Wednesday, September 29, 2010

William Fitzsimmons Interview

One of my favorite things to ask musicians is who they enjoy listening to. When I asked Cary Brothers this, he said "William Fitzsimmons is a friend, yet beyond that he's making some beautiful timeless stuff for those who are into Bon Iver and the like." Being both a big fan of Carey and Bon Iver, I decided to give William Fitzsimmons a try. For the next three weeks I went on a Fitzsimmons binge, purchasing more and more of his music. His soft, melodious-folk sound mixed accompanied by very personal lyrics were a perfect match for me. Soon after, I began reading about his interesting background and childhood. The son of blind parents, Fitzsimmons learned to appreciate the beauty of music at a young age(as he will discuss in the interview below). Before becoming a full-time musician, Fitzsimmons was a practicing therapist. I had the privilege of meeting this amazing musician before his acoustic performance in Atlanta back in July. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with Fitzsimmons, and look forward to possibly meeting with him again...
How has the tour been going so far?

Fitzsimmons: It’s been great! It’s been really good. Well they usually go okay, but this one has had pleasant surprises along the way. The crowds have just been great and very receptive and we are only a third of the way through. We are driving through the Southwest in August, which might be a little uncomfortable(laughs).
Can you tell me a little about how you came up with the idea of your latest release "Derivatives"?
Fitzsimmons: I actually didn't have the idea(laughs). It was really a wonderful kind of kismet thing where I was over in Europe, and I was getting ready for a tour, with a German friend of mine who is in the business. Just for fun, some of his friends did some re-mixes of the songs that they thought would be different and kind of ironic. The songs aren't the anti-thesis of re-mixed house music, but they are about as close as you can get to the opposite. So he played me a couple, and honestly I was kind of blown away. Not to sound corny, but it was almost emotional. The songs are very personal to me and I don't want to say that I got use to them, but I had been playing them for two years. I had removed myself from some of the affectivity of it. When I heard them, it was kind of being hit in the face by those original guilts and things. So it grew from there and I felt that if this moves me, maybe other people might like to hear it. It was the first record that we didn't really want to force on anybody. It was one of those things that we thought would be nice if people found it and they liked it, but didn't want to shove it down people's throat. I think people seem to connect with it pretty well.
With such powerful and personal lyrics, is it difficult for you to sometimes relive those songs when performing?
Fitzsimmons: Yeah, it’s a funny balance because I want to be very authentic when I perform, because I feel like I owe that to people listening. You can't go through the motions on music like this. You are making people feel a certain way, that you are not feeling yourself. It’s like saying "I want you guys to cry, but I don't really care," which isn't right. The flipside of the coin is that I have moments where I get so deep into the songs, that it is very draining, very exhausting and the show has become a grown man sort of breaking down on-stage(laughs). That's not quite as entertaining as a good show. Well, maybe it would be. At least for ten minutes that would be amazing(laughs). So, I have to find a balance, which means that sometimes I have to stop playing a certain song or substitute it. Or, depending where I am at, I will kind of go deeper and sort of pull myself out of it.
Concerning your writing process, how do your songs normally take shape?
Fitzsimmons: That's a good question. Up until this point, everything I have written has been from personal lived experience. I have actually compelled that it is something that I need to get out. Not necessarily to release, because that is sort of a weird thing to say. "Well I had to say it, but I needed a hundred-thousand people to listen to it." That's stupid, and doesn't make sense. Yeah, but I felt that it would be healthy to purge some of these notions for myself. In the past there was no motivation or inspiration necessary, everything was just right inside. It was only a matter of picking up a guitar and really words were just falling out. If you take my meaning I didn't really put a lot effort into writing before it, it was just sort of saying what happened. With the songs that I am writing right, it’s different, but it is so much more enjoyable because I get to look around a little bit. There are still personal songs, but I want to take a break from the autobiographical writing. So yeah, usually it’s just playing music, engaging myself with family, friends, books and all of those things. Just saying what comes out, because I'm really not a methodical writer. I'm not a good building writer, where you are like "well, I going to make a song today, and I think it will be a pop song." Some people are great at it and it’s beautiful. If I am feeling musical and I pick up the guitar, usually something will eventually come out and I'll see where it goes. It’s a really vague answer(laughs).
What kind of advice would you give to aspiring artists in terms of connecting to an audience? How do you find yourself connecting with listeners?
Fitzsimmons: That's such a good question John. It's a little hard for me to answer that question, because I was trained professionally to connect with people as a therapist. That's job number one, having a empathetic regard towards someone who is sitting right across from you. Being able to pull whatever their needs are, their desires and the things that are troubling them and being able to address that in some way. Therapy really did prepare me to become an empathic songwriter. As far as advice goes, it’s a matter of self understanding first. It's kind of funny, you can start writing songs now when you are really young and I think that is kind of dumb. It works sometimes, like Connor Oberst was like two when he started writing songs and it’s brilliant, it’s fantastic. Of course I'm not saying that it is impossible, but in general it is. I spent years trying to figure it out myself, educating myself on music, educating myself on people and problems. Then, it comes naturally, it doesn't have to be forced. So the advice is, go slow and take your time with it. That works to my benefit, that means they won't beat me and I'll stay ahead of them(laughs). Yeah, don't write songs ever(laughs).
When I was looking into your background, I discovered that you have a wide spectrum of listeners. For example, I was speaking with my friends' father today and found out that he is a fan of your music. He said that he finds it very interesting that you were influenced by some of the same musicians that he listened to when he was a kid. So where did those musical influences come from exactly?
Fitzsimmons: It was all my mother. My mother is a wonderful musician herself, and has always been a big music fan. Music is generally important to blind people, and most of the blind people that I have come into contact, through my parents, music is very special to them. Obviously, because it is more salient, you know? We might like going to the movies, and of course we like music too, but when the eyes don't work then the ears pick up slack. Music is all the sweeter at that point. So my mother's taste in music was always brilliant, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and she had a little bit of corn ball in there like Peter, Paul and Mary (laughs). Its funny too, because even if she listened to crap, I think that I would still like whatever it was because it was nostalgic. She happened to be really ahead of her time in her taste in music.
How important do you think social networking is for an artist?
Fitzsimmons: Unless you are one of the two or three people that go from the bottom, to the top because of any combination of talent or luck, then it is absolutely vital. You can do things without it, but it is too easy to connect with people now, that you would be a fool not to make efforts to use it. Someone like Ray Lamontange, for example. Ray doesn't have to do Twitter, because Ray is one of the best singers ever. He does his thing, and people will buy his records forever. They will, but he is a rarity. I venture to think, without knowing him personally, that he doesn't really have too much interest in making personal connections with his fans. I don't necessarily mean that as a cut either(well maybe a little), but his music doesn't lend itself to that either. Not that his music isn't powerful, because it is. Because of what I'm doing too, its very evocative and it affects people in a certain way. I can't tell you how many really deep, wonderful messages people send me every single day about struggles that they are going through, or about anything. Sometimes they go a little bit too far, but that's OK. I think that it is the responsibility of someone that is making music that affects someone in that type of way, to be at least moderately available, as best as they can. I try not to think of it as trying to get huge and gain fans, but I am proud of the music and I do feel that it really can help people. I am totally reconciled that it is an OK thing to use that stuff for personal connecting reasons, and for also helping to spread the music.
I recently got a chance to watch the short video you put out, highlighting your tour in Europe. How did the short documentary come about?
Fitzsimmons: A friend of mine, Josh Franer, is a really brilliant director and he came over with us because he thought it would be cool to film some stuff. We had a blast. I have been so lucky, and have gotten to go over there several times the last couple of years. I was please with that piece, and it gave people a little taste of what we are doing.
Was that you longest tour in Europe thus far? Didn't you go to fifteen some odd countries?
Fitzsimmons: Yeah, fifteen. That was the longest, and I think it was six or seven weeks. It was pretty healthy.
Did you ever find it difficult to connect with audiences, where there were language barriers?
Fitzsimmons: You know, its funny man. Some countries, yes, there is a little bit of difficulty. If you go to Czech republic maybe, but if you travel in Holland, Switzerland, Germany and Austria their English is better than ours in some places. It’s kind of ridiculous. The people that don't understand that well, seem to pick up on the affectivity of the music, even if not all the lyrics. I think you can get a vibe, I'm not Metallica, you can tell that I'm really not that angry in most of my songs. That old adage, that "music is a universal language", is really true. Even if all of the lyrics are understood, they seem to connect with it really well and in some ways, more so. Perhaps that's because they have to focus more on the language? They might not understand something, so they might even try to grasp it. While you might be singing a song on the radio, and not even hear or understand what you are singing.
I have enjoyed the songs you have chosen to cover,("Kissed A Girl", "Heartless" etc.) and I have wondered if you choose a song to intentionally flip it?
Fitzsimmons: Usually it’s just a bit of fun when I am at home, or on the road. Sometimes you just need a palette cleanser. You need to play something different so people aren't like "oh, there's another William Fitzsimmons folk song." Sometime I just want to play something that is fun or different. Like Go West's "King of Wishful thinking," which was a lot of fun. I liked how the Katy Perry one turned out, but it was kind of a record label decision, unfortunately. Which I was a little ashamed of, because I think I am normally the type of individual that wouldn't normally do those things, so I was kind of sad about it. It made sense though, and I understood the song differently and I tried to make it different enough that it would be worth my while. I'm getting on a tangent(laughs). We were up in Canada a while ago and I just started playing an Ashley Simpson song ("Pieces of Me") and a bunch of kids were singing along, which is so great! It’s fun doing covers and usually it just cleanses the palette a little bit. Be a little more invigorated.
Are you currently working on a new album?
Fitzsimmons: Yeah, I would say that we are definitely close to finishing at this point. It is mostly recorded, mostly mixed, but its still a little ways away. It probably won't be released until next year, maybe February or March? I have been busy lately, and busy is good for a musician because it means you get to eat food(laughs). I feel like I haven't really gotten a chance to be at home much. I will walk in the door and then in the back of my head I know that three weeks later I will be back on a plane for another month, which is great. I have been living out of a suitcase for the last couple of years. Anybody that I know would kill to be in that position, but a big part of me would like to be home for a bit.
Do you think you would ever find yourself going back to the therapy thing?
Fitzsimmons: Yes, I think that it is likely. I don't know when though. I do think about it sometimes, because I do miss it and I love this. This is a once in a lifetime kind of thing, so I thought that it would be foolish to not at least pursue it while it was working.
Because you could always pursue it later...
Fitzsimmons: Exactly. My degrees don't go away, they stay there. I would have to read a little bit to get caught up with the current trends. I suspect that at some point I will, and hopefully it will be on my terms, so that I can say the last thing that I have to say and then hang up the guitar. If you had asked me a while ago, whether or not I would be doing this I would have told you absolutely not, there is no way. So who knows, it could be in a year or it could be in thirty. It’s hard to say. It was a good feeling, and I slept better back then. This kind of feels like cheating sometimes, like this is work for me. I'm sitting here having a wonderful conversation with you and it’s work? That's dumb. It doesn't make sense! Not that is dumb what you are doing(laughs), but that this(interview) is a responsibility for me. Now I get to go out, have fun and play music for people. If there is one thing that I do miss about working in Psychology, was just knowing and being able to see the relationship between the work you do and the difference that you make. Here, sometimes it is a little more veiled, and that can be a little frustrating.
Signature question. You are driving down the road on a perfect day, with the windows down, what are you listening to?
Fitzsimmons: Man, I have got to be honest with you, it’s kind of ironic, but the Katy Perry song, "California Girls" is amazing. I am not a music snob. I went through a period where I was like "no one can know about it". For example, you like Nirvana, then they are on MTV and then you hate Nirvana. That's such a depressing, narrow way to live. If it is a good song, it is a good song. The Beatles were pop, the beach boys were pop and it’s the best music of all time. I am definitely not listening to anything remotely close to my music, at least not on a nice day(laughs). Rainy day, inside maybe. On a perfect day, I need something with a nice beat to it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Interview with Mel Washington of All Get Out (Guitar and Vocals):

All Get Out has quickly become one of my favorite indie acts with their well crafted riffs and personal lyrics. Nathan Hussey's lead vocals paired with the backing vocals of Mel Washington and Mike Rogers combine to form an incredibly versatile sound. I increasingly find myself swept away in their sounds that range from the softness of folk, to the raw intensity of many Brit-rock bands. While you are waiting for their new album to be released, please check out a few of my favorites including "Bring it Home" and "Water and God." You won't be disappointed. Boom, cliche.

How does All Get Out normally normally approach the writing process?
Washington: I don't know the way a lot of other bands do it and if our style differs, but Nathan will typically come together with a couple of pieces. These will include some lyrics, and some melody ideas. He will have some sections written, then we all come together and try to flush them out. That does change sometime, when it gets to the time to record. Sometimes it even gets re-arranged again, but as far as lyrics and melodies go, Nathan does most of that. Then we will write our parts and structure the song. For the most part that is how we went about writing the songs for this next record.
Did you approach the writing for the self-titled Ep in the same fashion?
Washington: Well, it was different in the fact that Nathan wrote some of the songs, including the guitar parts. We didn't re-arrange any of those songs. Those songs were what he wrote those songs to be, and we played what he wrote. In terms of working a song out, we really didn't know what we were doing. Now we are just getting old, and still don't really know what we are doing(laughs).
So would you venture to say that this new album is more mature from a musical standpoint?
Washington: I think so. Definitely from a musical standpoint it sounds more mature, lyrically it sounds more mature, but most importantly we are more mature(laughs). At least we want to think that we are.
How did you guys originally get hooked up with Favorite Gentlemen Records? Have you been with them since the beginning of the band?
Washington: Yeah. Our first Ep, "The Spitting Ep", was a Favorite Gentlemen release. The dudes in Manchester Orchestra run the label, we have known them for some years and they have been great friends of ours. It made sense for us to join that community. They were growing and had a lot to offer in terms of advice and wisdom on how to be a young band. They have taught us how to have a great work ethic. They haven't served us hand-and-foot. They have made us work hard, but have been there for us when we needed them. It is a great family to be apart of, because of that.
I have always admired how Favorite Gentlemen Records is set up a community. How close are you guys as a community?
Washington: Yeah. We have certain label events, where the bands get together. At the same time a ton of the bands tour together. We have toured with other Favorite Gentlemen like O'Brother, Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine and Winston Audio. When FG bands come to our hometown, we go to see them. Tonight, there will be other FG bands out to see us. We have even been known to meet up in other cities. We aren't just business colleagues, were are all friends for the most part. We call and check up on each other. It's a really cool thing.
How was playing SXSW this past year?
Washinton: It was crazy man. We played a number of shows, saw a lot of bands and did some weird exclusive things. SXSW is a good experience, but very hard at the same time. I think that some bands go out there thinking that they are just going to have the time of their life, and they get back and they are just exhausted. Probably the coolest thing for us was when were were doing an AOL live stream session, in AOL's bus, on top of a parking garage. Right behind us, across the street, Muse was setting up to play at Stubbs' BBQ. It was so cool to look out the window of the bus and there they are. Our band really like Muse.
How did you guys get hooked up with doing two Daytrotter sessions? What is the format for the session?
Washington: It was just out of the dark. I got brave one day, wrote them an e-mail saying "hey it would be cool to come and do a session," and they agreed. It is a really cool thing. Its a live studio and you record everything straight to tape.
So was it nerve-racking?
Washington: Yeah, because you have four hours to record four songs right(laughs). There is no going back and over-dubbing, its more like "alright, play the song and get a good take. Oh and hurry up." The dudes that run it are super cool and have always treated us well, and have shown us a good time. From the responses that we have seen, the sessions are excepted and many people enjoy them. We also have found out that a lot of people have found out about our band through the Daytrotter sessions.
Along those lines, how important is social networking All Get Out?
Washington: I think that it is a good thing, but we haven't quite mastered it yet. For example, Twitter has helped us out on tour when we have needed a place to stay. One time, we were playing a show in NYC and our tour manager put something on twitter. A guy named Jake answered and said that we could crash at his place. That was a year and a half ago, now Jake is one of my best friends. That's a personal thing though. As far as the band goes, sites like Facebook and Twitter are not only good for advertising, but it allows fans to feel that the band is tangible. We always want to keep that. We have "rock-star" friends, and they suck. To be tangible and accessible, our fans know what goes on in our lives. They know that I have an obsession with giraffes, and that it is weird. Social networking has helped us out a lot. When we released a two-song digital ep, Burn Hot The Records, for the first week we only announced it on twitter. We ended up seeing hundreds of downloads that week.
Are you currently working on your side project (Mel Washington Band)? Any releases soon?
Washington: Yeah. I recorded a record and will release it at some point. Right now I have been focusing more on producing other bands and artists. I am still writing a lot, I haven't taken the time or had the finances to really finish this record or record any more.
Do any of the other guys have side projects?
Washington: Yeah, it's kinda cool. Gordon has a pretty cool side project called "Mr. Earlybird," and I think that we are going to try and work on a record for him. Nate may have something up his sleeves, in terms of a solo project in addition to All Get Out, but probably down the road. I think the really cool part is that everyone in the band is really talented, and we are very blessed because it lets us bring a lot of different things to the table. On the record Mike not only plays bass, but contributes a great deal of the vocals. All the trumpets on the new record are Mike. Nathan wrote all of the organ and keys parts, on top of singing and writing lyrics. I was able to contribute by helping with all of the string arrangements and piano parts. I also did a lot of over-dubs for the record. Its good to have multiple talented people. I think that people will like Gordon's stuff, because its weird, different and kind of old man, southern music.
Who are some of your biggest influences, both past and present?
Washington: Growing up, I was big into Christian music. In fact, that was a career of mine, before All Get Out. I was highly influenced by this band in the U.K. called "Delirious?" I was always a huge fan of really big British-rock. For them to be a Christian band and do what they did as well as they did it always stuck out to me. Present day, lyrically David Bazan has always been a huge influence for me and also for the band as well. I am really into this band called Röyksopp right now. They are this electric band from Germany, and their stuff is really cool. And who isn't a fan of that new Mumford and Sons record(laughs)? Most of the stuff that we are listening to is our friends music, people we hang out with. We all have our spot for Blink 182. If All Get Out ever covers a song, it will be "Adam's Song." There is this Christian band called Project 86 that Nathan was listening to today. We all have our stuff that we listen to that most people will not believe. I think that when you listen to the record, you can hear some of the obvious influences like Brand New, Death Cab for Cutie and David Bazan. When you listen to Death Cab's "Plans," I don't think that their is a bad song on there. Lovedrug's "Pretend Your Alive" was a huge influence for me, guitar wise, in the beginning. Now, I am not sure who is influencing my guitar playing. Normally, its just getting in the room and whatever happens, happens(laughs). Growing up in a society that is inundated with mainstream music, some stuff just happens. On the new record, there is this song that sounds like a Bowling For Soup song. Just this one little vocal melody(laughs). You know, its hard to be an indie band and rag on mainstream music, because it is mainstream for a reason.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Night Fever Interview with Luke Mitchell (Vocals, Keys, Programming)

So your latest Ep, "Party The Night Away", came out this past Monday (September 13th). What do you think this album brought to the table, in comparison to your previous releases?
Luke: It's more polished. Still a slight mixture of styles like TGIF, but more consistency. I think it's more mainstream, which makes it a little more marketable.
How did the writing and recording process pan out for the Ep? How did it differ from the past?
Luke: We weren't as familiar with the software we used to make beats and samples during the first EP so it took us awhile. Once we figured everything out, things went a lot more smoothly. When Joe and I first wrote "Party the Night Away" it sounded a lot like TGIF, but our producer Geoff Rockwell wanted to make some changes. We were hesitant at first but definitely dig the finished product!
How was it working with producer Geoff Rockwell (Forever the Sickest Kids, Disco Curtis)?
Luke: To be honest, it was really rough in the beginning. I've done solo projects since I started and I'm so used to writing a song EXACTLY how I want to. So when someone else gives creative input it's really easy to be stubborn and not want to listen. I think it's something that every artist kind of struggles with. Joe is the same way. In his previous projects he wrote everything too. Even in the beginning of FNF we both clashed with each other until we figured out a system which turned into Friday Night Fever. Joe and I, overtime, learned to read each other and now we hardly ever clash. ....BUT getting creative input from someone we've never met sucked at first and we just had to trust him, even though deep down we wanted to be stubborn lol. At least there was credibility since he co-wrote and produced FTSK's stuff. I'm really glad we listened to his ideas.
"She Felt Like Destroying Something Beautiful" was featured on your first Ep "TGIF".How did you guys decide to slow it down and put on the new Ep? (Amazing by the way)
Luke: I love this question. I wrote "She Felt Like" in college before I joined FNF. I was in a serious relationship that ended a couple months before the song. It's a very very true story about a college party, and was written as a slow song at first. On TGIF, it's full band to show my anger/cockiness towards the situation. But I wanted listeners to also feel the desperation behind the song. It was a tragic event in my life and deserves a lot of attention. For the acoustic version, Joe and I orchestrated the song with an epic/tear-jerking vibe, 1. to show that I wasn't just pissed off and cocky and that the song really was sincere, and 2. to show that we can write more than just dance/rock.

Any specific influence behind the album? Anyone you were specifically listening to a great deal?
Luke: Party the Night Away is actually influenced and built around "She Felt Like Destroying Something Beautiful" (which is by far our most played song) and is also a bonus track on the album intended to be an introduction to the acoustic "She Felt Like". Nobody has heard this acoustic bonus track yet unless they have bought the CD.
And actually, no, before FNF I barely listened to any music because I was too busy writing my own.
Is there a full length in the works?
Luke: Absolutely!!! We have 15 new songs and are dying to get in the studio! We are so excited for the new stuff, because we have learned so much the past two years from successful people like Geoff Rockwell and others we've come in contact with, on top of growing tremendously as musicians and realizing what's working and what the industry is looking for. There are so many aspects to writing a hit that are really easy to over look.
How did you guys get hooked up with Congratulations on making your goal!
Luke: I heard about the site and emailed them asking if we could start a project! Thanks!
You guys have been touring like crazy lately, do you mind sharing the craziest thing that has happened while on tour?
Luke: LOL...we have used our tour laminates to get in to so many big shows. People at the door think we are part of the band. :)
How important is social networking for artists like yourselves?
Luke: It's probably the most beneficial thing we could do as an unsigned band! We think it's more beneficial then going on small tours because if you don't network and build a fan base, you won't have kids at shows....and that's a big lesson that we learned, because we've played multiple shows with 5 to 10 people tops...not fun lol. Networking is only good if you treat it like a full-time job. So many bands would rather just show up to practice and play shows and be "rock stars". Networking is a huge/important job in a band or any business for that matter.
As band that tours a ton and does a lot of self-promoting, what are your thoughts on file sharing?
Luke: It sucks, but it's impossible to it really doesn't bother us too much. There are still plenty of people that help us out and either purchase our physical record or buy it on iTunes.
Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
Luke: Katy Perry, Friday Night Fever, Jason Derulo, Hip-hop radio, FTSK...Katy Perry is the only thing on my iPod other than us though lol.
Landon: FNF, Starting Line, Relient K, A Day to Remember...while I'm drinking a smoothie!!
Joe: Friday Night Fever
What is next for you guys? Promoting the album? Touring?
BIG things soon! 3 CD release shows Sept 25, Oct 9, Oct 10. Regional tour in Oct, East Coast run in November and big plans for the new year!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hello Astronaut (Jordan Palmer) Interview...
How did this project come together?
 It started with me getting a macbook and just messing around. I started getting a lot of good feedback and its bloomed into what it is now.
So your new EP "The Only One" just came out September 7th, what can people expect from this record?
It's a whole different sound that my previous records. It's a lot less electronic and a lot more organic based. Overall I think it's a pretty fun record.
How did the writing process pan out for this album?
Well I went into the studio with about 10 demos and we cut them down to about 5. I wrote a few choruses in the studio which is actually a lot different from what I usually do.
What about the recording process, did you find it intimidating?
I never found it intimidating, it's a bit nerve racking when you go in and record with someone you just barely met. Usually after the first few days the initial awkwardness is gone and the rest of the recording goes nicely.
How did it differ from your first release(Paper!Snow!a Ghost!), in terms of the recording process?
Well my last release was recording in my bedroom. My latest CD was done in an actual studio. A lot more time and creative energy was put into the latest release as well.
What is one thing that you aim for people to take away from your music?
I would love for people to relate to my music. I always have songs that I can relate to when I'm going through certain things in my life and I hope my music can help someone else get through their problems.
What is the biggest thing that separates you from other acts?
There isn't much that separates me music wise from the rest of the community. I do try to relate to my fans as much as possible. Whether it be replying to comments or hanging out for hours after a show is done. I think this separates me a lot from some bands.
I hear that you can play a bunch of instruments. Are there any instruments that you want to learn how to play?
I would love to learn how to play violin! I think it's such a beautiful sounding instrument.
Who are some of your biggest influences? Past and present...
I really like Tom Petty. Katy Perry is another favorite artist of mine too.
How do you utilize social networking as an artist?
I use it as much as I possibly can. Social networking allows me to show my music to so many more people that might not have heard it otherwise.
What do you have coming up next? Touring? Full length in the works?
 I should be touring a lot in support of my newest release. I also have been writing for a full length but don't have plans on releasing anything for awhile.
Thank you so much man! Take it easy!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Allstar Weekend Interview with Zach, Nathan, Cameron and Michael

Photo by Laura Means
Allstar Weekend has been tearing up the Disney charts, while making themselves household names with their catchy hooks, dueling vocals and strong synth beats. This four-piece band hailing from California have been working from the ground up since late 2008 are on the fast track to pop success. They found a spot on Disney's Next Big Thing, when they were handing out fliers at a nearby Jonas Brothers concert. Months later they landed a deal with Hollywood Records, and were opening for acts like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and The Jonas Brothers. Check them out when they come into town, because they put on a fantastic energetic show. I haven't seen so many girls screaming, crying and tearing since the Backstreet Boys came out with Millennium(ha).  I had the chance to sit down with these guys a discuss their new album...
How has your first headlining tour gone so far?
 Zach: The tour has been going great! This is the first time we have headlined ever, and the first time we have been out on the road for more that a couple of weeks. The turnouts have been amazing, and some of these shows have been really amazing.
 Nathan: It has been cool to see the turnouts as our fan base is slowly growing, and more people come out to our shows. More and more people are coming out, singing our songs and even decorating t-shirts. It is really dope, and the fans have been amazing this tour.
 Cameron: We actually promised our fans that we would have a meet-and-greet after every show, and we have stuck to our promise. Sometimes the meet-and-greet will go on for three or fours hours, but its really cool that they will stay there and come and meet us. Its cool for us too, because we get to talk to them and see what they think about things!
Wow, that is really rare these days... I guess my next question would have to be how did four such good-looking dudes get together and form a band in the beginning?
  Nathan: (Laughs) Well, it definitely wasn't planned. Cameron, Zach and I went to the same high school, while Mike went to school ten minutes away. We were all friends and had one thing in common, which was music. In the beginning, Cameron didn't really play anything. Didn't you play a little guitar?
  Cameron: I knew how to play a little bit of guitar, from some guitar lessons a few years back. I had been friends with Zach since seventh grade, and Zach and Nathan were writing a lot of songs. They wanted to start playing live, so Zach asked me if I would join the band and play bass. Nathan then taught me how to play bass and Michael sent us a message on Myspace, asking us if we needed a drummer.
  Michael: I went back in time recently and viewed the actual message that I sent them. I literally said "Hey guys, are you looking for a drummer? Hit me up."
  Nathan: Exact words.
  Cameron: Yeah, then a couple weeks later we sat in our room and practiced together. The rest is history!
How long ago was that exactly?
  Michael: It was almost three years ago.
  Cameron: I remember the first practice was in my garage and we practiced the same song over, and over again. We probably sounded really, really bad. A cop actually came because we were so loud, but luckily we were friends with the cops son. He was just like "rock on guys!"
  Nathan: "Just turn it down a little bit."
For the new album, Suddenly, how did you approach the writing process?
  Zach: It was a really interesting process, and great learning experience because we had written it over such a long period of time. Even before the band started, we had already written some of the songs that were on this record. Nathan and I have been writing together for years, and some of the material keeps coming back. Some of the tracks are really old, and some of the tracks are really new. It has been a very interesting process, where we have been writing in tons of different situations. The production happened with multiple producers. We have learned so much from all of the different styles that we were put it.

Nathan: It was cool how we got the chance to work with multiple producers, as Zach said, and expand our sound. We got to try some different things. Most artists these days only use one producer for their album, but we had the opportunity to work with a bunch of different people. We got some great songs out of it and we are really proud of it!
How was the recording process? Was it intimidating for you guys at first?
  Zach: No, not really. We had been recording by ourselves and spent so much time learning how to record things like guitar tones and vocals. We were kind of comfortable in the situation, and had a sense of what it was like to record. I was a little bit nervous singing for the first time, but it wasn't that big of a difference.
  Nathan: It was definitely a lot more fast paced though. You go in there and they are on a tight schedule, and sometimes you only have a couple of hours to get something down.
  Zach: When you are in a studio, there is of course better equipment to work with. We spent five days trying to get a guitar tone right in our computer. It was nice to be creative and be able to focus on making the music sound good.
I think that the story of you guys getting discovered while passing out fliers in front of a Jonas Brothers show is so cool. What kind of advice would you have for artists that are working from the ground up, like you guys?
  Zach: First, I think it is important to have a strong catalog of work. We put a ton of work into the promotion side of the business, but without the songs to back it up, it wouldn't have meant anything. On the otherside, I think it is really important that you find a way to connect with people/fans. A record lable isn't going to make you big or sell your records, its you guys connecting and making fans. I think that that personal connection is just as imporatnt as the songs.
  Nathan: Yeah, and work even harder when you get signed.
  Cameron: To connect with people these days, it is really easy. You have YouTube, Facebook, Myspace and Twitter to use to put your name out there.
Going along those lines, how do you guys feel about social networking?
  Cameron: I think it is great! It helps us out a lot. We use Facebook, Twitter and MySpace daily. We even have a phone number, where people can call up and talk to us.
  Zach: It is a huge part in everything we do. Our lable did a study and found out that just as many people bought our album because of Facebook, as the is the Disney Channel.
  Who are some of your biggest influences invidually?
  Nathan: I like a lot of indie rock and U.K. artists, like La Rouxand the Streets. I also, like electronica sounding stuff and I love incorporating some of those synth sounds into our music. Like in "Dance Forever" and " A Different Side of Me."
  Zach: Well, I was raised on Bruce Springsteen, Elton Jon and Fleetwood Mac. They have always stuck with me, as great writers, performers and rock stars, so they have always been huge influences. Growing up I was also heavily influenced by Pop-punk and all of the different bands that played in the local clubs in the San Diego area. I think those have definielty had a major impact on our sound too.
  Michael: I listen to a lot of R&B and Hip-Hop stuff, like Drake, Trey Songz and The Dream. Growing up, I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson and Prince. I grew up on the radio. When I was a kid, I was always in the car with my mom and I would put on the cool rap stations, and start rapping.
  Cameron: I got all my music from my Dad, and he was into a lot of Prince, Michael Jackson, Jimi hendrix and other old-school rock. But, I also listen to a ton of Blink 182 because they were from our area. As a group, we can all say that we were heavily influeced by pop-punk too!
Is there any clashing, when you bring those together to create your sound?
  Zach: We value variety, and I think that it is a big part of our sound. I can't stand listening to record, where every song sound the same. There is room for tons of different stuff.
  Nathan: As far as music goes, I think that we are very open-minded. You cannot deny a good song. Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers have some great songs. If it is a good song, its a good song. No matter who the band is, who they are assoicated with...
  Zach: I think that we have written songs that are influenced by so many different generes, but still kept our sound, kept our guitar tones, kept our keyboards sounds.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Honor Bright Interview with Ryan Gilmore (Guitar/Vocals)

Photo by Phil Mamula
How was the recording process different for "Action!Drama!Suspense!"in comparison to previous releases?
There was a little more pressure on us with this. It was our first label release on Triple Crown Records so we knew there was more riding on this. Not only did we have to please ourselves, but we wanted to please our label and our management at The Artery Foundation. Plus it would be almost two years since we released our last EP, so our fans were hungry for something new and had to live up to their expectation.
How was it working with Tom Denney and Jason Lancaster? What were some things they brought to the table?
It was a totally amazing experience. Those guys are huge influences on us and their song writing talents were mind blowing. They were huge in making our songs flow better and be more solid overall; cutting away any parts that were unecessary. We were so thankful to work with them.
How did Jason end up on "Sleepless in Syracuse"?
Going into recording, we tried to scheme of ways to get him to do guest vocals on the record since we are all HUGE fans of his bands and his voice. But right before we started, he sent us a text saying he was gonna try to convince us to sing on the record. Yeah, convince US! No convincing was needed. We just needed to find the perfect song for him, and "Sleepless in Syracuse" fit so well for him.
What would you say are some of the underlying themes of the album?
I think life in general is our main theme always. We sing about what's happening in our lives, from tours to relationships to family to even a song about our first van that got totalled in a head on collision.
We sing about what we know and what we experience.
I hear such a diverse mixture of influences in your music, some current pop-rock and some pop sounds dating back to the 60's. Who would you say are some of your big influences for this album?
With the amount of touring we do throughout the year, we are lucky to be exposed to a large and diverse amount of music so we had lots of influence here. But I think are main goal was to not try and write in a certain style, just refine our sound and bring back the rock. We wanted a strong and powerful record that was solid from front to back.
Performance wise, who are some people/bands that you have looked up to the past?
We look up to those bands that put all their energy every night into their live performance. It’s not easy going all out every night, but we respect those bands that try to put on the best show to every crowd they see. As far as our career goes, we've always looked up to those bands that constantly are putting out solid records. Like New Found Glory and Taking Back Sunday, these bands are always putting out new records that never dissapoint.
Where do you guys see yourselves in the next couple of years? What are some of your main goals as a band?
We’d love to tour and tour and tour as much as possible the next couple years. Continue to get our name out and continue to show people what we can do live and how energetic our live show is. After that we want to get back into the studio and record our follow up. Music is the only thing we ever want to do, so we want to be successful at doing it.
Perfect day, you are driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
My perfect windows down record is Homesick by A Day To Remember. For some reason it sounds so much better when it’s being blasted. Although this causes me to maybe drive a little too fast…
What is next on the calender for you guys? Touring?
Touring as much as possible. That’s our favorite part of being in a band. We have some awesome tours coming up that will [if they haven’t already] be announced.
Thank you guys so much for taking some time to answer some questions!
Thank you for the questions! Next time I’ll interview you ;)