NHPR Summer Music Series Kicks Off With A Few Recommendations
NHPR will feature contemporary New Hampshire musicians on All Things Considered all summer, as part of our summer music series. To help with our kick off, we turned to a musician we’ve featured before, Stu Dias of the Seacoast-based band the Soggy Po Boys. He’s spent some time during the pandemic creating new music and listening to other musicians, and he has a few recommendations to get us going.
Peter Biello: Let's start with your personal project. First of all, because you put out some music during the pandemic, can you tell us a little bit about what you've done?
Stu Dias: So the first one, it's a record that I've been working on with a collaborator and friend Jonny Peiffer. He's a drummer and arranger from the Seacoast. And we put out a record called Ambistellar. And the way that we approach it is we picked out a group of constellations. And I very much enjoy the storytelling element of songwriting. And there's something very beautiful to me about, you know, there's these formations in the stars that are fixed and throughout history and throughout the world, we sort of imbue them with different things. But these things are one of the only things that are truly fixed for us in our and our lives. And so we chose a couple of constellations and each wrote a piece about them. And the instrumentation for the band is kind of interesting. There's no instrument that plays chords. It's bass, drums and five horns and then me singing and it I don't even know how to describe the music. It's in the jazz world, but the amount of detail that went into an example and this is the tune to listen to, it's called The Last Winter. It's based on the constellation Grus, which is the giant crane. And I've kind of been fascinated by migratory cranes. The idea that you make this journey that's very, very far and dangerous over a long period of time and you do it every year. The song is from the perspective of a crane that's doing this, for the last time, essentially, and what some of the arrangements try to create, you know, with sound is a very visual thing where you'll hear it up front. There's a bowed, upright bass and clarinets that are, you can almost imagine a lake or a pond, and a group of cranes, and as one bird starts to sort of shuffle the wings, that wave of shuffling kind of spreads through the entire group.
Peter Biello: So that's some of the music you've been working on. Now onto your recommendations. Tell us about another musician we should check out.
Stu Dias: Ok, here's a fantastic local group. The name of the band is Fiveighthirteen, and they are an instrumental sort of downtempo band. They've existed for many, many years. I remember, I mean, I was still in college and I saw them live. But, you know, they're now contemporaries of mine and we are very good friends with them. They have a brand new album coming out - it isn't out yet - called A Fever of Rays.
Peter Biello: Who else?
Stu Dias: Another fantastic local artist’s name is Javier Rosario, and I know him mostly because my friend Scott plays in his band. He is nominally a jazz guitar player, but his influences tell a much more interesting story. The compositions are absolutely incredible. I really haven't heard someone so young play jazz guitar like this.
Peter Biello: Seems like you're specializing in local folks.
Stu Dias: I mean, there's a gazillion people in the New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine area. But these are the ones that I specifically, when you had reached out to me to do this, I specifically wanted to pick people who had made and released music during the pandemic, mostly because I think, you know, when the pandemic hit, we all sort of looked at each other and had this moment of, OK, well, we're going to be the last thing to come back. Like, we will be the bellwether for when things are fine, you know, like people aren't going to want to hang out in bars and indoor spaces for a long time. And so, you know, there was this collective will. What do we do now? And I really wanted to highlight this music because, you know, these people said, OK, well, I can't be out there. I can't be gigging the way that I used to. But I need to create - I really want to create – so this is me, you know, putting what I have out into the world at a time when it's probably very difficult to do that.