Free Show!  7Horse

Pearl Street Warehouse Presents

Free Show! 7Horse

MSB

Thu · November 29, 2018

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

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Free Show! 7Horse
Free Show!  7Horse
“You’re never going to be as good as something you copy. So, we want to invent our own space,” says Phil Leavitt, one half of the stalwart rock/blues duo 7Horse. “And if you want what we’ve got, we’re the only ones who have it.”



Formed in 2011 by Leavitt and longtime friend and musical partner Joie Calio, 7Horse has blazed their own trail across three well-reviewed albums: Let the 7Horse Run (2011), Songs for a Voodoo Wedding (2014) and Livin in a Bitch of a World (2016). Along the way, their raw, swaggerin’ catalog of “dark, sexual rock’n’roll” has racked up 13.5+ million streams on Spotify and been featured across TV shows (Amazon’s The Grand Tour, the NFL playoffs on Fox), video games (Far Cry 5) and one very, very big movie — The Wolf of Wall Street, which showcased the band’s left-of-center hit “Meth Lab Zoso Sticker.”



“There’s a level of validation when Martin Scorsese thinks your song is good enough for his movie,” says Calio. “That was the proverbial shot in the arm for us. We weren't looking for it, but we had worked our asses off — sometimes stuff like that comes to you."



But ever restless, the band has toyed with their musical formula on their new album Superfecta. Written and recorded in the Hollywood Hills over a six-month span, it marks a true sonic evolution for the group, and adds a few new voices to their swampy mix.



“We started as a two-piece, blues-influenced, Black Keys-styled band, but we couldn’t stay there,” says Leavitt. “We have all these influences. I’m a product of growing up in Vegas, so I love showbiz, and I love rock’n’roll. To me, it’s like Dean Martin fronting the Stones. Is there room for that? We want to find out.”



In lieu of self-producing, the band brought in Grammy-winning mixer/producer Dave Way (Ben Folds, Jakob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, Pink). “He’s mixed some of our stuff before, and he’s a great collaborator,” says Leavitt. “He has the same appreciation for the ‘60s and ‘70s bands we like — and he cut his teeth as an engineer/mixer for a lot of R&B records, so he gets the groove that’s part of our sound. And he’s a great hang.”



As well, the band also started working with Brian Whelan, a multi-instrumentalist who recently served as the guitar player for Dwight Yoakam. “He’s a great bass player and keyboardist, and he really frees us up live,” says Calio.



For Superfecta, the group upended their unorthodox songwriting process. “We live in two different cities, so we used to send each other lyrics and ideas, and finish the song when we went into the studio, to create that last-minute spark,” says Calio. “That worked for three records. This time, we did a lot of pre-production and wrote for several months together. It was a conscious effort to up our game.”



The result is an expansive, daring take on 7Horse’s blues-rock sound. Take the thunderous opener “Victorious,” a foot-stomping anthem that plays like “We Will Rock You” cycled through classic ZZ Top. It’s certainly a diverse record, but a cohesive one: the spaghetti western vibe of “What Kind of Man” and sped-up rockabilly of “Die Behind the Wheel” pair nicely with the more languid break-up rocker “Broken String” (featuring Joie on lead) and the slow din of “Burn,” a song written at 5 a.m. after Leavitt witnessed images of the 405 on fire.



Lyrically, Superfecta, the band’s fourth record, centers on four themes — death, money, love and the duo’s relationship to music (hence the title, a reference to betting on the four winning horses in a race). The album also touches upon the frazzled state of our country — see the toe-tapping, what-do-you-believe first single “What Is America.”



In support of the September release of a rollickin’ cover of Johnny Cash’s “Man in Black” (recorded for the movie VENOM) and their newest album out in late 2018 — the band is itching to hit the road. “We want to tour. A lot,” says Leavitt. “I love playing in front of people. That inspires us.”



Interestingly, the group found great success touring with rather unexpected musical pairings, including country/Southern rockers The Cadillac Three and blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd. “Those were great tours, and that’s the kind of tour I want to be on.” says Calio. “You’re there to show up and change minds. I love doing that.”



For Leavitt and Calio, 7Horse marks the incredible evolution of a friendship and musical partnership that goes back over two decades — with some brief detours into book writing, solo records and the Blue Man Group — starting when the two served as the rhythm section and Joie sang lead for the platinum alt-rock trio dada. “We’ve always been unified in thought,” says Calio. “We agree on almost everything. And we know that even as we expand our band, the two of us will always be the foundation.”
MSB
MSB
A lot of really talented people like working with Michael Sackler-Berner.

People like new wave icon Marshall Crenshaw, Grammy-winning producer Steve Jordan, and 150 million album selling drummer Liberty DeVitto. They’ve all shared a studio or a stage with the New York singer-songwriter in recent years. Ask why, and they’d say Michael’s a musician’s musician—the kind of guy obsessed with vintage gear, recording live off the floor, etc. But mainly, its because he writes such amazing songs.

“I’m not a super contemporary, trend-chasing artist,” says Sackler-Berner. “I’m the guy who wonders why million dollar gear is being heard on $1.99 earbuds. It’s a drag: Nobody has a hi-fi system and I’m here making hi-fi records.”

He says it all with a good-natured laugh.

But he’s also a contemporary, a talent whose songs — evocative, personal, always memorable — certainly deserve a modern audience.

To look ahead, however, you first need to look back. Sackler-Berner’s journey began in New York City, where his Dad was a TV and film producer, his Mother an arts and social justice activist and his sister left a beat-up guitar lying around the house...one that 11-year Michael soon found himself strumming.

“I was writing some bad poetry over it,” he says. “I was too impatient to learn other people’s songs.”

He became more serious about music after high school, moving to Montreal to study music technology at McGill and forming a garage rock band called Hearts of Palm. “I was the resident folkie among the EDM techies up there,” he says. The band made some waves in Canada, even earning a spot on the multi-continent charity concert Live 8.

But his music taste was changing, and Sackler-Berner began crafting a different set of songs. Moving back to the States and now on his own, his new demos found their way to noted composer/musician David Mansfield (Bob Dylan, T Bone Burnett). “I went to him and asked, what do I do? And he heard my stuff, liked it, and said, ‘go write some bridges,’ which I thought was pretty funny for a guy who worked with Dylan.”

With Mansfield’s encouragement, Sackler-Berner flew to California to record his first solo album, simply titled MSB and featuring the likes of Jim Keltner, Reggie McBride and Val McCallum. “Four days in the studio recording live with some top L.A. players,” he says. “It was like going to school.”

And then he kept going. Hollywood beckoned: soon, his songs were appearing regularly in shows like Sons of Anarchy, Bloodline, Nurse Jackie and Law and Order. He acted a little, toured, wrote songs for other singers, and landed a publishing deal with Razor & Tie. He recorded a song with his childhood friend Henry Geller and drummer Liberty DeVitto of Billy Joel fame, which led to a detour. “At the end of the session, Liberty asked to be our drummer full-time! So we made a band.” That popular not-so-side project, the Slim Kings, is already two albums in and opening for ZZ Top, and large scale acts.

But for all his success, Sackler-Berner felt himself yearning to record something more personal. “In the new stuff I was writing, I was becoming less a character, and more completely myself,” he says. And this time, his demo caught the ears of Marshall Crenshaw.

“Marshall didn’t know me from Adam, but wanted to work with me,” says Sackler-Berner. “Plus, he’s a guitar guy, like me, and it was opportunity to work with a proven songwriter.”

Crenshaw picked three new songs of Sackler-Berner’s to work on with Stewart Lerman, the Grammy-winning producer behind St. Vincent and Elvis Costello. Additionally, another five tracks were recorded with Leo Sidran, an Oscar-winning composer/producer. “Those were a bit more aggressive: we were doing one or two takes on the vocals,” says Sackler-Berner.

Following up on the success of the Crenshaw/Sidran double EP release which landed rave reviews from AXS, PopDose, People magazine and even muso-rags like Guitar World, Sackler-Berner began distilling over 80 songs from his catalog down to 11 for his forthcoming second record which is slated to be produced by red hot Joel Hamilton. Hamilton is currently celebrating a grammy nod for best rock album of the year and a billboard number one.

Most importantly, the songs picked for the next record represent a lyrical maturity for the singer. “They’re clear to me,” he says. “The language is clear; it’s not ambiguous teenage poetry. If it’s a song about a cheating partner or somebody not living up to their potential, it’s in there. No bullshit metaphors.” He laughs. “No ‘your love is like an ocean.’”

While he juggles Slim Kings' dates playing to thousands, recording deadlines, a new child and the constant internal fire to write new songs, Sackler-Berner reflects on his good fortune, past and present.

“I’m lucky,” he adds. “I get to hang with great musicians, like Liberty or Marshall, who are monster talents. There’s no big money for them.”

“They just seem to like the songs and what I do.”
Venue Information:
Pearl Street Warehouse
33 Pearl St SW
Washington, DC, 20024
http://www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com/