Show review – MOTR PUB 09/23/2016 – Brian Baker of CityBeat Cincinnati Magazine


Our old pal Brian Baker wrote up every juicy detail of this years MidPoint Music Festival for Cincinnati CityBeat and even managed to get over to MOTR to check out our set on the first night, Friday, September 23rd with Mystic Braves and Dream Ride. Here’s what he had to say:

“On Friday night, I bailed toward the end of Future Islands, which was, as noted, exceptionally cool and original, in order to catch at least a little of Lemon Sky at the nearby MOTR Pub. Due to a scheduling snafu, soundman Steve Schmoll didn’t arrive until 10:15 p.m., so the band went on at 10:30, meaning I was just in time to witness the quintet’s complete set. And what a set it was. There is little doubt in any mind that Lemon Sky is one of the area’s most accomplished and tightly prepared outfits. In the studio, the band effectively translates their musical expertise, first by writing compelling songs and arranging them to showcase their individual strengths without pretense or cloying creative ego and further by absorbing and translating their numerous influences in original and engaging ways. On stage, the band invests those same songs with a stratospheric power that approximates Hard Rock density without ever losing the melodic Pop soul that made it so deeply appealing in the first place.

In a shortened 50-minute opening set for L.A.’s Mystic Braves and the Dream Ride, Lemon Sky blew through songs from its eponymous debut and its stunning follow-up Dos, injecting a show stopping favorite, its white-hot cover of The Beatles’ “She’s So Heavy (I Want You),” which magnificently spotlights the hair-raising vocal acrobatics of frontman Aaron Madrigal, the masterful guitar interplay between Madrigal, Eric Cronstein and Ed Bruker and the heaven-sent, hell-scorched heartbeat rhythm section of bassist Steve Korfhagen and drummer Eric Keyes. In a very real sense, to see Lemon Sky, in a small club packed with fervent fans, singing along and screaming their lungs out after every song, seems reminiscent of fan-told tales from another era of seeing Led Zeppelin in an English pub or The Doors at the Whiskey, well before destiny came knocking. Lemon Sky is currently in the midst of completing their third album, and given the advances on Dos, largely due to the solidification of the new lineup and the band’s continued growth and evolution, the next one might just be the charm that attracts destiny to its front porch with flowers, a box of candy and a whispered invitation to the big time. And the band will be ready for its close-up.”

Brian, you’re the best!!!!!! #CincyMusic

CITRUS ROCK – Dayton City Paper – Justin Kreitzer

April 2015

CINCY’S LEMON SKY AT BOB’S – Dayton City Paper – Justin Kreitzer

Lemon Sky, the Cincinnati psych-rock/prog-pop hybrids recently released Dos, their aptly-titled and long-awaited sophomore album. Highlighted by its three-pronged guitar attack—consisting of vocalist/guitarist Aaron Madrigal, guitarists Eric Cronstein and Ed “Shredward” Bruker along with bassist Steve “Phteven” Korfhagen and drummer Eric Keyes—they create a heavy yet highly-melodic brand of psychedelic garage rock that combines the classic rock pomp and stomp of Led Zeppelin, paisley pop melodies and the modern musicality of Mars Volta for a forward-thinking sound rooted in the past.

In support of the stellar new album, the band is touring the area and will make a stop at Blind Bob’s on Saturday, March 19 alongside like-minded acts Parlour Tricks and Cricketbows.

In anticipation, the Dayton City Paper spoke with the members of Lemon Sky about their favorite song to play live and in-depth with guitarist/sound engineer Cronstein about the new album, their musical influences and more.

Some of your eclectic musical influences are more obvious like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Mars Volta, but who or what are some of your less obvious influences?

Eric Cronstein: We could probably name a couple hundred other influences on all of us. But Captain Beyond, Smashing Pumpkins, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Music Machine, Radiohead, Secret Machines … I could just keep naming bands, but
that would be silly. I guess the idea here is that we pull influences from every period of rock and roll and all great music in general.

How has the band grown with the addition of the new members and how has that helped to shape the band’s sound in the five years since the release of your debut album?

EC: The band went through a major change just after the first album was released. Aaron and Phteven are the two original members of Lemon Sky. Eric Keyes … joined shortly after that and sort of turned the band into a more aggressive and rhythm-heavy band. Some months later Ed “Shredward” Bruker was asked to join and brought a new polished sensibility to the band that wasn’t quite there before, singing lots of harmonies and shredding on the guitar like a good “Shredward” does!

Lyrically, the album is very surreal and psychedelic in its imagery. What was the influence behind Dos; are there any themes that tie the songs together?

EC: The album certainly is not a concept album in that it wasn’t written around a central theme. You could say, however, that there is a protagonist walking through the album that begins as he’s nearing the end of his life. Much of the album is a passage through this world into the next where he is experiencing life reflection, turbulence and navigating otherworldly realms between living and beyond. Though there is a slight reprieve near the end, it’s only to catch his breath before his final walk through the underworld.

With its insistently pounding beat and earth-rumbling bass line, the skyscraping standout single, “Guillotine,” sounds like an absolute blast to play live. What is each of your favorite original song to play live and why?

Aaron Madrigal: “Submarine” … the song trips me out and I get lost in it when we play. The song takes a lot of control from the band and it gets super intense [during] the bridge.

Phteven Korfhagen: “Submarine” because it demonstrates the vast range of musicianship in the band. We get to groove and harmonize all over the song while keeping the song moving.

Eric Keyes: “Kept In Beyond.” All the space in the verses let’s my drums sing through the mix.

EC: “Ash and Bone.” It’s HEAVY, and it has awesome harmonies, and guitarmonies!

Shredward Bruker: “Kept In Beyond,” because I finish my beer in the bridge, and when the riff comes back in, I try as hard as I can to stomp through the stage.

The excellent new album is certainly a testament to the band’s talent, and so far, your D.I.Y. approach has served you well, but what plans do you have for the band’s future?

EC: The main objective is to play these songs in front of as many people as possible and get this record to even more of those people. We believe in the art that we are creating and really just want to let everyone be a part of it.

What can new listeners expect from a Lemon Sky show?

EC: A Lemon Sky show is like standing in front of giant, colorful wall of sound, and then smashing that wall right into your face!

Album Review – Dos – CityBeat Cincinnati Magazine – by Brian Baker



Based on their name — inspired by a Kevin Bacon movie that was based on Lanford Wilson’s play — the members of Cincinnati’s Lemon Sky refer to their particular genre as “Citrus Rock.”

But guitarist/vocalist Ed Bruker’s tale of the band knocking down a chandelier in a Columbus, Ohio dive bar through the sheer force of its sonic presentation (assisted by the rumble of a powerful new bass cabinet) could force a change to “Demolition Rock.”

Of course, any label hung on Lemon Sky is ultimately limiting and ineffective. The quintet’s 2011 self-titled debut was full-bore Rock with a modern Pop heart, like Jellyfish steered by Queen rather than The Beatles.

That same framework exists on Lemon Sky’s sophomore album, Dos, but the band’s shifting lineup and natural creative evolution over the past four years have resulted in expansive and kaleidoscopic growth. Most importantly, even with the band’s advances, there is cohesion between the two albums.

“That’s the thing about not going for a particular sound,” vocalist/guitarist Aaron Madrigal says in his basement rehearsal/recording space. “If you listen to ‘Guillotine’ or ‘Kept in Beyond,’ and then ‘Navel of the Moon,’ (they sound nothing alike), but placed where it is on the record, it totally makes sense. We know what the sounds are, and we plot out the course of the record. That’s why the cohesion itself isn’t an issue, as long as we have it properly mapped out.”

Dos — teased with a limited 100-copy release at Lemon Sky’s gig at MOTR Pub last week — is clear evidence of the band’s sonic maturation and expanded vision. Building on the band’s existing foundation of thunderous Rock with a sweet/sour minor-key Pop melodicism (“Major is a rank in the military,” quips drummer Eric Keyes), Dos is alternately reminiscent ofWish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd (“Err”), a mash-up of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath (“Guillotine”), a tribute to avowed influence Captain Beyond (“Kept in Beyond”) and a nod to The Beatles in the Abbey Road crosswalk (“Navel of the Moon”).

The epic eight-minute closer “Ash and Bone” somehow encapsulates all of the above and more.

“I don’t think we ever write with anything in mind,” Madrigal says of direct influences during the initial writing phase. “It’s usually just something that manifests itself.”

“For the recording, I’m very influenced by those things,” says guitarist/vocalist Eric Cronstein, the studio mastermind behind Lemon Sky and many other local/regional bands. “I think Wish You Were Here is the best recorded record, so it is an influence. Like tones. I’ll say, ‘That’s a kickass tone. How can I make something that gives me that feeling?’ But we’ve been working on this thing for so long. It’s like we went down the hole, and we think it’s cool sounding, but we have no idea what people are going to think.”

The big difference between Lemon Sky’s two albums is simply a matter of being more of a full-band effort. On the first album, Madrigal wrote the songs and then assembled an Impossible Missions Force of players to perform them in the studio, eventually fashioning a group for the live delivery. Bassist Steve Korfhagen was in from the beginning and Madrigal eventually recruited Keyes, the bassist in his previous band, Madras Lounge (Madrigal talked him into switching instruments).

Lemon Sky’s sound blossomed with the addition of Cronstein (who recorded Lemon Sky’s debut, both Pop Goes the Evil albums and the Madras Lounge’s debut, and got the ball rolling on the new Wonky Tonk release, among other projects) and Bruker. But every band member got the same pitch.

“That’s how we hooked Keyes. I was like, ‘No, dude, you can just do it for a little bit, we’ll find somebody else, promise,’ ” Madrigal says. “That’s how we do it. It’s like a black hole — you can go in, you can’t get back out.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s how I started playing,” Korfhagen says.

“Aaron was the only one to join willingly,” Bruker jokes.

The addition of Bruker, who was delivering pizzas with high school pal Korfhagen before joining, transformed Lemon Sky into a three-guitar assault vehicle, which the band has implemented for maximum effectiveness.

“I knew they were looking for a lead guitar player, and there was a show where I could fill in,” Bruker says. “But I didn’t know that Aaron wasn’t playing parts on the album, so I learned all the lead parts.”

“The songs on the first album were written for two guitar players,” Madrigal says. “Eric and I or Eric and Ed were doubling parts and we were like, ‘This doesn’t sound right. We’ve got to figure something out.’ We started with ‘Ash and Bone’ … and we knew we could make these songs three-guitar songs and write the rest of our songs that way.”

“We’ll be out and people will ask us, ‘Why three guitars?,’ ” says Bruker. “We always say, ‘We don’t need four.’ ”

Along the way, Lemon Sky has worked intermittently but relentlessly on Dos and played more than a few memorable shows, including opening for The Psychedelic Furs at Bogart’s and the aforementioned chandelier-lowering gig (“We’ve shot video at almost every show and we weren’t shooting that night,” Bruker says dolefully). Through it all, the quintet has solidified into a Prog/Pop/Rock juggernaut, and Dos is the brilliant result. Although the gap between albums is sizable, Dos wasn’t a case of lengthy creative isolationism.

“If you put it all into one big chunk, it’d be like maybe two months of recording,” Cronstein says. “There was like 16 days of main tracking, then vocal sessions at the Trip Tank, which is Steven’s attic, spread out over a year and a half.”

Dos won’t be released officially until late January or early February, but recent gigs and the limited teaser are raising expectations to a fever pitch. And, as the band notes, Lemon Sky has accomplished everything largely on its own, without management (other than Korfhagen; “I make sure everything gets done and everyone’s in bed on time,” he says), booking agents or outside publicity.

In the meantime, Lemon Sky will play local and out-of-town shows to gear up for the actual release of Dos, and are taking next steps, literally. The band recently rented a cabin in Red River Gorge and hiked its gear up the side of mountain for a writing session.

“We have material prepared for Album Three to get started right now,” Bruker says “We don’t have to work on and write as much as we did for Album Two.”

“We needed the time,” Madrigal says of Lemon Sky’s long debut-to-sophomore gap. “But it won’t happen again.”

Read More News