It was awesome to get the opportunity to chat to teen stars of tomorrow, 'Refuge', about their recent 'Haven to a Heavy Soul' EP. It's clear from their answers how much they care about music as an art-form, and how passionate they are about restoring authentic music to the charts. Read what they had to say below...!
Could you give me a brief backstory as to how the band came about?
The band started in 2016 when Patrick, Gabe and Silas got together for a random, first-time-ever jam session and realised (to everyone’s surprise) that we weren’t actually terrible; the humble beginnings of any band. So we started to learn some songs, played them for friends, and eventually came to dominate the hardcore international middle school social scene!
Over time, we developed a very clear preference for the Blues, riff-driven rock, improvisation, and lots of jamming. That led to expanding membership in order to bring in all the necessary elements to complete the band, eventually adding bass (Ben), vocals (Teresa) and piano/organ (Ike). All members are multi-instrumentalists, we all write music and lyrics, and we all fell in love with the Blues, jam bands and classic rock together.
Who are the members, and what role does each person have?
(Left to Right in photo)
How did you come to choose the name ‘Refuge’?
The band is named “REFUGE” because it represents what we are all about: somewhere to escape from the superficial, inauthentic music of our times. We are not a throwback band, however; we believe blues and rock n’ roll are timeless and just need a kick from young people to bring some life into it. Our band is determined to promote righteous and soulful music to a new generation.
That said, we weren’t thinking that deeply when we named the band. We were mainly just being critical of our friends’ musical preferences and thought REFUGE sounded cool. As we evolved as a band, so did the significance of our name.
There is a clear theme of journeys and travelling woven through 'Haven', with this being highlighted on tracks such as ‘Gone Astray’ and ‘Run Through’. To what extent would you say your collective identity as ex-pats influences the music you make?
Probably quite a bit. Maybe less so in terms of musical preference; that mainly comes from our parents, especially Patrick and Teresa’s father. But being expats certainly influences our thinking and how we see the world, and that surely gets into our lyrics. We know we are privileged to live overseas in amazing places like Kenya; and we know we have been given a great opportunity to see and learn about the world’s injustices firsthand. Our parents all work in humanitarian aid and development, and they have taught us a lot about what compelled them to do what they do. We will try to honor that in our music.
Continuing on from this, you have a song called 'Tathagata's Stream'. This is a crazy coincidence, because I'm currently studying Buddhism! 'Tathagata' translates as either 'one who has thus gone' or 'one who has thus come', and the Buddha also frequently refers to himself as 'the Tathagata'. How does all this play into the meaning behind the song ‘Tathagata’s Stream’?
You got it! Well the song was written before we had a title for it. After listening to the studio cut, someone mentioned that it sounded very stream-of-consciousness. The irony is that Patrick wrote that entire song out well before recording, and had even performed it at a few gigs. He was going for something drifty though, with emotional ups and downs. Since we already had some knowledge of Buddhism, we imagined this song to be like the internal thinking of someone meditating. Meditation is not all silent and serene; it can make you experience all kinds of emotions, and we thought this song kind of reflected that. So we called it “Tathagata’s Stream” (i.e. Buddha’s thought process). There’s no religious connotation though. “Tathagata” was used to represent the idea that thoughts come and go… even enlightened thoughts!
Despite having no lyrics, ‘The Wordless Ballad of Utharelius Tyne’ is one of my favourite songs right now! It just pulls me along through all kinds of emotions when I listen to it. What’s the story behind it, and who is Utharelius Tyne?
That’s awesome, thanks! The song developed gradually. Its biggest inspirations were probably Jimmy Page’s acoustic stuff (with Zeppelin) as well as John Butler’s solo work. After we made the song, we noted that it had a very trippy Celtic sound to it, which conjured up a bunch of medieval imagery for us. Somehow this got us imagining a wandering storyteller/poet that travels from pub to pub telling stories and making people’s lives just a little more interesting. That guy needed a name… so we took the name Patrick and Teresa’s younger brother came up with for one of his own short stories, Utharelius Tyne. Sounds real… but it totally isn’t.
It’s quite bold, for your first EP, to have numerous tracks that clock in over 7 minutes and that don’t have lyrics, but it’s also a move that I feel pays off. In creating this album, how did you balance the drive to generate popularity and radio plays, with the more artistic desire to make music you genuinely love and are really proud of
Great question. We went with the second option entirely. Since we are young, there is no rush for us to get lots of radio plays or have the popularity of a mainstream band. We want to succeed, but we have plenty of time. For now, our priority is originality and doing what we love. We know that will gradually get the kind of fans we want as well, i.e. people who love jamming. That said, we also have some short, 3-minute songs. Those are actually harder to write because you have to convey everything you want to convey so succinctly. We should also point out that REFUGE doesn’t want to be a “standard” band that hides behind (or plays second fiddle to) the lead singer. Instrumentation is a big part of our identity, and it is so lacking in popular music today. Everything is so computerized now that there is literally no “feel”, at least not beyond the vocalist. And how could there be? Feel comes from imperfect timing, from stretching out a sound that invokes a sentiment. Algorithms can’t do that.
I absolutely love the album cover, it’s such an imposing but uplifting image, and I think that epitomises the mood of the EP as a whole. What does the image represent to you?
We call it “The Heavy”. That’s another aspect of the band that has evolved over time. At this point, it represents that potential fan that we are looking for, and that hopefully is looking for us. The gas mask implies that he’s stuck in the “real” world, where so much music is phony and soulless (i.e. toxic). But it’s optimistic. The reflection of “REFUGE” on his goggles means that he found us. The psychedelic colors around him imply that finding us has created some kind of positive spirit or vibe. And the giant ‘fro… well that just looks cool. It also acknowledges our African origins.
Which artists inspire you the most?
Oh man, where do we start?!
We guess it’s pretty obvious that we are mainly into ‘60/70s blues, psychedelic and southern rock. That said, we have a ton of other interests as well, such as roots reggae, funk, jazz, R&B, bluegrass and Outlaw country.
Our influences are broad but some of the artists we listen to the most (and appreciate) include the Allman Brothers, Ten Years After, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath, Santana, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Grateful Dead, Doobie Brothers, The Eagles, Eric Clapton and Blues greats such as Albert King, Elmore James and Buddy Guy.
Finally, I have a section on my blog called ‘Self-Help Songs’, where I analyse a particular song’s lyrics and see what lessons we can gain from it. Which of your lyrics would you say you would want listeners to pay close attention to, that you feel can help people the most?
That’s pretty cool that you give song lyrics proper attention. We won’t pretend to claim philosopher status, but we definitely agree with you that lyricists are poets (or at least they should be) who can have profound impacts on their listeners. We hope to do that someday. For now, we are happy with what we have been able to write and we think it sends a decent message of what REFUGE is all about.
Two songs that probably do this best are “A Brighter Day” and “Saw It Coming”. Generally we like to write in metaphor, and even better if the lyrics have some kind of double meaning. In a literal sense, our song lyrics tend to sound like someone speaking to the person they are (or were) in a relationship with. But they go beyond that. “A Brighter Day” has a feminist message and thumbs its nose at an overly judgmental society. “Saw It Coming” is about climate change, spoken in the first person by Mother Earth herself.
Interview by Maxim Mower
Stream Refuge's Haven to a Heavy Soul EP on all platforms
ALBUM COVER - The Lion King: The Gift, Beyoncé
Despite all the hate the new Lion King movie has had aimed its way, something we can salvage from all the wreckage is a new Beyoncé album. At first, I just chose this album cover because it looks really imposing, elegant and classy - all words synonymous with Queen Bey herself. But the more I look at it, the more I realise that it’s actually the perfect image for the Lion King, because on one level it conveys the power struggle between Mufasa and Scar, and later Simba and Scar. But also it points to the ‘circle of life’ (try saying that without breaking into song), and of all the animals playing their part in the merry-go-round of life and death. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading so much about Buddhism for my thesis this summer, and the image reminds me a bit of samsara, the wheel of rebirth, and also a little of Taoism’s Yin and Yang. Either way, it’s a super cool image, and one I definitely gravitate towards.
SONG LYRIC - “She’s giving me ultimatums, I told her I like tomatoes”, Chance the Rapper
Um…ok, Chance. You go ahead and tell her that *insert confused emoji*.
After the heavy meanings of the lyrics in my last post on anxiety (which you can read here), for this month’s Best Song Lyric I simply went for something that is fun and made me smile. Chance the Rapper is a soundbite maestro, with ‘Don’t Forget the Happy Thoughts’ now emblazoned across T-Shirts and Hoodies galore. What I love about this lyric is it is completely nonsensical, but it’s this ridiculousness that makes it utterly hilarious. At least next time your partner gives you any ultimatums, you know what to say…
Although on second thought, maybe don’t try this one at home, folks.
SONG TITLE - Post Malone - Sam Feldt ft. RANI
It’s not particularly inventive, but I always feel it’s kind of meta when an artist uses another artist for the name of their song. The Chainsmokers did it on their early track, ‘Kanye’, and it’s a good way of enticing the listener in, because regardless of whether you’re a fan of the name-checked artist or not, it makes you wonder how they fit into the song’s story and lyrics. It’s also a clever marketing tool, because Post Malone currently has a song in the charts. Maybe it’s just the equivalent of when bloggers look up which keywords are being googled the most and use it as the title for their next post!
MUSIC VIDEO - Beautiful People, Ed Sheeran ft. Khalid
There were lots of contenders for this one. Chris Brown and Drake’s ‘No Guidance’ is hilarious, and worth a watch solely for Drake’s self-deprecating dance moves. Equally, another of Ed’s visuals, his collaboration with Travis Scott for ‘Antisocial’, is wonderfully off-the-wall and wacky. Having said that, after having watched it a good 5 times I still have no clue what it’s about.
‘Beautiful People’ is a poignant rejection of the star-studded, luxurious lifestyle that celebrities often pursue. It follows a middle-aged, down-to-earth couple as they are forced to look on in bemusement at the glitz and glamour of the house parties and fashion shows that engulf them. What’s sweet is they continue to live exactly as they would if they were on a cul-de-sac in Stoke, as opposed to the mock L.A. in the music video. While everyone else is partying, the wife makes the husband a cuppa, and before long they are tucked up in bed with sleeping masks as the music and drinking continues around them. It sums up the message of the song - ‘Droptop, designer clothes/Front row at fashion shows’, before Ed emphatically protests, ‘That’s not who we are’.
It’s grounding, and refreshing. And the couple in the video are just too darn adorable for me not to pick this as video of the month.
Read my review of Ed's new album here
Yours sincerely, but not too seriously,
DrakeDay Lyric #2
Talk about a flex. I'd love to say I relate, but personally me and the naps are way too attached, to go and do that.
This is taken from Gyalchester, off Drake's album/extended playlist, More Life. Enjoy!
Yours sincerely, but not too seriously,
Read last week's DrakeDay lyric here
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Stream Drake's latest project, 'Care Package', and check out some merch, below,
8 Lyrics to help anxiety
It's clear that we often lean heavily on music when we are going through something. It has the powerful ability to lift you up, to relax your mind, or to simply let you know you're not alone in your struggle.
Of course, usually music alone is no remedy to the troubles we face, but it can be helpful nonetheless. Different people can draw out different meanings from various sets of lyrics, such is the subjective beauty of art.
The following is a selection of hand-picked lyrics that are aimed specifically at easing your worries and allaying your fears. Some may become new cri de coeurs, some may simply wash over you without having much effect. But hopefully in shining a spotlight on particularly useful lyrics, there will be at least one that will really resonate with you...
Don't you worry, don't you worry, child/See Heaven's got a plan for you
1. Swedish House Mafia, Don't You Worry Child
You don't have to believe in Heaven, or be religious at all for that matter, to appreciate this. Personally the message I gain from this is that no matter how low you are feeling, or how difficult it may be right now, in the long run you will always be okay. I have a saying that I'm always annoying my friends with - 'Even when it doesn't go to plan, it does'. This could be God's plan (shoutout Drake...), the Universe's plan, or simply your ultimate plan for your life. In the end, the struggle makes you who you are.
Oh, my darlin', put your worries on me/Can't judge you 'cause I feel the same thing
2. Ed Sheeran, Put It All On Me feat. Ella Mai
I really like this one, because it sounds fairly generic at first, but peering deeper into it reveals a significant message. For me, it's the idea that it's okay to ask someone for help when you're going through something. Don't be too prideful or too ashamed to lean on other people. There's a good chance they're going through something similar.
Have a look at my review of Ed Sheeran's 'No.6 Collaborations Project' here
Ain't in no hurry, I'd be a fool now to worry/About all those things I can't change
3. Zac Brown Band, No Hurry
This is the central Zac Brown Band mantra of 'Que sera sera', and to not let things that are out of your control get you down. If you have a problem, address it, and if there is a solution go about achieving it. If there is no solution, then leave it behind. It's irrelevant.
Check out a more detailed look at No Hurry in this Self-Help Songs post
Everything that's broke, leave it to the breeze/Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
4. James Bay, Let It Go
This is a great quote, because it echoes the previous notion of letting things that are out of your control go. Often we can torment ourselves over what could have been, or what we should have done. "Leave it to the breeze", and don't be stuck in the past. Also, this takes on another meaning in the sense of what you might see as 'broken' parts of your personality or appearance. Just be yourself - we hear it time and time again, but it's true. Why be someone you're not, when you're awesome just the way you are (shoutout Bruno Mars...)
Today I missed my workout, but it worked out/Now I'm missing work now, but it worked out
5. Chance the Rapper, Work Out
Okay, this seems like a random quote to have included. But it resonates with me quite strongly, because I think we can overthink the details of our lives, and be too hard on ourselves when we don't match up to our expectations. It's great to be disciplined and driven, but cut yourself some slack - don't be too hard on yourself (shoutout Jess Glynne...okay, I'm going to stop with all the cross-referencing now...!). Also, remember to have fun! Charlie Hoehn wrote a great article about how 'Play' cured his anxiety, read that here.
You might also like...Self-Help Songs, 'How to Be Positive', by Chance the Rapper
Gonna to put the world away for a minute/Pretend I don't live in it/Sunshine's gonna wash my blues away
6. Zac Brown Band, Knee Deep
Yes, I know, it's ANOTHER Zac Brown Band song. Talk about biased. But this artist more than any other epitomises for me the feeling of just kicking back, relaxing, and taking the strain off of your mind. They're not talking about a literal vacation here, it's a mental one. We all carry around with us personal spas in the form of meditation. Get away for free!
Then I felt my pulse quickening/But regrets can't change anything...Joy, set my mind free/I was giving up, oh, I was giving in
7. Bastille, Joy
Another poignant lyric about letting the past be the past. Don't agonise and torment yourself over something you can't change. Also I added the second part of the lyrics, because it emphasises the positive message of the song. Just when you are thinking of giving in, don't! Relief from your pain could literally just be around the corner.
And when all broken-hearted people/Living in the world agree/There will be an answer/Let it be
8. The Beatles, Let It Be
This iconic song is probably most famous for having an amazing melody, as all The Beatles' songs do. But the lyrics really hit home, and underline what a lot of the other lyrics in this article have been saying. Don't fight against an immovable obstacle, especially if it is behind you - turn around, and let it go. Let it be.
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New Blog series - #DrakeDay
Drake's lyrics have spawned internet-breaking acronyms, viral dance challenges, and world famous slogans. The Toronto rapper's ability to inject generous doses of wit and humour into observations that, when you stop to think about it, actually hold a lot of insight, has made him the lyrical figurehead of the internet era.
Yes, we've all seen 'KiKi, do you love me?' and 'YOLO' doing the rounds on the internet. But this blog series will be highlighting the best Drake lyrics that have flown under the radar. Whether they are amusing, jarring or just downright ridiculous - this is the place you'll find them.
So join me every Thursday for the event of the week. Forget Transfer Deadline Day, Valentine's Day or Father's Day (I'm joking of course...I don't want to be responsible for any present-less partners and fathers...!).
This is the Day to eclipse all Days. Every Thursday. At www.maximoco.com.
It's #DrakeDay, people.
The first lyric goes up later today...follow this blog so you don't miss it!
Yours sincerely, but not too seriously,
Interview: Us Rapper, C Woodz
I recently sat down with up-and-coming US rapper, C Woodz, for his first ever UK interview!
Among other things, we spoke about his influences, how he got into music, and the meaning behind last year’s EP, ‘Born in October’. It was awesome to get the opportunity to chat with such a humble, but clearly driven, artist, and it was refreshing to hear him talk about the positive effect he hopes to have on his fans, and his ambitions for the future.
Check out the interview below!
How does it feel coming off the back of the release of your new single, ‘Drip or Drown’?
I love creating music, it feels good. Every single I release is a big moment. The video’s coming soon too!
Is there a new album on the horizon?
The album right now is not together. There’s a collection of singles that I’m focussing on - I’m going to release 6 of them over the next six months. The album, that’ll be sometime next year.
You recently shot the video for ‘Please Don’t’ in London. In the song you say you flew there without a case - is that true?!
I actually did! I go to London like twice a year, I love it there. Also ‘Please Don’t’, that song was one of my favourites off the EP ‘Born in October’.
In ‘Please Don’t’, you sing 'Please don't send them my way'. What are you referring to here?
Basically, it’s my experience when I first went to London, my first experience, I was so happy just being out there. The city showed so much love, I was inspired by the people, and how they gravitated to my music. It was all very overwhelming, so yeah, it was inspired by my first experience going to London. “Please don’t send them my way” is basically talking about negativity, don’t send me any negativity. You can relate that to anything.
You mentioned recently that “It’s time for me to reroute my message”, and your recent pack of singles, ‘Different Smoke’, was full of lots of positivity, love, and was about you dedicating yourself to your girl. How would you describe this new message, and what side of C Woodz are we going to be getting from now on?
As far as that, the whole concept is about changing up the direction of my lyrics. I’m in a different space now. Going forward, when I am dropping new projects, I really want people to hear a different perspective to my old music. I basically want to impact people differently, and not just talk about the same things, but still give them the same impact in that transition. As far as visuals, lyrics, when I’m writing them, everything is rerouted to get a different perspective.
Which artists inspire you the most?
That’s kinda tough! I’m inspired by a lot of artists. First off, the rapping side of me was inspired by Lil Wayne. I’ve been listening to him since the age of 8. Then there was the transition where Chris Brown came along. Also other artists like Tory Lanez, Meek Mill, all of those artists, they inspire me, along with others.
You talk about being inspired by these artists. How does it feel to be in a position where you are inspiring your fans, and you are a role model to them? Do you feel any pressure in this responsibility?
I treat that as a proud moment, I’m just starting to see people gravitate to my music, loving my lyrics, reciting them in videos. It’s great. There’s no pressure at all, it actually drives me to produce more music that they want to listen to. I love that feeling.
What was the mentality behind your first EP ‘Born in October’, which you released last year? What space were you in when you wrote that?
When I was creating it, this was one of the first projects I really sat down and thought through. I wanted to do it the right way. ‘Born in October’ has acronyms, symbolism, there’s a lot of meaning in there. First off, I was born in October, that was the first symbolisation. Secondly, I felt reborn again, going through the process of creating that music. Basically I just wanted to give everybody that was born in October, or whatever month they were born in, to connect with this EP. Because when I was creating it, with each song I was going through different emotions and trials, and I was putting those things in my music. I was feeling recreated, rejuvenated, and reborn, and it added a whole different perspective to who I was. I felt brand new.
What’s the thinking behind the album cover, which shows a figure meditating in the grasp of a dragon’s claw?
The whole meditation part, that’s an actual silhouette of me sitting down, just meditating and relaxing. That whole image just symbolises me feeling born again. The dragon that you see, that’s to symbolise luck. Also, when you think of a typical lucky number, what number do you think of? 7. That’s the reason there’s seven songs, the dragon is lucky, it’s all a symbol of completion. Feeling completed as I was writing this music.
I really want people to hear a different perspective to my old music. I want to impact people differently
What direction do you see the future of Hip Hop going in? Does 'mumble rap’ have a future?
When I think about Hip Hop and R&B, I think that it’s all about life right now. You know, when you see an old tree, and it’s been there for hundreds of years, it may look old but it continues to grow. That’s how I look at music, it’s going to continue to grow and evolve. No matter where we are at, great music lasts forever. Mumble rap ain’t gonna stick around, because people want to hear something that’s going to keep them sustained when they’re going through certain things. The music is going help them get through that. As an artist, I obviously have to adapt to the music that’s being created and that’s popular, but also put my own style on it. I’m not a mumble rapper, but I have to adapt to it.
How did you first get into music?
My favourite rapper is and always has been Lil Wayne. Like I said, it started right there when I was 8, and I went to a Lil Wayne concert. My brother rapped too so that was a big influence. Music was really all around me, so as I got to 16/17, I wanted to start creating. My first time writing, I basically took Tha Carter I or II, and I switched all the words around. If he said ‘red', I said ‘blue’, and so on. That was my first time writing, and that helped me to learn how to write. At 17 I wrote my first song, and when I look at the lyrics now it’s funny to me, but I can see where I was trying to go with it. As life went on, I learnt how to do it. During that era, when I was 17, that’s basically when Chris Brown came along, and everyone was gravitating towards him. There was the whole thing about him dancing and singing, I just liked his style. That paved the way for me, that’s how it all started.
Where do you see yourself at the end of the year?
Winning ‘Best New Artist’ at the BET Hip Hop Awards. I want to be doing music full time, if I can do that, that’s when I’ll feel like I’ve really made it.
Are you independent, or signed to a label?
I’m independent, not signed. All my videos and me travelling to shoot them, all that is at my own expense.
What would be your ideal collaborations?
I want to work with Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Tory Lanez. But at the moment I’m working with no features. Lil' Keke is an artist that’s becoming really big over here in America, and I have a song with him [called Real and Fake]. He’s a big feature for me to have secured. But other than that, I would only do a feature if it was a big name artist. I’m really just focused on getting my own music out there right now.
I have a section on my blog called ‘Self-Help Songs’, where I analyse a particular song’s lyrics and see what lessons we can gain from it, because I feel like artists are in some ways today’s philosophers. They’ll be going through something, and they pen lyrics that can really help the listeners who are going through a similar struggle, but perhaps shed new light on it or shift the perspective in a really helpful way. Off the top of your head, which of your lyrics would you say you would want listeners to pay close attention to, that you feel can help people the most?
It’s a lyric on my ‘Born in October’ EP. It’s the first verse on my song, ‘Born’. It goes,
Look at my scars, they can tell you that the battle was real,
It’s real, and basically it’s saying that they never know what you been through until they walk in your shoes.
Read the latest self-Help Songs post here
Interview by Maxim Mower
Stream C Woodz’ summer anthem, ‘Drip or Drown’, out on all platforms, and watch his video for ‘Please Don’t’ here.
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Hello! I'm currently studying Philosophy & Theology at Oxford University, UK. Having always loved writing and music in equal measure, and having always hated decision-making, I figured hey, why do I need to choose between the two?