Artist Spotlight: Pete Mako

Pete Mako (@PeteTheShark) is an Australian-born singer-songwriter who has primarily focused on performing science-fiction themed acoustic alternative music. Currently based in Columbus, OH, the 10-year industry veteran’s creativity, fascination with peculiar subjects, hard work ethic, and high-energy concerts make him one of the more sought after and standout artists in the local scene. His two full-length efforts are chock full of 19 different audio comic books between them that paint a vivid picture in listeners’ minds.

Mako’s first LP, 2015’s Relationships with Monsters, contains the would-be radio hits “So Far Away” and “Apparition of Love”.  These tracks demonstrate his ability to write mainstream songs in addition to those with a supernatural tone. Other notable tracks on Mako’s debut record are the high-octane “Full Moon’s Glow”, the ballad “Not Just Another Day”, and “Solomon Grundy”. Slickly engineered by Trevor Boggs, Mako went the DIY route on the record playing all parts himself. This is a perfect demonstration of his versatility that would serve him well later in his career.

One year later, Mako dropped The Undead Life, a Ka-Tet Records release that continues his previous album’s sci-fi theme. Much like Relationships with Monsters, Trevor Boggs was involved in this record’s creation. The 10-song album fuses unique songwriting, alpha male vocals, and spot-on acoustic guitar play into an alternative masterpiece. The fourth track, which shares a title with The X Files’ tagline “The Truth is Out There”, name drops David Duchovny’s character and is a nice ode to the recently revived TV series. Mako collaborates from time to time and on the record’s fifth tune “Haunted Trans Am”, Two Years Later mastermind Jamie Rogers contributed backing vocals. Days of the New and Peter Searcy fans will enjoy Mako’s vigor in delivering another quality album that includes songs about vampire romance (“Bite Me”), prostitution (“The Witch of West Hollywood”), and a cowardly dog (“Courage”).

For a time, Mako had his own backing band The Boogie Men who did live shows, but he eventually returned to his roots of going it alone. As of late, however, he has played bass in the supergroup Roxy Mae where he has joined vocalist/guitarist and charter member Matt Starr and Two Years Later co-founder and drummer Zak Toth. Whether it is with his new band or his unplugged solo work, 2018 is bound to be a huge year for Mako. With the sky being the limit for the self-proclaimed ‘Rock N’ Roll Devil’, he and his fans are on their way to experiencing the ride of their lives.

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Artist to Watch: Miller and The Hunks

Columbus, Ohio’s Miller and The Hunks (@millerhunks) perform highly prolific alternative music that is difficult to pin down. Some songs are slow, some go at three-fourths speed, and a few are pedal to the metal headbangers. One would imagine that was lead singer and songwriter Colin Miller’s mission from the start. It prevents the brand containing his namesake from going stale and being pigeonholed into one sub-classification. He has succeeded in ensuring listeners get a surprise with every song. Going back to the group’s origins a couple of years ago, the band has dropped seven different Bandcamp releases of synth-laden, guitar-rocking, and drum-banging alternative pop rock. Each record is more prolific than the previous. As the group gets ready to headline a show serving as a bouillabaisse of genres this Wednesday, November 15, here is a summary of each albums’ standout tracks in which some are sure to be part of their upcoming set.

From April 2015’s Purely Sexual, one outstanding tune is the surefire smash “I Want Out”, which is also a popular track the band plays live.  A major label would have to summon a radio edit version as the song contains Miller spouting the F-bomb a couple of times. Another fantastic one from this 13-song album is the piano-heavy ballad “Happy Days” which could be a Hot AC or Top 40 chart hit. “Blue Dream”, however, is one guitar-heavy gem that would be right at home at hard rock stations nationwide.

Later that year, Miller and The Hunks released two holiday-themed singles “Last Halloween” and “Hunkmas”. The former is a soothing, bluesy yet haunting tune that at the beginning sends a chill down one’s spine and picks up big time at the back half. The latter tune of 2015 is a Weezer-ish take on Christmas that just might be the best rocking song for the season. Parents be forewarned, much like the catchy “I Want Out”, listener discretion is advised for adult language. To be fair, it would not be authentic rock n’ roll without a little controversy from the band.

In August of 2016, the quartet which then consisted of Miller, guitarist Jon Leonard, bassist/backup vocalist Josiah Ogden, and now-defunct drummer Tommy Cheeseman commissioned the six-song EP Would You Like To Yes?. According to the Bandcamp page, the record is described as “a journey of an alt-rock EP, telling the story of the end of a life of a violent drug-addicted man.” The band turns what comes off as a tragedy in the blurb into some fantastic indie rock vibes that make people dance versus cry. “Drunk Driving” is a Walk The Moon-esque tune that will have folks dancing at live shows. They slow the pace down a few notches on “Good Heavens” a brooding bluesy song that shows some fantastic guitar work from Leonard and vibrant vocals from Miller and Ogden.

In the fall of that same year, Miller and The Hunks bestowed the single “Stapled Shut” upon indie rock enthusiasts. It is another one of their tracks that would warrant a radio edit, but this time it would be due to time constraints. The unedited version clocks in at approximately five and a half minutes. It would not be until July of this year that they released new music, providing the public with another live show favorite titled “Creativity”, although likely known at shows as “I Wanna Dance”. That is a tune that lives up to its lyrics and gets crowds going each time it is played at concerts.

Last month, this time with Ethan Joseph behind the kit, Miller and The Hunks released the eight-song album And Jeff: Part 1. It lives up to the group’s prior works while standing on its own merits. The record provides the Hunks’ standard mixture of alternative indie rock with a slightly heavier rock tune thrown in. On this album, “Wicked Tongue” is glorious hard rock presented only as the boys can do. “Gravity” is a melodic synth-pop jewel with provocative lyrics that the group has performed live and will likely do for Wednesday’s gig from the popular venue Spacebar featuring Los Angeles duo Dad & Steve, local project Golden Death Music, and Toledo-area post-hardcore band Castle No Kings. The sets will be limited in time, so fans will get only a sample of what Miller and The Hunks has to offer. Given Colin Miller’s ingenious songwriting and the band’s priceless execution, even an abbreviated set is sure to satisfy audiences.

Critique: Sunroof’s ‘Stargazing’

Sunroof (@SunroofMusic) is the moniker of 20 year-old solo artist Jeff Simpson. The Bozeman, Montana resident receives high marks for his first ever LP Stargazing. Given the top-notch quality of the record from beginning to end, it is clear as crystal Simpson put his heart and soul into making this album. In fact, he wrote each song and handled the production, mixing, and mastering of Stargazing himself. Note to note, the album sounds like it was done by one of the greats like Trevor Horn, Glen Ballard, or Tom Lord-Alge.

‘Time Travel’ is a great opener that is reminiscent of Erasure’s brilliant sounds. Although it has that 1980s vibe about it, it sounds fresh and demonstrates an Owl City influence. The title track is a hybrid of The Postal Service meets Thirty Seconds To Mars.  Three tracks are ready to rule radio and with proper label support, they would be surefire hits. ‘Etherea’ that makes you wonder what if Ben Gibbard and Ellie Goulding teamed up. It is that much of a ingenious tune.  ‘Brave’, which features SayWeCanFly, has a video made for it and here’s hoping good press leads to it going viral. Lastly, ‘You and I’ is very marketable and this is where Sunroof comes off as a crossover star. This tune could attract listeners at Alternative, Hot AC, and Top 40 radio stations. Electronic-influenced artists Phantogram and Broods are enjoying success, so it is the right time for Sunroof to get himself out there and get a piece of the pie.

For a limited time, Stargazing has been made available to download for no cost at Sunroof’s Noise Trade page. Simpson has carved himself out a great first full-length effort that has multiple tracks that could be licensed to soundtracks, commercials, and sports montages. All the tunes are worth of a listen and with the right marketing, the album should generate a buzz for Sunroof for years to come.  This should be a huge year moving forward for him.  Not bad for a limited budget DIY record from a 20 year-old solo act from Montana.