THE SOLUTIONS TOUR
Houses, Your Smith
Sun, September 29, 2019
Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 6:30 pm
When facing the daily maelstrom of concerns, complaints, and calamities in the news, in conversation, and in social media posts, a smile signals real rebellion. Eschewing self-centered woe and melancholy-for-the-sake-of-melancholy, happiness becomes the brashest, boldest, and ballsiest move—and the sought-after answer. Recognizing this truth, two-time GRAMMY® Award-nominated singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer K.Flay sticks to a powerful, passionate, and positive mission statement on her third full-length album, SOLUTIONS [Night Street/Interscope Records].
Catalyzed by a three-year whirlwind of world touring and prolific output, she translates the simple pleasures into ten genre-blurring bangers…
“When I got home from tour, I was in a dark place,” she admits. “Eventually, I made a decision to focus on the things that actually make me happy: walking around my neighborhood, drawing in notebooks with markers, talking to my mom on the phone. I thought, ‘What did I do as a kid to be happy?’ As a child, you don’t have access to alcohol, drugs, sex, caffeine. I looked back, when I had fun just by making music. I remembered the first time I wrote a song, burned a CD, and played it in my car. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a religious experience. I reconnected with that spirit and stopped taking shit so seriously.”
She certainly earned the right to do so...
As the culmination of a diligent decade-long grind marked by a series of independent EPs and shows, the songstress carved up her own lane in the mainstream with major label debut Every Where Is Some Where. It garnered two nods at the 2018 GRAMMY® Awards in the categories of “Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical” and “Best Rock Song” for “Blood in the Cut.” The latter generated 30 million-plus Spotify streams as “High Enough” surpassed the 20-million mark and “Giver” clocked 12 million and counting. In addition to praise from Billboard, Nylon, The Fader, and more, she landed syncs and soundtrack placements for Tomb Raider, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, NBA 2K, Fifa, This is the End, and more. Not to mention, everyone from legendary Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello and Linkin Park co-frontman Mike Shinoda to FIDLAR sought her out for collaborations. She also canvased the globe supporting Imagine Dragons.
In the Summer of 2018, she re-teamed with frequent collaborators Tommy English [Ariana Grande, Kacey Musgraves, Thirty Seconds to Mars] and JT Daly [Mutemath], as well as Joel Little and CJ Baran. Recording in Los Angeles and Nashville, she widened the scope of her signature style, incorporating a variety of analog synths along with live bass and guitar, bobbing and weaving between pop, rock, hip-hop, and electronic moods.
“The title SOLUTIONS came to me really early in the process,” she goes on. “The solution to almost every problem is usually really simple. For me, it’s so basic: staying connected to the people I love, taking care of myself the way I’d want my friends to take care of themselves, and doing things I know are going to make me happy – not what social media or strangers or society tells me. So many of my past records were about problems. Right now I’m in a place where I’m looking for some light. Balance is important. Life doesn’t have to be chaotic in order to be meaningful.”
Produced by English, the first single “Bad Vibes” slips clever quips—“You’re the sequel that sucks”—between a siren swell of synths, thick percussion, and an unshakable and undeniable chant, “You give me bad vibes…”
“My best friend recently had a kid, and I was like, ‘I don’t want this baby to grow up around sad people’,” she recalls. “I saw this stupid prison-style tattoo that said, ‘Born dead’. I thought, ‘Fuck you, man. I hate this tattoo’. With everything going on in the world right now, I wanted to make some positive music. The goal isn’t to be happy every minute; it’s just to move away from negative energy. Sonically, it’s the perfect introduction to the record. Fuck being sad all the time!”
Propelled by resounding piano and nimble rhymes, “Good News” leaps over glitchy beats and into a reminder that we can be “our own best friend.” Something of a spiritual successor to “Blood in the Cut,” the frosty and fiery anthem “Ice Cream” serves up “a breakup song that isn’t too heavy.” On the other end of the spectrum, the uber-personal “Sister” delivers a heartfelt message of sisterhood as she claims, “I wanna be your sister till the end.”
“My sister and brother aren’t biologically related to me, and I always wanted them to be my ‘real siblings’,” she goes on. “It was important for me to dedicate this song to them. On a larger level, I believe sisterhood should be available to everybody, regardless of gender. Sisterhood is about creating your own family.”
In the end, K.Flay makes happiness cool again…
“When you listen to this, I hope you walk away feeling like it’s okay to temper a little positivity in your life,” she leaves off. “There’s so much out there we can’t control. As I mature, I’ve been able to realize that. Do what makes you happy. Right now, music makes me really happy.”
The first Houses release in five years, Drugstore Heaven, marks a major artistic shift for L.A.-based songwriter/producer Dexter Tortoriello. Abandoning the heady concepts of his previous records for some of his tightest songwriting yet, Tortoriello is embracing the most fascinating character in his musical universe: himself.
In 2010, Houses released their full-length debut All Night via Lefse Records — a Portland, Oregon-based label who signed the band two weeks after Tortoriello shared the project’s first single via Tumblr. The following year, Diplo tracked him down after finding his more darkly-charged project Dawn Golden on Bandcamp. In addition to signing Dawn Golden to Mad Decent, Diplo began bringing Tortoriello into co-writing sessions, which soon led to his work as a writer/featured vocalist for such artists as Martin Garrix, Ryan Hemsworth, and What So Not.
The past five years have been undeniably busy for Tortoriello. After relocating from Chicago to LA, he released Houses’ sophomore album A Quiet Darkness via Downtown Records in 2013, along with a debut full-length as Dawn Golden the following spring. A slate of high-profile remixes for Major Lazer, Kings of Leon and Odesza established him as a dance world heavyweight, while writing and producing for artists like Lil Yachty, Kali Uchis, and Kiiara refined his songcraft. And while he initially compartmentalized his creative efforts, Drugstore Heaven finds him drawing from these experiences, creating Houses’ most fully realized and complexly detailed output to date – a selection of songs matching graceful experimentation with raw emotion and unprecedented vulnerability.
"All of the Houses material to date has been very escapist,” Tortoriello says. “You can fall into a spell where real life is something you tune in and out of, something you feel no authorship over. I've focused my efforts over the last few years on building and reinforcing things I don't wish to escape from: relationships, groups, creative outlets, ideas, workflows. I found a much deeper type of freedom in taking ownership over my life and committing myself to really living it.”
Drugstore Heaven delivers a dynamically textured sound partly shaped by Tortoriello’s exploration of rave and drum-and-bass artists from the late ’90s. “At the time all that stuff was coming out, electronic music was just being discovered, so there was this really pioneering sense of what was possible,” he says. The lead single “Fast Talk,” featuring backing vocals of longtime Houses member Megan Messina, unfolds in hazy rhythms formed from chopped-up breakbeats and live percussion from timpani, glockenspiel, and a couple bottles of antidepressant medication. “That song is meant to be a memorial for a group of friends I had back in my late teens,” explains Tortoriello, adding, “Thematically it’s almost like a ballet where you keep driving around the same blocks, and people start disappearing from the car because they’re going to jail or dying.”
Growing up outside Chicago, Tortoriello first started making music in his early teens, mostly by attempting to emulate the drum-and-bass-meets-speed-metal freakouts of Atari Teenage Riot. (“I’d record myself playing drums onto cassette, then double-speed the tape and play synthesizers over it,” he recalls. “It was an abomination.”). Sonic references to his teenage experimentation make melancholic rave workout “Years” all the more poignant, as Tortoriello examines the anxiety of ageing and the ennui of early adulthood in his lyrics.
On Drugstore Heaven, embracing the personal also has its joyful side. The EP’s punchiest moment, “Left Alone,” emerges as bright and bouncy anthem celebrating the bliss of solitude, while closer “Pink Honey” is a lavishly romantic number built on ethereal vocals, delicate guitar tones, and luminous synth. “I was trying to turn that one into a sweeping love song, like something out of Casablanca," says Tortoriello.
For Tortoriello, the deepest achievement of Drugstore Heaven lies in building a body of work that feels entirely true to the world in his head. “In the past I’ve felt self-conscious about the person I put forth in my music, but these songs feel very reflective of who I really am,” he says. Being this open still feels new to him, but for the listener, it’s a rewarding glimpse into the mind of a vital and forward-thinking artist.
Minneapolis native Your Smith (aka Caroline Smith), relocated to Los Angeles after signing to Pulse Recording (DRAM, Miike Snow, Gallant, et. al). Inspired by the history of Laurel Canyon and moving through a city that’s been immortalized in music throughout the ages, Smith concocted her own sound, bringing together the funk / R&B “Minneapolis Sound” of her roots and the classic songwriting of the LA folk heroes.
Your Smith is currently wrapping up her debut EP, produced by Tommy English (BØRNS), Stint (Gallant, Aluna George, NAO), and Nicky Davey (Internet, Syd The Kid), arriving on Neon Gold Records (HAIM, Christine & The Queens, et. al) this fall and will commence a full US headline tour in September.
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