Monday, December 20, 2010

Forever the Sickest Kids Interview with Jonathan Cook(Vocals) and Austin Bello (Guitar/Vocals)

The first time I saw these guys play was at the NACA talent showcase in St. Louis, when I was on the student activities board. I remember thinking they were awesome, but sadly no one in my group agreed with me. Three months later, I walked into my boss’ office with the new Alt Press issue with FTSK on the cover and plopped it down on her desk. Poor form.

Even though no one booked them at that convention, FTSK went on to take over the scene and have a great deal of mainstream success. I had a chance to speak with Jonathan and Austin before their show in Atlanta…
How has the tour been so far?
 Jonathan: The tour has been good so far. We have seen a lot of kids that we haven’t seen in a few years, because we are going to a lot of cities that we haven’t been to, or ones we haven’t been to in a long time. It is good to see fans bring out three or four friends that we’ve never met before.
Last time I saw you guys here, you put on a great energetic show. Who are some guys that you have looked up to in the past as far as live performance goes?
 Austin: Band wise? For me, I saw New Found Glory in 2000 on Warped Tour. They are always running around, always getting the crowd jumping and acting crazy.
 Jonathan: I hate to be cliché, but for me it would have to be Fall Out Boy. I remember the specific time when they played this venue in Dallas (Texas) called Trees, and there is a tree stump onstage. Joe Pearlman was kicking off of it and doing spins, incredible. Oh and Story of the Year.
Your EP “Friday” has been out for a little over a year now, are you planning to release “Saturday” soon?
 Austin: Check it out, this is what’s happening. We went in to record five songs with David Bendeth for “Saturday,” and while we were in there recording we relaxed that this was the best stuff that we had made yet and we didn’t want to just put this out on an EP. We took a little bit more time, and recorded five or six more, with different producers. We will probably release it early next year, at the end of February or the beginning of March. It will be a full-length, self-titled release.
 Jonathan: Self-Titled
What about the “Weekend Series” concept, are you going to continue with it?
 Austin: Still there. “Saturday” will be in a different format. Make acoustic, maybe techno…
 Jonathan: Could be Christmas, techno or covers. You never know.
Some bands are making the switch to only EP’s, to keep their material fresh and the listeners happy. Is that what you were shooting for with the “Weekend Series?”
 Jonathan: Our drummer actually had the idea to do an album in three parts, but it just kept getting extended. The album was going to be forty songs if we kept doing it, so we decided to put a halt to it. It takes so long to get everything approved with six band members and a major record label; it’s just easier to put it out in one big group for us. Rather than try to put out another EP and then wait a year and a half to wait for a third one to come out, we said “let’s try and write ten or twelve more songs and throw five more on an album and go.”
So is the full-length completed?
 Austin: It is as of a week ago, we finished the album right before we went on this tour.
 Jonathan: You are probably the first, or second interview that we have done where we have released that information.
What would you say this full-length is bringing to the table, that is different than the full-length and EP’s in the past?
 Austin: I would say that it is more like “Underdog, Alma-Mater,” with more of a “rock” edge. Some songs are a little harder, bigger guitars, a little bit meaner, more crowd involved if we are playing live. We still have a little bit of dance-feel to it though. We stayed ourselves.
 Jonathan: When we were picking a producer for the style that we wanted to go for, we picked a rock-and-roll producer. A guy that is known for his “wall of sound,” his guitars just scream on the albums he makes. David Bendeth is really known in this scene for doing Paramore’s “Riot!,” and he has even worked with Breaking Benjamin and a bunch of different rock bands. We think that this album is going to sonically, one of the best albums that we have put out.
You mentioned crowd involvement earlier, when describing the new songs. Do you guys have the live show in mind when writing new songs?
 Austin: It’s weird, we have always written to how we want to write. For example, what story is going on in our head, some of that is personal to us. The music is whatever what we listen to that is catchy and a lot of that is upbeat stuff that happens to translate live.
 Jonathan: When you are getting guitars that are harmonizing, it’s going to be catchy. When you have vocals that are harmonizing, it comes out in a really sing-along fashion.
When you guys were in the studio, or writing the record, were there any artists that you were listening to that may have influenced the record?
 Austin: For me personally, I try not to get a lot of music in my head, because it might just pop out. Especially when it comes to listening to vocals, or how to sing, you want it to be you. You want the emotion to be you.
 Jonathan: We put on blinders, if you will. We call them the studio blinders.
Being Christian guys, how did you decide that the “mainstream” music scene was a good fit?
 Austin: I think that we all believe in being ourselves. Even if someone else is not a Christian, we want them to be who they are. Even though we are Christians that are writing songs about breaking up with girls, or our struggles, it still means something that is real to us. We always try to portray love to our fans, its kind of our thing. We will wake up sometimes in the morning and do Bible studies, its just something that is in our hearts that the Lord has put us here for a reason.
 Jonathan: Another good thing is that if you pigeon hole yourself in a certain kind of music, you might lose a lot of interest from non-Christians. Like Austin said, the best thing to do is be true to ourselves, and that’s what we have done and I am really glad that people are noticing. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Relient K Interview with frontman Matt Thiessen

Photo by Laura Means!/album.php?aid=2060919&id=57701330
I remember the first time I picked up “Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek,” while in the music section of a nearby Wal-Mart. I was immediately drawn to the funny cover, featuring several awkward looking teens lined up for a mug shot. I quickly scanned the album and was hooked instantly. I must have played that album a thousand times my freshman year of high school, still never getting enough of the upbeat sounds and positive lyrics of the foursome. I later became an even bigger fan, tracking down and purchasing every release they put out. These purchases even included “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything,” which was a split single EP where Relient K covered a Veggie Tales song, and Veggie Tales covered “Breakdown” by Relient K. I never really grew out of Relient K, because as I grew, their music grew with me. With each release Matt Thiessen and the crew changed their style and lyrics, which allowed them to keep older fans, while still gaining new ones. I had a chance to meet up with my childhood hero, Matt Thiessen, on Relient K’s current tour “Twas the Tour Before Christmas” with Sherwood and Deas Vail.

A big thank you goes out to all the people who helped and supported me to get this done. Thank you to Amanda, Laura, Brandon, Dave and Jonathan! Couldn’t have done this without you!

How has the “Twas the Tour Before Christmas” been so far?

Thiessen: It’s been great! It is acoustic for the most part, with a little bit of electric guitar. It has just been really relaxing and fun. We’ve got the entire tour on one bus, just like a “Christmas camp.” Not a whole lot of pressure every day. You just go up, be yourself, and play a little show, and talk a little bit.
You know the bands on the tour pretty well, correct? When was the last time you toured with Sherwood?
Thiessen: Yeah, we toured with Sherwood like three and a half years ago, but we see them every time we pass through town. Like every time we go through Seattle, we will go and visit Dan. After you tour with a band, you tend to keep in touch with them.
Would you classify this show (“Twas the Tour Before Christmas”) as an actual “Christmas Show?” Are you only playing Christmas songs?
Thiessen: Yeah, we are playing a few Christmas songs. Just a splash of that because of the time of year, I guess and because of the fact that we have a lot of Christmas music that we have recorded. So yeah, it’s just fun to kind of go into that for a minute.
Any special Christmas plans for you personally?
Thiessen: I have a big family, I am one of five kids that my Mom and Dad had. My oldest brother lives in California, and has a couple of kids while the rest of my family lives in Ohio. So anytime that we can all get together is really cool, and that is what is happening this year. My brother is going to fly to Ohio and so it will be a ton of us hanging out. It will be good times.
Is there anything that you guys are working on right now? Are you working on a solo-project?
Thiessen: Well, I started working on a couple of solo songs here and there, but I am not really pursuing a record right now. I am sort of letting that happen naturally. I am thinking about starting to write the new Relient K record. I’ve got about two months to kind of think about what I want it to be, and then I pretty much need to start writing in January and February. Hopefully that happens, and it’s not a record and we get to record it. We will be touring this summer and next fall, and then it starts getting busy again. Just doing the cycle.
How is the writing process for you now, after years of doing it? Do you still crank the songs out?
Thiessen: You know honestly I don’t like to write songs that often, only when I feel like I need to and when I’ve got something that I really want to sing about. So this record will be interesting to just step back from everything and kind of see where I am in life and write about it, however it seems worthy. Or maybe I will write about completely different stuff, I have no idea at this point (laughs).
How would you say your faith impacts your music?
Thiessen: I fell like a lot of times, when I write a song, it is coming from an introspective perspective that my faith always kind of factors. Faith is either part of what factors in to my decision making, or it is part of what factors into my fears and my doubts. It is either the positive or the negative part of it that is afflicting me during times of conflict, which is normally when you write songs about yourself when you find some sort of conflict or you are seeking some sort of resolution. A lot of times, that is when that kind of stuff will pop up, but it is always different and about something specific, just a little part of the soul, not always necessarily the whole encompassing thing. I feel like it is easy to get people to see eye-to-eye with you on little things, but if I were to talk about my faith as a whole, people tend to turn off to that. They feel like you are trying to persuade people to think like you do, and that’s not really what I’m trying to do.
Something that I have always admired about Relient K’s music, is how much you grow and change from record to record. Is that something that you specifically aim for with each release, or does that just happen naturally?
Thiessen: Yeah, we wrote the first record, it wasn’t very great, but some kids related to it. So all of the sudden there was a “Relient K fan” out there, someone who just really got it. On the second record, we just tried to focus on making it more current, write better songs that are catchier, learn how to sing better, and at the same time try to write about stuff that is still relate able. We felt that those people that understood the first record will get this one and it has just been a process like that since. We will be like “hey, let’s get better at everything on this record!” For example, I get better at playing the guitar and piano, every time we do a record because we practice more and the years go by and it’s just what happens. It is just growing up, and it’s cool how over the years the fans grow up and we grow up, and it just kind of works together. It was definitely intentional, like let’s try to relate to each other.
Who are some people that you have looked up to live performance wise?
Theissen: If you go and watch a Coldplay show, Chris Martin used to be a little timid onstage, but now the success that the band has had really gives him a lot of confidence to really own it. Also, I really admire the way that Ben Gibbard sings live, he just stays on pitch. That is something that I try to do. I don’t have the greatest voice in the world, so I just try to think real hard while I’m singing and just do a good job. Lots of really good bands live bands out there to take notes from.
Anything from Matt and the Earthquakes coming out soon?
Thiessen: I don’t really know. I don’t know if I am going to keep “the Earthquakes” part of the band name or not, or do a solo record. I think that my goal is, right now, to talk with some people that I really respect, like my buddy Jon Foreman from Switchfoot. I will just hang out with some friends this year, and kind of see what they think I should do and take some advice. I am just in this weird spot where I don’t feel the need to do anything, but maybe I should. It would be cool.
What is the status of Relient K’s A&R involvement in Mono vs. Stereo?
Thiessen: The music industry is in pretty terrible shape right now, so as far as the record label is concerned, it is basically a business. You have to be this “bank”, in which you are are going to loan this band this money, hoping that they will earn enough fans to where they will actually contribute something back into it to where the record label can continue to afford doing that. It is just a tricky thing. Not signing a lot of bands is kind of our philosophy right now. We’ve got Deas Vail and we are signing a band by the name of Indian summer pretty soon. I’m not sure when their record is coming out, but it should be spring. We also are going to sign this guy named Denison Witmer, who is this little folk artist that we have been a huge fan of for years. We are really excited to put out his record, and see what he has coming up in the future. We just want to make sure that we are only putting out records that we really enjoy and really like.
Do you have any producing projects with other artists in the works?
Thiessen: Yeah, I have been doing a lot of that. Two days ago, we had a show in Nashville, and before the show I had my buddy Mark come over to my house and set up a microphone so that we could track some background vocals for an Owl City song that I had worked on with Adam. I think that there is a Katy Perry song coming out before the summer. I produced this band called Run Kid Run and their latest release. A lot of little things like that going on.
Do you see producing as a future career?
Theissen: Yeah, It is just whatever happens. If there is a cool band that I like, and I have time to do the record, I am like “this is awesome!” It is whatever time allows.
You mentioned Katy Perry, how do you feel about her being nominated for four Grammys?
Thiessen: I guess that’s cool. I don’t understand why America embraces Lady GaGa and Katy Perry and all of the “pop stuff” as much as they do. The Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber are also included, and I don’t really get any of that. Maybe that means that I am old (laughs). That stuff seems like it isn’t that “authentic.” Katy has a cool writing style though, and her lyrics can be poignant and mean stuff from time to time. I really appreciate that about her. Congrats to all of those people who are doing well, but I listen to different stuff (laughs). I would definitely nominate some different people for Grammy’s right now.
Who are you listening to right now?
Thiessen: Have you ever heard that band Steel Train? Their new record, I love that.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

We Are Scientists Interview with Chris Cain (bassist)

Photo by Laura Means

For other photos for interview, check out!/album.php?aid=2060052&id=57701330
When I was a freshman in College, I would get ready for class each morning while watching the latest music videos on MTVU. I remember seeing We Are Scientists music video for "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt," and being so impressed with their sound and unique visual style. My interest in the music video, teamed with the release of their major label debut, With Love and Squalor, catapulted me into a genre that I was previously not familiar with. With each release, WAS have gained more and more recognition and popularity. They even had a short television series on MTV UK, Steve Wants His Money. I had a chance to speak with WE Are Scientists bassist briefly about their latest release, Barbara, and upcoming plans on their recent U.S. tour...

How has the tour been so far?
Cain: It has been pretty good. We have been talking to (concert) promoters and apparently this fall is the worst fall in a long, long time for live business in the states. Which is obviously related to the general downturn in the economy. So the shows have been really smaller, but they have ended up being really fun. We have even been going down of the floor a lot, when there is a really small amount of people, and play on the floor. Even when there are too many people to do that, it still ends up feeling more like a house party, than a club show.
Are you guys heading to the U.K. soon?
Cain: We will be there November 15th- 30th, and the last time we played there was in the end of August. We all played there off, and on throughout the entire summer.
How are the shows there, completely different?
Cain: It’s quite different, they are bigger there. Beyond that there isn’t a huge difference, I feel like the fans that we have here are passionate, interested and tend to come to repeated shows. They seem to be very dedicated.
With your latest release, Barbara, I heard that you approached the writing and recording with your live performance in mind?
Cain: That’s true. I think that the most significant, guiding principle was that we wanted to return to a three-piece live form, whereas we became a four-piece for the last record because the songs had more extensive arrangements and we needed a keyboard player to pull off a lot of those songs. We missed the energy, and more push-and-pull of the three-piece. I think the more people you add on stage, the more locked it things become. Whereas fewer members on stage gets the audience to notice any small idiosyncrasy or unique moment that one of the three people onstage is having. It also means that mistakes are accentuated, but to good affect generally if you are that type of band. We are a band who dresses up our mistakes, as to make the most of them. More slimmed Down arrangements (on the record), and in keeping with that spirit we wanted the songs to be more concise and “poppy.”
Was it difficult going back to that three-piece approach?
Cain: No, it was kind of exciting. It was cool to loosen up that way again.
I saw a great video that you and Kurt made concerning the use of twitter, and I was wondering what your take is on social networking as an artists?
Cain: It’s cool, I like it and I definitely enjoy interacting with our fans in that way. So, if nothing else I think that it has made being in a band more fun. It is great to have direct, unfiltered, interaction with your fans on Twitter and FaceBook, or whatever. I am not totally convinced that it has revolutionized the sales model. Its not completely apparent to me that it is easier to sell music. Obviously, there is a possibility of smaller bands, having their music listened to, but I am not sure to what degree it actually happens. Just because it can happen, doesn’t mean it does. Yes, anyone can log onto your “anonymous” band’s MySpace page and hear the music. So, in theory you have gotten your music in front of 5 billion people. The other thing is that something has to cause them to go to those bands MySpace page, and it’s that reliance on taste makers or radio, that is still very much a part of how music is sold and marketed. Conservatively, I am saying that social networking has made being in a band more fun, but not necessarily changed how the business works.
We Are Scientists’ music videos have always had such unique style, what would you say are some of the inspirations behind them?
Cain: Well, different videos of our have had different inspirations. The first one we made, “Nobody Move,” specifically referenced the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Which I think we did to “mixed” success. There was the “Chick Lit” video, which is the one where we are herding Pomeranians; we wanted it to look like a “City Slickers” sort of thing. The “I Don’t Bite” video, which is our most recent one, is the first video where we did not concept it. The guy who directed it came up with the concept, and he has been our photographer for years since our first record, and he has also become a good friend. We needed to get this video done, and we were going to be in L.A. where he lives, and we ended up asking him if he wanted to direct something. He responded with a paragraph of vaguely, suggestive adjectives and nouns. I remember some of the touchstones being David Lynch, Fred Easton Ellis, Tom Wolfe and he didn’t really explain what the plan was. The only thing he told us to bring was a white suit, for me to wear. So we got there, shot the video and it is pretty insane. It is very much a product of his demented imagination.
Being that both you and Keith came up with the previous concepts for you music videos, what made you decide to hand off that responsibility?
Chirs: I think it was just the “run and gun” nature of that video, and the last minute nature of it. I literally e-mailed him “hey, do you want to director a video for us when we are in town?” To which he wrote back the idea and said “yeah, I’m seeing this, this and this.” The I read it to Keith and we wrote back “sure, let’s do it!” It was just kind of how it happened. Serendipity (laughs).
Now for this album specifically, I read that Keith actually wrote most of the album while in Athens, Georgia and Miami, Florida. Does he write the majority of your songs typically?
Cain: He’s definitely the primary songwriter, and he writes all the lyrics. Typically, the way that we have worked in the past is that Keith will kind of lock himself away and start generating song ideas and make really crappy recordings with just a verse and a chorus, where he just mumbles lyrics. Lyrics are the last thing to happen, they usually happen in the studio. Then he will just e-mail me these ideas, and I will give him feedback. After we get enough that we feel like should become full-blown songs, we get in a room with whoever’s drumming with us at the time and start to work out full arrangements. After we’ve got what we think is the correct version of the song, we do a really crappy recording of that and send those to our producer Ariel Rechtshaid (who has produced all three of our records). On the last record, he came back with some really wild ideas, and cool prompts and things. On this record, because of the nature of these songs, there wasn’t much to be added. There was more of him just making it sound awesome, which he definitely did. But since the songs are more stripped down, and bare bones I think there was less room for producer flourish. That is the “We Are Scientists” writing process.
In 2009 you came out with a mini-series on MTV in the U.K. called “Steve Wants His Money.” Any future plans with continuing that series?
Cain: I think we will. We are talking to MTV in the U.K. along with a couple of other networks. Right now we really don’t have any time to do anything right now, so the future plans have been with next spring in mind as a time to shoot something. Yeah, we have some ideas and we are trying to get someone interested. “Steve Wants His Money” was made for an insanely small amount of money, and we would like to work with little more of a budget this time. Nothing insane, but just so we can shoot in more than four locations. A lot of the scenes were shot with one camera, which means that when we are talking back and forth, we have to re-do the scenes several times from different angles, which is incredibly annoying as an actor(laughs). Luckily we are good enough that it was absolutely fluid (laughs). It was just extra work.
Just from interviews I have seen and videos you have made, I have noticed that both you and Keith have great comedic timing and insight. Have you ever thought of combining the two, comedy and music?
Cain: Well, I think that we have gotten as close as we can, without making humor songs like Weird Al Yankovic or Lonely Island songs. That has always been unattractive to us. I don’t think humor songs are very funny and I neither Keith nor I would be inspired to take the time to make a good humor album, whereas writing the real songs is sort of impulsive in the way that you would want any kind of art, whether it is funny or not funny to be. You love doing it, and that’s why you are doing it. Not because you know that you can, and that is the same with the funny stuff we do, do. We do it because we come up with the idea, and it seems so hilarious, that we have to do that. Humor songs don’t seem that way to us. It is more like, “I guess we could do that?” Nah.
Perfect day, windows down, driving, what are you listening to?
Cain: That is a good question. What would I listen to? Maybe the Whigs? Yeah, Athens own and one of America’s finest bands for sure. I think I would put on “In the Dark” by the Whigs.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Carter Hulsey Interview

Photo by Laura Means
Have you ever been listening to an album, and when it gets to the end you are completely committed to listening to it again? Right now, that album for me is “A Note In Your Pocket," by Carter Hulsey. The singer/songwriter hailing from Joplin Missouri, has found the perfect way to create classic country/folk music with a modern twist. Much like Hulsey’s close friend, Christofer Drew of Never Shout Never, Hulsey has a knack for mixing the old with the new.

While on tour with Never Shout Never, The Maine and I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business, I had a chance to speak with Hulsey about the album and future plans.

You seem to know everyone on this tour pretty well, how far do you date back with some of these guys (Christofer Drew, Caleb Denison, etc.)?
Hulsey: Caleb moved to Joplin from somewhere in Oklahoma back when I was sixteen, so we have known each other for six years. Chris and I have been playing in bands since we were kids, so I have known him for a while. We have even lived in the same house for almost three years now. I have just met The Maine, Ace Enders and Jose Lopez from I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business, but it has been “instant family.” Never Shout is the headliner and we are all just Midwest boys, and there is a big family vibe on this tour that is hard to escape. We are all really close for sure.
With your debut LP, “A Note In Your Pocket,” how did you approach the writing process?
Hulsey: This writing process was different, in which I wrote a lot of it during the winter of last year. Chris and I had been living in an apartment at the time and he was writing a record he just put out called “Harmony,” while I was writing “A Note In Your Pocket.” I read a whole lot during that time, a lot of classic literature and listened to a lot of music. We both have record players, so we were always playing vinyl for each other. We would come up with song ideas, and it is really neat hearing the songs ideas that he had have a thousand kids signing along to, but I heard it at three o’clock in the morning when he came into my room, woke me up and said “listen, what do you think?” I would say “that’s great! What if you did this?” The same went with my stuff. He would say “this chorus is great, what if you add this right here? Or brought it back right here?” I wrote the whole record with Chris right there, and we would just bounce ideas back for his record, and my record. A lot of reading and listening to a lot of music.
Now the actual recording process was fairly short correct?
Hulsey: Yeah, we got there and though it was going to be a lot different. We thought that we were going to have a producer, but stuff didn’t work out. So we go there and we recorded all of the music in three days, and then we did all of the vocals in a day and a half. We played a great deal of it live, and then we would go back and re-track things that bled over. It was a very live record, because we were on a very tight time frame. We also thought that we were going to have some more days, and Tom, Toff and Caleb didn’t know all of the songs. Basically it was like “here is the song, now let’s record it.”(laughs) I played it once and then we recorded it. This next record, we are going to record in a couple of months, and we are going to spend a lot of time doing it.
I heard that “Don’t Waste Time” was a song written by Caleb. How did that become yours, and not a Denison song? (The Denison is Caleb Denison’s side-project)
Hulsey: Caleb is such a phenomenal song writer. He’s got a catalog of songs, that hopefully everyone will hear someday, but he was just like “this song just fits really well, let’s do it.” There might be another Caleb song on the next record too. He is so gifted, and it was an honor for me to put that song on my record for sure.
Had did “Black and Blue” come together? How did Sophia Smith come into the picture?
Hulsey: I played with her at a place in Arlington, Texas. When I heard her sing, I was immediately blown away. They did a Gregory and the Hawk cover, and just loved it. I heard that, and asked her to sing with me. I wrote the song, showed it to her via the internet, she recorded the tracks, e-mailed them to me, we plugged them in and put them on the record. I wish that we could have flown her in, but doing it all in three days didn’t leave much time for anything. She is phenomenal though.
You keep saying that you had three days in the studio, was that planned?
Hulsey: No, we thought that we were going to have a little more than a week to sit there and work through all of the songs. You know, I had a bunch of songs that never made it on the record.
Will the songs surface on the next album?
Hulsey: No. My thing with songwriting is that I just wanted to capture a certain time period. There were probably ten or fifteen songs that we didn’t even go through, because of the time constraints. They could have been alright, but they’re not, nobody will ever hear them, but that’s the way it goes I guess.
So you are going to start recording for the next record in a couple of months, are you writing for that right now?
Hulsey: Yeah, I have been writing on this tour, even though it is really hard to do. We are going to go into the studio to record a bunch of demos in December, then we will go on tour for all of January and February, then we will record it in March and it will be out in April. We will put it out really quick.
Who is that going to be released with?
Hulsey: We are going to release it ourselves independently.
Anyone that you are listening to right now, that you can see coming through in the music you are writing?
Hulsey: I did a tour with a guy named Corey Branan, and he is one of the most phenomenal artists that I have had the privilege of touring with. He turned me on to John Prine, and I have been listening to John Prine non-stop. I will always listen to Randy Newman, forever. On the whole van ride up here, we have been jamming Ray Charles. Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams and just classics. I feel bad, I don’t know much new music because I grew up on my dad’s records and they have always stuck. Anything old. I listen to a lot of Willy Nelson, The Highway Men, Johnny Cash, all of it.
What is next for you after the tour?
Hulsey: After the tour I am going to drive home, play a wedding, and then go into my house and not come out of my house for a solid month. I am going to write, record, and sleep.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Satellite Interview with Steven McMorran (vocals/bass)

While many guys hide behind the fallacy that they only watch One Tree Hill for it's amazing taste in music, I do not. The music that is chosen for each episode does in fact enhance the emotions tied to each individual scene, but stands alone just as well. During this current season, I was introduced to a song called "Ring the Bells," by a fairly new group by the name of Satellite. I was immediately drawn to the vocalist's honest lyrics and soulful sound. Steven McMorran (vocalist) began writing "Satellite" songs a couple of years ago, without the intent of others hearing them. Steven then joined up with Mitch Allan,writer/producer and former lead vocalist/guitarist of SR-71, Josh Dunahoo (guitarist) and  Justin Glasco (drums) to create Satellite. Check out their debut EP, Ring The Bells EP and visit their site

This project seems to be fairly new, can you briefly describe the story behind how it began? With you and Mitch Allan correct?

I wrote Ring The Bells in late '08. Say The Words was next. I honestly expected no one wanted to hear them. Something about them felt relieving but a little too honest. Whatever it was, I didn't want them lumped in with other songs I'd written. At songwriter's night that Mitch was hosting at a bar in LA, I played one of the songs, and at the end of it there was just silence and a lot of shocked expressions. People were moved, and I was surprised in a way. I did it again the next week and then Mitch (a long time friend and cowriter) asked if I wanted to start a band. The goal was to just see what happens. We asked Josh into it, and He and Mitch started taking it to another level musically. Glasco was the last piece of the puzzle and the glue that holds us together. Collectively, we feel like we've made a ship we'd be proud to go down with. That's a nice feeling. It's a nice thing to be able to say.
In July you released the "Ring the Bells Ep," were the songs on this album written specifically for the Ep? Had you been working on them, prior to the band?
Say The Words, Ring The Bells, and Saving Us Tonight, were all just songs I had written prior. Once the EP discussion started happening, we finished it out with the Silhouette, Turning On My Own and What You Need.
The song "Ring the Bells" seems incredibly personal. Is there a story/specific inspiration behind it?
It's about my friend who was in the middle of a divorce. I just felt so bad for them. They did things the way they were told, and ten years later they were calling it quits. He was pretty confused and she was becoming venomous. It was strange because, the song came out in about 2 hours, which NEVER happens for me. I didn't really intend on writing about it. It just happened and I went with it.
Is there a full length in the works?
YES. It's gonna be wrapping up in July. It will have Oh Carry On on it, as well as 3-4 others we're excited about.
I absolutely love your music video for "Say the Words," how did that come together? Did you come up with the concept yourselves?
Walter May, the director, is a friend of Josh and mine. He heard the song and asked me to read a treatment he made. The focal point was chaos going on around the lead, but everyone is wearing the censors. I loved how it tied into the meaning of the song. There's a million ways we sabotage ourselves. Their names and identities are secondary to the fact that we allow ourselves to put up with them. That's the heart of it. The rest was just making sure that the theme was overtly reckless, rather then overtly sexual. I'm not too worried either way, but I get the impression a lot of people don't like the video. Like it's too confusing… but whatever, we tried. We still love it.
How does the writing process pan out for you guys?
Well so far it's been mostly me in my living room after midnight. That's changing though. As we were finishing up the EP, Josh and I wrote Turning On My Own. It just kind of turned into that phrase and we loved the double meaning it had. What You Need was the three of us (pre-Glasco). We are starting to fall into certain roles as we progress and I think I'll always be in charge of melody and lyrics, and Mitch will always be the scientist making the pieces fit together. No matter how the songs arrive, we are all trying to form the sound; it's us as a band and we are trying to define it as Satellite.
Can you tell me a little bit about the recording process behind the Ring the Bells Ep?
I love that we had all the time we needed for development. Bands don't get enough of that anymore. We stole a few hours a day and got together at Mitch's place, and each time we got there with fresh ears, and no timer. I think we cut vocals on Say The Words at least 3 times before we felt like it was perfect. Today that's a luxury. The whole record went like that.
With such emotionally driven lyrics, do you find it difficult to perform them live sometimes?
It can be difficult, but mostly it feels very relieving. At first it feels like showing up to school without your pants on, but always gets better.
Who would you say are some of your biggest musical influences?
It's hard to say. I love Dylan's lyrics and grew up with the pop sensibilities of Paul Simon James Taylor, and Peter Gabriel. Radiohead, and Coldplay are somehow always on the recently played list, and leaving out Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine would be wrong. As a writer, I hope to be a Dylan or a Springsteen, but only in the sense that they were able to describe emotion so well. That's why songs can feel like friends; they describe what you're feeling, and that alone can remind you you're part of a bigger story.
What about influences as far as live performances, anyone you may have drawn from?
I think, as a band, we aim for the great bands we grew up buying tickets to see. Stuff like REM, the Cranberries, Radiohead, Coldplay, U2… to modern shows like that of Kings Of Leon and Muse. I'm becoming a big fan of Grizzly Bear and the way they interact with their songs. I can't say we are trying to be any of these bands, but I know I identify with the way every one of these lead singers means what they're saying. If that comes across, then the performance is doing it's job. All things have to serve the connection we feel towards the songs.
Perfect day, you are driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
Probably Ryan Adams' "Heartbreaker" album.
What is next for you guys? Touring?
We have a lot of plans, including SXSW in March. Touring is a big part of next year. In the mean time we are making the rest of the LP and trying to keep the momentum going with the tv/film placements.

Monday, November 29, 2010

He Is We Interview with Rachel Taylor and Trevor Kelly

He Is We originally started off as an acoustic project between vocalist Rachel Taylor and guitarist Trevor Kelly. Soon after, the two hit a basement studio and created some demo recordings just for fun, not knowing that they were on to something big. After gaining nationwide touring experience with big bands like Yellowcard and the Rocket Summer, they are set to release their anticipated debut LP. Recently I met with the two founding members of He Is We while they were opening for Bryce Avary, (The Rocket Summer), on his fall acoustic tour. Go pick up their new album, "My Forever," recently released on Universal Motown!

The “demo” songs that you have out right now have been out for about a year now, how did those come together? Was it an actual Ep?
Trevor: Yeah, that is actually a collection of stuff that Rachel and I wrote in a friends basement.
Rachel: We had absolutely no intention of it actually becoming an Ep at the time. To be honest with you, I had no idea what an “Ep” was when we were recording. I had never been in a studio, and didn’t really know anything. When I heard that all of it was going to compiled into an Ep, I had no idea what that meant! Now I do!
You guys have a full-length in the works correct?
Trevor: There is a full-length album, completely done and ready to be released. Dates coming soon!
How long ago did you guys finish up the record?
Trevor: It was finished about two months ago, the recording side of it. Now we are just going through the “red tape,” of signing who gets what. We have just been laying low for these past two months, and putting our full-band set list together. Unfortunately, we did not get to play the full-band set tonight.
Do you have a tour lined up soon after this (Rocket Summer Tour)?
Rachel: Yeah, it is all in the works. We are trying to perfect the whole full-band thing right now. Due to the fact that we are doing an acoustic tour, we haven’t gotten to practice as a full-band yet. I think that we are taking several weeks off…
Trevor: To re-vamp our set and hopefully go back out early next year.
How has this tour been so far?
Trevor: Three days in, sold out every night, you can’t complain! Oh and great food of course!
This project started out with just you two, but how did the other guys come into the picture?
Trevor: To make a long story short, I was in a metal band before I met Rachel. So basically the band was compiled of old metal band buddies and we met Harrision through one of our other buddies. Then, of course, Rachel just came along…
Rachel: We met at work.
Trevor: We like to say eHarmony, but it was actually work.
Rachel: I always tell people that we met there, and they are like “that is so cute!”
I love the Iyaz cover, how did that come about?
Trevor: The real story? Well, let’s just say we owed somebody some merch money and the company owns a little label in Seattle. They said “instead of paying us back for the merch, why don’t you just do a song for our compilation?” To be perfectly honest with you, we aren’t really satisfied with that song…
Rachel: It sounded like me singing Karaoke…
Trevor: We went into the studio and recorded some “scratch” guitar, and then a couple months later we were expecting a call to come back in to finish tracking the rest of the song. Instead of that, they just handed us the finished product. We were like, “you released that?” For some reason, all of the fans like. It.
Yeah, it’s the most popular song on that compilation on iTunes.
Trevor: Which is ridiculous! Ha. We weren’t satisfied with it, but what can you say? Our fans like it!
Rachel: We had fun! I love that song.
Trevor: I love that song too; we just felt that would could have done it more justice. Made it a little bit more acoustic, less karaoke, more us…
Did you guys do SXSW last year?
Trevor: Yeah, we played the PureVolume House with Nevershoutnever, Versaemerge…
I heard a funny story about you changing a tire and then boom! You are in your underwear. Can you elaborate on that?
Trevor: That was our first tour down to L.A. and back, and basically on our way back home we were really excited that we were going to drive through Oregon and get home early to surprise our girlfriends. But of course, the tire blows out on the side of the road. Needless to say, we are broke down, it’s hot and we are on the side of the road. So we all get out of the suburban in our “undies,” and start throwing rocks into a Burger King cup on the side of the road.
Rachel: They were all doing the hard work, and we were just sitting there.
Trevor: Yeah, Rachel and I are sitting there and throwing rocks in cups. I think I won, but it doesn’t have to go on the record.
Rachel: I don’t care.
Trevor: OK. I won then.
So how did the song with Aaron Gillespie (The Almost, formerly of Underoath), come about?
Rachel: Well, one of the producers that we worked with on our new record, Aaron Sprinkle, basically said that Aaron would love to do the song. We were speechless! It was the coolest thing that I have ever experienced. Word got around to him and it worked out.
So who all did you work with on the new album?
Trevor: We had Aaron Sprinkle, who has worked with Anberlin and the Almost, Dan Romer, who worked with Ingrid Michaelson…
Rachel: Completely different producers made it awesome. It wasn’t even about who they worked with, it was more about what type of genre they worked with.
Trevor: Kasey Bates who did Chiodos and MXPX…
Rachel: Yeah, more punk and scream type of stuff…
Trevor: Rach didn’t actually scream so don’t get too excited.
Rachel: No, but it was so cool to be able to work with producers that have worked with so many different genres of music. It wasn’t like “Holy crap, they have worked with so many different artists.” It was more like “They are going to bring so many awesome elements to this record.” We have some pretty interesting songs, that are different because we developed them with that producer and they still have the “He Is We” sound, just with a little edge on each one.

We Are The In Crowd Interview with Tay Jardine (vocals) and Jordan Eckes(vocals/guitar)

We Are the In Crowd seems to be on the fast track to pop-rock superstardom. Their new EP, Guaranteed To Disagree,” its filled with catchy hooks, strong riffs and dueling vocals that will make you want to roll the windows down! I got a chance to chat it up with Tay(Vocals) and Jordan(Guitar/Vocals), after they put on a high-energy opening set for Hey Monday, Cartel and the Ready set.

How did you guys approach the writing for your EP “Guaranteed To Disagree”? I heard that the EP came together pretty quick, is that correct?
Tay: Yeah, it was all last minute. There were two songs, “For the Win” and “Never Be What You Want,” that had already been written and released. Then we re-released them on the EP, with a few different things, like Will Pugh from Cartel sang on “Never Be What You Want.” The other songs were very last minute. We all write as a whole and it is pretty much all five of us coming together, which takes a while but everyone is happy in the end.
Do you all write lyrics?
Tay: It’s mostly me, Mike and Rob. Cameron will have ideas every once and a while, along with Jordan. It really depends though. We will come up with a topic, where one of us will say “this is what I want to say, does anyone have suggestions of maybe how to say that?”
How did you get hooked up with Will Pugh for “Never Be What You Want”? Was it completely random?
Tay: It was. We wanted to make it different because the song was already released and Will lives right down the road from where we recorded.
Jordan: We wanted a guest vocalist and we worked with Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount, who did “Chroma” and their self-titled album (“Cartel”). They were like, let’s call Will up, because he’s home right now!” He came over and it was awesome! He nailed it and we are really happy with how it turned out.
Do you have a full-length in the works? Are you writing for it, or even recording yet?
Tay: We are currently writing. It has been a slow process, actually. We want the full-length to be…
Jordan: The best thing it can be. I don’t want it to be a “Guaranteed To Disagree, Part II.”
Tay: Yeah, I someone to pick it up and say “this one is awesome, and that one is awesome and I can’t pick a favorite!” I want to happen hopefully.
Do you get time to write on Warped Tour (2010)?
Jordan: We didn’t really have that much time to write.
You probably didn’t even have time for a shower.
Jordan: That is true (laughs). It was just non-stop. We always had an interview at this time, etc. The schedule was so hectic, but it was awesome. Being on Warped Tour was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to us, and it shows. We this short tour with this band named Amely, from Florida. We were going down to Naples to write and play, and during the shows kids were coming out and singing along. It was really beneficial.
Was the Warped Tour experience intense at first?
Tay: Yeah, absolutely. Coming into it, we knew that and there were still obstacles that we faced that had us saying, “dang! That is not what we were thinking was going to happen!” (laughs) It is definitely intense.
That is so crazy, because a little over a year ago you were doing the whole “D.I.Y” kind of thing. How do you guys find yourselves connecting to fans?
Jordan: Yeah, we were doing the whole “MySpace pushing,” which is pretty much dead right now. We are on our FaceBook game right now, which is pretty much all we do right now and we get on there and talk to fans. That is one of the main reasons that we are out here. We just want to meet fans, and become friends with these people so they can come out next time and hopefully bring their friends. It’s becoming less of a “professional” thing, and more like we have friends all over the place. We get to hang out with them, and it’s not like they come out just to see us, they come to hang out. It’s way more personal that other bands. We are just hanging out.
Tay: I always think it is funny when people ask that too, “are you going to meet us afterwards and hang out?” I am always like, where am I going to go? I am not trying to hide out in a closet right now, so of course!
You mentioned FaceBook and MySpace, how important is social networking to artists like you?
Tay: So important. Actually, our MySpace got hacked, and then posted an article about the hacking, and that is the only reason Hopeless (Records) found us. That is the only way (laughs).
Jordan: I still remembered the night Mike called me up and was like “dude, Hopeless Records want to do a conference call and talk to us.” That was all because of the hacking, and that was when MySpace was just about to go over…
Tay: Twitter is so important to us too, because of how literal and up-to-date it is. People know if I am peeing at the venue.
Or maybe things like “a turtle breathes through its butt?” (referencing their new music video for “Both Sides of the Story”)
Tay: (laughs) Yeah, I found that out on twitter.
Jordan: What is funny about that video is that all of those tweets were real tweets. We just checked hash tags like “#Ifoundout,” or “#ireallythink” It was really cool.
Do you come up with that concept yourselves?
Tay: It was a mix between our ideas, and the director’s.
Jordan: Yeah, and we were really happy with how it turned out. It has been done for a while, so it was weird being on Warped and knowing that it was done, but I’m glad that we waited to release it. It is definitely good promotion for us on this tour.
What kind of music have you guys been listening to recently?
Tay: We listen to a lot of pop-punk, like Jimmy Eat World and Reliant K, but at the same time we were listening to Bring Me to the Horizon on the way here (laughs).
Jordan: We just like listening to music. It doesn’t really matter what kind of genre it is, like we will listen to rap and hardcore music in the van. Anything that is good.
Do you find it important to listen to diverse selection of music?
Tay: Yeah, I think that if you listen to the same exact genre of music that you play, it is so easy to be influenced by it. There will be times where we are writing a song, and then realize that it songs like something we just heard on the radio.
Jordan: Yeah, we will write a riff sometimes and then realize that someone had already come up with it.
Tay: There was a while when we were writing, that I didn’t listen to music because I didn’t want to be influenced (laughs).
Windows down in your car on a perfect day, what are you listening to?
Tay: That is really funny you said that, because our whole Ep was based on that exact phrase. When people asked us what our goal was with the EP, we said that we wanted to introduce ourselves and two it is coming out in the summer so we want people to role their windows down and listen to it. That is very interesting that you said that. Personally, it depends. There is that Death Cab song “Passenger Seat,” where they literally say roll the windows down, and I remember listening to it one day and being like “I’m just going to try it.” I did it and it was amazing! (laughs) That is kind of embarrassing, but that is a good song to listen to with the windows down.
Jordan: For us, we live in New York so it is always kind of cold, so when summer time comes around I love to listen to New Found Glory. The self-titled album is perfect for when you are driving with the windows down. Literally every song on the album is perfect for that.
Tay: I remember when we were writing the album, we put New Found Glory on and said that we couldn’t wait for it to be summer. We couldn’t listen to it then, because it has to be summer to fully enjoy that band.
What’s next for you guys?
Tay: We have some offers for spring tour, but nothing is set in stone yet. We are definitely going to write through the winter and December. We are taking the holidays off to do that, and then we will see how the tours work out!
Are you shooting for this summer to release the album?
Tay: Yeah, we are either shooting for the same time the “Agree to Disagree” came out, or around September. When kids start going back to school, they talk about who they are listening to.
Jordan: The first two months of school kids are like “I just got this new record, and I have been listening to it every day on the way to school!” I remember when All Time Low came out with “So Wrong, its Right” in September and being like this is awesome. It will probably be before Warped, if we do it again.
Are you shooting for Warped again?
Tay: It all depends…
Jordan: It was such an amazing experience, because I remember going to Warped as a kid and wishing that I was onstage.
Tay: Being on the other side of that fence is insane. Sometimes you feel like you don’t deserve it.
Jordan: Yeah, why am I here? We have only been a band for a little less than two years. On Warped tour, I remember thinking that last year we were doing this (touring) in a van and we lost all of our merch in Chicago. All of these terrible things were happening, so it was definitely a blessing to be able to be on Warped. Even this tour, because we are all huge fans of these bands.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Our Lives In Motion Interview with Dave Beaudreau(vocals) and Tony Langone(guitar)

How did you guys come together in the fall of '09?
Tony: Dave and I have played in bands for years. In the Summer of 2009 I was working on a solo project and it slowly turned into Dave and I writing music. We started looking for people and slowly but surely the band started.
Dave: After being on a year long hiatus from playing in a band I was extremely excited to get the project off the ground. Tony and I had sat down for countless hours discussing what direction we wanted to move in, what we wanted to portray as a band, and goals for the coming months. Our most important discussion was about sticking to our guns and writing music that we loved and that was true to our hearts, we both agreed that the new members would also have to be on the same page.
How did the writing process come together for "Salvation In Secrets"?
Tony: It was really just started off with me writing songs at my house and sending them to the guys and them learning them and Dave putting vocals over them. It was really all the band knew at the time. We then sat down for about a month or so and starting producing the record before we went in to record it. I was really happy with the product we made.
Dave: The writing process on the record was somewhat trial and error. We were five guys from different backgrounds learning to work together. I really have to give Tony a lot of credit for pulling a system together that worked for all of us. This was my first time as lead vocalist in a band so I had a lot of learning to do. After putting in endless hours of hard work and late nights up I myself grew into my own and began writing melodies and lyrics that I am extremely proud of.
Was there anyone specific specific that you were listening during the writing/recording process that you could have credited as inspirations?
Tony: On Salvation there was all sorts of bands we can credit. Both Dave and I were for the first time listening to mostly the same records. We were listening to a lot of Lower Definition, The Receiving End Of Sirens, Anberlin, Ivoryline. Of course we were listening to many other band and different types of music found inspiration from all sorts of bands.
How did the recording process pan out for you guys?
Tony: It was very quick. We did 5 songs in 6 days. It was very fast pace and I ended up doing all the guitar and bass on the record. By day 4-5 I was getting a little burnt out but I loved every second of it and hearing our songs come to life is really like watching a baby grow. It's such a good feeling when the songs are finally done.
Dave: The recording process for me was awesome. As you can imagine, this being my first time as lead vocalist, there was a lot of anxiety and nerves walking into the studio. I had three songs completed in their entirety, but still had two to write; one of those being "The Getaway" which is the single off the record. I began tracking on the 4th day of recording and was pleasantly surprised and pleased with my performance and the overall outcome.
How was it working with Rob Freeman? How did you guys get hooked up with him?
Tony: Two Words. Amazing Producer. He finds what it is in your band that makes you, you and he brings that out 100% He is such a talented guy and I would go back with him to record another record. We got hooked up with him from our new drummer Jeff, who was friends with our old guitarist Justin. His old band recorded there and suggested it to us. It was a great call for sure.
Dave: Recording with Rob Freeman seemed like a huge step in the right direction for both me and the band. Rob is an amazing producer and really knows what he was doing. It was great working with a legitimate producer for my first time in the studio as lead vocals. I learned a lot and the day we left I walked out with a whole new outlook.
I heard you guys are already working on your next release? Ep? Lp?
Tony: Yes, we've been hard at work for the last three months and the record is coming out so sweet. We are all really pumped to finish our next release :)
Have you been approaching the writing differently for this next release?
Tony: It's not so much myself anymore, Its the band as a whole. It's been incredible being able to work with such a talented drummer Jeff and Dave has been incredible in the pre-production of this new record. I feel like this new record is us, 100% who we are and it's true and I can't wait for the world to hear this record.
Any bands/musicians that you are really into right now?
Tony: Acceptance, Circa Survive, Funeral For A Friend, and Explosions In The Sky
After the new record is done, are you guys planning on hitting the road hard? Any details yet?
Tony: Tour, Tour, Tour !!!No details yet but we should be booking some definite shows soon
How important would you say social networking is for you guys?
Tony: Huge, Huge, Huge, Huge, The Internet is so big these days. It's the ultimate way to get your band out there. You just need to find a way to get it all over the Internet.
Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
Tony: Right now, Acceptance!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Underoath Interview with Grant Brandell

The summer that I graduated high school, I found myself drawn to a certain album cover. "They're Only Chasing Safety," may have been the first album that I had purchased that included "scream" vocals, but it certainly was not the last. For over a year, that album was in heavy rotation in my car and on my very cool stainless steel Dell DJ, on top of being one of my favorite album to listen to with the windows down. It also acted as a gateway to appreciating other types of music, that I had previously not been exposed to. Over the past several years, Underoath has continued to release heavier music that breaks the barriers of hardcore by inventing brand new sounds outside of the normal spectrum of the genre.
With the release of their new record, "Disambiguation," quickly approaching (November 9th), I had the chance to speak briefly with bassist Grant Brandell concerning their fresh take on the writing/recording process and how they managed to generate a darker overall sound.

So how did you guys land on the name “Disambiguation” for your new album?
Grant: Well, the name (“Disambiguation”) came from the actual symbol that we have ( ᴓ). It has a bunch of definitions for, but that is one of them. Basically what we were trying to do originally was leave the album name just as the symbol, but obviously people need a name to call it by so we decided to go with that definition of the symbol. The symbol has so many different definitions, and so many different ways to define it. It kind of represents what we thought of our band in the regard that not one member makes up or group. People come and go, there are no original members now and the band seems to be it’s own thing. We thought that was pretty cool, so that is where it came from.
The album is coming out on Tooth & Nail and Roadrunner?
Grant: Yes, it is going to be released in the States and Canada on Tooth & Nail, and the rest of the world on Roadrunner.
How did you get hooked up with Roadrunner?
Grant: We met one of their agents over in Germany, when we were over there on tour. Tooth & Nail does a great job for us in the states, but there hasn’t been a big push for overseas growth. We wanted to try something new and we were in the works of renegotiating, so we brought the idea to them and it ended up working out well without hurt feelings. We are stoked to be on Roadrunner, because from what I have seen they always do a great job pushing a band.
How would you say the recording process for “Disambiguation” differed from previous releases?
Grant: Well we did this one with Matt Goldman, who did the last one too. This one was a lot more comfortable, at the same time extremely analytical. We pretty much analyzed every point, but in a good way. It would be stressful at times, but everyone was down with trying to go in the same direction, which we haven’t been before. With past members we caught a lot of bumps in the road with where the song should go, what should happen in the song and the overall vibe. I think this is the first time on a record that everyone was on the same page, to go wherever the song took them and not forced at all. It was defiantly stressful, but it was the most exciting vibe that we have had in the studio. It was great that we were able to create something new that was fresh and really stoked to be a part of.
Has having a new drummer brought change to the group?
Grant: It was kind of a big change; because our old drummer Aaron (Gillespie) did a lot of the singing too and now our signer Spencer does everything. So it was definitely a big change in that regard.
With Aaron’s departure, is anyone going to step up and do the clean vocals? Spencer maybe?
Grant: Yeah, he is going to be doing all of the vocals. I wouldn’t say that it was fifty-fifty, scream to clean vocals, but it is pretty close to that. He is doing a lot of singing, which is awesome. He has always been a good singer, but it just never came up because Aaron had such a great voice. He just kind of took the reigns this time and shocked everyone really. He did a great job.
How would you say the writing differed for this album, from than that of previous releases? Was it written before or after Aaron left?
Grant: There were a couple of ideas with Aaron, but it was actually very much like the theme/style like “Changing Future Dreams.” When we got Spencer in the band, we were like “We have a new singer, lets put the record out now. Let’s get it done because we haven’t put anything out in two years.” We had a writing schedule already booked for this album; we had studio time already booked. We wanted to release the record before it was too late. A lot of times with labels, if you try to release an album in mid-to-late November, it get pushed back to February. So we had all of this time booked and everything, and were on the last leg of a European tour that we were on, before we came home and started writing, Aaron ended up leaving. Literally, within a week from being back home, we called Daniel and he was down at the house. He just jumped in headfirst. He never played on a metronome, and he learned that. We wrote the whole record in a about a month and a half, and just crunched it out three to five times a week. It was definitely exciting and it felt the same way as when we were making “They’re Only Chasing Safety.” There was a new vibe there and a new direction to go. Looking back, it was kind of ridiculous that we were able to pull it off, and keep the same schedule that we had planned, which was already tight. As far as the writing process went, everyone was involved and even Daniel came with guitar riffs and such (he used to write guitar riffs for Norma Jean back in the day). In the studio, it wasn’t sold, until all six dudes were sold on it.
So when you guys approached a song for this album, you just brought in separate ideas and collaborated from there?
Grant: Yeah, pretty much. We are all on the same page, as far as everyone has an equal say. Obviously just because of musical purposes, Tim writes the most because he is the guitar player, whereas someone like Chris who plays the Keyboards, he has an equal say. If a part sucks, you have to tell the guy “the part sucks.” It is just cool to know that everyone is on the same page, and we have passed the “emotional/hurt feelings stage.” We realize that what we are trying to do is important, and that we are trying to make music with these other five guys, because you trust them and you care about their opinion. When they say something, you are going to listen and take it in.
In your past records, especially in your last release, “Lost in the Sound of Separation,” a great deal of the lyrics seemed to be faith-based. Is that trend going to continue in this album?
Grant: Yeah, we are still the same dudes. Spencer writes most of the lyrics, and he is the same guy. Kind of the same themes, like moving on with life, and different struggles. I think the big thing with us is that it is written more from a “Christian perspective,” not “Christian lyrics.” Things like dealing with situations, whatever they may be, and how God intertwines with that. How your views, beliefs, and feelings intertwine with those decisions. Spencer has been writing a majority of the lyrics since “Define the Great Line,” so I think that the style of the lyrics will keep the same path, but kind of a little darker this time. He is the kind of guy who has been through a lot of stuff, and struggles with a lot of stuff and at the same time has a lot of views and thoughts about being in the world. So that is all kind of mixed in there.
You had stated that Spencer’s lyrics were a little bit “darker” this time around. Do you think that extend into the actual music? Does the album have an overall “darker” vibe to it?
Grant: I think so, for sure. This album has some of the heaviest songs that we have ever written. I think that the “sing” melodies are a lot more minor and have a darker vibe to them. Even the stuff that could be considered the “prettier” stuff, still has that kind of dark/indie mood to it. There is very little on the record that sounds “poppy.”
What is next for you guys? Touring?
Grant: Yeah, we actually leave in November for a tour with A Day To Remember

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thousand Watt Stare Interview with Christian Martucci (lead vocals/guitar)

Thousand Watt stare is a band consisting of Christian Martucci on vocals and guitar (formerly of Black President, The Dee Dee Ramone Band and The Chelsea Smiles), Pat Kim on bass (Unwritten Law) and Dylan Howard (Unwritten Law) on drums. The band came together when Christian reached out to Pat about potentially working on some songs he wrote. Pat then brought in Dylan, and soon the guys were in their friends basement recording what turned out to be their debut Ep.  I had a chance to speak with Thousand Watt Stare's frontman, Christian Martucci...

For the writing of the album, did you guys come together and collectively create them? Or were the songs pre-TWS?
Christian: I've had the songs on the EP kicking around for a little while. They weren't really anything that would work with The Chelsea Smiles or Black President. I made some home demos of them with a drum machine and sent them to PK one day. Next thing you know, we're in a rehearsal room with Dylan. It happened so fast. I'm happy to be doing this with them and will definitely welcome their ideas with the new stuff.
I heard that all of the recording for the album took only one day? Was that just how it worked out?
Christian: Yeah pretty much... We just went in, set up our stuff, and it sounded perfect. We only spent about an hour getting the right sounds. We recorded each song twice, picked the best take and moved on. We could have taken as much time as we wanted in there but just didn't need to. The sound was just there and more important, the vibe... It's the fastest recording I've done in years and probably the best. We had a blast in there.
Hardline Records is putting the record out, how did you guys get hooked up with them?
Christian: Ken Seaton managed Black President and we always got along great through all the ups and downs of that band. He called me up and told me about a studio he was building in his garage and asked if we'd like to come down and record a few songs. When we were in the middle of the session he told us he wanted to put it out. Knowing how hard it is to find someone you can trust with your music, we immediately said yes. It made perfect sense. He manages us, records us, AND puts our records out. It's a no brainer. At the end of the day Ken is just a good dude and into it for all the right reasons.
What would you say this project brings to the table, that maybe other projects didn't?
Christian: I think this band is more diverse. My previous bands were definitely more genre specific. Thousand Watt Stare to me is a mixture of all the different styles of music I love. We just play whatever we want and there's no one there to stop us. It's the happiest I've ever been in a band.
Who are some guys that you have looked up to in the past as far as stage presence/live performance goes?
Christian: So many. It all depends on the mood I'm in. Glenn Danzig has always been a huge influence on me... Stiv Bators, Michael Monroe, Iggy, Alice Cooper, Muddy Waters, Hank Williams, The Ramones. I could go on for days. The old stuff is truly what speaks to me. If Hank Williams tells me he's having a bad day, I believe him.
After the album drops November 16th, what's next for you guys? More touring?
Christian: We are going to play as much as possible for now. Our next move will be to record a full length and hit it hard.
How important is social networking for you guys?
Christian: Probably not as much as it is for some bands. We're honestly just doing this because it feels right. It's not about how many people like us on Facebook or any of that stuff. For us the most important thing is making music together.
Riding in your car, windows down on a perfect day, what are you listening to?
Christian: Chuck Berry

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quick Question...

If you have ever read one of my interviews, you may have noticed a trends in some of the questions I ask. One of my favorites to ask is, "Perfect day and driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?" I would love to know what you would be listening to...

Please post answers in the comments below! Thanks!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Such Gold Interview with Nate Derby(Guitar) and Ben Kotin(Vocals)

You guys recently release your new Ep "Pedestals," can you briefly describe the writing and recording approach that you took for this record?
Derby: ‘Pedestals’ was our first real opportunity to sit down together with the purpose of writing an album, and our first time working with a producer. We wrote all of the music and most of the lyrics at home; our practice space at the time was Ben’s parent’s basement - unfortunately we are too broke to rent out a practice space elsewhere. The rest of the lyrics were finished up in the studio. Our producer Greg Altman hooked us up with some old colleagues - Nik Tyler and Josh Unruh - who put us up in the studio built in the basement of Nik's giant home inBaltimore, MD. We are very happy with the way the record turned out.
How would you say it most differed from your previous release "Stand Tall"? What did this album specifically bring to the table, that the previous record did not?
Derby: In comparison to ‘Stand Tall', 'Pedestals' is definitely of much higher production value, the songs are more emotional, personal and heartfelt, and the music is catchier and more in-your-face. It's definitely a more solid representation of us as a band, and the direction we intend to take with our music from this point forward.
I was specifically a big fan of "Sycamore," can you tell me the inspiration behind this song? How did it specifically come together?
Kotin: Sycamore is about my life before I was in this band. There was just a lot of pressure to go to school and take a path that I was not really interested in. After I joined Such Gold it just seemed to make sense that this is what I’ve always wanted to do and I’m so much happier as a result. “Sycamore” is also about the people who were a major part of my life then, i.e. parents, friends, girlfriend and how I’ve always trusted those people but they don’t always know whats right for my life. -Ben
How did you guys come about getting Kenneth Vasoli (Person L / the Starting Line) and Karl Buechner (Earth Crisis) involved with the record?
Kenny worked with our manager R.J. on a Person L release through R.J.'s label Academy Fight Song, and 'Pedestals' producer Greg Altman is an old friend of Kenny's as well…so the word about us was spread to Kenny through a couple sources. When we got word that Kenny was really into us we decided to ask him to sing on the record. As for Karl Buechner - our bass player Devon's brother Scott is a founding member of Earth Crisis so for him it was as easy as asking an old friend.
How did you guys decide to release the album digitally, before the physical release?
Derby: Well when a rough copy of the record was leaked a couple weeks before the official announcements were supposed to go out we really had no choice but to make the official release available to kids as a form of damage control. The digital release helped keep the spread of the rough leak relatively contained.
What specifically attracted you guys to 6131 Records/Mightier Than Sword Records? How did it come about?
Derby: MTS was the first record label that contacted us - when we put up our 3 song demo on Myspace in March 2009, MTS contacted us a week later expressing interest in putting out an EP, which became 'Stand Tall'. R.J. who runs the label is a close, personal friend and team member of ours, and is now our manager as well. As for 6131 - we also hooked up with them via Myspace…label owner Joey Cahill contacted us about doing another EP, which became 'Pedestals'. We definitely consider ourselves a hardcore band so we wanted to stick with a label closely involved with the genre and felt 6131 was a good fit. Joey has done a lot of good for this band and we are extremely happy with the choice we made in working with 6131 on the release of 'Pedestals'.
Were there any specific bands/artists that you guys were listening to specifically during the making of this record, that may have influenced the sound of the record/specific songs?
Derby: Definitely the newest Propagandhi record, Strike Anywhere, Third Eye Blind, Bigwig, The Progress, Boys Night Out.
Who are some of the bands biggest influences, both past and present?
Derby: Oh boy - tons of bands…The Movielife, Marathon, Lifetime, At The Drive In, NoFX, Propagandhi, Boys Night Out, A Wilhelm Scream, Hot Water Music, Fall Out Boy, Saves the Day, Kid Dynamite, Green Day, Snapcase, Northstar, This Is Hell, Taking Back Sunday, New Found Glory, Set Your Goals, The Progress, Shai Hulud, Gatsby's American Dream, Ambitions, Transit, Paint It Black, Polar Bear Club, Damiera, Fire When Ready, AFI, Crime In Stereo, Attack In Black…the list goes on.
What about bands/artists that you look up to as far as live performance goes?
Derby: For live performance, we look up to bands that have a lot of energy on stage. As well as a solid and tight stage sound and performance, and also meaningful commentary and interaction with the crowd.
How do you guys feel about file-sharing?
Derby: File-sharing is a double-edged sword. It has gotten us exposed to an extremely wide audience in a very short amount of time, but has done little to fix our financial woes. All-in-all what counts is that we get our music out to as many people as possible, regardless of how they acquire it.
How important is social networking to artists like you guys?
Derby: Unbelievably important. Social networking has completely changed the way we connect with our fanbase, and the bands, people and companies we associate with, as well as the way we do business. Twitter and Facebook are so essential for us to spread information to those that follow us, and to connect with people in a heartbeat. When you break down all the ways that we use social networking sites, it is insane how important they have become to us.
Perfect day, driving in the car with the windows down, what are you guys listening to?
Derby: Saves the Day - Through Being Cool, Hot Water Music - A Flight and A Crash, The Progress - Merit, New Found Glory - Sticks and Stones, The Anniversary - Designing a Nervous Breakdown, Product of Waste - You Won’t Take Me Alive, Dangers - Anger, Propagandhi - Supporting Caste
What do you guys have coming up next? Touring? Full-length in the works?
We're currently on tour on our way down to the Fest 9 in Gainesville, and on the way back we'll be touring with Into It Over It and Koji. in late Nov/early Dec we tour with A Loss For Words and Lions Lions, and we are doing 5 Northeast dates with Hit the Lights in December, before Christmas. January has us touring out to California where we'll fly out to do dates in Australia with a TBA headliner into February, with more US dates to follow that. In the Spring - possibly UK/EU and another US tour. We'll more than likely have a full-length out by Fall 2010, with a couple of TBA splits in between now and then.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Graduate Interview with Corey Warning (lead vocalist)

photo by Laura Means
The first time I heard The Graduate was live at the Masquerade in 2008, and I remeber their thirty minute show vividly. Have you ever been to a concert where the opening act completely blew you away? To where you started getting ready to leave when they finished up, but then you realize that there is still another band that hasn't even played yet? Well, the Graduate was that for me. Afterwards I purchased their album, "Anhedonia," which was equally as good as their live show. The song "I Survived," was often on repeat in my car. Now two years later, The Graduate has released their second full-length "Only Every Time." I had the chance to sit down with lead vocalist Corey Warning, and discuss the story behind how they created this wonderful album...

Cliché one to start it off, how has the tour been so far?

Warning: Good actually, we were pretty surprised. We were off of the road for so long; it could have been considered a hiatus. Even though we weren’t on one, it felt like it while we were writing this record and finishing stuff up. It has been nice, because we thought we were going to have to start completely over, with the long break we took. Fortunately, kids still remember our band, and they are still coming out. So that has been nice!
Yeah it seems like yesterday when I saw you guys play here (The Masquerade) with Secondhand Serenade.
Warning: Oh yeah! That was the last time we were here in Atlanta. The summer of 2008, it has been two years since we have been here.
Your new album, “Only Every Time,” is absolutely fantastic. How would you say that this album differed from your first LP “Anhedonia?”
Warning: Writing wise, we took a lot more time to finish this album. It wasn’t really by choice; it just took longer this time around. So is that sense, we had a lot more material to work with. We were writing the record for almost two years, so we had almost thirty songs by the time we got finished. There was a bunch of stuff that we could pick and choose from. If there was one part in a song that we like, but didn’t necessarily know what to do with it, we could just take a little piece off of one song and put it in another and keep it going from there. I think that we were able to focus on the record more, as a whole, rather than just song by song. Any other records that we have made, have just been whatever songs you have, that is what goes on the record. This time around, we could pick and choose and really nail down the sound that we were going for on this album.
As far as the recording went, how was it working with the same producer Brian Mcternan?
Warning: There was never a doubt in who we were going to work with on this record. When we finished, “Anhedonia,” we had talked as said that we couldn’t imagine working with anyone else. I think this time has solidified that even more for us. Brian is like a sixth member of the band. He’s like family to us at this point.
Was he along with you guy through the writing process?
Warning: Yeah, He kept in touch with us after Icon went out of business, and everyone was ready to give up on the whole thing. He was one of the few people who refused to give up on our band, and did whatever he could to help us stick through it. We definitely wouldn’t be here today, if it weren’t for him.
Your previous label folded in 2008, correct?
Warning: Yeah, at the end of 2008 we got a phone call from our A&R guy there and he was like, “hey, I know you guys kind of saw this coming, but we are closing up shop.” We had been hearing rumors for six months, that something like that was going to happen. We weren’t really prepared for it, and it was tough at points. We had to do everything on our own dime, and we wanted to make a record that was up to par with “Anhedonia,” so we in turn needed a budget for that. Of course, none of us are “rich kids,” so we didn’t have that budget. It just took a long time to figure everything out with how we were going to make the record, but I don’t think that it would have turned out the way that it did if things would have been different. We are all happy with how the record turned out, so at the end of the day it is what it is, and we are happy to be where we are right now.
Where were you at in terms of finishing the record, when you signed with Razor and Tie?
Warning: When we actually signed the contract, we thought that we already had a record in the bag. We thought that we had all of the songs; we just needed to lay down the ones that we hadn’t laid down. We recorded six songs with Brian, before signing to Razor & Tie. We planned on going back, and had made this studio time while we were flirting with Razor & Tie and things were starting to look good. We had booked this studio time, just hoping that everything was going to work out, and luckily it did because if it hadn’t everything would have been a huge disaster. We signed our recording contract with Razor & Tie in May, and the next day left for Baltimore to finish the record. When we got there, we thought that we had all of the songs done and he was like, “hey, let’s try to write five more songs.” So we ended up writing more songs when we got there.
Did any of those make “the cut?”
Warning: Yeah, I think all but one of the songs we wrote in that session made the album. Which was “Permanent Tourists,” “Stuck Inside My Head,” and “All At Once.” So three of those songs ended up making the cut, and we ended up scrapping a couple of songs that we were sure were going to be on there. That’s just how it goes though. We are planning on trying and releasing the songs that didn’t make it on the record because we still go good recordings of them, they just didn’t really fit.
So a “b-sides” kind of thing?
Warning: Yeah, something like that. We will look to do something like that later down the road, after people have heard the record for a while. We are going to keep putting out more music, and not make people wait for two years.
Which has become the average these days for artists/bands…
Warning: It has, but we really like making new music and we want to put more out as much as we can. Even if it’s just putting out a b-side Ep, it’s just songs that people haven’t heard and we just want to keep that music coming out.
What were you guys doing work wise, during that two-year period? Working odd-jobs?
Warning: Yeah, we were all writing as much as we could. I live in Chicago and the rest of the band lives in Springfield, which is almost four hours apart. We would e-mail stuff back and forth, and I would go down as much as possible, which was a lot. We all just worked odd-jobs. I was working as a floor installer in my off time, and a couple of the guys working for a catering company and Tim droves was driving an ice-cream truck at one point. We were just doing whatever we could to keep things going. We just never stopped writing, even though there were points where everyone had to stop and save up money. I actually got married at that point, and had the time to focus on the relationship for a while and then two weeks after I got married, I had to leave to go finish up the album. It has been a crazy couple of years.
With all of the hard times, what would you say kept you guys together?
Warning: I think that it is the music, really. We have the same group of people that we started this band with, which is rare these days. Everyone in our band writes, so everyone has the same amount vested. If any of us wanted to quit at any point, we would write another song that would just keep us going. We would write two or three terrible songs, and then we would write one that would get us really excited. Also, at the same time our band had a big enough “macho vibe” to where nobody wanted to be that the one guy that quit.
The last time I saw you guys perform, you completely blew me away. Who are some artists that you guys draw from as far as live performance goes?
Warning: I listen to a lot of Radio Head, and I think that sometimes I have this head-wobble that I unintentionally stole from Thom Yorke a little bit (laughs). We really like MuteMath, in that we try to bring in some extra percussion and make things a little bit more exciting. We still want to be our own band, so we try not to take our influences too hard.
What about during the writing of the record, were there any bands that you were listening to a lot that may have influenced the sound?
Warning: Over the past couple of years, we have all become obsessed with the Arcade Fire. Right now they are my favorite band and have been for two years straight and I bet that a couple of the guys would agree with me on that one. I almost wish that, “The Suburbs,” had come out later. I got so excited when that record came out, that I wanted to keep writing but I was a little bit dried out from the last record. I wish that it (“The Suburbs”) had come out later, so that I could have drawn inspiration from that for our next record. Music like that has been a big influence on us.
Being a band that has almost had to start from scratch twice, what kind of advice would you give to a band in the same position?
Warning: A couple of bands that we are friends with were kind of in the same position actually, and one thing that we would all talk about is that you cannot stop writing ever. There are a lot of times that you get frustrated, if you are writing a bunch of material and nothing is really happening with it and it will make you dry out. You have to push through it as much as you can. We had plenty of times where we felt creatively drained, and it is tough. You have to understand that not everything you writ is going to be great, and it is just like anything else that you do in life. Not everything that you do is going to be amazing. You have to get out there and make those mistakes. Not to get too philosophical here, but you have to make mistakes to kind of figure out what works. We did that a lot on this record, so I am hoping that the next record we make is going to be less stressful because we worked out a bunch of the bugs on this record.
How did you guys decide on Razor & Tie?
Warning: We were talking to a lot of labels and they were the only label that felt like they really understood our band and were willing to give us the time and space that we needed to do what we wanted to do with the record. They never came in and said, “The songs are cool, but we want you guys to go work with some writer and go make a radio hit.” Which some labels did, they wanted us to do that and it’s not something that we are interested in doing. When we are writing songs, we don’t ever say “I think that this song needs to sound a little bit more mainstream,” or something like that. It’s just not how we write. We don’t sit around and think about what is cool right now, and is going to get us airplay. We just want to write songs that are interesting to us and that we think are going to connect with the fans that we have, and the new kids too. I think that is all that we can really do, or we would drive ourselves crazy.