Wednesday, January 12, 2011

VersaEmerge Interview with Sierra Kusterbeck and Blake Harnage

Photo by Amanda Elsberry
After releasing there first full-length record six months ago, "Fixed At Zero," with the very successful Fueld BY Ramen record company, VersaEmerge has been tearing up with scene with there high energy shows and hard-hitting music. I got a chance to briefly speak with two of the three members of VersaEmerge, before a show in Atlanta...
How is this mini-tour going? Just five dates right?
 Kusterbeck: Just five days. In our headlining tour, we didn’t get a chance to come to Florida. With it being our home state, we had to find a way to come somehow. When we did this run, it was just making up for it. Due to all of this weather our got stuck up in Pennsylvania, so the first two days we played acoustic. This is going to be our first night with the full band.
How did the acoustic shows go?
 Kusterbeck: Pretty good!
 Harnage: Yeah! Especially Fort Lauderdale, but they were both awesome, with a lot of people singing along. It just felt really good.
You guys have the U.K. after this right?
 Kusterbeck: That is correct.
 Harnage: Yeah, last time we were there was just for a little while in 2009. It was a short tour, but we got to go outside of the U.K. as well. We did Whales, Scotland and Belgium, but this tour is only going to be the U.K. though. Still going to be awesome and we are really excited. The first time that we went over there it blew our minds. The kids were awesome.
Is there a completely different crowd response when playing shows over there?
 Kusterbeck: Not completely different, but the kids seem to just appreciate the shows a lot more, especially American bands. They are just very, very supportive over there and they have a lot of fun.
Now you guys have done some of the biggest tours in the scene, (Bamboozle, Warped, SXSW etc.) so which one is your favorite?
 Harnage: Bamboozle is fun, because it is only two days and it is every band just hanging out.
 Kusterbeck: It is so overwhelming! When you are pulling up in your van, it feels like you are going to Disney World! It’s all of your friends coming back together, and there are so many people to meet, and there are some many things to do and bands to see. Warped Tour is so long, so imagine taking Warped and scrunching it into two days, that’s kind of how it is. It’s a lot of fun!
With the writing process for your full-length, “Fixed at Zero,” I heard that you guys tried to write on the road, but were unable to. Did you guys just go home and crank the songs out?
 Harnage: Writing on the road is tough because you think there will be a lot of free time, but it turns out you are sleeping, showering and eating in the time that you are not playing. It’s really tough to write on the road, unless you are in a bus full-time and have the luxury of playing a normal tour and not Warped Tour. We did come off of the road and go straight to start experimenting on writing with some different writers, which worked awesome for us and kick-started the whole writing kind of thing. It helped us to get some ideas going.
Was that the first time that you guys had co-written songs?
 Harnage We co-wrote a little on our self-titled EP, but we did branch out and try a bunch of different writers for the full-length.
 Kusterbeck: It’s interesting, because we write a majority of the songs and then you have this “third brain” that is thrown in to spark these new ideas. It is really cool to collaborate with other people like that, and it brings out something new in us and even in them, and brings some many new elements to the music.
 Harnage: We definitely like writing with writers that are a little more laid back, and open to letting us do our thing, but just mediating and making sure that everything sticks to the game plan.
Is co-writing something that you would do again?
 Harnage: Of course.
Are you guys working on any kind of writing right now? You thinking about it yet?
 Harnage: Yeah, not hardcore but we are defiantly thinking about it.
 Kusterbeck: Every winter I always seem to write a lot, just lyrically. We talk about it a lot, we always talk about ideas and get creative about it. We like to be on the same page, but at the same time we don’t want to lose focus on what we are trying to do with this current record.
When you were writing the lyrics for “Fixed At Zero,” did you guys sit down and decide what you wanted it to say as a whole? There seem to be trends and an overall theme…
 Kusterbeck: Yeah it just kind of fell into place, because I had no idea what I wanted to say. I had absolutely no clue, and it was just a bunch of mumbled jumble. You don’t really know what you are talking about, until you are talking about it. As it all fell into place, it was like “it all makes sense now.” It’s like your mind is talking for you when you consciously don’t know. I didn’t really have a set theme, but as it all fell into place it created its own theme. If that makes any sense…
I haven’t seen you guys live in person, but I have seen a bunch of clips and it seems like you guys have a great connection to the crowd. What kind of advice would you have to a newer band in terms of connecting with a crowd in a live setting?
 Harnage: Thank you! It kind of came naturally for us. You know, when you are first starting a band one of the hardest things to do is creating that vibe and hype for the live show. First the first two or three years as a band, that was the hardest part…
 Kusterbeck: It is really important for us to make a good live show, because that is what we do for a living, we tour. Especially me just starting off in the band, we were trying to work everything out, and go through and make it great. At the same time, we were taking advantage of getting to be there (with fans) and meet people. The people that were at the shows (in the beginning) were there to see other bands, so we just tried to connect with them and get them to come back and see us. There are people out there that have been with us since the beginning, and now they are even at this show today. So it is really cool to see that connection show, and onstage they love it.
 Harnage: There was so much hype on the last tour we just did (their first headlining tour), and the vibe was incredible. We would come out every night, and people would be just super stoked and singing along to every song! It’s the greatest feeling ever.
 Kusterbeck: It’s so unreal, that it is surreal! Ha
That’s so good to hear! Changing it up a little bit, how important do you think social media/networking is to building a fan base?
 Harnage: I think that it is really important, especially for getting it started, but there really is no substitute for getting out there on the road and doing it. That is a big thing that a lot of new bands are missing in the big picture, which is just getting out on the road and just touring. It is a slow build. You see bands that will come out of nowhere and blow up. That happens every once and a while, but if you want your band to have longevity and be a real band, you just need to get out there and do it.
 Kusterbeck: Social networking helped us out a ton in the beginning, because MySpace was huge at the time. That’s how I got hooked up with them, that’s how we got our stuff(music) out there and that’s how we promoted, that’s how everything kind of went.
How did you guys think about the outcome of the World of Jenks episode that featured you guys?
 Harnage: It was entertaining…
 Kusterbeck: Yeah, it was entertaining. Of course, not everything is what it seems due to editing, and you kind of need that dramatic element. It was kind of cool because they got this part of touring out there that not many people know about. I definitely don’t think that it made a “bad thing” for us, but made people feel like they could relate to me and the band which is true. We are just people on the road, we are just like everyone else, but we are doing it a little bit differently. We still go through our problems and have our hard time, mine just happen to be on T.V. (laughs).
When they came to you guys originally, were they looking to focus on you(Sierra)?
 Harnage: They were. When we first got on a conference call with them, they said that the show would be based around following Sierra, because the whole premise of the show was based around what it was like to be in a female-fronted rock band. We did know about that beforehand.
Have you had fans come up to you and say “I could really relate to you in the episode…?" Kusterbeck: Yeah, all of the time. It’s really interesting though, because I will being the most random place in the country and someone will come up to me and be like “I saw you on MTV! You are in that band!”
Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
 Harnage: The first thing I thought of was Imogen Heap, but I will have to go with Bjork because I can play it anytime really.
 Kusterbeck: I will have to say MuteMath’s “Armistice”. Perfect on a sunny day!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reese Roper Interview

The first time I heard Five Iron Frenzy, I was in the youth center at Church when "Dandelions" was playing. I was hooked immediately. Five Iron quickly became my favorite group, and by my Junior year of High School I could be seen sporting a five iron shirt or hoody everyday of the week. Not kidding. The first time I saw them live, (unfortunately their last show in Atlanta) completely blew me away! They had one of the highest energy shows around, and not one person in that venue was still. Even to this day, Five Iron's combination of fast paced ska and upbeat lyrics filled with unending hope can lift me out of some of the saddest funks. I live for the day when the members of FIF reunite, and take the stage again...
When I started this blog I wanted to get interviews from my three favorite vocalists growing up. First I got Matt "Mojo" Morginsky (Supertones), then came Matt Thiessen (Relient K). Now I have the final piece to the puzzle, Reese Roper (Five Iron Frenzy, Brave Saint Saturn and Roper). With a great deal of help from my buddy Dave Thomas, I bring you a slightly intimate interview with the great Reese Roper.

Mouser:"I hope you hate it". You have coined this phrase and I have always wondered where it came from?
Roper: It came from the fact that I actually did hope that people hated whatever song we were playing at some show back in 1996. I really was getting a dose of much needed humble pie from the Lord, and I thought it ironic that bands always say the same thing before songs: " This is a new song, blah, blah, blah- I hope you like it." So I felt really convicted. I was introducing a song and it just came out. It was so funny and self- deprecating, I just kept saying it. Ask my wife, I'm not really very funny, I just keep recycling jokes.
Thomas: What lasting friendships did you make with you toured with? Do you still keep in touch with The W's, Supertones, Less Than Jake, Switchfoot,etc.?
Roper: I am a pretty good actor. Most of my friendships are based on the fact that I pretend to be outgoing and funny in social situations, but when I get home, I tend to isolate myself because I am actually somewhat bipolar and introverted. So it is really hard for me to invest time into a relationship because I get kind of freaked out by the thought of doing something that part of my mind keeps telling me is "unproductive". I still am close with Andy and Brad from FIF, and see everyone else once or twice a year. I talk to some of the guys from the Insyderz and the Supertones occasionally, or see bands when they come through every now and again, but not as much as I would really like to.
Thomas: What actually happened with Guerilla Rodeo? Why didn't it go anywhere?
Roper: Guerilla Rodeo came about from Sonnie and I planning on how to "undo" all the mistakes that we felt we had made in previous bands. In doing so, we overplanned. We wanted to all move to a city that would be perfect to tour out of, own our own label- to basically control everything. We made the demo, and then it just kind if fell apart. The plan was not working, and everyone kind of just started to do their own thing. I got scared and quit. So if you need to blame someone for pulling the plug- you can blame me. In hindsight, probably one of the dumbest things I've ever done.
Mouser: Can you tell me a little about the new Five Iron DVD "The Rise and Fall of Five Iron Frenzy"?
Roper: It is the end product of five years of meticulously trying to chronicle the story if Five Iron, telling our story, and letting everyone's voice be heard- and six months of sleeping 16 hours a week, furiously trying to meet a deadline for something I was way above my head to have attempted. It could have so good with just a few more months to work on it, but I'm pleased with how it came out, considering how difficult it was.
Mouser: I had a chance to meet you after a show in Georgia once and foundout that you were trying to quit autographs, instead you gave me a fantastic hug that was way better then an autograph. Wondering if you have completley kicked the habit?
Roper: I actually never signed autographs while in Five Iron. In the band we were in before it, Exhumator, I remember bragging about being asked to autograph something to the other guys. I immediately felt like a complete turd, and decided I would, from that point forward- never sign an autograph. There were times in other countries that I would sign "jerk" or "jerkface", just because I felt like I couldn't adequately explain why I wasn't signing something for them. I just hoped their English was poor enough to not notice. But, yeah- I have always felt that the time it took me to explain to everyone why I didn't do it would help to humble me, and the Lord could use it to open a conversation that would be more meaningful than, " Hey, thanks kid. Here's my scrawled signature." It almost always worked.
Thomas: I have heard that Five Iron chose to set a 10 year rule as a band, committing to not getting back together for at least 10 years. Is there a chance of a FIF reunion in 2013?
There is always a chance. Even as we speak, there is a chance...
Mouser: Can you tell me the top two songs from your extensive catalog that you are most proud of?
Gosh, that's tough. It would be much easier to tell you the ones that I am least proud of. I think the songs I am the most proud of would have to be "Daylight" from The Light of Things Hoped For, and "INVICTUS" from Anti-Meridian. They are both some of the most honest worship songs I have ever written. I can think of things I would do better if I could re-record them, but musically and lyrically, they are two of maybe five songs I have ever recorded that I can't think of any way to make better.
Mouser: Are you currently writing/recording?
Yes. I am having a bit of trouble finding time right now because I have somehow been wrestled into taking a supervisory position as a nurse and I went from 3, 12 hour shifts to 5, 8-10 hour shifts. Part of the reason I became a nurse was to free up time to make rock, and it isn't quite working now. Also, I have a three month old daughter who gets me as Mr. Mom four nights a week- also time consuming (but incredibly awesome). So... there are about four projects I am trying to start, but slowly. There was a promised BS2 B-sides album with some redos of old songs- AD- INFINITUM; I am doing a worship project with Some of the guys from Showbread called The Theives Guild; I want to do a project with my wife called The Light Fantastic; and I am doing a new wave band with Matt from Eleventy- Seven, Joey Bellville from The Echoing Green, and Nick White- the drummer from Roper- that we think will be called Pool Party Death Machine. It's a bit overwhelming.
Mouser: Who are some artists you really look up to right now?
Roper: Travis Charest is the best artist around today. Oh, you meant music. Have you heard House of Heroes? They are so good it makes me want to go back in time and to stop myself from ever existing. Nothing I have ever done is that good or cool. Other than that, I am completely inspired by anything Dr. Luke touches- as a producer. I am a sucker for catchy, hooky, pop- and the stuff he produces is quite possibly the most saccharine sweet in human history.
Mouser: Can you tell me about the project with members of Showbread?
Roper: The Thieves Guild. Josh had this idea a few years ago that we should make a collaborative worship album over the mail. I told him I didn't think that was such a good idea because I secretly HATE worship music, thinking it weak and predictable, with lyrics designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator- not the greatest art ever created by mankind, as I think true worship should attempt to be (or at least the best that any individual can create). Very talented people make some very bad songs so that people with a fourth grade reading level can sing along. Sure, corporate worship is good- but for me, I get very bored in Church trying to worship. So, Josh assured me that he too, hates this. We have been trying to make The Thieves Guild be a type of worship that may not carry out so well in a normal church worship service- but worship, nonetheless. The only hold up, is that I am slow.
Thomas: How can Christians best reach out to those in the music scene and spread the Gospel without being to preachy or cheesy?
Roper: I think that if we follow in the path of Christ, and love the world- actually LOVE people, there is no need to spread the Gospel or preach to people. He spoke to people who were willing to listen, people that He had served beforehand because He loved them. If you actually care about the people in the music scene, the things you do out of love will come naturally. It's the same things you do with your friends and family. That is all God asks of us. We aren't the Holy Spirit. I don't think we are responsible for the salvation of six billion people. But I do think that we are responsible to not just keep the love that God has shown us inside. If we are faithful with that, if we truly love other people, they will see it. That love is infectious. It drew us all to find out who Christ was and the truth about His gospel. It still works that way, no matter how flashy you package it.
Mouser: Is there anything the Lord has recently put on your heart (verse/book), that you would be willing to share?
Roper: All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure. - Mark Twain

Senses Fail Interview with Buddy Nielson

Photo by Laura Means

My Apologies to Laura Means. You could have gotten a better seat at the debut of the new Harry Potter film. That is all.

How has the tour been so far?

Nielsen: Great. Really good. Really, really good.
How well do you know the other guys on the tour? You have known Bayside for a while correct?
Nielsen: I didn’t know the other bands. We have done Warped Tour, and some other dates off with Bayside. We all know the same people.
I am a big fan of your latest release “The Fire,” how would you say the recording process differed from previous albums?
Nielsen: We were very focused, and things went very smooth.
As far as the writing behind it, I hear that you can pull inspiration from just about anywhere (movies, songs, etc.). Do you remember any specific examples for this album?
Nielsen: Little things like I was listening to the Deftones a lot during the making of this last record. The mood of that gave ideas for images. Not necessarily the lyrics, but the mood of the record. Certain things like, I used a line from a Turning Point song. Things like that. I will be watching TV and hear a line that is pretty cool to throw into the whole thing.
You mentioned the Deftones, anyone else you are really into right now?
Nielsen: Not really. That is the last record that I heard, that I really liked. I really got into it.
Your lyrics paint pictures of such vivid images and stories, how much of the lyrics are actually personal experiences?
Nielsen: All of it. Not every song, but for the most part.
With such honest and personal lyrics, do you ever have fans come up and say “this song saved my life?” Does it happen often yeah?
Nielsen: Yeah, absolutely.
How does that feel?
Nielsen: It’s weird; I don’t know how to really react. There is no good way to react. It is really awesome, but you can’t be like “that’s really awesome.” You never know really how to react.
Who are some guys you have looked up to stage presence wise, in the past?
Nielsen: I really liked The Vandals. In their old videos the dude used to just freak out, not even sing. When we first started, I never sang. I just ran around and freaked out. Definitely Henry Rollins. Other than that, just go for it. I tend to be one of the more active people onstage.
What kind of advice do you have to guys trying to connect to the crowd?
Nielsen: Not every night you’re going to have that really awesome connection, where you are p-laying really well, you feel good and the crowd is into it. If you are having a good time, it will help the audience have a good time.
How do you feel about social networking?
Nielsen: It is definitely there. You have to use it if you are a band. It helps, and now everyone gets to have an opinion which is cool.
Can we expect anything new from your side project, Bayonet, soon?
Nielsen: We are going to record a full-length when we get home, and put it out.
What spawned the side project?
Nielsen: Just wanted to play fast, kind of punk-rock. Just for fun.
What about touring with them?
Nielsen: Probably not. Don’t really want to tour with them. We tour enough, so I don’t really want to go on a full tour.

Monday, January 3, 2011

TheKey Interview

Photo by Laura Means
I recently had the pleasure of being able to sit down with a young rock group from Macon, Georgia in the midst of their quest in the Georgia Lottery Artist Search. Clay Scott (Vocals, Guitar), Rachel Scott (Keys, Vocals),Ryan Cunningham (Bass, Vocals),Jonathan Wisdom (Guitar, Vocals),Josh Harnevious (Drums) all ended up coming together at Mercer University, where have been able to share the stage with acts like Augustana, Cartel, Gym Class Heroes, Shane and Shane and many others. Keep an eye out for their debut full-length release in early 2011! Go to for free music from theKey, including their previously unreleased single, "What I Want!"


How did you guys get hooked up with the Georgia Lottery Artist Search?
Clay Scott: I was watching a local news channel, which is something I don’t normally do, and all of the sudden a commercial popped up about this event. I thought it was pretty cool, so I looked it up online and then I told everyone last minute and we got ready. Two days later we went for our first audition, which was at the end of October.
Do you know how many acts tried out for the competition?
Jonathan Wisdom: Probably a couple hundred rocks groups, but overall about 1,000 acts tried out.
How did you guys get together originally? Did you all go to Mercer University (Macon, Ga)?
Jonathan Wisdom: Currently we have two Mercer graduates and three Mercer students.
Clay Scott: Josh and I were in a band together, so I knew him from that. When I came to college I started to date the keyboardist here, Rachel, so I had a keyboardist and I knew that I needed a few more people in my arsenal (laughs). I was good friends with Jonathan, and we led had led worship at BCM. At a D-Now thing that we were doing, I got roomed with Ryan and had to bum a ride to the event with him. He was really awkward at first (laughs), but we hit it off. I was really impressed with his playing, because he was playing in the worship band we were in. I got to know him while we were crammed in that house together and sleeping in close quarters. I really liked him, so I asked him to come and perform at something we had.
How long has it been since the actual formation of the band?
Jonathan Wisdom: I wasn’t in the band at that point.
Clay Scott: Jonathan came after our first performance, when we decided that we needed another guitarist.
Jonathan Wisdom: We showed up for a band promotional photo shoot, before I had even met Josh (laughs). We were taking band pictures together during the day, and that night we had our first band rehearsal. Basically, it was just taking what they had already, (bass, drums, keys and an acoustic guitar) and adding another acoustic guitar to it. It sounded alright, but then we decided to add an electric guitar in there and it sounded much better.
Clay Scott: And that formed theKey that we have today!
Speaking of theKey, where did the band name come from?
Jonathan Wisdom: Well, “theKey” is basically the point. What is the point of life? What we are trying to do is encourage our listeners to ask that question. What is the key here? What is the key to this particular situation, to my circumstances, to my life? What is the point of all of this? What we try to put across in our music is that the key to life is a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. We feel like there is a lot of apathy in the world and sometimes we are all a victim to that too, but we try to be proactive and get out there and get things done. We try to encourage people to get out there and do something! Live life! We want people to see that life is about a relationship with God, but we encourage a lot of other positive things too.
Do you guys want to be classified as a Christian group?
Clay Scott: We are all Christians in this band, and our lyrics are based on our faith in Jesus Christ. That is an absolute cornerstone to our band. As far as labeling ourselves as a Christian ban, that is something that we try to steer away from. We are trying to reach a mainstream market. We are trying to get out amongst the mainstream airways, much like Switchfoot and Relient K have been able to do. We are trying to reach the lost, and people who don’t know about this. We think that the best way to do this, is to meet them where they are. A lot of people shy away from that when they hear that a band is “Christian,” but our message is nothing short of that. We are trying to stay away from labels to try and reach as many people as we can.
Did you (Clay) write most of the songs on the first Ep?
Clay Scott: I had the majority of the songs already written, before I met the band. Normally, I come up with the structure and the words to the songs, and I bring it to the band like a lifeless body (laughs) and everyone plugs into it. Eventually it gets a heartbeat and becomes something that is alive (laughs). I bring the structure of the music, and the band fills in the other stuff. I don’t play drums, keys or bass very well, so I let them fill in the gaps and give the songs life.
What about for the record you guys are working on right now?
Clay Scott: Once we got together, and got the feel for everything, it became just a tidal wave of writing music. We would just come up with something, bring it before the group and it would be maybe one practice before we would realize that this was something solid. There was a lot that was discarded, but the ones that did make it we are really confident int. We definitely co-wrote a great deal of these songs.
Jonathan Wisdom: A majority of the songwriting comes from what Clay will do on his own time, and then bring it to us. There have been a few instances where we are in practice, and someone is fooling around on an instrument and it sounds cool, so we will put off everything we are doing and go with it. We have even gotten a couple of songs out of doing that! Definitely for this next album, the other four of us are having a larger portion of the songwriting than what was on the Ep.
Will the full length have some of the same songs from the first Ep?
Jonathan Wisdom: The Ep has eight tracks, and six of the songs off of that are going to be re-recorded and then there will be seven brand-new tracks on the album as well.
Clay Scott: That was a long time ago when we recorded those, when we were still wet behind the ears. We have been playing those same songs for the past couple of years and we definitely do them differently now. We want to bring the updated version to everyone now!
What is the goal for you guys as a band?
Jonathan Wisdom: The goal is to do music and ministry full-time. We would love to support ourselves and our families with what we do with this band. That is the ultimate goal, and that is where we feel called. Now the steps to get there are difficult. We are trying to determine if and when we can pursue this full-time. Right now we are full-time work and full-time school.
Clay Scott: God has taught us a lesson about trying to make plans, as in it is useless. We are just following Him completely, and hoping that he leads us to do this full-time over the next year, but we have no idea.


Rocky Loves Emily Interview with guitarist Andrew Stevens

Since forming in early 2009 Detroit's, Rocky Loves Emily, has accomplished a great deal on their own accord. After playing self-booked tours across the nation, aimed to connect/re-connect with fans, the has released their latest Ep on Tooth and Nail records called "American Dream." While touring in the past, RLE made an effort to play as many Hot Topic "in-store" shows as possible, helping them continue to build a fanbase from the ground up. "American Dream" was released on November 23rd, and has generated quite the buzz. Check out their latest video, "Clueless," below! 
Cliche one, how did you guys meet up originally?

We all kind of met randomly through local music, touring, and college. Not too crazy of a back story.
It seems as though this whole process, from the time you guys formed, to touring and signing with Tooth and Nail has been quick. When was the turning point where you guys realized that you were on to something?
It was definitely a quick moving process for us. I think we all knew from very early in the game that the band had potential, but I think it really hit us last March/April when we did our first National tour. That's when we met some amazing people at Tooth, really cool stuff was happening, and we all got stoked about our future.
How did you guys get hooked up with Tooth and Nail? What attracted you guys to them?
We met our A&R guy randomly at a Copeland show out in Seattle while we were on tour. We dropped a CD off at the Tooth headquarters and things started rolling from there. I think the only reason I was attracted to the label was because so many of my favorite bands are on T&N! haha. As Cities Burn, Emery, Showbread, He Is Legend, Underoath, August Burns Red, Anberlin, I could go on for hours but I'll stop.
You played a bunch of Hot Topic in stores, before being signed. How were they beneficial to your success as a band?
I think playing acoustic shows like that gives a band a really intimate setting to meet and hang out with kids. We created a great relationship with Hot Topic managers and employees too. A lot of wonderful people work at those stores.
Are you guys going to continue to do them on a regular basis?
Things change a little bit when you are a signed band, a little more red tape and all that jazz. But, we are going to try to do as many Hot Topics as we can in the future. We always love it.
How did you come about the exclusive album deal with Hot Topic?
We felt like it was kind of an obvious decision. We'd already built a great relationship with the company and they had done so much for us. We wanted to give back to them by putting our product on their shelves. So, our label sent out an offer to them and they agreed.
How do you guys approach the writing process normally?
Idealy, we like to go in the great Michigan woods, build fires, have Steve (our keyboard player) make some awesome burgers, sit around the campfire playing acoustic, and swap manly stories. Now that's inspiration.
What was the basic idea/inspiration behind "American Dream?"
Well most of the songs on the record are about girls. But you didn't hear that from me. The title track, American Dream, is basically our proclamation to the world. It's about us taking a risk doing what we love to do (i.e. driving around the country playing music). The bridge of the song wraps up the idea by challenging the listener to go do what they love to do. We all have an "American Dream", so go find out what yours is!
How was it working with Casey Bates?
Casey is the freakin' man. Casey has a giant movie projector in his house the size of an entire wall. We had "movie night" and watched Terminator. Do I need to say anything else?
How did working with Casey in Seattle transform you guys?
Wait, aside from watching Terminator? haha Let's see, Casey was the first "pro" producer we've worked with. So, I think working with him gave us a new understanding of what our band sounds like. It's weird hearing your songs for the first time at a pro level. We we're like "woah, is that us?"
What was the inspiration behind your new music video?
Me and Brandon (lead singer) actually brain-stormed up the idea while washing dishes. We we're just talking about funny ideas for a video and I was like "Dude" and he was like "Dude". The rest is history. We're inspirational people I suppose you could say.
Who are some bands you guys are really into right now?
Well I'll speak for myself on this one. Currently, I'm really into Nicki Minaj, The Summer Set, Led Zeppelin, and For Today. Such tasty jams! haha
Any bands you have looked up to in terms of live performance?
That's a really good question. We try to make our live performance really energetic. I think we look up to metal bands a lot for our stage presence. We do a lot of synchronized head banging, running in place, and jumping. I think We Came As Romans has pretty sick stage presence.
What do you guys have coming up next?
We actually just announced a tour that's running January 14th through February 16th with our good buds Set It Off. After that we'll be starting the writing process for our next record and probably another spring tour. After that, we plan to go triple platinum, tour with Lady GaGa, have a number 1 song on the top 40 charts, start our own reality show, etc. Just kidding about that entire sentence.

Lovedrug Interview with frontman Michael Shepard

As the music industry changes, many bands are adapting and finding better ways to connect with their core fans and keep making music that they like. One of my favorite groups, Lovdrug, is currently going through this transition. Recently, Lovedrug has parterned with Pledge Music to create the "I AM LOVEDRUG" campain to raise funds for their upcoming LP. With every pledge made to the campaign, a portion of the proceeds will go to band's charity partner Mocha Club. Fans will have a chance to bid on rare items, gain access to exclusive content, and ultimately aid in the making of Lovedrug's newest record! Check it out at I had a chance to speak with frontman Michael Shepard on Lovedrug's latest news...
  Shout out to Shaun Berger...
How did you guys come up with the idea of making your new record and interactive experience with your fans?

Shepard: It started with the release of an ep and sharing some of our newer demos with some fans. Their feedback was paramount in our moving forward with the writing process. So we decided to release a series of 2 more eps (3 total) to let the fans be involved in the choosing of what types of songs would make the record. Our label crapped on us so they got an angry record in return. It was maybe unfair to the fans.. but what can I say, sometimes demons need to be exorcised before growth can take place. Now it's all about a new beginning, involving the fans and making the record that we've been meaning to make all along.
How did you guys get hooked up with Mocha Club, for the making of your next full-length?
Shepard: We've been checking out their organization for a while now. It just made sense to get involved now and tie it in to the Iamlovedrug campaign for maximum exposure for them. It's a great cause.
What are some exclusive items that fans can purchase, to help raise funds for charity and the new album?
Shepard: There's something for everyone really. Everything from an entry level pledge where you'd receive a signed copy of the new album before anyone else, all the way up to personal writing and recording sessions with the band. It all depends on the pledge amount.
Now that you guys are label-free, what have been some of the benefits?
Shepard: I don't know. We'll see I suppose.
What was the inspiration behind the idea of creating a series of 3 EPs?
Shepard: It was a way to share our demos with the fans. In turn their feedback would help us decide what kind of songs to write for this record.
Have you began writing/recording for the new record?
Shepard: We've been writing it for the past two years. We have about 60 songs at this point. We're ready to record.
What would you say this record will bring to the table in comparison to previous releases?
Shepard: It' new, fresh. I couldn't compare it to anything we've done in the past. I feel the way I did when I was making our first record though.. so maybe that's an indication.
How did you guys come upon covering Def Leppard's "Hysteria"?
Shepard: I've always wanted to cover that song. I'm actually a huge Def Leppard fan. A lot of younger folks might find that cheesy, but I think it's awesome.
Overall, what's your favorite song to perform live?
Shepard: I don't know. Not Black Out.
Who are some artists/bands that you have looked up to in the past/present in terms of live performance?
Shepard: The Black Keys. Even though our music is nothing alike I respect Dan and Pat so much. They rule.
Perfect day, driving in your car, windows down what are you listening to?
Shepard: Most likely, if you'd ask my girlfriend, it'd be a film score. Or maybe Muddy Waters.
What do you guys have coming up next?
Shepard: The afterlife. Cheers to it.

fun. Show Review by He Who Fights With Monsters

Fun. put on one of the most energetic shows I had ever been to. Since their band name is “fun.” they have an expectation to live up to, and they do, very well. Their opener was “Be Calm.” It was the song that made me fall in love with them. There is so much to their music, that sadly they lack the sufficient number of band members to accurately re-create their sound live exactly like it sounds on the album. On the other hand, it is great because it allows them to make for themselves a different, yet similar, sound like of that on the record. For what some may see as lacking during a live show, frontman Nate Ruess makes up for it in pure, unbridled energy. They played “Dog Problems,” an all-too familiar The Format song. He (Ruess) commanded them in an emotional outcry against a girl from the song. He had complete control over the crowd after that. Overall, they played a great show. There is no way no one left not amazed. They said they are releasing a follow-up record to their debut, “Aim & Ignite” soon, and also that they would be back to Atlanta early next year.

-He Who Fights With Monsters

He Who Fights With Monsters reviews He Is We's new album, "My Forever"

Forever And Ever - The lyrics foreshadow the overlying tone of the record. The emotions one goes through and the rush of loving someone and what you’re willing to do for them and what they mean to you. This song could really go at the beginning or end of the album and be just fine.

All About Us - Aaron's voice mixes all too well with Rachel's in this single. I love the simple guitar that has a great sound throughout. I feel like this song really welcomes people to come and enjoy the rest of their music. It’s a relatable song that’s so catchy it hurts.

Everything You Do - I think this song is what sets He Is We apart from other girl-lead bands nowadays. This song brings out their style a bit more. Songs like these make me love them so much more.

And Run - The vocal hook is funny in a new, fun way. Definitely one of their better songs with more confident lyrics on Rachel’s part. This one could easily be the second single.

Happily Ever After - Beautifully re-done from their first release of the song. This song proves that they were wise to switch to a full band. The keys and slight guitar in the second verse goes a long way in the feel of the song.

Kiss It All Better - I don’t know if this is a dream or something of the past, but this is an emotionally strong track. It’s the emotional climax of the album. The mood shifts drastically from “Happily Ever After” to this one. It’s a sad song of lost love. Metaphor or not, we’ve all been there.

Prove You Wrong - The sad undertones from the previous track are lifted with the beautiful hope of a new love in this one. The lyrics, “Take that leap of faith, if you want to. Don't let that broken heart haunt you. Can you let me try? Tell me it's alright.” show this. It’s a great transitional song especially as we move closer to the end of the album.

Blame It On The Rain - I don’t know how to accurately say what this song doesn’t say for itself. It was one of my favorites from their earlier stuff. They re-did it and completely blew the old one away. Every part of this song is outstanding.

Love Life - This song is determined to bring the mood out of the hurtful past it went through and find love. It’s a love that has got some scars but hope is coming. The fast bridge really makes this song. "I don’t mind a chop or two, but God I love that sound, sound. Thunder of my inner cage so they calm me down, down." Ah, fantastic.

Fall - This is the most mature song out of the bunch. It sounds like it is the final goodbye to a hurtful love. “Let my pride to the side, tear me open look inside. Just to see how many times you’ve really made these eyes cry.” It is a vulnerable ending, and I think a perfect, mature way of ending this fantastic debut record.

-He Who Fights With Monsters