Featured Artist: Westend

I first became exposed to Westend through that very same Box of Cats Litterbox 03 compilation that I wrote about last week. From its groovy beat to its catchy lyrics  Westend’s “Get This” was so enthralling and I was completely drawn into it.

For one reason or another, it wasn’t until months later that I really began looking into who Westend was. It was a day no different than today and I came across a track titled “Missing You” by Riffa. The track was an absolute banger and a part of a much larger collection, or compilation, of tracks cleverly named “Westend Selections” (Listen to the compilation below).

 

And there I was realizing that not only does this guy have a distinct groovy sound design, but he’s got a killer taste in music too. It’s a skill to be able to produce such unique music and also have the time to find music that can rival that. In that moment I knew I had to keep an eye on Westend and all the projects he was a part of. Since then, he’s gone on to release a number of EP’s and even played at NV’D Records famed ShipFam Island.

It’s a pleasure to be able to present to all of you the next artist in my featured artist series: Westend.

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Overall, what does music mean to you? In other words, what does purpose does it serve for you and everyone else?

Music is essential for living a satisfying sensory life. Just like sharing meals with family, having discussions with friends, being able to kiss a loved one, music allows all of us to connect and share similar feelings with other humans. We interact with the world through our 5 senses and music is key to that interaction.

Let’s back track a bit. Where are you from anyway ? What were you doing prior to music? 

I’m from New York City. I graduated from Duke University in 2016 and was working as a Platform Analyst at a tech company until very recently!

So, how long have you been DJ/Mixing and/or Producing?

7 years for both.

How did you find yourself on the path of DJ/Mixing? 

As a kid, I never went out of my way to discover new music. Just listened to the CDs I was given or my family had. In high school, my friends introduced me to electronic music. Justices’s album “Cross” blew my mind and ignited a burning desire to create electronic music from scratch. Been hooked ever since!

DJ’ing was always part of the equation as I was DJ’ing parties in high school and college. It’s the best way to look for new music and build personal connections to tracks.

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How’d you form your moniker? 

Grew up on a street in New York called “Westend Ave”. Always like the way it sounded and looked. I used to be part of a duo called C&T and when that ended I needed to get a new moniker quickly so I became “Westend”!

What is one memory that sticks out to you on this journey? 

Playing a three-hour set at Output in Brooklyn. That’s the club that got me hooked on more underground house music and I have been there countless times. Being able to have my parents out and all my friends for that set made it truly special.

What was it like playing ShipFam Island?

ShipFam Island was so magical. Kory and the NVD records team have built a truly special community and party. The best thing about it was the complete breaking down of any Artist vs Fan dichotomy. Everyone is hanging out with everyone and just having fun and enjoying the music. Complete escape from the stresses of real life!

S/O to the south side crew Go Freek, Ardalan, Walker & Royce, VNSSA, and Doorly for all the good laughs and memories.

 

This is question that I always like to ask anyone who does an interview with me. Do you feel like nowadays you can’t experience the music the same as you did when you were just a listener? 

This is a great question and phenomenon that I have thought about for a while. When you produce/DJ for long enough, you are able to breakdown a track to its core. Similar to how a chef can dissect all the elements and tastes of a dish.

It’s an experience I can turn on or off. When I want to just take away an emotion or get carried away by a track I can. If I want to see all the sounds of a song separated and in a grid I also can. I have developed a sort of synesthesia.   

What is your Favorite Artist or Favorite Track at the moment?

Will Easton is a young artist from the UK that has his own sound and hasn’t put out a bad track this year. They always go off in the club.

“Too Damn Low” by Simon Kidzoo is a track that I have been playing in all my sets. Lots of energy and great crowd reactions. Came out on Club Sweat recently!

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Alright so what’s the story behind that track that Justin Martin rinsed at AMF Festival?

Was going through IG stories and saw one of Justin Martin playing my track “Wiggle Party” at DB BBQ LA. It was the B-side to my Box Of Cats EP that came out over a year ago so I was wondering where he found it (turns out he just discovered it on Beatport).

Reached out to Justin on IG after I saw the video and sent him a bunch of my unreleased tracks. I think he played 4 in his set at AMF. Super surreal feeling as he’s in my top 5 favorite musicians.

Any other upcoming Artists and/or new Tracks we should know? 

Steady Rock, John Summit, Adrian Hex, RIFFA, Emuh, Vouti. All homies that make killer tracks.

Any mixes/tracks of yours we should check out? 

I just released my “You Know” EP on Country Club Disco that’s sitting at #3 on tech house releases. Trying to get this bad boy to #1!

Support Westend’s “You Know” EP by buying the EP here.

Do you have any cool shows or projects in the future?

I will be in Seattle/Portland this week and then Austin in Early November. Working on a lot of music in October and have a special festival announcement coming soon!

I’d like to thank Westend for taking the time to do this interview with me as well as all you readers!

Stay connected with Westend.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Soundcloud

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Aries – The Horoscope 004: Gem City [Editor’s Edition]

Is it me or is this year just flying by? It’s already Monday again and Dirtybird Campout is less than two weeks away. Two episodes ago for our weekly mix series, The Horoscope, we brought you a set that was solely mixed by myself (ReciKnows). This week for our fourth episode, we are bringing you a set that is mixed only by Gem City.

He’s the interim editor of my website (when it’s convenient for him ha) and the other half of Aries: Corey Reith.

Corey Reith is more than just a friend to me, he’s become like a brother. I have so much respect for this guy and he’s the one who took me under his wing to learn how to mix. Without him this Aries duo project may not have ever seen the light of day.

Check out his mix below.

 

Find out more about Corey in an interview with the man himself here.

Both Corey and I are gearing up to play some day parties / renegades for this year’s DBC West Coast so stay tuned.

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Stay connected with Aries for our upcoming weekly mixes.

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Pictures are courtesy of Drew Pador aka OpenFire Photography.

Featured Artist: Gem City [Editor’s Edition]

Good morning! I just want to thank everyone again for taking the time to peruse my content. I for sure couldn’t do this without you!

Meet the interim editor of my website and the other half of Aries, Gem City otherwise known as Corey Reith to his friends and family.

Corey Reith is more than just a friend to me, he’s become like a brother. Love this dude and he’s the one who took me under his wing to learn how to mix. Without him, this Aries DO project may not have ever seen the light of day.

 

We first met at West Coast DirtyBird Campout 2017 as well as Holy Ship 11.0 ..unknowingly aware of the fact of who we were and not knowing that sooner or later we would be the best of friends and hanging out every weekend haha.

Moving forward with my platform, Corey is now my interim editor due to the fact that I can’t always catch my own mistakes. Thanks Corey!!

 

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Can you tell us what music means to you?

Music becomes an escape from reality for me, whether I’m in my room with my headphones in, riding my bike around the city or at a music show with my friends. The second the beat starts and the bass hits reality, disappears, it doesn’t exist to me anymore. Escaping reality makes me happy, it gives me the strength to achieve what i cant achieve when reality is in place. Therefore music makes me happy, it makes me who I am. Personally music has dragged me all over the country, its showed me the beautiful places this world we live in has to offer. Its also showed me another side of me I didn’t know existed, in good and bad ways. Overall music has brought me to meet my best and closest friends to date, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for music.

So what’s your story? What do you do? Where are you from?

My name is Corey Reith, I’m a wide / small format print press operator. Im from Kettering, Ohio, just outside of Dayton, north of Cincinnati. 

 

How’d you decide on DJ and/or Producing? Why?

During my musical journey of traveling the US going to festivals and attending weekend shows, I personally wanted to start playing music for myself and my friends. I wanted to take the music I enjoyed listening too and piece it together in my own way. I wanted to take what was making me so happy and express it to my close friends and the people around me, hoping it would influence them the same way music influenced me. 

How did you end up coming up with your DJ name?

So when my friends asked me.. yo whats your DJ name… I thought long and hard. I wanted to have a name that reflected back on where I came from. Gem City. If you type in Gem City in google… first thing that pops up… Dayton, Ohio. 

What do you think is the hardest thing about being in the music scene?

I’d say the most difficult thing is getting KNOWN. I wanna be known, I wanna be that guy that people enjoy seeing.. I wanna be the guy that opens for the headliner and people come early just to see me. Not because they wanna support me, but because they like hearing what kinda songs ill play for them and what mashups ill come up with while I’m playing. 

As you have transitioned into being more of an artist do you feel that you don’t hear music in the same way?

Not at all, I’m just as into it as I was back when I went to my first show. I would always get over excited and get really bad anxiety. That still happens today sometimes, not as much and as often. Ill always be a listener… but one day I want to be a leader. Till then I will follow the right path.

Favorite Artist or Favorite Track right now?

Damn,,, I knew this one was coming… Ugh lemme think here… I wanna say my favorite artist is Maceo Plex…. I can say so much about him but ill make it short and sweet… The dude is a freaking masterpiece. His tracks are so weird and complex. His live sets are another journey and I simply cant even put that in words, thats something you just need to experience. As for my current Favorite Track… well ill just go with favorite Album… Is Enrico Sangiuliano’s Symbiosis. The whole album is just impressive honestly. Go check it out for yourself.

What are some artists or tracks you want to share with folks?

My homie Jacob Massey ( Mass Appeal) from Indianapolis. From when I first met him in Detroit at movement on a boat party with worthy, the dude HAS BLOWN UPPP. It seems like as if he strapped himself to a firework and just exploded all over the US. He has opened for so many big name artists, played some sick parties and even was on the Shipfam Island lineup. Im honestly surprised he isn’t signed by someone yet. When he comes to SF he’s not one to miss out on. 

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Any mixes/tracks of your we should check out? 

 

Funny story I made this mix around 9 am in the morning after a long fun night with my man himself ^^^ Christian. I was extremely happy and proud how it turned out. If you ever get the chance to see me spin…. that mix will 100% give you an idea of what you will experience. 

Also be sure to check out Corey’s latest mix for our mix series titled “The Horoscope” created by our project Aries. The mix series is dedicated to highlighting bangers that you’d otherwise never come across and of course tracks we all enjoy!

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The Sound of Mew-sic [Box of Cats]

I’m so absolutely thrilled to be able to publish this behind the scenes interview with Box of Cats. This collective and label has been one of my favorites ever and I truly believe in their entire vision.

I first became acquainted with Box of Cats about a year ago via a certain Soundcloud repost by none other than Kyle Watson. That repost was Box of Cat’s 23rd release in one of their series they so cleverly named “Litterbox”. The release can be found here and it’s truly filled with gems.

At the time, I was feeling like I needed something different within the house & tech house scene and just happened to be on Soundcloud when Kyle reposted it and I became so enamored with all these new artists. I was elated and began texting some tracks to my friend’s to share and rejoice in my discovery.

Once I looked at their Soundcloud biography I quickly realized why I loved so much of the music: It was made up of some of my favorite genre-bending artists. Their bio reads “‘Box of Cats’ is the collective mind of Wongo, Jeff Doubleu, Jak Z, Kyle Watson, Tom EQ and Marc Spence“. What more could I have asked for in that moment? It was not only the music created by artists I already liked, but music that was created by artists that they liked.

I knew right then and there that this was a collective that I had to consistently keep my eyes on to discover new groundbreaking music. I try my best to stay up-to-date with Box of Cats and it has not disappointed me. They’ve exposed me to awesome artists such as Malive, Mancodex, Overthinking, Steve Darko, LOthief, MKJAY, Lucati.

Take a listen to their latest compilation series titled “Box of Trax Volume 1”.

 

I am very proud and happy to present to you a little bit of an in-depth look into the Box of Cats crew. I managed to get one of the cats, Tom EQ, to awake from his afternoon cat nap to chat with me.

Alright, so how on earth did Wongo, Jeff Doubleu, Jak Z, Kyle Watson, Marc Spence and yourself all come together to form Box of Cats?

We started from a mutual appreciation of each others music, releasing on the same labels, remixing each other’s tracks and dj’ing at the same parties. Most of us had releases on a label called Jack Union back in the day and we all kinda felt there was something missing from them, so we just all got together and figured we’d start a project to release vibes from ourselves and whoever we think is cool.  It’s like a social club.

What’s the story behind the name?

This was the hardest thing, we wanted something catchy and memorable, we all ended up on a conference call with the specific aim of getting some serious brainstorming done, but we ended up talking shit and telling jokes. Someone said “Box of Cats” and it was like a “yeah, that’s it!” kinda moment.

What sort of plans does Box of Cats have in store for the future that you can share with us?

Well you see we started off as a group of mates, with the aim of having a laugh, and we will continue to do so.  We want to be organic, with no pressure and just have fun working with some of our idols and give a stage to artists that are on the same wavelength. We do have our 50th release at the end of September that we are dropping for free as a thank you for all of the support we have received.

In your opinion, what is one of the most difficult aspects about being a collective/label? 

Being spread around the world can be an issue time zone wise, but the worst thing is managing the release schedule. Quality control is the highest thing on our list.  Every single one of us has to approve a track for it to make it onto the label, having heavy workloads can sometimes makes it slow to review a submission and respond.

As a cat, what’s your opinion on dogs?

We love all animals.

I have been playing out that new Folly EP non-stop. There’s so much depth to both tracks and the EP just blows me away. How do you manage to find these artists? 

The good thing about being a collective is that we have our own links.  Folly approached Wongo and he saw the talent, submitted the tracks to the rest of the group and we were all blown away.

Take a listen to the Folly EP below and make sure to support both him and Box of Cats by purchasing the track here.

 

Being a label, do you feel as though you can’t experience the music the same as you did when you were just a listener? 

Not at all, we love music, this is where are hearts are.  We would hate a day to go by were we don’t have something to listen to.  Yes, we do occasionally get some stinkers sent to us, but reviewing demos’s opens us up to new music we wouldn’t normally hear.

Any upcoming Artists and/or new Tracks we should be aware of?

There’s way too many to choose from, but Mancodex is totally killing it right now, he’s got a new EP we are trying to get our hands on at the moment ;).

Also, Botnek is throwing down some serious heat right now. In addition, we are also massive fans of GAWP (but he hasn’t done an EP for us yet!).

Favorite Artist or Favorite Track right now?

If there is anything we can all agree on, Kyle’s new album “Into the Morning”  out on This Ain’t Bristol is just a work of art.

 

Any mixes/tracks of yours we should check out? 

Check out our Soundcloud, we regularly post mixes and re-post stuff we are into.

How do cats feel about catnip?

Everything in moderation!

 

Last question, could you tell us why cats’ like boxes so much? 

This could get way too deep….

 

Looks like it’s time to let this cat get back to his cat nap!

Thank you again to Tom EQ and Wongo of Box of Tracks for connecting with me to write this piece. At some point in the future, I would love to bring some members from Box of Cats to San Francisco and organize a label takeover at a venue.

P.S. Do yourself a favor and cop one of these super awesome nifty Box of Cats shirts! Wongo is pictured on the left absolutely slaying on the decks.

 

Purchase your shirt here.

Stay Connected with Box of Cats.

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Soundcloud

Cheers everyone! I appreciate the feedback I’ve been getting from my friends, peer and people who have stumbled upon my project.

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The Dark Hour of Sunrise

Ever since I started listening to electronic dance music, specifically house music, I have had these delusions of grandeur that I would become a DJ and play sets all around the world whether it be a festival or a club set. But I mean, who hasn’t had these kinds of hopes and dreams? I would absolutely love to mix a live set for a bunch of people who legitimately wanted to see what I’d play.

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been honing in on my craft as DJ and I feel like I’m beginning to actually kind of sound good haha. I’ve realized though I don’t actually want to become a DJ and break out into the music industry. I want to curate experiences and create a vibe that all my friends and whomever else can enjoy.

Personally, I’ve always wanted to play a sunrise sermon set because of my love & respect for Gary Richards, aka Destructo. I respect and admire him so much because of what he does for this community. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with going against the grain let alone starting from the bottom to create something new. We saw him create Hard Summer and Holy Ship and now he’s onto his next project: Friendship. He’s the kind of person that people call a visionary. We could all learn a thing or two from him.

Beyond Gary though, there’s something so alluring about the sunrise itself. Perhaps it’s because it’s in my nature to be an insomniac and I’ve spent so many nights wide awake either listening to music or deep in my thoughts.

In some sense, I feel as though I was born to play at least a few sunrise sets.

Take a moment to enjoy a mini mix that I created. Hope you’re all doing well :).

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Aries – The Horoscope 003: Faren Strnad [Guest Mix]

Good afternoon everyone! I hope everyone had a great weekend. For the third episode of The Horoscope with Aries, we are truly fortunate enough to have NV’D Records Label Manager Faren Strnad throw down a special one of a kind mix.

Faren is set to embark on a number of shows soon and one of the stops later on includes Holy Ship’s 13.0 cruise! Ahead of these shows and her Holy Ship debut, Faren was kind enough to give me some of her time to chat with me and tell me more about herself.

This mix she has created highlights the kind of music that you can expect from one of her sets: I say one of her sets because she never plays the same set twice. One of the many reasons I respect Faren so much is because she hardly plays the music that’s on top right now. She finds some of the most underground music that you would never come across and produces an entire experience with it.

Enjoy!

 

Want to learn more about Faren Strnad? Check out her interview here!

Stay connected with Aries for our upcoming weekly mixes.

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Featured Artist: Faren Strnad

Y’know it’s funny I used to brush off the phrase “TGIF” because I thought it was a pretty lame thing to say as if it were something to scream to the heavens in celebration.  As a nanny and former restaurant manager there was no such thing as a 9-5 Monday-Friday work schedule. Now that I’ve been working in tech, however, I completely understand everyone’s joy in celebrating Friday’s haha. I mean, it’s the end of the work week and the beginning to the weekend’s festivities, TGIF everyone!

Today, I have the pleasure of presenting to you a dear friend of mine by the name of Faren Strnad. She’s the label manager for NVD Records Inc., which has been doing some crazy awesome things in the music scene lately. From Camp Shipfam to the insanity of Shipfam Island 2018, NVD Records has been changing the game in terms of music festivals and shows. They are truly carving out their own path in this industry.

Faren and I met through our mutual friend Jacob Massey during this past year’s East Coast Dirtybird Campout. What I enjoyed most about her was how humble and down to earth she was. Something to note is when she shared her mixes with me and tracks she liked I was completely blown away and found it incredibly difficult to ID any of the tracks she was playing. She’s someone to definitely look out for and for you #ShipFam folks, she’s been announced on Holy Ship 13.0! On top of everything else, she’s also a nurse! I honestly don’t know how she manages to do all that she does haha.

Alright, let’s boogie!

Faren, thank you so much for doing this interview with me and taking the time out of our busy life to talk with me. Let’s start with some of the basics. Where are you from? What were you doing prior to music?

The second biggest city in Michigan… Grand Rapids! Prior to music I was in school, haha. That being said I’ve been a nurse for 10 years. I currently still work full time as a nurse in the ICU. In addition I’ve taken on the role of Label Manager for NV’D Records. The combination has been challenging and certainly a lot of work but I find it keeps me grounded.

How’d you decide on DJ/Mixing and/or Producing? Why?

I’ve always found joy through the art of music. From the clarinet to piano to guitar. I hope to inspire and impact others in the same way I’ve been touched by the power of music.

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How long have you been DJ/Mixing and/or Producing?

I’ve been DJing for 2 years and have spent every one of those days in the craft.

Any particular reason why you used your real name as your artist name?

Faren Strnad is my given name, thank you mom! Faren means adventurer and Strnad is Czech. According to the worldwide web there is one or less than one Faren Strnad in the world!

What has been your most memorable experience so far?

My first show abroad in Croatia for the NV’D Records’ Shipfam Island!

Any clubs, venues, or festivals you have played that really stuck out to you thus far?

Again, I would have to say Shipfam Island. Truly one of the most powerful and inspirational festivals I’ve ever been to!

One of the most difficult aspects about being in this scene? 

People that try to take the joy out of what I love. From politics to jealousy and selfishness, it burdens my heart. I hope to always be a positive contribution and strive to be a respectable and honorable example.

What’s your favorite thing to eat while on the road?

Pizza!

You were announced on the Holy Ship 13.0 lineup, congrats! How do you feel about being on Ship?

I’ve never actually been on ‘Ship” because I’ve never had the resources to go. Playing Holy Ship is so very meaningful to me. I’ve been literally “adopted” by the Shipfam community and they have altered my life forever. The growth and encouragement they’ve selflessly given to me has beyond a doubt helped elevate me to where I am now. To live out the full circle of it all is breathtaking!  

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What’s it like go from avid audiophile / DJ to headlining events such as ShipFam Island?

I slap my knee (pinch myself) every day. When you fully dedicate your time and energy towards your passion it’s mind blowing what you can accomplish. In just a year or two I’ve managed to entirely transform my life, from dark and discouraging to meaningful and joyous! Through this transition I find my greatest joy to be the impact and inspiration I’ve been able to give back to others.

What’s it like being a part of the NVD team? How’d you meet Kory anyway?

NV’D Records has grown and inspired me in more meaningful ways than I can even fully convey. I resonate so deeply with the mission, vision, drive, creativity, community and support.

In short, I met Kory through my love and pursuit of music. I moved back to Grand Rapids and was commuting to Detroit nearly every weekend for music and shows. I met several friends, one of which invited me to Envy’d Lounge in Charlotte, NC. These events are private and composed of primarily ‘Shipfam’. I wasn’t shipfam but Billy Kenny, a friend of mine was playing so I was invited out. Due to circumstances out of his control Billy could not make it. He messaged Kory and said I was a sick DJ and that he should let me play his timeslot. Kory said yes. After the 12 hour drive I was beat. I took a “nap” for 4 hours and woke up at 4am. I headed back to the party and that was when I met Kory. He patted me on the shoulder, asked if I was ready to play and said that I was up next. I went on to play a 7 hour set, was adopted by the family and the rest is history.

Do you feel like nowadays you can’t experience the music the same as you did when you were just a listener?

It’s different and the same. I experience music through a different role/perspective but gain the same impact and inspiration.

Favorite Artist or Favorite Track right now? 

Track: Prok & Fitch – Pitch Roll

Artists: One of my top favorites is Matt Sassari, but also Prok & Fitch, Harvey Mckay, Pearson Sound, Skee Mask, Eats Everything, Steve Darko and Dense & Pika.

https://soundcloud.com/dancingastronaut/premiere-prok-fitch-pitch-roll-original-mix

Any other upcoming Artists and/or new Tracks we should know of?

Hot Pot! Our first Artist signed on NV’D Records. His release ‘I Smell Like Beef’ charted #1 in Tech House and #2 overall on Beatport. His production skills are wicked and he’s an incredible human. Much love and support!

Any mixes/tracks of yours we should check out?

I connect most to my Croatia set, a true reflection of my style and energy.

Do you have any cool shows or projects in the future that you can/want to share with us??

I’ve played so many show these last few months, I’m excited to finally have quality time to center around my music production for these next couple of months.

Upcoming Shows:

9/28 – Fresh Coast Campout (Branch, MI)

9/29 – Walker & Royce w/ Faren Strnad @ The Stache (Grand Rapids, MI)

11/3 – Lick w/ Faren Strnad @ Grasshopper Underground (Ferndale, MI)

11/17 – TBA (Detroit, MI)

12/7-9 – NV’D Records Microfest @ Envy’d Lounge (Charlotte, NC)

1/9-12 – Holy Ship 13.0!

Also, I’m branching out of the midwest…! I’ve several shows in the works across the country, hooray!

Anything more to add?

The greatest advice I have is to take chances and be genuine.

Stay Connected with Faren Strnad

Facebook  | Twitter |Instagram |Soundcloud |

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