Bless Your Heart release debut album

Bless Your Heart released their debut album “New Very Strange Songs” on December 6th as a collection of lonesome cowpoke ballads with characteristics of a southern pastel gothic flair from Southeastern born-and-bred frontpeople Sunn Set Apple and Vigilance Deadname.

The band defies genre conventions by combining classic country with post-rock, lacing up leather boots for its shoe-gaze aesthetic, all in an effort to unite their southern heritages with queer identities. Songs like “Coyote” and “Meet Me in July” are noodling entrees in an album full of spaghetti western dinners.

Southern slang like “bless your lil’ heart” has always implied a polite but backhanded “screw you” in Bible Belt colloquial, but the phrase has now been repurposed in punk fashion as a rock band.

Sunn Set and Vigilance met in 2005 on their first day of high school. “We were in a couple of [music] projects in high school and college,” said Sunn Sett, “but Bless Your Heart as a concept started in 2013” which is when they began writing and playing music together in a garage as a trio.

“I was having the worst year of my life. I found it cathartic to write country songs, but I wasn’t a very good guitarist,” said Sunn Set, “but I found different palettes to put country songs in while I was learning as I went.”

The band formally came together in 2017 when Sunn Set and Vigilance debuted the project in its current incarnation at a birthday party benefit for J20 Defense.

Bless Your Heart currently features D.K. Ryan on the standup bass, Mike Johnson is the engineer and pedal steel player, Nick Morrino plays drums, and Mary Beth Byrd sings harmony and does all the graphic design.

Since most of the band are professionals in their craft, Bless Your Heart has been able to embrace the semi-DIY approach, and keep many aspects of production in house.  The one thing they went out of house for was the mastering.

“Mike was looking into mastering engineers and noticed that Harris Newman at Greenmarket Mastering was available, who mastered ‘Pony’ by Orville Peck,” which was one of their favorite albums that came out in 2019, and received some attention at the 2020 Grammy Awards.

“We sent it off to [Harris]. His rates were reasonable. We’re really happy working with him,” said Sunn Set. “Lo Wolf just sent an album off to him as well. We’ve gotten him some work. I feel like it’s the year of the gay cowpoke, between Orville Peck and Lil Nas X.”

Vigilance revealed that ze worked on the album for over a year. “We hashed out these songs, and these arrangements that just blow my mind and helped grow the band,” said Vigilance. “Now we want to get back into songwriting, start making some new stuff, and playing stuff live.”

Bless Your Heart played an album release show at West Asheville hometown venue The Mothlight on December 9th, and returned for a follow up feature shortly after on January 14th. “Pulling off a show like that, I feel like it’s not really the end of a cycle but the beginning,” reflected Sunn Set. “Setting a goal to release the album on time, getting the release show done, and nailing it, I was driving home, and felt like I had pulled off a heist. Like Bonnie and Clyde.”

“There’s this combination of exhaustion and inspiration,” said Sunn Set. “I feel like I’m going to be tired for the rest of my life, but I’m content with it. It’s like when I was younger and couldn’t fall asleep, my mom and my dad would always say, ‘You didn’t work hard enough today.’”

The band identifies as boot-gaze, bridging the divide between country and indie shoe-gaze. “People compliment my guitar playing, and I still feel a lot more confident than I did when I was starting to play guitar live, but I still feel like I’m not as good of a guitarist as I am a tap dancer,” said Sunn Set. “Solos are easy compared to the basics, like I can’t play a solid rhythm guitar.”

Although Vigilance takes the lead on most of the guitar solos, ze consider themselves to be more of a lyrical person. “I’ve always kinda felt like I’m the forest and Sunn Sett sings all the trees,” explained Vigilance. “I can build the world, and Sunn Sett picks all the plants.”

“I totally love pop music,” said Sunn Set. “I love it from a production perspective, and being able to bring elements of that scale of production to something that’s a little more outsider.”

“The really cool thing is we brought our songs together at the beginning. Now we write together, and you can just hear the unity of just working on it together than separately,” Vigilance spoke to the collaborative songwriting process with Sunn Set. The song “Coyote” has had several phases of existence, spanning back nearly a decade. “I definitely feel like songs are living things. I wrote ‘Coyote’ at three separate points of my life because the song needed more words as it went along to flesh it out. It’s basically the story of my life since 2011 in a sarcastic way.”

Although the band never explicitly went out of their way to present as southern gothic, they inevitably embraced the aesthetic. Sunn Set admits their goth phase began at the same time the band first formed in 2013. Vigilance and Sunn Set dyed their hair black at the same time.

Sunn Set and Vigilance revealed that their true influences are anything from James Taylor to the Magnetic Fields, and The National for the sadness factor. “I definitely feel like it’s really easy for me to go through the songs and be like, ‘Oh yeah, we totally had a Jesus and Mary Chain moment here,’” said Sunn Set. “I also really like Brandi Charlisle and think that comes through.” Sunn Set cited their all time favorite artist as Willie Nelson while Vigilance said White Pilgrim.

I feel like it’s the year of the gay cowpoke, between Orville Peck and Lil Nas X.

Sunn Sett Apple

The album title “New Very Strange Songs” was inspired by the song “Lukenbach Texas” by Waylon Jennings. The chorus includes the lines, “Between Hank Williams’ pain songs and Newberry’s train songs…” but when Sunn Set was a child, they always thought Jennings was singing “New very strange songs” in that final line.

The album title is both a nod, stating their allegiances, and passive aggressively wedging themselves into this canon of country music. “It’s also descriptive,” laughed Vigilance. “Someone told us that at the release show.”

The album was significantly funded by a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign as a community effort. “We had over twenty contributors give us more than $600 to help make it happen,” revealed Sunn Set. “That means absolutely so much to us, with so little to show for what we could do, for that many people in our lives to put their faith in us, is just incredible to me.”

Bless Your Heart is pulling all the stops on the merchandise as well, with cassettes of the debut album, stickers, and T-shirts and posters with the various design layouts by Mary Beth Byrd. Online ordering for any of Bless Your Heart’s products will be available in the near future.

Bless Your Heart also performed shows at Static Age Records on February 15th, and later that month in Savannah, Georgia where they opened for a burlesque group at the Jinx, which has a stage designed like the Black Lodge from TWIN PEAKS.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Find yourself at home on the dynamic range displayed with true grit from Bless Your Heart. “New Very Strange Songs” is now available for streaming wherever you listen to music like Bandcamp and Spotify.

REPLICA RAID II @ Geek Short Film Fest

THE REPLICA RAID II sci-fi short film was selected to screen at the 2019 Greek Short Film Festival in Charlotte, North Carolina as part of the Geek Gala event. The theme this year is Tiki Slumber Party-o-Rama. Don’t ask me what that means because I don’t know yet. The film festival runs throughout the day from 10am to 4pm as part of the Muggle Market at Noah’s Event Venue which is free to attend.

I’ve added laurels for the Geek Short Film Festival to the film poster, next to the ones from Cat Fly Indie Film Festival which is where RR2 premiered in March 2019. THE REPLICA RAID III, the final installment of the unanticipated series, is in development with a finished first draft underway in edits. More on that to come.

DEATHYARD Film Festival Strategy

The DEATHYARD short horror film served as the 2019 promotional video for The Haunted Farm popular attraction in Hendersonville, North Carolina, which was primarily spearheaded by Co-Directors Taylor Hellhake and Daniel Ballard. DEATHYARD turned out too great not to share with the world, so I was hired on as an Associate Producer to assist with film festival strategy and submission process. I was happy to help since the film’s crew included friends of mine such as Braethun Bharathae-Lane as the Sound Recordist and Lauren Rivas as the leading actress.

As of this writing, DEATHYARD has been selected to play at multiple film festival events including DreadFest Horror Film Festival outside of Seattle, Washington on October 12th, HorrorHaus Film Festival in Los Angeles, California on October 26th, Buried Alive Horror Film Festival in Atlanta, Georgia from November 13th to 17th, Stranger Days Independent Film Festival in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 16th, and New York City Horror Film Festival on December 6th. Check out the teaser trailer for the LA based HorrorHaus event in the video embedded below.

DEATHYARD first premiered to a local screening with the cast and crew at the Carolina Cinemark in Asheville, NC while simultaneously going online via YouTube. You may watch the full short film below. Rumors are circulating regarding its expansion into a full feature, but that sort of info is above my current pay grade.

Artificial Ink T-Shirts!

Artificial Ink Creative, LLC has produced its first batch of official t-shirts which were given as gifts to key cast and crew who have been important assets over the years. Lightning Bolt Ink screen-printed the shirts out of their shop in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. They approached the white font and grey streak in the logo design with two separate screens to create the desired texture effect.

The shirts were modeled by Braethun Bharathae-Lane and Whitley Albury who now rep the Artificial Ink brand both online and out in the world. Another batch of t-shirts will be ordered from Lightning Bolt Ink before the end of the 2019 year, and will be available for purchase at $15 per shirt in sizes S, M, L and XL. Shirts in XXL and up available upon request for $17. Email artificial.ink.creative@gmail.com to reserve your shirt today and ensure you don’t miss the second round!

the828.com // new articles

I’ve written a few more articles for The828.com throughout the fall and winter of 2018 into the 2019 spring. Find my most recent writings embedded below, detailing all things eat, drink and play in the 828 area code of Asheville, North Carolina.

Asheville’s Cat Fly Film Festival 2019 returns with events at The Asheville Masonic Temple, New Belgium Brewing, The Mothlight, and other venues around the city.

Posted by The 828 on Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Queen Bee and the Honeylovers sing of the people and places of Asheville. Find out about the group’s debut album and release party at Isis Music Hall.

Posted by The 828 on Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Local filmmakers with Night Frizz Productions are bringing a Stephen King classic to life in WNC.

Posted by The 828 on Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Asheville’s Jane Kramer celebrates album release at Ambrose West.

Posted by The 828 on Monday, February 18, 2019

Crooked Ghost Skeleton House Vinyl Release Show with Crooked Ghost, Morbids, and Thresher next Monday 2/18 at The Mothlight for FREE!

Posted by Ted Kendrick on Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow at West Asheville’s Beacham’s Curve.

Posted by The 828 on Sunday, January 20, 2019

Join Comic Envy for the return of Asheville Comic Expo 2018! The event is back at the U.S. Cellular Center Nov. 10.

Posted by The 828 on Sunday, October 28, 2018

The articles are listed in reverse order of publication with the newest at top. The feature on the up-and-coming Beacham’s Curve development zone was the most time intensive piece of the bunch as it involved multiple interviews with various business owners in the East-West Asheville area, but a fun challenge nonetheless.

Dip into the ARTIFICIAL INK

Artificial Ink Creative, LLC is a limited liability company for creative services, specializing in the development and production of trans-media entertainment and intellectual properties, as well as an ever-evolving, experimental project hub to track the visionary endeavors of Asheville, NC based storyteller Ted Kendrick.

Artificial works are produced by people, rather than occurring organically in nature. When breaking away from blueprints, mankind acts as little gods; sometimes in the collaborative spirit of the Greek Pantheon, else-when in the efforts of Artifice, where the fabric of reality can warp in the act of sublime craft. Never strictly Official, always Art, or better; Artificial.

Ink is the liquid used to flow ideas to fruition through writing, drawing, and printing, as well as the verb that solidifies a business contract, and the abbreviation for Incorporated. Artificial Ink Creative merges the worlds of Ink and Inc., and creates Something out of Nothing with digital content from a quality Quill, whether that pen is formed by feather, porcupine, or toothpick.

Ted Kendrick has served as a Creative Executive at Social Construct Films, Marketing Coordinator for Cat Fly Film Festival, and Marketing Director for Escapist Comix. He was an Associate Producer on feature film THE SONG OF SWAY LAKE, and Producer on short film GOOD HAIR with Coki Productions. He contributes to the Watchtower Database as a host on the 12th Level Intellects podcast, and writer on webcomic LEGACIES of the DC Animated Universe. Ted holds a B.A. in Literature from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

Contact for questions, comments, or services: artificial.ink.creative@gmail.com

2nd Annual Cat Fly Film Fest

Cat Fly Film Festival is preparing for its second annual event over the weekend of April 6-8th. Another incredible lineup of narrative short films and documentaries, all created by filmmakers in the Southeast, have been selected to screen at three exceptional venues in Asheville. Tickets are on sale now, and they do sell out!

I don’t have any shorts that I personally spearheaded in the lineup this year, though I was an Associate Producer and Sound Recordist on SIDES by Will Osigian and Trust Fall Productions. I am also assisting the festival’s directors– Brittany Jackson, Madeleine Richardson, and Cat Wityk– in an administrative capacity where I help plan the event and logistics in Cat Fly’s new status as a Nonprofit organization.

CAT FLY HALLOWEEN 2017

Cat Fly Halloween was held on Friday, October 13th at UpCountry Brewing in West Asheville, North Carolina. The event sold out days in advance, and was a wonderful follow up to last spring’s inaugural Cat Fly Indie Film Festival, which was founded and curated by Brittany Jackson, Madeleine Richardson, and Cat Wityk. UpCountry Brewing hosted the screening in their tasting room, and provided a special craft beer for the event, the Cat Fly Witches Brew, a blonde ale infused with cinnamon.

These photos are from the step-and-repeat at the entrance of Cat Fly Halloween. Feel free to tag yourself and your friends and share around!

Photo cred: Michelle Graston

Posted by Cat Fly Film Fest on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

One of the films that I recently produced, AS ONE FLESH, played with an array of other horror and thriller shorts from across North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and the Southeast region. Additional cast and crew also attended, such as writer and director Joe Naylor, cinematographer Madeleine Richardson, lead actor Jeff Alexander, supporting actors Franklin Lovingood and James Martin, soundtrack composer and sound engineer Tony Mozz, lighting tech Brittany Jackson, editor Thomas Goddard, and makeup artist Ashton Helton, just to name a few, many of whom were also volunteers or programming staff for Cat Fly. I couldn’t have been more excited to share the night with such an awesome gathering of filmmakers.

clips from Cat Fly Halloween #catflyhalloween2017 #catfly #catflyordie #catflyfilmfest #indiefilm #avlfilm #ncfilm

A post shared by Ted Kendrick (@ted.kendrick) on

CAT FLY HALLOWEEN lineup

Cat Fly Indie Film Fest returns for the Cat Fly Halloween event on Friday, October 13th at UpCountry Brewing in West Asheville, North Carolina. Tickets are currently on sale, so be sure to snatch yours up in advance, because they are sure to sell out. Watch the trailer for the upcoming horror film event embedded below.

Get ready for a night of terrifying films and creepy monsters. #catflyhalloween2017 is coming this Friday.

Posted by Cat Fly Film Fest on Monday, October 9, 2017

 

I’m excited to announce that AS ONE FLESH, the short film I recently produced, will premiere at the event. The film was written, directed and edited by Joe Naylor, starring Jeff Alexander, Victoria Rae, Franklin Lovingood and James Martin, with an original score and sound mixing by Tony Mozz. It’s a fun demented mess of a movie, and I can’t wait for a live audience to watch its first time on screen.

GOOD HAIR @ Films on Tap

GOOD HAIR THE MOVIE recently screened at Films on Tap, the sixth event of its kind in Charlotte, North Carolina, which was hosted by comedian Blayr Nias in the tasting room of Birdsong Brewing Company. Each film was paired with a beer, and samples were passed around to the audience between screenings. GOOD HAIR was paired with the Doin’ Thyme Springtime Ale because of the couple’s transition from the winter into the springtime of their relationship, and Khi is doin’ time in the doghouse with Frankie for most of the movie. At least that’s our take on it.

I traveled to Charlotte with Brittany Jackson and Madeleine Richardson, two of the founders of the Cat Fly Film Festival, as well as Jeff Alexander, leading actor in THE REPLICA RAID short, WHEN FACT MET FICTION web-series, and recent OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY film with Jennifer Anniston and Jason Bateman. At the event, we all reconnected with members of the GOOD HAIR THE MOVIE crew such as Andrew Bradford (DP), Thomas Propst (Sound), Cocaine (the puppy), and writers / directors / leading actors / power duo Catherine Dee Holly and Fray Forde.

As visitors to Charlotte, we were amazed that nothing like Films on Tap currently exists in Asheville, NC, which has a plethora of potential venues for such an event. After all, Asheville held the “Beer City, USA” title for so many years and draws countless tourism to the city every year for its craft beer culture. With a little luck, I bet we see something like Films on Tap happen in Asheville soon enough.