Stop Light Observations

Stop Light Observations

Little Stranger, Josie Dunne

Fri · February 24, 2017

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm


This event is 18 and over

Stop Light Observations
Stop Light Observations
"In the 1930's, the blues sang the sorrows of a man with nothing," says John Keith "Cubby" Culbreth, principal songwriter of Stop Light Observations. "This 21st century album, ironically, sings the sorrows of a man with everything. 'Toogoodoo' is the 'Middle Class Blues.'"

For as long as Americans have sought the illusions of comfort and security in materialism and wealth, there have been those who rejected the predictability of conformity in search of something more authentic. From Thoreau at Walden Pond to Jack Kerouac's manic crosscountry road trips, the quest for fulfillment plays out uniquely in the art of every generation. For Charleston's Stop Light Observations (aka SLO), the search for something more meaningful led them on a journey through ecstatic highs and crippling lows, artistic triumphs and business setbacks, and, ultimately, right back home to the Toogoodoo River in South Carolina.

The roots of SLO stretch deep into childhood, when Cubby first began assembling the lineup as a middle schooler, but things didn't truly take off until the band released their acclaimed 2013 debut album, 'Radiation.' Metronome Charleston hailed their "emotive and elegant" songs, which blended arena-sized rock with undercurrents of hip-hop and folk, while the Charleston City Paper profiled their unexpected rise, which "took many in the music industry by surprise" as they went from relative unknowns to playing Bonnaroo and selling out Charleston's largest rock club, The Music Farm, in roughly a year. Since then, they've gone on to break the record for most consecutive sellouts at The Music Farm and perform live shows all across the country, including more standout festival sets from Firefly to Summerfest . Despite the rapid growth of their fanbase, though, the band had to deal with misplaced trust in music industry figures along with a series of setbacks and the accompanying disillusionment. They hit rock bottom at the end of a tour in Colorado, facing a depleted budget, no shows on the books, and the potential dissolution of the band.

"I remember sitting in the van wondering what we were going to do and how we were even going to make another record," remembers singer Will Blackburn. "I said, 'Why don't we go out to Toogoodoo?'"

It wasn't the first time Blackburn had suggested it, but it was the first time Cubby took the idea seriously. Toogoodoo is a more than 200-year-old private family compound located about 30 minutes outside of Charleston on the Toogoodoo River . Cubby's family had been renting it out to vacationers in recent years, and while beautiful, it's a far cry from a modern recording studio. The grounds are a trip back in time, far removed from the luxuries of Charleston and its bright, sunny beaches. The property overlooks immense, brackish marshes where the ocean and river water meet, and the specter of Charleston's sometimes dark history hangs heavy, a counterbalance to the currents of peaceful serenity and natural splendor that flow throughout the property.

The band decided the only way to properly record an album there would be to track everything live as a full band over the course of eleven days , and then to render the resulting songs through analog tape. They relocated all of their gear and set up in the house on a tireless quest to capture the sound in their heads. Even once they felt like they'd nailed a perfect take, SLO would push onwards to cut it again with even more intensity. Sometimes 40 performances deep into a song, band members would continue to call for one more, and one more again until something undeniably transcendent happened.

"I grew up in a church, and it was like a Holy Spirit type of situation," says Cubby. "Every single time we got the one, we all knew that was it, there were no arguments. We would just hug and sometimes cry. The best thing about it all is that every single song on this album captures that deep level of emotion we felt performing it. Every song you hear is "The" take and everytime I listen to them it takes me right back."

'Toogoodoo' opens with the first notes SLO recorded there, the haunting, palm-muted hook of Louis Duffie's guitar on "Dinosaur Bones." As a chorus of crickets fades into the Low Country night, Blackburn's voice enters on top, smooth as silk at first but gaining grit and gravel with each verse, musing on loneliness and emptiness in the modern world over the intensifying rhythms of drummer Luke Withers. "Decorated on the outside, but empty at my core," he sings, setting the stage for a journey through middle class alienation and dissatisfaction over the next eleven tracks.

"My generation has grown up with a ridiculous amount of privilege and lived a better life than any king in history," reflects Cubby. "Think about it: we have planes to fly around the world; grocery stores with endless food; TV and internet; AC and heating; running water and flushing toilets; medicine if we get sick; sound machines to block out the noise if we can't sleep in our soft cotton beds. All of this stuff exists because the human race is chasing after an easier, more comfortable life. But when you experience the absence of pain, you also experience the absence of positive feelings. America is in a numb state, and as a millennial, I feel confident that my generation can speak to this truth better than any."

On the hypnotic "Security," Blackburn sings sarcastically of the only things that will bring true satisfaction ("two cold beers, a hot bitch, and security") and later asks, "Shit, why don't we feel happy?" The gospelinfluenced "50 Ways" and rollicking "Know It Alls" examine ego and humility, while "Aquarius Apocalyptic" is a stream of consciousness musing on the end of the world that came to Cubby in a lucid dream. Despite the frequently grand themes, there are more intimate, personal moments on the album, too, like "For Elizabeth"—a fond farewell to a lover—and "Who You Are," a reminder that in spite of the time and distance while the band is on the road, their loved ones are always on their minds. Many of the tracks were directly inspired by SLO's surroundings, too, from the bluesy "Leroy"—named after a homeless man in Charleston's Old Village who came to work at Toogoodoo—to the chain gang a cappella of "Dead"—which captures the eerie footsteps of one of the property's ghosts—to the sweet, instrumental tranquility of " Stepping Away ," recorded at night on the dock that hangs above the Toogoodoo River.

While South Carolina is an essential element of SLO's identity, they're certainly not a "Southern rock" band.

"Southerners are the storytellers of America," reflects Cubby. "You might listen to our music and hear elements of classic rock and modern indie rock and blues and folk and hip hop, but underneath all of that tying everything together is southern storytelling."

The stories on 'Toogoodoo' will at once feel familiar and revelatory, as SLO takes an insightful look at the contradictions of a modern society that has access to everything (and everyone) at its fingertips, yet still so often feels empty and alone. The answers, they discovered while creating this album, don't lie in possessions, or status, or in anything external.

"There's no such thing as security, and all the answers you're searching for and the fulfillment you want is a daily struggle that lives within you," concludes Cubby. "It's your responsibility to love and accept yourself and to share the energy you receive from that with others. And that's what this album is. It's the story of some 23 year olds living in America in 2016."

SLO is:
Will Blackburn (lead vocals)
JohnKeith "Cubby" Culbreth (piano/guitar/synth)
Louis Duffie (lead guitar)
Luke Withers (drums)
Little Stranger
Little Stranger
Born and raised in Philly and crash-landed in Charleston, John and Kevin Shields are the core members of the quirky indie hip-hop group Little Stranger. Whether performing as a duo or with a 5-piece band, Little Stranger is a fresh hybrid of John’s singer-songwriter magnetism and Kevin’s hard hitting, in-your-face delivery. Stylistically reminiscent of Gorillaz and Twenty One Pilots, Little Stranger inhabits a relatively unex- plored niche at this point in time. They’re all about originality, every song is a separate work unto itself with all the strangeness that their name implies.
Though the band is relatively new, John and Kevin Shields bring years of experience to the table. With previous bands, they’ve played with names like Slightly Stoopid, Del the Funky Homosapien, Grace Potter, Papadosio, The Heavy Pets, and John Brown’s Body. Little Stranger was quickly recognized at home, named “Hip-Hop Act of the Year” in the 2016 Charleston City Paper Music Awards and listed jointly as one of “17 People to Watch in 2017” in the Charleston Indie blog, Out of the Wood- work. They’ve toured up and down the East Coast and recently released a string of eclectic music videos to their fans. With an ever-increasing arsenal of new tunes, Little Stranger is poised and ready to make 2017 a big year.
Josie Dunne
Josie Dunne
Josie grew up in La Grange, Illinois, a western suburb outside of Chicago along the train lines where maple and elm trees, that blanket all the homes, watch over the town — and carry in the rings of their trunks generations of moments that have shaped the lives of everyone in this very-close community.

Josie lives in his father’s childhood home — a big-porched, prairie-style home smack in the middle of town — blocks from her Catholic grammar school and high school — and a bike-ride away from everyone and every place that has been important in her life.

Josie’s sanctuary is her converted attic bedroom on the third floor — with vinyl record covers of her muses as her wallpaper. Sam Cook, Aretha Franklin, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Sarah Vaughn, Nat King Cole and Joni Mitchell watch over her from the vaulted ceiling in her bedroom.

Part of who Josie is — is her three brothers and sisters — who all use the palette of the arts to express their souls. There’s her sister Maisy (a dancer), her older brother Everett (a painter), and her youngest brother, Beecher (the actor).

Josie’s mom, Marcy, is an entrepreneur and principal of Fluid Running, and Josie’s dad, Marty, is a successful businessman by day, and the ‘Farmer in the Dell’ by night. Josie has shared her home with a gabillion pigs, miniature horses, chickens, giant turtles, hens, snakes, dogs, hampsters, fish, and you can’t begin to imagine how many exotic birds. Buses arrive at the home from local schools filled with kids to visit their bird and animal sanctuaries.

There is never a day that Josie’s couple-dozen cousins aren’t hanging in their house with one of them.

Josie went to St. Francis Xavier Catholic grade school, creating friends for life. She’s weeks away from graduating from high school at LTHS, a mammoth public high school where she can hear the morning bells ring from her house. In her school of 4000+ kids, Josie has been the Class President every year. She’s got a 4.4 GPA, and a resume of leadership activities that reads like a yellow pages.

She taught a swarm of kids from town ukulele, guitar and piano through “Josie Dunne Music School,” she launched “Music Maker’s of Western Springs Theatre” for teens, Josie has been the Young Life Student Leader, she’s a weekly deejay at WLTL, and held leadership roles on Student Council, Madrigals, Choir Board, Peer Leadership, Theatre Board, and is a founding member of the Songwriting Circle at LT.

Josie plays ukulele, piano, guitar, sings and writes — and has played hundreds of shows finding her voice in every restaurant, swimming pool, bar, school, you name it during her high school days.

A year ago she went to Los Angeles, and recorded three cover songs — that caught the attention of Scott Hendricks (“Producer of the Year,” record producer of 75+ #1 songs) and Warner Brothers’ legendary President in Nashville, John Esposito.

Josie signed a recording deal with Warner Music Group — and signed as a songwriter with Warner/Chappell Music.

Since then, she’s been writing with many of the biggest and prolific songwriters in the country, and has been the opening act on Wynonna Judd’s recent tour.

She opened for Ingrid Michaelson and Allen Stone at “Austin City Limit’s” Moody Theatre, and was recently on Whole Foods Market’s new CD with “Alabama Shakes,” Bonnie Raitt, “Mumford Songs” and “The Civil Wars.” She recently stunned 25,000 in a live event in California, and she’s in the studio in Los Angeles and Nashville writing and recording… All while she’s juggling real life.

Stay tuned…

Soulful. Exciting. Fresh.

Venue Information:
The High Watt
One Cannery Row
Nashville, TN, 37203