UCR Interview- Cat Leavy of New Shack

Trevor Christensen

New Shack is headlining Les Femmes De Velour second night (Feb 23).  I was able to speak with lead vocalist Cat Leavy.  Here is our conversation.   

Utah Concert Review: I’m always interested in how things got started.  How did you decide you wanted to do music, and how did you New Shack form?

Cat Leavy: Eric and I have similar backstories in that we weren’t originally pursuing music full time as careers.  But it’s something that we’ve always done our whole lives.  I was raised as a classical musician doing a lot of competitions and I always thought I was going to study music and become a classical performer but that changed.  It was a really intense way to grow up.  It’s something I still love.  I practice the piano every day and I have a very deep love for classical music.  But as a teenager, it became a very negative thing for me.  I trend towards being obsessive and neurotic so it was a really negative environment for that. Just like the competition aspect.  So yeah, I decided to stop doing classical music that way and I actually didn’t really think I’d ever come back to music but I did.  And in my early twenties, I decided that I was going to use music as therapy, to write out my feelings.  And at the same time, this was before I knew Eric, he lost his job and decided to do music full time.  We met through mutual friends and began collaborating virtually because I was living in Germany.  We just started emailing tracks between us.  So Eric would come up with a cool beat, he would send it to me, then I would write a song to it, record some vocals then send it back to him.  And then we would mix it and turn it into a finished product.  What’s interesting is even now I live in L.A. and Eric lives in Utah and we still make all of our music virtually.  With that said, I think that our live shows have a lot of different exciting qualities about it.  Because when we get together and make a live version, it adds a whole different dimension to the music that is already there because we have to spend time figuring out how to really make it come together in a group setting because we don’t create it that way.  So we have to put extra effort and strategy into figuring out how to make it translate live.  I would describe our live show as our music but elevated.  It has so much more excitement and presence.  It’s been really fun to do that.  

UCR: So how did you get involved with Les Femmes?  

CL: Well Velour is our hometown venue.  I’m from Provo.  So I spent many high school nights at Velour.  We perform most of our shows there so it’s really exciting to be able to headline Friday night.  We’re basically friends with everyone we’re playing with.  It’s a really positive cozy experience.  It’s the atmosphere.  It’s not too big, it’s perfect.  We Love it.

UCR: So what can those attending Les Femmes this weekend expect.  Not only for your performance but throughout the weekend?

CL:  I think that they can expect a very wide range of musical styles.  I look at the artists performing and it’s quite diverse in musical style.  That said, I also think it’s important to bring up that this is just a very small group of women artists and specifically femme artists.  I think that there are so many underrepresented artists in Utah that won’t be playing this show.  You know this is just a three-day series.  While I definitely think it’s important to support this show, I think it’s also really important to keep in mind that there is a diverse music scene with young queer, female, like, a lot of underrepresented artists that are out there.  There’s a music scene for that and it should be supported.  I think that we can use this weekend as a reminder that this is a tiny little peek into people participating in that scene.  But the biggest takeaway is that there are a lot of different musical styles represented.  Which I think is so cool!  

UCR:  Why do you think Provo thrives as a local music scene?

CL:  You know, I think there are a few reasons, but I think one is very much the presence of Velour.  You know, a cool venue, and Corey who’s doing a lot to support local music and connect local bands with opportunities and exposure. I think that he and also Kaneischa foster that music scene.  But also, I think if you go to a small town where there isn’t really a nightlife and there’s also a bunch of high school and university students and it’s just something really fun to do.  There aren’t any nightclubs or bars, and a lot of people don’t drink.  So the music scene is where it’s at.  It’s what you look forward to doing on the weekend.  When I was in high school that was what we did.  It almost didn’t even matter who was playing at Velour, it was where to go.  It was where you meet people, hang out with your friends, it’s exciting, it can be loud, it can feel like a party.  So I think between the fact that there is this really cool venue and there are a lot of young people looking for thing to do, I think it encourages people who are prone to creating and writing music, I think it gives them a space to do that.  So I think it between all those factors it snowballs into something really cool.

UCR:  Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?  

CL: I remember when I was 14 I went to a smoothie cafe that was really cool for teenagers at the time.  At night they would let local bands play and I remember going to see this local screamo band with these cool 16 year old boys.  I remember feeling really cool.  I have no idea who that band was, but I was definitely a really young teen.  But the first real concert I remember was, I think I was 15 or 16 and it was Death Cab.  And I was obsessed with Death Cab when I was a teenager when I started to feel feelings and realize there was more than pop music.  And it was just a little more alternative than Jimmy Eat World.  I just remember listening to that music in a dark room being like “Oh, so many emotions!”

UCR:  Do you remember the first time you performed live?  What was that experience like?  

CL:  Oh my gosh.  So the very first show I ever played was at Velour with New Shack. AndI had never performed a show in my life ever.  I had maybe sung in a microphone twice.  I was writing and kind of recording songs, but I wasn’t ever viewing myself as a vocalist.  The very first show I played I was headlining at Velour, the crowd was huge and I actually was so nervous that I can’t even remember it.  I like, blacked out! I don’t even remember performing the show.  It was so awful, I think my voice was just so shaky.  Someone had taken some cellphone footage of it, so the next day I watched it and it was so traumatic!  Hearing my voice so shaky and so off, I couldn’t hear myself because I sing so quietly, and it was just traumatic.  Eric just laughs it off, he is just able to look at things objectively.  And objectively people had a great time, but I remember the next day he could not get out of bed the next day.  I would be like “Well, that was my debut! All these people came to see me and I just really flopped.”  It was rough.  But it’s also motivated me practice really hard and invest in my voice as an instrument.  I definitely identify myself as a vocalist.  I’m comfortable singing a wide variety of things and I’m comfortable on stage.  So yeah, I’ve come a long way from that first show.  

UCR: What would you say has been your best experience as a performer.  

CL:  I’m not sure if this is my best performance, but my best experience would be last summer, New Shack got to open for Glass Animals at the Complex.  The crowd was huge!  Three Thousand people I think!  I really like to dance when I perform.  Every time I pulled a dance move the whole crowd just freaked out!  So I was like wait, hold on a second you like that?  You want me to keep doing that?  It was incredibly validating, incredibly fun, and just exciting to play with a big successful band!  So yeah that’s probably been my favorite experience.  

I want to thank Cat for chatting with me.  I really enjoyed it. Be sure to catch New Shack’s headlining performance this Friday night (Feb 23) at Velour!  

Get New Shack’s single Cherry!  Just released today!  Available everywhere.  You can take a look at the video below.  

Cat has a solo project called Madge with an excellent single titled “Fight or Fight Club” available everywhere.

Eric has a music subscription service called Pleasant Pictures Music Club. There is a wide variety of music that you can license.  

UCR Interview- Trevor Free of Sister Adolescent

Sister Adolescent will be performing at this weekend’s Les Femmes de Velour on Friday night.  I had the opportunity to speak with Trevor Free, the brother of the brother sister duo.  Here’s our conversation. 

Utah Concert Review: How did you get into music and then form a band with your sister?

Trevor Free:  So this particular band Sister Adolescent started almost three years ago.  It was just me and my sister. It was just an acoustic type thing, but I started to realize that, just how the songs were, it just didn’t feel right.  That style didn’t fit my vision with the songs.  So we changed things up and added guitars, keyboards, and beats.  Then it turned into what it is today.  So originally it was just my sister and me making the music and performing. Like, we did a show where it was her singing and just me on my laptop.  Which doesn’t make for a great live show we found out.  So we added our drummer Seth Ringger, who we literally just met by happenstance.  We posted on Facebook that we needed a drummer and a friend referred him to us.  So I sent him a message and he came to my house and he didn’t know any of us.  So I was just like ‘Hey if you hate this you can go.’  But he was actually like, “No I actually think this is ok.”  So he stuck around and he’s in our band now.  For a while, it was just a three piece but we all realized that we needed more for it to feel, and look, and sound like what we wanted to sound like.  Because we had a lot coming through backtracks and it just wasn’t a compelling live experience.  So we added Dave Reynolds who was playing bass with us for a while.  He’s currently away studying abroad in Greece.  This last year we added Matt on the Bass, Dave switched to guitar and when he left we brought Ethan on.  So a lot of musical chairs so to speak with our band members.  

UCR:  How did you get involved with Les Femmes De Velour?

TF:  I’ve known Corey Fox (Owner of Velour) for a while now.  I grew up in this area, so even in high school, I was in bands that were playing Velour.  So recently we played there at the “Battle of the Bands”.  And we won our night and ended up playing in the finals.  I think the judges were kind of impressed with our set, and I think Corey liked it too.  So we had pretty good feedback and we were talking to Corey about playing other shows.  We’re actually going to play a release show for our album that comes out next month. So he just reached out to me and asked if we wanted to play the event.  I’ve always followed Les Femmes over the years and have felt that it was an amazing an important event, so when he reached out I was obviously excited.  

UCR: See that’s the thing I love about Velour.  Not only is it one of my favorite venues to see a show, but it’s in a place where people who grew up here, like you, can see shows, then be in shows, then win your night at “Battle of the Bands”, then be asked to be part of this event.  It seems like a great place to receive a musical education in that way.  

TF:  Yeah!  As far as winning that night, yeah we actually won!  I never thought anything like that would actually happen.  It’s been really cool growing up in this area.  Really admiring the people that are playing in these shows, and then getting to actually play in them, it’s kind of a dream come true really.  And the support Velour provides local artists, to how great Corey and Kaneischa are, it’s just really encouraging to grow up in a place like Utah, to have a place where you can go and connect, and be in shows that have been curated, where you can play with other like-minded artists and grow as a collective community.  Velour is a great place!  

UCR:  Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?

TF:  So my cousin.  Well, I don’t know if he’s directly my cousin, but he’s in No Doubt, so when I was 6 or 7 my parents took me to see No Doubt.  I just remember thinking it was the coolest thing.  And also, just bragging to my friends that I got to go to some concert, and the fact that I got to stay up past my bedtime.  That was pretty cool.  

UCR: Now do you remember your first time performing live?  

TF:  Yeah, I think so. It was this one show.  I don’t know if you could really call them shows.  But we got to play in the commons area of the school.  It was kinda cool because the commons area had all these step platforms.  So all of us were standing on different steps and playing like we were The Beatles or something.  So yeah that was the first time I played live.  I’m sure it was terrible.  But it was fun.  

UCR:  I have to say though, that’s pretty innovative for first time performers to decide to be on different steps like that.  

TF:  Oh yeah, so, we weren’t any good I don’t think, but we had choreographed guitar moves.  Yeah, it was pretty good.  We were all in the performance.  Not in the actual music.  But we were very interesting performers for sure.  

UCR:  Do you have a concert that you performed in that you would say was your very best?

TF:  I don’t have a particular experience.  But I will say that there is something amazing about, especially at Velour, about playing at these live shows.  There are a ton of people there, and because they’re curated, there are artists there that are similar to you, and playing a song that you’ve written and produced, and hearing people be receptive to that and actually really like it, and being into it, that’s really cool.  I think the moment where you get people to like your music and it’s not just your mom telling you, you know, sweet lies, and identifying with it, is just really nice and what I think it’s all about.  You hope to make art that people want to be connected to and to say something to that person.  Seeing that translate from the initial thought to performing in a live setting and hearing people be receptive to it is kind of a magical thing.  

See Sister Adolescent tonight (February 23) at Velour in Provo.    And be sure to be at Velour for their album release on March 17th!


UCR Interview- Mia Grace

Michael Hansen

Mia Grace is a up and coming musician from Utah.  She will be headlining night one of Les Femmes De Velour, a three-night event that will showcase some of Utah’s finest female musicians.  Here is the interview we had leading up to the show.  

Utah Concert Review: What is your background in music and how did you decide you wanted to perform?

Mia Grace:  Music is something that has changed my life in so many ways. Since I can remember I have been writing songs. Writing songs is relaxing to me. I don’t get distracted easily with music and instead it gives me energy and I’m so passionate about it. It is something that is refreshing and stimulating and when I have finished a song or am working on it I feel like I face other things in my life feeling inspired. It also has given me so much power in my life when I felt like I had none. I am a very quiet person and incredibly shy but when I sing I feel like I have a voice. It has given me the power to heal and cope.

UCR: Do you remember the first time you performed live?

MG:  Oooooh, I try not to. Just kidding. I was maybe 13 and I cried. Not a good cry. Like a nervous, I am so scared cry.  So If you come tonight you will see that I have come a long way.

UCR:  Do you remember the first concert you attended?

MG:  The first concert I went to was The Allman Brothers Band. I was six and couldn’t see over anyone in front of me and was covered in spilled beer by the end of the night. Even so, it was a great concert and I still love that band today.

UCR: So how did you get involved with Les Femmes?  

MG:  I have been to every Les Femmes weekend the past eight years as a fan of course because there are so many talented female musicians around here.  I think I have performed at all apart from maybe two or three years as a solo act.  Corey and Kaneischa (Cory Fox and Kaneischa Johnson owner and booker of Velour) have always been really supportive and encouraging and it’s actually Les Femmes that kind of pushed me to finally start a band. They told me I could headline last year if I got a full band and so I did and I feel like the luckiest person ever to kinda have had that push because the evolution from last year until now is black and white.  Les Femmes De Velour provided that platform for me to get that started.

UCR: What do you think those attending Les Femmes should expect?

MG:  Each night is well curated by Corey Fox. If you are going to hear one performer you are likely to leave a fan of someone you just heard there for the first time. All of the ladies performing this weekend and the men who support them are really talented and great songwriters so I would expect to be moved in some way.

UCR: In your opinion, what is the message a show like Les Femmes is trying to convey?

MG: With music, you are conveying messages.  Sometimes it can invoke feelings of happiness, sorrow, patriotism, inspiration, loneliness, and camaraderie.  All of these emotions bring about change because music is inspiring and empowering. Right now the culture is shifting. If women are given more opportunities in any field or industry it could only help them feel empowered and I think with female songwriters and musicians to see them perform and hear their perspective I don’t know about everyone else but that inspires me and makes me feel like I can be and do more.

Justin Hackworth

UCR: What was the best concert you’ve ever been to?

MG: Black Keys in Mesa. for their “Brothers” tour. My neck was so sore for about a week from the headbanging! HAHA!

UCR: What was your best concert experience as a performer?  

MG:  All my favorite memories of performing are because of my band. I played as a solo act for a decade before last year when I started a band. My band includes Scott Wiley, Marcus Bently, Nate Pyfer, and Aaron Anderson. The confidence I have gained from playing with those guys is black and white from last year until now. They don’t want me to fail and even more than that they are supporting me and are my friends. I am so lucky to have them.  When we first played together I think I clapped after every song was finished because I wanted to celebrate them after every song.  They are so funny and are always making it fun and making me laugh.

Mia Grace headlines night 1 of Les Femmes De Velour on February 22. Doors open at 8, with music starting at 8:30.  Tickets available at the door for $8 or at  24tix.com

Mia’s music can be found on both Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music.  

UCR Interview- Vin Rock of Naughty By Nature

 Kevin Rolfe

I can’t express what an enjoyable time I had at the Naughty By Nature show at Park City Live.  It’s an excellent venue to see this group.  If you haven’t been to Park City Live, I recommend checking out a show there.  I would imagine it’s unbelievable seeing shows there during Sundance Week.  

The concert was great.  So much fun! They hit the stage and opened with “OPP”, then they gave all in attendance an education on the history of hip-hop.  They Sampled hip-hop legends like  Run DMC, Sugar Hill Gang, Tupac, and Biggie.  They paid homage to the best while mixing in their own chart-topping hits like “Feel Me Flow”, and of course “Hip Hop Hurray”.   

I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Vin Rock before the show.  Because UCR focuses on the live music experience, our conversation was focused in that area of his career.  He was really enjoyable to talk with, as were Treach and DJ Kay Gee who I briefly met.  Naughty By Nature’s tour management was extremely accommodating to the point that they pretty much rolled out the red carpet for us.  A carpet that escorted us to the stage for the final song!  Here’s the interview…

Utah Concert Review: Hey Vin, it’s good to meet you.  My name is Kevin by the way.  

Vin Rock: What’s up Kev. My hood alias is Kev.  I’ll explain it to you.  When we used to be on the block, you know what I mean, the customers would come up and they would never really know your name.  So me and my partner who was out there on the fly, I was Kev, and he was Antoine.  So all the customers knew us as Kev and Antoine.  So if you’re ever intimate enough to be around our hometown crew, nobody calls me Vin.  They all call me Kev.  “Yo, Kev, Yo Kev, Yo Kev Kev”.  Cats will come up “What’s up Kevin?” And then people who are around are like, “Why are they calling you Kev?”  So that’ a  moniker that’s stuck around since the 80’s.  

UCR:  So next time I see you I’ll be like “What’s up Kev?!”  

VR: What’s up Kev! That’s right.  You know me on a Kev basis.  

UCR:  Some might think, coming to Park City or Utah, in general, might be a random tour stop for Naughty By Nature, but it seems year after year you pack the club every time. Why do you think that is?  

VR: Hey man it’s Hip Hop.  Hip Hop has been around for a long time.  It started in the hood it spread to the burbs it spread to, you know, every nook and cranny of America.  Then you have these pockets, like Park City Utah.  You have the Sundance Film Festival here, I mean this is a destination city.  So hip hop and culture period thrive here. And the hip-hop community here they just love it.  They love music.  They just love art period here.  You know what I’m sayin’?

UCR: Absolutely.  So Naughty By Nature has been doing this for almost 30 years now.  What is your secret to being able to stay successful and have the longevity you’ve had?  

VR:  You know to me, music is all about the live performance man.  Minus the record contracts, minus the hype and hoopla, your average musician starts in their garage or in their bedroom.  You know? And that will never go away. The live performance will never go away.   So no matter where music evolves to, it’s the people who have those great live performances that will always thrive. And that’s the school we come from, you know?   We started in Kay Gee’s sun porch.  Rest in peace to his father Gizmo, man.  His parents let us practice on their sun porch on 18th Street.  And we practiced our routines, went out to the clubs.  We banged out with different artists.  You know, club for club, artist for artist.  And we developed a live stage show.  So, those were our bones. That’s the bones and that’s the crux of Naughty By Nature’s business.  You know what I mean? And then when we got put on and had the record deal and everything, just that live stage show always you know, always carried us. And here we are at Park City Live, right?  You know what I mean? So all the artists, and this is a jewel for any artist out there, you can do whatever in your bedroom.  But you gotta get out here in front of the people.  You have to perform live.  You have to have a reputation for performing live.  If you have that and God-given gifts of songwriting and musicianship, you never have to worry about thriving in this industry.  

UCR: Was there a specific show where you guys realized, “Ok, we’re going somewhere with this.”?

VR: Yeah, yeah.  For one it was our first talent show in high school.  We didn’t even have a name for ourselves.  We scratched the Beastie Boys “It’s the New Style”, and we just had a freestyle routine but it went over so well that we called ourselves The New Style.  And then we switched our name to Naughty By Nature once we got hooked up with Flavor Unit.  But prior to that, when we did The New Style, we used to do a Tough Teen Talent Competition around the way.  So it was Club 88 and all the teens used to come in and compete.   So we used to always come in their with our crew and the crowd would judge who was the best.  We would win every week that we came in there.  So they switched it. And said, “You know, New Style comes too deep.  So we’re going to get judges.”  So the judges came and we kept winning amongst the judges!  We were the best performers!  And we were like “You know what, we really have something here.”  And that’s when we transformed from The New Style to Naughty By Nature.  

UCR:  That’s awesome.  Great story!  Is there somebody right now that never miss seeing live?  

VR:  I don’t see a lot of them but, you know, and I have to study more of the newer cats, but I definitely know that some of my veteran peers like no matter what DMX always gives a good live show.  And Redman and Method Man, they always bring it.  You know what I’m sayin’? They always bring it.  So that’s how I judge the new cats.  I don’t care because music is music and marketing is marketing.  You can always break a record.  Especially in today’s climate.  My thing is, what do they do live with their live show?  I’m gonna look more into that, into today’s artists to see who’s really bringing it live.         

UCR:  I know people are dying to get you on that stage, so I’ll just ask you this one last question.  Is there a concert that Naughty By Nature has done that you look back and consider the best as far as performance, crowd, venue, etc?

VR: When we first came out, maybe ‘91, ‘92, I remember we were in Rhode Island, we did some arena date and we were red hot, brand new, just O.P.P. you know?  And I remember coming on stage and Treach had braids back then.  When we came on stage we used to stand still and say nothing, like Michael Jackson.  And I remember the crowd being so loud, that I saw Treach’s braids blow backwards!  You know what I mean?  And there was no music playing, no nothing. It was just the crowd going “Aaaaaahhhhh!!”  And his braids blowing backwards like a cartoon you know?!  

UCR:  Wow!  That must have been incredible!  Well, thank you so much, Kev.  Have a great set tonight!  

Vin Rock: Thanks, good talking to you Kev!