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Soul-Pop Band, Couch, is Easy to Love

At one of Couch’s very first shows, playing in Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Harvard Square, keyboard player Danny Silverston returned to his keyboard post-show to find a pillow with the face of Jeff Goldblum planted on the keys. To this day, the origin of the pillow remains a mystery. However, it has become a pinnacle of the band’s personality and charisma, making an appearance at each show. 

Initially formed in the summer of 2018, Couch consists of seven members: Jeffrey Pinsker-Smith, Jared Gozinsky, Danny Silverston, Will Griffin, Eric Tarlin, Tema Siegal, and Zach Blankstein. Being such a large group, everyone takes control of their own instrumentation. This, in turn, enables different flavors and a conglomerate of influences to create their cohesive sound that falls somewhere in the soul/pop category. 

Couch members, left to right: Zach, Jared, Eric, Tema, Jeffrey, Danny and Will

Couch is a long-distance band, with its members spread across the country. In their first few years, the recording process was completely remote. Each member added their instrumentation and vocals and passed it to the next, like Popcorn. The members play this same game as they rotate calling on each other to share their prominent influences. Jared, Jeffrey, and Eric discuss jazz, blues, and pop as their primary influences; Tema shares Carole King, Rachel Price, and Tracy Chapman as a few of her inspirations; Will highlights his love for classic and heavy rock, pointing to the Beatles album covers decorating his wall; Zach reminisces on growing up listening to Jewish music, motown, and modern pop soul bands such as Lake Street Dive and Lawrence. All of these different backgrounds mesh into the strong lyrics and melodic forms that make up Couch’s music. 

Lead singer, Tema Siegel discusses the development of their early songs, such as “Easy to Love.” After putting together the lyrics, Tema shared, “Zach and I would share voice memos back and forth of chord progressions, and we’d meet up over school breaks with ideas.” More of the members became involved during the pandemic and with the creation of the EP. 

For Couch, the songwriting process is morphing by transitioning to more in-person meetings and practice time. “Before, we’d cram like eight hours of rehearsing into a day, since we had limited time meeting together in person,” trumpeter Jeffrey Pinsker-Smith explains. “There were a lot of times when being a long-distance band was exhausting.” Because of these changes, Couch’s debut EP Couch , released in 2021, includes three or four credited writers on most tracks. 

The band explains how sometimes a song can start with one particular vibe and chord progression, but it ends up sounding completely different through the production and collaboration process. The identity of the song is flexible through all of the pieces beginning to come together through recording. 

“The identity of a song can seriously change,” saxophonist Eric Tarlin explains. “With ‘Still Feeling You’, that song was originally guitar and voice driven, an upbeat singer-songwriter song. But we pushed it more towards a disco-pop track, like Dua Lipa or Charlie Puth, with dramatic builds and a groovy chorus.” 

Through the recording process, the band is constantly keeping in mind the different ways in which the audience is listening, from streaming the music to the live shows. “When we play these songs live, we’re adapting to the arrangements to work with just the actual number of bodies we have on stage,” Tarlin says. “We rely more on our individual acts of brute force as we each contribute to the project.” Couch has managed to translate this immaculately on stage. 

This past fall, Couch went on tour for the first time as a whole, cohesive band, opening for Sammy Rae & The Friends, along with finishing the late fall tour with Juice. “This experience has been a dream come true. It was a joy,” guitarist Zach Blankstein says. 

Being around creative inspirations and meeting other musicians has helped the band transform their own sound and gain confidence in their performances. “It was so valuable and educational to simply watch them,” Siegel says of the experience. “Our personalities began to show more in the live performance. We became goofier on stage.” 

Couch performing at Higher Ground in South Burlington, VT

The transition from completely remote production and collaboration to touring was unusual for the band, but seeing their hard work pay off and watching the audience react was worth the wait. “We’re all musicians who are used to performing, so I don’t think any of us joined a band with the idea that we’d be in a band for three years without playing any shows,” Siegel laughs. “Now we’re finally able to play together.” 

Couch’s entire catalog to date was released before the band had performed live this fall. With that in mind, the band has had to adapt their music for live performances, adding acapella moments, clapping, and improvised solos and riffs. “We’ve opened up a lot more with this and have gone in a more jammy direction,” Blankstein summarizes. “We’re combining the two processes, and trying to find the balance between studio and live performances.” 

The fall touring experience is just the beginning for this Boston-based band. Just before the new year, Couch was featured on Firehouse Music Sessions, where they played acoustic versions of some unreleased tracks. They’ve recently signed with the booking agency, Royal Artists Group, which represents some of their favorite artists. “We’re working with two people who’ve helped us book shows and gotten us into the summer festival scene,” Blankstein mentions. “It’s already helped a ton with our time management and making connections within the industry.” 

New music is in the works and two upcoming shows have already been announced: March 5th at the Knitting Factory in NYC and March 18th at the Met in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. For the latter show, Couch will be sharing the stage with another band, Orange Guava Passion, where the theme is Spring Fling. The band calls for fans to dress in their school dance attire, another testament to the importance of connecting with the audience. The band is active on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube with more updates and content. 

“We wouldn’t be the band that we are without that initial remote time,” Tarlin concludes. This experience allowed Couch to go into their first tour with a fan base already established. “It was really rewarding and cool to see people familiar with our songs, singing along in the audience.” 

For Couch, being able to perform live, meet fans, and connect with them through shows has been the most notable part of their musical journey. “Without listeners and without fans, Couch wouldn’t really be a thing,” drummer Jared Gozinsky says. “In one way or another, we’re always writing for the people who are listening to us.”

Molly MacDuff
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.

Categories
Interviews

New York-based, Independent Artist Alé Debuts “The Party”

Parties are a very public experience. You’re surrounded by people. It’s loud. You’re meant to be happy. When Alé writes about the experience of a party, it’s much more personal. 

In his upcoming EP titled The Party, the singer, songwriter, and producer takes us through a real scenario he experienced over the course of just two nights. “I ran into an ex-girlfriend at a party, and I was thrown off by the fact that I was experiencing so many emotions seeing her, but I was in public.” It’s the idea of needing to show that you’re doing well, that you’re good and happy and positive, when you really need closure from that past experience. It was a challenging experience for Alé, managing “the emotional dynamic of trying to put on a brave face in the group of people you want to impress, while running into someone who you used to know. The hardest thing to do is fake the feeling.” It’s a blur of two moments in someone’s life. “It’s not like a party, it’s the party.” 

In speaking to Alé about this experience, he summarizes by stating, “overall, it’s just about being a kid in the city and taking influences from its madness. The cultural speed of the city makes it so I’m highly stimulated all the time.” Traditionally known as a phenomenal guitar player, Alé chose to base the majority of the EP on synthesis song design, with only one track based on guitar. He sees this as his own “act of rebellion” in  his musical journey, fully producing and mixing each track. 

“I’m in a scene of people who are messing with the rules of sound within music. It’s a wave we’re all riding.” 

For Alé, he wouldn’t want to put music out any other way. Knowing that he gets to choose every song and moment related to the song makes him feel that the tracks mirror himself artistically. He says, “a lot of the lyrical content is straight out of the actual story, so it’s about me getting closure for myself. This EP is a tale of being a teenager in love in a city where everything is so mad.” 

The theme of “The Party”  matches perfectly with Alé’s sound. In establishing this, “it always comes back to playing blues guitar.” He adds components of rock and roll, r&b, and soul that stuck with him throughout his experiences at the Conservatory and Little Kids Rock program, mixed with the aesthetic influence of hyperpop. Combining the classic pop 2000s song with his musical background and sprinkling in the sound design of hyperpop has led to his unique sound in “The Party.” Ultimately, Alé has resonated with the idea of pushing the boundaries of music sonically: “I really dig that on a scene level. I’m in a scene of people who are messing with the rules of sound within music. It’s a wave we’re all riding.” 

Credit: Alexis Marshall

To promote his first EP release on November 12th, Alé performed at the Elsewhere space in New York City the day prior. Though far from his first performance, he notes that this show is special for several reasons. Alé says, “I’ve always gatekeeped my music, but this week I celebrate it.” 

Alé’s background has not only influenced his music but the way he performs live as well. As a kid, he began playing guitar at age 7. Throughout his adolescence, Alé continued to perfect his craft at the Little Kids Rock program, where he was introduced to jazz guitar. At 15, he had the opportunity to share the stage with enigmatic artists such as Green Day, Joan Jett, Alice Cooper, and Paul Shaffer. As a student at the Conservatory, “I always felt a bit nervous to share my singing and songwriting, because I’d always been the just the guitar player,” It wasn’t until he was accepted into the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU Tisch program, where he’s met artists who understand his musical persona, did he begin to feel comfortable enough to release and share his true sound. Ultimately, “this past Thursday performance was special because I celebrate the transition from being a musician for other people to an artist for myself.” 

For any artist, the goal is to keep writing new, influential music. For Alé, his goal is to write music and lyrics that wake people up to their feelings. By writing lyrics that are directed to you, the listener, he’s excited to think about where the future of his sound lies, and how he can develop a stronger sense of relatability. Alé said to me: “when you listen to music that you love, you feel like you can conquer the world.” It’s this mindset that makes me so sure of his future and so thrilled to listen to what’s to come.  

Molly MacDuff
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.

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Reviews

Boston-Based Indie Pop Band, Juniper Performs Post Album Release

If you’re overthinking, send a text.

Juniper the Band is breaking into the indie music scene, and they’re a must listen.

Following the June release of their debut album Distance Keeps Me Distant, Boston-based independent band, Juniper— composed of Scott Johnson, Ahren Shreeve, and Alejandro Marin—, had their first Manhattan live show at the Berlin Underground theatre this past Wednesday, October 13th. Lead vocalist Scott Johnson described the experience as “something you dream of.” Not only was it a packed crowd for a Wednesday evening, Johnson mentioned his awe at how interactive the show was: “It blew me away, not only as validation for what we’re doing, but as in, people are showing up and wanting to be a part of it.” The set consisted of the band’s new tracks, mixed with a few covers.

Juniper the Band consists of Alejandro Marin (left), Ahren Schreeve, and Scott Johnson. Photo credit: Hayley Bigness

We make what we feel in that moment.

Throughout Juniper’s five years of existence, releasing an album was always the long-term goal. Touching on themes of distance, love, and anxiety, Johnson describes this album as one based on relationships. Stemming from the idea that “the most authentic thing I can relate to that other people can share, is relationships, whether that be with a significant other, or with friends and family, with the world around you, or with yourself, and how that changes as you continue to live, especially during the pandemic.” Johnson continued to discuss how being forced into isolation changed his outlook on relationships and the everyday decisions he would make. It’s from this notion that Juniper developed the title and central theme for their album (and the title track): “Distance Keeps Me Distant.” 

When speaking on the album’s recording process, Johnson explained how the making of the album was not linear, but rather eclectic: “it’s a process of reacting and listening at the same time, and that kind of drives the creative process.”  Some of the recording was done in Maine, at drummer Alejandro Marin’s family home, and some was done in Johnson’s bedroom closet. The different locations and recording process is what gives the album such a variety of sounds and, ultimately, enables it to feel more their own. Johnson explains, “We make what we feel in that moment.”

Songs like “Angelina” and “More Than I Can Handle” have an indie-pop tone, while “Puzzle Pieces” and “Overthinking” lean more in the indie-folk direction, “Out of Nowhere” and “Fighting Wars From Every Direction” have an alternative rock vibe, and songs like “Daydream” and “Driving” maintain more of a soul and R&B sound. This wide variety of genres and influences throughout the album make the listening process fresh and avoids it from feeling oversaturated for both the band and the listener.

…your mind is like a racing highway, and each thought is like a car driving by.”

Juniper’s lead vocalist, Scott Johnson, speaks on the detriments of constant rumination.

Johnson discussed the writing and recording of the ninth song of the album, “Overthinking,” which was written during the height of the pandemic within a time-span of about 45 minutes. Describing it as a “more introspective song, that is vulnerable…I try to lead with vulnerability with my writing, and after I came up with the first progression on the guitar it felt like such an emotion.” The tone and the energy of the chords was the driving force in how the band came to the idea of overthinking: “your mind is racing like a highway, and each thought is like a car driving by.” This resonates with the band’s TikTok bio which reads: “if you’re overthinking, send a text.” Johnson felt that being really specific with the writing of feelings and emotions is what enables the listener to relate more closely to the song. So for the closing verse of the song, “we wanted it to feel like this big cataclysmic moment of realization and energy.” It’s rare to find artists that can convey raw emotion through both their lyrics and music, but this is exactly what Juniper does by being vulnerable  in “Overthinking.”

New music and more shows are in Juniper’s future, as they’ll be playing another live show in Manhattan at the Bowery Electric on November 12th, and at Pearl Street Warehouse in D.C on November 19th. Ultimately, Juniper wants “to maintain this mentality and identity of feeling and sounding like a band, but with modern production.” They want to be that next big band, and with what they’ve been able to accomplish thus far as independent artists, their goals may not be so far out of reach.

<img class="wp-block-coblocks-author__avatar-img" src="https://greatergoodmusicblog.files.wordpress.com/2022/07/58cda-mollymacduff.jpg&quot; alt="Written by:
Written by:
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.