June 1, 2018

Review of “Noonday Dream” the latest from Ben Howard

Ben Howard’s new album, “Noonday Dream,” dropped today and we got a sneak peak. Read on for contributor Haley Killam’s thoughts on the record.

Howard’s album sees way more diversity than his previous ones by way of instruments with “Nica Libres at Dusk” ending in piano and “Someone In The Doorway” starting off with only drums and vocals. This album continues what he does best — painting landscapes, both physical and emotional spaces, through instrumentation and his cathartic lyrics.

“Noonday Dream” seems to rely far less on Howard’s singing capabilities than his past work. His voice is almost exclusively there to tell a story, in the low and humbled tone of someone who has been through some shit. In his past albums, he has used his vocals as more of an instrument — howling throughout “The Wolves” and harmonizing with the guitar strings in the intro of “Old Pine,” all while also telling universal yet individual stories through his lyrics. This third album picks up where “I Forget Where We Were” left us — in a chaotic place — and Howard creates that space for the listeners through the syncopated drums and almost dizzying synthesis of high and low frequencies that makes for an emotionally immersive listening experience.

Photo Credit; Roddy Bow

Favorite song - The Defeat.

Highlight tracks;

“Nica Libres at Dusk”

Howard opens the album with this song, letting us know right away this album is a culmination of his first two. While “Every Kingdom” relied almost entirely on acoustic fingerpicking and “I Forget Where We Were” on harmonious electric guitar synths, “Noonday Dream” is a melancholic layering of the two.

“Someone In The Doorway”
Got some Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse type singing going on here with some vibrant violin that we heard in “Every Kingdom,” with heavy electric guitar riffs carrying throughout.

The drums, WTF, so awesome — never heard a Howard song with percussion like this one.

Really haven't heard this side of Howard before. The raw rock drum percussion against the synthy and layered distorted guitar really shows how far he has come as an artist from his heavily acoustic roots.

Touring the summer in Europe, Howard won’t be stateside until the end of September. Get on those tickets though, they're going fast.

May 2, 2018

LeRoi Johnson Brings A Primitive Contemporary Twist to Superfine! NYC


From "The Disciples"

“I paint for me, the things that have gone on in my life, I like to paint stories that I may be thinking about or things that I see. And Sometimes the things aren’t really there but I will paint it anyway. Sometimes I paint historical idea but I like to make it about my life.”

Contemporary artist LeRoi Johnson has seen it all. Not just as an artist, but as a lawyer, and also as his brother funk legend, Rick James' manager. His art is a reflection of what he has experienced through his varied life, with a primitive twist. He paints electric colored historical figures juxtaposed with a contemporary influence.

His work draws inspiration from modern influences of Picasso, Dali, Jacob Lawrence and Pippin all the way back to the ancient artists of cave drawings, works from the ‘nameless primitives.’

“The nameless primitives are famous because their work has lasted tens of thousands of years. No one knows their name, it’s just based on the work. You know why too by just the rawness of them and to think about how they did their work,” he said. “Each group represents something else, classic, contemporary artists represent freedom. Unrestricted. Each one of them tells me what you can do as an artist.”

His story on how he got into art is an unusual one. As a young kid, LeRoi was seriously injured in a bus accident. Not being able to attend school due to his injuries. He was stuck at home and the two things he took to were drawing and reading and he never stopped either.

“I was bedridden for a number of years and the only thing I could really do was study or draw. And I did a lot of drawing, and a lot of painting,” he said. “That was really the only thing I did, draw and then study. I did that every day until I was about thirteen. In the end, it sounds a lot worse than it was because I was able to focus on art and school, which I probably would not have been able to do.”

After a year at a technical high school where he studied Industrial Design, LeRoi left to a regular high school. It wasn’t until his senior year in college where he switched back to studying Urban Design where we learned the structural side of creating. From then on, LeRoi would live a life of many paths. “I just got used to doing multiple things. I was doing a lot of traveling in the early eighties when I was managing my brother so I wasn’t able to actually make the art I wanted to. I just didn’t have the time. But I went to about every city in the states and all over Europe and when I did I would go to all the galleries and museums in each. So I didn’t lose anything, I actually gained a lot.”

LeRoi’s journey has brought him across the globe, experiencing art in all communities. His excitement for being apart of Superfine! resembles that.“I am excited for this new community of people to see my work and see something different and also be able to show with all of these younger artists and have my work be all the wall along theirs.”

Superfine! NYC open May 2nd and runs through the 6th.



August 25, 2017

Cheyenne Randall

Having spent most of his twenties coming in and out of San Francisco, appropriation artist Cheyenne Randall (@Indiangiver) recently visited for a week to work on a few projects. GRØSS got to catch his install of a piece in the Mission at the soon to be opening Fox Sister and instigated his rants about trying to be active, Instagram and not talking about the uncomfortable shit.

Randall is well known for his shopped tattoo series — taking pictures of celebrities and giving them some traditional ink. Lately, he has been getting into more motion and 3-D art as well as getting involved in music and a film titled “Warrior Women” with Christina King and Dr. Elizabeth Castles.

His work isn't supposed to make you feel warm and comfortable — It makes you double take, pushes your buttons and dances on that thin line of right and wrong. Being Native American and an artist, he feels like it is his responsibility, now that he is gaining recognition, to become more active especially in today’s world of social media and he isn’t afraid of speaking his mind about it, “You kind of have this responsibility to decide like am I going to be this dude just posting pics of me ballin' with a blunt hanging out of my mouth or am I actually going to get involved... The Native community is kind of dead, people don’t even know we exist." He blames a lot of this lack of knowledge on the education system and how Native American history is barely taught in schools. But it isn’t just problems with his heritage — it’s everyone, all races, and how there is this obliviousness that is all too common. “I do everything I can to stand up for every race. You get some these fucking hippies man, that live in this fantasy land where everything is nice. Nobody wants to talk about the uncomfortable shit and in the meantime, all this crazy shit happens because people aren’t willing to talk about it.”

Randall’s frustrated with this new general public status quo of everything being alright. “People just don’t really care because their fucking phones aren’t loading fast enough. My friends are more excited about the new iPhone or whatever coming out than they would be if they found out something like stem cell research can be used to cure cancer. There’s just not enough public interest.”

Like most artists today, Randall has to rely heavily on Instagram to stay current —
uploading posts at certain times, using keywords and hashtags, trying to keep coming up at the top of people’s feeds. These things are necessary to be able to keep doing what he is doing but it definitely infuriates him.

“It makes me feel kind of sick and narcissistic sometimes because I’m not like that. I’m not a big hashtagger or really fuck with any of that shit really because I think it’s all teenage bullshit. It feels so fabricated, and in a lot of ways, it is. It’s like this neurotic bullshit that you are feeding to this part of society. There’s like algorithms and shit to it that you have to follow which just feeds that bullshit narrative.”

One aspect of this social-media-crazed public that freaks Randall out is how people think they know someone based on just their accounts and what they post. To be friends with them, to feel like they know a person based on their posts and how easy it is to appear a certain way through social media. “It’s weird sometimes, I think people meet me sometimes and are disappointed because I’m not who they think I am based on my Instagram. They think I am this well put together Instagram page. It’s annoying but at the same time, it’s a game that I somehow put myself in it. But I make it fun and still post a bunch of goofy shit. You can’t take it too seriously, but it’s hard not to.”

Randall will be part of the Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas Sept. 22-24, doing a show called Crime on Canvas with a number of other artists. One of the other artists is Randall’s hero, Ron English. “Ron was one of the first guys to really attack a wall and I have always looked up to him. Just to have my name near his is an honor.”

Peep his Instagram here: @indiangiver