Rachael Yamagata

Rachael Yamagata

Tracy Bonham, Jordan Sokel

Sun Feb 25

Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 7:30 pm

Union Stage

$25.00 - $35.00

Rachael Yamagata
Rachael Yamagata
A few rounds of heartbreak … a broken wrist … eight stitches … a blown-out eardrum … and label realignment.

It wasn’t easy getting here for Rachael Yamagata. Three years after she began to appear on the public’s radar with her self-titled debut EP and full-length album Happenstance, Rachael will release Elephants…Teeth Sinking Into Heart, a single record in two parts, on October 7th, 2008.

“I didn’t set out to make a two part album,” Yamagata says. “We just followed the songs’ lyrical lead and built them up with textures and sounds that served the story. The beautiful ones were darker and worked with lush arrangements. We used the sounds of rain, tree branches falling on the roof — whatever kept the mood true to this haunted studio in the first stormy days of spring. The second part became more anthemic, like a reclaiming of personal power. There’s something raw about it. To me it sounds weathered, but not broken or cynical.”

The nine tracks on Elephants are darker and more vulnerable than the five gritty, defiant rock songs on Teeth Sinking Into Heart. Taken together, the two halves present a complete timeline of the emotions that revolve around complicated relationships and the accompanying fallout. “Elephants is much more intimate,” Yamagata says. “It’s about being willing to take a risk even if it’s not going to end up well. Teeth is like rediscovering your backbone after you’ve gone through the loss.”

Yamagata sometimes worries that her need to analyze heartache in her songwriting is too often mistaken as depressed obsession. After all, her songs are famously populated by breakups. “I see it more as a fascination with human relationships and behavior,” she says, “the struggles we create and the strength we gain.” Her lyrics display an ability to draw new wisdom and confidence from every devastating experience in the hope that the next time will be different. Elephants…Teeth Sinking Into Heart, reveal a woman not only undaunted by such losses, but smart enough to know she deserves a lot more than she’s been asking for.

“My mother said recently that Happenstance is the beauty of your ’20s, this one is the richness of your ’30s – of someone who’s been through the mill and is trying to make the choice between optimism and defeatism,” she says.

Of the two CD’s 15 tracks, 12 were produced by the Nebraska-based multi-instrumentalist and producer Mike Mogis, known for his work with Bright Eyes and Rilo Kiley. Two tracks, “What If I Leave” and “Horizon,” were produced by John Alagia (John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band), who also produced Happenstance. The bulk were written during the two-year touring cycle that followed Happenstance and, especially, the nine months afterward that Yamagata spent holed up in her Woodstock refuge — a period that saw her turn out some 160 songs. “I wasn’t being very social, so I didn’t have many distractions,” she says, laughing about her ridiculously prodigious output.

Twenty-five tracks were eventually recorded for Elephants…Teeth Sinking Into Heart, most of which Yamagata demoed herself in Woodstock on various instruments. It was clear to her that the title song “Elephants,” as well as “Sunday Afternoon,” “Horizon,” “Don’t,” and “Duet” (with Ray Lamontagne) would make the final cut.

“Elephants” opens the first part; she ran down a mountain in Woodstock and, by the time she ran back up, the song was written. “I don’t really know where it came from,” she says. “When I went back and reviewed the lyrics, they said so much more than I could have wished for. “Elephants” also sets up the record, its lyrics pinpointing the potential for heartache when entering a relationship, and metaphorically relates us to the base natures of animals and their reactions. “Horizon,” by contrast, closes out the first part. “Somewhere along the way, the love died, your world has turned upside down, and you’re left searching for balance again,” she explains.

“Sunday Afternoon” is about accepting your part in the demise of a relationship and allowing yourself to be depressed and maybe even obsess a little, “but don’t stop your life because of it,” Yamagata adds. The song was written at the tail-end of recording her first record and she’s happy to have given it time to grow by playing it live on tour. Another highlight, “What If I Leave,” is one of the first songs Rachael ever wrote, more than ten years ago. “Everybody has that purgatory where you know in your gut it’s not right, but you haven’t mustered the courage to leave yet,” she says of it.

By the end of Elephants, Yamagata’s ability to find hope in anguish is feeling taxed, maybe verging on cynicism. Teeth Sinking Into Heart’s up-tempo grittiness is the answer to that. “Sidedish Friend” takes on the perils of being someone’s part-time lover, while “Pause The Tragic Ending,” is about “a vampire who knew me so well, it almost drew blood from me,” Yamagata says. “I could probably name every album Pause The Tragic Ending.” The second part closes with “Don’t” — a calling-out and warning, but tongue-in-cheek at the same time. Again, an epilogue to lost love, but this time from someone who knows what she wants, who acknowledges her responsibility in all that’s happened, and who will go on.
Tracy Bonham
Tracy Bonham
Tracy Bonham’s major label debut, The Burdens of Being Upright (Island Records), achieved Gold Record status in 1996, spawning the chart topping hit single Mother Mother. This lead to a pair of Grammy™ nominations, and an MTV Video Award nomination. Very soon after her world tour, the music business began to shift and change dramatically. Her sophomore album was delayed several times and by the time it was released in 2000, Island Records and the music business in general was almost unrecognizable. She released the arty and angry Down Here to critical acclaim but did not enjoy commercial success.

In 2003, after moving to Los Angeles, Bonham became the featured vocalist / violinist on Blue Man Group’s The Complex Tour and How To Be A Megastar 2.0 (2006). In 2005 Bonham released her third album Blink The Brightest (Rounder/ Zoé). This was her most commercial sounding album and several of the songs were featured in tv shows and movies such as The L Word, Weeds, and Sexting In Suburbia. In 2010, after moving back to Brooklyn and marrying Rollingstone editor Jason Fine, Bonham released Masts of Manhatta. This album won accolades from major publications and landed her her second appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and The Late Late Show With Craig Furgussen. In 2015, Bonham released her fifth album entitled Wax & Gold with the help of Pledge Music and her fans. Wax & Gold was very well received by the public and the press. The album showed a maturity in songwriting, as well as an evolved vocal style, that makes Bonham stand out as a serious artist with a unique talent. Bonham is an artist who continues to create and grow no matter what obstacles are in her path.

Tracy’s vocals and violin are featured on artist’s albums such as Latin Playboys “Dose”, Wayfaring Strangers’ “Wayfaring Stranger” & “This Train”, Ron Sexmith’s “Whereabouts”, and Aerosmith’s “Honkin On Bobo”.

Tracy has just finished recording her sixth album, Modern Burdens, partnering up with Pledge Music, once again, to completely reimagine her over twenty year old debut album. She is joined by other strong female artists (Tanya Donelly, Rachael Yamagata, Kay Hanley, Sadie DuPuis, Kathryn Calder, Angie Hart, Nicole Atkins) on lead vocals – an intentional message of solidarity and strength for women everywhere during the Trump era. Modern Burdens will be released on October 11, 2017 which is, by no coincidence, the International Day Of The Girl.
Jordan Sokel
Jordan Sokel
For the last 7 years Maryland based singer/songwriter Jordan Sokel has been busy navigating the vast and crowded waters of the independent music business. He's recorded and performed relentlessly both as the lead singer of the band Pressing Strings as well as his most recent solo project billed under his given name. He spent his childhood growing up in various parts of the US in the 1990's. A time which seemed to blend decades of influences together and package them as one product. To no surprise Sokel's music is the same way. Part folk, part soul, part reggae. blues, americana and rock. Any way you categorize it, his voice is what stands out. A prolific songwriter, Sokel has penned over 100 songs and released 4 albums with another in the works. His most recent "Life of a Tree" released in August of 2013 features 10 solid tracks ranging from stripped down soul-folk to hypnotic rock-reggae.
Venue Information:
Union Stage
740 Water Street SW
Washington, DC, 20024