Monday, January 30, 2012

The Big Sleep Interview with Danny Barria (guitarist/vocalist)

After several years off, The Big Sleep is back with a brand new album filled layers of catchy riffs, and crunching tones. Danny Barria and Sonya Balchandani are a perfect match. Balchandani's diverse vocals, range from hypnotic to raw, paired with Barria's beautifully floating riffs (and occasional brilliant vocals), makes this album unlike any other. I am currently blown away by their first single, "Ace," which makes me roll the windows down in my car in the coldest of winter's days. It is that good.
Their album, Nature Experiments drops today, January 31st. For more info on the band, check out their site: http://thebigsleep.net/
It's been a little while since your last release, how was the break? Did you guys work on any other projects?
The break was really good, we got to recharge and write new songs at our own pace. We also got to work on different projects, Sonya played bass on tour for Les Savy Fav and I played guitar on tour for Neon Indian, which was definitely one of the funnest experiences of my life. We both did some travelling, I read a lot of books and Sonya got into knitting. It was all a good change from the period before, when our band was all we thought about.
Before approaching Nature Experiments, did you guys have a direction for the album in mind?
We just knew that we had to change things up a bit, we'd been in "power trio" mode for a long time. I became less bossy, Sonya became a lot more involved in the songwriting, and it changed things in a really good way. It wasn't all about guitars and volume and riffs anymore, not to badmouth guitar and volume and riffs, we just got over that part of it (for now).
When did you begin the process for the album?
 We finished touring for Sleep Forever and just knew things were going to be different. We didn't do anything band related for a while, but individually we just started having ideas for songs, so when we finally decided to get in a room and play songs again, we had a good amount to work on. I'd say the first bits and pieces started coming together in '09,and we just took our time putting it all together. We ended up recording in January of '11 with Eli Janney, and the whole process was really relaxed, we didn't have firm ideas of everything we wanted, but we had the songs down and the general feeling of the album was firmly in place.
What would you say was the biggest difference in your writing/recording process in comparison to your previous album?
 We took so long to record our first record for a lot of different reasons, and we'd built up some momentum when we toured behind it. We'd also written new songs, and knew that we wanted to get them out quickly.We went into the studio for basic tracking with Chris Coady, then he and I went through this really intense period of overdubbing and experimenting and trying things out. It was really great and fun but really pressured, we had a set amount of time to work. The whole process took about a month. This time around we really took our time and just made sure we liked what we were doing, and we'd sit with mixes of songs and let the ideas come to us really organically. Nothing felt rushed.
This album is filled with beautifully constructed hooks paired with crunching, almost hypnotic riffs. How would you say these sounds come to fruition? What does the writing process normally look like for you guys?
Songs rarely came in fully formed, It was different every time, sometimes one of us would have a vocal melody or just a bassline first, but it usually started with me showing Sonya a guitar line with a change or two, and we'd decide if it was something we wanted to work on. Sonya would come back with a vocal line or another change or melody to add to the initial piece, and then we'd kind of edit or add or discard till we thought it felt like a TBS song.
Are you periodic writers, or do you write continually?
 We're both always coming up with new bits and pieces, the funniest thing is hearing the melodies we sing into our phones and show each other. Since you are both talented vocalists, how do you decide who will take the lead on a song? Trial and error? We hardly ever have a conflict on this point we normally just know who's going to do what on each song. It's not as simple as "who thought of a vocal melody first" but it seems to be working like that. We've gotten pretty open to suggestions and ideas from each other.
What would you like for listeners to take away from the album, after listening to it of course?
The whole thing is about getting through hard times and adversity  by putting your head down and getting into your work (whether that's songwriting or painting or math or anything),and by staying close with the people you love.
I am specifically drawn to "Ace," can you tell me how this song originally came together?
 I had the idea for that opening guitar riff as soon as we got off the last Sleep Forever tour. When we finally started working on things, I knew that riff kind of set up a certain expectation, and I wanted the rhythm that came in not to fall in line with that, to kind of go sideways. After that, the verse came from another song I was working on that I was trying to make Timbaland-esque. Since I failed miserably, Sonya suggested we use it for Ace, and then everything came together really quickly after that. I demoed it and Sonya had the vocal for it right away, it's probably my favorite vocal of hers, and my favorite song on the record, kind of captures the spirit of the whole thing. Once we were working on it, it came together pretty naturally.
Where did you guys get the idea for the video for "Ace?" Was is really only shot on flip cams?(absolutely beautiful!)
We've always used lights in our live show, specifically all the lights we use in the video. I knew I wanted to try the idea out, so I borrowed my friend Allison's flip cam and shot some stuff with Sonya, and put together the first 40 seconds or so. We knew we liked it so we just kept going with the flip cams. It was pretty fun but took FOREVER, it was my first time doing anything like it, and my iMovie skills aren't that great.
How do you guys feel about social media? Are you fans?
I'm not personally a facebook dude, I barely use it and don't really feel like telling people what happened at the dentist's office or whatever, but I like the idea of a band facebook/twitter/tumblr/etc, people can find out what we're up to and we can do things that give us a bit of an identity beyond the music.
Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
I think Sonya and I can both agree on Led Zeppelin. She'd probably also say Fleetwood Mac, she's pretty into them (and has a hard time accepting that I'm not), and I would also list whatever dance jams I'm into at the time ("Weekend" by Class Actress right now).

The Never Setting Suns Interview with Corey Larrison

Recently sent over some questions to Cincinnati based indie-rock band, regarding their beginnings and future release. By far, some of the most interesting and heartfelt answers I have received in a very long time. Please check these guys out at http://theneversettingsuns.com/. Their latest single is available for free here! http://theneversettingsuns.com/music/
How did the project begin? How did the group assemble?
Well, it’s easiest to start with this: the three of us had been friends for a while. Chris and I lived in a house together with a bunch of guys and Tyler would come over all the time. We’d play Halo, listen to records, rope swing over fires in the backyard… stuff like that. Then at some point I started going over to Tyler’s parent’s house with my guitar and the two of us started playing. It was mostly covers we wanted to play like Never Ending Math Equation by Modest Mouse and Wolf Like Me by TV on the Radio but after a few months of doing that we started to write some of our own stuff. We honestly did that for close to a year and then we were asked to play a show by a friend of ours at a local pirate themed laser tag arena called Scaly Wag Tag. That’s when Chris asked us if he could step in on bass for a few songs. He literally stepped in, we didn’t practice together, we just brought a bass and amp for Chris and he stepped in with a piece of paper that had a few notes written on it. The night went great, we even have a recording of it somewhere, but it was an all-night event so by 6 am we were beat. We all had so much fun playing the show though that we decided to keep doing it. This conversation happened over us packing up. Then we went to Perkins.
Cliché one, where did the name The Never Setting Suns come from? Is there a story behind how it was chosen?
There is a story but it’s not very good. When we first started playing together we didn’t really have any aspirations to make or do anything besides play in Tyler’s parent’s basement and do a show here or there for our friends. So there was no real need for name, we were just Corey & Tyler’s band. Eventually Tyler and I played the show with Chris at Scaly Wag Tag and told them our name was Broken Idols. We hated the name (because it was a stupid name) and after we picked up Chris and started trying to actually do band like things, we thought we should have a name. We were really bad at coming up with ideas though and The Never Setting Suns looked really good on this picture of New York that my girlfriend, now wife, had taken … so we just went with it. Even Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse who got their name from a line out of a Virginia Woolf book (modest, mouse colored people) always said he wished he’d found a better name so maybe that’s just the nature of naming bands.
How would you say you arrived on "your sound"?
Guitar pedals, friendship and time. I was really obsessed with Craigslist and buying guitar pedals early on, which led us to a lot of experimenting. We wrote the entire song “Spheres” out of a strange delay pedal setting and this cool noise with an e-bow that we saw Explosion in the Sky do. Friendship and time are the real contributing factors though. We live our lives together. Right now Tyler lives in a house with Chris and his wife and we hang out with each other all through the week. What’s cool is that through Chris and me getting married, Tyler and me graduating college, Chris having a kid and the band going on four years being together, we’re somehow closer as friends. We always wanted our band to be something that brought us together and it really has. Because it brings us together, we want to do it. We want to play together and write songs together; we just love what we’re doing. If there’s anything that “our sound” comes out of, it’s that. There’s integrity to music that comes from people who love what they’re writing. I think we learned that from Neil Young.
What's the music scene like in Cincinnati?
It’s prevalent and it has a deep history. There are all of these great people that played in bands ten years ago that still go to shows and play in new bands with guys from other bands that played ten years ago. Then beyond that there’s this great history of the Afghan Whigs, the National, Over the Rhine, Wussy, etc… that virtually everyone respects and is proud to be a part of. It’s also incredibly encouraging to see older musicians with lives, real lives, past the age of twenty five and still writing or playing music. There’s this particular guy in a band around here called Pop Empire that has two sons and hearing him talk about how he encourages them to be creative and look at the world differently from everyone else is just as encouraging for us to hear. It’s artists like that in our community that really makes us glad to be a part of the music culture we’re in. 
What can people expect when they see you live? Who are some people that you have looked up to in the past in terms of live performance and stage presence?
When we write songs, we spend a lot of time talking about what we want them to be about. What the song is about determines what the lyrics are, the feel of the song and ultimately how we play the song. Envisioning what we’re playing, especially if the song is a narrative, is something we value and it’s where we draw the emotion of how we’re playing. What we’re playing about determines how we’re playing it. If the song is about that feeling of being trapped in a personal struggle, then our individual reactions come out. Tyler’s going to lash out, I’m going to writhe on stage and Chris will move around with an air of introspection. It’s what we do, we have these feelings and these stories that we want to share with people and our bodies are as much a part of them as our music is. If we’re going to be vulnerable with people about who we are and what we’re thinking, we’re not going to look like we’ve got everything together either. Because we don’t. We’re flawed and human and communicating that does not come through an air of composure. That’s why we draw a lot of influence from artists like Fugazi, Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Neil Young. They structured their performances in such a way that they couldn’t play songs without feeling and that’s really all we’re trying to do.
What would you like for them to take away?
We played a show once at the Southgate House in Newport, KY in this tiny packed upstairs room. There was this older woman that none of us had ever seen before who made her way to the front and absolutely let herself go to what we were playing. After the show I ran into her and I told her how encouraged we were by her enjoying what we were doing. I had kind of thought that she’d just been really drunk but when I said this to her she very soberly and calmly just looked at me for a few seconds without saying a word. She smiled and said, “You know, someday I hope my daughters will be able to do what you do.” She went on to explain that when she saw us playing she was taken aback by how moved we were by our own songs. She said that was her one wish for her daughters, to be able to do something that they truly loved doing. That’s always been the reaction from people that fuels us, when people see us let ourselves go in our songs and they themselves let go too. Ian MacKaye of Fugazi once said, “We don't wanna play to a bunch of heads and bodies because heads and bodies represent consumers, and I don't want anything to do with that.” That’s what we don’t want. We don’t want people to come to our shows, pay for their ticket, receive their performance, go home and feel cool. We are not a product and we’re not offering a product when we play. We’re offering people the opportunity to be a part of something that we love. We’re sharing an incredibly intimate part of our lives with the hope of people responding to and feeling a part of it themselves. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco compared what he felt a good show should be like to what he felt church should be like, a group of people with a sense of community coming to share in an experience. So, to put it shorty, we want people to feel the movement of what we’re doing and walk away with that experience.
How did the writing process pan out for you guys on your new release, Time & Eternity? Was it a collaborative effort?
With the way our lives are, the writing process tends to be collaborative effort. There’s rarely ever a writing stage for us, it just happens the more often we get together. With Time & Eternity it was the span of about a year of writing. The summer after we released our first album And Now We’re Not Alone in 2010 was when we really started. Chris had just gotten married, I had just proposed to my now wife and we would go to our practice space during the week and mess around with new material. Sometimes Chris would have a bass line or Tyler would have a drum beat or I’d have some chords and lyrics but, in general, we’d all try to bring something with us. That’s how we try to write. Once we’ve written parts together, we start to discuss what each particular song should be about. That’s the most unifying part of everything. I write the lyrics for each song but the content of what the words and the song are about come through our conversations. It’s important to us that what’s being said in every song is some idea that the three of us strongly agree on because, again, it’s what we draw our performance from. When we went into the Monastery Studio in 2011 to record, we had all but about two songs completely written. We finished those two songs while we were recording.
Tell me how "Meet Me There" specifically came together...
“Meet Me There” was one of those songs we started writing the summer after we released our first album. But initially we were working on two very different songs. The verse and guitar melody of Meet Me There were from fragments that I had written on acoustic guitar right after Chris had gotten married and I had gotten engaged. A lot was changing but I was really happy with all of it and I remember sitting down, coming up with those chords and melody and then recording them on my nice LG flip phone. At the same time, the three of us had come up with an incredibly intense song that was basically Tyler beating the hell out of his cymbals and me playing a heavily delayed triplet with the new green Russian Big Muff I had bought. At some point, we realized that these two songs we were different ways of playing the same two chords, A & D, and decided to make it one song. So we arranged the song in a way that the verses would be incredibly happy but then burst into these strong epic pre-chorus moments. As we were doing this, I started writing the lyrics. The lyrics came out of a lot of discussions we were having about marriage and relationships but it also in a literal sense came out things I wanted to say to my then fianc√© Alex before we got married in 2011.
What would you like for listeners to take way from the album, after giving it a good listen?
If they can make it all the way through, I’d say two things. First, an appreciation for music that isn’t easily accessible. Humanity is too deep of an experience to try and express in only short catchy songs. The songs that have really moved me have always been longer songs that took a few listens to figure out what they meant to me. Trailer Trash by Modest Mouse, Cortez the Killer by Neil Young, Broken Chairs by Built to Spill, Storm by Godspeed!You Black Emperor, etc… Second, we really want people to take our songs, consider what they’re saying and think about what’s true. The album is titled after Book XI in Augustine’s Confessions and at the very beginning of the work he declares, “Truth, truth: how in my inmost being the very marrow of my mind sighed for you!”  That’s something we really believe, that truth is something humanity longs for. It’s also something that’s really scary and is easier to avoid than to consider. That’s why we hope people take away from our album an encouragement to think deeply and consider truth. It’s not very post-modern of us.
 Who did you guys work with during the recording process? What attracted you to work with them?
We worked with two guys, Rich Hordinski and Matt Moermond, at a place called Monastery Studio in Over the Rhine (downtown Cincinnati), Ohio. We had initially heard about Rich and his studio from a few local artist friends of ours that had been recording there. They spoke very well of him and what he did so we decided to try him out to record two songs. Originally we were going to just make a 7” single for Record Store Day but after the two songs were recorded we got a call from Rich and he wanted to know if we’d be interested in some time in the studio with Matt Moermond. We said yes. Matt had been at the studio with us for the two songs and he was someone that we really trusted with our sound. The whole process was incredible, we honestly feel very fortunate to have been able to do it.
Any advice for new D.I.Y. bands just starting out?
Yeah, DIFY, do it for yourself. What it meant to be a DIY band in the 80s or the 90s with underground touring networks and zine’s is different from what it means to be a band today when at some point in 2008 there were allegedly 8 million bands on Myspace (RIP) and the best way to get ahold of higher up blogs today is to enter contests on Reverbnation. DIY was what it was because people supported it; there were communities of people that wanted to go to shows where they didn’t know who was playing. But that doesn’t exist anymore so it’s so important to understand that playing music without the blessing of major influencers has to be because you love to play it, not because you think you’ll “make it.” Ian MacKeye of Fugazi would always get asked about the formula to being a successful DIY band and he once said, “You ask me what Fugazi is about and I say Fugazi is about being a band… our job is to be a band and to play.” We say do that. Figure out what being a band means to you and play. Don’t figure out what other people want to hear, play to suit them and then be band. Disney Records does a better job of that than you ever will.
How important is social networking/media for bands like you?
It’s crucial. Part of our philosophy as a band has always been that it would help us grow closer together and help us mature as people. For us, that meant college, jobs, marriages and Chris having a kid. That all made touring something we decided not to do in the beginning. We’ve always felt, and still feel, that we should go on tour in response to people wanting us to come rather than trying to get them to go. We watched too many local bands go out on tours and get burned by it. Bands would break up, no one would go to their shows and they’d have hard times getting jobs. We didn’t look down on it, we just thought there were too many people going that route and not having much success for us to try it. So, we came up with plans outside of touring to share our music with people. For the last year, that has primarily been centralized around social networking and media. In early 2011 we started filming and editing videos from our more intimate performances and putting them on YouTube with the hope that people would be able to experience a part of what we’re doing from home (which is what we all do with every band we’ve never seen live). Then this past summer we decided to make a website and, in the spirit of DIY, I coded the whole thing myself. I had no idea how to do any of it either, it was insanely difficult. Beyond that, we became social without our social media accounts. All of this has allowed us to share our music with people without hurting what our music comes out of, our lives.
Any shows coming up?
Yes. The show for the album release party on March 24th here in Cincinnati, a house show in Lexington, KY late April and possibly a short tour out of that if we can find interest. If we don’t go on a quick tour we’ll make a lot of YouTube videos.
 Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
There’s Nothing Wrong with Love by Built to Spill, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About by Modest Mouse, Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven by Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever by Explosions in the Sky, Mean Everything to Nothing by Manchester Orchestra and, of course, Zuma by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. If we ever write an album like any of those, we win.

Casey Hurt Interview

Recently caught up with Casey while he is currently on tour. Check out his latest music and tour dates on his Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/yKqaYD

How would you say you arrived on "your current sound"? Specifically, your voice and tone (it’s so unique and beautiful).
Thank-you for your kind words. Honestly I think that I arrived at it by running from it. I’ve always had a major soul and blues influence in my voice but for the longest time I was trying to play indie-emo music. It wasn’t until I started embracing my roots (Jackson Brown, Van Morrison, Sly and The Family Stone) that I found my sound. I guess I really just settled into the only thing that felt authentically me.
What can people expect when they see you live? What would you like for them to take away?
The most important thing to me at a show is honesty. I want people to feel a real connection with me and the stories that I’m telling. That’s when the real magic happens, when the listeners will go with me wherever the music is leading.

Who are some people that you have looked up to in the past in terms of live performance and stage presence?
I think Joe Cocker is one of the most amazing live performers, he’s really amazing. As far as modern performers go, I think John Mayer is really brilliant, he puts his whole being into it. Also, Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Those guys kill it. One of my favorite live DVD’s is Lauren Hill Unplugged. That’s just raw honesty.
How did the writing process pan out for your latest release, Mended Souls? How would you say it differed from your previous release Letters From a Friend?
Letters From A Friend is an interesting record. It’s really a collection of songs from a huge span of my life. Mended Souls is a much different record because all of those songs were within the first year that I moved to LA. I’ve always written pretty consistently but once I moved to LA I really started investing a lot of time into it. “Letter’s” has songs on it that date back to when I was 19 and causing trouble in Portland. It’s also a pretty heavy record. You can definitely tell that Mended Souls has some more sunshine in it and I feel like it’s a more mature record.
Do you write continually, or are you more of a periodic writer?
I try and write continually. Some of the best advice I ever received was from Jon Forman of Switchfoot. He told me to “write every day, even if you don’t love what comes out” and that’s what I’ve tried to do.
Tell me how "Sunday Mornings " specifically came together...(beautiful, by the way…)
Honestly, Sunday Mornings just showed up. Any songwriter will tell you that there are some songs you have to labor over and some that are just given to you. I feel like Sunday Mornings was just given to me. I think I was sitting at my kitchen table, looking across at my wife and it just started coming out.
What would you like for listeners to take way from your album, Mended Souls?
My prayer for all of my music is that it can help define a moment for someone. I just want it to be a bookmark in the story of a person’s life, to help them remember the things that they’ve loved or lost or go through. I also hope that it reminds people that they deserve to be loved and should love right back.
Any advice for new D.I.Y. artists just starting out?
Work really hard. Your career will not come to you, you have to decide what you want it to be and work hard at it. If that’s being a songwriter, then write all the time. If that’s being a recording artist, then get in front of a mic as much as possible. Also, surround yourself with other great artist who will be honest with you about your work. Community is the key to survival in the changing industry. You’ll grow by surrounding yourself with people who are better then you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help but also don’t be afraid to offer it.
How important is social networking/media for you?
Very, very important, especially since I started getting my music on TV. It’s provided a major inlet for people to discover my music and get involved in my life/career.
What kind of positives have you seen from having your music featured on shows like One Tree Hill? Have you had a chance to see the scenes featuring your songs?
One Tree Hill is an awesome show because they really love and take care of the musicians that they feature. I’ve connected with a really great community of people through the shows and they’re always sure to let their fan’s know how to find you. We usually try and watch the episode when it airs.
Any shows coming up?
I’m actually writing this from the road. I’m touring the bay area through the end of January and then I’ll be off for a bit to start recording the next record. I’ll probably start touring the new record in late spring.
Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
“A Case Of You” by Joni Mitchell or “Wildflowers” by Tom Petty.

Sunday Lane Interview

I recently stumbled across Sunday while listening to One Tree Hill, where she had two songs featured in the season premier of the show. She is sure to catch the ear of many other listeners with her uniquely beautiful tone, carefree delivery and honest lyrics. Sunday was kind enough to take some time to answer a couple of questions regarding her music and upcoming projects...
For more information on Sunday and to hear more of her music, please check out http://sundaylane.com/
Check out her band, Thick as Thieves too! http://www.thievesmusic.com/
How would you say you developed your tone (it’s so beautiful by the way).
Well, thank you! It's been kind of trial and error process. I've never taken voice lessons, but my mom is a classical singer and has definitely helped me along the way. I think a lot of my tone has come from the artists I listen to, especially David Gray and Tegan & Sara.
What can people expect when they see you live? What would you like for them to take away?
If someone walked out of my concert, turned to their friend and said "wow, you can tell she means everything she sings, and she made me believe it too," I'd call that a success.
Who are some people that you have looked up to in the past in terms of live performance and stage presence?
I saw Lissie perform a year ago, and it was so inspiring! She's incredible. She's so real and honest. Not to mention, she has a killer voice.
You are currently in school, correct? How has it been juggling school and playing/creating music? Do they go hand-in-hand?
I'm actually taking this semester off and it has been WONDERFUL. I love school, and but I don't like having to compromise my education for my career. I'm currently working on three different projects as well as writing for a couple other artists, and it's been so nice not having to juggle that with school. Being able to put all of my creative energy towards my passion is just such a blessing.
When did you begin to fall in love with making music?
When I was seven years old, my dad gave me Elton John’s greatest hits CD. I remember running up to my room, putting it in my Walkman and just thinking “Oh, my goodness. I have to do this. I have to make music.” The only problem was, I hated going to piano lessons and my mom could never quite convince me to take voice lessons. I felt really frustrated because I loved music so much, but it just wasn’t clicking for some reason. When I learned how to play chords, and started writing songs at fifteen, it was one of those “aha!” moments. I’ve never questioned that making music, writing music, singing, performing, all of it is what I want to do until I’m old and grey.
How does the writing process normally pan out for you? Do you write continually, or are you more of a periodic writer?
I never force myself to write, but I find that I write about 5 or 6 songs a week. Something will spark an idea and the lyrics and music just kind of spill out of me. Writing is extremely therapeutic and I kind of get a high off of it, as weird as that sounds!
Tell me how "Reckless One" specifically came together...(beautiful, by the way…)
Thanks! I wrote that song in the bathroom of Gladstone’s in Malibu, CA. I was 18 and had just landed in California to attend Pepperdine. My parents and I were at dinner, and all of a sudden I recalled a (quite dramatic) text message that I had sent earlier that month to a heart breaker that said, “fine, you can be careful and I’ll be the reckless one.” I ran to the bathroom, and the melody just came to me. I sang it in my phone, and the rest is history!
Are you currently working on some new songs? If so, when can fans expect to hear them?
I am working on lots of songs! I’ve been writing, writing, writing! I’m currently working on three separate projects: my solo album, an album with a producer, and an EP with the band Thick as Thieves. The Thick as Thieves EP will come out the end of February, and my solo album will be released the second week of March. I’m so excited for everyone to hear it! It’s a full length, which is a bit daunting, but I definitely think it will be worth it!
Any advice for new D.I.Y. artists just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to take chances. Do find people who love and support you, because it is hard as hell sometimes to keep a positive mindset and you’ll need all the help you can get! Don’t take anything too seriously (whether it’s someone offering you an incredible opportunity or a bad review of your song). Do enjoy it. If you’re not doing this because you love it with all that you are then you’re in the wrong career.
How important is social networking/media for you?
Extremely! We live in a digital age. There’s no use fighting it, better to utilize it!
What kind of positives have you seen from having your music featured on shows like One Tree Hill? Have you had a chance to see the scenes featuring your songs? What was your first reaction?
My facebook fans, twitter followers, and YouTube subscribers all increased, which is great. One Tree Hill has such a loyal following, and I feel so blessed to be a small part of it! My reaction was, “Oh, wow. Oh my gosh! Sophia Bush totally just said my name! Aaaah!”
Are there any artists, or even specific albums that you are really into right now?
BON IVER! AAAAAH. He’s like all I’ve been listening to. If my headphones are in, there’s a 90% chance I’m listening to “Holocene.”
Any shows coming up?
My band Thick as Thieves has a show tomorrow (how’s that for soon? Ha) and I’ll have a CD release show in LA the second week of March. You should come!
Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
HOLOCENE!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vocal Few Interview with Matt MacDonald(also of the Classic Crime)


Following the exciting news of finding out that they were going to be first-time parent, Matt and Krisite MacDonald were then met with the realization of how much strain a newborn child would put on them financially. The couple began to brainstorm, ultimately deciding to create a new project designed to help raise money to support their child. Now, after the release of their first EP She'll Be Alright the couple is blown away by the support they have raised thus far. I had the chance to send some questions over to Matt (also, front man of The Classic Crime), regarding the project with his wife and their album's immediate success.
For more information on the project, check out www.facebook.com/vocalfew
What exactly inspired you guys to create this project?

Our baby girl being born. We decided we needed to finally work on a project together, and it was a good reason to raise money for diapers, so it all made sense.

What do you think has spawned the success of this EP, She’ll Be Right?

Definitely not anything we did. The credit goes to the fans for sharing it with their friends and the Divine for blessing it with magic wings so it can fly in front of people’s faces when they're looking for new music.

What would you say is your reaction to its success thus far?

First it was disbelief, then gratitude... followed by hope. Hope that things will be okay.

How would you say you arrived on your “sound," for this project?

I plugged in a started playing. When I was done, this is what we had. Not a lot of thought went into the production to be honest, I just knew it needed to be stripped down and organic sounding.

How does the writing process normally pan out for you? How has this project been different?

Usually it starts with a lyric or a melody line or a chord progression or anything, really. There is no normal with songwriting for me, and this project was no different. I'm not saying that writing songs is magic, but I'm saying its magic.

Do you write continually, or are you more of a periodic writer?

It's feast and fast. I go through periods where I write a lot, and periods when I don't. In the dry periods I usually resurrect older songs from the feasting period and try to re-work them.

How did you arrive on the title She’ll Be Alright?

She'll Be Right, is what it sounds like when Australians say "She'll be alright." It means, things will be okay. I was in Australia right after I heard the news that we were having a girl... so when they said that it meant something a little more to me. Especially when I worried about whether or not she'd survive with a poor musician for a father.

Are you currently planning on releasing a full-length in the near future? Since the EP has done so well…

I'm not opposed, but I like the idea of releasing EP's more frequently rather than releasing a full length every couple years.

You guys put this record together yourself, without spending any money, do you have any advice for new D.I.Y. artists just starting out?

Connect with your fans. It's about the few who follow you, not the masses who don't. If you can give them what they want, they'll share it. Build a story, make it special, and they'll be loyal.

What role does your faith play in this project?

It plays into everything I do because it is a part of me. I don't really think about it when songwriting, I just try to have integrity and be honest about what I'm feeling.

How important is social networking/media for you?

Paramount. Without social networking I am not able to communicate with our fan base, so I'm not able to be DIY.

Are there any artists, or even specific albums that you are really into right now?

To be honest I haven't been listening to music much these days. I go through phases where I listen to music and phases where I don’t. I guess I'm in one where I don't right now. Likely because I'm recording a TCC record and it consumes my time.

Are you guys planning on playing any live shows?

We've only played a house show at a friend’s, but we plan on playing more.

Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?

Right now? Um, talk radio. The News. I'm boring.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Four Year Strong Interview with Alan Day(guitarist/vocalist)


With the release of their latest album, In Some Way, Shape or Form, the former pop-punk outfit Four Year Strong decided to break out of their comfort zone, creating a record that they are truly proud while satisfying things the same time. I briefly spoke with Four Year Strong’s Alan Day (Vocalist/Guitarist) regarding the recent release and some of the changes they focused on.


How has the tour been thus far?
 Alan: It's been great we're just past the halfway point right now. It's been going great. We been having a ton of fun. All of the bands are great, and we been playing new songs which has been fun. It has been really exciting young tour.
Your new album In Some Way, Shape or Form, dropped in early November. How has the reception been thus far?
Alan: him, when we first released a couple of songs a while ago. The feedback was a little bit half-and-half, some people like them and some people didn't. We did go through a pretty big change, and we took a number of risks. Now that the record has come out, we've been noticing a lot more positive feedback for the record as a whole. I've read some reviews and it seems to be pretty good. We been playing the songs live, and they've been going over great live. Overall, it's going really well.
Going into the album to just kind of have a direction in mind before you actually started writing recording?
Alan: Yeah, I definitely think so. We knew that we wanted to change it up. I guess we didn't know exactly what the record was going to sound like but we wanted to do something new, something exciting, something out-of-the-box for us. So we had all of these big ideas, then we narrowed it down from some of the crazy ideas, from what it started to what it actually us. We just wanted to have some fun.
I've read a couple of interviews where you guys have listed specifically, that you wanted to break the mold with this record. What is the mold? Why did you guys want to break it?
Alan: well I guess the mold is really the way that we always sounded and things like that. Not because we didn’t like it anymore, or we’re not proud of what we've done the past. More than anything else we felt like we were stuck in a box creatively. There was really only so much we could do you, because there's only so much our friends knew. More than anything we just wanted to break out-of-the-box, and do whatever we wanted in a way that our fans would get, you know. In a way that still had that kind of energy and had that same kind of vibe that all of our music has always had. It's basically that kind of energy, that aggression, the melodies, the harmonies the tempo, all of those things that were always there. We just did it in a different way and showed this band in a different light, at a different angle that was always there but no one really ever got see
In making those changes, did you guys ever discuss becoming more of an overall rock group to give yourselves more longevity in the long run?
Alan: I guess in a way, but that wasn't the complete point of. It wasn't just “well, we want to make sure that we can keep doing this so we need to make the record this …” More than that, it was more like we want to keep doing this and if we are going to keep doing this, why don't we do it the way we wanted to it? So yeah, we just wrote songs that we want to write that didn't exactly fit the mold that we were in. We still have the same mindset writing these songs that we did when we were writing Rise Or Die Trying and Enemy of the World.
What were some changes that you guys made in terms of writing? Did you see any dramatic changes?
Alan: Yeah, there was a big change in the writing process. The way we used to write songs, we used to write all of the music and then write vocals on top of it. For example, on Enemy of the World, we had a couple of songs completely written, completely recorded and still didn't have any vocals written to them. Then we sang on top of what was there, and tried a bunch of different things until it worked. With this record, we were writing melody, lyrics, and music all at the same time, so they really fit with each other and worked together as a song. We were concentrating on a lot on the actual musicianship and the craft of writing this, as opposed to doing everything separate impacting everything on top each other, one after the other. Instead, we concentrated on making each song from beginning to end, like a real song.
Listening to the record, it seems to have it overall heavier/darker feel to it. Was that intended?
Alan: I think more it just kind of panned out that way. We definitely were looking to write some darker material, just because we haven't really done much of that in that's a side of Four Year Strong that has always been there, that no one has really seen or heard. Everything that we have written in the past has been more upbeat and I think that's part of why people like our band, but like I said before we just can't keep doing the same thing over and over again. We would be selling the fans short, as well as ourselves if that's what we did.
Did you guys ever feel tempted to change any of the songs to make “poppier?”
Alan: No, not really. Everything about making this record felt so natural and right, we just had such a good time doing I don't think we'll ever go back. The thing is, someone could read that, in think “oh no, Four Year Strong is never going to do something like their old stuff again!” I don't think that is necessarily case either. I just think the way that it was all done, we will never change. But like I said, the attitude of the band, the mindset that we have, and the place that we are creatively, physically we are still same band that we always were. We could very well write some happy, pop – punk type of song in the future. It's not out of the cards, but it's not where we’re at right now.
You mentioned this a little bit, but how would you respond to fans making comments like “I wish Four Year Strong would make an album like Enemy of the World again!"
Alan: same old thing. We would be selling ourselves and the fans short if we did the same thing over and over again. The reason we started playing music in the first place, because it's what we love to do. We started the band playing music that we thought we would like, and in the beginning we did it all for ourselves. Obviously, we care about our fans tremendously and we wouldn't be where we are now without them. But, at the end of the day that's what music is all about, trying new things, about expanding your horizon, it's about hearing new things, experimenting and trying to be the best that we can be.
How did the song “Heaven Wasn’t Built to Hold Me,” come together? Where did the lyrical inspiration for the song come from?
Alan: It’s kind of based behind organized religion and how some people push that on others, and it's not completely necessary. We just feel like they matter what you believe there's no reason to push your beliefs on okay someone; if it's not truly they care about. We've always had the mindset of “to each his own.” If you believe in something, that's great! But if you don't, that's fine too! That's kind of what that's all about. Musically when we wrote that song I think we were listening to a lot of Silverchair(laughs), so that's kind of where we got that. We just wanted a cool live song. We've never written a kind of slower tempo, song like that.

The Seam Interview with Jake Decker (lead vocals/guitar)

I recently had the chance to sit down with the front man of the Seam (one of my favorite Atlanta based bands), to discuss the release of their debut independent release So Long, Cityscape EP(available for purchase here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/so-long-cityscape-ep-ep/id464274037


For more info on the Seam, check out their facebook page! http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Seam/157261407677530

Cliche one, where did the name The Seam come from? Is there a story behind how it was chosen?
The name The Seam emerged out of a conversation about how we want our music to create an atmosphere where people experience something outside themselves, something greater than their pretenses.   The reason we chose The Seam was because a seam is where two pieces of material join together and are mended into one thing.  There's a union in experiencing music in which the things that we know and the things that are mysteries to us come together and allow us to experience a new reality, one that's more real than our everyday lives.   All music has that potential.  We're simply a group of guys that have that experience when we play and create and so we want to provide that experience with others in an intentional way.  We want our music to provide an atmosphere where people are joined with the unknown so that by the time the song is over, they are different people than when the song began. 
How did the project begin? How did the group assemble?
Brad, Ben, and I have known each other for several years.  I've actually known Brad for almost ten years now that I think about it. Basically we go way back to my high school days.  We all met at a church in Grayson, GA and have been friends ever since.  Henry joined the group about a year and a half ago when we were looking for someone to fill in for electric guitar.  A friend of mine referred us to Henry.  Little did we know that we were about the experience that greatest euphoric-sound-creating musician/audio magician from another planet that humans commonly refer to as Henry Grimes.  The band simply gelled naturally and we've been playing together ever since.
What can people expect when they see you live?
They can expect to fall in love with our drummer, Ben. It's kinda hard not to. Honestly, they can expect a chill vibe with the occasional rocking tune. It's hard to say really...we do a lot of different stuff.
Who are some bands/artists that you have looked up to in the past, in terms of stage presence?
One of the craziest bands to see live is Mute Math.  There so full of energy and there's never a dull moment.  That's not to say that we flip and do summersaults over the keyboards, but we do like to entertain.
How did the writing process pan out for you guys on your first release So Long, Cityscape? Was it a collaborative effort?
Most of the songs are ones in which I came up with a concept and then took it to the band to tweek.  That was the main process through which most of our songs were written.
What would you like for listeners to take away from your debut EP, So Long, Cityscape?
There's a lot I hope people get out of our music.  Mainly I hope that people experience the force in music that allows us to see things in a new light and question our identities so that we discover truth.
How do you see your faith impacting your music?
That's an interesting question.  We have faith in a lot of different things: love, hope, music, wisdom, and the ability to change.  If by faith you mean spirituality, most of our songs that deal with the subject are ones that ask questions to things we don't understand.  We don't have our lives figured out, we're all searchers for something greater than ourselves.  We do believe in something bigger and we want people to experience it. That answer kind of doesn't make sense. Haha. I think you'd have to come to one of our  shows to see what I mean.
Who are some of your bigger influences right now?
For me, the most recent influences have been the poetry of John Milton, and the music of MeWithoutYou, Mumford and Sons, Radiohead, Muse, McMillan, and the writings of C.S. Lewis--to name a few from quite and extensive list. 
How important is social networking/media for bands like yourselves?
Quite.  Facebook has been super helpful in staying in communication with fans.  Reverbnation.com is also a great source for bands that are both starting our and already well established.  I haven't been in MySpace in a while. I'll put that on my "To Do" list.
Any shows coming up?
We have some coming up in the fall.  But the dates are not finalized yet, so those who are interested should stay in touch with us on Facebook for updates.
Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
Definitely listening to Robert Randolph, Xavier Rudd, MeWithoutYou, Avett Brothers, Radiohead, and CAKE.