “Her Patron Scum” aggressive and almost inhuman garage anthem of 6 minutes, quickly to merge with acid house inspired “Memoirs Of A Man Of Pleasure”. Title track “O” is a gothic revival masterpiece with chilling guitars and waltz-like rhythm. There are 7 compositions on the album and you cannot really call them songs – they are long, multi-level, broken into massive segments and frankly absolutely brilliant. If we were to write a short description for it, it would be Bambara meets King Crimson and recording with Trent Reznor locked up in a basement somewhere down in Georgia, no jokes about it. Almost radio friendly and punkish “Safe Spaces” could serve as the leading single, at 5:30 minutes, it is the shortest song on the album minus the instrumental “Quick…”. “Visions of You” take the listener back to the dangerous territory with a marching beat and poetic lyrics and “Egyptian Water Color” feels almost like a cut off from “Swarm” by Bambara.

In short – we cannot believe we missed it when it was first released! Maybe one day, “O” will be re-released on vinyl. One can wish…

You can listen and purchase the album at: https://nolagras.bandcamp.com/album/o

“It All Ends the Same”

“It All Ends the Same” cover artwork

“It All Ends the Same” is the latest album released by Nola Grass on March 25th 2019. It consists of 8 tracks written by the band (all originals) and was mixed/produced by Brooklyn based recording maverick, Ben Jones (AKA Constant Smiles). The album was promoted by a Beatlesque single “Ode To Ersa” and it came with a beautiful video you can see below:

“It All Ends the Same” is much different from “Paradiso Terrenal” and “O”. It is still a very guitar driven, psychedelic in nature but also toned down, melancholic in parts. Our favourite songs are “The Wings On My Shoulder” and nearly romantic “In the Dark”. Please pay closer attention to experimental, bit jazzy/western instrumental track “One Bright Pearl” and cinematic “Just Don’t, Please”.

You can listen and purchase the album at:
https://nolagras.bandcamp.com/album/it-all-ends-the-same

Let’s not forget about the Bambara guys as well. Please support them as well through their BandCamp account or through their gift shop on their record label website:

https://bambara.bandcamp.com/
https://www.wharfcatrecords.com/store/bambara-stray
https://bambara.bandcamp.com/merch

Thank you and hopefully, when the dust settles, we will be standing in the front row at the nearest Bambara gig somewhere in the Northern Quarter handbanging like it’s 1989. And after the show, who’s ready for some pinball and pizza at the Crazy Pedro’s?

You all? Good, it’s gonna be a hell of an after party.

see you soon,
M+R

Indieterria meets Sybling

Hello!  

It is a music journalist’s privilege to speak to some of the most talented people in the world. Some of the artists might be living just two doors down from you, or in the same town, but some of them might be located at the other side of the pond. Not so long ago, we had an undeniable pleasure to discover an American duo named Sybling. Two New York based sisters, stole our hearts withing minutes with their breathtakingly vocals, harmonies and eerie sounds that would make David Lynch look twice over his shoulder on his way home on a dark winter’s night. The duo are represented by the wonderful folks at Marauder Group and we  wrote to them asking if we could speak to both ladies. Much to our delight, the label and the band said yes (thank you)! We discussed their upbringing in a musical family, writing their debut EP and their eclectic musical taste ranging from Nick Drake to the British indie rock sensation, Radiohead.

Band picture by Manny Inoa

Sybling:
Alice Makwaia (vocals, multi-instruments)
Mariana Quinn-Makwaia (vocals, multi-instruments)

Not always we have a pleasure to speak to an emerging artists from the other side of the pond. Please introduce yourselves to the readers of Indieterria.

Sybling: Hello there! We are sisters, Alice Makwaia and Mariana Quinn-Makwaia of the duo Sybling.

You grew up in New York, in a musical family with musician and composer father and mother who is an actress and an acting coach. Did your parents have any influence on you to become an artist yourselves? Have they encouraged you to chose this path, or maybe they were against it knowing how hard it is in this business?

Sybling: Both of our parents are artists. As you already mentioned, our father is a musician and our mother is an actress. We grew up, the four of us, near the poverty line, in a one bedroom apartment. It was totally great (and we mean that in earnest). Our parents weren’t unhappy with the struggling artist lifestyle. They saw no problem in going into the arts. Our parents only encouraged us to do what spoke to us. And, from a young age, music did just so.

Before the creation of Sybling, both of you had an impressive musical resumes: Alice wrote musical scores for theatre and film (“The Snow Queen” by Downtown Art and “Forest Bathing” by Yaara Sumeruk) and Mariana found success as part of R’n’B outfit Smoke & Sugar. What convinced you to form a band together? Have you worked with each other before?

Sybling art by Catya Bastien

Sybling: (laughing) Making the band was an easy decision. We grew up singing together and harmonizing. In many ways, we knew each other musically better than anyone else in the world!

Sybling is inspired by a wide and eclectic range of genres: from traditional folk, to soul, jazz, funk and alternative rock. We can hear Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley, Marianne Faithful and Elliott Smith. And Stevie Wonder! Who is your inspiration?

Sybling: We’re both very inspired by alternative and folk genres. Our top inspirations are Sufjan Stevens, Nick Drake, Feist and Radiohead. Funny fact: we actually wrote “The Grim” for Radiohead! We heard the song in Thom Yorke’s voice.

You have released your debut EP on February 22, 2019. It is promoted by a lead single “Grim” and a video in which a young man is haunted by nightmarish figures with white masks covering their faces. Can you tell us more about “Grim” and the concept behind the video?

Sybling: The concept of “The Grim” video came from a sketch we made some years back. It was about someone on the subway, seated next to a suited man in a deer mask. It came from a thought that the subway is the looniest place we know! People are simultaneously physically close but oblivious to each other. We actually wrote the song when we were in High School, and it deals with the loneliness, and darkness that followed us around a lot then.

We absolutely love the cover of your EP, and the artwork  that is displayed on your social media. Who is the author?

Sybling: The cover of our EP was made by a Texas-based artist Catya Bastian. And we made the cover of our single for “Under.”

EP cover by Catya Bastien

You once said that “If one quote were to sum up the entirety of Sybling, it would be Kurt Vonnegut’s: “He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral.” A lot of your lyrics seem to deal with themes of searching for lost things and the past. The whole EP has this aura of melancholy and some sort of sadness. Perhaps we are mistaken but we feel like this record could be considered as a concept album, rather than just a collection of songs to reflect to?

Sybling: We like thinking of our EP as a concept album! Originally, we didn’t know what songs we were going to release, so it’s a bit of a fluke that they contextually fit together so succinctly!

We want to ask you about our favourite song “She is Alive in the Past”. It has beautifully crafted voice harmonies with catchy, radio friendly guitar riffs and piano. What’s really surprising, it has no lyrics. Please tell us more about it. Is there any particular story behind it?

Sybling: “She is still alive in the past” was very much an experiment. We’d had the tune in our heads for years, no lyrics. Even the finished product is a bit of a dream without a clear story. We think of it as a funeral march. We weren’t planning on recording it. Then one day, with an extra hour at the end of a session, we recorded a draft. Simple, just sparse vocals, guitar, organ, a little piano. Mari had the great idea of adding percussion, giving it that lopsided beat—which immediately reminded us, quite morbidly, of the way a zombie would walk.

“Grim” single cover

Last question – If you were to score a Netflix drama of your choice. What would it be and what songs appear on the soundtrack?

Sybling: We think, we’d have to go with Netflix’s “Russian Doll” to write music for. It takes place in the neighborhood we grew up in. We could see “She is still alive in the past” in there.

You can follow Sybling on their social media:
https://www.syblingmusic.com/bio
https://syblingmusic.bandcamp.com
https://www.instagram.com/syblingmusic
https://www.facebook.com/pg/syblingmusic
http://sybling.maraudergroup.com/

Email: syblingmusic@gmail.com|

Alice Makwaia (as a solo artist):
https://alicemakwaia.bandcamp.com/releases

Smoke & Sugar (Mariana Quinn-Makwaia side project):
https://www.instagram.com/smokeandsugarmusic
https://www.facebook.com/smokeandsugar/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1KsvM0hfcgI1_7DNTW-ptw

Articles:
https://alonelyghostburning.co.uk/interviews/getting-to-know-sybling/
http://ventsmagazine.com/2019/02/21/premiere-sybling-streams-new-self-titled-ep/
https://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwmusic/article/New-York-Folk-Duo-Sybling-Release-Their-Debut-EP-20190301
https://chicagonbeyond.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/mariana-quinn-makwaia-w-smoke-sugar/

Vanadian Avenue would like to say a few “thank you’s” to Sybling manager, Mr Phillipe Roberts and to the Managing Partner/Co-Founder of Marauder Group, Mr Rev Moose for making this interview possible. It was a real pleasure!

It is also worth mentioning that Marauder Group, is responsible for bringing the Independent Venue Week to America! This year, the US edition of IVW will take place on July 8-14, 2019 with more than 60 venues participating. You can find more about the  events here:
http://independentvenueweek.maraudergroup.com/
https://www.independentvenueweek.com/2019/04/independent-venue-week-announces-first-round-of-2019-us-shows-more-participating-venues/

We may try to speak to Marauder about IVW and the difference between the UK and USA versions. Keep your fingers crossed!

Please come back soon, we have a fantastic Mancunian band scheduled to speak to us next week!

Till then,
R+M