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Live TONIGHT (7/16) on WXPN's Instagram, local musician Kennedy of Highnoon is performing a highly-anticipated solo set. Their 2019 LP Semi Sweet is a CVZ favorite, and the new record comes out July 31st via indie record darlings, Oof Records. We caught up with Kennedy online to discuss their writing process during COVID and what they love most about being part of the Philly scene. Read on for insights into their thoughtful process and heartwarming anecdotes from pre-pandemic, live show culture.


When and where was the new album written/recorded?

The album was written in the spring and summer of 2018. I was just finishing up the first semester of my Junior year. I spent the summer at my parents’ in New Jersey and finished up the songs there. At the time I only had a little EP out on Soundcloud that was a few short originals and some covers I recorded on my phone. But I sent the new demos to my friend Justin over time and he encouraged me to put them out for real. I tried recording them on my computer using a little microphone I borrowed from him but I truly had no idea what I was doing so we ended up scrapping a lot of that and recording for real once I was back in Philly. We did that in a practice space he’d been renting out in a warehouse in Gray’s Ferry, mostly on weekends or during holidays from school. All the vocals were done in my bedroom. It was definitely an exercise in patience. But it was finished by late spring of 2019.

What themes, lyrical or otherwise, are on the record?

It’s a pretty introspective record. I spend a lot of time ruminating on things in my personal life which, in turn, helped me see them with more clarity. I’d say it’s about a sense of nostalgia you have for a difficult period in your life which is a pretty messed up thing your brain does sometimes. The album is also about witnessing dualities -- however contradictory they seem -- and just letting them be. Experiencing feelings of sadness but also finding ways to grow from them. That’s why I called it Semi Sweet. It’s the sweet feeling of a bitter memory.

How has quarantine affected your writing process?

I recently moved out of my old place and was commuting to my job from my parents’ place until I could find another spot. When COVID hit I found myself stuck at home again. I had actually just finished writing LP2 in February and we were working on refining the songs together as a band. We had a lot of plans for the summer and really wanted to improve on our process from last year.

There’s definitely been a bit of grief not being able to work on music together because the new stuff relies more on the dynamic of a four piece. I generally try to take a few months off before writing again just to absorb inspiration and live but it's definitely stifling being inside all the time. So I admittedly haven’t been writing as much as I’d like to. I've written a few songs here and there that don’t really fit anywhere, perhaps they’ll go on LP3. It’s hard to conceptualize what the music industry will even look like after this so I’m trying to be patient with it and get into other hobbies like skating and gardening. It’s definitely been a challenge though.

What’s the most exciting thing that happened behind the scenes in the making of this record?

I graduated college! Which is a huge feat for anyone honestly but I struggled a lot in college. I kind of regret going since I’m focusing so much on music now which I certainly did not major in. But I recognize that it’s a huge privilege to go and I’m thankful for the way it’s shaped my life. I wouldn’t be making music with my band if I hadn’t gone so it’s all good.

Who are your greatest influences in music?

Right now it’s Liz Harris (Grouper/Helen), Imogen Heap, The 1975, and Cocteau Twins. I’ve been leaning into more of a dream pop vibe at the moment so the new record will have a much dreamier sound than the debut. My first instrument was piano so I’ve been finding ways to incorporate more of that into my work. But my sources of inspiration are always changing so I’m hoping the fans we’ve made are able to grow and change with me. I feel a little disconnected from Semi Sweet already. I’ve just become a stronger songwriter I think. I’m excited to share the new stuff once it’s safe to meet up with the band again and record.

What do you like the most about being a musician in Philadelphia?

I like the community and ingenuity in Philly. I’ve made some really great friends in the scene and I like the way we all make it work even if we don’t always have the preferred resources. I like the way we support each other across different genres. When the band went on tour in November, it was so refreshing to see the talent in other cities. But coming home made me appreciate my Philly folks a lot more. I love Rentboy, Huey, the Cosmonaut, Bubble Sound, SOUL GLO, and Kississippi. There’s so much talent here and it’s an honor to have played shows with such great people.

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Do you remember the last time you just laid down on your bed, headphones on, and just LISTENED to an album? Never done that before? Well, do I have the perfect album for YOU. Songs Of Abstraction, the sophomore album by Haggert Mctaggert will make you feel like you’re on a road trip through backcountry fields on a gorgeous summer day with your favorite friends (we know you have favorites) from the comfort of your own room. I spoke with Braden Lawrence, the human behind the band name, about the new record, and his existential beginnings involving a possible concussion and some loose bricks.


What is your music origin story?

I first started taking guitar lessons when I was around 8 years old. I really liked the idea of playing guitar but didn't have the patience to actually learn it at the time. I just wanted to play along to AC/DC and shred, not slowly learn scales. A little after that I started playing the drums and really fell in love. I think that the physicality of drumming always made sense to me and I could play for hours feeling like I was getting somewhere. Around that time the movie School of Rock came out and I feel like after watching that all I really wanted to do was rock and freaking roll.

What is your history in the Philly music scene?

The first time I ever played in Philly was in 2012 with The Districts at The Fire to a crowd of maybe 10 (family and other bands included.) Other than The Fire and upstairs at World Cafe Live it was hard to get club shows so we played a lot of house shows and started meeting a bunch of people that lived in the city. Basically we just played whatever shows we could get on in Philly until we started touring heavily around 2014 and our Philly plays started to get more planned out. But yeah, I've lived here for about 7 years now and am very glad I became a young musical man in this fine city.

How did Haggert Mctaggert come to be? Also, is the name a reference to the two streets in Philly?

I started writing some songs when I was a freshman in High School and would record them onto Garageband on my Mom's Ipad. Sometime around then I heard Daniel Johnston and it blew my mind. I felt like his music gave me "permission" to write songs or something. I only knew a couple chords on guitar but it was enough knowledge to be able to express my usually awkward semi-sad feelings into songs. I've always really loved writing songs but didn't really have any confidence behind it at the time. There was this weird night at the ole' Districts house where we had a little party and our back wall was broken and there were bricks everywhere. I started laughing at something and tripped and hit my head hard on a brick. When I woke up I was totally fine but couldn't stop imagining there was this reality where I died in this really dumb way without ever really putting myself out there emotionally. After that I started writing more and eventually started making the 1st Haggert record with the lovely Keith Abrams from Pine Barons {NOTE FROM CVZ: if you haven’t checked out Pine Barons, queue em up after listening to this album} in his old room. He helped bring the songs to life in a way that I still really love. As far as the name Haggert Mctaggert goes I had this purple bear in my closet that I won at Hershey Park and named it Haggert Mctaggert so when I was saving those first couple songs on Itunes I just put the artist as Haggert Mctaggert and for better or worse it's stuck with me. The streets in Philly are just a really weird coincidence that kind of boggles my mind a little bit haha.

Who was involved in the recording/writing process for the album? Were you inspired by any other artists when writing the album?

For this record most of the songs started out as home recordings, then I'd take the files to Keith's house and we'd go down the rabbit hole together. Performance wise Keith and I played most of the parts along with my dear pal Rob Grote on some guitars and bass and my girlfriend Casper who sang backups on a couple tracks. I was definitely inspired by other artists when making this, I feel like production wise I usually gravitate toward some of my favorite stuff like Sparklehorse, Brian Eno, and Neil Young. This record took a long time to make because either me or Keith would be busy on tour or working on other records so it could be a couple months in between working on stuff so it was definitely fun to see our tastes and inspirations changing over the course of making this thing.

What influenced you to write the album? What themes do you like to explore in your lyrics? From listening to it myself, it seems like a very personal record, are you pulling from personal experience?

I think the first song I wrote for this record was Coco Delight which kind of jumps around trying to tackle issues that were going on with me and friends like mental health struggles, love, and body image issues. Every song on the record is definitely personal to me but some are more first person like that song and Living Backwards and some are more me imagining situations and putting myself in a characters shoes. I think the most fun example of that is the track The Lucky One, which is kind of a platonic love story between this well to do guy and his Scandinavian financial dominatrix. But yeah this record thematically deals a lot with being in love, dying, trying to be hopeful, and me sometimes trying to attach importance to mundane things like watching TV or having a bunch of unread emails.

Is there anything I haven't asked that you'd like to discuss?

All proceeds from my Bandcamp will be donated to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute. Thanks for havin' me!


This album really is a mini mind vacation for me. I have always been a big fan of Braden’s; he endlessly impresses me with the scope of his talent, from playing with the Districts to opening himself up to vulnerability through Haggert Mctaggert. Listen to the album HERE to see what I mean! And (as always) be sure to follow him on instagram HERE!

by Kristen Levine

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Derek Anthony Wilson is the mind behind the genre-bending, high-energy, and outstandingly-creative music group, Archpalatine. They released their first album in 2018 and have been rising in the Philadelphia music scene since. Their latest release, Transition Period, was released earlier this month and is available on Spotify now. CVZ spoke with Derek over the phone to discuss the new EP, Derek's inspirations and aspirations--and to our absolute delight--he performed a freestyle rap especially for this interview.


Let’s first talk about your musician background.

I grew up in Philly, born and raised. My older sister went to middle school with Will Smith’s brother--so that puts a time stamp on things. I’m an 80s baby, 90s kid. I went to Chestnut Hill Academy, and I was in their boys’ choir. What made me want to do music is singing in church first, and then hearing Mariah Carey sing. I stole my sister’s tape of her Vision of Love album. Being a boy soprano, I could sing emotions, I thought I was fly. Then one day my voice changed. It was devastating. Like, I couldn't sing The Magic Flute anymore. I went to an all boys school and we had to cast sopranos as the female roles, and right in the middle of the production my voice changed.

How do you describe your sound?

It’s something that’s been a struggle to define for a very long time because of the eclectic nature behind it. Most of the time, the industry standard is to choose one genre and go that way. I grew up having a jazz pianist and a classical voice teacher, and singing in an operatic style choir. And I was the only black guy in my school with a whole bunch of white males--the genres of music our parents’ listened to were very different. My classmates introduced me to a lot of new sounds, all these great bands in the 90s, that inspired my taste growing up. So now when I describe my sound, I say it’s theatrical soul rock or sometimes futuristic Philly funk.

Part of what we like so much about your music is your ability to switch it up! It’s such a fun EP to journey through, and already on our second listen-through we were singing along. Lyrically, what are the themes you explore on the new EP?

I was once called just Palatine, and there was another band in the area also called Palatine, and their common law trademark allegedly superseded our Library of Congress trademark. So we changed our name, it was a big deal, a transitional period. So the song “Transition Period” is about having to change the name of the project. And I’m so proud and happy that that song came out of that, and the new name which I love even more came out of that. “UFO,” on the other hand, was my idea for a song for Beyonce.

In “Riding and Rolling,” I always imagine I’m riding in a car going down Pacific Coast Highway with a woman. She has on a bonnet, like a Susan Sarandon bonnet. And we just had this long conversation--I don’t know what the story might be. But it’s tense. And we’re in it together. Then the song goes, “Time has taken its toll, we’ve gone as far as we can go. This time we gotta ride, and we gotta roll.” Just ride it out.

What is the writing process like for Archpalatine?

Danny Newport and I co-wrote all the songs together. We spent all our time together in his studio and worked out each song over the course of the end of 2017. We both frequented the Grape Room in Manayunk--he was the bartender, I was the host of the open mic. And we became good friends. The first song we wrote was “Way With Words,” and we were so proud of that first song. We didn’t write others immediately because we were so proud of that first song. It shaped the way the whole album was written. We found a formula that worked for us. We have a great musical synergy.

The art direction for your project is really strong. We especially love the cover artwork for Transition Period. What inspires your visual art?

My friend Charles and I collaborate on the art for the project. A lot of the photoshoots and artwork come from drawings that I’ve done or Charles has done in collaboration with me. For the album cover for Amalgam, we made oobleck, which is a paste made of cornstarch and water. When you touch it it hardens and oozes down. We sat in my living room and poured oobleck over my crown originally made of clay. We changed it to metal because that’s what amalgam means in the literal sense, a mixture of metals.

And then suddenly, to our surprise, Derek starts freestyling. As fluidly as if he were speaking.

Rollin with the punches, rolling with the tide,

Take the ebb and flow, take it where you want to go

Keep the wheels rolling you might go fast you might go slow

That's the Danny Newport flow

I don’t usually freestyle like this, it's crazy

I guess it’s cause I’m sitting in the car feeling lazy

He pauses for a moment.


Then continues.

Sometimes you freestyle

When do you stop, at the eight mile?

When your time is up and you gotta go quick?

Feeling so crazy and you’re kinda a lil sick

You gotta keep going

Talking to Kristen and Paige

Thery’re so cool, Cherry-Veen Zine

Scream it out, scream and shout

Imma stop now cause I might mess up

And mess up any clout

I might have for the web

Now it’s time to go

I can’t for your next question

So just let me know

by Paige Walter

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