It's an excting time for Michigan punk band The Swellers. In 2009 alone they were lucky enough to support Paramore across America, and signining to Fueled By Ramen (Home to Forgive Durden, Cobra Starship and more) After playing the gig of their career as a band so far at Groezrock in Belgium I caught up with Nick (Vocals/Guitar) and Jonathan (Drums) to see what's next.
This is your first time over in the UK and indeed Europe, how has it all been going?
Nick: It's going well.We're over here playing shows and making friends, just exactly what we had expected.
You played Groezrock in Belgium a few weeks back, how did that go?
Jonathan: That was probably our favourite show we've ever played. Not only was there punk rock legends playing after us, we met up with alot of our friends bands there too and it was just a perfect day.
I'm sure I no doubt speak for a lot of people when I say this but i'm extremely jealous you guys saw Millencolin!
Nick: Haha I'm jealous of myself for seeing Millencolin.
Jonathan: We got to meet them and hang out for a bit, it was very awesome.
You've been signed to Fueled By Ramen for your new record 'Ups and Downsizing' Do you hope this will be the start of a more variety of bands added to the label?
Nick: I would hope so. I hope Fueled would start signing more bands as we were actually the only band they signed in 2009. Hopefully this year they'll have some more cool new bands on their roster so it won't scare me that we're the only punk band on there. [laughs]
Jono: They're a great label though, already they've given us lots of cool opportunities.
How well has 'Ups and Downsizing' been received so far?
Nick: Better than we expected. All the reviews that we've seen have been great and people have been buying them after shows and it's been awesome.
Jonathan: I think it's like a delayed reaction, as right when it came out we got a lot of press but just recently a lot of people have just started talking about us. Bands like The Bled that I thought would never have even known who we are, so its really cool. So yeah the reactions have all been great.
The single 'Fire Away' has seen a lot of airplay on our radio show especially along with a few others. Do you have any other singles in the pipeline?
Jonathan: We're going to work on a video for Sleeper soon so that's likely to be the next one. I think we need to talk about the video first before we make it but thats the next step right now.
There seems to be a variety of influences present in your music from punk bands new and old. What sort of collective influences do you have as a band?
Nick: I think one of the reasons we all started playing were bands like Nirvana and Green Day just way back in the day. All the 90's radio bands and all the punk bands that we grew up with together. We have our own pieces that we bring to the table. Jonathan and I share alot of the same ones as we're brothers and we've been listening to music and playing for a long time. But yeah it kinda brings a lot of cool stuff to the table when it's all said and done.
A lot of people here associate you guys with Paramore and touring with them in the states. How much does The Swellers owe to them in terms of your success?
Nick: I think the only thing we can really say to them is thanks and let's do it again.
Jonathan: That was one of the coolest tours we've ever done though.
It must have been a massive step up for your band.
Nick: Yeah it was great. Our record came out September 29th and thats when the tour started. It was a really incredible week and it was a lot of fun.
What key components do you guys consider that are needed for young and upcoming bands these days?
Nick: The main thing is people need to be smart about what they're doing. A lot of people sign to a label for the sake of signing instead of actually looking into it.
Jonathan: If you're a newer band and don't have that much going on for you try and get on a label but don't bother trying to sign to a really small label as eventually if you do get picked up by a bigger label, not only is there a lot of money issues and stuff like that it's kind of cool doing stuff yourself and then going to something big, you know?
Nick: In short; you can do it yourself. You totally can. We were signed to a smaller label but we still did it ourselves and you don't wanna get locked down into anything you don't want to get stuck into. I get people e-mailing me and coming up to me at shows saying 'I started a band how do I get to where you are now?' The only advice I can give is write some good songs, play some shows and don't stop doing it. If you suck, start over and do something else. When we started as a band no-one said you guys should re-think what you're doing. Even if people didn't like our music alot of people thought we were good at what we do, and that kinda kept us going. Find some good people who know whats going on, and play shows. You have to play shows and you have to play them well. That's basically all the advice I can give.
Do you believe the power of word of mouth and people spreading the word through Facebook and Twitter that seems that bit more important now?
Jonathan: Yeah I think, whenever MySpace started we had always seemed to have a lot of contact with people over here. People have always been saying to us 'Come up! Come up!' when our first songs came out, so we're getting to play some of our really old songs to a lot of the people who come to these shows, it's kind of like a long time coming.
How far do you think The Swellers can go as a band/What are your main aspirations?
Nick: The southern tip of Chilli.[laughs]
Jonathan: Making this a life long career would be the coolest thing. Not only being financially stable but having this be our job. It's really cool that bands can do that, like Foo Fighters play Wembley two nights in a row. That would be amazing to do something like that one day.
Let's be honest, collaborations within the post-hardcore scene often seems few and far between, so it would seem Isles & Glaciers are somewhat of a welcomed suprise within the genre. This lineup is literally astonishingly good, Vic Fuentes (Pierce The Veil) .Craig Owens (Ex-Chiodos). Jonny Craig (Emarosa) Michael Fuentes (Pierce The Veil), Nick Martin (Underminded/Cinematic Sunrise), Brian Southall (The Receiving End Of Sirens/Boys Night Out) and Matt Goddard (Chiodos) are all featured which on paper alone is incredible; but it is executed brilliantly on the record.
The release is everything you'd expect from a collaboration with some of the best musicians in the post-hardcore scene. Melodic guitars, keys and a variety of electronic percussion are laden throughout. If anything, this adds more emphasis on the 3-way vocal assault.
'Empty Sighs & Wine' is my favourite track which is kicked off by Jonny Craig. Every singer adds something different to each song which really completes the sound. 'Kings and Chandeliers' is energetic and 7 songs are featured in total and it's safe to say there is zero filler, and lots going on to keep the listener interested. The release definately has a polished feel to it, as there is a substantial amount of instrumental depth.
Musically, 'The Hearts of Lonely People' isn't breaking down any barriers, but if anything it showcases some amazing vocal capabilities from the best in the businesss. Hopefully this will encourage others to persue collaborative projects.
Overall it's safe to say this release delivers, and I'm already eagerly anticipating any live dates which may prop up in support of this release.
For a lot of people this is the first time hearing of Illinois 4 peice So Many Dynamos. However after playing with the best indie/math the UK has to offer they are now starting to make a name for themselves within the UK music industry. Most recognised in America for having their recent CD 'The Loud Wars' produced by Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) and indeed fresh signings of Vagrant Records, I caught up with the band to see what's next in their plans for world domination.
This is you're first time over here in Europe, how's it all been going?
Clayton: For sure, we expected to have a lot of fun and I have to say we're having a pretty good time.
Any dates been particularly memorable so far?
Aaron: Our show in London.
Griffin: We got to play with Tubelord and Tall Ships which was great, both really talented bands and it turned out to be just a great show.
I understand you're very much a touring band. Do you feel that it's one of the best ways to get music out there in this day and age?
Aaron: We spent the first 5 years touring constantly and we realised that it doesn't do as much as what you'd think. When we were younger and had a bit more energy we would be going a whole lot more. We used to think that if you play the same places a lot then you'd start to gain some sort of following, unfortunately it wasn't true.
Griffin: When you play a city and play to 20 people and then you play there again and those 20 people would return and bring a friend, so that was kind of our logic. That didn't happen. It took a long time to not let touring being your marketing plan for lack of a better word as touring is fun, but we've been long enough to realise the change in media. We started a band before MySpace was relevant, and now it's irrelvant for instance.
Clayton: Nowadays we have to have a reason to tour, instead of just tour for the fun of it, especially in recessions.
As you're well known in the states, but new over here did it feel like you had to start from scratch almost?
Griffin: A few people randomly knew who we were but this is the first time we had our record come out over here, so this is like the first chance someone would have been able to find out who we are. We've had a record label put our record here, now we're actually right in front of people as opposed to some abstract band who only appears on the internet.
Who were your main influences when writing The Loud Wars?
Clayton: I think at the time when we were really into At The Drive In and stuff like that. There's so many elecletic musical ideas, we really push and listen to tonnes of music.
Griffin: Battles is one of my favourites. Their new record is incredible. It was hard to hear that and not think that the bar has just been moved up that much higher. Its humbling but then still so inspiring.
Aaron: I think specially in the song writing process specially and immersing yourself in as much music as possible is important. Anything from pop hits to some shit no-ones ever heard before. That sounds really pretentious [laughs] But yeah, you can pull so many different things from parts of songs though.
Chris Walla from Death Cab produced the album, how was it working with him?
Clayton: Fantastic, such a gentlemen and a master of his craft. I don't think he planned on taking us under his wing as much as he actually did but we ended up learning so much from him.
Griffin: Never did us wrong. Via a creative suggestion or pizzeria to avoid. [laughs]
Aaron: He's been doing what we've been doing for so long. Being in an independant band and taking it from there into a huge commercial success, and its interesting to see and how to learn how they did it along the way.
Have they been an influence on you guys?
Aaron: Yeah i'd say so, I mean personally and as a business model definately.
Griffin: I actually met our former guitar player at a Death Cab show.
There is a lot going on in your songs, but it seems to flow together very logically. How does these parts come together in the recording process?
Aaron: We're kind of in a strange position as we had a member quit in August and before he would bring those ideas to the table, and we would arrange them and piece them together but he's not around more. It's much more of a democratic process now.
Griffin: We're all re-learning how to write songs together and so far we're all pretty pleased with how its working out.
Your name So Many Dynamos is a palindrome, was that a concious decision?
Aaron: Yeah it was. We were just like 'We want a palindrome for our name, lets look on the internet and see which ones are the best.' I wish there was a better story than that but that's really all there is.
I think thats what helps bands stand out when you're listening to music outside of your genre.
Aaron: Yeah absolutely.
Clayton: It's funny because we get pidgeon holed all the time for sounding like The Dismemberment Plan but I can't remember throughout these 4 years of being in a band analysing any sort of idea they did, or used that within our songwriting.
Aaron: We just like to write it off really. Theres two sides really, if you have someone come up to you after the show and they say "I really like your music, you remind me of the Dismemberment Plan" and you see the excitement from somebody thats awesome. But othertimes you will just get written off.
What does 2010 hold for you guys?
Griffin: Loads of songwriting and hopefully make it back to Europe again later in the year. We're going to be playing a showcase in SXSW which is going to be a lot of fun. We played it before but this one will be a quick there and back.
Aaron: It'll be nice just to go back home and be able to pay our bills again really!
The mid ninetees was the peak for Fat Wreck Chords bands many of whom are still going today. NOFX are still as big as they ever were and Lagwagon are still making music. After many frontmen from various punk bands set out to make acoustic projects/releases its safe to say these two pioneers of the genre will not have theirs going noticed. This tour was seen to many people as a pleasent reminder of songs many of the crowd may well have sung at a sundrenched festival years ago.I was lucky enough to catch up with two of the biggest names in pop punk Tony Sly (No Use For A Name) and Joey Cape (Lagwagon)
Tonight is your last date of the European tour with Jon Snodgrass, how has it all been going?
Tony: It's been amazing. The tour really exceeded my expectations, everyone's just really perceptive and appreciative and it's just been a great experience.
Joey: This tours been cool because every night i'm hearing new NUFAN songs, alot of them are new to me but some of them i've known forever. Every night he might pick up a harmony or something, it's like an organic kinda tour. It's cool because i've seen it blossom a little.
As this is your first time playing your solo music to fans over here, were you nervous as to how people would perceive it?
Tony: You know what, I was. The first few nights I was kinda holding back a little bit, it was a lot easier picking songs as I could just play whatever I want. In my band (NUFAN) it's a lot more set out and professional, but this time round it's a lot more intimate.
How did the idea for an acoustic project come into being?
Tony: It really was a coincidence for me, and I think I should have been doing this 10 or so years ago. The thing is our drummer said that he was going to do this full time job, so he decided to that. So I decided over the Winter i'm going to tour as a solo artist. Just take my backpack and guitar and do the solo thing, and out of that I came out with a few songs.
How well did the songs transfer?
Joey: The Lagwagon songs worked beautifully as its how they started, it's just going backwards a bit. The problem is that a lot of them end up really slow. I really like Tony's record though, I have penis envy [laughs]
Tony: I was just aiming to play these songs to bars really, it's sorta just like aiming low, which I think you can't really lose on.
Joey: That's just the kind of records that guys like us want to make though, we're both fans of the same music and have similar song writing techniques. When I record, I write anything.
Tony: I think as long as you're open and honest about whatever you're doing, as long as you're excited about it other people are going to be excited about it too.
It must be cool to feed off of each other's music too.
Joey: Yeah definately, John [Drag The River] is like our secret weapon too and he's been a mentor of mine for so long. He has this gift and natural ability for what we're doing now and although we've been writing this way for some time I think we can both admit that John's been doing it forever I've been touring with him for years now but he just makes you better in a sense.
Tony: I agree.
You've been part of the pop punk scene for some time now and see it change quite a lot. What do you make of recent changes?
Tony: It has changed, but that's just time I guess. With Fat Wreck Chords bands the peak really was in the mid-late ninetees. Still NOFX and Bad Religion and so forth all still play to sold out venues today, and thats great. But bands like mine and Joey's, we had to fight for everything we got and I think that the biggest misconception is that we're all the same because we're on the same label.
Do you think it's easier to get your music out there today?
Tony: There's a lot of competiton out there, but I don't think bands are like what they used to be. I think alot of these younger bands have it a lot harder though. In the ninetees it was so low expense, super community thing where bands like Lagwagon and No Use were making tonnes of money just touring.
Joey: In a way you don't have to any promotion. It depends on what sorta heights your shooting for I guess. In my case i'm pretty comfortable with the network that i've developed. The lack of communication and label stuff. A lot of the time generally labels are run by dear friends of yours and they're suffering more than you, their the middle men that gets screwed. But yeah it seems enough.
It must have been easier to promote both of your solo stuff as you've both been in two massive bands in the pop punk scene.
Joey: Well you know that's what I'd say about my band, we're massive. [laughs]
Tony: I know what you mean though, there's definately a foothole because of my band. I mean its not like that I can just start doing something like this at my age and draw people right off the bat. People want to hear NUFAN songs but that's kinda what i'm used to, so I just use that as leverage.
Joey: I've always written everything on an acoustic guitar so I wasn't really doing anything different. Alot of my demos that I brought to my band were just like that. I definately got something out of this tour from Tony, more than just being with him and having a great tour. I think for the next record I think i'm going to start thinking abit outside of my box in the future. Most of my songs sound the same, I got to many slow ones!
Joey: It's all about conviction.
Tony: Exactly right, and I wrote some of these songs knowing that i'm going to alienate some of the No Use fans, and I know that I do. I don't read messageboards or anything like that but I know there's people out there that prefer the songs that sound like No Use compared to the folky ones, and I don't care if they don't like it. I'm doing it for people sure, and i'm doing it to sell records but I have to like it. If anything, I have to love it for people to like it.
One of the main things I picked up about your CD is how much 12 Song Program felt like a record of reminission.
Tony: Yeah, it didn't mean to come out that way but it sorta did. I didn't mean it to be that way but every song is like a single piece of therapy to a 12 step program I guess.
What sort of aspects of being a musician keeps you striving to play?
Joey: I think it's a mixture of things, I love it still so there's not really any reason not to do it but I spent a lot of years doing it professionally so I feel like that. I've often thought about trying something else in life, but I would always still be a musician regardless of what i'm doing.
Tony: It's about all the cool positive things that music does to people for me. That's what I like about it the most. It makes people sing, dance you know it's just not a negative thing at all.
Joey: Most cases trancends religion and politics all the problems in the world so it's an escape for people, and that's something i'm pretty hooked on. It's powerful.
Tony: When you're writing a song and you can hear the words all coming together and it's all starting to connect then you play that in front of people and you see them react the way you did when you wrote it, that's the best feeling ever.
Joey: I haven't had it yet but i've heard alot about it. [laughs]
What are your plans to do next?
Tony: Well Joey's going over to Japan straight after. but at some point we're going to Australia together, i'm going to learn a bunch of Joey songs, and Joey's gonna learn some more of mine for it.
So your a good way into your UK tour at the moment with Canterbury hows it all been going so far?
John: So far it's been a fun tour all round, it's been very eventful so far a lot has happened but it's always fun to come back and play to the UK, one of our favourites for sure.
What keeps you occupied when your on the road?
John: Well at the moment i'm doing a lot of reading, and watching movies. We're not big party people so we don't go out to bars or anything too much.
The Canadian music scene seems great at the moment, you have Alexisonfire, Silverstein, etc.
John: Absolutely, not just in heavy either. It's a culture that really supports it's own talent. From everything to Broken Social Scene to Feist. It's very collective and everyones kinda fighting the same fight.
How was Reading and Leeds for you this year?
John: Yeah Reading and Leeds was a good time, we were headlining the Lock Up stage which was really cool. We had to leave right after though which was a shame, but it was really fun. The festivals over here seem to be a bit better organised. Like in Canada and the States the festivals seem to just be sponsored by Radio Stations, one day event's kinda thing.
The new album III has been out for some time now, just wondering how well it's been received live?
John: Yeah it's been good. We've been playing about half of the new record mixed in with our other 2 records and it's been going over great. We've always had great crowd involvement with our shows.
Especially with this new CD but throughout your discography your music seems unclassifiable genre wise. Do you like that people can't pin you down to a specific genre or band similarities?
John: Absolutely, and it's funny because people try and they give us everything from Emo to a Punk Rock, even Punk Pop which is the one I really don't like. We get it all, and I think that's a good thing. We want to be our own type of band and an original voice, that's something we've always tried to do. We take influences from all different types of music. This is definitely something we strive for.
When you first got going as a band did this individual sound give you a leg up amongst similar bands within the scene?
John: It definitely did when we were an indie band for the first 10 years. It was hard as we could never find a scene or find bands to play with, at that point we were almost an outcasted band and it was a struggle to find gigs. When our first record came out they'd listen to one song and put us with screamo bands for instance. It's all just about persistance and we just kept doing our own thing, and it paid off.
Once this tour is over what's your plans for the rest of the year?
John: Well we're taking a couple of weeks of after the UK then heading to Europe, then we're off for the new year. I think we're coming back to play Scandinavia and a few other places we didn't hit this time around. More American touring and a big Canadian tour in March too.
Kevin Devine has been at the forefront of the folk/indie scene for several years now. Although he is closely associated with Brand New and Manchester Orchestra, Kevin remains a solid artist within his own right; not forgetting a fantastic live performance also. Recently released CD 'Brothers Blood' has been cited by many people as being his most accomplished effort yet. I caught up with Kevin on the BSM Christmas tour to find out more.
How are you coping with the British winter so far then, sir?
Kevin: Well you know, i'm an East Coast kid, I grew up in New York, and it gets pretty cold out there but here it like it lives inside your bones! [laughs] It's pretty intense.
You recently played with Brand New and Glassjaw etc at their biggest show to date in Nassau Colliseum in the States. How was this for you?
Kevin: It was nuts because I think Give It A Name in London at the Earls Court, that show and this show were probably the biggest shows so far in terms of scope. This was like 13,000 people and kinda the biggest show we've ever played because GIAN there's 20 bands, this one there was like 5 bands so it was very focused, The response was great. It just happened to be in the 5 days I was home between The Get Up Kids US tour and this. [BSM Christmas Tour] which includes Germany and Austria afterwards and it's 17 days. Putting together the band, rehearsing, sorting out your guestlist in basically a hometown show at a 13,000 capacity in a arena in the 5 days your home, I wouldn't advise that! It was a bit stressful. But it turned out incredible, just totally surreal.
Talking of The Get Up Kids tour, I saw a video recently of you doing a rap with them on stage. Just wondering if you have a Hip Hop name for yourself?
Kevin: Kurt Cocaine, I reckon.
You sure, Kev-Dizzle?
Kevin: [laughs] nah i'm gonna stick with Kurt Cocaine, I think thats really funny.
Good stuff! So how did this rap interlude come about?
Kevin: Their amps had broken and I think the stage power went off. I just said I would go up and do that to help fill the time. So Ryan started to play drum beat and now it's on youtube apparently!
With quite a lot of hits too actually I believe!
Kevin: Seriously, how many exactly?
I'm not sure, a few hundred at least.
Kevin: Oh noo! [laughs]
So you've recently been signed to BSM records, how did this come about?
Kevin: I met Kevin at SXSW music festival at Austin Texas this March and I just felt good about what they're doing here; It felt like the right fit. I know we're a little different from what is on the label. I feel like attitudenly and in terms of the way he approaches things it just seemed like the right thing . Really good guy and he works really hard and takes care of his bands.
It does have a very diverse lineup. Have you heard of many of the bands on the label since you've been signed?
Kevin: I don't know too much about the label yet to be completely honest. I have listened to a couple of things Kevin had given me. I like what Toby [Shoes On Socks Off] is doing . I played with a band though who reminded me of a lot like Kinsella, Owen and Joan of Arc in Oxford called This Town Needs Guns. I''m looking forward to playing with Stage Coach from Kevins other label in Kingston soon too.
As you are own Favourite Gentlemen in the US, do you think smaller labels are better, as you used to be on a major?
Kevin: Yeah, I made one record with Capitol Records. I really think that thats the way things are going now anyway. The music industry is changing pretty rapidly, I dont think people should be made to think theyre going to be on labels like Capitol in any kind of functional way in a couple of years, because I don't know if those labels are even going to exist for the Beyonces and Jay Zs of the world.
Do you feel a bit more safer on a smaller label also, having that extra bit of security?
Kevin: Sure, and I also think its nice to have a career in music without having a lot to do with the music industry. Dealing with people like Kevin and labels like Favourite Gentlemen, It's a different animal. It feels a little less corporate.
Does it help as you are friends with the guys from Favourite Gentlemen also?
Kevin: Yeah it definately helps but sometimes it can make it a little awkward too. If there's certain things you disagree about for instance. You're still an artist and a label and sometimes they just don't agree. But I think it also helps us see through these actions more easily.
Your new CD Brother's Blood is arguably your most diverse album yet. Following on from the more acoustically based "Put Your Ghost To Rest" Were you expecting such positive reviews?
Kevin: I think it's the best received record i've made, and I think that there are things on that record that are different to anything i've done before but elements of that record are in every record i've made prior, but I do think its a step out slightly but still retaining what makes my music mine. But yeah the response has been wonderful. Internationally it's been the best reviewed record i've ever made too.
Now you have such a large amount of songs on your back catalouge do you find it harder to pick the right songs for the set?
Kevin: On this tour it's been a really different set each night which I really like. Besides how great it is to know how things are arranged, to the size of the bands etc. The songs change a lot regardless but then to be able to change the set list from night to night.
I've noticed you play a lot of covers in your sets too. How do these usually get chosen?
Kevin: It's just whatever I like, generally. There are just some songs that get burned in my brain that I just wanna play over and over again.
What are you listening to on the road at the moment?
Kevin: I havent been listening to any music at all on this tour. I've been listened to alot of what theyre playing in the car, they've been playing this band called Jadiohead which is Jay Z stuff over Radiohead beats which was cool. It's not because I like music, I think when you play 200 shows a year for 3 years you like quiet too; I like reading. I've been reading Eugine O'Niel "Ah Wilderness!" which was a play. I was listening to Casamacones before I came out here, and this Mount Eerie record "Wind's Poem"
One of the merch items tonight is the exclusive single "Splitting Up Christmas" How did this come about?
Kevin: Thats a song I wrote 6/7 Years ago which I put on "Make The Clocks Move" and it was an exercise for me to see if its possible to write a christmas song that isn't corny. It's probably still a little cheesy but I like it. Kevin [BSM Records] had an idea to put out this as a single and we wanted to have it out on limited edition CDs with a different B-Side each night. So he's wrapped them up like christmas presents and I write personalised messages in them.
What plans do you have for 2010?
Kevin: The record just came out in Europe in November, so I'm gonna tour over there in February and March, then Australia around end of March. Also then I will be back home in the States for a tour which will include the Coachella and Bamboozle festivals. After this i'm gonna take some time off becuase the record would have been out in the states for a year and i'll have been on tour for pretty much the majority of that.
Do you find that touring extensively takes its toll at all?
Kevin: I think some nights like tonight I can feel my voice is a little crackly and i'm sure thats because of travelling all over the place. And sure, sometimes you wanna be around your friends and family and not in the freezing cold somewhere. But at the same time I love what I do,I could look up at people and say "I wish I was in his position" but then I realise they're literally hundreds of thousands of people playing music or some open mic that no-one's paying attention to that would love to be able to do this. So when it gets too tiresome I'll stop, but until then I still really like it.
Alexisonfire are no stranger to the music industry. After 8 successful years they are still redefining genres and pushing boundaries. Having just returned from a summer of festivals and promoting the latest release 'Old Crows/Young Cardinals' It is still no doubt that Alexisonfire are still an unstoppable force with a fantastic live show. We caught up with Chris Steele (bass) to find out more.
So tonight is the last date of the UK leg of the Eastpak tour. Hows it all been going so far?
Chris: It's been absolutely unbelievable. We're just so excited to be with the other 3 bands on the tour The Ghost of A Thousand, Four Year Strong and Anti-Flag. Just a great touring package really. We find with the UK the crowds are so receptive and so open to different kinds of music, every band has just been rocking every night, it's been great.
How is it playing venues again now that the festival season has come to an end?
Chris: It feels great. All summer long we did the Vans Warped Tour in America which was really fun, I think we did something crazy like 56 shows with a couple of Canadian dates thrown in there. After that we came over and did Reading and Leeds which was great and we continued to do some more outdoor festivals throughout September in Canada. We've just been waiting for so long to be indoors with a closer,more intimate crowd. Also playing on a scheduled time to is great as on Warped you never know when you're gonna be on.
The new CD Old Crows/Young Cardinals has recently been released. I've noticed it has much more energy and almost a completely different approach.Was the new direction deliberate or more of a natural progression?
Chris: It definately just kinda happened at a set time. Usually we're on the road for about 9 months at a time and the bands been together for just over 8 years. For most of that time we've just been out on the road, take some time out over Christmas, write a record in January with some ideas we've came up with on the road and record in february, back out in March. This time we took a better part of almost upto a year and we just sat back relaxed a little bit more and did a lot more pre production. We just matured more as a band. Every record is Alexis and you can still tell its Alexis. We don't want to recycle and do the same record twice in a row.
Definately. One change I noticed was an improvement in George's vocals this time round too.
Chris: Yeah, It's something a little new but still Alexis, we still have the balance of Dallas singing. We just wanted to write a straight forward rocking record that we would like to portray in a live atmosphere. We want to play every one of these songs live.
Has the writing process changed since when you first started writing?
Chris: Yeah it has quite drastically. When we first started with our first record we didnt have a direction. We all came from different backgrounds. Some more punk rock some and others more metal for instance. We then just molded to this outfit that we are now. So when we started we just writing songs but not really with a direction a lot of Dallas and Wade going 'Look at what I can do on guitar!' It was uncool to repeat a chorus or even have a chorus at that point. [laughs] It was just a bunch of pieces like melded together to create what we thought were songs. We still play a few of them live today but we've just kinda moved on and matured and found it's ok to have a chorus and repeat it again too!
Your new video for 'Young Cardinals' was filmed on the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. How did this come about?
Chris: It was really funny actually, before the album or any of the songs were written Dallas had this idea to shoot a video at Maid of the Mist which is really close to home for us. If you've seen a few of our videos before, we take our music writing seriously but we're not a serious band, we like to throw some fun into the loop. It was going to be more of a joke at first, if your from around that area everyone goes to the Maid of the Mist for their Grade 8 school trip, its kinda like a like honeymoon capital of the world. So first it really kinda seemed like ajoke but it was a beautiful day so we just decided to go for it and it was a blast.
As you tour pretty much constantly do you find it takes its toll on any relationships you may have at home?
Chris: Not really, no. I mean, you definately need to have a balance. Everyone that we're close to are 100% supportive of us and its always been that way from the get go and we just try to make the best of it really.
Do you get your family checking up on you on the road?
Chris: Oh yeah man absolutely; Jacqueline Steele number 1 fan! she came a few times and does little road trips. I know for sure she'd love to out with us right now, specially when we go across Europe. Just picture Detriot Warped Tour with Father Steele sitting on his recliner watching the show, and Mother Steele out in the pit mixing it up. [laughs]
The new EP out soon called Dogs Blood. Although its early days is there anything you can tell us about the release?
Chris: It's a little bit confidential at the moment but when we did record our last full length [Old Crows/Young Cardinals] out in Vancouver we were there for a set amount of time. We actually recorded the CD live so we just banged them out really quick and since we had a lot more pre production we were just on top of our game. But we recorded actually 17 songs and obviously they're 11 on the record. We have a couple of b-sides that we have right now and we have written a couple of heavy tunes just on this tour like in soundchecks. We can't wait to get it out there though!
Agents Of The Underground is the 7th offering from Californian punks Strung Out. This release also celebrates the 20th anniversary of the band.
With a band that has been going for such a long time, you would think maybe they would faulter with age. But its fair to say that Strung Out have always been a band that delivers, and this release is definately no exception.
The first song Black Crosses is no holds barred punk. Ramos is still on top form pumping out riff after riff contributing to this fantastic release. Vanity is another favourite of mine from the album, a song where Jason Alexander Cruz shines through with great sing along style vocals.
Its clear to see why there has always been such a buzz about this band, after all this time they remain consistently solid and renouned for putting on a fantastic live show as well.
The only criticism about the CD is the lack of guitar solos which was a prominent part of the previous release ' Black Hawks over Los Angeles' However, the riffs in this release make up for it.
Agents Of The Underground is simply a masterpeice and its great to see that Strung Out are still on top form after all this time.
RIYL: Good Riddance, A Withelm Scream Stand out tracks: Vanity, Heart Attack
Teenage Bottlerocket - They Came From The Shadows (2009)
'They Came From The Shadows' is the fourth album from Wyoming four piece 'Teenage Bottlerocket'.
Taking influence from bands such as The Misfits with massive sing alongs and gigantic choruses, "Skate Or Die" is a song of reminiscion. Mentioning skaters such as Rodney Mullin, the band remisce of the early days before skateboarding became mainstream.
This relates to the band as they are one of the bands who you can just tell are not going to "Sell out" or basically make music for money.
Theres no doubt Teenage Bottlerocket are a fun band making great punk sing along tunes with their best friends.
One of my favourites on the album is "Not OK" These are one of the songs on the album which you'll constantly be humming along to for quite some time.
Teenage Bottlerocket is a prime example of a punk rock band with all the right qualities, the horrorpunk element also adds to the appeal. Its great to see a band who are making music for all the right reasons for once.
Overall this is a brilliant CD and can't wait to hear more from these guys! 7/10
RIYL: The Misfits, Pennywise Stand out tracks: Not OK, Forbidden Planet
Banner Pilot is the latest addition to the Fat Wreck Chords roster. Many punk rock fans may not have heard their name around the scene, due to their incredibly quick rise to fame.
Despite not touring extensively or having a great deal of promotion surrounding them, the band was signed to Fat Wreck Chords and have gained critical acclaim throughout the punk scene in a relatively short space of time.
However, it is clear to see why they have been picked up so quickly by the label. The signature gritty vocals, courtesy of frontman Nick Johnson, shine throughout this CD. "On the lawn outside Gabe shoots bottle rockets through the night, Lighting up the summer sky" is one of Nicks many stand out lyrics screaming out raw punk attitude.
The influences on the CD are broad. Ranging from old school punk such as The Ramones, to more recent influences including The Alkaline Trio and The Lawrence Arms. Although their influences are very prominent throughout the CD, do not let this put you off as they have most definately adapted their sound into punk perfection.
Production wise, the album has been mixed and mastered to perfection. This type of music is typically best heard live, and Banner Pilot have most definately captured their live energy on 'Collapse'.
Overall this is a very solid release and we are very much looking forward to hearing more from this artist. 8/10
RIYL: Alkaline Trio, Broadway Calls, The Lawrence Arms Stand out tracks: Greenwood, Skeleton Key
The Blackout are a Welsh post-hardcore band tipped for big things. Recently signed to Epitaph Records, extensive press coverage from Kerrang! The Blackout are preparing for their busiest and most defining summer yet. I interviewed Rhys and Gareth to find out more.
How has the tour been going so far?
Gareth: It's been good! It's the 5th date today I believe. We started in Dublin on Saturday morning. We Are The Ocean played too which was fun.
Whats it like to tour with Silverstein and Hollywood Undead?
Gareth: Really good - The Silverstein boys are cool and thats the first time we've met them. Hollywood Undead are nice people but you can't really tell because of their masks!
Favourite pass time on tour?
Gareth: We normally just go out somewhere to get some food or spend some time on the internet.
Rhys: We play alot of Xbox and watch a lot of DVDs on the road too.
For anyone that has not seen The Blackout on tour yet, what can people expect?
Rhys: Lots of sweaty fun.
Gareth: Not your typical "Stare at the ground performance" When people come see us we give them a show. If they pay this much money to see a band. The least we can do is give them some entertainment for the amount of money they're paying. Loads of energy. Inbetween songs Sean and Gavin don't shut up! They're constantly telling jokes or something stupid. Somebody always falls too.
The new single "Children Of The Night" was released earlier this week. Pleased with how it has been received?
Gareth: Yeah, it's mad because we started playing it in October on the From First To Last tour and when we recorded it in December we changed it around loads.
Rhys: We basically made the chorus sound a lot bigger. It's a good song to sing a long too so it always seems to be going down well live.
The B-Sides on the single include "I Kissed A Girl and I Liked It" by Katy Perry. Interesting choice! Are you guys big pop fans?
Gareth: Yes! I'm actually dedicating one of my arms to bands and one of the tattoos is going to be of Michael Jackson.
You've recently been signed to Epitaph Records. How did this come about?
Rhys: It's awesome. One of the biggest indepedent labels in the world. I grew up listening to a lot of bands on it and to be on it now, it's just ridiculous!
Gareth: It's just a bit surreal. When we were writing the album our manager told us about a couple of labels interested but it turns out Epitaph were the most willing and it was a much nicer atmposhere. Even though they arn't a major label, we thought we would get a lot more love and appreciation off them compared to a much larger major label.
Rhys: Yeah, it's perfect for us really. You never know what's going to go on with a major. With Epitaph there's no middle men for instance.
Good stuff. Is there any bands on label you're particularly liking at the moment?
Rhys: Every Time I Die, for a start. We love that band. We might be doing an Epitaph tour with them in the US. Bring Me The Horizon and Gallows have just been signed too I believe.
Gareth: Yeah, Every Time I Die that would be incredible as they're such a big inspiration for us. One of the best live bands we've had the pleasure of seeing too.
Rhys: They're a bit like us in the sense that we try and get everyone in the crowd involved as much as possible.
What do you guys make of the Welsh scene as it seems to be fairly blooming with Kids In Glass Houses and Save Your Breath for instance?
Gareth: It's really good. We love those bands and also the larger ones like Lost Prophets and Funeral For A Friend are cool because even though they're pretty massive, they still have time for everyone else. We were in LA recently doing the video for "Children Of The Night" and the next single, we met up with the Lostprophets boys and went for sushi. Always have time for you which is awesome.
From when the band started, did you ever expect that The Blackout! would ever reach the status that it has?
Gareth: We're still a bit skeptical about it to be honest. It's crazy.
I know it must be very overwhelming as the singles out, the albums out soon and your on the front page of Kerrang! It seems like you have a lot going for you at the moment.
Gareth: I couldn't believe it when I saw that. I've been reading that magazine since I was about 13 and to see us on the cover was so surreal. We used to travel hours to play first to nobody. But we were just so stoked to be playing outside of Wales, we've always found it a privalige.
Out of everywhere you've played so far, where is you're favourite and why?
Rhys: Japan, I reckon.
Gareth: Yeah definately Japan. Everyones so polite and don't barge their way through shows and signings. They even queue at the order of the ticket number at shows. Nowhere else in the world would you see that! Its really funny because during songs they would just go off, totally crazy. But inbeween songs they just go quiet. It's really quite something.
Warped Tour is coming soon for you. Are you looking forward to it?
Rhys: Absolutely. We did Bamboozle which was a mini taster for us with Bless The Fall over the Mid West. We just love America.
Gareth: We played 5 sets of shows in these smaller places which was cool. We had to work our way up again as no-one knows who we are over there yet really.
Rhys: It's going to be all about winning people over as we're still a new band to everyone over there. It's gonna be fun though, we're all really looking forward to it.
Do you reckon when you head over to Warped that their will be a lot bigger buzz than before with the release of the new album?
Gareth: Yeah hopefully. It was tough for us last time at Bamboozle as we were on the same time as Finch and it was there first comeback show.
Any major plans for the rest of the year?
Rhys: Bits of Festivals popping up and hopefully an American tour, but its all in talks at the moment really.
Gareth: Rock Am Ring and Download, and some shows with Billy Talent too. Hopefully some more tours around the world too, it's going to be really really full on and I can't wait.
The Boxer Rebellion are making quite a stir in the UK Music Scene at the moment. The new CD Union recently topped heavyweights Kings of Leon and Coldplay in the iTunes charts through no Record Label backing, or press coverage, wowwing fans at this years Glastonbury. Not to mention the first band to form a partnership with HMV. The Boxer Rebellion are clearly a new and innovative band which are breaking down the boundaries of traditional artist progression, and succeeding. I caught up with Nathan and Adam to find out whats next for the band.
This is the second date of your tour, how was Cardiff last night?
Adam: Cardiff was good. We've been there a few times now with supported The Ravonettes and the Editors actually supported us there once. Definately one of the better smaller venues in Cardiff.
Nathan: Yeah Cardiff was a good gig!
Are you looking forward to the Southampton show tonight?
Nathan: Yeah, we played the Joiners last May, I think it was sold out so it was a lot of fun. Also this venues really good because when its packed, its really packed.
You recently played Glastonbury on the Other Stage. How was that for you?
Nathan: Yeah, I think that i'm a little older now I get a bit claustrophobic being around so many people, but the actual gig was a lot of fun.
Adam: We played in the new bands tent back in 2003 and to come back to it this year and play the Other Stage was really good. I've seen so many bands that I love on the Other Stage!
Union has recently just been released on physical format, although it was released on iTunes in January. Are you happy with how it has been received so far?
Nathan: Yeah really pleased! The beginning of the year was great for us because of the whole iTunes thing. And it happened in a way in which we wern't expecting. Last week when it came out physically it was just nice to have a copy that people could get.
Adam: Doing it earlier in the year like we did and having the success that we did meant that we could retain our independence and put it out physically.
Do you feel like the iTunes release helped to create alot of buzz for when the physical copy was released?
Adam: Yeah, there was a lot of that actually. Our fans have stuck by us for a long time. A lot of fans from the first album back in 2005 stuck with us and its been part of the reason why we've managed to keep going. Doing gigs in the mean time etc. I think a lot of them enjoy the music so much that even though they had it digitally they want the physical copy as well.
In todays age where music is going more digital, its good to know the demand for CDs is still there.
Nathan: Yeah I think a lot of people still prefer buying CDs. Saying that we do owe alot to the whole digital thing. Digitally you can do a lot more by yourself, its a lot easier to do things on your own.
How does your songwriting usually come about. Does it usually follow a particular formula?
Nathan: I'll bring in about a third of the music on acoustic guitar and then we'll work out the arrangment and will drastically change. Its usually just for a starting point. Either that or Todd will come up with something in the rehearsal room.
Has this changed since the first album Exits at all?
Nathan: Not really, it's pretty much been that way for a long time.
Adam: Just a mixture really. The spark might happen in the rehearsal room or when Nathan's writing at home on the guitar.
Nathan: Usually, i'll write about 20-30 songs and then they'll get whittled down to about 2 or 3, these guys are my toughest critics I would say.
How did the HMV partnership come about?
Nathan: It came about through HMV Canada. Theres a guy there who contacted us in January because we didn't have our CD out physically. A lot of people had heard it and couldn't find the CD on their systems. They contacted us asking why it wasn't out yet and we explained that it wasn't possible to release it on physical format at that time. To cut a long story short they said they'd release and distribute our CD for us and then basically relayed over here to HMV UK.
That sounds like an amazing opportunity. How did it feel to be the first band for this to happen with?
Nathan: It was really cool. It's something that hopefully will continue, not only with us and our relationship with HMV but also for other bands too. Although we still have a really good relationship with iTunes it just shows that you don't have to nessesarily have to work with anyone else other than the distributors.
Adam: It provides a chance for bands to retain their rights and cut out middle men and work closely with distributors and retailers. It's actually something that benefits HMV as well in the changing music scene, it makes them a big part of the future.
I've noticed your now an openly unsigned band. Do you feel that in this day and age theres less need to be on a Record Label?
Nathan: Yeah, well I think it boils down to you still have to have some good tunes. For us we were able to make the album thanks to our old management and you gotta have that a lot of times to begin with. Also you just have to be a bit more business minded if your doing it yourself so you know what's going on. We're lucky because we have really good management so that helps a lot.
Adam: In today's world you can get your music out with much more ease through things like MySpace where people listen to your tracks. If you hit the social networking stuff hard you can actually promote your band to a point where traditionally may have only been able to have been done in the first stages of being on a record label.
Nathan: I've always thought as major labels as a bank. They basically invest in you and you spend it on making music. It does cost a lot of money to tour and make records. You still have to have some sort of cash flow though.
I picked up a certain degree of ambience in your music. What sort of bands do you collectively listen to which reflects this?
Adam: I'm really liking The Temper Trap at the moment. but collective influences even though its slightly cliched are bands like Radiohead.
Nathan: We like My Morning Jacket and bands like that. But we all individually like a lot of different stuff.
If there was one thing you could change about the Music Industry what would it be?
Nathan: That there would be more people that actually love music working in it. A lot of people seem to be scared about losing jobs which is fair enough. But no one takes any risks anymore.
Adam: If I was to change one thing it would be the UK Label Music Industry's absolute complacency and reliance over success they've had in the past rather than looking to the future. But thats changing right now and it's had to change because the old model clearly isn't working anymore.
Nathan: We had the opportunity to get back in that game but its just not appealing anymore. It's nice to make our own decisions.
Although Silversteinhave been around for some time, they have always been at the forefront of the Candian music scene. Combine an extremely loyal fanbase and their best work to date "A Shipwreck In The Sand" and you get one of the most exciting bands in the scene to date. I caught up with Shane on their recent UK tour with The Blackout and The Urgency.
How has the tour been going so far?
Shane: So far so good, this is the first time Iíve seen the sun since Iíve been in the UK so far so Iím pretty happy! This tours been cool because the guys in The Urgency and The Blackout are really down to earth. Weíve been going out to a lot of bars partying quite a bit. I met The Blackout before from doing some festivals in the past but itís been cool making friends with The Urgency who are really nice guys.
Youíve toured around the UK numerous times. Out of all the places in England youíve played so far which is your favourite and why?
Shane: Probably Yeovil so far. The smaller cities where they donít have as many shows, they have more hunger for the few that make their way over there you know? It seems to me that the smaller ones are always the craziest.
Favourite past time on tour?
Shane: I like listening to music and reading. I bought the new Eminem CD recently, which is a bit weird, not my favourite but it always takes me a few listens. I bought the new NOFX and Propaghandhi records too which I love. I watch a lot of TV too. Nothing too crazy really.
The new record ĎA Shipwreck In The Sandí was released on March 31. Are you happy with how well the CD has been received?
Shane: Totally happy. Iíve never been happier with it than any other musical project that I have been a part of. I havenít actually heard a single piece of negative feedback at all. Everyoneís been so positive and people have been so excited about the record.
Has the new material been going down well live also?
Shane: Absolutely, live itís going down great. Itís tough now because we have so many songs itís getting harder to pick songs for the set, especially as weíre supporting this time round.
If you could tour with any band who would it be and why?
Shane: Thatís a tough one because as a fan thereís bands iíd like to go on tour with, but as far as being in a band goes, those are different. Iíd love to go on tour with NOFX and Propaghandhi, but as a band Itíd be really cool to tour with My Chemical Romance.
Do you enjoy festivals as you get to play with bands that you may not get to tour with usually?
Shane: Yeah, I enjoy festivals. I'd have to say Warped Tour is my favourite. After a week of it everybody knows each other so you have that sense of comradity, rather than a one day festival for instance. Weíre heading out for a couple of weeks for Warped this summer which will be cool. The Blackout will be there too so itís going to be great.
Plans for the summer?
Shane: Weíre going to do a short run of the mid west of the United States. We are going to play a lot of places that we didnít get to play to on the last tour. Also going to do some shows in Canada where we are from. Aside from touring weíre going to have some time off this summer which will be nice.
As far as the Canadian music scene is considered, are you proud of the scene as a whole?
Shane: It is most definitely a striving scene but it used to be better. Iím not sure whether the internet is to blame but people arenít going to many as they were which a shame. However I am really proud of where I come from and the bands that come out of the scene. One of my favourites is Lights who sung on our new record.
You currently have your own record label Verona Records. Any bands to recommend?
Shane: Theres a band called I Am Committing A Sin, from my hometown. Theyíre a very talented band plus they got a new EP coming out in a couple of weeks, so you should definitely pick that up.
You may not have already heard of The Urgency but they are sure to make their mark in 2009. With Bamboozle under their wings, a lengthy tour schedule with The Blackout and Silverstein. Not forgetting their phenomenal debut album; The Urgency are a new band set to take the world by storm.
First things first, could you introduce yourselves and say what you play in the band?
Ian: Iím Ian and I play guitar.
Ryan: Iím Ryan and I also play guitar.
Guerin: My names Guerin and I play drums.
For anybody who may be unfamiliar with The Urgency could you give us a brief rundown of how the band came to be originally?
Guerin: Ian and Kevin (Bass) went to High School together in Vermont and playing music together for a long time. They met me at school and we started a band. We had a different singer and name at the time. Once we graduated school we decided we wanted to pursue music further, so we moved to New York City and we met Tyler and Ryan shortly after then. These guys definitely rounded off the sound that we were going for. That was the start of The Urgency as we know it now.
What do you make of the New York music scene?
Guerin: Itís a very indie scene. Incredibly diverse but itís definitely a tough town to make a mark in just because there are so many bands there.
Ryan: The scene as everyone knew it ten years ago has changed quite a bit, since The Strokes came out for example. But now, youíll go there and find anything really.
Youíre back in the UK for the second time, whatís it been like this time around?
Ryan: We hit a lot of new markets this time around. It was really interesting to see how the cities that weíre playing react compared to the ones that we played to previously. Itís been great because this country really appreciates our style of music.
Ian: Itís been cool also because the fans seem to respond well to the music here and a lot of them sing the words back to us which has been a pretty overwhelming experience.
Which has been the best show of the tour so far and why?
Ryan: Iíd have to say Manchester so far.
Ian: Manchester was pretty crazy. As of late anyway, hopefully tonight will be even better!
Ryan: They were the most energetic crowd, and we definately seemed to win over a lot of people. It was great.
Your self-titled album has been released May 11th. Although its only just been released are you happy with how it has been received so far?
Ian: Yeah so far. Hasnít got there too much yet, and It hasnít quite got the exposure that we want either.
Ryan: We are really trying to push the records individually to the fans on this tour. We feel itís really important for people to put the faces to the music and we love talking to everybody after the show.
Who were your main influences when writing this record?
Ian: For me Iíd have to say At the Drive In, Fall of Troy and Glass Jaw. I know you might not hear that necessarily in the music, but thatís who weíre listening to. I mean, there are also other influences such as classical and jazz, but these are the main rock influences.
Guerin: As a drummer there was a subtle 311 influence, along with Incubus as well. A lot of diverse influences from all of our members really.
Your vocalist has one of the most unique voices I have come across in quite some time. I felt there was a strong Coheed & Cambria influence in particular?
Ryan: I know the timbre of his voice sometimes remind people of Coheed, Sting or even John Anderson from Yes, but he doesnít really listen to those bands too much. Heís more into Circa Surviva and Fall of troy. His influences are a lot similar to Ianís. I wouldnít really say that was a conscious decision of his.
As you are going to be on the road for some time now the record has been released, which do you prefer; being on the road or recording at the studio?
Guerrin: Ideally touring. I think for all us we just love playing on stage and showing people our music.
Ian: I dig touring but I do love the recording process. So for me it would have to be the recording.
Ryan: I love touring. Especially here at the moment as so many people sing our words back to us at shows. Honestly ts been happening more here than it has back in the states. Last night in Manchester it was our second time playing there and we definately saw a whole bunch of people signing along. Its so inspring to see people reacting in that kind of way.
Ian: Its been 4 or 5 months since we were here before and it just feels like a continuation of the last tour, it feels like we never left.
Plans for the rest of the year?
Ryan: Hopefully a tour of the states. We have a lot of things in the pipeline at the moment. But a tour of the US is a priority right now.
Ian: Also weíre hoping to be back here again in September so definitely look out for that!