Category Archives: Interview

Vacation Q&A w/ Peter Marullo of Protagonist

protagonist.jpgA long-standing band is something to be praised and adored in today’s ever-changing world. With members scattered across the country, all dealing with life itself, South Florida’s melodic punk band Protagonist is still around with something to say…and plenty of fun to be had.

The band recently released their new record, Jean Jackets In June (who isn’t obsessed with the alliteration of the title?), and embarked on the Florida Vacation tour with fellow punk stalwarts New Found Glory.

Planet Stereo caught up with Peter Marullo (vox) to chat about the tour, how the band keeps it all together, and the new record.

 

Planet Stereo: How is the tour going?

Peter Marullo: Really well, thanks! It’s the last night of the tour for us tonight!

PS: Are you guys not going on the [Parahoy!] cruise as well?

PM: No, no cruising for us!

PS: Are you sad about that or happy because you get to home and relax now?

PM: I mean, I’ve never been on a cruise, so I’d be totally down to go on a cruise with Paramore and New Found Glory! But yeah, I’m definitely looking forward to a little relaxation and downtime…Well, that’s kind of a lie, because I wish I had, like, thirty more shows to go. This tour has been unreal.

PS: I imagine! I love that it was all Florida as well, because so many tours skip Florida.

PM: Yeah! As soon as it came up, and as soon as we were asked, we were like, “Oh, well, where’s the tour going to take place?” And when they said all Florida dates, we were like, “What?! That’s awesome!”

PS: A moment of happiness, because you realize you get to be in the sunshine!

PM: Yeah, and it’s a bit of a different situation for us, because, you know, we’re “based” out of Florida, out of Boca Ratone. We’ve always been a Florida band, but logistically, our personal lives, jobs, and careers, have taken us all over the United States. So being able to come back to the home state, the home turf, and basically all the major cities in the state, with New Found Glory, it’s been, literally, unreal.

PS: I’m also going to take a guess and say you’ve not had a dull moment, not even once with New Found Glory. We all know Brian [Forst] hasn’t! I hear he’s been quite the punk Rennaissance man.

PM: No! [T]hey really are a great group to be around, for sure. And Brian is wearing multiple hats on this tour. […] [laughs] He’s managing, he’s guitar-teching, he’s driving, and he’s playing in Protagonist.

PS: Oh my gosh…I hope he gets a massive cup of coffee as a reward.

PM: Well, he’s going on the cruise, so hopefully he’ll get some relaxation and downtime [laughs].

PS: Hopefully! Well, has there been a favorite day of the tour for you?

PM:  I mean, it’s funny, because, the first one in Pensacola…We’ve never previously had a great show in Pensacola, but the first night of the tour, from the first strum of the guitar, every night is a favorite night. I would say the stand out, though, last night, we played the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale, our home turf area, and, you know, same drill, it just went off. You know?

PS: A little bit of hometown pride going?

PM: Yeah! And, you know, we don’t get to play our hometown area that much. We haven’t played Palm Beach county in quite some time. The last two times we played down here was Propaganda in Lake Worth, which, is cool and has a great crowd and stuff, but it’s not really our home crowd.

PS: Yeah, and there’s nothing cooler than coming back to your hometown, performing, and being like, “Look! I made it!” And just going for it in front of everybody.

PM: Yeah, we had a great time!

PS: Good! I also heard that you teamed up with Smart Punk to release the new EP. What made you guys transition to them to release [the record]?

We previously released The Chronicles and States on Paper and Plastic, and then had gotten together with Less Than Jake, and got to play their Wake and Bake Festival, which is their yearly thing they put on in Gainesville, like their tribute to their hometown. We would do different kind of east coast tours, and stuff like that. In early 2014, we had a batch of songs, and we knew it was time to record and put something out, because it had been a few years. Ultimately, we decided to go into their studio with Pete Steinkopf from The Bouncing Souls, and so we headed into his studio, and after a week in there, we had five new songs. So we sent them out for a friend, Jamie Woolford, who used to sing in the band The Stereo, which is a Fueled By Ramen band. He runs a great studio out west, so we headed out to Arizona, and he mixed it down, it sounded great. We kind of sat on it for a while, and tried to figure out what the smartest thing to do with it was. With everybody everywhere, we kind of operate unconventionally and wanted to make sure that it was put out in a strategic way. Our buddy Jordan, who plays in the band Teenagers, he works for AJT Orlando, and a couple of guys there had recently acquired the “Smart” brand name, and decided to relaunch it as a label. We kind of just had a conversation one day, and just figured, “Yeah, let’s give this a shot.” The 10”, the vinyl, just came out in time for this tour.

PS: Oh, that’s awesome! I bet you guys have been selling a lot of the vinyl, because that’s become really popular again.

PM: Yeah, yeah, and Smart Punk did a really good job with it. We have a screen-printed Florida Vacation Tour variant, and been getting a lot of good response from it. It’s weird, you said vinyl has become popular again, and we had a guy at the show last night, and he was buying merch for his two-year-old son. Sort of, investing in it for the future, so that when he’s like thirteen or fourteen, he would have a pretty cool collection of punk shirts and merchandise going.

PS: That is so smart! I have never thought of that, but that it so clever!

PM: Yeah, like me and Jordan, who has joined us to do merch at the shows, were chatting and we were like, “That is so awesome. By the time his kid is like, fifteen years old, he’s going to have a crazy record collection, a crazy wardrobe…,” and it could be dated by then, but it will be cool.

PS: Oh, yeah, I mean, you think of the kids now who are going out and going online to buy AC/DC, Wolfmother, etc. shirts, and it’s like, “You weren’t even alive!” It will be even cooler now, like, “Oh, well my dad actually collected these for me.”

PM: [laughs] Yeah! It’s pretty cool.

PS: I also have to high-five you through the phone for the alliteration in the EP’s title. It’s just amazing.

PM: Thank you!

PS: The nerd in me was very excited.

PM: What comes to mind to you when you see those words?

PS: When I see the words Jean Jackets In June, I think of my own denim jacket that I wear all the time in the summer, because it goes with everything. I also think of the opening sequence of Pretty In Pink, when they take you through the high school, and there’s two teenagers walking through the door, holding hands, and they’re wearing jean jackets.

PM: You know, I haven’t thought of that scene in a while, and I was going to go and see the movie when they re-released it on Valentine’s Day, in the theaters, but I know exactly what you’re talking about! And the relation to the image.

PS: The film buff in me immediately thought of it, and just kept thinking, “Damn, that is so cool,” but also made me wonder, is there a story behind the title?

PM: Um…it just kind of…That’s a layered question, to some extent. Me and my brother have kind of had the concept of that song around for a few years. Like, we’ve always wanted to do a song called “Jean Jackets In June,” and we haven’t. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the song, but it has this opening rift that goes like…[*provides soundeffect to showcase opening rift*] and that’s all we had was the title and the opening rift.

And literally, like three weeks before we went into the studio with Pete to record it, my brother sent me the first demo of the song. I was sitting in the airport, flying back from a wedding–I live in Massachusetts, and was flying back from Fort Lauderdale–and I put the demo on, the first time hearing the song, and a big chunk of lyrics just came to me. I was like, “Alright, this is exactly what this song is supposed to be.”

 

 

PS: When I heard the song, I honestly just thought it was perfect for my summer playlist.

PM: Awesome! And I guess the concept, which I like to leave open for people’s interpretation, has a few possibilities, but there’s this overall theme of being able to attach an emotion to a physical, tangible item. And that item represents a memory, like this person wearing that jean jacket, and it suddenly brings back all these thoughts. Maybe not even from their life, but from a past life, or a distant memory.

PS: So [Jean Jackets In June] really plays on the feeling of being away from home. I believe the press release said the “dissociation of location,” which is really the best way to describe it. As a musician, do you struggle being on the road a lot?

PM: You know, I think it might actually feel more opposite, like yearning to be on the road more. In an unconventional way, we’ve been in this band for a long time, and within the five of us, there is a deep core unit. [W]e all live in different places, and have careers and jobs, and, like, life going on, and our own personal stuff. But we all try and get together a good amount of time throughout the year, and whether that’s recording or playing a batch of shows, or, in this case, playing on a tour with New Found Glory, we all make it work. I think part of the press release references “Hide Away,” which is the second track off of the record.

It’s basically about that disassociation of location, as we’ve grown older, as we’ve moved out of our home state, and sort of things at headquarters, at homebase, sort of disintergrate, znd whether that’s a familial breakdown […], friendships and relationships that you used to have, it’s sort of the yearning for that home, and we sort of explore that theme on our record States. There’s sort of that theme going on. Like, there’s a lyric on that record, “I’m pleading for a home to return to,” about being between two locations and trying to figure out which is home, or what is home.

PS: You referenced the length of time that you guys have been a band, and considering you have been on the scene for so long, and seen so many of the changes, how have you guys adjusted to that?

PM: I want to say sort of via the war of adapting, so I think Protagonist specifically has done a good job in adapting to [social media]. Take last night, for instance, we actually Live Stream-ed the show on Facebook, which is a new feature, and we streamed the entire set. At one point, we had, like, 600-700 people watching at one time. I think we’ve figured out a good way to find a balance between both [eras of promotion]. Like, I was just at a record store next to the venue, and brought copies of Jean Jackets In June, and sold them to the record store for consignment, and we brought a bunch of posters to hang around the cities we’re playing. So we’ll go around hanging up posters, visiting record stores, making sure the EP is directly in record stores we’re hitting up. I think because we were a band before the social media and technology side took over, we’ve been able to do a really good balancing act of both.

PS: Well, it’s funny because I spoke to Will Pugh (Cartel) about the exact same thing, and he said it’s the weird thing of being between eras, and trying to find the footing. Have you found it difficult to find the balance, or was it a straight dive?

PM: That’s a tough question…I like the physical side of things, I like handing out fliers, being able to sell the record to someone, or, after a show, have a kid come up to where we’re selling merch and buy our record, and they get to leave with this physical document or representation of what they just saw on stage. But I also like being able to send out a Spotify link to a family member or to a friend that lives across the country. A lot of the [social media] makes it easier, like, the fact that you can go online and search, ‘Protagonist Jean Jackets In June,’ and it’s going to pull up a Youtube track, or a Spotify link, Apple Music, iTunes, Pandora, it could bring up this interview, and then a kid may be in Wisconsin, who’s never seen us, that’s getting into punk, has heard of us, and will be able to sit and understand some of the stuff and the subtext of what’s going on within the band and on the record. It’s hard to pick a side, I think, and diving in headfirst into both areas is the smart thing to do.

PS: Because you have been together so long, and are now based in different states, how do you manage to keep everything functioning as a group?

PM: I guess the latter side, technology. Being able to hit a button and have someone who is 1500-2000 miles away in front of me, and able to have a conversation. Stuff like GarageBand, a lot of the Cloud sharing stuff, I mean, I can record a vocal for a demo sent to me, and then send it out to the members of the band. It’s definitely hard, but it’s not as hard as people think it is. It’s not as hard as buying plane tickets, and trying to figure out everybody’s schedules. A lot of the other stuff is sort of easy…or maybe it’s becoming easy!

PS: I was going to say, I’m sure it’s a lot easier with demos now that you don’t have to wait for things to be sent via Snail Mail.

PM: [laughs] Yeah, which is pretty wild, but even on this tour, it’s the last night, so I’m grabbing a couple of copies of the record for people that I haven’t seen in a while, people that were involved in the recording, producing, etc. I still get a big thrill out of going to the post office and sending off records and t-shirts.

PS: Everyone likes to get mail!

PM: Yeah! Everyone loves a good mail day!

PS: I have one last question for you, before you go and get ready for the final performance. I have to put a little asterisk on this one, so I don’t get sued! [laughs] This is in no way a threat on your life, anything/anyone you love or hold near and dear, it is simply a philosophical question.

PM: [laughs]

PS: I can feel your nerves through the phone [laughs].

PM: I’m open! [laughs]

PS: If you knew this was your last conversation with another human being, your last chance to say what you needed to, what would you choose as your final words, and why?

PM: One word or a statement?

PS: A statement. No pressure.

PM: Hmm…I’ve got to think about this for a second…last conversation with a human being…hmmm…Like, I know I’m going to die?

PS: Yeah, like a cartoon anvil is about to smash you on the head, and these are your final words to Earth.

PM: Um…I think I would say something along the lines of, maybe it sounds cheesy, but like, “Treat other people how you would like to be treated. You only get back what you give, so really make everything you do and every ounce of energy that you put into what you love, make it count.”

PS: That’s very good. You honestly can never fail with this, as long as you don’t answer “YOLO.” [laughs]

PM: [laughs] Oh no.

PS: You laugh, but I’ve had that answer before.

PM: Oh Jesus.

PS: I was tempted to hang up on this person [laughs]. Joking…

PM: [laughs] That’s funny.

PS: The best was “Not in the face.”

PM: Intense. [laughs] It sounds very Goodfellas, you know, so like his mother can give him an open casket funeral.

PS: That’s what I always think! Like, okay, Joe Pesci.

PM: [laughs] Yeah!

PS: [laughs] Alright Pete, well, I’m going to let you go, but thank you so much for doing the interview! Good luck tonight, I’m sure it will be amazing!

PM: Thank you for taking your time to do the interview!

 

For more on Protagonist, click HERE.

To purchase Jean Jackets In June, click HERE.

 

protagonist:nfg tour.jpg

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Q&A with Will Pugh of Cartel

 

will pugh

Cartel have given pop-punkers the soundtracks for their youth, the theme tunes their adulthood, and now…a reason to get into the Christmas spirit? The band recently embarked on a tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the classic 2005 album, Chroma. Following a string of sold-out shows in their hometown, Cartel recently announced that they will be performing a special acoustic show in Atlanta at Eddie’s Attic on December 23rd. 

 

Will Pugh sat down with Planet Stereo to talk about the show, the Chroma tour, and what he thinks the music community needs most!

Planet Stereo: How have you been?

Will Pugh: Pretty good thanks, just bouncing out some mixes right now. [I

m] never not working [laughs].

PS: I bet you’re exhausted!

WP: Uh…yeah, actually. I’ve been a little under the weather for the last three or four days [laughs]. But it’s my only time being sick this year, so I’ll take it!

PS: Fair enough! If you only get sick once, I think it works.

WP: I think I just burnt the candle down to the wick last week, and then, with the weather changing, I think that just got me.

 

PS: You’re doing an acoustic holiday show at Eddie’s Attic. What made you want to do an acoustic holiday show?

WP: Well we normally do some sort of holiday show in Atlanta, or, we have in the past. We didn’t do one last year, because we’d already played Atlanta for the Chroma tour with the full band. But Eddie’s Attic is doing some sort of special series, and we’ve never played there before, and it’s one of those legendary Atlanta venues that we just never got to play, because it’s acoustic platform. It’s just one of those things; they approached us and we just thought it was a really cool thing for us and for our fans.

 

PS: What can fans expect from the show?

WP: It’s not a Chroma show, which I have to stress, because doing that live on the tour, we had the full band, and we had to bring in some track elements, because of the nature of that record. There’s more to it than just the four of us. Even with five of us, we couldn’t pull it off, “Q&A” specifically. We can’t do that acoustic, so we’re not going to. But it will be a little mix of songs that we feel translate well acoustically, some covers, some of the Christmas songs, even one that I don’t think anyone really heard, that was on a Japanese release; we did “Happy Christmas” by John Lennon. So we’ll probably end up doing that; although the whole caveat to this thing is that Joseph is currently on tour with Third Eye Blind, um…and I live in Nashville, and he still lives in Atlanta. He comes back from tour like, two days before that show, so we’re going to rehearse the day before. So there might be some dust to knock off [laughs], and we’re going to have to figure out how and if we’re going to play some of these songs. Like, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” because acoustic guitars just don’t rock so “rocking around” might seem a little suspect, so we’ll have to figure that out [laughs].

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Q&A: The Stolen’s Dom Cuce

the stolen.jpgNew Jersey has a penchant for churning out some of music’s biggest up-and-comers in the music word, and alternative five-piece The Stolen are no exception. The band have been working hard since they first stepped onto the scene and show no signs of stopping anytime soon!

Planet Stereo had the chance to sit down with Dom Cuce, vocalist of The Stolen, to talk about life on the road, creating music, and just what’s on his Christmas List this year.

 

Planet Stereo: Hey, how are you?

Dom Cuce: I’m good thanks, finally took a break for lunch [laughs]. How about you?

PS: I’m well thanks. You’re in Nashville today, is that right?

DC: Yeah, we’re really enjoying it! It’s a really cool place to be!

PS: Yeah, it must be. Everyone seems to be there today [laughs].

DC: It is! We just finished up lunch, so we’re enjoying it, and it’s a great place for musicians.

 

 

PS: You’re currently on tour with The Big Time and We Are Forever. How is the tour going so far?

DC: So far, it’s been awesome. Our first day of the tour was in Indianapolis. We’d never met them prior to that, so we’d never spoken to them, and we didn’t really know what to expect. We finally met them, and they’re just awesome guys; they’re great musicians, great people, you know, just cool people to hang around.

PS: So no pranks yet?

DC: Not yet! I’m assuming we’ll wait until the end of tour! [laughs]

PS: I also saw a video from the first day of tour, and it looked like you guys were already off to a very interesting start…and you guys seem to eat the strangest things on the road!

DC: [laughs] Yeah…eating on the road is pretty crazy. Personally, I try to eat as healthy as I can. So everyone will go and get these crazy fast food things, and I’m just going to go and get a salad or something. But yeah, on the road, you eat some crazy things, uh, at two a.m. there’s not really much to choose from.

PS: No kidding. This is when everyone sends a silent ‘thank you’ to WaWa and their fresh foods.

DC: Yeah, you take what you can get on the road sometimes. […] Being from Jersey, WaWa is always right around the corner for us, so we just always go there.

PS: And every state seems to be getting them!

DC: Right?! We stayed with a buddy in Orlando last summer, and we were right down the road from a WaWa, and we’d been on the road for a few weeks, so we hadn’t seen one. So we went there for, like, every meal. It’s an addiction.

PS: Speaking of touring, you guys do a lot of it! I mean, you just grind it out consistently. How do you guys even function being on the road this often?

DC: I feel like, well, tour is our norm. We’re so used to it now, and, while it’s not necessarily something we look forward to all the time, it…at least, for me, anyway, it feels like what we’re supposed to be doing. It feels right to be on the road, and like, we all have other things we need to do; I’m in school online, and so are two other guys in the band, so, we just have to be on top of everything. You can’t wait to do your school work, you have to do it when you have the time. So touring for us, like I say, is the norm, and it feels right, so it’s easy to function for us.

PS: What is something you’ve learned on the road that you wish you’d known back in the day?

DC: Hmm…That’s a tough question, but I like it. You know, I’ve actually learned a lot more about cars. Like, back in the day, when I was in high school, I really don’t know much about cars, and after all the vans that we’ve been through (we’ve been through a couple already), they’ve had their fair share of problems [laughs]. I’ve learned a little more about cars and stuff in general. I guess I could say that I wish I knew then what I know now about vehicles.

PS: Knowing how to solve the problem when the van breaks down.”

DC: Yes! [laughs] Pretty much!

PS: So, back to the music, you recently released your new single, “Chardonnay,” which, I have to say, sounds so upbeat, but the lyrics are so sad! Where did that come from?

DC: Um…it’s kind of like, the way that we looked at it for the music video, kind of “deer in headlights,” this girl is trying to take out this guy, and he’s not really sure, kind of oblivious, stuff like that. We tried to translate that meaning into the video, if you’ve seen it?

PS: I did. It was really well done. I liked it.

DC: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, we just wanted to make a different video.

PS: So when you’re writing, do you try and stay consistent with your sound, or do you just write the song and hope that it fits in?

DC: Well, recently with our writing, we now have a direction that we know we want to go towards. We recorded [Adults EP] with Jesse Cannon and Mike Oettinger, these two guys, and it was a good start for us, and we started releasing singles. Then we released “Chardonnay,” and figured out that we wanted to go in that direction, and everything we’re writing is going that way. We’re all really pleased. It’s the best stuff we’ve written since we started writing our own songs.

PS: Well, you also recently released an old song, “Memoir.” What made you guys want to record the song after three years of it sitting on a shelf?

DC: It’s crazy! “Memoir” was always that song that we personally loved and we knew that other people loved it as well, and we’re like, “You know, let’s bring it back,” because we thought it was such a good song–not that we want to toot our own horns! But we’re very proud of it, and we just wanted to bring it back, and just see what people think, because we love the song.

 

PS: The funny thing is, it was such a flashback for you guys, and I had a flashback myself. When I saw your name, I was like, “I know that band. I know I know that band…” And I figured it out last night.

DC: [laughs] Oh yeah?

PS: Yeah, I actually interviewed you guys back in 2011 when I was working for Danny Says!

DC: Oh my god! [laughs]

PS: Wayyy back in the day!

DC: Yeah! Man, that is far back…

 

PS: I think I just aged both of us.

DC: Yeah, I’m only twenty and 2011 just feels like…wow. I was so young.

PS: [laughs] Me too! I think you guys were actually working with Scott Nebb at the time.

DC: Yeah! Scooter’s been a really good friend of ours for a while; he’s been on a couple of tours with us, and I think it was two summers ago, we took him on tour, and he was helping us out with so much stuff.

He’s a very smart guy, and definitely knows what he’s talking about, so it’s nice to have someone of that caliber out on the road with you.

PS: Definitely. And that actually leads me to my next question: what have you learned since 2011, working with producers and other musicians?

DC: Hmm…there’s so much that you learn. Producer-wise, we just recorded “Chardonnay” with Paul Leavitt, and you learn so much with that guy, like, the recording process, how to change the song, etc. There’s such a long list. I wish I could talk about it for hours, because I honestly have learned that much.

As for touring with other bands, I don’t want to say I didn’t learn anything, because we’ve learned from our experiences on the road; they’ve really molded us as individuals. Our friends have never had to deal with a van breaking down in the middle of a state, or something like that. There’s just different scenarios that we’ve learned in that others haven’t had the chance. You learn so much more by experience on the road than you do in a classroom.

PS: I don’t doubt it. That makes me question as well; you said you were doing school online. What are you majoring in, if I’m allowed to ask?

DC: Of course! I’m currently majoring in marketing. So I’m able to just take my laptop on tour, and whenever I can, whenever we’re at a hotel or anywhere with wi-fi, I do some work, and hopefully get it done before the deadlines.

PS: It’s funny, in my last interview, I asked about social media and how much it’s changed. Do you guys struggle to keep up with all of these platforms, now that it’s gone from the Big Three to the new…eleven, or whatever it is now?

DC: Yeah, with social media, that’s always something we’ve always been really on top of. As an individual, I love social media. I mean, not to the point that I’ll be sat having a conversation and on my phone the whole time, but I love the idea around it. Like, how you can spread something instantly, and how, even though it’s a sad event, with Paris, we had that information in an instant. So the Internet can spread so much so quickly, and we’ve definitely done our best to stay on top of that. We’re good at it. We like to stay on top of our social media, and posting, and staying in touch with fans.

PS: It sounds like you guys have a good system with it. You actually brought up exactly what my next question was. With the events in Paris, we have a lot of people questioning the safety of shows, but we’ve also seen the music community rallying together to mourn Paris and also stand up for that safety. Why now, more than ever, do you think music and the community are so important?

DC: Well, like you said, it was so unfortunate, and now people are questioning their safety and the safety of their children when they go to a show. I just think it’s important for everyone to come together for this, because it’s a terrible event, and I honestly believe that music is an escape. It’s so unfortunate that, you know, you go to that show as an escape, and something like that happens. But we all have to remind ourselves that one show, one horrible event, stops us from doing what we love. I think it’s important that we’re all aware, and that we know we have to be safe, but I think, don’t stop going to shows, don’t stop playing shows if you’re a band, just, you know, be aware.

PS: You guys are living proof of that, being on tour now. What’s in store for The Stolen after this tour and after the holiday rush?

DC: We’re always writing, and we always have an acoustic guitar on the road. So when we have free time, and no one’s doing school work, we’ll sit down and write. We always plan on touring, but after this tour, we’ll probably continue writing, although we already have a bunch of songs. But we want to write way more, and narrow it down to the songs that we think best suit an album, then we’ll record, tour, more writing, more touring. It’s basically the same, we just try to go harder every time.

PS: Speaking of the holidays, is there anything special on the gift list? I know there’s normally always something in the back of everyone’s mind.

DC: Oh, man! I don’t even know! Let’s see…this is tough. A PS4? Or maybe a new mic? Like, I’m not really sure [laughs]. I haven’t put too much thought into it. I was talking to my mom the other day, and she asked me, “What do you want for Christmas?” And I’m like, “I don’t know! I’m twenty years old! I don’t even know if I need anything!” I’m sure as the time comes, I’ll have something in the back of my head.

PS: Normally I hear a lot of bands say they demand homemade food for Christmas.

DC: Oh my god, yes! Touring is great, but sometimes, when you get to go home and sleep in your own bed, or eat homemade food, like, Thanksgiving, I can’t wait! We get home right before Thanksgiving, so you go from being on tour and going from restaurant to restaurant to sitting at home with your family to a nice home-cooked meal, it will be awesome.

PS: That and no more sleeping in bunks, you can wash your clothes, etc. It’s a big deal.

DC: Definitely. Like, for a Christmas list, I don’t really have anything, but for after the holidays, doing my laundry on a regular basis, eating home-cooked meals, and getting to sleep in my bed, that’s my Christmas list!

PS: Just go home with your tour bag, hand it to your mom and be like, “Happy Christmas. Thanks!”

DC: [laughs] Hand it off, be like, “That’s my Christmas present!” I kid, I do my own laundry, so I’d feel so guilty. I’d do it, walk away, and then come back, and just be like, “I’m just kidding, I’ll do it. I’ll go throw it in the wash now.” I’d feel guilty.

PS: Aww, so you’re the good son.

DC: I try to be.

PS: So my last question needs an asterisk, because I don’t want anyone thinking that this is a threat…

DC: Oh…[laughs]

PS: This is in no way a threat on your life, anything you hold near and dear, etc. But if this was your last conversation, and you knew you could choose your last words, what would they be and why?

DC: Um…wow. That’s tough, but it’s interesting. I can understand why people panic. [laughs] I guess I would want it to be more towards my family, but for the person to know the person that I am. Man, this is tough. I guess a piece of advice for anyone, “Just do what makes you happy.” As an individual, I believe it’s important to do something that makes you happy. Being able to tour with this band and see places that I never thought I’d see before, I guess I’ve always been happy, and I guess I just want people to know I was happy.

 

For more on The Stolen, click HERE. To purchase a CD or buy concert tickets, click HERE.

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He’s Just ‘Like Us’: Jon McLaughlin on His New Album, His Fans, and What It Takes To Write a Hit Song

jon mclaughlinPop rock singer-songwriter Jon McLaughlin is many things: a husband, a father of two, a producer, an Academy Award nominated musician, and, of course, a pretty interesting person, who, just like the rest of us, once wanted to quit piano…and got his wish in a “careful what you wish for” irony. But he soon found his way back, and after being the first artist signed to Anderson University’s independent label, Orangehaus Records, McLaughlin went on to sign with Island Records, release more amazing music, and even be a part of bringing one of his songs to the big screen and the award shows that followed (Disney’s Enchanted).

On October 9th, McLaughlin will be releasing his sixth studio album, Like Us, via Razor & Tie Records; a record, he says, “about people. and all the emotions that go along with people being in relationships with each other.

“So the title came from me picturing a couple sitting at their record player, listening to this album, and every now and then looking at each other with smirks and raised eyebrows that imply, ‘that’s just like us…,'” he explains.

McLaughlin’s storytelling skills and lyrical prowess are widely known, and Like Us only maintains that wonderful standard, with wonderful tracks like “Before You” and “You and Me.” In many ways, the album only confirms what we found out on 2008’s OK Now: Jon McLaughlin can write a damn catchy song. The secret? “The way I typically write is, I’ll get something on the piano, then I’ll play it over and over a million times until I have the music all worked out. Then I lay on the floor on my back and stare at the ceiling until the words come. I did have a new carpet installed in my writing room this time though, so I was much more comfortable,” he laughs.

Comfortable has not always been part of the adjectives used to describe the hardworking McLaughlin’s journey to success. McLaughlin has worked hard over the years, spending many a night opening for the likes of Sara Bareilles and Kelly Clarkson, recording with Jason Mraz, and writing for other artists, like Demi Lovato, though he’d still love to collaborate with Ben Folds (“The dude changed my life when I first heard Ben Fold’s Five’s “Whatever and Ever Amy” record back in 8th grade.”). Throughout it all, McLaughlin maintains a close relationship with his fans, which was part of the reason he left Island Records: to make an album unlike any other he’d ever made, leading to Forever If Ever.

Since then, there is no slowing the all-or-none musician, who has only put in more effort (if possible) on Like Us. “I’d like to say I’m getting better [as a songwriter],” he says. “I mean, I think this is the best full album I’ve ever made. I went back out to LA and worked with the amazing John Fields, who I think did a phenomenal job, and took this record to another level.

“There’s something about the studio that makes it very extreme; it’s either extremely frustrating or extremely inspiring and exhilarating.  So I love [being in the studio], but it’s nerve racking going into the studio at the beginning, because you never know how things are going to go.  But when things go well, and thankfully, every day in the studio on this record was this way, there’s no greater feeling than hearing your song come to life right in front of you.”

Would You Rather: With Jon McLaughlin
Real-life The Walking Dead or real-life Jurassic Park? Jurassic Park.  At least I would get to see a real dinosaur up close before it ate me. 
Drunk-text entire tour crew or eat a stick of butter in one sitting? Drunk text for sure
Listen to Billy Joel or Elton John for the rest of your life?  This is the hardest one yet for sure…I may just have to flip a coin.  Seriously.  Ok I just flipped a coin. Billy won.

To say that Like Us features tracks that take on a life of their own would be an understatement. The first single from the album, “Before You,” is so melodic, and acted as the perfect teaser for the album, with a spectacular sound all its own. “[“Before You”] is special to me, honestly, because of the music. I like the lyrics, and I’m really happy with it, but there’s something about the melody and the way the piano intertwines with the vocal…I just really like the vibe and the way it turned out,” McLaughlin gushes, even going as far as to say it may be his favorite from the album, tied with, of course, “More Than Me,” his favorite live song of the moment.
“[My favorite song to perform live] changes all the time, really. We’ll change one little thing about an old song that we’ve been playing for years, and all of the sudden, it’s my favorite song to play,” he admits.
McLaughlin provides many a fan with their perfect love song, inspired by his wife, but says he draws inspiration from “as many places as he can.” But between his TV appearances, touring, and life in general, it’s almost unimaginable where McLaughlin finds the time to churn out new songs the way he does, but he confesses that he lets songs take their course. “I try not to put a ton of pressure on myself to continue writing during crazy busy times, like when I’m touring a ton, for example. I’ve forced too many songs into being in the past, and they never end up being the good ones,” he explains. “The good songs come in their own time.”
It’s those tracks that his fans have connected with over the years, and what have helped McLaughlin’s career stand the test of time, as well as his eagerness to maintain a relationship with fans. “[Having people connect with my music] is so rewarding and affirming. Really, one of my favorite things about social media is that it gives me the ability to hear all the stories from fans about how certain songs helped them through a rough time, etc. It’s a beautiful give-and-give relationship.”
Like Us comes out TOMORROW, October 9th.
For more on Jon McLaughlin, click HERE. To purchase a CD or concert tickets, click HERE.
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Q&A: Leighton Antelman of Lydia

lydia

Arizona-based indie-rock three piece Lydia announced their upcoming fall headliner, The Run Wild Tour. The North American Tour features dates across the country with a quick stop in Canada, and will be the band’s first headlining run since their sold out Illuminate Tour back in early 2014. Lydia will also be expanding their current discography as they gear up to drop their next full length album this fall; coinciding with the tour. The band just released their new single, “Past Life,” and it speaks volumes about what we can expect from the group’s new album. As they gear up for their busy fall, frontman Leighton Antelman took the time to chat about the new album, touring, and his favorite fall activities. 

Planet Stereo: Hey Leighton, how are you doing?

Leighton Antelman: I’m doing good, thanks.

PS: You’re headed out on a fall headliner, The Run Wild tour, and as it gets closer, are you getting excited for it?

LA: Yeah, absolutely, we’ve been making the record for quite a while now, and we’ve just been behind the scenes, and no one’s been able to see what’s been going on. So it’s cool to be able to put stuff out there and let people experience what we’ve been doing for, you know, the past year and a half.

PS: Yeah…and I mean, I’ve been looking at the pre-order bundles online, and you guys are selling coffee with one of the bundles. Where did that idea come from?

LA: [laughs] Um…our management just sent that over, because I kinda had the same reaction you had. I was like, “Coffee, huh? Oh, okay that’s cool.” I mean, it’s awesome, I like it a lot, but I certainly can’t take credit for it. I wish I could.

PS: [laughs] It’s very creative. I saw the coffee beans on the picture, and was like, “Is that really coffee??”

LA: [laughs] Me too!

PS: It’s an interesting marketing pull. I think you’ll sell a lot of those, because people are always trying to find a good cup of coffee.

LA: Yeah, we’re bringing them on the road with us too.

PS: Cool! I’ll have to pick one up [laughs]. I was also going to ask you; is there anything you can tell us about Run Wild, and what the fans can expect?

LA: Um…I guess, I think I’ve said this before, but it’s definitely darker than our last release, Devil, and, um…it’s not like we set off to write a certain type of song, it just came out a little bit darker. I don’t know, I guess we spent time on it, we took our time, we didn’t try to really rush it. People have expectations to start with, and as they’re listening, so I try to let them do their thing and I just try to do my thing, ya know [laughs]…If they like it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t. At the end of the day, I can’t do anything about it either way.

PS: Well, you guys just released the single “Past Life,” right?

LA: True, we did.

PS: It was really good, so, if that’s how the rest of the album sounds, I would say you’re going to get good feedback for it. But you’ve said that this is a lot darker than your previous release. Do you think that’s the only difference between this new material and your previous material?

LA: I guess…we’ve put out darker material in the past, but I try my best to just let it happen. So this one just turned out a little darker. But I think sometimes, people take “darker” to mean “heavier,” and…I don’t know, almost like, evil-er or something.

PS: I didn’t find “Past Life” to be too dark, although, whether or not that’s me listening wrong, I don’t know. I can understand now, looking back at it, what you mean by saying it’s a little darker, but you’ve still maintained this very…happy energy that you guys have. It was impressive.

LA: Well, we’re actually releasing a second song tomorrow morning, and that one is definitely not as dark, it’s like, a more upbeat sound to it, with a darker undertone. So I guess people are going to have expectations going into that one.

PS: Yeah, definitely. Going back to touring, you’ve got this big tour coming up, and it’s your first headliner since the Illuminate Tour, I mean, is there a bit more pressure, or do you feel more at home being the headliner?

LA: Wow. I didn’t even realize…Is this really our first headliner since the Illuminate Tour?

PS: Yeah…I’m pretty certain…I hope.

LA: Yeah, oh wow. It is. I didn’t even notice that. Sorry! [laughs] No, there’s no more pressure, I honestly like headlining more, but, I mean, there’s pros and cons to both headlining and supporting. But since we haven’t been [headlining] in over a year, I am really excited to be back headlining. It’s more fun. I feel like the fans kind of feel more connected and just want to hang out and talk, and want to come more to the show when you’re headlining, but there’s cool parts of supporting as well.

PS: The last time I saw you guys performing was when you were supporting The Maine, and you guys looked like you were having an absolute blast; it just looked like everyone got along.

LA: Yeah, we do. We’re on the same management, and we’ve known those guys for years, so that was a bit of a special circumstance. But yeah, it’s cool. All of the people you meet on support tours are awesome. I mean, twenty guys, that are all musicians, on the road for a month-and-a-half, cool, random stuff is going to happen.

PS: So you’ve been a band for about ten years, which, in today’s scene, is basically unheard of. How do you think you guys have navigated that? What do you think is the main reason you guys have stayed together so long?

LA: Hmm…I don’t know. I mean, not to be cliche or anything, but if we didn’t have fans coming out, we wouldn’t be a band still, so that’s, I guess, what it all boils down to. The fans just keep allowing us to do this, so as long as they allow us to do it… We were going to make music regardless, but it just depends on if people are gonna give a shit or not, and they have for ten years, so it’s cool.

PS: Speaking of making music, during the songwriting process, do you find collaborating with your bandmates, to come with ease, or is it a bit of a struggle, like, “Let me just write it, and you can add stuff later”?

LA: We’re actually all really good about that. When we’re all writing, we all just call each other out, so there’s no passive-aggressive, “I don’t like this part, but I’m not gonna say anything” attitude. I mean, there’s just three of us writing, and so, if one person has an idea, and we all like it, we go with it. If one person doesn’t like it, we find a different route to take it. It’s a really healthy way. The only time we get into trouble is when you add in an actual producer, because you haven’t lived with them in close quarters for a month-and-a-half, and for a whole year at times, so you don’t know them too well. But just collaborating with artists in general is a cool experience, and that’s the cool part about it, cool things come out of the unknown, I feel; like not knowing their personalities, or just people you haven’t had personal relations with.

PS: That probably makes it easier to separate yourself and take ego out of the equation.

LA: Yeah, well, that’s the cool part. We get the songs to a certain point in our group, when we’re all happy with them, and then when we go into the studio with a producer, it’s not all scatterbrained, and everyone’s fighting, it’s just easier. If that makes sense?

PS: Yeah, that does. The thing that always fascinates me when talking about the songwriting process, is where do you guys find time to write, especially when you’re constantly on the move?

LA: Yeah, we are, but it’s kind of something that if you’re a painter or a piano player or a whatever you like to do, if you really like to do it, you find time to do it. At the end of the day, at this point, it’s kind of my job, and it’s something I enjoy doing. Even when we’re on the road, there’s a lot more down-time than people realize; there’s soundcheck and interviews, and then you play, but other than that, which takes up maybe 4-6 hours of your day, there’s a lot more of the day left. I like to write when I’m on the road, and then, when we get home, that’s kind of all I do…just write.

PS: So it sounds like you guys have a set schedule, and since a lot of our readers are going back to school, and I like to stick with the seasons, I have some Fall/Back-To-School questions for you.

LA: Sure, let’s do it.

PS: What was your favorite class?

LA: Hmm…I don’t know if it was my favorite class, but I always enjoyed math, if I’m being honest, just because there was always a certain answer, and there was no wiggle room. It seems weird in my profession, because music isn’t a math, but, I don’t know the reason, I just always enjoyed math when I was in high school.

PS: Does that mean that if music hadn’t worked out, we could have been seeing you as an engineer?

LA: [Laughs] I don’t know! I wish I had one of those fall-back careers, that I could be like, “Oh, if this doesn’t work out, I’m gonna go do that instead,” but I don’t. I probably should have…That would have been a smart way to go about it.

PS: No way! Your back-ups are always a bad idea anyway! Dreams first! We’re all very glad you chose music.

LA: [Laughs] Well thank you.

PS: What was your soundtrack in high school?

LA: I love the band The Ataris. They were great in high school and had just come out with this record called Endless Forever. We just played a couple of festivals with them and I was like, high school fan-boying a little [laughs]. It was weird because we were playing on the stage next to theirs directly after them, so our sets kind of overlapped, so I only got to see the first half of their set. Who else did I used to listen to…? I can’t really think of who I used to be super into in high school.

PS: Favorite fall activity?

LA: Hmm…Depends on where in the country you are, I guess. Fall here is still pretty hot. I guess on the east coast, it’s pretty cold.

PS: Well, I mean, here, Florida stays pretty hot. It’s not really until December that we get a chill…

LA: I don’t know then. What’s a fall activity in Orlando?

PS: To be honest, it’s like, “Oh, I can go to a concert with a scarf on!” [laughs]

LA: That’s the difference? You just add a scarf and it’s fall [laughs]?

PS: Yeah…It’s that and going for coffee with friends. I don’t know.

LA: I guess in Arizona the fall activity…well, I live in a place called The Valley, and we’re surrounded by mountains, so everyone goes hiking, because it’s when the weather stops being intensely hot.

PS: That’s lucky! Okay, last one; homecoming or prom?

LA: I think I’d go homecoming just because it’s like…fall/winter time, because summer is brutal in Arizona and homecoming is a hometown favorite.

PS: So stepping away from the fall questions…What advice would you offer to young musicians just starting out; maybe that you wish someone would have told you before you got started?

LA: I don’t know…it’s a weird industry. I don’t know if I’ve ever necessarily learned anything that was true 5-10 years later; it’s a pretty evolving industry. I’d just say maybe reconsider? [Laughs] I mean, if you’re going to do it, you’re gonna do it, and I’m not gonna say anything that’s like, “Oh, I never thought about it that way!” If you’re going to do it, you’re gonna do it regardless of whatever anyone says. Just do it. [E/N: Nike, please don’t sue us!]

PS: Now, this is my last question, and I ask it to everyone. I have to put an asterisk on this though…This is in no way a threat on your life; it’s merely a philosophical question. If you knew this was your last conversation/interaction with another human being, and you could choose your last words, what would they be and why?

LA: [Laughs] Jesus.

PS: I know, it’s heavy right? [laughs]

LA: Yeah [laughs]. I don’t know…I mean, I’m never good with goodbyes, so I don’t think I have much to offer. But I want to ask a rebuttal question; what’s the best thing somebody’s said to you when you’ve asked them that?

PS: I’ve had a lot of really good ones and a lot of really random ones. One was like, “See you on the other side, mother chucker.” The best was probably, “Not in the face!” The worst was, “YOLO.”

LA: They said “yolo”? No!

PS: Right? I kind of died inside.

LA: I’m sorry. I wish I had something prolific to say…

PS: It’s okay! You know what, I have to say this, because it’s quite funny, you say things like, “Oh, I don’t think I have anything to say for this,” but within that, you normally say something quite memorable, like, “I’m never good with goodbyes.” That’s actually really cool!

LA: [Laughs] You can put that then!

PS: Thank you so much for doing this interview. I wish you the best of luck on the Run Wild Tour.

LA: Hope we see you out there!

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Q&A: Snax Hayes

snax hayes

At just seventeen years old, Snax Hayes is an impressive new face to the music scene. At just ten years old, he began playing music, and then at sixteen, he won Guitar Center’s national drum off. Looking at that, it’s no surprise the musician is headed to Berkeley this fall.

Before he gets back to the back-to-school grind, Snax took the time to chat with Planet Stereo…and even answer some silly questions.

Planet Stereo: Thanks so much for doing the interview. How are you?

Snax Hayes: I’m great! Thank you for having me.

PS: Your new video for “Porsche” has recently been released. Where did the inspiration for the track stem from?

SH: The inspiration for that song came from a girl that I liked  and so did my friend and i had a feeling that this was a song  a lot of people could relate to.

PS: What was it like to film the video?

SH: It was a dream come true! All the hard work I put into the song and to finally watch it all come together in a music video was just unreal.

PS: What can listeners expect in the next year or so?

SH: As we speak, I’m working on an album and more original material, and hopefully, that will lead to a lot of tour dates!

PS: What is your favorite part about going into the studio?

SH: The feeling of excitement, and collaborating with my team is fun as well. Just watching an idea come to life.

PS: Would you mind walking me through the creative process?

SH: Not at all. For me, there’s no true process. I can be anywhere and get an idea, and I just pick up my guitar and start creating.

PS: Can I ask, why the name Snax?

SH: The nickname “Snax,” originated from my brother and his friends because I was always eating everything in sight; I was given the nickname when I was around 9 years old, and from there, it just stuck.

PS: How do you manage to find time to write new material?

SH: Once I have an idea, I try to isolate myself from the world…a.k.a. go in my room and just brainstorm. Inspiration is the key.

PS: You’re going to Berklee in the fall. How are you feeling about taking that next step in your education?

SH: Getting accepted into Berklee was a huge accomplishment for me. I owe it to my mom and older brother; without them, I wouldn’t have made it.

PS: What made you want to attend Berklee?

SH: What made me want to attend Berklee was their outstanding reputation, networking advantage, and just the over-all Berklee experience, which I’ve heard is the best.

PS:  Do you have a favorite song to perform live?

SH: One of my favorite songs to perform live since I was a kid, is a cover song called, “Linoleum,” by a band named “NOFX,” who were another one of my influences growing up.

PS: How did you get involved in music?

SH: Just growing up, watching my older brother play punk rock shows. Punk is honestly what made me want to “play” music, and want to interact with an audience. It finally drove my ambition to learn punk songs and to eventually write them.

PS: If you could work with any artist, past or present,who would it be and why?

SH:  I would’ve loved to work with Kurt Cobain. He started a revolution in the early 90s, and that’s what I’d like to accomplish in this era.

PS: When looking at the current music scene, do you think social media is helping or hindering artists?

SH: Social media is a great tool in my opinion, because you can instantly put out new material that your fans will immediately respond to, and that, to me, is great motivation.

PS: In music, especially with social media coming into play, which do you believe to be more important: quality or likeability?

SH: To me, quality matters.

PS: Before we let you go, here’s some silly questions. Pick one:

    • Real-life Walking Dead or real-life Jurassic Park? Real-life Jurassic Park.
    • Queen or David Bowie? Queen.
    • Good book or good movie? Great movie.
    • Sleep all day or party all night? Sleep all day.

PS: Any last words?

SH: I’m humbled by this opportunity to have my first interview, I look forward to doing this again in the near future..Be sure to keep a eye out for my debut EP.  And last words…”I’ll be back…”(terminator voice).

 

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Q&A: Paul Anderson of DIVIDES

Divides

Poised for success from the get-go, Portland quintet DIVIDES will amaze listeners and audiences alike. The group radiates passion in every project they tackle, and show no signs of slowing down; with their new album, Brokentoothout on August 11th, a performance at the Portland date of Warped Tour this year, and a performance at the Slaves album release show, DIVIDES is the gift that just keeps on giving. After the release of their debut EP, the then-Anchorage-based band shook up their local scene, encouraging a move to Portland, where they’ve been making waves ever since.

I spoke with DIVIDES guitarist Paul Anderson about the new album, their upcoming Warped Tour performance, and, of course, the band’s amazing music videos.

 

Planet Stereo: Hey, what’s going on?

Paul Anderson: Oh, not much at all. Kind of in the middle of the work day…I kind of found a little space away from everybody, so… [laughs].

PS: Well I just wanted to talk to you because I know that you’ve got the album coming out, the mini tour, you’ve got everything going on right now, and it sounds like you guys are insanely busy!

PA: [laughs] Yeah, things are kind of getting a little…moving with a little speed here.

PS: All exciting stuff. The mini tour kicks off on Aug. 5th, right?

PA: Yeah, August 5th in Bremington at the Schultz.

PS: And then the Portland date of the Warped Tour?

PA: Yup, that’s right. We are pretty much over the moon [about it] at this point. We’ve been kind of involved in the Mic Thrasher battles and the Ernie Ball Battles online, and got notified that we had actually been included on that, and we all kind of lost our minds for a moment. It was great!

PS: I can imagine! Do you normally go to Warped as a fan?

PA: I have in the past couple of years and a couple of years before. Things have gotten a little crazier in my life, which has kind of cut into me going, but the others guys still go. They used to go in Alaska, and yeah, they’ve been going down here since they moved.

PS: As a Warped Tour band, technically, I have to play a game of Warped Tour Would You Rather… I play this with every Warped band I interview, and so my first question to you is…If you could be in a real-life version of The Walking Dead or Jurassic Park, which would you choose?

PA: Jurassic Park.

PS: Just for the dinosaurs?

PA: Yeah…although I’m pretty sure the rest of the band would say the Walking Dead.

 

PS: Okay, so if you had to listen to one song for the rest of your life, would you rather it be Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” or Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire?”

PA: Um…probably “Bohemian Rhapsody” because there’s a bit more to it, but Johnny Cash’s attitude is pretty…universal. But yeah, I’ll go with “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

PS: Would you rather drunk-text the entire Warped Tour crew or eat an entire stick of butter to yourself in one sitting?

PA: [laughs] Okay…I’ll drunk-text, because that may or may not happen…[laughs]. I think I would actually die if I ate a stick of butter.

PS: [Laughs] So those are sent in by fans, and we play it every year, and we get a couple of good ones, like that one. But now I also have to ask, since Warped Tour’s theme this year is zoo animals, what animal would you be and why?

PA: Oh my god, that might be the most difficult question anyone’s ever asked me ever…Um…[laughs]…what kind of animal would I be? A kiwi…Yeah, a kiwi bird.

PS: That’s a really unusual answer. I’ve never had that answer before.

PA: Well, I think I’d be a kiwi because I would have evolved to take the place of and do all the things a normal land animal would do in a place where there are no indigenous land animals.

PS: Not bad. That’s actually a really well-thought out answer… [laughs]

PA: [Laughs] I’ve never been asked that before, so it might sound insanely pretentious, [laughs] but I don’t know. Plus, kiwis are cool and they’re nocturnal.

PS: I’ve just…honestly, I got like sloth, fish, gorilla, lion, tiger, and that’s it.

PA: [Laughs] Well, I was in New Zealand and I got to see a kiwi and I didn’t actually know that there were no indigenous mammals and that’s why the kiwi evolved to be this flightless bird. It evolved to do all of the things that a normal land mammal would do.

PS: That’s really cool. Fun fact of the day!

PA: Yeah, I’m glad I could help!

PS: And we got you to figure out one of life’s hardest questions!

PA: I feel so accomplished today, if I don’t do anything else today, I’ll know I did that.

 

PS: So you’re also going to be performing at the Slaves’ album release show, getting back on track.

PA: Oh yeah, we just picked that up and that’s going to be pretty awesome. I think we just got put on the bill like…two days ago. It’s kind of funny, because we communicate a lot via messenger, so these things will come up, and we’ll all be privately dancing to ourselves and these message threads will get like, hundreds of entries long [laughs]. Basically, everyone goes, “Oh, this is the greatest thing ever! We’re so stoked!” Everybody gets really excited about playing with bands that we love, and I believe that the video premiere is that day as well…for “Supersymmetry,” which we just finished last Sunday…I think they’re doing all of the editing right now.

PS: Wow. You guys are just churning out videos left and right, because I was actually going to ask you about your video for “Echoes Fade.” You guys are pretty fast with all of these things!

PA: Yeah, so, what kind of happened with that was when we did our first video for “Love Is a Funny Thing,” we had contacted a few directors, and we were trying to procure someone that could work with our vision and basically translate the music into a visual format that we felt supported our vision. We found a couple of people, but we could never make a schedule, so CJ was like, “You know what? F-it. I’m gonna get a camera, I’m gonna learn how to use the editing software, we’re just gonna do it ourselves.” And with the help of Scotty Fisher, who’s with the Fight Design, he does the cinematography, and is a great photographer, so we started putting videos together, completely in-house. If you see the first video to the current one, the learning curve has been pretty dramatic, like, how they’ve increased in quality.

PS: Well even from “Drag The River” to “Echoes Fade,” you can see a total difference.

PA: Yeah! When I saw the first cut of that, I was just floored at how good the cinematography was. I was like, “Oh my god! I know those people!” They’re pretty good at what they do.

 

PS: Do you enjoy working on that aspect as well as the music?

PA: I don’t think I’m as adept at it as they are. My realm is a lot more audio and engineering and what-not, but I kind of like the pitch meetings we have for the development of the videos, where we’re just bouncing ideas off of each other. I’ve been getting slightly more involved with it, but I don’t know…I tend not to like to be on camera a whole lot [laughs], so it’s a sort of double-edged sword for me. I mean, I appreciate performing in the video, but I just like to be on stage and in-studio. I think Bryan is with me on that one. I think CJ and Joe are definitely more of the camera-ready of us, I believe [laughs].

 

PS: Do you prefer to just be alluded to in the video?

PA: Yeah, but you know, I’m happy with whatever screen time I’m given, as long as it fits the narrative, and moves the plot forward, by all means, cut me out. I’m not terribly precious with my personal screen time, but I think the way CJ does her editing, she represents each member of the band really well, and gives us all a moment to shine, which I think we all want secretly, if not overtly.

PS: Speaking of all these amazing videos, these are all songs coming from your new album, Brokentooth, out August 11th. You guys are gearing up for that big release. Are you excited?

PA: Oh yeah, I am completely stoked. I’ve never been this proud of anything I’ve performed on ever. I can’t stop loving the record that we’ve made, so I can’t wait for people to listen to it all the way through.

PS: What are you hoping that people will come away with from the album?

PA: Um…I think we’ve poured a lot of ourselves into it individually as well as collectively, and I really hope that people take this ride with us. It’s a rollercoaster of an album that goes so many different emotional places, so many different moods are represented, and so much subject matter is covered, but it’s all deeply, deeply personal. I hope that people can really identify and take a piece of that album and sort of assimilate into their own lives. You know, at least resonate with it, and that it makes their day better, they’re not alone, or that they’re not struggling in vain. There’s always a bright tomorrow, no matter how crazy or difficult things get, you can always push through and be a better you.

PS: That’s probably one of the nicest answers I’ve had to the question.

PA: Well the alternative was, “I really hope they rock out to this album, and you know, just crank it in their cars, and you know, go crazy on the roof of whatever building they live in.” [laughs]

 

PS: Why the title Brokentooth?

PA: [laughs] Well, from what I understand, Brokentooth is a reference to a brewing company and something else back in Alaska. I’m actually originally from Germany, but through whatever craziness, I ended up in Portland, which is where I joined the band. So I’m the only one that didn’t migrate down from Alaska, but [the title] kind of goes back to Anchorage; it’s a reference one of the places they kind of frequented. Originally, “Drag The River” was named, “Brokentooth.” It’s one of those things when you’re working on songs, you just give it a quick title to refer to it as. We were stalled on what to name the album, so we were all sitting around a table at Pyramid Brewing, and we were, you know, getting as bands do when they’re discussing these things, fairly heated, and people were like, “Oh no, that’s a terrible idea!” So we were being sarcastic, but we all liked the name “Brokentooth” for an album, so we just decided to name the song something else. It’s easier to name a song than it is an album, and we didn’t necessarily want to have a title track, so that’s where it kind of came from. When you get through that album, it feels almost like you’ve been through a fight, and when you come out at the other end, especially at the end of “Fragments,” which is such a…I don’t wanna use the word “cathartic” because it’s completely hacky, but that’s what it feels like. You know, it’s this moment of catharsis at the end of this just brutal opponent of an album. You feel like you’ve been bloodied, but in this really good kind of way. It just felt right for the album.

If life is a struggle, you don’t come out of it without any scars, you know, be it physical, emotional, something has to change you, literally or figuratively, existentially, in order for you to grow. For a lot of people, it’s making a huge transition, you know, basically destroying your life so you can move somewhere and chase your dream. And you’re gonna get really worked over when you do that, but I think it means a lot to the other four members, and it means a lot to me. I’ve gone through a lot these past few years. We all dumped all of our baggage into this record, and gave it to the world, [laughs] like, “Here, you guys deal with it now! We’re done with it!”

PS: Sounds like good therapy to me.

PA: It is, but it’s not all negativity. It’s more of just the build-up of actual living of life, not always negative. Some struggles are positive in the end.

PS: What was the recording like? Did you guys go in all mapped out or just going in and letting your creativity take over?

PA: We’re pretty prolific writers, so we had worked out all of the stuff ahead of time. We demoed everything at Hip Stew studios in Portland with Charles Neal before we recorded, and we sent all of those up to Casey Bates, who is one of the most spectacular producers I’ve ever worked with. He can get a great performance out of anyone. I’ve never seen anyone manipulate a performance out of an instrumentalist the way he does. He gets exactly what he needs to hear. We went through and tempo-mapped everything, and then sent everything up to Casey to set the sessions up. Then we went in…It was really systematic. We layed drums down in one day, we layed bass down in one day, rhythm guitar in one day, and spent the good majority of the rest of the time working on vocals, so CJ and Joe were up there, and I think Bryan at the same time, but we were never really recording in the same room at the same time. It was the easiest recording process I’ve ever gone to. We rehearsed the living hell out everything. When the demos went through, Casey trimmed a lot of the fat…we tend to get a little long-winded in our arrangements and it as great to have that sort of objective third party to ask, “Is this really necessary? Do you have to have this to move the album forward?” It gave us a sense of efficiency and quality in terms of arrangements. He didn’t really change any of the songs, he just made them more compact and powerful.

PS: I imagine collaborating on songs comes naturally to all of you.

PA: Strangely, it doesn’t [laughs]. It’s weird. I’ve never been a collaborative songwriter, and I don’t think Bryan is either. For Brokentooth, we collaborated quite extensively. For me, we kind of described it earlier, Bryan is like the spaceman and I’m ground control, so when he throws a part down, a lot of times, I’ll be like, “Okay, let’s bring that into this particular rhythm or time signature,” and try to make it fit something the whole band can play. I collaborate easily with him. I’ve never been able to collaborate with anyone in terms of songwriting, but we both have our strengths and our weaknesses, and they just happen to be complimentary. And CJ is the primary the lyricist, and Joe contributes lyrics, but they’re amazing. CJ just blows me away with some of the stuff she brings in.

 

 

PS: Oh, definitely. Do you know how relieved I was to turn on your music and not be able to come up with an accurate-enough comparison?

PA: I’m actually glad you said that. The way we’re set up as a band, we get a lot of comparisons because of our line-up, like immediately. But people do always need a reference point, so if that carrier wave is Paramore or Bjork or whatever, you almost need the safety of that, which I’m fine with.

PS: At least you’re with good company! Speaking of, who is your musical influencers?

PA: Personally, probably just Weird Al. No, totally kidding. Well, not really. But I’m a classical bassist so Charles Mingus in terms of composition. In terms of modern music, the Deftones are huge for me and Steph Carpenter, who’s one of the most brilliant soundscape masters. My list of influences are so extensive, you’d need a separate interview. And that’s the same for everyone in the band. We tend to genre-hop. While we have the parameters of being a heavy band, our kind of ethos is, “Let’s do whatever we want, as long as its still DIVIDES.” And for some reason, we can pretty much throw oddball things in there. Like, “Sails & Anchors” is pretty out there for being on a “heavy” album, but the ending of that song is one of my favorite parts on the entire record. I think it hits harder than any sort of super-distorted guitar, any double-bass blast, anything like that. Just that last chorus on that song is one of the heaviest moment I’ve ever personally heard. I mean, CJ is just shredding her voice trying to get through the speakers to the listeners. The first time I heard the first mix, I almost cried, I was so excited for this. But don’t take my word for it, give it a listen!

PS: So you’ve also got your Warped Tour performance coming up. How are you feeling about it?

PA: I’m on pins and needles about Warped Tour. It’s one of my bucket list moments.

PS: Did you plan your outfit ahead of time?

PA: Oh my god! No! I should be doing that! Shit! I have to go shopping right after we get off the phone!

PS: Other than outfit planning, what advice do you wish someone had given you before you became a musician?

PA: In all honesty, I wish someone would have said, “Just stick to your path of being an engineer, that’s gonna be way more lucrative and a lot more stable.” But I mean, I think everyone who’s been in my life, especially my musical life have always been supportive. I think the best advice I ever got was from the director of my music ed department in college, and he asked, “Okay, who’s here to be a teacher?” and most of them raised their hands, and “Who’s here to be a performer, but wants to fall back on education?” A few of us raised our hands, and he said, “My advice to you right now is to quit school and go home and practice. It is rough out there. Just be as good as you can possibly be.” I stayed in school, but I practiced a lot. I wanted to be as good as I possibly could.

PS: My last question, and I have to add a disclaimer, this is not a threat on your life, no reason to panic, it’s just a philosophical question.

PA: Okay…

PS: I hear the fear.

PA: It’s there.

PS: If this was your last interview or your last conversation with another human being, what would you choose your last words to be and why?

PA: [laughs] Um…my last words would probably be, “Not in the face,” only because I want to have an open casket.

PS: [Laughs] Oh my god! I’ve never had an answer like that before! [laughs] I’m sorry!

PA: [Laughs] Well, I’m assuming that the last person that’s gonna hear my last words is going to be the person who will have killed me! So I want to be safe!

 

Brokentooth will be out on August 11th. Pre-orders are available on iTunes.

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Q&A: Colin Ward of Savannah

Savannah
Orlando pop-rock band Savannah have been incredibly busy, and releasing some amazing new music. The band just released the Tempus EP, the second installment of a three-part full-length, and are steadily building towards the finale of the release, Forma, which will be released in August. The full-length, entitled SPECTRUM, is almost here, so Planet Stereo got to chat with Colin Ward, the band’s guitarist, about the Tempus EP, touring, and why he’d want to be part of The Walking Dead. 
Planet Stereo: Thanks so much for doing the interview. How are you?
Colin Ward: Feeling good. We’ve been waiting so long to release our new material so all of us are pretty excited to see how everyone likes it. The wait has been killing us. 

PS: You just released your new EP, TEMPUS. Where did the inspiration for the EP come from? Why call it “Tempus”?

CW: Tempus represents time. Past, present, and future.  We’ve had a lot of inspiration come from our past, but the future is unwritten. That’s a cool feeling in a way. 

PS: Do you have a favorite track from the EP?

CW: Probably “Young and Naive.”  We’re super proud of the hook, but beyond that, there is some really cool instrumentals going on. We’ve tried so hard to keep things simple, but interesting too. 

PS: TEMPUS is part of a three-part series that’s going to be released as an album. What made you decide to release it this way?
CW: It’s always a struggle to keep relevant these days. Instead of releasing the album in one shot, we thought it’d be better to space the songs apart and let our fans anticipate what’s next. We want to keep it fresh, always. 

PS: Is there a concept behind the SPECTRUM series?
CW: We wrote the songs for the better part of two years with the idea to craft really great choruses. We didn’t want to over complicate the process, and just mainly attempted to write 12 great songs; not just good. We must have gone into the studio with 20 demos or so. 

PS: You guys do a lot of touring. How do you manage to keep yourself entertained on the road?
CW: We try to stay busy with the writing process a lot. We really like play station a lot too. We’re kinda nerds at heart. There’s some frisbee action and skateboarding too. Sometimes our own invented combination of the the two. 

PS: Have you learned any tricks of the trade from some of the artists you’ve toured with?
CW: We’ve always liked watching a good soundcheck. Most people don’t understand the struggle most bands go through every night just to hear what they’re playing/singing. So I guess you could say how quickly we learned to be nice to the sound guy. (Some of us anyways)

PS: What advice would you offer to younger artists who are just starting out?
CW: Work hard and perfect your craft. Nothing happens overnight. We’ve been at it for years, and still learn everyday. Patience is key in this game. 

PS: When looking at the current music scene, if you could change one thing, what would you change and why?
CW: There’s no one buying records anymore. Full length albums used to be everywhere, but now it’s only singles. It’s just successful songwriters crafting the next top 40 hook to be blasted on the radio nonstop for a month. Pretty disheartening. How is that music?

PS: On Warped Tour, I play a game of Would You Rather with artists. Since it’s still summer, and everyone loves a fun game…
• Would you rather be stuck in a real life The Walking Dead or Jurassic Park?

CW: Probably The Walking Dead. I think every guy dreams about walking around with a six shooter strapped to his belt. Plus velociraptors are just too damn “clever.”  We wouldn’t last too long. 

• Would you rather drunk text your whole band or eat a stick of butter?
CW: Eat a stick of butter. Our ongoing band/group message probably has 100 texts an hour on it. The girlfriends always wonder why our phones are dead…Wed be happy to get rid of our phones all together. 

• Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?
CW: Mmmmmm. Invisible probably. Think of all the five finger discounting you could do. Right?

• Would you rather have to listen to “Ring Of Fire” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the rest of your life?
CW: Freddy Mercury was unreal. Enough said. 

PS: Any last words?
CW: You have no idea how much we appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.

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Q&A: Chelsea Dash

chelsea dash

Chelsea Dash is an up-and-coming pop artist, as well as a recent alumna of the prestigious Berklee College of Music. With her new single “Massive Attack” generating some major buzz, it’s easy to imagine that Dash’s year is about to get a hell of a lot crazier.

Thankfully, we managed to sit down with her before the whirlwind begins!

Planet Stereo: Thanks so much for doing the interview. How are you?

Chelsea Dash: I’m doing great, thanks. Nice to be chatting with you!

PS: Your new lyric video for “Massive Attack” has recently been released. How have listeners been responding?

CD: So far, so good! We actually just put the official video out yesterday, so that has garnered even more curiosity and lots of positive attention from people. I’m very happy with the feedback I’ve been receiving from fans, digging the sound, and visuals!

PS: What is your favorite part about going into the studio?

CD: For some people, Disneyland is “the happiest place on earth.” For me, it’s the studio! Even if it’s not my session, and I’m just in the studio hanging out with other musician friends and stuff, I am just so happy!There’s no place like it where you can be in such a powerful creative energy field! I love writing in the studio, and collaborating with other people. Nothing is more beautiful or exciting to me than creating something out of nothing. You can walk into the studio with no ideas, nothing really to go on and walk out just a few hours later with a full song done. It’s magical and sometimes even a little therapeutic!

PS: Would you mind walking me through the creative process?

CD: Not at all! I’ve written songs in many different ways. Sometimes I start with a few chords on guitar, and craft a melody from there. Sometimes I build a track in a studio with a producer, write a melody on top, and then the lyrics and sometimes I’m even given a track from a producer and then I write what’s called a “top line” – which is the entire melody and lyrics. I keep a lyric book. I have full poems/lyrics in it, pages of possible song titles, song story lines and ideas etc. Basically, there’s no right way or wrong way to write a pop song. There’s many ways to do it and I dabble in a lot of them!

PS: How do you manage to find time to write new material?

CD: Well at first, it was homework! I didn’t really take my songwriting seriously until I started at Berklee College of Music and was forced to work on my songwriting many times a week! Now, I don’t force it unless I’m booked for a writing session where I know I’m there to write a full song for myself or someone else. I think if you’re a creative person at heart, it just pours out of you often enough that the time is just there. I keep that lyric book close, so I’m always armed with ideas and things to go of off if a melody pops into my head. I am a really good multi-tasker though! I’ve definitely written a song or two in the shower!

PS: What would you like people to come away with when they hear your music?

CD: I take pride in writing pop songs that have some depth to them. I never want to be mistaken for some vapid, blonde pop singer. There’s real heart, soul, and an intelligence to my storytelling and lyrics. I want to make people feel alive and empowered too. Pop music is fun and mine definitely has an edgy side to it, but at the end of the say,it’s all just telling a story, and hoping that people can identify with it, relate to it, and just enjoy it!

PS: Do you have a favorite song to perform live?

CD: I have a song called “Bad Girl” that’s more of an R&B power ballad and really shows my vocal range. I sing my little heart out!

PS: How did you get involved in music?

CD: It was pretty much fate. My parents said that I could sing even before I could talk. Apparently, I could hum a perfect melody back from something I heard on the radio even once, before I was old enough to even form proper words. My parents put me in voice and piano lessons when I was five. Not really because they wanted me to be a musician, but because I was almost expelled from pre-school for singing Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” from one of my mom’s cassette tapes at Show & Tell. I think they were trying to drain all of the creative energy out of me, so I wouldn’t cause trouble again! Little did they know, it just added fuel to the fire and I’d become a professional musician!

[E/N: Literally couldn’t stop laughing at this…I would be an awful teacher, because I’d have high-fived her!]

PS: If you could work with any artist, past or present, who would it be and why?

CD: I’m totally obsessed with Justin Timberlake. he produces, writes, sings, dances, plays 3+ instruments…He’s just such a talented musician. I feel like I could learn so much from him and our musical styles blend nicely too. Also, he’s kinda petty to look at! 🙂

PS: When looking at the current music scene, do you think social media is helping or hindering artists?

CD: If you know what you’re doing, and how to use social media channels to market and promote your music, I think it can be extremely helpful. However, if it’s not your bag, it’s hard to get yourself heard in this day and age. It can be a game. There are a few artists (I’m sure you can think of plenty too) who really are quite average musicians, but because of their timing, and their vast knowledge of social media and marketing, they were able to make a name for themselves. It can go both ways I guess!

PS: You’re a recent Berklee College of Music alum. Do you feel that other artists like yourself could benefit from going to music school?

CD: Absolutely. Berklee took me from being just a really good singer, to being a legit, well-rounded musician. It can be overwhelming to have to learn to write and sing so many different styles of contemporary music, but all in all, I think it really helped me decipher what truly was my unique sound and vibe as an artist.

PS: Do you have any advice for younger musicians?

CD: Yes, it sounds silly, but practice makes perfect! Hone your craft as much as possible and also don’t be afraid to experiment with different sounds, and styles. If you can’t afford to take lessons, Youtube often has great free tutorial videos on basics for piano, guitar, etc.

PS: Where can we expect to see you in five years?

CD: Hopefully winning Grammy’s and performing on a world tour with Justin Timberlake perhaps?!

PS: Any last words?

CD: I love connecting with my fans! The best ways to keep up with me are these:

      Also, the official music video for “Massive Attack” is on youtube now! Thanks for chatting!
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As It Is at Warped Tour 2015

as it is

As It Is took the time to chit chat with Planet Stereo at the 2015 Vans Warped Tour. They talked to us about coping with the heat, touring in America, and, of course, played a game of Warped Tour Would You Rather. Check it out below:

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