This edition of "Four Chords & Seven Years Ago" comes from Johnny Minardi, former owner of LLR Records, former A&R at Fueled By Ramen, and the CEO of Self-Titled Management. In this "Four Chords & Seven Years Ago," Johnny gives a personal and behind-the-scenes look at the development of Days Away. We'd like to thank Johnny for his contribution!
Days Away has a special place in my heart. I have a very long and very random history with the band and their music so bare with me while I ramble through it and excuse all of the grammatical errors. They hail from just outside of Philadelphia, PA. In 2002, I first learned about the band back when they signed with a small southern California label that had signed The Starting Line called We The People Records. They released an EP called The Feel Of It. The EP was full of catchy pop rock tunes with some flashes of what was to come in the future for the band.
“She Knows My Name” from The Feel Of It EP
On a very snowy Valentine’s Day in 2003 near Philadelphia, I was in a blue mini van with my friend William Beckett on his first east coast tour as Remember Maine. The show was in a big VFW type hall with Punchline, Unsung Zeros, Zoloft The Rock and Roll Destroyer and Days Away as headliners. A friday at a VFW with great bands from the area? That’s every touring bands dream right there. The show was great like most VFW shows back in the day cause fans actually loved going to see new music and Days Away/Punchline brought a great crowd. We watched and admired. You knew the band was special and to me they were way better then the recording led on. Incredible jam band quality mixed with emotional pop (“emo” for you kids) and that weird “X factor” label guys love talking about. One of the tightest band I had seen at that level. The guys were super nice and invited us to stay with them at their place because they were having a party (again, a few stories for another day out of this including getting evicted shortly after).
“God and Mars” from Mapping An Invisible World
Fast forward to early 2005 a few months after I began working at Fueled By Ramen in Tampa. My boss came into my office with a burnt CDr (remember those?) and said “Do you like Days Away?” which I of course responded with “Yeah, they’re great”. He went on to say something along the lines of “Well their label sent me their record asking if we’d be interested in working with them on it. Let me know what you think of the record”. He didn’t want to give me his opinion before I had a chance to listen to it. I listened and listened and listened to the album for days. At work, in my car, at home. Monday morning, I went into his office and let him know I was obsessed with it. At the time, we had a very small tight knit staff and he said to put it on the next CDr we pass to the label to get everyone’s opinions. I took my favorite 3 songs from the record and put them on a sampler with 3 other bands (I can’t recall exactly but some combination of Liam and Me, Race The Sun, The Audition and Tyler Read). Obviously feedback was great and the wheels were in motion. A side note to signing the band, we all went to see them in Tampa and watching Tim tell a full label staff that his email was email@example.com was a moment for the ages.
“Ideas” from Mapping An Invisible World
I don’t remember exactly which songs I put on the sampler but they were all finished tracks from Mapping An Invisible World so what did it matter? The full record is incredible. It’s just layers and layers of incredible pop rock. Very atmospheric. They didn’t sound like a lot of the bands that were out at the time and there still hasn’t been a sound exactly like it. They always reminded me of an updated and more pop version of Sunny Day Real Estate. I think a lot of people never spent the time to fully love the record. I always joked that we should have put a sticker on the front of the record that said “Listen to this record at least 5 times. Guaranteed to love or your money back”. I still think that statement rings true. When it hits you, it hits you hard. Another testament for how good it is front to back is the fact that we could never settle on what song should have a video shot for it. I can’t even recall ever doing one because we all had different favorite “singles”.
My personal favorite from the record, the closer “T. Klines Decline”. They played this song perfectly live. It had this insane groove. I can even picture Tim doing the subtle snare hits and Keith just swaying around the stage with his eyes closed.
“T. Klines Decline” from Mapping An Invisible World
Unfortunately, sales weren’t huge and people weren’t really reacting. I was very confused because it had become an all time favorite for me and many of the staff members. The band sort of fell into this weird title that I hate using but I guess it’s flattering by being called “A band’s band”. Bands were obsessed with the record. Bands would hit them up about taking them out on the road. When we put together the FBR 15th Anniversary video series in 2011, we asked all the bands on the label to name their top 5 FBR releases. Days Away ended up in the Top 5 for Paramore, fun., VersaEmerge, The Swellers and This Providence. That’s a tough feat! Watch some the bands gush over Days Away:
fun. (Go to 1:26 to hear them talk about it)
Like all good things, the working relationship came to an end. During that time, some of us stayed in touch with the band and they’d send us new demos every so often. The band had a little bit more of a bitter taste from the label experience as they’d send us demos under the album title “Fooled By Ramen”. Clever joke eh? I actually found this post on ap.net from Keith about it:
"Just wanted to let yall know that there is no bad blood between us and FBR records.
It just wasn't the right place for Days Away.
We hope this clears up all of your questions/concerns. For those of you wanting to know all of the details, we are sorry, we cannot give them to you for legal reasons. Plus, to us, it's kind of like asking us to explain to you ALL of the details of why we broke up with our girlfriends.
Fooled By Ramen is funny
Please, check back for more posts from us because there is a lot brewing where I am...
In 2007, the band went on to self release an EP called Ear Candy For The Headphone Trippers. The EP is a great continuation of Mapping An Invisible World. A little spacier sounding, some cool experimentation with classic Days Away mixed in. Unfortunately the band didn’t stay together too much longer. Luckily Keith/Tim were not done giving music to the world as they went on to form Good Old War. I’m still a huge fan of their work they continue to put forth and I’ll always be listening. It was a great walk down memory lane to dig back into their full body of work and I’ll be spending the rest of the day enjoying some Days Away. I suggest you do the same. And if you don’t know, now you know!
“Wish” from Ear Candy For The Headphone Trippers EP
“I’m Sorry I Told You All My Problems” from Ear Candy For The Headphone Trippers EP
Trivia time! Name the drummer of a former Victory Records artist that has become one of the biggest rock booking agents in the world. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
I didn't expect you to know the answer because I wouldn't have known the answer without being tipped off about this a few years ago. His name is Dave Shapiro. Although the new generation of informed young guns may recognize him as the agent behind A Day To Remember, Chiodos, The Wonder Years, Sleeping With Sirens, and countless others, he got this start by playing the drums in New York's Count The Stars.
Hailing from upstate New York, Count The Stars crafted their own brand of snotty emo pop-punk synonymous with the early of 2000s. Fans of Midtown and The Matches will relate to songs filled with heartbreak and tales of being mad at ex-girlfriends, which were ubiquitous themes found on their 2 records. (Writer's Note: Not intentional, but all 3 of the bands featured thus far only had 2 LPs.)
Despite only having an average of 18 years old in 2001, the band released their debut LP called Another Useless Night on Dreamsand Records and then signed with Victory Records to release their second full-length Never Be Taken Alive. Like many bands that were on the rise, they were opening great tours for the likes of Taking Back Sunday and Fall Out Boy. In addition, they also played part of the Vans Warped Tour. Unfortunately, the band was in an accident in September 2003 and then broke up in November, ending a path filled with promise and potential.
Bassist Clark Foley joined The Reunion Show and then several members including Foley and guitarist Adam Manning ended up creating Action Action. Shapiro played drums for Cinematic Sunrise and has become a tremendously successful booking agent. Sadly, Count The Stars' history was short but sweet.
Hey all, and thanks for taking the time to read the 2nd installment in “Four Chords & Seven Years Ago.” Last week we talked aboutDown To Earth Approach and it was met with a ton of positive feedback of people listening/remembering them and reminiscing about DTEA stories.
This week, we have to talk about Louisville, KY's Emanuel. Another Vagrant Records band from the mid to late 2000s, this screamo/rock act was special. They had hype. They had energy. People were excited about them because they felt this could be the next "it" band. And they could have done that, but inevitably, they fell short of the expectations by becoming inactive after their second LP release.
Their first album is what I'll be concentrating on in this entry. Soundtrack To A Headrush was an aggressive and urgent mix of rock n' roll with the screamo sound synonymous of the mid to late 2000s that bands like a young My Chemical Romance and Senses Fail employed. Hell, at times the band took cues from acts like Saves The Day with tracks like "Dislocated." However, Emanuel was polished and refined enough to have the potential for active rock radio. Remember how bands like Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and 30 Seconds To Mars did that with large mainstream success?
The songs were heavy, riff-y, and filled with attitude and aggression. However, the hooks were still MASSIVE. Songs like "Xeroxicide" showed the band's ability to write just absolutely solid rock hits. The Machine Shop manned the boards for the album, so you knew the quality was not going to disappoint. The band supported Soundtrack To A Headrush with a LOT of touring in 2005-2006. Hitting the road with bands like 30 Seconds to Mars, Lorene Drive, Aiden, The Audition, My American Heart, Boys Night Out, and a stint on Warped Tour, the band was gaining huge momentum heading into their second album. They entered the studio with Terry Date (Pantera, Soundgarden, Deftones) and the choice of producer seemed clear - the crossover to radio.
The band emerged from the studio in 2007 with LP 2, Black Earth Tiger. The lead single, "Cottonmouth," showcased a slightly heavier and rock driven style compared to the previous record. The band headed out on tour The Receiving End Of Sirens, Hopesfall, Envy On The Coast, and others to support the record. It seemed that shortly after the release of the record, the band stopped becoming active. I can't find any announcement of a hiatus or split, nor can I find info on if they did a last show (Note: Their wikipedia says they never played a farewell show, but how credible can Wikipedia be at times?).
With that said, for those of you looking to dig into something more aggressive but still melodic that's along the lines of modern day bands like Set It Off, taken a listen to Soundtrack To A Headrush.
“Well, I've been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I've come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.” If your first instinct is that this came from your new favorite Tumblr-core hype band, I want to hit you over the head with a baseball bat. I’m (slightly) kidding of course, but hopefully I have your attention. It’s from the fantastic film High Fidelity, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly advise you do. Right away.
If you don't recognize that quote, perhaps I’ve already proven my point. Prior to writing this introductory entry to “Four Chords & Seven Years Ago,” I was really torn about how to introduce this new editorial to the site. While the name may be cheesy, the intent is anything but that. As a teenager, I was a young, hungry, and impressionable music consumer (I still am), and I was constantly searching for new music to listen to. Perhaps at the tender age of 23 I sound jaded, but I observe a general disinterest among the new generation of music listeners to scratch beneath the surface and search for the inspirations of their current favorite acts. For example, someone that is fan of The Wonder Years might find an appreciation for The Get Up Kids, as Soupy and The Get Up Kids singer/lyricist Matt Pryor exhibit a similar heart on your sleeve writing style that unmistakably and individually define them.
During my middle and high school years, I turned to various outlets, publications, and recommendations including MTV, FUSE, AP.net, my friends’ blogs and music players, Purevolume, MySpace, etc. This lead me to stumbling across a wide array of popular bands that ranged from blink-182, Simple Plan, UnderOATH, Thursday, and many others. As these mediums now continue to evolve, we have an unlimited access to music through YouTube, Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, iTunes Radio, and any other digital streaming and hosting service out there.
As I got older, I began to delve deeper into the music I fell in love with. I feel like every day I learn about a new band or a different influence behind an artist that I connect to. It created a better appreciation for what my favorite performers were doing. Their writing styles, melody structures, the nods to the past, there was someone that had to have paved the way for what I was currently listening to. It didn’t always click for me, but at times I found myself latching onto an artist I would’ve detested had I not been previously exposed to listening to a relevant artist.
“Four Chords & Seven Years Ago” will not be a fire & brimstone lecture of “you kids have terrible taste.” Quite frankly, that idea is uttered among every generation and I find that notion to be nonsense. Tastes are completely subjective and I’ll almost never tell someone they’re wrong for liking a certain artist. What I hope to accomplish is to open your ears (and mine) to something that you may not have heard before in hopes that it will drive you to explore deeper down the rabbit hole that is…music. In addition, I’ll be calling upon others to weigh in with an artist from generations past that expanded their listening perspective.
So, let’s get started. The inaugural band to be featured is Down To Earth Approach. I first heard of DTEA through the Vans Warped Tour 2004 Compilation Disc which featured the single “Exhibit Of The Year.” At the time my musical rotation included New Found Glory, blink-182, Simple Plan, and other heavy hitters, but these bands were a steady diet of fast-paced, pop-oriented tracks. This is one of the first times I had heard something melodic with an emo twist that wasn’t a slick pop song. There was something raw and rough while still maintaining a catchy core. I wanted more and the band’s first full-length, Another Intervention, provided just that.
It’s not as if DTEA was a garage band that stumbled onto the scene. The band was signed to Vagrant Records, who was one of the hottest independent labels out there. With a venerable “who’s-who” of giants including Rocket From The Crypt, Saves The Day, Senses Fail, The Get Up Kids, and Dashboard Confessional, along with a crop of newcomers that included Emanuel (who we’ll hear about in a later installment) and City And Colour, Down To Earth Approach was on the fast track to success. Touring with the likes of Circa Survive, Say Anything, Saves The Day, and Moneen, the band was receiving the attention and development it deserved.
Shortly after the release of their second record, Come Back To You, the band decided to call it quits. Although they had a short career, Down To Earth Approach holds a special and nostalgic place in my music library. For me, Down To Earth Approach was a gateway band. This opened my eyes and ears to other emo-rock acts of the mid-2000s like The Early November and Hot Rod Circuit among others. Even listening now, I can hear huge similarities to bands like The Get Up Kids and Superchunk. Another Intervention allowed me to delve into a grittier, more emo and rock sound versus the polished and produced records I was used to.
To the members of Down To Earth Approach - thank you. Although I never got to see you play live, your music has left a permanent impact on my tastes.
To those that decided to read this to the end - thank you. I hope this is the first installment of many that will talk about artists that need to be heard.
"Do It Yourself" - it's a term thrown around a lot in today's scene. Bands that practice and preach this mentality wear it as a badge of honor. The only question, what does DIY truly mean? What does it mean to fully embrace the DIY ethos? In this feature, we will be speaking with people in the industry that run the spectrum of what it means to be DIY and their advice to people wanting to learn more about the entire process. This can range from booking your first tours, setting up a press kit, or recording on a budget. The topics are nearly endless.
This guest blog is brought to us by Mark Woodbridge, A&R at Radium Records and has been in a slew of touring and signed bands.
Do It Yourself - it's a term thrown around a lot in today's "scene." Bands that practice and preach this mentality wear it as a badge of honor. The only question, what does DIY truly mean? What does it mean to fully embrace the DIY ethos? In this new feature, we will be speaking with people in the industry that run the spectrum of what it means to be DIY and their advice to people wanting to learn more about what is available to them. This can range from booking your first tours, setting up a press kit, or recording on a budget. The topics are nearly endless.
Today, we are proud to present our first entry for DIY 'Til I Die, Support The Tour run by Sara Stile.
It's been a long time since I've updated my blog. For the millions...AND MILLIONS! (That's an ode to The Rock) of my faithful readers, I'm happy to let you all know I'm going to be on all of Warped Tour this summer. My buddies in Shut Up and Deal from Idaho are allowing me to TM and make it count for my college internship!
I'll try and stay as active as I can on the site but it's going to be tough doing it in a van. I'm also going to try and feature smaller bands on the tour that you should try and watch, there's a lot of great talent that needs to be recognized.
How do you start a review for a show that features one of the most iconic bands in the "scene" playing a once-a-year show? Either way, with a lineup like this you knew it was going to be a special night.
Such Gold kicked it off with an energetic 30 minute set. Most of the crowd wasn't familiar with them, but for the small portion that did, it was a treat. As someone that has seen Such Gold, in a bar with about 40 people no less, I'll admit that it was a bit weird to see them on a big stage and a 10 foot barrier between the crowd. The awkwardness of not being able to be right in the faces of the crowd was definitely something they had trouble dealing with at first but they got over it fairly quick. Either way, this didn't stop them from putting on one hell of a set.
If you're a fan of Title Fight, Transit, and The Wonder Years you will dig what these guys are doing. If you're wondering why a heavier pop-punk/hardcore influenced band was on the bill, they were touring with Hit the Lights in December and this was one of the stops on the run before the show was re-scheduled due to snow. They started off their set with two old songs but kicked right into fan favorite "Sycamore" much to the delight of those in attendance. From there, a slew of crowd-surfing and moshing ensued and the band's comfort level increased rapidly.
One of the noteworthy things about Such Gold is their ability to pull decent harmonies live despite their heavier sound and complement it with screaming. It's very nice to see melody in this style of pop-punk. During "So Close," Kenny Vasoli fulfilled his guest vocals duty live much to the enjoyment (and surprise) of the crowd. You could tell by Such Gold's demeanor that this was a childhood dream come true because how many bands can say Kenny Vasoli is featured on their record, let alone have him perform it live. This instantly brought credibility to the band with the crowd, so what's better to do next than cover Saves the Day in New Jersey? Reign Supreme's Jay Pepito joined them onstage to play a rendition of "You Vandal" much to the delight of the crowd. The band closed with "Four Superbowls, No Rings" from their EP Stand Tall.
The entire time during their set, frontman Ben kept thanking the crowd and The Starting Line for letting them play a show they'll remember for the rest of their lives. Be on the lookout for some new releases in 2011 from Such Gold.
Next up were veterans Hit the Lights. It's no surprise why they were on the show, they're co-managed by Randy Nichols (Who manages The Starting Line) and Matt Watts (Guitarist of The Starting Line). They openly acknowledged this during their set.
One of my first concerts was New Found Glory/The Early November/Cartel/Hit the Lights in 2005, and I had not seen HTL since. I've rocked Skip School, Start Fights for several years so it was a real treat to see some material live. If you've seen Hit the Lights live with Nick, you'll recognize that he's much deeper live than he is on the record. However, I really didn't mind it. It actually plays out well with the harmonies. Guitarist Kevin Mahoney and synth player Andrew Kane usually pull off the highs with near perfection while Omar and David would do most of the lows which gives a really nice addition to their set.
Their set was an even mix of "old" and "new" Hit the Lights' tunes, pleasing fans from both the Colin and Nick eras. One thing that has always remained an anomaly for me is the amount of guys that dig this band. I know that my friends and I blast them, but it became evident why this isn't a hard question to answer. They're heavy but in their own way. Their guitar riffs and tones scream Four Year Strong but their pop sensibility like All Time Low keeps everyone happy. Of course, they played This Is A Stickup... favorites "309," "Speakers Blown," and "Bodybag" but I really wish I heard more from Skip School... but I'm just picky. My favorite song of the set was "Breathe In" because that is what I think is the perfect example of what Hit the Lights is now - the heavy and pop elements are balanced perfectly. The surprise of their set was covering "Holly Hox" by Saves the Day.
I had the chance to catch up with some of the guys after the show and talk about the new record. I'm not going to spare any details, but if it's anything close to as how they described, we're in for a great album.
Now onto The Starting Line. I can't describe the excitement and anticipation I had leading into the show. I promised to remain under some composure and keep some sort of journalistic integrity during their set because it was my first time seeing them and I needed to remember their set to write this review. Thankfully I did, but that doesn't mean I didn't have my 13 year old self singing on the inside to every word.
As soon as the lights went out, the crowd erupted and began moving back and forth, pushing forward to the stage to get as close as possible. A sea of people were waiting for legends of the Drive-Thru era to take the stage and the band immediately began right into a song that has meant so much to me "Somebody's Gonna Miss Us." If anyone has seen their documentary, the outpour of emotion in that song is so moving and it never ceases to make me realize how lucky I am to work in this circus called the "music industry." It didn't take long for them to get into older material as the crowd exploded for the next song, "Up and Go."
Every song you could see the 15 year old Vasoli come out. His energy and exuberance was unmatched by anyone that night. You could see the youthful glare gleaming from his eyes when he jumped around and danced on stage. It was evident that he was born for the spotlight, he is the ultimate performer. He just fed off of the crowd and their energy. He was somewhat affected by a shoddy bass power supply which he kept missing with the entire night, but that was a minor glitch in an otherwise nearly flawless set.
I know I'm in the minority, but I feel like Direction is the 2nd best TSL album behind Say It Like You Mean It. Music is all a matter of opinion, but this album just hit me at the right time. The idea of growing up and shedding the young and naive self came off in a manner where it's hard to depict it, but it's one of those inexplicable situations. I could tell the amount of songs played from Direction bummed out some of the crowd because they wanted to hear older songs like "Bedroom Talk," "Greg's Last Day," and others but I wasn't complaining in the least.
The band trucked on mixing in old and newer songs. They completely owned the crowd, as they sang along to every word of every song. During "Given The Chance," Vasoli added "But it will never be as good as tonight" after the line "Every minute I will count 'till the next show in the next town." He wasn't just playing to the crowd, it was a sincere line and it was reaffirmed by the many thank you's to the crowd and to everyone else that has helped TSL.
They finished off their set with three of their best songs, "Island," "Leaving," and "Best of Me." I don't know if I have ever seen a crowd more explosive than when they played these last three songs. I literally got goosebumps because the entire crowd was singing along and you could barely hear the band. After a short call for "encore!" they came out on stage and Vasoli said "You know, we secretly pray that you guys don't leave when we're finished playing." In their encore they performed a new song "Luck" which sounded a lot like a b-side off of Direction and then finished off with "This Ride."
My only two gripes of the night were the mix and the crowd. The mix for TSL was horrendous. You could only hear vocals, bass, and kick drum. There was no snare or guitars at all. It was definitely a bummer because there are some classic riffs and leads that you couldn't really hear that well. Also, the venue has a terrible habit of over-packing shows. There was hardly any room to move around and if you're one of the unfortunate ones who don't like to see a concert squished and tend to stand in the back, then you're in the only walkway and are constantly getting bumped around.
Other than that, this was one of the most incredible events I've ever been a part of. I hope it won't be the last time I can see The Starting Line. Then again, why would a band that's not together be writing any new material?
There's no way around it, this site loves Lydia. I had the opportunity to intern at Linc Star Records during the album cycle of Illuminate, and that's where I first heard of the band. So I have a personal attachment to the band, as they are the first band I ever helped work on an album for. So it's no surprise I'll be the first to write about Gates, the project of ex-Lydia member Ethan Koozer. Don't expect Illuminate Part 2.
My take? Think Jimmy Eat World's Clarity meets American Football meets The Appleseed Cast's Mare Vitalis. I just saw their second ever set tonight and I was damn impressed. The instrumentation is on par with many of the post-rock acts of today, the 3 guitar attack sets it apart from its peers. Using phasers, delays, and other effects, the band creates an upbeat sound that never seems to slow down. The drums are the backbone as simplistic rhythms are perfectly syncopated to match the songs' flow and the drums are complemented by the smooth basslines. The vocals are the norm for what we consider to be the ambient post-rock of today, a lot of reverb to cover up a rough tone of sometimes pitchy vocals. However, you never seem to be bothered by it because it comes off so natural. Mixed with the backups and harmonies, the chaotic layers of sound create an ephemeral concoction that will please the ears of many.
Yesterday the amazing people at FUSE allowed me to be in attendance for a taping of A Different Spin With Mark Hoppus on FUSE on Thursdays at 7 PM. The guest was My Chemical Romance. The taping began with My Chemical Romance sound checking. I stepped into the studio at FUSE and I was blown away with the size of it. It's tiny but they make the most out of the small space they have. As someone who runs a college TV show quite similar to this, I can appreciate little things like this. Their lighting and sound is incredible for a TV studio, it would make a lot of concert venues jealous to see the amount of equipment they have. Their lighting is what makes a lot of the performances so special. Using intelligent/moving lighting, it gives the vibe of a live performance and you lose the fact that it's a tiny TV studio.
The vibe inside the studio is great. If you read my previous entry with my dinner with Mark, you'll read that Mark is a genuinely awesome guy. He isn't a prick talent (See: Bill O'Reilly) who sits in the chair, does his bit, and then peaces out. Mark goes around and talks to everyone. He gave some gifts to the studio audience that entered to win a spot to watch the taping. He'll then go around and talk to the people in attendance. The best thing about Mark is his witty comments that he makes while everyone is prepping to record. If you've seen a Blink concert or know what the band is like, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Let's not forget about his co-host Amy. She provides just as much charisma as Mark. She plays off of him so well and comes up with a lot of funny things off the top of her head.
As for the interview part, I prefer this over the "TRL" style any day of the week. Having the band sit down on a couch and Mark interview them is truly a pleasure and made it feel so intimate. Although Mark comes in with pre-prepared questions (Most likely thanks to lovely interns and producers), Mark makes interviewing seem like such an easy task. He is so conversational with the bands and can easily improv something and have it come off so natural. I think that's the most underrated part of the show and should be commended much more.
Do you want to know the only thing that sucks about the entire situation? I don't get FUSE in my dorm. FML.