Albums Changing My Life Right Now

Last week I wrote about albums that helped shaped me when I was younger, but the less talked about topic is the albums that are important to me right now.

SWMRS – Drive North (2016)

Not only this album but this band has such an old school rock and roll vibe while still being new and unique. The lead singer and guitarist, Cole, reminds me of Kurt Cobain sometimes by the way he dresses or sings in a certain song. However, don’t be fooled, his voice is completely his own. His brother, Max who plays guitar, seems almost the opposite. His voice is unique as well, he serenades us in songs like “lose it” and “turn up” The bassist, Seb, and drummer, Joey, are just as awesome, (if not more – they’re my favorite). There isn’t a time I listen to their songs and I don’t bop my head, sing along and want to dance. I haven’t experienced this band live yet sadly, but I’m sure when I do they will be ten times better live. Their energy is already clear through my headphones. I also can’t think of any other band that has covered Boys Don’t Cry by The Cure so amazingly.

Favorite songs: “Miss Yer Kiss”, “Figuring It Out”, “Ruining My Pretending”, “Silver Bullet”, okay so maybe all of them are my favorite.

Simple Plan – Taking One For The Team (2016)

I’ve talked about this band and this album before, it may seem repetitive, but this album is as significant for me as the rest of Simple Plan’s albums. The last time they released an album I was 14 years old. I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say I’m not the same person I was when I was 14, so this album reminded me of why I fell in love with them. After 5 years since the last studio album, the five members of Simple Plan still know how to perfectly describe why I shouldn’t let anyone tell me what to do, and their love songs will always be epic.

Favorite songs: “I Refuse”, “I Don’t Wanna Be Sad”, “Everything Sucks”, “P.S. I Hate You”

Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface (2015)

The only artist I don’t mind listening to on B96 while at work is Twenty One Pilots. I’ll admit at first I was like TOP? More annoying songs on B96 that will get overplayed but I don’t think I can ever overplay their songs. I fell in love with this album as quickly as I fell in love with lead singer Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun. I love the truthfulness in not only the lyrics but Tyler’s voice. I also like that each song is its own. I found myself wondering if I was still listening to TOP because even Tyler’s voice can sound different, but maybe that’s the awesomeness of them. They have the ability to have a different sound while still remaining TOP. For example songs like, “Tear In My Heart” or “Car Radio”. I’m very disappointed in myself that I’ve missed the opportunity to see them live twice already.

Favorite songs: “Fairly Local, “Tear In My Heart”, “Message Man”

This video inspired me and my 10 year old sister to create an elaborate handshake of our own.

Continue reading “Albums Changing My Life Right Now”

DUA LIPA! DUA LIPA! DUA LIPA!

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Words cannot begin to describe my love for the new up and coming dark pop artist, Dua Lipa. This morning Lipa announced the dates for her U.S headlining tour, and you KNOW you’ll catch me at her Chicago show on February 24th at Lincoln Hall.

Dua Lipa is a 22-year-old musician from London, who is musically influenced by artist such as Kendrick Lamar and Nelly Furtado. She began her career by uploading covers to YouTube, and then started to write original music, her first song being, “Hotter Than Hell,” which is a total bop.

Lipa has a nineties vibe to her style, with a unique and poised personality, which makes it impossible not to adore her.

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In the past year, Lipa has released new music, played shows in Europe, and was an opening act for Troye Sivan during his Suburbia Tour. On January 6th, Lipa released a new single, “Thinking ‘Bout You,” which serves as a soulful ballad. Later this year Lipa will also be releasing a new album, that I so look forward to hearing.

Lipa’s most popular song, “Blow Your Mind (Mwah),” has been catching the airwaves, and has been a major jam for the clubs. In case you need any more persuasion to love Dua Lipa as much as I do, here are some of her best live performances:

  1. “Blow Your Mind (Mhaw)” – from BBC

2. Cover of Mark Ronson’s “Somebody To Love Me” with Troye Sivan

3. “Hotter Than Hell” – at Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball

K-Popathon: It’s Happening!

For those of you who have been tuning in to my show Midnight with PearlGirl and Sonia Universe, it’s not a surprise that my buddy Sonia and I are now BIG fans of K-pop. For those of you who haven’t been tuning in, SURPRISE! We love K-pop!

Over the past few months, we’ve experienced a lot of emotions from getting sucked into the world of Korean pop music. We’ve listened to K-pop music nonstop at our apartment and on our show. We’ve obsessed over our favorite groups on tumblr, twitter, and facebook. We even started planning a potential trip to see one of our favorite groups, BTS (Bangtan Boys), perform when they come to the US for their Wings Tour.

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It’s been a very happy three months of living and breathing K-pop. Now, it’s time for us to take the next step in our journey… by hosting a 4 hour-long K-pop show on Midnight!

Tomorrow, we will be dedicating our entire show to playing our favorite K-pop tunes and discussing K-pop with our friends. So join us from 2-6pm on UIC Radio to hear us geek out about our favorite groups, music videos, live performances, K-pop celebs, and Korean dramas on-air! What better way to end this crazy semester?

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In case you’re in dire need of some K-pop right this second, here’s a few of our favorite K-pop (and other K-genre!) songs that you can check out below!

Continue reading “K-Popathon: It’s Happening!”

Artist To Listen To: Gordi

I’m all for promoting small artists who I truly and deeply believe deserve more attention. This past week, I’ve had the artist, Gordi, on repeat.

Sophie Payten, also known as, Gordi, with only about 240,000 listeners on Spotify, is a 23-year-old musician from a small farming community in Australia.  Her EP, Clever Disguise, was released earlier this year, and boy is it a piece of art.

The tracks on the EP, are simple acoustic guitar and piano pieces that she had written on her own in her college dorm room; a sound similar to the artist, Bon Iver. With warm indie tones and tender lyrics, Clever Disguise has found a special place in my heart.

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“Can We Work It Out,” has been the most popular track off of the debut EP, which I totally understand. It’s a beautiful song that makes me feel like I’m waking up on a Sunday morning and drinking coffee with the one I love the most.

Out of the five tracks on the EP, I would have to say, “Wanting,” is my favorite. “Wanting,” has been my emotional crutch this week. When I first heard the song, it hit me like a bag of bricks because of how much it relates to my feelings at this particular time in my life. Actually, I am listening to it as I write this, and wow, my poor little heart.

Overall, if you have a tender heart, like bonfire music, or in need of music to play while you drive on to the highway and into the sunset, Gordi’s Clever Disguise is the EP for you. It is crafted together so delicately, and I highly suggest you check it out.  Genuine music that comes from a genuine place is rare these days; don’t pass it up.

You can find Gordi here:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6UBMFaCTZnL1Hr1nTOEblM

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GordiMusic

Kid Cudi Surfin’ and Frequency

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I have been a fan of Kid Cudi for a while. I’m team Cudi through it all. Through his Twitter beef with Kanye, though I am a fan of Kanye, I was team Cudi. His recent stint in rehab, I am all for him to a speedy recovery, and hope he finds the help he needs. Drake dissing Cudi in his new song, I think Drake needs to chill. Quoting his song “Two Birds One Stone” Drake states “you stay on xan and perked up so when reality set in you don’t gotta face it.” Even if I wasn’t a fan of Cudi I still would have though this move was below the belt, and of course I’m still team Cudi.

Now even though I love Cudi as an artist, I don’t enjoy all of his work. I wasn’t a fan of “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven.” I listened it to a couple of times, hoping that it might grow on me and become as amazing as “Indicud” was to me. But alas I didn’t enjoy the album, but that was fine, you don’t have to love every single piece of music an artist puts out to be a fan. I was still a fan of Kid Cudi.

Now when I heard about Cudi’s new album a while ago, I had a mix of both excitement as well as anxiety. I realized that I might love the music, same as I had before, or it might just not be my cup of tea. Cudi ended up postponing his album, but he still released both “Surfin'” as well as “Frequency.”While I enjoyed both, but I loved “Surfin.”This song sounded amazing, and I found myself listening to it on repeat.

Some time after the music videos came out for both songs, and I both videos are great as well. Just as with the songs I do find myself drawn to the music video for “Surfin.” Now you might find yourself wondering whats the point of this blog post. I think both of these songs are very good, and basically I just wanted to tell you about some Kid Cudi music in case you hadn’t had a chance to listen yet, because I feel many of you will enjoy yourself if you have a listen.

Meeting the Freedom Family

 

On Tuesday morning, two Chicago brothers, Nick Demeria and Christian Ferrer, and their friends Vic and Pre met me at the UIC Radio station for an interview. I’d witnessed this group called FreeFAM in action at a Music Garage concert for independent rap artists this summer. Performing as NV and Cheech Beats respectively, Nick (lyrics and vocals) and Christian (beats) absolutely stunned their audience as they provided the closer for the concert.

I’m not in the habit of repping amateur musicians. So if my usual abstinence from this topic doesn’t speak for itself, I encourage you to see for yourself. Thirty seconds on Sound Cloud, Spotify, or YouTube will prove that this article doesn’t break my usual rule. There’s nothing amateurish about the group I spoke with Tuesday.

After we managed to fit enough chairs for the five of us in the studio, I broke out the questions.

FreeFAM has expanded from a young rap artist to a musical theme, visible style, and legal corporation since we met in July. I started by asking the group to describe the set-up of FreeFAM Inc. What exactly did they do, and how?

Nick and Christian explained their intent to help others produce music while supporting their own sound. This means being the studio and providing engineering, mixing, and mastering under the FreeFAM name. When I asked what goals they had for their new Inc, Nick immediately responded that the most important thing is to keep an open mind so they didn’t find themselves limited in the future. The potential for this group to master the artistic and administrative side of the music industry seems unlimited and inevitable, given their collective energy, creativity, and eagerness to hear what others have to contribute.

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Photo courtesy of FreeFAM Inc.

I felt too clichéd asking which artists had influenced his style, but when the possibility of FreeFAM becoming a label was mentioned, I asked the group what they’d look for in an artist they’d like to sign, assuming they wouldn’t limit themselves to rappers. The unanimous verdict was drive. “They’ve gotta have the work ethic,” Christian commented. There also had to be meaning, or a point to their music. When Nick added that they didn’t want to hear drill music, Pre, Vic, and Christian wrinkled their noses and shook their heads. But of course, you can’t have a point if you don’t have the talent. “Lots of people have a positive message, but not that sound, and it’s not appealing to the people who need that message,” Nick explained. He used Christian rap as an example of quality music, quality message, but lacking the appeal to get to where it was needed most.

Listening to FreeFAM’s music, you get a feeling of nostalgia, unity, and a humble confidence that’s unique in hip-hop. I mentioned this to Nick and he laughed and told me that the cocky artist is an overplayed stereotype. “Not everybody can be Kanye,” he mentioned. He preferred to show that he took nothing for granted and valued what he’s been given, what he earned, and his connections.

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Photo courtesy of FreeFAM Inc.

This theme of fraternity is omnipresent in each FreeFam track. I was curious how he ensured the message gets across in his writing—surely consistency across years of work isn’t easily earned. Nick shrugged his shoulders and recommended artists should “Practice what they preach.” “It definitely also helps that we’re brothers,” Christian laughed. FreeFAM Inc. certainly stands out in the world of hip hop because its founding members are actually family members, including one business-merchandising mom and one legal-advising uncle. With familial support driving their music’s success, it’d be pretty hard to keep that appreciation from accenting each song.

Practicing what Nick preaches also includes staying in touch with independent creative sources at their roots. He mentioned open mic nights and events at Young Chicago Authors. “The first time I went to YCA really shaved down my ego,” he told us. The appreciation these artists have for these experiences are what keep FreeFAM’s writing aware and self-reflective.

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Photo courtesy of FreeFAM Inc.

One thing you’ll notice listening to FreeFAM’s music is the energy that comes across in the writing and the performance. You can witness this live or in their recently released music video for “Guarantee,” but Nick rarely stops moving. When I pointed this out, all four artists chuckled. “You can’t write a club banger sitting down,” Nick offered, and explained his writing process. Each track has a specific emotion he wants to convey, so each has to be approached differently. “Not every song is meant for bringing your problems out in the open. Some are meant as an escape.”

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Photo courtesy of FreeFAM Inc.

 

My last open question was a curiosity about the genre in general. I asked if the group thought it was possible to make rap less excluding without selling out. After some silent head-shaking, Nick decided that if you begin with a positive message, and maintain the same vibes throughout your career, it doesn’t matter if you get a bigger audience. He rolled his eyes. “Everyone wants to get money, and who cares?” The trick is to be consistent. And it probably wouldn’t help if you only get a starting niche audience with a negative message that doesn’t leave any room for growth. “And you should be your own boss,” Christian interjected. Everyone nodded.

So what’s next for these guys? Well…

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Photo courtesy of FreeFAM Inc.
  1. A new song “Make a Toast” is dropping next week; in fact, Nick plans to drop a new song each week for one month to promote their music. Keep an eye on their Sound Cloud here, the FreeFAM Facebook, and search them up on Spotify.
  2. November 4th: Music Garage concert on the West Side (these are awesome and cost about $10—highly recommended!)
  3. November 16th-17th: FreeFAM will be visiting Denver and hitting up some local venues.
  4. “Running through my Mind” will soon have a video!

This is the near-future. Long term, the group sees more trademarking and legitimization of their music to add to their professionalism and credibility. With more videos and more shows, of course. But when I initially asked the group what’s next, Christian immediately said, “Ramen! It’s almost lunch time.” I eventually left the studio wishing I could join the freedom family.

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Photo by Jamie Leigh.

Have a Scien-tastic day!

My K-Pop Awakening

안녕하세요! UIC Radio 소니아 입니다.

I have experienced a cultural awakening.

Earlier this semester, my friend/roommate Pearl and I were sitting at our kitchen table working on homework when I decided to take a quick break and scroll through Facebook, when I came across a video of Buzzfeed’s The Try Guys acting out scenes from Korean dramas. This ignited a conversation between us about Korean entertainment, dramas, and music.

Before I came to UIC, I grew up in suburban Chicago in a town that… let’s just say didn’t have a whole lot of diversity. So I wasn’t introduced to much music outside of the weird alternative stuff I was into, and the mainstream hip hop and cringe-worthy country music (that I avoided at all costs) that the rest of my high school was into. The only occurrence of Korean entertainment of any kind I experienced in high school was Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”

Naturally, coming across this video on Facebook talking about Korean entertainment, I showed it to Pearl (who is Korean and speaks Korean), and immediately she went off on a rant about how K-Dramas are so cheesy today, listing off all the different tropes and reasons why it essentially sucks. Also naturally, being the troll friend that I am, for the next hour or so, I dove headfirst into YouTube to search for over-the-top K-Drama videos that I knew Pearl would immediately hate me for.

The first K-Drama series I got into: Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, of which one of my favorite K-Pop group members is a character in!

Throughout the next few days, this trolling of my Korean friend escalated to me discovering current K-Drama tv show trailers, which then escalated to K-Pop music videos. I thought I would just find a few goofy videos to send her and watch as she grimaced throughout them, only to go on with my business and forget about it.

What I didn’t expect was how much K-Pop content actually exists on the internet. One music video leads to another, and then another, and then another. What’s happening to me is what has happened to every other person I’ve spoken to about discovering K-Pop:

I’ve fallen into an endless void, one that I have no plans of trying to escape.

K-Pop is like nothing I have ever experienced. Each and every music video has the highest production value of any music video I’ve ever seen before. The outfits, the choreography, the scenery, the props, everything just looks so cool. One of the most popular K-Pop groups I was introduced to is EXO, a boy group made up of 9* (I can still barely keep count, honestly) members who have some of the catchiest pop songs I have ever heard, not to mention their music videos: coordinated outfits, pastel hair, dreamy lighting – the works of some of the best K-Pop music videos.

*Note: the group used to consist of 12 members but is now down to 9 as of last year.

One of my favorite EXO music videos, “Monster.” Just look at that synchronized choreography.

And it doesn’t just stop there: popular K-Pop artists are frequently invited onto well-known variety shows to do what’s called fan service, which often involves the actors or singers playing games or doing crazy things in order to give back to the fans who adore their work.

What’s interesting to me is that I was never into American boy bands (I was just slightly too young for NSYNC and Backstreet Boys) and loathed other current boy bands (One Direction… don’t hate me fandoms, you have your things I have mine) that other fangirls my age were into throughout high school. But this? Endless videos of various different performances, behind-the-scenes, alternate music videos, and top-quality fan service? This I can get behind.

I know I’m in too deep. Everyone else knows, too. But I am not ashamed. I’ve gone so far as to make a Spotify playlist of all my favorite EXO songs that I’m still adding to. I’ve already ordered band merch online. I’m already picking up on the verses despite only knowing extremely limited Korean. Those I have outed myself to as a new K-Pop fan have divulged all their favorites to me as well. I am a heightened version of myself. There is no stopping me.

I still have a lot to learn and even more to discover, I am merely scratching the surface of what K-Pop has to offer. I want to delve into other genres of K-music as well, this is only the first wave of my discoveries. As soon as I recover from the high of absorbing all this content all at once, I will only continue to ascend to a higher understanding of K-Pop and more. So be sure to check out the upcoming blog once that happens.

In the meantime, enjoy another EXO music video below:

-Sonia

Take It Slow

As if my excitement for the upcoming DC Comics film, Suicide Squad, wasn’t flying off the charts already, I recently found out that one of my all-time favorite bands – Twenty One Pilots – would be featuring a brand new song for the movie’s original soundtrack.

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The featured track, titled Heathens, was “leaked” onto the deep depths of the interwebs just last week. “Heathens” has a dark melody and haunting lyrics – traits that aren’t uncharacteristic for the band. However, even for Twenty One Pilots, a band that notably writes dark-ish songs such as “Car Radio” and “Stressed Out,” the song was undeniably grim.

As soon as the song dropped, the Skeleton Clique (a nickname dubbed for the TOP fanbase) started making speculations about whether or not there would be more to the sudden release of this song than meets the eye. It turns out that they were right. The following day, news that the song will be featured on the Suicide Squad soundtrack was released, and the Clique went wild.

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A few days after the big news, an official audio of the song was uploaded as well as the music video for the single. And let me tell you – the music video is amazing. I can gush about the music video all I want, but ultimately, you’re going to have to see for yourself.

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Anyway, you know the drill. If you haven’t heard the song or watched the music video, check it out below! Whether you’re a fan of the comic, film, or band, I’m pretty darn sure you’ll like it.

-Pearl

“You Took me As Safe”: An Interview With Dumbfoundead

Just a few weeks ago, one of my favorite rappers, the LA/ Korea Town native Dumbfoundead (aka Parker), dropped a powerful single titled “Safe.” The track, which states lyrics like “The other night I watched the Oscars and the roster of the only yellow men were all statues/ We a quarter of the population there’s a room of f**kin’ one percenters laughing at you,” talks about some issues that have been very prominent in Hollywood: whitewashing and the discrimination of minorities.

I was recently able to chat with him about his inspiration to write “Safe,” what it means to be an Asian-American, and the importance of being true to your identity. Check out the interview below!

IMG_7434 Continue reading ““You Took me As Safe”: An Interview With Dumbfoundead”

Cup Check to Headline The Subterranean April 10th – An Interview with Alex Van Anrooy

After releasing a music video ‘Sidewalks’ last month and just before their headlining show at The Subterranean in Chicago this Sunday for the release of their new EP ‘Jouska’, I snagged an interview with one of Cup Check‘s lead guitarists.

The pop punk band consists of band members Michaela Kramer with vocals, Kieran O’Donoghue on drums, Jesse Sneath on bass, Ben Cassinelli on guitar, and lastly the interviewee – Alex Van Anrooy on guitar.

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Jesse Sneath (bottom left), Ben Cassinelli (top left), Michaela Kramer (Middle), Kieran O’Donoghue (top right), and Alex Van Anrooy (bottom right).

When asked to do an interview, Alex Van Anrooy was more than happy to oblige and discuss not only the band’s rehearsals and theme behind their new EP, but also a possible festival performance and out-of-state tour in Cup Check’s future.

Interview:

Kathleen Lieffers: When did you join Cup Check?

Alex Van Anrooy: Back in December, they had a meeting with me at a Starbucks. They told me, ‘Our guitarist might quit-‘

K: Might quit?

A: Yeah, might quit, or like, they might kick him out. It was a mutual thing, I guess, that they were talking about. He just wasn’t working out. And then they told me, ‘It’s not official, but we’re going to want you if something happens.’

K: Ha. And what did you say?

A: I said I’d be more than happy to join because I wasn’t really doing anything musically then. And then January comes around and that was pretty much that. It just happened. So, kinda cool.

K: Nice! And where is the band from?

A: Wheaton, Illinois.

K: And did you know them before? How did you all meet?

A: I knew Michaela. She pretty much went to every Right On Red show (Van Anrooy’s previous band). So, I knew her from that and built a relationship with her through that.

K: Very cool. What are your rehearsals generally like?

A: Every Sunday we meet at 10am. First, we run through our songs – make sure we are still up-to-date on them; that they are still fresh. And then we’ll bring in our ideas throughout the week that we each had. We’ll talk about them and try to incorporate new things into the set to make it seem coherent.

K: Is that when you write songs also? Is it collaborative?

A: It is collaborative, but someone comes in with an idea first.

K: Okay, and then you all work with it?

A: We all work with it there.

K: Could you describe the theme of the new album ‘Jouska?’

A: I remember when I first heard the songs, I thought ‘eh, it’s okay. The words were very direct.’ But then, I learned the hidden meaning of the word ‘Jouska’. It basically means playing a hypothetical situation/conversation in your head and all of the songs revolve around that idea. So, if you’re, like, laying down in bed and you’re thinking of just scenarios you’ve had throughout the day – it’s all hypotheticals that you have in your life and your life pretty much revolves around that and it becomes a compulsion.

K: So that’s what some of the songs – they revolve around that idea?

A: Every song, every lyric, every word… Every letter!

K:  Ha. Every note?

A: Ha. Yes, every note!

K: What is your favorite song off the new album?

A: Crocodile Tears. It’s punk. It slays. It’s short.

K: You like playing that one the most, too?

A: Yeah. It’s the catchiest in my opinion.

K: What is the ultimate direction for Cup Check?

A: The goal right now is to play Warped Tour in the summer – just the one Chicago show that they offer. That is the short term goal. The long term is to play out of state as much as possible.

K: To go on tour?

A: Yeah. The last big Chicago show is going to be Subterranean. Then we’re going to go out of state for the whole summer pretty much.

K: Very cool. Do you have any advice for other bands or artists?

A: It really depends on what they’re looking to do. If you’re looking to do full time, you’ve got to put your heart into it. You’ve got to put every last ounce of energy you have into it. The most important thing is to have goals. Because if you don’t have goals then you don’t really know what you’re doing. So, if you have a goal to make it your life then you need to set up surrounding goals to get to.

K: So, goals are where it’s at?

A: Ha. Yes, goals.

K: Any new music after this EP release show?

A: I think we were talking about how we wanted to write a full length next. But nothing else is coming out for awhile. Not until 2017, probably.

K: Alright, that sounds great! Well, thanks for the interview!

A: Yeah, no problem!

Fans can see Cup Check headlining at The Subterranean this Sunday, April 10th with the doors opening at 5pm. The show will promote their new EP ‘Jouska’ release. Also on the bill are SurrendersonCoastlinesAiming For Average, and Action/Adventure. You can get more information about the show and snag some tickets here. Make sure to listen to ‘Sidewalks’ below and check out Cup Check’s music on their band camp pageas well as iTunes and Spotify.

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