Baltimore Bands featured on charity compilation, Friends With Benefits, by Taylor DeBoer

It was just a couple years ago that Sam Morgan was playing mainstream-sounding, alt-rock songs with his former band at pay-to-play venues like Bourbon Street and 8X10.

“I was tired of it. I knew there was an underground scene out there and I told my band mates I wanted to be part of it,” said Morgan, over a beer at Liam Flynn’s.

The result of that revelation is Vacant Windows, a synth-focused experimental pop band that has recently started playing shows in Station North at venues like Club K and The Crown. Morgan still noticed that the scene was fragmented, however.

Sam Morgan of Vacant Windows. Courtesy of vacantwindowsband.com

Sam Morgan of Vacant Windows. Courtesy of vacantwindowsband.com

“Bands seem to circulate within their own pockets. I wanted to avoid that when putting together this compilation,” said Morgan. “I wanted to reach out to bands I liked.”

The compilation is called Friends With Benefits and it’s an expansive collection of twenty-one songs by twenty-one different Baltimore bands.

Initially he reached out to some of the city’s heaviest hitters like Future Islands, Beach House, and Lower Dens, but you could hardly call the roster of 21 artists that landed on the Friends With Benefits album settling. It features some of the city’s most dynamic, up-and-coming acts like Sun Club, Us and Us Only, Raindeer and Dungeon Kids, just to name a few. And there are the local household’s like Weekends, Wing Dam and Wild Honey.

Pictured is ______ and Adam Lempel of Weekends. Courtesy of www.einsteinmusicjournal.co.nz

Brendan Sullivan and Adam Lempel of Weekends. Courtesy of www.einsteinmusicjournal.co.nz

Some of the acts on the album Morgan even discovered by searching on Bandcamp.com, a music sharing social media site.

“I would go on Bandcamp and type in ‘Baltimore,’” said Morgan.

That’s how Morgan found the post-punk project of local musician Phil Bolton called Surf Harp. There have been stellar music compilations recently, including City Paper’s Big Music Issue last July, but perhaps the most refreshing thing about Friends With Benefits is that 100% of the album’s sales will go to Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake.

Seeing the immediate effect it can have on disinvested families, Morgan decided Habitat for Humanity would be the perfect fit.

“I wanted the donations to go to a charity with a physical result. Something you could see first hand,” said Morgan. “Plus I’ve worked on Habitat houses and I know people that have lived in Habitat houses.”

Morgan applauds Mobtown Studios of Charles Village for donating mastering services. Mat Leffler-Schulman, who owns Mobtown Studios with his wife, tries to provide at least one donation-based service every year.

“I am huge advocate for giving back to the community,” said Leffler-Schulman. “Habitat for Humanity is wonderful non-profit I believe in and was honored to be a part of helping the organization out in any way I could.”

Mobtown Studios has ties to Friends With Benefits in other ways, as several of the bands on the compilation recorded at the studio including Dungeon Kids, Sun Club and Us and Us Only. Vacant Windows is performing at Mobtown for one of their Microshows on April 5th.

Nick Hughes, Kinsey Matthews and Sean Mercer of Us and Us Only. Courtesy of Joe Austin

Nick Hughes, Kinsey Matthews and Sean Mercer of Us and Us Only. Courtesy of Joe Austin

I had the chance to catch up with a few of the bands featured on the compilation including Charlie Hughes and Beauregard Cole from the synth pop band, Raindeer, who have an album out this spring.

“We got asked by Sam Morgan and we are mutual fans of each other’s music,” said Hughes. “The song we have on the compilation is exclusive for now, but it will be on our next album.”

The guys of Us and Us Only seem ecstatic to be amongst a roster of some of the best local bands. “I’d met Sam at a show at Windup months prior and once he contacted me about the compilation, as well as what it was benefiting, we were totally in,” said Kinsey Matthews.  “Not to mention, some of our favorite bands from Baltimore are all involved with the comp as well.”

“Part of our aim was to unite all of the talent for a singular goal, and in turn show how music can make a difference,” said Morgan.

I think it’s safe to say that the Baltimore talent pool is deep and Morgan chose some of the finest for Friends With Benefits. Come to The Windup Space this Saturday at 8PM to celebrate the release and enjoy some great live music, there will be plenty to go around.

The digital download of Friends With Benefits will be available for purchase starting April 5th.

*Author Taylor DeBoer grew up in the Baltimore area and studied Writing and Sociology at Loyola University Maryland. He is a local writer, music lover, and edits a website that he co-founded, Manikmusic.net.  Follow him on Twitter at TayDeBoer23.