DSC04848Celebrate Elevt Show Wrap + Interviews With The Future Scares Me, Oracle Room, Cosmic Harvey & Celestial Mind

If you look closely, you’ll see the entrance to The Lively, a bar and music venue on 9th Ave so well camouflaged, you could miss it if not looking for it expressly. It’s one of those basement bars that you have to descend a narrow staircase to reach, which seemed to attract troublemakers and adventure-seekers who’re always seeking to quench wanderlust, asking themselves, “What’s down here?” The Lively must do great business during the summer, since a whole section of their menu is dedicated to boozy snow cones.

The show happening here tonight is part of the series, “Celebrate Elevt,” put together by ElevtrTrax to get people excited about independent music. Tonight’s bill features The Future Scares Me, Oracle Room, and Cosmic Harvey & Celestial Mind, all bands with highly eclectic sounds that perhaps wouldn’t fit many bills in Manhattan.


The Future Scares Me is a Brooklyn-based trio that kicked things off around 8pm with a John Cage song called “Waiting.” Rippling piano washes over jazzy snare hits. It’s an interesting composition with frequent rests in the first portion. The negative space in the music generates anticipation of continued sound, and singer Sonia Szajnberg’s warm-plush tone dips into those pockets and pulls back at just the right moments. The song is accented with a 90’s hip hop sliding pitch effect that gives it a funky, retro je ne said quoi, and the a cappella outro echoes American folk, making the whole piece a highly diverse arrangement. Heavy synth beats vibrate through the second song and R&B vocals glide over mostly staccato keys, threading the composition into fluidity. Szajnberg introduces the third number as “A song about this wonderful city,” although there is something so distinctly 90’s alt rock about it, that they could be one of those California bands that played at The Bronze on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The Largo dance rhythms fluttered in the front of the song and an accordion synthesizer beat took us over the bridge to its climax–an exotic melange of sounds, including discordant keys, tinny drums, and eager vocals; the sound of endurance over city traffic. Set closer “Slow Down” showcases delicate, folky harmonies, backed by twinkling synth. Heartbroken lyrics lean against upbeat rhythms and confident keys, the soundtrack to recovery.


I’m asking all the artists a few questions tonight about some hot topics in the music business. Founders of The Future Scares Me, Sonia Szajnberg and Eli Sundelson chat with me after their performance.

Oliva Delmore: How do platforms for digital music, i.e, Spotify, iTunes, etc., affect you as an artist? As a consumer?

Sonia Szajnberg: That’s a tricky question. As an artist, as a local band, I think platforms like Spotify help get people to listen, but it’s a drag that it doesn’t pay the artist.

Eli Sundelson: Yeah, I have sort of a love/hate relationship, as I think a lot of people do, with Spotify. I use it all the time, and I feel guilty about it all the time. It’s an amazing technology, but it needs to be set up in a way that is better for musicians.

Sonia Szajnberg: Sustainable.

Eli Sundelson: And I also in some ways miss the ability just to listen to music when it’s not immediately at your fingertips. I like being able to seek out a physical thing and sit down and listen to it as opposed to having the option to listen to music when you’re doing a million other things and not totally paying attention, which I’m completely guilty of.

Oliva Delmore: What’s one thing people can do to support local artists/independent artists?

Eli Sundelson: Just going out to concerts!

Sonia Szajnberg: Yeah, just having people there experiencing it, having listeners is great. Building a community.

Sundelson: Also, other musicians supporting each other. For us that’s been a really inspiring thing, just being able to see our friends play and our friends hopefully seeing us play. I’ve learned a lot from just trying to go out as much as possible.

OD: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

Szajnberg: The first thing that came to my mind, it sounds petty, but PAY the artists! It’s so hard to be creative when it’s hard to make a living…there’s a lot of other things… I think the other thing, which is happening in local scenes, is to just have more diversity, in [both] the music that’s being played and the artists that are playing.1After months of consuming new music on the daily, Oracle Room is still one of my favorite local bands and I’m stoked to see them again tonight. The project of singer/songwriter Alex Nelson, Oracle Room is another Brooklyn-based band who coined the term “celestial rock” to define their music. It fits.

Bathed in indigo light, they roll in with a shimmering tidal wave of sound that floods the audience in their mystical ocean. The huge sound dissipates and a synthesizer progression takes focus. Rapid drums add tension, and her cool voice, a breeze over the sea, breaks it. Her vowels crescendo, her phrases fly and dive and wind like ivy. An airplane engine guitar hurtles through the song, lending urgency and drama preceding a seamless transition into the next number.

Ian Milliken drags a bow across an electric cello and fills the air with elegant darkness. Nelson commences a chilling rendition of “The Knot” that conjures feelings of isolation and absolute zero temperatures. (Nothing like the recorded version,) this raw take is saturated in desperation, mired in relentless pain and searing hot with shock, with a touch of gothic rock colors, the final measures and the band moves into “Walking In A Circle.”

Notes drop like moonbeams from Nelson’s mouth onto the gentle stream of guitar interwoven with keys. Milliken’s guitar drifts into blues territory, notes lingering and melting together, never losing that dreamy quality that makes Oracle Room so ethereal. Gabbi Coenen of RVBY MY DEAR also joined Nelson onstage to provide backup vocals for “Have Everything,” which Oracle Room just premiered a video for here on ElevtrTrax.

There is a sweet note of defiance in the breathy, songbird harmonies. Nelson’s voice gets richer and wilder, circling higher around Coenen’s strong, constant tone, like ribbons twisting around a Maypole. Following “Seeds,” they play a curious number that simmers and hushes, waves at low tide, sailing dreamily through firefly guitar chords and misty arpeggios, before expanding to accommodate the size of the repeating lyric, “If it doesn’t matter now, when will it?” Drums whip the final song into life and a humming synth gives the piece a hint of industrial edge, while crystal clear vocals lace everything together, a perfect blend of the angelic and the sinister, the pure and the tarnished.


I found Alex Nelson backstage and started drooling over her amazing performance of “The Knot” before getting to the questions.

(Left to right Gabbi Cohen of Rvby My Dear & Alex Nelson of Oracle Room)

(Left to right Gabbi Cohen of Rvby My Dear & Alex Nelson of Oracle Room)

OD: How do platforms for digital music, i.e, Spotify, iTunes, etc., affect you as an artist? As a consumer?

Nelson: As an artist…I have nothing bad to say about Bandcamp. Bandcamp is awesome. Anything on the interweb is helpful for us as a little guy. Basically it’s no-holds-barred. It’s all good for us. I think Spotify is not an artist friendly platform. I have a lot of beef with their payment of artists, however, I’m not really in a position right now where I’m making any money off of this, so I’m completely happy to have people hearing it as they want to hear it, that’s totally fine by me. I might feel totally differently if I was a Lady Gaga type or something like that, I probably wouldn’t have my music on there. The other thing is I’m a total audiophile, I consume an absolutely absurd amount of music, and if I wasn’t a musician, I probably would be doing some sort of radio program, or i’d be DJing…I consume a lot a lot a LOT of music and Spotify is great for that, to be able to consume the amount of music that I consume…I could never afford the amount of music that I listen to in a month. So, I use it hesitantly. But I think it’s great….although I look forward to the day when there’s a platform that pays artists fairly to stream [music].

OD: What’s one thing people can do to support local artists/independent artists?

Nelson: Go to their shows. Buy their material on Bandcamp, or as directly as you can. Avoid the third parties. BandCamp is really fair on their payment, they take a very low percentage. Buy directly from the [artist’s] website, if you can buy their stuff directly at the shows, even better. Yeah, shows and buying as directly from the artist as you can.

OD: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

Nelson: I guess I’d just like to see the business be about supporting the artist…I think it’s entirely possible for a business to make their money and get their cut, and for an artist to make their money and get their cut. I think it’s completely possible for them to live side by side, that’s totally workable….I’d like to see businesses that claim they’re about music put their money where their mouth is and not use the artist, but really support them.


Cosmic Harvey & Celestial Mind, the new project of Andrew Accardi, hits the stage a little after ten and turns up the groove. Funky horns and jazzy piano take things back to disco before a belting tenor blasts us to the theatre of the Rat Pack. Lovestruck lyrics dance over playful, zipping keys. Restless, virile drums balance out the lighter characteristics of the melody, keeping the dynamics interesting. The jam band elements of the outfit grow audible as psychedelic variations take over. It’s the sound of falling stars and fresh REM cycles, taking your third eye to the next dimension. The second number, “Mind Machine,” showcases Ray Manzerek-meets-Stevie Wonder keyboard movements splashed with a sort of Caribbean flair. Accardi’s vocals here are practically an impersonation of Louis Armstrong as he wails passionately into the mic. The set closer starts with a driving, droning piano and a whispering saxophone over big band era drums and buzzing bass. A killer drum solo revvs things up; the bass throws down the boogie and turns the sax up to a smooth pulse, as keys drip up and down the scale, watering the whole jam session to a tremendous volume. The saxophone explodes, drenching the audience in brassy color as a reggae beat slows the song down just in time for the drums to speed it up to a grand finale, smothered in jazz finesse and illuminated with joy.DSC04857

Andrew Accardi joins me in the audience after the show to weigh in on tonight’s topics

OD: How do platforms for digital music, i.e, Spotify, iTunes, etc., affect you as an artist? As a consumer?

Accardi: As a consumer, I don’t even know new music because I like the physical copy…so I’m stuck in 2001, where…I just like CDs, and no one’s really coming out with CDs now, so I just go to the record store and I look at whatever CDs they have and I’m picking up Anita Baker or Fleetwood Mac. So as a consumer? I miss going to a record store, I guess is what I’m getting at. I feel like there’s no magic in going onto iTunes…I just miss that feeling of going to the record store, and you might like one song on the record, but you buy the whole album, you have to pay fifteen dollars for it and listen to it from beginning to end. But that’s me being an old fart, because really, it’s not that anymore. And that segues into being an artist, and being an artist and releasing music…the idea of releasing a record isn’t that important anymore. You can keep…releasing singles. Release music when you finish it….It’s much more accessible for both the artist and the consumer….But it’s hard work to make a song….and I feel like [this] generation of music lovers would rather pay a dollar for a cup of coffee than a song. It’s weird.

OD: What’s one thing people can do to support local artists/independent artists?

Accardi: Honestly, all I can think of is going to shows. Because that’s all that’s left! There’s nothing left for an independent artist to do. They can’t come out with a record. They can’t make physical copies because it’s so expensive, and if they don’t have the money to do it, they just release music online and nobody really buys it, and you just pray that somebody goes [to a show]…Go on YouTube and watch [artists]. Make the online presence grow for them, because that’s what it’s all about now, is having an online presence. So that’s what the fans can do. Show your friend the link to their website! Show them the link to the YouTube of the live show…Show them anything! Show them art, photos, Twitter, Instagram. That’s really it.

OD: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

Accardi: I feel like I don’t even know what the music industry is…I don’t really understand it….I have been playing music for eight years and I feel like I just show up to shows and hope people come….Honestly, I don’t know….It is what it is. I have no idea how to change it. It’s just a scary monster that I’m terrified of. And I just want to make music and I hope people hear it, and the internet is a great place for that, but at the same time it makes people a little more reluctant because there is so much available….Maybe what I would change [about the industry] is just destroy it. Just destroy it.

The next “Celebrate Elevt” event is on June 16th. Come join the celebration!