Stephanie talked with American Grim about their new album Freakshow and what the band hopes their fans feel when seeing the band live - Read it HERE!
AMERICAN GRIM INTERVIEW FOR THE EAST COAST ROMPER
BY STEPHANIE STEVENS
Before setting out to start bands and music what was it about being a musician/artist that intrigued you to dedicate your life to it?
I started going to hardcore shows at a young age in NJ. The Energy in the crowd is what really sucked me in. I think having an identity as a hardcore kid gave me a place where I felt like I fit in.
AMERICAN GRIM is pretty much a new up n coming band with a lot to say. What do you hope music fans will walk away with after seeing you guys live, or listening to your album Freakshow?
When it comes to the live show I just want people to feel the passion. I want people to know that we love this shit. There’s really nothing that feels better than playing heavy music.
Being a three-piece band and playing with the same people for many years how does the music and songwriting process come about and is it a pretty easy tasks since you guys know each other so well? Do you all have a say in songwriting and who is usually the first one to come up with ideas?
American Grim has no real way we write songs. We feel like three song writers in one band. We all write, we all have different styles. Mike Morello our guitarist has a studio in our home town where we track and write. The best songs are what we use. We don't rehearse as much as we work in the studio, we are in the studio every day, the main thing we don't want to do is sound like everyone else.
Your album FREAKSHOW shows a vast array of music genres in each and every song; does that come from the many influences you all have through the years growing up?
Our roots are metal so we really try hard not to be just a metal band, but everything reverts back to metal.
Although music is a huge influence for you guys who else inspires you to write lyrically and musically?
We are influenced by many things outside of music. I would say the main thing personally is fighting. Before we got signed to Entertainment One, we were making music for Mixed Martial Arts. Some of our old songs were placed on NBC sports that led to getting a record deal. I train with cage fighters all the time. I’m a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’m all about never giving up, believing in yourself and knowing what you want.
When it comes to marketing and doing stuff for the band you guys are very hands on and I think I heard you do your own videos. How important is it to put a visual to your music in this day and age?
We try to keep deep punk rock vibes among the band rather than a Rockstar mentality. We write all the music ourselves and I direct all the videos. We invested in Black Magic camera, learned the software and control all visuals. We would rather create then explain
STAY IN TOUCH WITH AMERICAN GRIM:
Stephanie talked with London based but now residents of LA band, Charming Liars. Check out her interview with the band as well as their new single for "Like A Drug"
I don’t even know where to begin to describe the way that CHARMING LIARS have re-energized my love for music. This alluring, ambience driven, captivating band that hails from London but now resides in the good ol’ music world of Los Angeles has made pure raw and honest music that really spoke to me on so many levels and moved me through all levels of emotion. A band that is doing their job by making you feel various emotions with the music they create.
I was first introduced to the band by way of the current single LIKE A DRUG. Its sexy, it’s haunting, it’s thought provoking and can we talk about the sensual sway of vocalist Kiliyan Maguire. This guy can lure you in by just saying hello! The music created a little 30 Seconds to Mars and Muse vibe for me. Tons of melody, and a chorus that will have you singing for days.
But not only is the new single a total demand in your play list, but so is the whole collection of songs these guys have put together. I was so sold on one track called NAKED, which came off the bands 2015 DELETE. REPEAT. It has the right amount of sass, allure and mystical prettiness! Then in 2016 an EP called 12:31 AM came out and brought you the beautiful quality in SOUL. Showcasing that perfect vocal sound, uplifting, positive and the catchiest melody. I could go on for days about all the other tracks that jump out at you but I am sure you want to learn about the band instead of hearing my opinion. As you can see I am hooked on this three-piece band.
With an icon like Sir Elton John as a fan, you have to believe that the band’s future looks very bright. I feel like with the right steps and a bit of luck CHARMING LIARS are going to be making huge strides going into 2019. But for right now the guys are finishing up the new full-length record, getting ready to hit the road and just doing what they do best: making perfect music for a scene I feel could use refreshing.
I had the privilege to ask guitarist Karnig Manoukian a few questions about how the band started, the new single LIKE A DRUG, how it is to have Elton John as a fan, producer/songwriter John Feldmann and tour life.
Charming Liars is:
Kiliyan Maguire - Vocals
Karnig Manoukian - Guitar, Production
Mike Kruger - Bass
FIRST OFF - I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!!
Can you let us know how Charming Liars formed and what was your vision for the band when you started? Has that vision changed in anyway?
We formed back in England many years ago actually. Myself and Mike have been playing guitar and bass together for a long time ☺. Our vision back then and our vision to this day is to still make music that transcends every culture and to ultimately make music listeners feel something. We also always stated that arenas are where we have to be – we’re still set on achieving that!
You guys are originally from London but made the move to Los Angeles in 2013. What did you think London was missing that LA could give to you and has that been fulfilled for you?
Initially it was literally interest. We had several music industry folks that were interested in us and that was more than we could say for the UK. We came out for a couple of weeks and realized it was the place to push from. In many ways we’ve made huge strides and we also have so much more to accomplish.
John Feldmann has been a name in the past year that has come up with some of my new favorite bands and I see he encouraged you early on. What was it that started the interest with him and have you been able to sit and write with him? If so, how has that meeting changed you guys as a band?
We messaged him on Social Media and he actually responded back to us – to our surprise! From there he got us out to California and secured a demo deal with Warner Brothers for us to record 3 songs. We co-wrote and he produced those 3 tracks. In the end nothing came of it, but it was a great experience.
Another Icon - Sir Elton John - has had an impact on your band. How does it feel top have someone of that standing be a fan of your work and how was it covering one of his songs knowing he would be listening?
Elton John is an icon and he is also a huge fan of new music. For him to play our music on his Beats 1 radio show means a huge amount. It’s so exciting each and every time he does it!! When it came to doing a cover, so many people had to told us to cover his music - it only made sense to take one of his catchiest tunes and strip it down our way. The end product is something we’re all very proud of and we get a lot of Elton’s fans reaching out to us because of it.
For me listening to your music, I hear different bands other then what is listed as your influences. I find more of a Muse, 30 Seconds of Mars and Depeche Mode vibe. When you guys are writing how do you go about it and how much do your influences affect the outcome of a song?
Our process is really one without boundaries. We all subconsciously have certain limits, so we know what to attempt and what not to attempt but we really try and excite ourselves. Those bands you listed are the best in the world and we hope to soon play alongside them. When it comes to writing, the song usually starts from a lyric, guitar riff, melody or idea and we take it from there. We also experiment with different atmospheric noises and pads and that can really inspire us to do something progressive.
I just recently discovered Charming Liars, and your music has really made an impact on my life from the words to music; because I feel like you write from a real raw, honest, and emotional state of mind. How do you feel when someone says that to you and how important do you feel being honest in your lyrics and music is to a potential fan?
It’s a huge honor for you to say that and we really appreciate it. Kiliyan definitely takes that standpoint when it comes to lyrics. He tries to either tell an autobiographical story or he tells the story or emotion of someone very close to him. The mission statement (if I can say that) of the band is to make a difference. Whether it makes someone move or cry or sing along, it needs to make a difference. I think if that’s the case - then the lyrics (and the music) have to be organic and from an honest place.
A couple of your songs that stood out for me I wanted to get some insight on:
What inspired that song?
I think the art of being…. Naked, haha! It’s pretty simple with that one and that’s definitely one of the raunchier ones ☺
What is your favorite thing about the song?
I’d have to say the epic nature of that chorus vocal. It reminds a bit of 30 Seconds to Mars and also hints at Angels and Airwaves
Would you change anything about it now?
One or two things… but I can’t tell you what!
What is that main theme of that song?
I think it’s another one of those self-explanatory ones. We loved playing it live because of that big riff and people seem to always move when that first chorus drops.
Musically - what came first – the lyrics or the music – when you were writing the song?
I’m trying to think back. I think it was definitely the music. I had that riff laying around and I decided to record it and then I wanted to add some really dark soundscapes. Putting the two together was the next step and then it was a no- brainer.
LIKE A DRUG
How have you grown with this song as a band from your beginnings to now having this as your new single?
It’s definitely our most progressive single in terms of pushing the boundaries of sound, feel and lyric. I think when people look back, they’ll see a big difference in the band from “DELETE.REPEAT” and everything afterwards. We definitely grew on “12.31” but ultimately, we are exactly where we want to be with this new full-length record. LIKE A DRUG and INSOMNIA both have that dark element to them but they also make you want to sing along and move. There are instruments on LIKE A DRUG that we’ve never used before (such as the horns in the chorus) and that’s definitely a sign of our growth and maturity. It’s also a sign that we’re trying to modernize our foundation as an Alternative rock band. We love having guitar riffs and big guitars but we’re at a point now where we find it even more interesting and exciting to take those guitars and turn them into….. pianos …. Or horns…. Or bass synths. We’re not getting rid of the guitars – we’re just having other instruments come in their place and in doing so we’ve actually spent more time on making sure that the guitar parts that we DO have are impactful and necessary.
What is one thing lyrically and musically you want to tell your fans about the writing of “Like A Drug”?
The message of the song is clear – We’re describing a personal relationship and comparing and relating the toxic love they have for each other to the addiction that a drug might hold over someone.
Will you have a full-length album out in 2018? If yes do you have a release date and a title yet for the album?
We definitely will have the full-length album out this year! It’s happening and we can’t wait for people to hear it. We have several titles floating about but we won’t lock one in until the very last moment. Regarding release date, somewhere in the autumn / fall.
You will be out on the road with Welshly Arms and Grandson in the fall. Any other touring plans you can tell us about?
We’re hoping to get out on the road in July. Nothing we can confirm as of now, but fingers crossed. After that, we’re very excited to hit the road with Welshly Arms and Grandson in September and October. Following that, we will be doing some festivals and shows in Mexico and then we should end the year out with some more shows in the states.
What’s your Favorite thing about touring?
Firstly, playing to new faces and making new fans. That interaction is like no other ☺ Secondly, my personal favorite thing is eating in a different city every day.
How do you stay healthy on the road?
We don’t…… it’s a problem
Your go to stage clothes?
Depends on who you’re asking but I personally have a black outerwear jacket option, a long black or dark grey t-shirt option and then either black skinny jeans or my own personal soft pants that are kind of in between leggings and jeans. Perfect for the stage because it gets really hot up there and movement is key!!
Please tell us two things about each of your band members that people may be surprised to know?
Kiliyan is an avid reader and he comes in with a new book every week. Blows my mind. He also is one of the best vocal coaches in LA. Mike (bass) only eats McDonalds, Mac and Cheese and Ketchup. He’s also a very in demand photographer
Any last comments?
I think we covered it all, Thank You Stephanie!!!! Check out all of our tour dates, music, videos, merch and general news online at our socials. Hope to see everyone out on the road!
Charming Liars – Upcoming Tour Dates
Date Venue City Notes
Tue 9/25/2018 Record Bar Kansas City, MO w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Wed 9/26/2018 7th Street Entry Minneapolis, MN w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Fri 9/28/2018 The Hi FI Indianapolis, IN w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Sun 9/30/2018 Magic Stick Detroit, MI w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Tue 10/2/2018 Velvet Underground Toronto, ON w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Wed 10/3/2018 Brighton Music Hall Boston, MA w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Thu 10/4/2018 Music Hall Brooklyn, NY w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Sat 10/6/2018 The Foundry Philadelphia, PA w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Sun 10/7/2018 Union Stage Washington, DC w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Tue 10/9/2018 Visulite Theatre Charlotte, NC w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Wed 10/10/2018 Exit/In Nashville, TN w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Fri 10/12/2018 Vinyl ATL Atlanta, GA w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Sat 10/13/2018 The Parish New Orleans, LA w/ Welshly Arms, The Glorious Sons
Stephanie talked with the Huntington Beach, CA based band Them Evils recently as they talked about the evolution of the band, the new Rollin' Stoned And Livin' Free EP & MORE!
The Huntington Beach, California based band THEM EVILS has been making a lot of noise with their back to basic gritty, naughty rock n roll! ROLLIN' STONED AND LIVIN' FREE - the newest EP from the band has Jordan Griffin (guitar n' vocals) Jake Massanari (bass) and David Delaney ll (drums) making big noise for only being a three piece; making “use” of their instruments and actually making real guitar-driven, straight-up Rock N' Roll a focal point in this day and age is a refreshing and motivating thing. THEM EVILS bring the raw, Rock n' Roll energy back to the scene and it shows; Inspired by parts AC/DC, Led Zepplin, Queens of The Stone Age and a big heaping pile of originality these guys have the flair, sex appeal and modern day rhythm and sass to make heads turn, ears perk up and booty’s shaking all night long.
The boys have released the newest single GOT ME ROCKIN' where they swoon you with guitar, melody driven ambience and lots of attitude - this single definitely made me take notice and got me “Rockin” for sure. ROLLIN' STONED AND LIVIN' FREE is a very smooth sailing, no-track-skipping disc that shines light on old school rock, guitar rock and gritty soul driven soundscapes. The world is starting to love and adore these guys. I was able to chat with Jordan while he was out on the band's headlining tour for spring and he was able to let me know a little more about THEM EVILS, working in the studio and what makes them survive on the road
You guys have that old school rock n’ roll, gritty vibe that has been missing in the music scene for a bit. When you all came together was that a major goal - to bring back that sound to the scene or did it naturally happen when you started writing?
- We definitely had that goal in mind. Bringing sleaze and grease back into Rock N’ Roll. Not many people are doing it nowadays; I feel our music is refreshing to our fans and music listeners.
Individually who are you guys influenced by and what did you grow up listening to?
- I, Jordan, grew up listening to metal bands like Sabbath, Metallica, and Pantera. Those bands gave me an understanding of music but the two most influential bands for myself are AC/DC and Alice In Chains. As far as David goes, he's heavily influenced by Queens of The Stone Age, and Jake, the Arctic Monkeys.
For people new to THEM EVILS you guys (well two of you) started in Vegas but eventually moved to California. How did that change help in getting the band’s name out? And how did you find your drummer as the last piece to fit the puzzle?
- The main goal was to be as close to LA as possible because it’s the mecca of the entertainment business. I vividly remember our first LA show, which was at the Viper Room. We were hungry and eager to get ourselves out there. It was actually my first show as a front man and I was shaking in my boots, pacing throughout the venue. Granted, there was only 15 people in the bar but it was a big step in the evolution of our band. David was introduced to me through a coworker. I told her the cliché’ Rock N’ Roll "we moved here to make it" story, so she made the introduction. David and I met up at a rehearsal spot and jammed Metallica and Alice In Chains tunes. It was the perfect fit!
It says in your bio you guys kind of made your own scene. Was that prior to moving to California, or did it develop once you arrived? How do you feel in your own opinion your band and music has helped make the music scene fresh again?
- We made our "own scene" in the sense of traveling outside of Orange County and Las Vegas. Why be in a band if you're going to just play local shows? We branched out and tried to connect with other local scenes throughout California as well. A lot of our friends in local bands saw that and followed the example. I don't think we helped make it fresh again. The scene was always there in Orange County - we just came in and shoved it down people’s throats.
Zakk Wylde has been a pretty big name and support system for you guys. How did he hear about the band and do you see songwriting in the future with him?
- Blasko, bassist for Ozzy and Zakk Sabbath, watched our set side-stage at Louder Than Life in 2016. We stayed in contact and maintained a friendship. Then @ Rock on The Range in 2017 we met up and he mentioned the Zakk Sabbath tour needed an opening act. Two weeks later we got the offer.
Your ROLLIN’ STONED AND LIVIN’ FREE EP was just released - Were these songs brand new to the band or did you take some tracks from older studio days or demos?
- Three of the tracks are newly written songs (Got Me Rocking', Practice What You Preach, and Gets Me High). We put some older songs on this because we went into this process thinking this was our "break-through" EP. So those well written songs needed to be heard – we just updated them a bit.
How is the atmosphere and vibe in the studio when you guys are recording? Are you all very hands on in this kind of atmosphere and what do you feel off this new EP was the easiest and hardest song to track?
- It’s a blast! The studio is all about good vibes and creativeness. It's also a collective process so we need to be very hands-on. This music is going to be around long after we're gone so we're very involved. Easiest was definitely 'She Got Nothin" because it was the oldest song I wrote on the album. The hardest was definitely 'Practice What You Preach'. The vocals on the chorus and the verse harmonies were a dynamic we've never touched on. It was a completely new concept for our band.
How was working with Kato and what was it that made you guys pick him to produce and record with? Do you have a Favorite artist he has worked with other than yourselves?
- It was a blessing to work with someone of his status. He's a legend and extremely knowledgeable when it comes to writing and recording. He actually picked us. Our manager, Shannon, and Kato showed up to one of our Viper Room shows and pretty much said "let’s get this Rollin". I would say The Pretty Reckless is my favorite band he's produced.
GOT ME ROCKIN’ is making some waves for you guys. How important do you feel videos and radio play are for your band in this day and age?
-The more content you have as a band and the more platforms that share the content is everything. Radio play and videos are great ways for listeners to engage with our band – the more, the better.
Loudwire exclusively premiered the video for GOT ME ROCKIN’. What was the highlight of doing the video and do you guys like doing themed videos or just straight up live performance ones?
-The whole process was exciting. It was the first time our band made a scripted or themed video. Acting was something we've never done and it was a bit nerve racking. We got through it. I enjoyed making that video the most.
You have toured with some pretty stellar bands like Pretty Reckless and Alter Bridge but now you are doing a headlining tour for the spring. How different is it going from opening to a headline run? And have you guys thrown in some oldies or covers in your set since you have more time?
It’s the same. Work hard and get your job done. Shake hands and sell merchandise. Make every connection you can and talk to all your fans. This tour we've thrown in 'Dirty Deeds' by AC/DC for a crowd pleaser!
In three words describe yourselves onstage:
-Rock And Roll.
Do you guys have any rituals you perform before you go on stage to prepare yourselves?
-Have a beer or two, play some guitar scales, vocal warmups, and a small pow-wow before the set.
Three things in your RV or bus that is essential to everyday life?
-Wet Wipes, beer, and water.
Staying healthy on the road…..three things you guys try to do every day to either stay in shape or not get sick?
- Gym membership, for me it’s drinking juices and making smoothies, and vitamin C packets.
Favorite go to stage clothes?
- Black Jeans and a denim jacket.
If you could describe your fans in a few words how would you and any amazing road stories about any fans that stood out?
- Amazing and supportive. We got a fan, Mike, who travels every time to see us. He pledged on our campaign page and stays in contact with us. He's a great dude!
What does the rest of 2018 look like for THEM EVILS and do you have any idea on a second single yet?
-We're going to keep touring and captivating audiences. Definitely work on some new material. As far as new music being released, no. We're going to tour this EP for some time yet before we record new material. This single is still new, 2nd single is still a ways off.
Them Evils Tour Dates:
May 22 - Pittsburgh, Pa. @ The Smiling Moose
May 23 - Detroit, Mich. @ PJ’s Lager House
May 24 - Chicago, Ill. @ Beat Kitchen
May 25 - St. Paul, Minn. @ Turf Club
May 26 - Omaha, Neb. @ Lookout Lounge
May 27 - Fort Collins, Colo. @ Hodi’s Half Note
May 29 - Salt Lake City, Utah @ Metro Bar
June 1 - Las Vegas, NV @ Beauty Bar
June 9 - Costa Mesa, Ca @ The Wayfarer
Connect with Them Evils:
Official Band website: https://themevils.com
Pledge Music: https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/themevils
Bands In Town: https://www.bandsintown.com/themevils
Stephanie covered the VYCES show this past week at Fete Music Hall in Providence, RI as the band was on Direct Support for Mushroomhead - Read her Review HERE
VYCES live show review
Fete Music Hall, Providence, RI
May 4, 2018
By: Stephanie Stevens
It finally happened; VYCES was placed in front of me so I could have the pleasure of seeing the songs I Have been listening to since 2016 in a live setting. The California based band jumped on direct support for the Mushroomhead tour and landed in Providence, RI at Fete Music Hall.
The stage presence was on point from the start of the set to the end. Energy was high and the crowd for the most part seemed into the music and the guys on a whole. These guys are no newbies to the music scene and the years of practice in other bands have helped them grow and bring to life the pure attitude, compassion and strength you can hear, see and feel through a VYCES set. The thing that makes me love this band is the ease they have throwing out some heavy powerful n aggressive shit and seamlessly flow into a melodic, moody, sensual layer of rock n roll. The bands newest single THIN LUCK was a standout in the set tonight. This song just vibes in a live atmosphere because of the way the track was written; a pure soundscape journey from dark parts, upbeat sing along moments and a strong sense of gritty heavy layers. NOCTURNAL has been a favorite of mine and tonight the guys were able to do it and bring up to help them perform it the promoter of the Fete Music Hall and friend of theirs Justin Marcotte (which you can see in the collage snippet attached) this song is just pure perfection, got the crowd moving for sure. The highlight for me tonight was I WILL FIND YOU. If I could have replayed that part of the set for the rest of the night I would have been a very happy girl for probably the rest of the month of May. They ended the night on a heavy night with TO THE TORTURED, and purely tore the stage up and I am pretty sure left lasting impressions to a lot of virgin ears of VYCES tonight.
Overall if you are new to the band VYCES you must get a listen and jump on this fanbase because they have potential to take over the rock scene moving forward.
Vyces on Tour With Mushroomhead
May 8 - Texarkana, Ark. @ Whiskey River Country
May 9 - Little Rock, Ark. @ Revolution Music Room
May 10 - Houston, Texas @ Scout Bar
May 11 - Dallas, Texas @ Trees
May 12 - San Antonio, Texas @ Rock Box
May 15 - Mesa, Ariz. @ Club Red
May 16 - San Diego, Calif. @ Brick By Brick
May 19 - Seattle, Wash. @ Studio Seven
May 20 - Jerome, Idaho @ Diamondz Event Center
May 22 - Fort Collins, Colo. @ Hodi's Half Note
May 23 - Denver, Colo. @ Oriental Theater
May 24 - Colorado Springs, Colo. @ Black Sheep
May 25 - Lincoln, Neb. @ Royal Grove
May 26 - Waterloo, Iowa @ Spicoli's Rockade
May 27 - Minneapolis, Minn. @ The Cabooze
May 29 - Joliet, Ill. @ The Forge
May 30 - Madison, Wis. @ The Annex at The Red Zone
May 31 - Sturtevant, Wis. @ Route 20
June 1 - Cleveland, Ohio @ The Odeon
also check out the bands official new video for THIN LUCK. Director Ron Thunderwood visually captures the mood, character, and intensity of the song while walking you through a post-apocalyptic nightmare," says Vyces' Dave Naruszewicz.
STAY IN TOUCH WITH VYCES
Stephanie was at the Breaking Solace show at Jimmy's Saloon in Newport, RI recently. Check out her show review and a snippet from the show - Read it HERE
JIMMY’S SALOON, NEWPORT, RI
BY STEPHANIE STEVENS
STAY IN TOUCH WITH THE GUYS:
BREAKING SOLACE a name that shouldn’t be taken lightly because this New York based band is back with a vengeance and it shows in their overall attitude and stage package they bring to each and every town they play in. I was first introduced to Vocalist Dan Burk and the band back when their 6 song EP; came out. Soon after I fell in love with the band a hiatus was taken and, in that time, Burk reconstructed a new family of brothers who undeniably have gelled and meshed so well that it shines through on the stage and beyond.
I was able to get to see the guys in a live setting when they did a small mini tour in support of the new revival of BREAKING SOLACE and to promote the future of what is to come with the band and let me tell you New York has something very special in these guys. For one the band who has limited funds as any struggling independent band has brings a sensational live show with them. The energy, the showmanship; and the stage props just enhances the overall talent and creative nature that can be heard in the songs. The songs come to life in a live setting; FEAR NO MORE, MY ETERNITY, DESCEND, THROWN AWAY were given a new depth of life when you get to have these songs played in your face at a loud level! 110% credit to each and every band member for the power and emotion set free from start to finish; blood sweat and tears are left on each and every stage they play. The set is so active and interactive that you are pretty spellbound to the stage at all times. I have to say going into the show I was going in with no expectations, thinking I was going in to see my friends band rock out and although I adored the songs on the CD I never expected what I saw that night.
Highly impressed, with the professionalism, the talent and the pure love and dedication these guys have for their craft, the fans and the music they create.
I put together a small snippet of the bands site so you can get a glimpse and hopefully on the bands next tour check them out because its worth every single penny. Watch BELOW
Stephanie talks with MESSER about their upcoming album Make This Life due out 4/20 as well as what makes a good rock band and their go to stage wear among other topics - Read it HERE!
MESSER is letting everyone know that Dallas, Texas is thriving with musicians who can put together a kick ass rock song as you can see on the bands self-titled debut album (on Maddpants Records). The album is gritty, melody driven, layered and smoldering with radio active hits from start to finish. Some of my favorites are EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL, STILL BETTER OFF, WHISKEY and THROW IT AWAY
The band consists of Dereak Messer, Lead Vocals, Donnie Deville, Guitar/Vocals, Javier Contreras, Guitar/Vocals, Kenn Youngar, Drums/Vocals and Maddox Messer, Bass/ Vocals, all seasoned musicians and together are able to bring the cutting edge modern rock music that the scene is missing. The band’s first single MAKE THIS LIFE is already climbing the active rock radio charts and pushing through the sea of video outlets worldwide. April 20th can’t come soon enough for the band so they can let the fans and the new comers hear the full length album they put a lot of time, blood sweat and tears into; but a band with ambition and dedication doesn’t sit around waiting the guys in MESSER have jumped on the Unstoppable Screams Tour with Red, Lacey Sturm and Righteous Vendetta for now and then soon after a tour with the band Shallowside.
For now, I was able to chat with bass player Maddox Messer about how the band formed, writing the record, singles and how they stay healthy on the road.
Seems like all the band members of MESSER had a good resume in the music scene before you guys got together. Who was the founding member(s) and how did you choose the other guys in the band?
Dereak and Javier had started jamming with Kenny and then I (Maddox) had a chance meeting with Dereak. We later added Donnie to round out the rhythm section. We had all come from other Dallas area bands that had a modicum of success, but when we all first got together it was instant connection and we knew we had something special as a group.
How long did it take for you guys to write and record your debut album MESSER?
We co-wrote the album with our producer and great friend Chad Gendason over a period of about roughly 5 years. We knew we wanted to create a masterpiece in hopes of making an impact on not just music fans, but on the music business as a whole. We feel the time and effort paid off and that we have created a debut album that will stand the test of time and we can rest knowing we did the very best job we could with no regrets.
You are doing a pledge campaign for the album. For people just getting to know you guys or for fans that haven’t heard about this yet, what are you bringing to the table for the pledge campaign?
We have some really cool packages and items. You will find exclusive shirts, bandannas, stickers, signed drum heads and more! But what we are most excited about is the Vinyl Record. We have done vinyl before, and we're psyched to release this album on both 140gm and even a limited number of 180gm vinyl for those true audiophiles. If you have never heard Modern Rock on vinyl you’re in for a real treat! I should also mention that in the “Diamond” package not only do you get the 180gm record, but it's going to come in a custom-made box that will play a ringtone we created when you open it up. We wanted to make the unboxing a true MESSER experience! https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/messerband
Your first single and video release MAKE THIS LIFE is getting some good attention from radio and video outlets. What was the reason for taking that particular song to showcase the band and the debut disc?
We do everything by committee - so a ton of thought and process went into deciding which song to lead with. We had originally picked a different track and had already began making the videos for that song when we decided to switch to "MAKE THIS LIFE". We felt it was the right song to introduce MESSER to the world at a time when we are “Sick Of It All”. It seemed to fit the sentiment of the times we are living in. Our hope was to empower the listeners with a positive message and encourage them to Make Their Own Lives Worth Fighting for!
In these days what do you feel makes a good rock band?
I think a good rock band or any band in general is one where all the members are selflessly serving the song. You can always tell when someone is playing for their own ego versus an honest performance. For us, there is so much intention behind every note played. It's an incredible feeling to take what we feel inside and transfer that energy thru our individual instruments, then have it all come together thru speakers with the precision of a surgical scalpel… Ultimately cutting to the core of the listener in a visceral way.
Songwriting wise what do you guys bring to the table vs. other bands that are in the same genre as you? From this debut album what song are you most proud of lyrically and why?
I think our approach was to write songs for the listener. Our Producer and co-writer Chad also has a fabulous ear for melody. I think our soulful r&b-esque melodies with well thought lyrics are what make these songs so addictive. We are just everyday guys and we wrote songs that everyone can easily relate to because they were written from our lives. As songs go I personally think “STILL BETTER OFF” is my favorite because the chorus is so catchy and fun to sing and perform.
For me after hearing the disc, I have to say that EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL is my favorite track off the album. Any fun stories or studio antics that came from recording this song?
Actually, that was going to be our first single originally - LOL. We plan to release it as a radio single next. As for studio antics we have plenty… ;o) It's a great song and the one we open our set with every night. My favorite part is the whale call solo in the bridge. We didn’t use a lot of traditional guitar solos on this album intentionally. We wanted to convey the seriousness and give an intimate look into our lives and the bridge in that song is a vulnerable moment that tells the story that everyone can relate to.
Your making your mark already with some good tours with RED, and then Shallowside. How has the current tour been going and what are you looking forward to for the next leg of touring with the Shallowside boys?
The Unstoppable Screams Tour is going Great!! Almost all the shows are SOLD OUT. The crowds have been overwhelmingly receptive and we have been pre-selling CDS faster than we hoped. We have been receiving a truly humbling number of messages and posts on social media. All of this is extremely gratifying and exactly what we had dreamed of! We are super stoked to get out there with the Men of Shallowside and showcase our full headline set complete with our amazing light show. You won't want to miss this show if we come thru your town – come check us out and say HI!
Red / Lacey Sturm / Righteous Vendetta/MESSER Tour Dates
March 20 - Sacramento, Calif. @ Ace of Spades
March 22 - San Francisco, Calif. @ The Fillmore
March 25 - Los Angeles, Calif. @ The Regent
March 30 - Tempe, Ariz. @ Marquee Theatre
March 31 - Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theatre
April 3 - Lubbock, Texas @ Jake's Backroom
April 4 - San Antonio, Texas @ The Rock Box
April 6 - Houston, Texas @ The Scout Bar
April 7 - Dallas, Texas @ Canton Hall
April 10 - Oklahoma City, Okla. @ Tower Theatre
April 12 - Sauget, Ill. @ Pop's
April 13 - Memphis, Tenn. @ New Daisy Theatre
April 14 - Nashville, Tenn. @ Top Golf
April 15 - Atlanta, GA. @ The Masquerade
Dates with Shallow Side
Wednesday - 4/18/2018 - Jacks Bar and Grill San Antonio
Thursday - 4/19/2018 - Sidewinder Austin TX
Friday - 4/20/2018 - Trees Dallas TX
Saturday - 4/21/2018 - Satellite Bar – Austin, TX
Sunday - 4/22/2018 - Olde Towne Tavern – Slidell, TX
Wednesday - 4/25/2018 - Ashley Street Station - Valdosta GA
Thursday - 4/26/2018 - The Warrior – Tallahassee, FL
Friday - 4/27/2018 - Working - Tampa, FL
Saturday - 4/28/2018 - Southside - Naples, FL
Sunday - 4/29/2018 – On Hold - Orlando FL
Wednesday - 5/2/2018 - Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
Thursday - 5/3/2018 - Sidetracks Music Hall – Huntsville, AL
Friday - 5/4/2018 - The Warehouse – Clarksville, TN
Saturday - 5/5/2018 – Steel Horse Rally – Fort Smith, AK
Wednesday - 5/9/2018 - The Bourbon Hall - Louisville KY
Thursday - 5/10/2018 - Amici's – Concord, NC
Friday - 5/11/2018 - The Vault – Hickory, NC
Saturday - 5/12/2018 – GroundZero - Spartanburg SC
Saturday - 5/19/2018 - Pit Stop Bar and Grill - North Richland Hills,
What does a MESSER show bring out in your fans or new comers that never heard of you before?
We seem to get a lot of new fans telling us how great our sound was in contrast to other live shows. We have taken a great deal of time and put a lot of detail into our live performance to insure the sound is incredibly clear and pleasant to listen to. After all, what good is our message if its lost in translation. If you have never experienced our live show know that when you do you can expect to enjoy the sound, feel and look of everything we do. Plan to be comforted and held in a blanket of sound waves that will leave you addicted and hopefully wanting more!
Have you guys put in any thoughts about which song will be the second single and any time frame for when it will be out?
“EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL” will likely be our second single, but for now "MAKE THIS LIFE" is showing no signs of slowing down - so we are gonna ride this out till it's time to unleash the next. But expect to be hearing MESSER on your radio for a long time to come!
Your back in your hometown of Dallas for your record release on Friday, April 20th. What does it mean to you to have that night to give back to the locals that supported you from day one? Any surprises you can hint to us that will be happening that night?
Yeeeessss!! We worked hard to coordinate that show date. It was important to us to be at home that day because there is no way we could be here without the support of our hometown, families and friends who have tirelessly stuck by us thru this arduous process. As for the 4/20 well…. new music comes out on Fridays now and that happened to be 4/20 this year. Also Record Store Day Is 4/21 and since we are simultaneously releasing the CD and the Vinyl record what better day is there??? There is also the Legendary Trees club owned by the amazing Clint and Whitney Barlow who have been huge supporters of not just to us, but to the entire Deep Ellum music community.
Fashion tip: What’s your go to stage wear; and any advice on what not to wear to newcomers starting out?
My go to stage where is typically whatever I have on, HA! I used to get all dressed up in my “Stage Clothes” (Air Quotes) but I always felt like I was getting dressed up to pretend… At some point I realized I was that guy on stage and I worked to be me all the time. I am always ready to rock the stage anytime, anywhere! My advice to anyone starting out: Wear your confidence and positive attitude. It goes with everything! Trust me I am a hairdresser, LOL!
Fitness tip, how do you guys stay healthy and fit on the road?
We all have our own routines for fitness and diet because its super important to stay healthy. For me I have a jump rope and every time we stop for fuel, I jump 200 times. I do push-ups every day, and lots of yoga too!
Any last comments?
Thanks so much for the great questions - I enjoyed answering them for you. We hope to see you at one of our live shows. We love to meet and hear from new MESSER fans so please message us and tell us what you think! Dream big and Never Give Up! – Maddox
Connect with Messer:
Pledge Music Campaign: https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/messerband
Official website: https://www.messerband.com
iTunes Pre-order: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/messer/1348892084
Google Play Pre-order: https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Messer_Messer?id=Bwgg2vbrw53gkx3q3prnxdhhqua&hl=en
Stephanie talked with Seattle, WA rockers Avoid as she discussed the bands name change, how the scene is in Seattle and much more! - Read it HERE
I don't want to say I found the band of the year for me in 2018 already because it is very early in the year but the Seattle band Avoid have put a permanent smile on my face after hearing some of tracks off the bands debut album ALONE on Revival Recordings. The band blend and create a new and exciting sound to fans of rock, metal and anything in between.
Once know as Avoid The Void, the guys graduated and matured from those days and now grace us with some prominent powerful and diverse songs. Then when you look deeper into songs you find reality driven lyrics like in the third single entitled HATE (ME).
Music that will twist your head around and then calmly soothe your soul until the next trip down the heavy and dark road of excellence; as you can hear in END OF AN ERA.
BY MYSELF has a lot of fun guitar tones and sounds throughout the track but still is driving and heavy with a melody driven chorus. What stood out for me is the different layers of vocal approaches which drives the song ino the next dimension.
Then the last song I was able to get my hands on was a little track called 28 DAYS; this song sold me on this band is the reason why I am saying I could have found my 2018 breakout band of the year.
Mixing metal attributes, clear as day melodic tones, vocals that will haunt you and instill love in your sould, guitar work that will leave you breathless; and just purely driving forces of chaos mixed with beauty sums up this song favorite.
Before the guy's head out on the road in April with Dead Crown I was able to ask what, each member brings to the table to create the music for Avoid, along with the debut disc ALONE will be out. Song meanings and what tour life entails for them.
Stay in contact with AVOID:
YOU GUYS WERE NAMED AVOID THE VOID PRIOR TO THIS NEW CHAPTER OF JUST AVOID. WHY THE NAME CHANGES AND HOW HAVE YOU GUYS GROWN AS A BAND SINCE THE NAME CHANGE?
There were many little reasons that came into play when changing the name, but at the end of the day it comes down to we weren't Avoid The Void anymore. Under the 5 years we were ATV, our sound had evolved a lot, we had gone through a couple members, and we just weren't where we wanted to be. AVOID was our way of being a brand new entity in the music scene, with staying true to our roots.
WHO IS IN THE BAND AND WHAT DOES EACH MEMBER BRING INTO THE BAND ON A PROFESSIONAL LEVEL?
The band consists of me (Benny Scholl) the singer, our guitarists Nick Olson and Brandon Parker, our bass player Jason Daggett and our drummer David Dusseault. Everyone brings so much to the table in their own way. Nick is our primary song writer, and great with anything technology. He is one of the hardest working people i've ever met. His playing/ writing abilities are always evolving due to how much time he spends at it and it's incredible getting to work with him. Brandon is an outstanding guitar player, and very well rounded on his knowledge. He is great to bounce ideas off of and build plans with. David is such a solid drummer and overall musician. He actually used to teach high school drum line, and currently teaches drums on the side. He's great with writing and his experience really helps us grow. Jason is like the glue that holds everything together. I've never met someone so easy to work with. He's great with looking at all situations without a bias so everyone's opinions and thoughts are heard. He also has an audio degree from the Art Institute and is one of the main reasons why we're able to self produce/ record everything we do. Personally, I handle most of the business side of things and a lot of the merch/ social media/ things on the front end. I work as our tour manager on the road and try to constantly push the limits of what we can do next on all ends. It's a very cool dynamic so have so many driving members and we're very proud of what we're creating.
YOU JUST RELEASED A THIRD SINGLE IN HATE (ME) BEFORE WE LOOK INTO THAT SONG, LET'S TALK ABOUT THE ALBUM IT'S COMING FROM: WHEN DOES IT LOOK LIKE YOU WILL BE RELEASING THAT AND WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE BIGGEST GROWTH IN THE BAND THAT FANS WILL HEAR FROM THIS ALBUM?
We're hard at work to finish the last few songs on our upcoming album ALONE. I can't speak much about an exact release date, but I can say you will see an album from AVOID in 2018.
HATE (ME) WAS QUOTED AS BEING YOUR MOST EMOTIONAL LYRICS TO DATE. WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO UNLEASH THE EMOTION AND WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE GET OUT OF THIS SONG?
We really wanted to show all sides of us on this record. Every song that we're going to put out is going to be a little different in its own way. The big thing with "HATE (ME)", I wanted to show in the lyrics was honesty and vulnerability. The overal theme of this song is all of the "bad thoughts" you tell yourself while dealing with mental illness. We really just hope this song makes you feel something, and hopefully you can relate to it in one way or another.
YOU JUST SIGNED WITH REVIVAL RECORDINGS. HOW DID THAT ALL COME ABOUT AND WHAT DID THEY BRING TO THE TABLE THAT MADE YOU WANT TO TAKE A CHANCE WITH THEM?
We're so excited for our future with Revival. I actually met Shawn (President/ owner of Revival) and Aaryn (A&R at Revival) on tour with Alesana last February. Soon after that run, Aaryn started managing us and a couple months later we were in talks with Shawn about signing a deal. We love that Revival really cares about their artists. They have outstanding connections in the industry and we truly felt like they would have our best interests in mind, and to this day we feel the same way. We've seen so much growth in our little time on the label, I can't say a bad word about them.
I HEARD THE SONG "BY MYSELF" AND THAT WAS THE SONG THAT REALLY DREW ME TO YOUR BAND. CAN YOU GIVE US A LITTLE INSIGHT ON THAT TRACK AND YOUR FEELINGS OF THE FINISHED PRODUCT?
I'm so glad you enjoyed that one! That is definitely a band favorite, and personally I think my favorite song off the upcoming album. That track is supposed to be a song you turn up with your friends and have a good sing along. I'm really proud of the finished product and have high hopes that it will be a fan favorite.
BEING FROM SEATTLE AND THE MUSIC SCENE THERE HOW DID THAT INFLUENCE YOU GUYS AND WHAT AVOID BRINGS TO THE TABLE?
There is so much talent in the Seattle music scene it's insane. The big thing it did and still does is make us want to get better. With so many good bands doing their own thing, it made us not want to be like anyone else, so we're constantly perfecting the songs and stepping up our live show so we can keep up with everyone else from here thats killing it.
WHO ARE YOU MOST INFLUENCED BY MUSICALLY AS A BAND OR A PERFORMER AND IF YOU COULD MEET THOSE PEOPLE OR PERSON WHAT WOULD BE THE ONE QUESTION YOU WOULD WANT MOST ANSWERED TO HELP YOU IN YOUR FUTURE ENDEAVORS?
Oh boy... that's a loaded question, haha. I only say that because we're inspired by so much it's really hard to pin point where it all stems from. If I had to break down our top 5 inspirations I'd say Slipknot, Foo Fighters, Papa Roach, Periphery, and Underoath. I think we'd ask them about their writing process, and how they've managed to stay relevant in their long careers.
YOU'RE HEADING OUT ON THE ROAD WITH DEAD CROWN IN APRIL. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO ON THIS TOUR AND HAVE YOU GUYS TALKED ABOUT YOUR SET LIST AND WHAT CAN FANS LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING OR SEEING?
We can't wait for this run. We've actually toured with Dead Crown before back when we were ATV and had an absolute blast with them. They're some of our best friends in the world so we're just really looking forward to the quality hangs. We'll definitely be playing all of the singles at these shows, and maybe a couple new ones, so you'll have to come and see for yourself ;)
HOW IMPORTANT TO YOU IS A SOLID LIVE SHOW AND WHAT IS YOUR GO TO STAGE WEAR ON TOURS?
The live show is everything to this band. We are 100% a live band. We want people to leave our shows entertained, even if you don't like heavy music. We try and bring a very high energy and inviting performance so there's a little something for everyone. Go to stage wear for me would be black jeans, white shoes, and some random pop star shirt like Usher or Prince or NASCAR related shirts, something ridiculous, haha.
I ALWAYS ASK THIS QUESTION DUE TO THE FACT I'M A FITNESS BUFF BUT I JUST WANTED TO KNOW HOW YOU GUYS STAY FIT AND HEALTHY ON THE ROAD?
We try and live fairly healthy on the road. We haven't gotten into the routine of working out when we're on tour, but we definitely use Planet Fitness for the showers haha. We just try and not eat too much fast food, and instead of just sitting around waiting to load in and what not we like to bring footballs and soccer balls so we can play catch and little scrimmage matches.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO ADD SO FANS OR NEW COMERS CAN GET TO KNOW YOU A LITTLE BETTER?
We're the most approachable people in the world, and we love meeting new people! Shoot us a message if you want to get to know us. And if you like the music or anything, you can pick up all of our merch at Avoid.MerchNew.com and be on the lookout for lots of touring!
Stephanie attended and covered the Kissing Candice show at Fete Ballroom in Providence, RI, Check out what she had to say about the show HERE
The last time that KISSING CANDICE made an appearance in Rhode Island was around this time last year with A Killers Confession. This time around they come with friends I Set My Friends On Fire and played a sold out room this night. I was eager to see the NY band again because last time I was just learning and indulging in the visual and musical adventures these guys have to offer. So, this time around I was already familiar with the band and have had BLIND UNTIL WE BURN and the newest EP, SAFE WORD on nonstop rotation, so I was ready to get a dose of live show debauchery.
So, the stage got set and the progression of the bands masks were unleashed and the band got up onstage and just had the energy, the drive and the heaviness that we have all come to admire. Everything about this band has evolved, visually, musical wise they brought a tightness and more gelled appeal to this set this time around. The movement on stage hyped up the crowd and Joey sounded deliciously on point. The new songs (DE) GENERATION, HIT THE ROOF and TILT were probably my favorite of the night because of the driving heaviness and just felt like the songs were written for the stage..
I was curious to see how the crowd of this tour package would take the band and people were so into it and reckless with love that it showed that the members of KISSING CANDICE can win over anything put in front of them. Although some people might not get the band and the visual aspects they give you but look beyond that point and really get to know what the guys are speaking about in lyrics, we can all relate to them and to anyone thinking they are a gimmick band you are so far in left field. This band has talent, they have musical integrity and put on one hell of a fun show. If you can check out a show on the rest of the tour go for it; I’m telling you, you won’t be disappointed. Pick up some merch too because they have some killers stuff out on the road with them. Here is a little snippet of my point of view of a night with the mighty KISSING CANDICE. Thank you guys for the music!!!!
Stephanie reviewed the new EP from The Knowing Within titled Circumstances, check out why she is in love with the EP from start to finish - Read it HERE
THE KNOWING WITHIN—CIRCUMSTANCES
BY: STEPHANIE STEVENS
THE KNOWING WITHIN came together 3 years ago and hail from the sunny state of Florida where they are setting new boundaries and strength to the music scene.
I came into contact with the guys last year after hearing the bands last EP BELIEVE TO SEE and it was just a few listens that captivated me to look more into the band and eventually get a little interview done with the guys.
Fast forward to the start of 2018 and the guys have been hard at work on a new disc entitled CIRCUMSTANCES; when I say they were hard at work they tore the roof off when these tracks were set in stone and ready for the public. I am in love with the EP from start to finish.
"ERASE MY MISERY" is the bands first single and lyric video (which is down below) and while it shows a snippet of what the band brings it doesn’t really get into the real value of what these musicians have in their heart and soul and what is shown through the rest of the EP and the music they create. "ERASE MY MISERY" is a upbeat and melodic with some powerful aggressive vocals to make it a little more gritty and grinding. With all that going on they don’t let the high impact of energy settle throughout the song.
Although I like the song for me it doesn’t hold a candle to the next song up "NO DOGS ALLOWED "and from reading fans views of the record this is there favorite track also. I don’t know if it’s the structure of the lyrical content or how vocalist Tim Rardon delivers it all, or if it’s the meaning behind the words or if it’s the powerful and driving melodic music but this songs gets you amped up, gets you singing along and bobbing that head.
The interlude; "RESPITE" changes up the tone with a darker ambience that gears you into a more electronica soundscape; that settles you down for a few seconds so you can catch your breathe.
"PROLOGUE", a little instrumental ditty that seamlessly gets you ready for what is to come with CIRCUMSTANCES; I whole heartily love the drumming on this track…and the intertwinement of singing and aggressive backing vocals just makes the song a solid gut punching track.
"A FEELING PROFOUND" features AJ Bartholomew (from Eyes set to Kill) is probably my 2nd favorite off the EP. I feel this song encompasses all that is THE KNOWING WITHIN!! They have a little bit of everything in this song; brutal and aggressive, melody galore, electric attributes, its insane how you can listen to one song over and over and hear new things every time. A spectacular track in my opinion.
Lastly the band ends on a ballad note and shows off beauty; simple, raw elegance from the beginning then surprises you with a little drumming attribute to spice things up; but all in all you can really see emotion and passion in Rardon’s voice. I’m a sucker for a slower song and these guys pleased my heart on this one.
THE KNOWING WITHIN is still making the rounds in the Florida scene but with CIRCUMSTANCES I hope big things happen because the talent needs to be put on a larger scale in the music scene.
THE KNOWING WITHIN IS:
Tim Rardon: Vocals
Mario Tafoya: Guitar/Vocals
James Arran: Drums
Sebby Villota: Bass
CONTACT THEM AT:
Stephanie talked with You Are A Toy vocalist Donovan Black about the meanings behind some of their songs, what the band members do outside of music and more! Read it HERE
BY: STEPHANIE STEVENS
Thank you for taking the time to meet us, listen to our stuff, and then take time to make this questionnaire. It was a pleasure meeting you and I look forward to meeting again and hopefully get you stuck by our side as we continue our musical journey….to who the fuck knows. ☺ Cheers Steph
Just before Christmas a tour package came through my area; A KILLER’S CONFESSION and Awake at Last and a band called U R A TOY. The guys in a Killer’s Confession always like to give unsigned, local and indie talent a chance and on this tour that is what they put into play.
U R A TOY is a band from Ohio and well from the first look at the tour flyer I was already intrigued by the band because well, it’s a pretty bad ass name and can be taken in so many ways.
So, the night came and went and the set these musicians put on that night was pretty solid and professional. It’s hard to get a real feel on the songs when you never heard of the band before but with the interaction, energy and drive of the bands set the songs intrigued and moved me from the get go and from the looks and cheers from the crowd that night they won on a fairly decent amount in little ol’ Rhode Island. Fast forward to hearing the actually CD THE DIFFERENCE IS……., it has been playing non-stop in my car since I received it.
The one thing that drew me to this band was the honesty, but yet complex lyrical content throughout the disc. It’s a real, emotional and very versatile disc.
U R A TOY captures a rock essence, a hip-hop flair and metal undertones. You have songs that move you through words, you have head banging moments and you also get that shake your ass catching driving elements in some. Like I said the CD is a non-skip track kind of album and I am so excited to have seen them live and to have the CD in my possession now.
The guys are currently changing up some members (but still current is Donovan Black-vocals, Nick Hanefeld-guitar, vocals and Michael Holdren-lead guitar/vocals) since the tour that I saw them on, but are still working on new material and hoping to get a new CD out to the fans of the band before the end of 2018.
I was able to hop into the mind of vocalist and lyricist Donovan Black; getting a better understanding about the formation of U RA TOY, the meanings behind some of the songs off THE DIFFERENCE IS…, what the band members do other then music, what makes a good song and a whole lot more. Get ready for a pretty honest, humble and information overload chit chat with this little-known band from Ohio U R A TOY who will defiantly make a difference in your life on some sort of level.
IN 2013 YOU CAME INTO THE BAND WHAT WAS THE BAND DOING BACK THEN THAT YOU WERE DRAWN TOO?
I was singing for a band called Weep the Beldam that I started with a childhood friend. Weep went from basically ’08-’13…. At Xmas break in ’12 the band was growing apart and we split up. New year’s ’13 I met with Ricky Smoot of Illumira (Cousin of Cory Smoot formerly of Gwar) and we hit it off. We agreed that I would replace their current front man. Our musical styles were similar and at the time I remember it seeming like the ONLY move to make. We are technically still “Illumira” to this day…in late 2015 after literally changing the entire lineup it was time to change the name.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE CAPTURED YOUR VISION GOING INTO 2018?
Simply put..No. I’ve learned that to be a band is a TON of give and take. As much as I would LOVE to just make this MY vision, and as much faith as I have in MY vision..I realize that I have to allow the other guys in the band to “get their kicks” as well. With this band it’s effin tough…My number 2 Nick is a pop-punk guy, Lead guitarist Mike is a metalhead and Nirvana Disciple, and I am Hip Hop meets Tool and RATM. (Or so I hear.)…My vision is a little fucked and I’m shoving as much of it down their throats as I can get in there…
DESCRIBE TO PEOPLE WHO MAY BE NEW TO YOUR BAND WHAT YOU GUYS TRY TO INCORPORATE WHEN MAKING THE MUSIC YOU MAKE?
Connections. I try to hide all kinds of Easter eggs and one-liners in my lyrics so that I can make people smile. When I listen to music, I picture myself as the main character in the song..we all do right? “This song is about me!” …Well that’s us. …I want your head bobbing and I want your ears perked up. I’m not Eminem by a long shot but growing up I would revel in having to replay or rewind a line twenty times in order to hear the whole meaning. Or listening to a song years later and FINALLY understanding the lyric on a new level. …Maybe I’m just trying to be crafty…Nick always says that he is there to “dumb it down” for the rest of the world. He is like my translator. I am Rain Man hahaha
IN THIS DAY AND AGE TO ME ITS IMPORTANT BANDS REALLY FOCUS ON PUTTING A POSITIVE WORD OUT TO THE WORLD. BEING A FRONT MAN AND SONGWRITER HOW DO YOU VIEW THE SOAP BOX YOU HAVE TO HELP SOMEONE?
It’s the Holy Grail. I always wanted to be popular. To speak out and to be a Rockstar…. but I never REALLY knew why…I get the chance to rally the mourning. Strengthen the weak. Bring voice to the voiceless. People tell me their deepest darkest shit because of what we do. I relate. I meet strangers who make me cry all the time. Life can be fucking HORRIBLE. We are a Rust Belt band. A lot of the people that know us and support us are the forgotten and the freaky. And they are PROUD of it. Don’t get me wrong..we have fans that pretend to be “normal” too lol…but in a sense I think I’m trying to carry on with the way bands made me feel. My Gods that gave me FIGHT MUSIC when I needed it. Korn, Slipknot, Slim Shady, DMX. …People with real problems who understood the soap box. Sometimes I don’t have shit to say…but I came to preach. Don’t worship your idols…fucking become the heir to the throne ya know? Ugly doesn’t matter. Smart doesn’t matter. Clever doesn’t matter. Treat people with respect and watch the love pour in.
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE SONGS AND HOW YOU CREATED YOUR CD THE DIFFERENCE IS…..
This album started in 2009 with Weep the Beldam… Songs like WHO KNEW and FAUX AMIS were remnants of that era. Songs like A NEW WORLD and GRAPE DRINK came together as Illumira. Basically, every couple years someone has a life change or decides that they actually HATE touring and it seemed like right when we would get it together…POOF….so these songs are a collection of what could have been. The Difference itself, the song, is about what separated myself from any of the former members. And ANY true band members from the fools that they are always replacing for that matter. MINE as a song was originally the album title…I was feeling very bitter coming into this band. Illumira and the members of that era had a lot of bad blood…like we created a musical Civil War in Toledo; TWICE with that band. First when I took over as the vocalist, and secondly when everyone besides myself and Keef left the band…Illumira was a pretty big deal in Toledo…and I personally earned INFAMY status because of it. THE DIFFERENCE IS… was intended to heal those wounds and pay the proper respects to everyone involved in those songs. I consider it sort of a defiant Middle Finger as a tomb stone.
SEEMS IN YOUR LINEAR NOTES DIFFERENT BANDS FROM THE PAST OF YOUR BAND MEMBERS WERE NOTED. WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?
I’ve sort of painted this picture as we have moved along. Each of those bands were supposed to make it with me. I have not made it yet and don’t know if I ever will. But people in bands will get this…I said I was going to get there…and goddammit…I’m still trying.
IN ONE SENTENCED FOR EACH BAND MEMBER TELL ME WHAT THEY BRING TO THE TABLE TO MAKE URATOY COME TO LIFE?
Michael Holdren brings intensity to the stage..and he knows it. Nick brings the nerd-tech to the band with his knowledge of sound and equipment. Nick also brings an “realistic” point of view which can work to infuriate/stabilize the band..depending. Freemason Keef brings a level head and straight-up utility skills. Keef was the first drummer of Illumira and stepped in to record drums on “THE DIFFERENCE IS…” He also runs our merch at shows and is my right-hand man on the road. Donovan Black brings the show together. I take care of the media, the imagery, the booking, the merchandise, the management, blah blah blah…but to the outside view…Donovan Black just knows how to talk.
YOU WENT TO FLORIDA TO RECORD THE ALBUM AND WORK WITH PRODUCER ALEX VINCENT! HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT AND WHY DID YOU WANT TO WORK WITH HIM AND HOW HANDS ON IS THE BAND WHEN IT COMES TO STUDIO TIME?
I’ve been terrified of Chucky and the Child’s Play franchise since my older brother would torment me with a My Buddy Doll…so…when a buddy of ours, Mung Parker said he knew Alex and could line it up we just went for it. I think we were one of the first Metal/Rock projects that Alex worked with so it was honestly a really exciting time for all of us. We would hit the studio HARD all day and then sit on the beach or around a BBQ all night. During that time (2 weeks) The Difference, Mine, and Judith Preach were completed and recorded. We flourish when we have something big to do..and at that point in life..this was HUGE…YOU ARE A TOY is VERY hands on..We are control freaks and have been known to micromanage the production process. Bouncing ideas back and forth between Tampa FL and Toledo OH was hell!
IF YOU HAD TO SINGLE OUT ONE SONG ON THE ALBUM THAT YOU THINK IS A PERSONAL FAVORITE, WHICH ONE WOULD IT BE AND WHY? ALSO, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU SINGLE OUT WHEN IT COMES TO DO IT LIVE?
THE DIFFERENCE is fun. Its mean and its catchy. It was EXACTLY what we were going for when we all got together and created this band. The song WHO KNEW? Is very personal to me. I like a lot of musicians lost my mama at a young age and because of that…I am THIS. It was a blessing and a curse. It’s been like 15 years and when I recorded that song..in the middle I just started talking and what came out came out. I honestly do not listen to the album very often because when we play live they are WAY more fun…but those 2 are important. A NEW WORLD was meant to be the “hit single” off Illumira’s album and I tend to think that it is one of the more underrated tunes on there.
MY FAVORITE OFF THE ALBUM HAS TO BE MINE. ANY FUNNY STORIES OF THE MAKING OF THAT SONG AND OR IMPORTANT FACTORS ABOUT IT YOU WANT TO LET PEOPLE KNOW THAT THEY MIGHT NOT KNOW?
I was PISSED at former members of the band. As much as anyone contributed to ALL of these songs. It’s kind of different to be the only common link in all of them. So, we have to assume that either I’m a giant dick-head with an EGO who can’t seem to keep the drama out of the band…. or we have to admit that sometimes we just don’t work hard enough…and when we give in to doubt…we have to own our failures. …. This song is me being a smart-ass. I feel humble in life. I’m thankful for the help I’ve received…. but I’m also thankful for myself never giving in. ..All the good and the bad…pain and success…It’s all MINE. …Plus that song reminds me of Rocky and makes me want to hit the gym..let’s be honest.
I RECENTLY SAW YOU GUYS ON TOUR WITH A KILLER’S CONFESSION. YOU GUYS ARE NOT NEW TO TOURING BUT HOW DID THIS TOUR VARY FROM OTHERS YOU HAVE DONE AND WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT OF THE TOUR?
This tour was the most REAL we have ever felt. I’m personally a big fan of Waylon and what he has done. I respect his attitude. He treats people fairly. The whole band came through with EVERYTHING they said they would. My favorite parts of the tour were all the behind the scenes dish and information that comes with working with Waylon Revis. Each day was like school. Whether he was waking me up for dinner or coaching me through stage presence…I don’t even think those guys knew we came out to learn like we did. This past tour with AKC was a game changer. It made it REAL.
YOU GUYS SEEM TO HAVE A VERY VARIED AMOUNT OF MERCH WHICH IS VERY COOL, DO YOU GUYS FEEL THAT IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR A BAND TO HAVE AND IS THERE ANYTHING NEW COMING OUT ANYTIME SOON FOR THE FANS?
Merch = Food = Gas = Survival. Seems simple right? I have a business mind and background and I believe that it’s vital to sell something to almost every person at the show. I believe I can find something you like in your price range. I don’t want to have corny shit on the table, but if our merch table isn’t the coolest looking one in the building; I’m a little bummed out. ☺ For 2018 we have some badass MMM (Midwest Metal Mafia) Team Hoodies out now. True Funfact..via Thom Hazaert of EMP Label Group…The Only two bands that are members of the MMM are: YOU ARE A TOY, and Megadeth….yes that Megadeth. www.merchlive.com/youareatoy We also have some custom Donovan Black bandanas coming this year..updated style since I gave all of mine away this past tour lol. Candles, incense have been options on my mind. Nick is a lifter so we need to get to Gym Merch or water bottles for his peeps…among other journalists I know.. ☺
HAVE YOU WORKED ON ANY NEW MUSIC AS OF LATE AND IF SO HOW HAVE YOU GUYS GROWN FROM THE DIFFERENCE IS…….
New Music is coming. We have been working on new songs for the past few months and are hitting rehearsals extremely hard. The goal is to be in the studio this summer recording the next album. I feel like with the 3 songs written specifically for that album, (MINE, DIFFERENCE, JUDITH PREACH) we have a good start towards a musical direction. We have a new song called THE TEMPLE that I’m stoked about. We are going mean. That’s all I can say. These new songs are pissed.
YOU DID A VIDEO FOR YOUR SONG THE DIFFERENCE WHICH SHOWS YOUR PERSONALITIES AND THE PASSION FOR YOU HAVE FOR THE STAGE. WHEN DID YOU RELEASE THAT AND DO YOU GUYS DO A LOT OF DIY FOR THE BAND AND HOW DO YOU LIKE BEING IN CHARGE OF YOUR FUTURE WITHOUT INTERFERENCE FROM CORPORATE BS?
It’s ALL DIY for us. We hire help when we can’t figure something out…but these days no one is handing out giant record deals like 15 years ago. It just rarely happens. We would LOVE just a little more help from corporate in the terms of some help getting exposure. But we have figured out that unless you have an extra $50K…it’s just not in the cards….Music as a corporation is fucking garbage these days. Pay to play on the radio. I’m not knocking every artist out there. They ate their shit and paid their dues, make no mistake…but most of that shit has no place on the radio let alone the Grammys. The cool thing is…It’s ALL Ours…. the bad news is…. there isn’t much there yet. …Being your own boss is the shit! until payday ☹
STAGE WEAR WHATS YOUR FAVORITE TO WEAR AND ADVICE FOR BANDS TO BE COMFY ONSTAGE?
Look the part…your drummer might insist that nobody cares and that its ok to stand out like Eddie Vedder…it’s not. Look like a team…teams wear uniforms or jerseys…look similar…look the part. Personally, I like to rock a bright red bandana on my face so that people notice me stalking around the venue. I’m a big guy, 6’2” 200…so looking imposing and not acting imposing is how I sell myself as the “Savior” each night. Watch videos of yourself…critique that shit. Practice your moves in a mirror. I sing into more hair brushes than microphones.
IN YOUR MIND WHAT MAKES A GOOD SONG?
Usually a One Liner that makes it personal. Followed by something to bob my head to. It should feel like a train. All good songs are linked to a memory. It reminds us of some place or some time that was “just so.”
IF YOU COULD SINGLE OUT ONE SONG (ANOTHER ARTIST) FROM YOUR PAST THAT YOU INSPIRED TO BECAUSE YOU THOUGHT IT WAS A WELL WRITTEN SONG WHAT WAS IT AND DO YOU FEEL THE SAME NOW WHEN YOU HEAR IT?
Tool has an EP called Opiate. On it there is a song called Hush…that was the start of my outlook on people as an artist, full circle; A Perfect Circle has a song called Pet. …Those songs make me feel like a god. Like I can direct the opera and conduct the chorus. Like it’s ok to whisper..” I’m better than you because you are a fuck.” To this day.
OTHER THEN MUSIC WHAT DOES YOUR BAND MEMBERS LOVE TO DO?
Nick is ALWAYS out somewhere at a show or a concert or a party or something. ALWAYS. Mike loves Hockey. He will also fuck you up on some Xbox…doesn’t matter the game. I love chilling with my kids and my wifey, I love aquariums and fish (The sea in general) and building some model cars. I’m a nerd.
LASTLY THE BAND NAME CAUGHT MY ATTENTION WHEN I SAW IT ON THE FLYER THE NIGHT I SAW YOU. WHO CAME UP WITH THE NAME AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU GUYS AND WHAT DO YOU WANT FANS TO TAKE AWAY FROM THE NAME AND THE BANDS VISION?
Band names are tough. The previous two bands I was in we would get pronounced wrongly, or misspelled….I wanted something that would be easier to remember…With txt and emoji culture the ability to use URATOY as well as YOU ARE A TOY hit me right away. …It’s so fun when people ask the band name because when you look them in the eyes and say it….they ALWAYS feel insulted for a split second…It makes us friends when they get the joke….Some people take the name sexually, which is fine, some people see the play off of the popular Pixar Movie with Buzz and Woody…which is fine….Its open to interpretation…but for the TRUE fans. The people that really see the hidden “Easter eggs” and subliminal meanings…our conspiracy theorists if you will….The logo of URATOY can be flipped upside down so that the second half reads: URA GOD….thats my DaVinci touch. Our stage boxes tell us URAGOD when we stand on them…I want people to feel like that..Nothing against your religion or faith…but spend less time asking for change and spend more time making it..I’m nothing special..but I certainly can convince myself otherwise..So can you…If you don’t get it…then..YOU ARE A TOY haha
IF URATOY ENDED TOMORROW WHAT WOULD YOU WANT YOUR VIRTUAL TOMBSTONE TO SAY ON IT?
ANYTHING YOU WANT TO LET FANS OR PEOPLE GETTING TO KNOW YOU THROUGH THIS INTERVIEW KNOW?
We need people to believe in us or we will go nowhere fast. Please check us out.
We are on Spotify, Google Music, iTunes, Youtube,
we have merch available as well as our album “THE DIFFERENCE IS…” online at www.merchlive.com/youareatoy
“come play with me” the this or that game!!
JELLO OR PUDDING?
Jello preferably blue..flavor doesn’t matter with jello right? It’s JELL-O! lol
EAT IN OR DINE OUT?
I love take out lol…I hate getting bad service at a restaurant..I used to be a server and I felt I did a good job. I get pissy when my soda is empty..so it’s best to keep me confined to Yelp for bitching.
CAKE OR PIE?
Mmmm cherry pie
WRESTLING OR MIXED MARTIAL ARTS?
Watching WWF and WCW wrestling..I always wanted to be Roddy Piper and talk shit on the MIC. MMA is fun to watch though…hats off to those crazy asses.
TROPICAL VACATION OR ARTIC VACATION?
Keep it tropical baby.
CALL OR TEXT?
I believe the band would collectively agree on SEXT
VAN DRIVING OR VAN SLEEPING?
I’m the night shift driver sleep is tough to come by during the day with a van full of dudes.
SHORTS OR PANTS?
As little clothing as possible is always a win. Got to wear them black slacks onstage these days but right after them shits are turning to Nike mesh shorts