Why Rusty Shipp are the most exciting band of 2016

Does your playlist need something fresher than an explosion in a Febreze factory?  Do you need to hear the band that Captain Jack Sparrow would most certainly have at the top of his playlist (y’know, if iPods were around back then)?  Has your musical collection struck an iceberg, and now it’s sinking faster than Celine Dion at a Guns N Roses concert?

Picture this:
Earlier this week, my life was a meaningless cycle of daily routine, designed to be productive but not exciting (imagine me brushing my teeth, washing my face, and it’s black and white.  Perhaps someone’s playing a Film Noir soundtrack, but maybe not; it’s your mental image after all). Sound familiar? Well, then I discovered Rusty Shipp (the Film Noir turns into a very stylish seafaring monochrome with optional pops of colour; the Beach Boys are queueing to see them… the Beatles already did)…

Okay, maybe I’m going overboard.  See what I did there?

Seriously, though, stop what you’re doing right now (put the cat in the kettle if you need to) and click play, this music will bring new awesome to your life, even if your existence is already perfect; this is Davy Jones Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Me:

Do you need to hear more RIGHT NOW?? Of course you do! Here’s their second song Sinking Scarabs:

See what I mean?  Now I know I just worked very hard to get your undivided attention, but I am confident that I wrote a cheque that this music can cash.  So if you haven’t clicked play, do it now!

Let’s get a bit more serious with the band now:

Rusty Shipp is a 3 piece band consisting of Russ T “Rusty” Shipp (that is his real name) on vocals and guitar, Andrew Royer on drums and Dustin Herres on bass. Their music is described as “surf rock meets punk and grunge” and I’d recommend it to anyone into cool activities that need an epic in-ear soundtrack.  This would also be perfect for a road trip’s playlist music.   Rusty Shipp are based in Nashville, Tennessee, and they’re probably one of the most strikingly creative bands I’ve seen in recent times. They’re inventing a completely new genre here, using elements of surf rock, grunge, hard rock, and even ska.  They have been compared favorably to both Nirvana and Iron Maiden.  Their lyrics showcase storytelling techniques we would usually associate with the great poets of bygone eras (Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, for example, or Milton’s Paradise Lost) a progressive bassline and a guitar sound that needs its own surfboard! You can find out more about them at their website.

After hearing their latest song, Sinking Scarabs, I was so taken by their music that I had to find out more, so here is an exclusive interview with Rusty, Dustin and Andrew from Rusty Shipp:

How would you describe your band to new listeners in one sentence?
Rusty: Raw, high-energy, Beatlesque songs with a surf rock overtone and philosophical lyrics.
Dustin: It’s got that 90’s grunge sound but a surf rock feel to it.
Andrew:  Very reminiscent of the 90s grunge scene with a little surf rock tossed in for flavor.

I would definitely agree with that.  Rusty, when you moved from Washington to Nashville to take the band to the next level, what were some of the unexpected challenges that you faced?
Rusty: That it’s tough starting a band from scratch because most musicians you find on Craigslist aren’t serious; most of the serious musicians seem to rely on connections they’ve already made in the music scene and don’t resort to Craigslist.

That sounds difficult! It must take so much work to get a foothold when there’s so many bands all trying to get the same exposure.  You’re one step ahead with your very unique musical style, but what are three things that you’d like your audience to know about the band?
Rusty: We make a lot of Canadian jokes for some reason, are actually really nice, laid back, caring guys, and like Taco Bell.
Dustin: We love stupid jokes. We love people. We love Taco Bell.
Andrew: Super approachable, goofy, and we take what we’re doing very seriously.

Wow, so you guys really love Taco Bell.  Tacos are pretty incredible when all is said and done. It sounds like it’s useful to have a sense of humor in order to keep a band together. What’s your favourite thing on your ipod playlists at the moment?
Dustin: I’ve been listening to almost nothing but Dirty Loops and Dear Hunter for the past forever.
Rusty: I’m currently listening to all the recordings of song ideas I’ve made the past decade, pulling out nuggets for future songs.
Andrew: Been a lot of Coheed and Cambria and He Is Legend lately. A little Arctic Monkeys and OK Go to lighten things up a bit.

Wow that’s some pretty inspiring stuff.  I am very partial to the Arctic Monkeys, myself.  What’s the most rock-n-roll thing that you’ve done so far (musically or otherwise)?
Andrew:  I don’t know. I guess I’m not very rock n roll. I’m a little too laid back I guess.
Rusty: I don’t know, but my mom bought me a rock n roll looking jacket for Christmas so I could finally look the part instead of wearing Hawaiian shirts.
Dustin: I wear a fake leather jacket to and from work everyday. That’s pretty rock-n-roll if you ask me.

There’s that sense of humor you both mentioned in question 2!  Andrew, you’re clearly made for surf rock!  So one last question, what’s the thing you’re most excited about for 2016?
Dustin: I’m excited to really start focusing on my music career and making myself become a better artist. Also, I’ve been helping with a church called Church Alive that just launched last year and I can’t wait to see how it grows this year.
Andrew:
I’m pumped to see where this band goes. I think we’ve got a good shot to do some pretty cool things.
Rusty: Making a solid, creative, radio-quality full-length album.


So there you have it, Bryan Adams and Maple Leafs are fair game, Craigslist isn’t the greatest place to find band members, even in Nashville, center of the musical universe, and the band members are really nice guys. Rusty Shipp have a sound that’s set to become legendary, so get in on the ground floor before they get so big, you’ll be staring at their albums on iTunes thinking, “damn, I wish I’d shared them with my friends.” Don’t be that person!  Share this with everyone you know and watch your grateful friends’ faces as they light up with the joy you brought to their lives.  Download their latest song, Sinking Scarabs for only 99c here and whatever you do, subscribe to their Youtube channel here so you are the first to hear their latest music!

Note:  This is not a sponsored post.  I have no financial interest in this band.
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Recipes: Easy Vegan Wedding Food For 75 Guests

All the recipes I did for my wedding are below.  We got Lebanese, Caribbean and some store bought cakes.

vegan caterers wedding food picnic raw gluten free

As I said in my previous Wedding Wednesday post, we really struggled to find any single caterer in York who would cater to a vegan wedding.  I phoned some places, and I didn’t even get quotes because they just didn’t do vegan food.  I was suggested the supermarket sandwich platters, but not one single vegan option, let alone a whole platter.  They all did “the vegetarian option” which meant cheese sandwiches with that miserable commercial grated flavourless cheese.  Obviously this service cost close to £100.  I was convinced that I could find tastier, more nutritional and more satisfying food for less money.

I wasn’t really sure what to go with for food – as long as it was vegan and tasty – but as the day drew closer I decided I was definitely going to do everything myself.  I’d seen lots of doom and gloom posts warning about the potential for disaster here, especially because people labour under this bizarre idea that you either can cook or can’t cook, and that “being able to cook” is do do with being able to make very specific, Western-Centric dishes that are generally nutritionally void and full of dead animal, and if you’re putting people in those camps, then no, I can’t cook, but if you try to remember that the basic purpose of cooking is supposed to be to get nutrients, and then give me an Indian, Asian, Caribbean, South American or African recipe (you know, two thirds of the world) and I am in my element.  I was so confident that I could do better cheaper food than the sandwich platters, that I set myself a challenge: to cater my own wedding for under £50.  Then I started looking at what to feed people.

I chose a few Lebanese dishes and some Caribbean.  I spent a whole day in the kitchen cooking, the day before the wedding, and refridgerated everything.  For drinks, and a nice visible centrepiece, we did up a cheap big rocking horse (that we found on Ebay for £5) to make him look like Vash the Stampede (links to Youtube) and we added two bags for life to make saddlebags, which we filled with drinks. There was bottled water, and cans of lemonade, cream soda and mini juice boxes of fresh orange juice. We were a little worried about how an alcohol free and animal free banquet would go down, but in the end we decided we wouldn’t do it any other way.

Here is the full list of food I whipped up or bought for the wedding, including the details for all the recipes I made, grouping foods by location:

Caribbean:

Plantain Chips GF

Cassava Chips GF

Fruit Ginger Cake (store bought, not GF)

Cucumber Chow (Trinidad and Tobago): 2 peeled diced cucumbers; 3 cloves of chopped garlic; 6 coriander leaves (finely chopped); pinch salt. Put in bowl and mix. RAW VEGAN FRIENDLY, GF Add hot sauce for more authentic Caribbean taste – I chose not to as the day was already forecast to be roasting.

Lebanese:
Batata Kizbra: 4 lg potatoes (cubed); 1 bunch coriander (chopped finely); 5-8 crushed garlic cloves; 1 juiced lemon; 3 tbsps olive oil. Cook potatoes then fry the lot. GF
Malfouf: (cabbage rolls): 1 whole cabbage; 3/4 cup vegimince; 1 cup raw rice; 4 squeezed lemons; 1-2 tsp of Lebanese 7 spice; 3 tbsp olive oil. Cook the rice, prepare the mince, mix the two. Boil the cabbage leaves until they are supple and rolly. Roll the rice mix in the cabbage leaves. Put in pan. Pour lemon, spice, oil and garlic mix over. Simmer/marinade until tasty (or 40 mins if you’re unsure). Check your vegimince, the rest is GF.

Mujardara (rice lentils): 2 tins of green lentils, 1.25 cups of uncooked rice; 4 medium onions; olive oil. Cook rice and lentils together until the rice is done. Chop and fry onions in the oil, mix about half of the onions in with the rice and lentils and garnish top with rest. Serve with plain yoghurt as a side dish (I served with Alpro plain soya yoghurt). GF

Loubieh bi Zait (beans in olive oil): 3lbs green beans; 3 medium onions; 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 2 tsp of Lebanese 7 Spice; 1/2 tsp salt. Chop the beans and onions, saute onions until they start going pinkish. Add the beans, salt and 1/2 the spices. Mix well to ensure the beans are covered in stuff. Cover and simmer for 45-55 mins. Stir every 5 mins. Once beans have turned a dark olive colour, add rest of spice, mix well and serve. We served cold with pita, julienned bell peppers, and spring onions, but can also be served hot if you’re not feeding 75 in a public park miles from home. GF

Extra Nibbles:

I bought some tiffin (dairy free vegan), in chocolate and chocolate orange flavours, available from the Free From section of Sainsbury’s or many other supermarkets.  I went for 4 packets as there was a 4 for the price of 3 offer on at the time, and I cut each slice into 4 little slices (so we got 80 little slices from 4 packs of tiffin), and we had about half of the tiffin left over after the wedding).

There were also store bought apple and strawberry pastries (£2 for 18-20 from Brompton House bakery brand who make cheap pastries for ASDA and Home Bargains), a few packets of cassava chips (crisps made from Cassava, found in the Caribbean aisle of ASDA), a few packets of plantain chips (crisps made from plantain, found in the Caribbean aisle of ASDA), and a lot of packs of pitta bread to eat the Loubieh bi Zait.

bunny bowls wedding bowls easter

We got these cute bowls for 10p for a pack of 10 from ASDA and okay, they say Happy Easter on them, but they are bowls, you put food in them, and they have bunnies on them. If the words were in Chinese, nobody would even know what they said so I figured, meh, letters, people can get over it. Anyway, it’s never too late to wish people a Happy Easter. When I’m faced with a choice between something expensive with no bunnies on it, and something cheap which has bunnies on it, I am always going to choose the bunnies, it’s a complete no brainer. Since the wedding was filled with little touches of randomness, everyone thought we were being ironic and found it funny.

My main worry was whether this would feed enough people, since we had about 75 guests who actually turned up from 100 invited, but I needn’t have worried.  The actual problem was that there weren’t enough drinks for everyone.  On one of the hottest days of the year, we ran out of drinks which was very stressful.  I could’ve done without that.  It was fine though, because we moved the cake-cutting forward (apparently there’s a social cue that cutting the cake means the wedding party is over.  I accidentally cut the cake too soon, wanting to share it with my friends, and didn’t know why everyone left so suddenly) and we went home to where we had a stockpile of more drinks and a cupboard full of cups, and sat around with the last 20 guests playing video games.  The 3lbs of beans and the extensive amount of cucumber chow (I doubled the recipe) meant that everyone who wanted to eat something had something to eat.

I will do a separate post for my wedding cake, which was made inside the £50 wedding food budget.  Spoiler alert: It was made of cornflakes.

vegan wedding picnic food

Beautiful Saturday: To straighten or not to straighten?

I got my first pair of straighteners (called flatirons in the US) back in 2003.  I was 16, and they’d been out for about a year.  I had the Babyliss 4×4 straighteners, that came with 4 different interchangable metal plates – ceramic coating was a couple of years away – and the options were: standard crimpers, wide crimpers, “loose wave” (which was utterly useless) and the flat plate to make hair straight.

The straight plate took about 5-10 minutes to heat up.  The temperature it reached was probably fairly low.  Because the plates were made of aluminium metal, they did not glide through the hair.  You had to use them like crimpers, where you spray the hair with loads of hairspray, then close the plates around a piece of hair, held it still for a count of 10-20 (depending how long you wanted it to last vs how much time you could spend on this), then opened it and moved down, closed the plates around the next part of the piece of hair, held it still again for a count of 10-20, then did it again, all the way down each piece of hair.  Then you could do the next section.  It would generally take about an hour to do a full straighten and even then it didn’t make the hair sit properly flat unless you used excessive amounts of hairspray, which defeated the point.

A straighten done like this would basically have the same effect as when you blow-dried your hair straight, where the heat of the hairdryer would fix the hair straight when combined with the pull of the round brush.  It would take longer, because you had to dry your hair first, and generally was a bit of a waste of time.

The BaByLiss 4X4 crimpers in all their glory.  Source: www.toutvendre.fr
The BaByLiss 4X4 crimpers in all their glory. Source: http://www.toutvendre.fr

Fast forward two years, when in 2005 the ceramic straighteners exploded onto the UK mass consumer market.  GHDs had been out for around a year but nobody could really afford them.  Suddenly, glossy, long-lasting, straight hair could be anyone’s.  But there was a drawback.  They got too hot.  There was a problem in 2006 because particular high-end branded straighteners were causing house fires and property damage, because people were leaving them plugged in and they didn’t have an upper limit on how hot they would get.  The best case scenario was that they would melt and you’d need to buy a new set.  The worst case scenario was that they’d cause a house fire.  Whilst researching this article I discovered this is still happening.

To try and improve safety, manufacturers of most straighteners fitted thermostats and many also gave consumers the option to set the temperature – my 2007 model wet 2 straight straighteners had a range of 160 to 230 degrees celsius and would stay there.  The problem was, the lower temperatures produced a less lasting straighten, while the higher temperatures, as I’m sure everybody knows now, damaged the hair.

Enter heat protection spray.  Nobody really knows how it works (I spent serious time on Google recently trying to find out), although manufacturing blurb likes to point to “proteins” “keratin” “amino acids” and other ingredients as the thing that prevents hair damage.  I couldn’t find any research that showed how much these sprays actually protect the hair (as opposed to a placebo effect) and beauty bloggers seem to only know what they’ve been told by the companies that make them, which is the same as what the manufacturers say on their adverts.  It’s all a bit circular, like so many things in beautyworld.  The thing that’s most worrying, though, is that people think they can use the same high temperatures on their hair and not damage it.  It still weakens the hair to straighten it, no matter what you do.  If your hair is stronger to start with, you can probably get away with doing it every day and only suffering slightly more wear and tear than if you didn’t straighten.  For you, it’s probably a pretty good payoff.  If, however, you have the sort of hair that I have (frizzy, stands on end when cut short, prone to breakage under light stress, prone to dryness), you have a choice to make:  You can either bleach your hair white or straighten it regularly, but not both.  I chose to have white hair, that I sometimes tone silver or platinum.  Because of this, and because my hair has grown past shoulder length, I cannot straighten my hair every day.  If you have thicker hair to start with, you may get away with straightening regularly, I’m not sure.  I blow dry my hair when I wash it, and wash it two to three times per week (I know I should only wash it once a week, but I still struggle with this).  I find that my natural shape and frizz of hair actually doesn’t look too bad when it’s very blonde, it looks fluffy and softening rather than frizzy and harsh, which is what it looks like when I have my natural very dark hair.

All through school I used to get bullied for the unruly hair that I was born with.  Growing up in a 100% white British area, having 1/4 Afro-Caribbean genes makes big hair something the other kids would seize on and be very nasty about.  They weren’t exposed to other cultures enough to understand that hair was just like that for some people.  They thought I didn’t brush it, or that I had “cheap shampoo” because the shampoo and conditioner adverts told them that good shampoo = sleek straight glossy locks.  When I had dark hair, even last year, I was still getting told by people that I need to use X conditioner to fix my hair (when I’m blonde, they blame it on the bleach).  When you get treated like this by enough people, you start to believe them, especially when there’s no-one else around with hair like yours (I’ve never knowingly met the man responsible for my frizzy genes, and as a child, I didn’t really remember what people’s hair looked like when we lived until I was 5 in the Jamaican community in South East London).  When ceramic straighteners came out they were top of my Christmas list and I would use them daily (or put my hair in a bun), and have done for years until I discovered chemical relaxants aka chemical straightenings.  I went for those for a while but didn’t like how much more frizzy my hair was when they wore off, or how much more breakage there was, so I stopped everything when I grew my hair for my wedding.  As a result, I was very worried about bleaching my hair because of not being able to straighten it, but I have had icy white hair, generally toned silver, for about 8 months now, and I’ve never really looked in the mirror and said to myself, my hair needs straightening.  So through bleaching my hair, I’ve learned to accept it’s natural frizzlike tendencies, which is great.

I did straighten my hair last week, for a Youtube video because I was playing a character, and it had been so long since I last had straight hair that I didn’t recognise myself when I did it.  It felt weird, like some of my width was missing, like the very first time I straightened my hair.  I could definitely get used to having straight hair, but the time; effort; money on hair products such as primer and protein sprays; and the misery of having dark hair (which actually makes me depressed, I wish I was being hyperbolic) all outweigh the benefit of having straight hair.  Most of the time these days.  I’d rather have unruly sproingy white hair than sleek straight dark hair.  It fits my personality better.  Now my styling priority goes: 1st choice: Naturally springy hair.  2nd choice: Curled with my curling tongs (for special occasions).  3rd choice: Straight.

Are you pro-straightener?  Do you prefer straight hair, curled hair, or au naturel?