DJ TBear Talks Oaxacan Hip-Hop, Label Bear House Co., Love of ’90s Rap, and Importance of Elevating Female Voices

DJ TBear Talks Oaxacan Hip-Hop, Label Bear House Co., Love of ’90s Rap, and Importance of Elevating Female Voices

Mexican recording artists have long been subjugated to stereotypes projected on them by outsiders. They’re not all sombrero-wearing mustached men walking around with guitars. You’ll look to Mexico City to find Americanized acts making accessible pop music and walk away satisfied. Still, if you pay attention, at this very moment, there is a vibrant community being emboldened south of the capital by one man in Oaxaca.

Oaxaca, for how small it is, and in spite of its shout-out in Childish Gambino’s “This is America”, is still stuck in the mud of traditionalism. English is hardly spoken, the population is hardly sizable, and the clothes people wear there are still mostly reliant on generations past. The music produced by DJ TBear realizes this and works to assist women in feeling empowered enough to rap in their own native language in their own native country. There’s nothing that will drive change more than empowerment.

In the thick of the globe’s coated 2019 summer, Middle Mexico’s musical pioneer and founder of rap record label Bear House, DJ TBear, dropped a pin to his home studio, graciously offering the space for an on-location interview. The New York Times ran a Surfacing profile in 2018, where DJ T-Bear was credited with founding the label many women are signed to as rappers themselves. This makes TBear a crucial figure in the music industry south of our border, unwittingly or not. He is fighting the good fight.

The album DJ TBear produced in 2016 for Mare Advertencia Lirika is filled with nature sounds and wildlife expressions, recalling the same kinds of sounds Kanye West used in his WTT days. The album is carried on by soft strings, and grooves that feel authentically Mexican. The singing is heartfelt. Once the woman begins rapping, the production wraps around her vocals to keep up with her flow. Things start to get a little breezier 10 minutes in, which is when the authentic Mexican sound makes a return for more rapid fire raps from Lirika.



The repurposed garage exists in the hills in residential suburbia. The recording studio is aplomb with the usual: stacks of vinyl touching the ceiling, audio equipment scattered about like crisp leaves looking up at door hinges on a windy day. The homes surrounding the artist are slightly elevated but otherwise plain-looking. There’s a Starbucks nearby.



Headquartered here, on the outskirts of San Felipe de Agua, an upscale suburb of the city center, DJ TBear’s figure is cut like a gentle giant. Well over six feet tall, his enormous glasses work hard to frame his face. He looks like the typical producer and studio owner. He settles into the studio, and after some niceties, we begin our interview to find out more about what the artist stands for, the label Bear House Co., what his vision for Oaxaca is, and what’s next for Oaxaca and him.



This interview was originally conducted in Spanish and has been lightly edited for clarity. Translator: Oscar Anthony Vanegas. 


DJ TBear


Mustafa Abubaker: What was the first day of Bear House Studio Company?


DJ TBear: It was a small home studio around 2008. It was first when I started to record people who rap in Oaxaca, Mexico. In 2008, we started doing more recordings, and we were progressing. We did more beat making, and that was the start. That was the start of Bearhouse Studio Company, but I started doing rap in 2002.


Abubaker: How do you describe Bear House Studio Company music?


TBear: The music is rap. The majority is heavily influenced by the 1990’s rap in the United States. Tupac, Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious BIG “Biggie Smalls” and Dr. Dre. That was the influence. For beat producing, my biggest influences were DJ Premier. DJ Premier and Dr. Dre have been my influences. The people who record in Bearhouse Studio have beats like that type. Type from the 90s. The rap has lyrics that range from different topics. Some lyrics talk about parties. Lyrics talk about what is happening in society or a problem.


Abubaker: Why are all the artists in Bear House Studio women? Why are there no men?


TBear: I started doing this in 2002. The people that I started with are the initiators of rap in Oaxaca, Mexico. At that time, we were called a different name. When I lived in Baja California, Mexico, my group was basically West Side Connection. In 2004 women started to join. They formed the first group in Oaxaca, Mexico that was called Libertencia Lyrica (Lyrical Liberty). I produced some of their songs and one of their CD’s. Now the women that are in Bearhouse Studio Company, a lot of them talk about different topics. Some of them rap about parties. For example, a rapper who is not directly connected with Bearhouse Studio Company, one the initiators of rap in Oaxaca, Mexico, whom I have worked with and produced a CD with, is Mare Advertencia Lirika. That CD, all the songs are mine. She does consciousness rap and empowers women. For example, Aries, another girl who is with Bearhouse, her rap is more party-like. Also, there are men in Bearhouse, but I have had more success with women.


Abubaker: What was your thought process in making Bear House Studio Company?


TBear: The name is from my nickname. Oso, which is a bear in Spanish. When I was younger, I played American football. They called my nickname Oso. From there, I stayed with that nickname, and I used it as my DJ name. I called my studio the house of the bear. That was my thought process for the name. For the studio, I do not want it to just be a small studio. I make t-shirts; we want to make a clothing brand. That is what Bear House is. It is a brand.


Abubaker: In what creative state is Bear House Studio Company?


TBear: Right now, we are in reconstruction. There are new, and there are people who left. We are working on a CD for one of the new MCs called Reves Martinez. We have nothing recorded for now. We have small collaborations with Mara Advertencia Lirika. Another with one rapper from Oaxaca, but he lives in Fresno, California. For now, we are working on beats and production. I am working on a DJ competition and will be competing in the Red Bull Freestyle competition.


Abubaker: How do you incorporate American and foreign styles when producing?


TBear: For the time that I lived in Baja, California, I have a lot of influence from the rap of the United States. I try to equilibrate by integrating Latin and Mexican things and music from Oaxaca. I find the balance. My music and production have to do more with rap from the USA, though.


Abubaker: What did you do to start your projects?


TBear: If you are asking in what ways I find inspiration for my projects when I start them, let’s say, I like to listen to music. Mexican music, like “Tigres del Norte” or funk genre from the USA. Also, jazz music. All that is what I listen to inspire me to work on something. When I am not working from a music perspective, we are working on t-shirt designs. We want to start making t-shirt designs for our company.


Abubaker: Are there visuals and videos for Bear House Studio Company?


TBear: For the moment, there are no music videos. There are a few small music videos. There is not anyone that we have recorded a music video with high production. First, we want to make sure an artist has made it big in the industry. Oaxaca has a market that is not as popular as Guadalajara or Monterrey. It is harder to make it here.


Abubaker: Will we see Bear House Studio Company in the United States?


TBear: I hope so. I hope to go to the United States to play as a DJ. That is a dream.


Abubaker: What are your thoughts on the state of the music industry?


TBear: The industry in Mexico is growing, but it is growing with modern rap with no real containment. For example, I listened to rap in the ’90s. Tupac can rap about drugs and another song rap about consciousness. “California Love” talks about gangster life, but “Keep Your Head Up” talks about helping women. In Mexico, rap is more about gangster and unrealistic things that the rapper is most likely lying about. But that is what is selling right now. Same in the United States. Trap music is what is selling in the USA. In Mexico, you can get a trap beat to be more present in the scene.


Abubaker: What is the biggest problem in music in Oaxaca and Mexico?


TBear: The biggest problem in music in Mexico, and I lived it as DJ and rapper, is… If you have ever heard the comparison of Mexico to crabs. The one who wants to get out, the other crabs hold you back. People hold you back. In the USA, people support you. In Mexico, if they see you rising, then people talk bad about you and try to hold you back. There is no support from the community for a rapper trying to make it big and become a star. If they see you rising to the top, people try to hold you back. In Mexico and Oaxaca, that is the biggest problem.


Abubaker: How would you describe Oaxacan hip-hop?


TBear: This is how it was in 2002. We started with lyrics with party and not that much consciousness rap. From there, things started to blossom. Consciousness rap, party rap, gangster rap, trap rap. From a straightforward way of rapping, there have been more and more branches added to the genre.


Abubaker: What makes Oaxaca different?


TBear: What makes this rap different from the rest of the country? There is nothing that makes it different. I once thought the idea, but at that time, I was further ahead of my time. I used to listen to “Dirty South” rap, which is Texas rap and Mississippi rap, but there was no one in Oaxaca to rap on those beats that I produced. I wanted Oaxaca to have their own sound, but it never happened. I want Oaxaca to have a sound that is different from the rest of the country… a sound that is from Oaxaca and different.


Abubaker: What is the culture of Oaxaca music?


TBear: What is specific to the music from Oaxaca is how some sounds are from bands, like “Dios Nunca Muere.” That is what marks the trademark sound of Oaxaca.


Abubaker: What is your responsibility at Bear House Studio Company?


TBear: I am the owner and beatmaker.


Abubaker: What are you working on right now?


TBear: What I am working on now is making beats for one of my own CD’s. I haven’t had the chance to make my own thing where I work with artists. I usually do work where I come out as a producer, but I want to come out with something as my own.


Abubaker: What do you think about Latin artists like Bad Bunny?


TBear: I think Latin people boost Bad Bunny because of the way paved by Daddy Yankee. The ones who started Latin music really paved the way. They opened the lanes for artists like Bad Bunny to make it. I like his rhythm because it is trap, but I don’t always like his lyrics. I listen to American rap. I like Ozuna, who is another Spanish artist, more. I feel like this is the result of a lot of artists opening the lane for today’s artists being so successful.


Abubaker: If you make music with someone, who would it be?


TBear: With a rapper, in today’s time, I like J. Cole. I like how he raps. Joey Bada$$ too. I like how he raps. Older times, I would like to work with Tupac. DJ Premier.


Abubaker: Why don’t you rap in English if it is so popular?


TBear: A lot of times, it is the difficulty of learning the English language. The rap in English has more words that you can cut. It is more malleable. “Thank you” can turn into “thanks.” There is more fluidity in English rap. I don’t understand a lot of rap, but I like the flow on the beats. I desire to learn the language better.


Abubaker: Do you have merchandise for Bear House?


TBear: T-shirts.


Abubaker: What is next for Bear House in the future?


TBear: Reconstruction. We want new people. There have been rappers that left, and we are looking to get new artists. We also want to empower the brand. We want the t-shirts to be more known. We have been promoting our shirts in Fresno, California, and are looking to expand the brand.


Be sure to follow DJ TBear on Instagram and Bear House Co. on YouTube to keep up-to-date with their work.


Born July 25, 1993, in Queens, New York, Mustafa ‘Mus’ Abubaker is a Pakistani American writer and editor from Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoys reading, cooking, and running. Visit his website, follow him on Twitter, and on Instagram.

Album Auto-nalysis: The Ryne Experience’s ‘Hokey’

Album Auto-nalysis: The Ryne Experience’s ‘Hokey’

Album Auto-nalysis is a regular COUNTERZINE feature where we ask some of our favorite artists to breakdown their albums track-by-track and provide further insight into the thoughts, feelings, and artistic processes that went into making them. For this edition, we asked our Ryne Clarke of UTC’s own The Ryne Experience to detail their 2018 debut album ‘Hokey’.


Ryne Clarke

A preface:


Ryne Clarke: This is my debut as a solo/collaborative artist and surely has made the biggest impact on how I record and make music today. This whole album sort of started with a big push of songs I had written in high school while still being apart of The Preservers. At that time, there just didn’t seem to be a good way to make what I wanted to be a solo record. So I sat on the songs and come fall of 2017, Jeremy Kargl (guitarist of the Preservers) and Corrina Wenger (bassist of the Preservers) went off for their first year of college, leaving me and Patrick Kargl (drummer of the Preservers) still at home.

Things started a bit slow but early November of 2017 I released my first single “Indie Rock Pop Star”. This song was sort of a joke about the genre of indie rock and was made with a handheld recorder and a laptop and is the only song to feature my friend Bill Baughn singing back up.

Right around the same time, the first formation of the band came together with Patrick on drums, myself on lead guitars and vocals, my friend Devin Falk on rhythm guitar, and Corrina’s brother Jerry Wenger on bass. We formed to make a music session video and got stuck with a terrible name, but hey, I guess that’s how it goes. Only now does the name seem to make more sense as a solo project.

In January of 2018, I put out another single called “Alone” and recorded it all by myself with a keyboard click and Pro Tools. This was the start of me getting creative in the studio to make a certain sound, and come April of 2018, everything would start.


1. “Space O”


RC: Sometime during the process of April to November of 2018 that I spent at Kargl Studios (Jeremy and Patrick’s house) to make Hokey, I acquired a fairly large tape collection and tape recorder from my buddy Mitch Petersen of the Alien Dogs, a punk band I was in for a few years. One of the tapes in the collection appeared to be a home made tape with the title “Space O”.

I popped the tape into my mini van player and thought it was horrible. Only later did I discover the Tascam 238 tape multi tracker recorded at double speed, so I popped the tape in there and ripped this 90 second synth part off it. It appeared to be in a relative key so I sent it out to a bunch of friends to try and play along with it. Whoever played the original piece, much thanks to you for the tapes and synth.

The end results of the piece were pretty atmospheric with my two friends Harley Kline and Devon Siciliano to talk over top, Dean Chittenden of Bedroom Ceilings played a key riff, my former radio co-host Sleeping Timmy added some acoustic guitars and vocals, and Corrina and Jerry added some bass. Surely made for a unique opening for the album.




2. “Weird Blues”


This is a song about depression and not being able to do really anything except lay in bed. I remember this being the first song that really pushed the idea for me to make a solo record with it being written in junior year. I made a demo previous for the original Hokey record that was going to be called “Oven Sky”.

The music was pretty straight forward for this one with a classic line up of myself on guitar and vocals, Jerry on Bass, and Pat on drums. Jeremy played a lead part I wrote for the song, Pat added piano and vibes, something he took more a liking to with this album, and I added a stylophone at the break. Recording the vocals was a day long process with a mushroom trip, making vocals a very weird thing to do. The vocals on this album were done in the bathroom at Kargl Studios.




3. “In Line”


I don’t exactly know what I wrote “In Line” about, but the only things that come to mind would be staying over at my ex’s house in the summertime and being confused. You know, teen stuff.

The music has the first formation of the EXP with Devin, Jerry, Pat, and me. You can hear Patrick grunt with the drum clicks in the beginning. This was a lead part I was actually proud of.



the boys


4. “Frosting “


Alright, first things first, this is about Pop Tarts. No sexual messages are hidden here. I wrote this one junior year as well and started playing it at high-school parties to much praise.

I knew I wanted to make the studio version ridiculous, so I brought in a bunch of goons to make the soundscape of the song. Mitch Petersen played the drums and rapped the main portion in the intro, Jeremy played bass, acoustic lead, and sang with me, and I sang and played guitar.

Then my pals Noah Houghtaling and Kevin Williams rapped in the background of the intro, Dylan White started the track, and Brendan Mane rapped in the middle, he can be seen at most of our shows performing this track with us live. You can hear Jeremy rambling at the end and he says “get the towels out of the house”: this refers to when Jeremy had a party and our friend Aiden got so drunk he puked all over himself and Jeremy’s sister’s bed, went to the bathroom to clean up, decided to take a bath, and flooded the upstairs bathroom by falling asleep in the tub and locking the door. Classic.




5. “Observations”


“Observations” was written about the stars and my day to day life of watching and observering. This was suppose to be a song with Bill Baughn with one of his songs and “Indie Rock Pop Star” to make a three song EP called Star Songs. This never ended up happening, so to Hokey it went.

This song marks my start of collaboration with my friend Mitchell Evink who approached me about being on the record to add some cello. I truly believe without Mitchell stopping by that this record and the future of the band would be ultimately different. We started tracking the song as a funk jam with Mitchell on bass, me and Jeremy on guitars, and Patrick on drums. We eventually settled down and got the backing track.

I played my grandpa’s acoustic that he gave me that I tuned to c# standard to stop the bridge from breaking off, overdubbed Mitchell’s bass (he was just starting off), and added banjo and organ. Jeremy added lead with a turd ball Fender strat that sat outside for years and played the organ at the verses. Mitchell added his cello and Patrick his drums. The finish piece was Jeremy’s mom’s boyfriend Pat Ball drilling in a guitar holder onto the wall, which I sampled for the track.

This track was also important because Jeremy had helped me with the vocals by encouraging me to add more harmonies to make the sound of the song bigger, a trick I ended up using henceforth.




6. “Gather Up Your Socks”


“Socks” is another junior year song and is about, well, laundry. 

The music was pretty fun to put together with a triple micing system on my acoustic with a pedal board and amp ran outside the room to make a textured sound. I used the Kargl’s house organ to compose my first real organ piece, and played bass as well. Mitchell added cello which deepened the dynamics of the song, and Patrick added a güiro, shaker, bongos, and tambourine to make a textured but quiet backbeat to the track.





7. “Slow Recession”


This is a track that I think doesn’t get enough attention on Hokey, probably my favorite on the record. The lyrics are about finding confidence in oneself.

The music was made pretty epic with Jerry playing bass and lead guitars, Patrick playing drums, myself on vocals and guitars, Mitchell playing cello, and our friend Sam Kenny playing trumpet on the track.

This track probably had the best engineering with Jerry taking oversight of the song. The trumpet parts Sam sent us were probably 12 different pieces we put together and you can hear him moving his fingers on the trumpet before the third chorus starts in a wisp sound.

I attempted to sing for this song the same day as the “Weird Blues” vocals tracking but found the song to be too much to handle at the time, I did notice the shrooms added a built in reverb/delay that I was hallucinating.



8. “Blue”


“Blue” is about being sad, sad boi high-school Ryne. This song ultimately was about the inevitable end of my high school relationship with Katie.

This was one of three songs to be started in my room prior to April of 2018, and finished at Kargl Studios later on. We used a mini club set on these three tracks which had a smaller kick that’s closer to the size of a floor tom with normal drum add-ons. I originally wrote a whole lead part for the song, but the solo was the only thing we kept for it. Jeremy added 12-string acoustic for the rest of the lead. Patrick added drums, piano, and a glockenspiel he got from school from being in band: a great sound for almost any track. Jerry played the bass per usual. This is the song I spent the longest on to get the vocals right doing countless overdubs to get the harmonies just right.




9. “Tiny Man”


This song was written by Corrina Wenger as a folk song about insanity (from what I can gather). I took her lyrics and made a new song out of it with more of a punk approach with a indie break, the only lyrics I wrote for this song.

The music is a Preservers reunion with all four of us on the song doing our thing with the addition of the electric kazoo solo at the end.





10. “Fishin'”


This song started as a joke Jerry and I started while doing the music session series we did at Kargl Studios in the winter of 2017. We would both play the organ and start singing nonsense and ideas of “Fishin'” came out one day. I took it home and finished it there. This is a poem-esque song about love.

The music turned out real folksy. My friend Adam Anderson dropped by the studio and I had him say all the stereotypical fishing things he could think of, then I spliced them together to put over my muted guitar chords in the beginning. I played acoustic, uke, harmonica, and sang. Patrick played drums and a rad key part, Jerry played bass, Jeremy played lead guitar and 12-string slide, and my friend Lindsey Garcia sang harmonies with me to make a standalone track. 




11. “The Morning”


This track is written about my first vehicle, my 1998 Chevy Venture minivan I had for two years. The verses are me singing to the van and the chorus is the van singing back. This was the first song I started for Hokey in early 2018 as a complete solo demo I released on a CD me and Mitch Petersen did called Demo Swan, featuring a beat-boxing song we did together.


While tracking “Blue”, I showed this track to Patrick and he added the mini club set over top of my demo, this being the reason why the timing is weird at the end of the song. Not much was changed bringing it back to Kargl Studios: I still played acoustic, bass, lead, and synth. The big difference was redoing all the verse vocals with Jeremy.





12. “Upstairs, Man”


This track is about my room in a broad sense of the song. This would later go on to be the name of my bedroom studio.

This would technically be the first song for Hokey, although I didn’t know it at the time. I wrote the song close to our first session we did as the EXP in November of 2017 and we worked it out just in time. We used the audio from the video and overdubbed vocals, and keys from Patrick. A very sporadic lead guitar from myself, but made the signature sound nonetheless.

You can hear Gabe Tower from the Alien Dogs in the background at the end of the track as he tells us the camera stopped working during the video.




13. “Eazy to Peel”


I always thought this was one of my goofiest songs with an opening line of “Bigfoot’s not real” but yet this track turned out very powerful. The lyrics aren’t about much except feeling like you are on the right path despite others who might think otherwise.

The music on this one has Mitchell playing cello, Jeremy playing lead for half the song (he tracked the song with me and Patrick and was still working out the verse parts), Patrick playing drums and epic piano part, Jerry playing bass and making pedal noises, and myself playing guitar with the shitty Fender, lead with my Gibson, vocals, and a theremin my neighbor cliff gave me for the noise section. I want to say the breakdown and end chord progression was worked out in the studio with a preamble to the next song in mind. The noise was a natural ending to the original take we had of the song, just adding to it.





14. “Your Sweet Love”


This song was definitely about my ex Katie, written in high school. Make it about whatever person you love if you so desire.

This song is special because it marked the official start of the Hokey sessions. It was April 1st, 2018 at Upstairs, Man and me, Devin Falk, and Mitch Petersen tracked the drums, acoustic, and lead all together in a single take. A perfect coming together of ideas. I later added synth, accordion, and vocals to the take to finish it up. The only part of the song recorded at Kargl Studios was Jerry’s bass part. On the album version, you can hear Jerry and Justin messing around with a bottle and some talking that’s disguised with reverb and delay. We would later take “Blue” and “Your Sweet Love” and put out our first CD single to promote Hokey which came out a month later in November of 2018.

And the rest is history!





The Ryne Experience’s ‘Hokey’ is available digitally and on CD directly from the band and on cassette via UTC. The band’s most recent album ‘Funky Town’ is also out now on digital, vinyl, CD, and cassette. You can read about ‘Funky Town’ via publications such as Yeah I Know It Sucks, Speak Into My Good Eye, Even the Stars, The Lowell Ledger, Local Spins, Houdini Mansions, SOMETHINGGOOD, WhiteLight//WhiteHeat, and START-TRACK. You can keep up-to-date with The Ryne Experience by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as their website A music video for the album’s title track, as well as a full visual album, are coming soon.

Darko the Super Shares “Suzy”, Talks Upcoming Steel Tipped Dove Collaboration ‘The Devil Defeated’, Daniel Johnston Influence

Darko the Super Shares “Suzy”, Talks Upcoming Steel Tipped Dove Collaboration ‘The Devil Defeated’, Daniel Johnston Influence

Evan Souza is Darko the Super, a Philadelphia-based rapper who’s received coverage from the likes of Houdini Mansions, Go Radio, and Dead End Hip Hop. We asked him about his upcoming album with Steel Tipped Dove, his influences, his incredible work ethic, favorite artists, and more. We’re also fortunate to be able to share the latest single from ‘The Devil Defeated’, “Suzy”.


COUNTERZINE: How are you today?


Darko the Super: Wasabi Kemosabe? I’m surfing in some oil spillage.


CZ: Tell us a little about yourself.


Darko: I go by the ridiculous name of Darko the Super. I make outsider music. Some call it art rap, or experimental hip hop. Nice terms to say I don’t fit in. I run an independent record label called U Don’t Deserve This Beautiful Art.


Darko the Super


CZ: Who would you consider some of your foremost influences, musical or otherwise?


Darko: Musically, my biggest influences are Frank Zappa, Serengeti, Daniel Johnston, E-40, and Kool Keith. Otherwise, Bill Hicks and Andy Kaufman have had a huge impact on me.




CZ: If you had to list a signature quality or qualities that define the music of Darko the Super, what would it/they be?


Darko: Unexpected. I think that could be used to sum up much of my music.



CZ: Your next album with producer Steel Tipped Dove, The Devil Defeated, is set to release on Already Dead on March 13. What can you tell us about the process of its creation, from working with STD and pulling together features, as well as lyrical themes you were looking to explore?


Darko: This album had a lot of stages and I’m very happy with it’s final form. Steel Tipped Dove and I had met through Twitter. I reached out after I released a Big Baby Gandhi cassette he had produced on. Later through him, I met Harvey Cliff (who did the artwork) and we recorded a few albums over at his studio. Dove had a great deal going on with his Patreon. He would send you 12 beats a month for a whole year if you subscribed $10 monthly. I took him up on that, and we made tons of tracks throughout that year and eventually narrowed it down to our favorites. During the creation of our album, Daniel Johnston passed away and I was devastated. I wanted to name the project after one of his lyrics and The Devil Defeated ended up sticking. I felt it went with much of the material being about moving on from the past. I deal with a lot of depression and self-deprecation. This album is about accepting myself.




CZ: You mention your new song “Suzy” as being inspired by The Spits’ “Suzy’s Face”. Could you elaborate on the connections that tie the two songs together? Do you often pull inspiration from sources as specific as this? If so, what are some other connections between the songs on the album and others?


Darko: My song’s a story about the protagonist in “Suzy’s Face”. I wanted to expand on not only shooting Suzy in the face at the high school dance of 1999, but why. I think that’s the best song on the album. Dove would disagree. I’ve never done anything similar. If I have, someone would have to tell me, cos I don’t remember. Which could be the case.




CZ: While cassettes are a sure thing, you’re also looking to get the album on vinyl. How does that work and how can fans help make that happen?


Darko: I’m working with the company Diggers Factory: they’ll manufacture everything and handle the shipping if we can get 200 pre-orders. It’s not a small feat, but luckily I met someone there and they’re helping me promote it. Hopefully we can make it happen.


CZ: You’re absurdly prolific in your output: I was introduced to your music last year via Year of the Darko, which compiled songs from no less than 10 2018 albums. Charles Bridgers IV is quoted as calling last year’s Card Tricks for Dogs your 257th album, which sounds like obvious hyperbole, but I’m on the verge of believing it. How much have you actually released, and what drives you to be active to such an extent? Are you immune to creative burnout?


Darko: I’ve released a ton of albums but not all have survived. I’ve deleted a bunch from Bandcamp, and a lot of my earlier work can only be found if you subscribe to my Bandcamp. I despise much of my previous albums up until 2017. I think Watered Down Demon Fuzz and everything after that is great. I’ve been recording music since I was 16 years old. It’s all I want to do. I don’t get burnt out from creating music. Honestly, I don’t think I make enough albums. Releasing music is completely different. I can’t stand relying on album sales to make money. It’s why for the first time in my life I’ve been at a job for longer than a couple months. I’m 26 and all I have to show for it is the countless albums I’ve made. If suddenly I didn’t have to worry about money and all I had to do was never release another album, I would do it in a heartbeat. I don’t see that happening as much as I would love it, so I’m gonna keep making albums because it keeps me sane.



CZ: Your last release before The Devil Defeated was a Sanders campaign fundraiser compilation, and you seem unhesitant to tackle politics in general. Do you see it as an imperative to use the artistic platform afforded through music to take a clear stance on social and political topics?


Darko: Of course! Especially when it’s bigger than politics. People’s lives are at stake. Medicare for all would change my life and countless others. I take six different medications each day. I had to stop seeing my therapist when I turned 26 cos I had to find my own insurance and they didn’t cover it. Bernie’s a beautiful genius and the only person I will be voting for.



CZ: Any shows coming up?


Darko: A couple gigs with The Hell Hole Store coming up. We’ll be playing with my Atlanta friends Day Tripper and Dillon when they come through Philly on tour, March 22nd and 23rd. Then in April, we play Winston Salem, NC with the Cold Rhymes boys for a Rap Round Robin show.



CZ: What are some of your favorite acts you’ve played with?


Darko: Goon Planet totally shred. All the Ridgewood Rippers, especially Painted Faces and Video Daughters. The Already Dead family reunion is the best every year. Forget the Times. Height Keech is a brilliant performer, even does a whole light routine, that’s rare in DIY rap. The Difference Machine is my favorite to see and play with live. Day Tripper played the greatest beat set I’ve ever seen then freestyle’d after his laptop fell off the stage. I’ve opened for Homeboy Sandman a couple times, he’s special and everyone knows it. Bob Bucko Jr. leaves it all on the court every night. The Karma Kids are fun cos Lt. Headtrip punches himself in the head, what a wild man. Rest in peace to YJY: they’re not dead but the lead singer moved to Seattle. While we’re on shows, The Spits put on the greatest live show I’ve ever been to.





CZ: Any plans to tour in the near future?


Darko: Maybe if I get a booking agent. Or have a chance to open for a bigger artist. I’ve done the paying your dues tours, I’m over it.


CZ: If there was just one thing you wanted everyone to know about Darko the Super that hasn’t been covered, what would it be?


Darko: Please buy my albums so I don’t feel like a complete failure each time a new record’s released.


devil defeated
‘The Devil Defeated’ album artwork (credit: Harvey Cliff & Josh Tabbia)

Darko the Super & Steel Tipped Dove’s ‘The Devil Defeated’ releases March 13 on cassette via Already Dead Tapes & Records and digitally through Darko’s label U Don’t Deserve This Beautiful Art. A vinyl release is also planned, should 200 pre-orders be secured by April 8 through Diggers Factory. Be sure to follow Darko the Super on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up-to-date with the album and future work.

Album Auto-nalysis: kate can wait’s ‘Veraniegas’

Album Auto-nalysis: kate can wait’s ‘Veraniegas’

Album Auto-nalysis is a regular COUNTERZINE feature where we ask some of our favorite artists to breakdown their albums track-by-track and provide further insight into the thoughts, feelings, and artistic processes that went into making them. For this edition, we asked Puerto Rican folk artist kate can wait to detail her new album ‘Veraniegas’.




1. “green greenz”


kate can wait: Sometimes I write songs with an idea of what role they’ll serve on an album. My last album, howl youth, started off with a very slow and stripped down song, so I wanted to start this one off with a pretty sounding one that also featured some synths to show that this album wouldn’t just be vocals and guitar like the last one. I wanted the song to instantly grab someone’s attention and fortunately I managed to write something that featured all of the things I wanted. It was one of those magical moments where a song basically writes itself in a couple of minutes, so I’m really pleased with this one. As a side note, I like to pepper my a lot of my songs with references to other lyrics or artists that inspire me and this one has a few of those if you wanna find them.



2. “sal & oro”


KCW: Very much a transitional song for me, this was the first song I wrote for the album and the last song I ever recorded on my old laptop. howl youth had come out recently, so I felt like I had the time to experiment a bit with new sounds during recording. Contrary to how I usually go about recording music, I spent most of my time on the instrumental and made sure the guitar parts sounded as pretty as possible while keeping the lyrics and vocals simple.. Whenever I listen to this song I instantly think that this is what a post-rock KCW song would sound like, and while the song is very different from others on the album, I think it ultimately paved the way for how every other song would sound.



3. “fantasmeo”


KCW: This is the last song I recorded for the album: I think I finished it in very early June of 2019. Fantasmeo is Puerto Rican slang that can be translated a bunch of different ways, but the way I use it here is basically “I’m a ghost because I’m just a spectator in life instead of a participant”. I really wanted Veraniegas to be full of really pretty songs (which I thought my last album lacked), so I wrote this song that’s half-meaningless introspection, half-love song inspired by the poet Sappho. The chorus features some gender-neutral lyrics in Spanish, which I wish I could hear more of from other artists.





4. “le mat”


KCW: Of all the songs on the album, this one is the hardest to explain. To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure where it came from. The lyrics are pretty personal and are related to a bunch of my previous songs including “somewhere, outside” from this album. I remember that while recording it, I wanted the vocals to sound like Liza Minnelli.



5. “obvio de que o sea full de que super literal”


KCW: This one’s a toughie. While recording the album I felt like I had too many ‘pretty’ songs that were full of harmonies and layered guitar parts so I decided that I wanted to record something more stripped down and bare, like my first few albums, as a sort of breather track. Of course what happened is that I ended up recording a song with the most vitriolic and personal lyrics I’ve ever written. It’s in Spanish so not everyone will get it, but the lyrics are about physical and emotional abuse and manipulation. I debated for a long time about whether or not to include it because sharing something so personal and painful about my life felt awkward. However, I wrote the song with a purpose and I ended up liking how catchy the melody is so, against my better judgement, I included it. So much for having a breather, huh?



6. “~out of heaven~”


KCW: Oddly enough, the second song I wrote for the album and the one that got me into full on recording mode for my next release. I love dark sounding music and neofolk in particular is one of my favorite genres, so I tried to make something that sounded spooky and haunting while also having some goth rock camp to it. I kind of wear my influences on my sleeve on this one, but I really enjoy songs like this.



7. “flor de bolsillo”


KCW: The concept for this one was very cute love song in Spanish. One of the fastest songs I recorded for the album: I think I wrote and recorded all of in an hour. It was a ton of fun to work on. Most of the lyrics are inside jokes and pretty imagery with a shout out to Odysseus and Penelope.



8. “solo c q no c na”


KCW: A song to listen to on a sober Saturnalia evening. I’ve had that main riff floating around for years and getting to finally use it in a song felt liberating. The lyrics are also some of my favorite I’ve ever written, mostly stream of consciousness stuff and some funny wordplay. My thought process for this song was ‘bossa nova-ish beat with Carla Morrison vocals’.





9. “somewhere, outside”


KCW: Another personal one. It’s hard to write about these types of songs but this one is about a period of time I’ve written about in at least a dozen of my previous songs including “le mat” from this same album and most of Emerald City Film Club. On it I speak a bit about my first time ever flying out of the country alone in search of freedom and meaning. The chorus actually predates the events in the rest of the song’s lyrics and it happened a little bit before all of the flights. It was one of the most painful, emotional moments I’ve ever had and I’ll never forget how much grief I felt saying goodbye.



10. “to be alone with you​/​/​2bAloewnWifU”


KCW: Before kate can wait, I made electronic music for about eight years and it’s a sound I’ve been wanting to incorporate into KCW since I started the project. While a few songs  of the other songs on here have synths in the background, for some reason I just felt like this song needed a heavy, electronic outro while I was recording it and just kept adding and adding until I was satisfied. I think the ending is a nice contrast to how chill and cute the rest of the song is. This is probably the KCW song most likely to get played in a Japanese cafe.



11. “orphan maker”


KCW: Probably the nerdiest song I’ve ever written and the third one I recorded for the album. The lyrics are about a D&D character and campaign and the music was inspired by epic fantasy video game bard songs and black metal, even if it doesn’t really sound like any of those things. I really wanted to get a big powerful choral sound for the vocals and ended up recording like 15-20 vocal tracks for the song, which took longer than I’d care to admit. I’d love to delve into this style of music more in the future, so I put this one at the end to make the transition to the next album easier. Shout out to Kord, the Stormlord!





kate can wait’s ‘Veraniegas’ is out now via Grimalkin Records and is available on digital, cassette, and lathe cut vinyl. Digital sales support kate can wait, cassette sales benefit the True Self Foundation in Puerto Rico, and lathe cut sales go towards the production of Grimalkin Records’ future release. You can read more on kate can wait and ‘Veraniegas’ from us on our January ‘Good Causes’ column. Be sure to follow kate can wait on FacebookTwitter, and Bandcamp to keep up-to-date with future work.

Album Auto-nalysis: Of House’s ‘Feelings’

Album Auto-nalysis: Of House’s ‘Feelings’

Album Auto-nalysis is a regular COUNTERZINE feature where we ask some of our favorite artists to breakdown their albums track-by-track and provide further insight into the thoughts, feelings, and artistic processes that went into making them. For this edition, we asked Nick Van Huis of Detroit dream/twee pop band Of House to detail their new album ‘Feelings’.


Of House


1. “It’s a Start”


Nick Van Huis: “It’s a Start” was the first Of House song I wrote. I had started writing the Of House music while I was still with my old band Young Punk. Young Punk was a much more experimental, ambient, R&B/future Soul band. I loved making that music, but I was still writing music like “It’s a Start”, which would not have fit with what we were doing. As a result, Of House became an outlet for me to write these simpler songs while I was in Young Punk. Originally I had no plans of releasing the music, I just wanted to get it down. It was only after Young Punk decided to take a break that I decided to release this music publicly. 

“It’s a Start” works as an album thesis. “I want to be Tarantino / But I feel like Michael Bay” speaks to the idea of having lofty ambitions and maybe not hitting them, or feeling doubt about what you are trying to achieve. Working on art alone can make you self-conscious about what you are creating. But ultimately you need to be comfortable with yourself and believe in what you are doing, which is what “It’s a Start” is all about.

Musically, I wanted Of House to reflect music that was more ‘rock’ leaning and put it to the metronomic/motorik beats that I really love. Something like Dinosaur Jr. mixed with Neu!, or Yo La Tengo mixed early Magnetic Fields — when they were using more drum machines. Marrying the hi-ii instrumentation with the lo-fi vocal production. A lushness that wasn’t too overproduced. “It’s a Start” definitely leans more towards a more rock sound, but I think it works as an album opener because it addresses lyrical themes heard throughout and preps the listener for sounds to be heard therein.



2. “Record Store”


NVH: When I was working on the music that would become Feelings, I got engaged, planned my wedding, and started my life with my wife, Amanda. Amanda would be — and still is — a very important part of Of House. Not only was she a sounding board for my ideas, she also sang on almost every song on the album. Her voice brings a softness that my singing voice lacks, and creates more of a dream pop vibe that I was shooting for.

“Record Store” is all about the excitement of being in a relationship with someone and sharing something you love with them. For me that was always trips to the record store. Getting new music and sharing it with someone you care about, learning about what they like and what you have in common, is something I really cherish about my relationship with Amanda. There are also Easter eggs throughout that mention bands and albums that we both really love.

“Record Store” was also the first song where the pieces of what I wanted Of House to be musically started falling into place. The repetition of the rhythm section is meant to wash over you, creating a trance-like atmosphere that the other instrumentation and vocals can play against. In my mind this created what I believe to be the first ‘realized’ Of House song.



3. “Ask Me to Run”


NVH: “Ask Me to Run” is another song about relationships and how you can get in your head about what you and your partner are thinking and feeling. “In my head / You are so mean / You are so cruel / But that’s just me”. If you only give in to those insular thoughts, you’re doomed. Through the lyrics I wanted to communicate that you can have doubt about a relationship, but that doesn’t invalidate the positive feelings you have about the other person. What matters is if they ask you to run, you do it despite feelings of doubt.

Musically, I wanted to incorporate the Highlife, Soukous, and Chimurenga music that I have always loved into an Of House song. This is especially heard in the breakdowns where layers of guitars weave around each other to create an almost orchestral sound. I’ve always loved Thomas Mapfumo, Kanda Bongo Man, and their contemporaries. If you are interested in the sounds in this song you absolutely need to listen to those artists and dig deeper into their catalogs.



4. “Pre-Coffee Contemplation”


NVH: Because the music of Feelings is a little scattershot, I wanted to create a few ambient instrumentals that could function as palette cleansers between groups of songs. The coffee songs function to break up the album into thematic chunks while also telling another story within the album. “Pre-Coffee Contemplation” evokes the morning hours before your day has really started and you can take time to reflect.





5. “Here 4 U”


NVH: “Here 4 U” is another song where the lyrics border on twee. The song is all about being there for someone no matter what they are going through. It’s a simple message of devotion that I wanted to convey in a really blunt way so the message wouldn’t get lost in translation. “Here 4 U” plays in the same sandbox as “Record Store” musically. The repetition of the drum machine and instrumentation wraps around you while the lyrics take you in. The synth lines showcase the first time I really started to use keys as a lead instrument, not using organs and pads that only fill out a song. Those elements are still there of course, but the synth gives the song a buoyancy that makes it more fun. “Here 4U” also has my favorite guitar solo on the album.



6. “The Man Upstairs”


NVH: The title of the song is a tribute to Robyn Hitchcock, who has an album with the same name. “The Man Upstairs” is a simple power pop song about how we all need to be kind to each other. Living in a city, even a relatively small city like Detroit, we are constantly surrounded by people but we don’t always connect with those around us. Just say hi to your neighbors. I think that’s an important message that gets lost too easily.

All of the elements of Of House songs are found in “The Man Upstairs.” Repetitive drum machine beats, lots of down stroked guitar chords played against jangly lead figures, fuzzed out solos, and hooky synths all come together to create a lush musical environment.



7. “Post Coffee Euphoria”


NVH: The second instrumental on the album. This was actually the first instrumental I had written while making Feelings. This song was where I came up with the idea for the coffee songs. After I wrote it it reminded me of the first moments after you have your coffee in the morning. When you feel motivated and like anything is possible. I’m a person that is very sensitive to caffeine so I really feel that surge of endorphins after that first cup of coffee.





8. “Just Words”


NVH: “Just Words” is the emotional centerpiece of Feelings. I made the choice to have only my voice on the song because it is me singing to Amanda. It is meant to deconstruct how I write love songs, detailing all the components that go into a devotional song. It’s also a plea. I may not always have grand romantic gestures, and we may want to tear each other apart from time to time, but I’ll always have words for her and I’ll always mean them. And sometimes that’s enough.

This is the first song that really leans into the shoegaze and noise elements that I had applied more subtly throughout the album. I wanted the bridges to be really forceful musically to back up what I was saying in them. I have to give a shout out to Stephen Stewart, my close friend and musician who mixed and mastered Feelings. This song was probably a nightmare to work with because it vacillates between really quiet to really loud on a dime. He did a great job mixing and mastering the whole album, but he really did a great job with this song in particular, making sure it didn’t break the eardrums of anyone listening to it. 

“Just Words” also has my favorite lyric on the album. “An ocean’s no ocean / Without a few waves”. Every relationship has its hardships, but those are an indelible part of any relationship. You can’t really enjoy the good times without making it through the bad. After all, “an ocean’s no ocean without a few waves”.



9. “Rise Up”


NVH: I wrote “Rise Up” right as the MeToo movement was starting to gain steam. This song is all about how men like me have to take shitty men to task. We have to actively help dismantle a system that was built to benefit us at the expense of others. We need to use our privilege to lift up others that don’t have the benefit of that privilege.

This song poured out of me in the course of an afternoon. I was so mad at the world, and especially those that could be so horrible to women. As I was writing the lyrics Amanda helped me better convey what I was trying to say. I had written a verse about how we all have mothers or sisters so we need to stand up for them. Amanda explained to me that you shouldn’t only be motivated to take action against violence or harassment because it happened to someone close to you. Those egregious acts shouldn’t happen to anyone, period. She not only helped me complete the song but she made me see the way I had been viewing these issues had been extremely limited. We shouldn’t need an inciting incident to “Rise Up”. We should do it because what is happening is wrong and that needs to change.



10. “Post Post Coffee Euphoria Crash”


NVH: I have an anxiety disorder. This makes me very susceptible to the effects of caffeine in both positive and negative ways. If “Post Coffee Euphoria” is the feeling you get after you drink your coffee in the morning, “Post Post Coffee Euphoria Crash” is the feeling you get when you’ve had too much coffee. We all know the feeling of having too much coffee and getting jittery. For me, too much coffee doesn’t only come with the jitters, it comes with the deluge of anxiety that comes when you’re feeling slightly off. The stacking guitar lines are meant to convey competing thoughts that you can barely contain as they bump up against each other, fighting for space, until it all crescendos and you can’t contain the madness happening inside you. This song, to me, best conveys what it feels like to fall into a downward spiral of anxiety.





11. “I Give Up”


NVH: The last two songs on Feelings are a thematic pair. Lyrically, I come back to the theme of self-doubt in the face of creation a lot with Of House. Because I write and record this music alone, it is all too easy to feel like what you’re doing doesn’t matter or isn’t good enough. I like to work alone and create these songs in the ways I want them to be created, but it is difficult to not have a sounding board until after a song is completed. My process in Of House is to write and record a song, and then play it for Amanda and my band — who plays live with me and records the parts I write for new Of House songs. I know I can trust them to tell me the truth about things they like or dislike about a particular song, but “I Give Up” is about the moments when I‘m alone and before I reach out to other people. I like the creative control that working alone gives me, but when you’re by yourself it can be hard to not give in to your baser doubts.

Lyrically, that is all right upfront in “I Give Up.” This is the only other song that doesn’t have Amanda on it, and that was also a conscious decision. Because “I Give Up” is about the loneliness that can be felt as a lone creative, it felt appropriate to only have my voice on the song. This song also incorporates more of the dreamier elements that I try to convey in Of House songs. The synth line isn’t as buoyant as other Of House songs and mixes within the song as opposed to being the driving hook. The song isn’t all gloomy though. The extended outro works to be triumphant. Dovetailing with the positive message that is to come in “Get Free”.



12. “Get Free”


NVH: “Get Free” wasn’t the final song I wrote for Feelings, but it was always going to be the last full song on the album. This is the song where I loosen the shackles of self doubt just enough and I begin to feel good about what I am putting into the world. Of course, this being an Of House song, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are still allusions to self doubt and wondering if what I am making is good enough, but “Get Free” isn’t meant to completely cast those feelings aside. I’ll never get free of those feelings. They are a part of me and my artistic process. They can be frustrating and sad, but they also help me get to where I need to be in a way. There is no moment in the song where I truly “Get Free” but that’s ok. Getting free, to me, means incorporating into yourself those aspects that may feel counterproductive. That way you can go through them. There is never a true breakthrough moment in the song where everything crescendos and you can the song breaking free. But “Get Free” is meant to be more subtle than that. You don’t have to bust through a wall to get outside. Sometimes you just need to walk through the door.



13. “Post Post Post Coffee Euphoria Crash Resolution”


NVH: And that brings us to the end of Feelings. The last coffee song had to be a resolution. The feeling of calm when everything finally falls into place. When euphoric highs and anxious lows level out, and you are left with the calm that comes with knowing that everything is going to be alright. It’s not a huge cathartic revelation, it’s the small feelings that we feel most of the time throughout our lives. That’s what I hope people take away from this album. There are highs and lows in life, but it’s the middle where we live most of the time. And those are the “Feelings” that matter the most.



Roasted coffee beans, ground coffee and a Cup of hot coffee on a


Of House’s ‘Feelings’ is out now and available pay-what-you-want here. Be sure to follow the band on Facebook and Instagram to keep up-to-date with their music. For more words on Of House, you can check out our 8track, where we featured “Get Free”.

HMS Morris Talk New Single “Babanod”, Pushing Back Against Traditional Expectation, Working On a Theatre Show

HMS Morris Talk New Single “Babanod”, Pushing Back Against Traditional Expectation, Working On a Theatre Show

HMS Morris are a Cardiff-based art pop-rock duo who’ve received coverage from the likes of She Makes Music, About Sound, Travellers Tunes, London Cafe, and Clash Magazine. We asked them about their newest single “Babanod”, their influences, their 2021 theatre show, and more.


COUNTERZINE: How are you today?


HMS Morris: Snotty!


CZ: Tell us a little about HMS Morris.


HMS Morris: We’re based in Cardiff. Heledd is originally from Carmarthenshire and Sam’s from Denbighshire. We’re a two-piece who also like to play with a drummer sometimes.


hms morris 1
HMS Morris (left to right: Heledd Watkins, Sam Roberts)


CZ: Who would you consider some of your foremost influences, musical or otherwise?


Heledd: Chairlift, Kate Bush, Lady Gaga, Martha Wainwright, lots of 90s guitar bands, also the work of Diane Arbus has really stuck with me.

Sam: Zappa, Jeff Buckley, YMO, Radiohead, Neil Young, Antonio Gramsci.



CZ: If you had to list a signature quality or qualities that define the music of HMS Morris, what would it/they be?


HMS Morris: It’s always quite layered, with textures generally synth-y and punchy-guitar-y. We gravitate away from ABABCB-type, although there are no rules really. Hopefully the meaning of a song gets to dictate its development.



CZ: Your new single “Babanod” is noted to be inspired by “the awkward moment in your friend’s wedding when someone feels compelled to reassure you that “you’ll be next”” and pushing back against the idea of the “graduation to marriage to parenthood” lifestyle progression. Was there a specific incident that fueled this topic? Will the person/people in question read this interview and know that “Babanod” is about them?


Heledd: It happens all the effing time! So if you’re reading this and you’re someone that’s said something to me at some point: Ha! Shut your face! Don’t do it again! Seriously though, you never know what someone’s going through, you need to be pretty certain that you know what’s going on with them before you go up and make some inane gesture. I guess the saving grace is that the person generally is trying to make someone feel better, but they should realise that they could easily make them feel worse instead.



CZ: “Babanod” is the first in a series of 2020 singles you have planned. Can you say anything about them: when the next might be coming, titles, if an album or EP comes at the end, etc.?


HMS Morris: The next one is coming out at the end of March. We’ve already filmed the video, so that’s being edited at the moment. There won’t be an album, but we might put the singles together in some kind of neat little package they end up feeling like they belong together.



CZ: You’re also working on a theatre show right now planned to be ready for next year. What can you tell us about that?


HMS Morris: It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time. We’ve worked a lot on the concept, and we brought some bits of it to life in a little show in Japan at the end of September. We’re hoping to work with some Japanese artists that we met while we were there to give some depth to the future culture in which it’s based. At the moment, we’re conceiving of it as an immersive theatre piece with live music, dancers, and bears.


CZ: Any shows coming up?


HMS Morris: We’re playing in Swansea for Dydd Miwsig Cymru tonight (the 7th), then we’re playing next weekend in Tiny Rebel, Cardiff, then we’ll be heading up to Wrexham for FOCUS Wales in May. We’re trying to leave plenty of gaps to work on the theatre show – but then again we do enjoy a good festival in the summer!


tiny rebel
Graphic for Tiny Rebel show with Risorius and Doops, February 15


CZ: What are some of your favorite acts you’ve played with?


HMS Morris: When we played with Songhoy Blues in Clwb, that was a great gig. Also Jane Weaver in Timber Festival was cool. But probably our favourite is when we get to play with our friends and labelmates at Bubblewrap Records. It’s nice to be reminded how talented your friends are sometimes.




CZ: If there was just one thing you wanted everyone to know about HMS Morris that hasn’t been covered, what would it be?


HMS Morris: Cats, green dragon rolls, flannelette sheets. In that order.


green dragon roll


HMS Morris’ “Babanod” is out now and available to stream here. Be sure to follow the duo on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Bandcamp to keep up-to-date with their work.

Hannah Rose Dexter Shares “Between”, Talks Upcoming Debut Solo Album ‘The View From Normal’, Musical History, Love For Bass

Hannah Rose Dexter Shares “Between”, Talks Upcoming Debut Solo Album ‘The View From Normal’, Musical History, Love For Bass

Hannah Rose Dexter is an LA-based jazz bassist and singer-songwriter who’s received coverage from Obscure Sound and has played as a ‘sidewoman’ for acts such as Ember Knight, A Horse A Spoon A Bucket, and many others. Now recording as a solo artist for the first time, we asked her about her upcoming debut LP ‘The View From Normal’, her musical history, making bass-led music in a world of dwindling attention spans, and more. We’re also fortunate to be able to share her third and most recent single, “Between”.


COUNTERZINE: How are you today?


Hannah Rose Dexter: Somewhat frazzled while traveling through the Pacific Northwest for a family wedding, but so grateful to be nomadic in the rain again.


CZ: Tell us a little about yourself.


HRD: I am a bass player, almost exclusively. I’ve been studying upright bass for 13 years and electric bass for half of that. Originally from Portland, OR, but calling Los Angeles home since 2012. I play bass for a living, mostly jazz, blues, rock and roll, new music, whatever compels and challenges me. In my spare time, I sew, cook, bike, walk, read, climb roofs, and care for people.


Hannah Rose Dexter


CZ: Who would you consider some of your foremost influences, musical or otherwise?


HRD: In no particular order: Billie Holiday, Sesame Street, tall trees, Slam Stewart, old buildings, Marnie Stern, Parliament/Funkadelic, Sufjan Stevens, Jimmy Stewart, Alma Hightower… anyone elegant, storied, innovative, and hypnotizing.



CZ: If you had to list a signature quality or qualities that define the music of Hannah Rose Dexter, what would it/they be?


HRD: Uncompromising. I start writing a song with the right bass line. It doesn’t matter if the figure is in 13/8, or fluctuates between 9/4 and 6/4, or this lyrical line has two beats of rest but the following line has three beats of rest. I will not compromise what I’ve written to make it more palatable. Maybe one song on this album follows the traditionally marketable verse, chorus, verse, double chorus, but just barely. I am out to engage my musical brain and express my emotions, first and foremost.


CZ: You’ve recently embarked on your solo recording journey, but you mention traveling the world playing music, and we also know of your involvement with Ember Knight’s work (The Disappointment Cowboy). What can you tell us about your musical history up until this point?


HRD: I feel uniquely blessed to have made my career as a musical sideman (“sidewoman” is not in the dictionary). Other musicians know they can call me with minimal notice, and I will arrive at the gig with the songs prepared to perform. In the jazz tradition, it’s not unusual to play a gig with complete strangers, trusting that everyone can speak their musical language fluently and cooperatively.  Most nights at “work,” I feel like a time traveler.



CZ: We’re fortunate to be able to share your newest single, “Between”. How would you describe this song: the thoughts and feelings that went it, as well as what you aimed to communicate?


HRD: “Between” describes a very specific night of shared rainfall, many years ago. For quite a while, I held remorse for not acknowledging what I felt in the moment. This song is a place to contain and honor those feelings. I wanted to explore how much of a chord the electric bass could spell out melodically, even as the rhythm was displaced and sporadic. Folk usually expect bass to only cover the root of the chord in a straight, repetitive line, but I’m also adding fifths, sevenths, tenths, thirteenths; all sorts of sonic information that people rarely delegate to the bass in rock music. There are three distinct sections seeking to illustrate the sound of rain pounding at the windows, eagerness and gratitude, and a joyful lift-off that was experienced, but never fully recognized in words. I make up for the lyrical ambiguity of the first half by being painfully specific throughout the ending.



CZ: “Between” is the third of your recent singles, following “Image” and “Leave”, which all come from your upcoming debut album The View From Normal. What can you tell us about the album, the process of its creation, and the differences that came with taking lead?


HRD: The hardest part of taking lead is baring the responsibility for absolutely every detail. If I didn’t like the way something sounded, I had no one to blame but myself. Over three years, I recorded, scrapped, and abandoned the album two times before reaching what you hear now.  I was far too critical on myself and lacked the patience to see it through to completion. This final recording took about six months of varying intensity. There were still hard days with this iteration, but I had close friends who encouraged me. It started with four days of my best friend and I dismantling the apartment, soundproofing the window with a mattress, plugging up the door with dirty laundry, and then reassembling everything when we were done each evening. He engineered while I recorded the electric bass and voice parts simultaneously. Then I made four trips to the drummer’s garage, hanging microphones from rafter beams and using cinderblocks for stands. There were overdubs of electric and upright bass, and a few beautiful evenings spent feeding and recording the other musicians. I wasn’t sure I could emotionally or financially handle the stress of recording this in a studio, so I chose to go my own pace at home. I feel incredibly proud of what love, labor, and a surprisingly little amount of money accomplished.



‘The View From Normal’ album cover (credit: Sasha Schotzko)


CZ: When you sent us “Image” initially, you actually insisted upon patience when listening, as the for nearly two minutes, it’s just your soulful vocal and proficient bass playing. We found it engaging immediately, but is there still a nervousness involved with making bass-led music, considering how relatively uncommon it might be?


HRD: Despite how rare it is now, bass and a high-range voice makes a lot of historical sense. There are centuries worth of music from all corners of the globe that is only a low sound and a high sound in conversation. I’m sure people can accept a bass and voice driven album if they like the textures and the songwriting well enough, maybe they won’t even notice there’s no guitar. My concern is how short our musical attention span is becoming. I like to think that my songs reward patience with grandiose and surprising twists, but the listener can only claim that reward if they’re willing to listen long enough.



CZ: Any shows coming up?


HRD: You bet! I’m hosting the album release show and party at The Yard Theater in Hollywood on February 22nd. They’ll be ragtime, wine spo-dee-o-dee, and a big smile on my face.


CZ: What are some of your favorite acts you’ve played with?


HRD: Definitely my psych-rock band, A Horse A Spoon A Bucket, which is where I learned everything I know about home recording and musical honesty. That is the only band that has never tried to limit my bass intuition. I play with a 50s/60s surf rock band called Jetpack that I love for the opposite reason; my job is to hold down a groove. I get a thrill playing with jazz big bands for the power, responsibility, and feat of scheduling it takes to bring everyone together. Also, any time I get to play with the jazz drummer, Tina Raymond, is a total gift.



CZ: Any plans to tour in the near future?


HRD: Yeeeeeeessssssss. The dream of finally touring alone is what’s kept me pushing to finish this. No where is off limits to me, but I am planning an East Coast tour in the Spring and a trip up the West Coast in the Summer.


CZ: If there was just one thing you wanted everyone to know about Hannah Rose Dexter that hasn’t been covered, what would it be?


HRD: No amount of sexual harassment is gonna keep me from playing bass.




Hannah Rose Dexter’s ‘The View From Normal’ releases February 22. Be sure to follow her on Bandcamp and Instagram to keep up-to-date with the release.

Album Auto-nalysis: The Rifle’s ‘Honeyden’

Album Auto-nalysis: The Rifle’s ‘Honeyden’

Album Auto-nalysis is a regular COUNTERZINE feature where we ask some of our favorite artists to breakdown their albums track-by-track and provide further insight into the thoughts, feelings, and artistic processes that went into making them. For this edition, we asked Nelene Deguzman of Tucson indie/psych rock band The Rifle to detail their new album ‘Honeyden’.


the rifle
The Rifle (photo credit: Josh Wallace)


1. “Starlings”


Nelene Deguzman: I like gentle beginnings. To me, this song feels like getting to wake up really slowly very early in the morning when you have the whole day to yourself.  Originally, “Starlings” and “Dyads” were written as one long track, but I love an intro, so we separated them into two. 

Time of day:  So early it’s still a little dark out



2. “Dyads”


ND: Feels like a nice slow morning in your own bed before a car ride in that good golden light, seeing changing landscapes.  

Time of day: The sun is just rising



3. “My Sweet Babe”


ND: This song is all sweetness and nostalgia.  It’s reminiscing over an old photograph while romanticizing the past and the future.  I wrote it for my now husband (Kevin) in lieu of vows for our wedding. Gross! I know! 

Time of day: Noon



Husband Kevin on the big fretted guitar, ‘Honeyden’ release show (photo credit: Christopher B. Riggs)


4. “The Garden”


ND: This song is silent, peaceful rage, yelling as loud as you can into a void, but also smiling because you look prettier that way. 

Time of day: 2 PM; still three more hours in the workday



5. “Orange Dream”


ND: I grew up experiencing vinyl and cassette tapes as a novelty. Something imprinted on me regarding albums being arranged in a side A and side B, so I like having a little instrumental interlude or musical intermission to separate two halves of an album.  

Time of day: Happy hour with tiki drinks



6. “Seventeen Stings”


ND: When I’m feeling really anxious, I try to tell myself wildly positive things, but those don’t really drown out the shadow voice in my head saying terrible things. Instead, I end up holding those two voices in my head at the same time which creates a very weird dissonance.  But also Kevin and I were once attacked by killer bees. True story. Been chasing that bee venom high ever since.

Time of day: When you wake up from a nap that’s gone way too long and it’s dark out, and you’re not sure the time or how long you’ve been asleep





7. “Are You Having Fun Yet?”


ND: Examining childhood wounds through the lens of adult traumas.  A conversation with a younger version of yourself. 

Time of day: 3:15 PM



8. “Joy Destroyer”


ND: Driving around, listening to news stories, feeling so bummed you think you can’t get any more bummed, but then the bottom drops out like a wallop to the stomach and it’s worse.

Time of day: 7 AM



9. “Visitation”


ND: This song was one of those funny situations in which I wrote the whole thing in one day, one sitting. Feels like inhabiting the world as a peaceful ghost in your own life.  Soft sheets, neon reflections.  

Time of day: 11:11 PM



10. “Paving”


ND: I just want to get away from the need to compete with other people, or feeling compared to the success of others.  I just want to be on my own single lane road where I don’t even see how fast or slow other people are going. I’m happy to carpool though. Maybe give comparisons the finger and go roller skating instead.  

Time of day: 8 AM on a Monday morning, but you’ve quit your job so the possibilities are endless





The Rifle’s ‘Honeyden’ is out now and available to purchase digitally from the band and on cassette via Burger Records. Be sure to follow The Rifle on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up-to-date with their music.

Tribe Friday’s Noah Deutschmann Talks “Talk So Loud”, Upcoming EP ‘Chasing Pictures’, The ‘Drunk-Tattoo Leg’

Tribe Friday’s Noah Deutschmann Talks “Talk So Loud”, Upcoming EP ‘Chasing Pictures’, The ‘Drunk-Tattoo Leg’

Tribe Friday are a Swedish indie/dance rock band who’ve received coverage from the likes of, Surviving the Golden Age, and YabYum. We asked frontman Noah Deutschmann about their new single “Talk So Loud”, their upcoming ‘Chasing Pictures’ EP, their touring schedule, the story behind his drunk-tattoo covered leg, and more.


COUNTERZINE: How are you today?


Noah Deutschmann: I’m fine, thanks! Trying to cope with jetlag and flight scares, but fine. Tour is fun!


CZ: Tell us a little about Tribe Friday.


ND: We’re a bunch of kids from Sweden who love to play rock music. I think that sums us up pretty nicely.


tribe friday
Tribe Friday (photo credit: Miranda Fredriksson)


CZ: How did you meet/come together as a band?


ND: Me and Anton (drums) have been playing together for ages – since we were fourteen, as a matter of fact. We met for the first time through a mutual ex-girlfriend, if you can call it that at fourteen. It’s just gone downhill from there, really. Robin and Isak just joined the band a couple of months ago, which is weird since it already feels like we’ve been playing together forever. We know them from playing at/attending the same shows throughout the years, and from me producing a few singles for their respective previous projects – which was good, because I already had experience working with the both of them. I gave them a call, they showed up at our house, and after doing a bit of jamming we just knew, you know. Next thing you know we’re on a plane to Los Angeles!


CZ: Who would you consider some of your foremost influences, musical or otherwise?


ND: I feel the great thing about Tribe is that we all have a very broad musical pallet, which makes for a lot more interesting songwriting. Robin listens to quite a bit of nu-metal and funk, Anton’s all about that psychedelic vibe, and Isak really likes emo music and Death Grips, for some reason. If I had to choose a few musical influences of my own, it’d have to be The Strokes (which is quite audible in our music) and Michigan-based post-hardcore band La Dispute. But I will honestly listen to anything but country music. If we’re talking influences in general, I’d say my parents are a big one. My dad is the most energetic and kind-hearted person I’ve ever met. Some of my earliest memories are of him dancing his brains out at klezmer concerts. I think that might have had a pretty direct influence over the way I go wild on stage.



CZ: Your new single “Talk So Loud” is mentioned as both an ode to New York City, as well as a take on post-relationship apathy. How do those elements intertwine, and was there a particular experience or relationship that inspired it?


ND: I think the two elements of the track are more contrasting than they are intertwined. I like it that way, where what’s being said and what’s being heard doesn’t necessarily align. I knew I wanted the track to sound like NYC sonically, so naturally, I started off with the instrumental stuff. For me, ‘the sound of NYC’ meant exciting and raw. The lyrics came from a completely different place – I don’t want to go into too much detail but there’s definitely been a few relationships, and experiences within those relationships, that inspired it.



CZ: “Talk So Loud” is from your upcoming Chasing Pictures EP. What can you tell us about the process of putting this project together? When can we expect to hear more?


ND: The process of making Chasing Pictures was a long and intense one. I spent so much time making sure everything about these tracks sounded right to me, which was frustrating at some points, but very rewarding now that they’re finished. Producing songs that you’ve been involved in writing is hard because it’s very easy to lose any form of objectivity, but thankfully I had input from a lot of talented people around me. I don’t want to say too much – but it is possible we made an entire album worth of material, and that this EP is just the first half of it…

The full EP is out in March, and if we’re lucky there might be another single coming out next month!


CZ: You also released your Trying Your Luck EP last year. How does Chasing Pictures relate to that project, if at all?


ND: For me, Chasing Pictures is a pretty natural progression from TYLEP. A lot of the same themes of self-detriment are present, but in a more flushed-out and thoughtful manner (I think). Sound-wise, it is way more diverse, which is weird because Trying Your Luck was a sort of pick-and-mix of tracks written and recorded at different times, while Chasing Pictures (and its sequel) is made as a cohesive project. I don’t know if that will be at all audible, but it matters to me. I’m really proud of it.



CZ: If you had to list a signature quality or qualities that define Tribe Friday, what would it/they be?


ND: High energy with emo lyrics and pop hooks. And a killer drum/bass groove.


CZ: Any shows coming up/plans to tour in the near future?


ND: Yes! A bunch. Right now we’re wrapping up US tour, and we’re coming to Germany in February. There’s also some plans in the works for longer tours later this year. We love playing live, so we’ll pretty much jump at any opportunity to do so. Keep posted on our socials and come dance!


tribe friday 3
Tribe Friday, live at School Night


CZ: What are some of your favorite acts you’ve played with?


ND: Mando Diao was pretty cool, and all the other artists on our management are great musicians and amazing people to perform with – New Parlor, rosecoloredworld, The Dumes, and mmmonika. Also, shout out to Swedish post-punks Beverly Kills. We always have an amazing time playing shows with them.





CZ: Any particularly crazy or interesting show stories?


ND: The night Isak and I met for the first time was pretty interesting. We were playing a show with his band at the time, and I had no idea who he was. At the afterparty, we ended up getting very intoxicated, and for some reason, we decided it was a good idea for him to tattoo my foot. In the year that passed, it became tradition whenever we met for him to ‘drunk-tattoo’ me. I’ve got a designated leg for his work now. They all look surprisingly good.


CZ: If there was just one thing you wanted everyone to know about Tribe Friday that hasn’t been covered, what would it be?


ND: We’re not as scary as we look. Promise.


tribe friday 2
Tribe Friday (photo credit: Miranda Fredriksson)


“Talk So Loud” comes from Tribe Friday’s upcoming March EP ‘Chasing Pictures’ and is available to stream now on Spotify and SoundCloud. Be sure to follow the band on their socials, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Bandcamp to keep up with the EP release and their show schedule.


(Featured photo credit: Miranda Fredriksson)

Gabriel Bernini Shares “Science Rat”, Talks Upcoming Album ‘Sweeties’, His Friend Making Him a Personalized Album

Gabriel Bernini Shares “Science Rat”, Talks Upcoming Album ‘Sweeties’, His Friend Making Him a Personalized Album

Gabriel Bernini is an LA-based singer-songwriter/power pop musician and Under the Counter alumni who’s received coverage from Ghettoblaster, If It’s Too Loud, The Music Mermaid, and B-Sides and Badlands. We asked Gabe about his upcoming album ‘Sweeties’ on Dadstache Records, his favorite artists, his musical history, his background in comedy, and more. We’re also fortunate to be able to share the latest music video and single from ‘Sweeties’: “Science Rat”:


COUNTERZINE: How ya doin’ today, Gabe?


Gabriel Bernini: Doing great! Just made a great bowl of rice and beans. Getting very excited and hopeful about Bernie Sanders’ campaign!


CZ: To those we’ve failed to properly promote you to in the past, tell the readers a little bit about Gabriel Bernini.


GB: I’m a songwriter from Northampton, Massachusetts currently living in LA. I started my solo project under my own name two years ago. I make all of my music on my own. I consider myself a very happy person and I think the reason is because I make this music. It’s a great pleasure of my life and I love to talk about it with people.


Gabriel Bernini (photo credit: Andrew Max Levy)


CZ: Our now bleeding out label branch actually released your albums Gabe’s Album and Record for Bailey on cassette last year, but your new album Sweeties will be out on Dadstache Records next month. How’s working with JT been?


GB: Working with JT has been fantastic! I would say it’s been very similar to Under the Counter in that it’s been stress free and rewarding!


CZ: In our minds, Gabe’s Album was Cute Gabe and Record for Bailey was Sultry Gabe. What Gabe can listeners expect to hear on Sweeties?


GB: I would maybe categorize Sweeties as the most sultry of all three records. If I had to categorize each one from my perspective I’d say Gabe’s Album was angry Gabe, Record for Bailey was somber Gabe, and Sweeties is moving on Gabe, excited for the future Gabe.



CZ: Sweeties releases on Valentine’s Day. Was this so you could give your cassette to a lucky lover in lieu of chocolate or an oversized stuffed bear?


GB: Sweeties comes out on Valentine’s for all the lucky lovers out there. Not one in particular but the general population of lovers and sweeties. I wish them all that energetic honeymoon phase feeling that inspired most of the songs on the record.


CZ: Normally we ask artists about who their influences are, but in this Northampton Open Media interview, you mention that you have no influences, saying “let me do my own thing, Lou Reed, he’s gonna keep on rockin’”. Could you elaborate on what you meant, and explain to us how freeing it is to be a truly pure, untarnished artist?



GB: I’m truly inspired by so many musicians. I’m attracted most to musicians who seem absolutely born to do what they’re doing. That’s the kind of music that makes you cry. You listen and you just know the artist was right where they were supposed to be, being themselves, being badass! Sometimes I’ll go months without hearing music like this and then one day find something and it’ll blow my mind all over again. Music is very powerful in that way. The latest music to give me that feeling are some Etta James recordings. What a badass.


CZ: We’re fortunate enough to be able to share your brand new music video for your latest Sweeties single, “Science Rat”. Could you tell us a little about this song?


GB: The song is from the perspective of a friend telling a friend what’s going to happen if they continue to see a person who’s playing with their heart. I love these kinds of advice songs, the greatest of all being The Beatles, “She Loves You”. “Science Rat” was an incredibly fun song to record. It was probably the hardest drum track on the record so I got to lots of takes, which was a great time. It ended up being hard to hear in the mix but the drums in the chorus have a bizarre kick pattern that took me forever to get right. I think there are also eight guitar tracks on there.



CZ: You also have quite a bit of work in comedy as part of Fools Be Known, a big part of which is this public access show, which is something of a contemporary of The Eric Andre Show.


GB: Fools Be Known was always a great way to meet and work with lots of different talented and funny people in my hometown. I was very lucky to have free access to the Northampton Community TV station and their many resources.



CZ: You were formerly a member of LuxDeluxe, as well as a touring keyboardist for Deer Tick. What were those experiences like?


GB: I played keyboards with LuxDeluxe and Deer Tick before starting my solo project. I’ve always enjoyed playing Clavinet in rock bands but I find it difficult to perform live from behind a keyboard. It’s much more fun to sing and play guitar. In general though, it’s always a pleasure to play with other great musicians with similar influences. We all love NRBQ.



CZ: Across all your shows, with your own band or otherwise, who were some of your favorite acts you played with?


GB: NRBQ, Sun Parade, Carinae, Sour Widows, King Radio.




CZ: Any crazy road stories?


GB: A close friend and an amazing songwriter, Elliot Hartmann Russell, made me a personalized record for my drive from MA to LA. It’s called Goodbye Gabe by Sweat Enzo and it’s one of the best records made last year. He left a cassette of it on my car on the morning I left after writing and recording it the day and night before. I listened to it at least twice a day for my whole trip. He’s a very inspiring musician and individual, I hope that someday he gets the artistic recognition he deserves.



CZ: Any plans to tour in the near future?


GB: Working on it as we speak!


CZ: When you are famous, will you still remember us?


GB: I have a great memory but I’m bad with names. So yes and no.


CZ: If there was just one thing you wanted everyone to know about Gabriel Bernini that hasn’t been covered, what would it be?


GB: I hope you get a chance to listen to my music. I’d love it to make its way into a period of your life. I hope it’s fun to drive to, or cook to, or maybe just close your eyes and listen to. If you like it, I’ll be excited to share more with you soon!


Gabe (photo credit: Georgia Rae Teensma)


Gabriel Bernini’s ‘Sweeties’ releases on Dadstache cassette February 14, Valentine’s Day and is available to pre-order here. Be sure to follow Bernini on Instagram, Bandcamp, YouTube, and Spotify to keep up-to-date with the album and check out his past work.


(Featured photo credit: Ben Bradley-Gilbert)