Orlando's Music Beat: Part 2
From jazz to rock, blues to metal, we present 20 music acts that call Orlando home.
To call our city’s music scene rich is an understatement. We present 20 acts that call Orlando home and perform locally or have branched out far and wide, whether they follow a beat of blues, folk, rock, jazz, metal or something else. Plus check out our guide to venues that regularly present these shining stars.
When we last met Orlando’s resident superhero rockstar Michelle Beebs, front woman of the powerhouse funk-pop group Beebs and Her Money Makers, she was about to embark on her greatest quest yet—The Vans Warped Tour. Three fast and furious years later she and her band have conquered five cross-country tours, including Canada, recorded two albums and appeared on two TV shows.
During her first Warped Tour, Beebs was a featured character on the MTV reality show Warped Roadies, which is currently streaming on Amazon and Hulu. Then came several tours with her personal heroes Reel Big Fish, with whom she also made a record in their California studio. She joined Warped Tour again in 2014 and appeared in an episode of RV Kings on the Travel Channel.
“I’ve been going nonstop so I haven’t really had time to reflect on all that I’ve accomplished,” Beebs says during a brief window in her busy schedule. She’s currently working on co-opening a small boutique, gallery and music venue in Melbourne called Standard Collective, which will feature clothing, jewelry, art and music made by herself and other skate- and surf-inspired artists.
While on the road she began making and selling handmade apparel as a creative outlet. “I felt for a while like I was completely consumed in the business side of things. I was always focused on marketing and booking, and music wasn’t a big part of it anymore.”
She was also afraid that she had been typecast. “Everyone expected me to be this cartoon character I play onstage. I don’t always wear my superhero clothes. I don’t sleep in them.”
So she decided to make a change.
That change was her first solo record, Eye Shine, what she calls an effort to show the world that Beebs is a real person. It’s also her debut as a guitarist, an instrument she’s been playing behind the scenes for six years. And though she’s played a few shows on her own, the Money Makers are still going strong, gearing up for future tours and a new album.
“It’s like the duality of Superman and Clark Kent. They’re both working hard at what they do,” Beebs says. “Only for me it’s living and breathing art and music.” beebsandhermoneymakers.com
— JUSTIN BRAUN
Trivium (COURTESY OF TRIVIUM)
This is literally all I’ve done. I’ve never had a day job. — Heafy
Trivium vocalist Matthew Kiichi Heafy has been interviewed by publications from rock mag Loudwire and Jiu Jitsu Times (he is a practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu) to several international tattoo magazines. A strikingly good-looking man, Heafy is adorned with intricate, Japanese-inspired ink that runs the length of both arms. Not as obvious is the mythological artwork covering his full back, from shoulder blades to thighs, which he has displayed sans censorship on Instagram with the comment, “I’d like to apologize to anyone offended by seeing my butt on the Internet, with another photo of my butt on the Internet.”
Born in Japan to an American Marine father and a Japanese mother (the family moved to Orlando when he was one), Heafy met singer Brad Lewter in high school, who invited him to join his two-week old band, Trivium, as guitarist. Barely two weeks later, Lewter left the band, and Heafy found himself as the singing and playing front man.
“I became the singer at 13,” he says. “I was terrible at 13. Mostly what I did was scream.” Which fit right in with the death metal scene. Their debut record, Ember to Inferno, was written by Heafy when he was 17, and now, 13 years later, after several personnel changes including a succession of drummers worthy of Spinal Tap, Heafy is the only remaining original member.
“This is literally all I’ve done,” he says. “I’ve never had a day job.” He describes the band’s music as a cross between old-school Metallica, punkish metalcore and a style of “melodic death metal” that sprung out of Tampa in the 1990s.
Heafy’s bandmates, Corey Beaulieu, Paolo Gregoletto and Paul Wandtke, can by turns play slow and somber to impossibly fast and somber. At 30, Heafy’s voice is impressively strong and resonant, the teenage screamer left far behind (unless he reappears during live sets of those old songs).
Their seventh record, Silence in the Snow, came out in 2015. The band’s current tour wound from Australia and Japan to California and New York, ending in October with a hometown date at House of Blues.
“I want to do this as long as the Stones,” Heafy says. It won’t be a bit surprising if he does. trivium.org
— Joseph Hayes
The Sh-Booms (ROBERTO GONZALEZ)
Playing at Red Cypress Brewery in Winter Springs on Nov. 5
For bassist Al Ruiz, the inspiration for one of Orlando’s most highly acclaimed soul ensembles was rooted in the vintage vinyl of his parents’ record collection.
When The Sh-Booms formed in 2011, Motown was in the DNA, honored in a stylishly conceived R&B revue delivered by a 13-member lineup of horns, vocalists and rhythm players. The breakout single, “123!,” was accompanied by a music video that transformed Will’s Pub into an American Bandstand-worthy dancehall.
That musical vision has been validated by four consecutive first-place finishes as “Best Soul Act” in Orlando Weekly’s Best of Orlando competition.
The Sh-Booms’ magic is most evident on stage, says Orlando musician Jeff Ilgenfritz, who played with Ruiz in the band Mumpsy.
“What makes The Sh-Booms so exciting is how diverse they are,” Ilgenfritz says. “Whether it’s in the middle of a show, sandwiched by punk bands, or headlining a festival, they can do it all.”
On the band’s latest EP, Usage Fee, the Motown sound has been dosed with harder-edged rock elements. More fuzzed-out guitar. A rowdier rhythm section.
“It’s like The Animals meets Aretha,” says Ruiz, who calls it “garage soul.”
The sound developed out of personnel changes that included a new lead vocalist, New York transplant Brenda Radney. Before coming to Orlando, Radney contributed backing vocals to Justin Timberlake’s 2013 hit album, The 20/20 Experience.
“I’ve heard people sing like that, but I’ve never heard anybody sing like that right in front of me,” Ruiz says. “She’s one of the most powerful vocalists I’ve ever heard.”
Radney’s arrival inspired a streamlined approach for The Sh-Booms. “We’re down to a six-piece,” Ruiz says. “We basically chopped the band in half and it’s all we needed.”
The new lineup—which also includes drummer Kevin Connolly, guitarist Davis Schleicher and horn players Mike Ortiz and Nick Walsh—recorded with Grammy-nominated producer Alan Armitage (Boyz II Men) at “the compound,” music mogul Johnny Wright’s 16,000-square foot complex in Orlando.
The result was Usage Fee, a release that reflects Ruiz’s revived infatuation with rock.
“This thing has changed so much,” he says. “We’ve updated and upgraded.” theshbooms.com
— Jim Abbott
Lauren Carder and Multiple Me (ROBERTO GONZALEZ)
Lauren Carder and Multiple Me
I’ve been performing since I was a child. I used to round up the neighborhood kids and put
on a circus. — Carder
“My dad was a musician. My great-grandfather played piano for silent films, and my great-great-grandfather was a luthier, he made instruments.”
Lauren Carder is proof that musical talent is genetic. She has impacted the local scene with her bands and solo projects for years, telling stories that range from upbeat and frothy to serious social statements.
“I’ve been performing since I was a child,” Carder, 31, says. “I used to round up the neighborhood kids and put on a circus.”
Carder grew up in Oviedo and started writing songs at 16. It may have been the circus atmosphere that attracted her to the idea of The Mud Flappers, an acoustic roots band she co-founded in 2007 that was as much carny and vaudeville show as it was Americana music collective. She left that band in 2015, “working up the guts” to pursue music as a full-time job.
In the tradition of working musicians everywhere, she plays solo “cover shows,” singing jazz, Johnny Cash and Hall & Oates songs at places such as Maxine’s on Shine and Shari Sushi. She’s the guitar player in the corner with the head-turning voice. Her vehicle for original music, the band Multiple Me, formed in 2010, and released a record, Little Light, in June.
Full of well-crafted, deeply personal songs and Carder’s rich alto, the power-pop sound is reminiscent of Neko Case and Jonatha Brooke. There are arena-rock beats in “Old Lines,” a disturbingly dark storyline in “Lost Cause” that starts as harmonica-led folk then shifts through unexpected rhythm changes and lo-fi guitars, and several songs that use allusions to light and darkness.
“A lot of the songs I write are dark and edgy. I think I use music as a form of therapy for some rather dark expressions,” says Carder, who is not the least bit dark or edgy in person—just a dedicated storyteller. She calls her current material “stories about struggle and hope.”
The multiple Lauren Carders of Multiple Me are a far cry from the lighthearted performances of her previous project, and it’s fascinating to hear where her musical therapy is taking her. laurencarder.com
— JOSEPH HAYES
The Sam Rivers Rejuvenation Orchestra (EMILY JOURDAN)
The Sam Rivers Rejuvenation Orchestra
Even before his first recordings in 1964, Samuel Carthorne Rivers was known as a true jazz original.
The sax/flute/piano player set the stage for a new language of “free” jazz, and musicians flocked to play with him. His RivBea Orchestra (named for his wife of 56 years, Beatrice), birthed in the 1970s, has attracted several generations of musical innovators. He moved to Orlando in 1991 and started experimenting with local musicians almost immediately. A meeting in 1993 brought Rivers together with multi-instrumentalist Doug Mathews, who remained the linchpin of both the powerhouse Sam Rivers Trio and incarnations of the Orchestra to this day, where he now serves as bass player and bandleader for the recently renamed Sam Rivers Rejuvenation Orchestra.
“We’re keeping the band going,” Mathews says, “because we told Sam we would.”
Much like Rivers’ himself, who played with everyone from Miles Davis to Joe Cocker, the rotating roster of Orchestra members brings a world of influences to the bandstand. Guitarist Bobby Koelble, who has taken the lead instrument in the band since Rivers’ death in 2011 at 88, plays heavy metal and jazz with equal fervor. Josh Parsons, barely visible behind his tuba, and trumpeter Mike Iapichino play at the theme parks. George Weremchuk is an associate professor at UCF; Jeff Rupert is the director of Jazz Studies. Saxophonist Charlie DeChant has been playing with rockers Hall & Oates since 1976; former band trombonist Clare Courchene now tours with the likes of Kanye West and Josh Groban.
At a Blue Bamboo Arts Center date in August, the 16-piece band played compositions from the immense Rivers library, which numbers in the hundreds; funky, tight, highly avant-garde and—unbelievably—danceable. One is the Ellington-esque “Beatrice,” a jazz standard dedicated to his wife that, in Rivers’ words, is the only song he ever wrote that earned him royalties from other musicians’ recordings. Behind the freedom of “free” jazz, where musicians literally make up the music as they play, there’s a structure gained from a lifetime’s playing, and an energy that approaches euphoria.
Blue Bamboo will hopefully be home for the Orchestra’s monthly open rehearsals, and an opportunity to hear challenging and exciting jazz played by masters. And perhaps dance a little. Search Sam Rivers Rejuvenation Orchestra on Facebook
— Joseph Hayes
The Pauses (JEN CRAY)
Playing at Will’s Pub on Dec. 2–3
“We’re the place where electronic music meets ’90s rock,” the alliteratively named Tierney Tough says. In a world where new, interchangeable pop idols are turned out by TV shows every minute, Tough’s band, The Pauses, is a fresh, inventive and often challenging original, putting the alternative into alternative rock.
On their latest record, A Cautionary Tale, down tempo musings, distorted heavy metal guitar, Kinks-like keyboards and a snippet of the 1926 hit “Tonight You Belong To Me” appear—sometimes in the same song. All supporting Tough’s vocals, which bring to mind the quirky attack of electropop star St. Vincent and the phrasing of British indie band The Sundays’ lead singer Harriet Wheeler, a combination of full-throated power and whisper-in-your-ear intimacy.
Tough, playing piano and bass, has performed with Baltimore punk band War On Women and singer-songwriter Ken Stringfellow, and appeared backing NY indie rocker Matt Pond on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, but it is with fellow Pauses Jason Kupfer (guitar and electronics) and Nathan Chase (percussion) that she finds real expression. “We’re always trying something new,” she says.
The band has wide-ranging influences. “I love Harry Nilsson, I love Björk. And then Jason, Nathan and I add inspirations from Brazilian electronic composer Amon Tobin and [D.C. punk pioneers] Jawbox.”
After years of promoting music at Will’s Pub, Tough has established connections with pretty much everyone in town, but she admits that the idea of having fans, of one’s fame extending beyond people you already know, is a little strange. “But that’s what you signed up for,” she says. “Isn’t that why you join a band?”
The band’s current string of dates ends this year with shows across Florida and “secret pop-ups” in Orlando with pop legends The Posies. A new as yet unnamed record will be released after the first of the year, offering new touring opportunities, which is fine by Tough.
“I love home,” she says, “but I don’t want to be home. I love the nomadic life.” thepauses.com
— JOSEPH HAYES
Terri Binion (ROBERTO GONZALEZ)
It’s been a while since Terri Binion wrote her last tune. She calls it a kind of an offseason. Perhaps it’s because in 2015, she released The Day After the Night Before, a sprawling master work of personal exploration through the folk and Americana songwriting traditions. The album came on the heels of immense tragedy, the passing of her wife and parents, and represents a kind of perseverance—years of reflection, personal struggle, collecting thoughts and demos that spanned several chapters of her life into one cohesive story, going through periods of presence and absence in the Orlando music scene.
Through it all, Orlando has been her calm, her reset button. And at different times in her life where she had the soul-searching moments that any committed musician goes through, Orlando was there.
“Every now and then since this recent release, I’d think ‘What the hell am I doing spending all this money putting this record out and propping it up?’ ” Binion says. “Then I have clarity on other days where I think ‘I’ve got this one life and this is what I’m doing.’ What surprises me most is that Orlando didn’t give up on me when I wasn’t really doing anything for several years at a time.”
In her long career in Orlando music, Binion has seen a togetherness develop in the local music community. The bar is high for quality music, which keeps the artistic community not only vibrant but incredibly supportive, she says. And while artistic movements have grown, she’s also noticed the amount of available venues shrink, which hurts the marriage of different audiences.
“We don’t have some of the venues we had in the ’80s where you could listen to jazz and we’re lacking in smallish venues. I know there’s a lot of people who want to enjoy music in Orlando, but they can’t find a place to sit down. Will’s Pub is a great venue, but it’s not going to do it for them. Neither is The Social,” she says. “I have hope that in the future we will see more music venues open, more that will be open to multi-use. What people need is heart.”
— Dante Lima
Matthew Fowler (KEVIN MILLER)
I’m still going for an intimate vibe. I think that’s where my music sits best. — Fowler
For many on the Orlando music scene, singer-songwriter Matthew Fowler’s debut was an intimate house concert in 2013, where the kid fresh out of Lyman High School wowed not-so-easily-impressed musicians and media types with artfully detailed songs from a self-produced debut album, Beginning.
The title of that album, a homegrown creation recorded in his family’s kitchen, also described that coming-out party. In the years since, Fowler has garnered glowing reviews from Huffington Post, NPR, American Songwriter magazine and influential online music tastemakers such as Diffuser and Daytrotter.
“That was the start of a lot of things for me,” Fowler says by phone from Gainesville, where he has spent the summer working on his sophomore album. “It definitely turned the page on a new chapter.”
Slender, with a wispy beard and a soft-spoken style, Fowler often works alone with an acoustic guitar, showcasing an earthy style that mixes introspection and exuberance in ways reminiscent of early acoustic demos of Bruce Springsteen.
“He was just 19 at the time we met and was already showing himself to be an exceptional songwriter,” says Steven Foxbury, the ex-My Friend Steve frontman now helping to manage Fowler’s career. “Since then, he’s become family to us and shown an impressive amount of growth as a writer and as a person.”
Sonically, Fowler is expanding his approach in material he’s recording at Medusa Studios in Gainesville.
“I’m still going for an intimate vibe,” says Fowler, 22. “I think that’s where my music sits best. But the sound is definitely more realized.”
The new release, tentatively slated for spring 2017, features more instruments than the solitary foundation of Beginning, Fowler says. Piano and atmospheric electric guitars blend with clawhammer banjo, fiddle and other traditional sounds.
Fowler plays a lot of lead parts on electric guitar, an instrument absent from the debut album.
“I know what I’m capable of doing and I’m not satisfied until I hit the mark,” Fowler says. “It’s more stressful than the last one, but it’s the most constructive stress you can think of: the stress of working on something you’re passionate about.” matthewfowlermusic.com
— Jim Abbott
Raising Cadence (ROBERTO GONZALEZ)
It was as students at University High School when three of the five members of Raising Cadence—vocalist Miguel Larsen, guitarist Andrew Rouleau and guitarist-vocalist Sam Oliviera—discovered music together, putting them on a path through which life and music became one.
“We learned music together,” Larsen recalls. Then “somewhere along the line,” he says, the trio met bass player Ron Cook and drummer T.J. Howard, both professionally trained musicians, and the band came together as a quintet in early 2014.
The band’s name, like its songs, finds its inspiration in both music and experience: the expectation that their music will achieve greater acclaim combined with the experience of seeing the redemption of a friend who got his life together after becoming a father.
“I always felt like a general theme was different life experiences. We meet a lot of people on the road. We’ve learned a lot from other people and from ourselves as well,” Larsen says. In their performances, “we want to reflect more of an experience than a concert,” Cook adds.
The five musicians share the responsibility of writing new material. The band, which remains unsigned, released its first EP, Northbound, in December 2014 and is working on a second EP. “We’re very excited about this,” Larsen says. “We feel this will really define who we are as a band.”
Their high-energy pop rock style is influenced by every possible genre, from what Larsen describes as the “hardcore scream music” of their teen years to jazz, R&B, salsa and merengue. “We’re still growing,” he says.
Performing often at such Orlando venues as House of Blues, The Social, BackBooth and Bahama Breeze, Raising Cadence recently had its first show in Tampa. Larsen says the band plans to branch out with “new music, new shows, new locations, new cities.”
Since the May release of their new music video for their single “I Define Every Moment,” Larsen and Cook have seen their audiences more engaged. “Now we’re hearing the audience sing along. That’s the coolest feeling yet,” Larsen says. “I feel like I’ll know we made it big when we play a show to a random city that’s sold out and people are singing our songs with us.” Search Raising Cadence on Facebook
— CHERI HENDERSON
Thomas Wynn and the Believers (Darin Back Photography)
Thomas Wynn and the Believers
Thomas Wynn and the Believers have been among the most acclaimed fixtures on the Orlando music scene for more than a decade, but the band’s hometown soon might have to share them with the world.
In March, the band signed a record deal with Mascot Label Group, an international company with a roster that includes Jacksonville-based swamp rockers JJ Grey & Mofro and renowned jam-band Gov’t Mule, among others. In August, Wynn and the band traveled to Nashville to record their label debut, slated for release next spring.
Next year, the plan is to play more than 200 dates on the road, including tours of Europe.
“The label has a huge footprint in Europe, so the plan is to send us over there two or three times, then tour in America two or three more times,” Wynn says. “The idea is to be on the road as much as possible.”
That work ethic isn’t new to Wynn, whose father, Tom Wynn Sr., played drums in the seminal Southern rock band Cowboy. The younger Wynn has toiled relentlessly for nearly 20 years in spotlights that range from corner bars to festival stages.
Along with his vocalist sister, Olivia, and harmonica virtuoso Chris Bell, the Believers lineup now includes bassist David Wagner, drummer Ryan Miranda and keyboardist Colin Daniel Fei.
“I’m so proud of all of them,” says Orlando musician Brian Chodorcoff, who has collaborated with Wynn at various points.
“They are a real Southern rock band, related through Cowboy to the real thing, the real true Southern rock band of now,” Chodorcoff says. “If anybody has a shot at getting music on the radio just because it’s cool—not because it’s fitting into a genre that’s hot at the moment—if anybody can do that, it’s them.”
Wynn, who also has been collaborating with Nashville songwriters, envisions leading the Believers to “the next level, and levels and levels beyond that.”
“For 17 years, I’ve been playing out in clubs,” Wynn says. “It’s happening now because it’s right and we can handle it, treat it with the respect that it deserves.” thomaswynnandthebelievers.com
— JIM ABBOTT