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Soundbites: J Bengoy to Release New Album

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J Bengoy, clockwise from top left: Patrick Freeman, Greg Heelan, Charlie Hill, Ryan Jory, Justin Barton and Alexis Hughes - COURTESY OF KAYHL COOPER
  • Courtesy Of Kayhl Cooper
  • J Bengoy, clockwise from top left: Patrick Freeman, Greg Heelan, Charlie Hill, Ryan Jory, Justin Barton and Alexis Hughes

In Any Event...

Howdy, music fans. It's been a hot minute since I've written Soundbites, and I'm glad to be here. Much has changed in the Seven Days music section due to the state-mandated suspension of live music, comedy and other events that would normally spawn much fodder for this column. But even though we're not able to gather in large groups, Vermont's music and comedy communities have gracefully shifted to online events. After two months in quarantine, you've probably watched at least one livestream show.

Prior to the new normal known as the ongoing pandemic, Seven Days didn't include online-only events in our calendar and club listings. But since livestreaming is the only game in town, we've adapted along with you. For a few weeks, we blasted out virtual concerts, comedy open mics, drag queen brunch parties and such as part of a series on our Live Culture blog. But we've now started listing events back in their old homes in the "events" and "club dates" sections of our website.

When we listed events in print, we had pretty strict deadlines about when those needed to be submitted. But because we don't have any print listings at the moment, we're adding online events on a rolling basis. If you're streaming a concert, hosting a virtual open mic or spinning hot jams from your bedroom, let us know! You can send an email with all of the relevant details and links, or you can enter your event via our user submission form, which now has a handy "online" category for you to check.

Don't be a stranger! We want to connect you with our readers.

Summer Camp

As a college town, Burlington sees young bands and artists come and go in a pretty regular cycle. And we like to keep tabs on some of our favorite expats, especially when they're sitting on a new record that is, in some ways, their final word on the Queen City scene. I refer specifically to indie-rock outfit J Bengoy, who plan to release their sophomore LP, American Camp, in June. The second single, "Stick Up Kids," is out on Tuesday, May 19, following "Broken State," which came out in early March.

Five out of six J Bengoy members relocated to New York City in the last year or so, mainly to pursue academic and professional goals. Again, this is a fairly common occurrence. What isn't common is for a Burlington band to move to a new city and build a bit of buzz only to have that city become a pandemic hot spot within the first year.

"It definitely changed my feelings about what my intention or purpose of moving down here was," J Bengoy's Charlie Hill (aka Chazzy Lake) told Seven Days in a recent Zoom chat with the group.

"It's funny to have all the momentum in the world, [and then] everything comes to a halt," said Alexis Hughes, who also operates another music project called Laurel. "It's surreal."

The group members talked of riding the subway among stressed-out New Yorkers just before lockdown, the half-truth of all those ghost-town shots of the city — Hughes noted that her block in Brooklyn is just as bustling as always — and staying connected while practicing social distancing. But, most importantly, they gave us a brief sneak peek at the new record.

"I think it's a pretty cohesive narrative overall," said primary songwriter Justin Barton, who noted that the album plays with themes of growing up in the 2000s and his own personal experience coming of age in his home state of Arkansas. He also noted its escapist themes.

"It doesn't shy away from the insular nature of our existence during the pandemic," Barton continued, even though the record was recorded in 2019.

"It feels very timely," said Hughes.

While Hill and Barton largely split writing duties on J Bengoy's 2018 debut LP, Dogwood Winter, Barton penned all of the new tunes, with the band members fleshing out their own individual parts.

"We took it to 10 with this one," Barton continued. He largely credits the new album's colossal sound to producers Rob O'Dea of Burlington's Tank Recording Studio and expat Theo Klein of dance-pop group argonaut&wasp.

Following the sharp, pent-up dance-rock of lead single "Broken State," "Stick Up Kids" continues the band's sonic evolution away from scrappy, DIY indie rock into a fully bloomed, nightclub-ready sound. Look for it where you stream music later this week, and keep a lookout for American Camp in June.

Quarantine Club

Just as I predicted in March, local music makers have begun to find more and more creative solutions to social distancing. A new group, dubbed the VT Quarantine Collective, just released its first offering, an eight-minute piece called "here behind the glass."

Composers Kyle Saulnier and Matt LaRocca (creative projects chair of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra) and producer Christopher Hawthorn of Studio 150 teamed up to orchestrate (pun intended) an abstract piece of music cocreated by scads of local musicians.

Via email, LaRocca explained that the piece came together after contacting artists from all over the state's music community. Each was tasked with sending in 20 to 30 seconds of recorded sound that encapsulated the artists' quarantine experience. Additionally, those who play pitched instruments were given a set of instructions detailing more sounds to record that correspond to a set of specific melodic and harmonic parameters. Similarly, percussionists were asked to send along beats within a particular framework.

After receiving the "ingredients," Saunier layered them together, resulting in an experimental stew of sounds. The composition flirts with progressive rock, jazz and new-age styles as it progresses through several distinct movements.

Stream "here behind the glass" on SoundCloud. Expect more from the VT Quarantine Collective soon.

Battle Zone

The Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro recently announced a contest with some pretty dope prizes — and a pretty good name: "Battle of the Bandwidth." To enter, the Northeast Kingdom performing arts center is asking local bands and artists to upload one video of an original work to YouTube and send the link to artchallenge@highlandartsvt.org.

Starting Monday, June 8, the videos will be released to the public via the Highland Center's website, where viewers can vote on their favorite. Voting concludes on Sunday, June 21. Ten finalists will be selected through a combination of top votes and staff picks. A panel of musically inclined local judges, including singer-songwriter Patti Casey, bluesman Dave Keller and pop-rocker Chad Hollister, will select the winners.

The grand prize is a live performance on the Highland Center's Main Stage, which will be recorded with high-quality audio and video — at whatever point we can see live music in person again. It also comes with a $600 cash stipend. Second prize is no slouch, either: eight hours of studio time at Lane Gibson Recording and Mastering in Charlotte, one of the state's premier studios.

Submissions are open now through Sunday, May 31.

Listening In

If I were a superhero, my superpower would be the ability to get songs stuck in other people's heads. Here are five songs that have been stuck in my head this week. May they also get stuck in yours. Follow sevendaysvt on Spotify for weekly playlists with tunes by artists featured in the music section.

Clairy Browne & the Bangin' Rackettes, "I'll Be Fine"

Steps, "5, 6, 7, 8"

Låpsley, "First"

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, "Goddess of Love"

Dua Lipa, "Boys Will Be Boys"

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