Thursday, December 18, 2008

2008 End Of The Year List.

Here's my ten best albums of the year. That's all I'm doing this year for my EOTY list, so enjoy. I know I really missed out on a lot this year, so if I'm missing something that wound up on your list, recommend it to me!

01. New Frontiers – Mending
02. Vampire Weekend – S/T
03. Girl Talk - Feed The Animals
04. Lydia – Illuminate
05. The Matches – A Band In Hope
06. Anberlin – New Surrender
07. Alive In Wild Paint – Ceilings
08. She & Him – Volume 1
09. Fall Out Boy - Folie A Deux
10. Forgive Durden – Razia's Shadow: A Musical

Monday, November 24, 2008

Interview - The Love Willows

The duo known as The Love Willows are trying to make a splash in pop music with their delightfully sugary, catchy tunes. Check out my interview with them and see if they don't put a smile on your face.

PPJ: First, tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Hope Partlow: Hope Partlow, vocals.

Ryan Wilson: Ryan Wilson – guitar, vocals.

PPJ: What got you interested in music? When did you decide you wanted to write your own music?

Hope: My dad is the reason for my interest in music. He was always hanging around the house with a guitar in hand. I sang my first song, “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, on stage at the ripe age of five. I made $25 in tips and that's when I made up my mind to be a singer. I wrote a few songs growing up, but it never really came together until I met Ryan.

Ryan: For me it was my older brother. He played guitar in a band when he was in high school and I thought it was cool, so Santa brought me a guitar for Christmas that year. I got my brother to show me a few things, but for the most part I taught myself. I started writing music in high school, when I joined my first band.

Tell us about how you guys met and started The Love Willows.

Hope: I met Ryan in 2005, when he tried out to be my touring guitar player for my solo record. We instantly hit it off and became great friends. Then when I turned 18, I moved from my hometown of Drummonds, TN to his hometown of Griffin, GA and we began to write songs that would later developed into the unique sound of The Love Willows.

PPJ: Where did you come up with the name for your band?

Ryan: “Willows” comes from our last names – Wilson & Partlow. If you cut them in half and glue them together with “love,” you've got The Love Willows.

PPJ: What went into writing and recording Hey! Hey!

Hope: All of the songs on our record were written by Ryan and I over the span of year. Once we had a significant amount of material, we decided to make a record. We didn't have the funds to record at a major studio, so we decided to save up and do it ourselves. I worked at a hair salon and Ryan did carpentry work with his dad, as well as playing cover gigs on the weekends. We made the entire record for less than $1500, including the computer.

Ryan: We tracked the drums at a friends home studio and brought the files back to our house on an external drive. The rest of the record was done on our Pro Tools/Mbox rig. I had a couple of other friends play on some of the tracks, but all of the other instrumentation, arrangements, editing, and production was done ourselves.

PPJ: Is The Love Willow's music very different from what Hope was doing as a solo act?

Hope: Very much so. I didn't write any of the songs on my solo record. I feel way more connected with this new record, mainly because it's true moments and emotions that I vividly remember and, with the help of Ryan, I got to capture those feelings in nifty little songs.

PPJ: What's it like to be dating each other while on tour? Does that ever get tough?

Hope: I know this sounds really corny, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Ryan is my best friend and, although he does get on my nerves sometimes, we both know how to separate our business relationship from our personal relationship.

PPJ: How did you get signed to Decca Records?

Ryan: Our manager found us on MySpace and he really liked our songs. Within a month he had a showcase lined up for us in New York to play for the head of A&R at Decca. They liked what they heard and signed us on the spot.

PPJ: What is your favorite song on the record? Your least favorite? Why?

Hope: My favorite song is “Strut My Stuff,” because it's just so girly. I like playing it live because of the reaction. I'm truly not lying when I say that I don't have a least favorite. I guess its like children. There's always that ugly one that you still love, because it's a part of you.

Ryan: Favorite song is “Falling Faster.” That pre and chorus are dynamite! My least favorite to listen to is probably “Try,” just because it's the only song over 3:30 - but as a song itself, I think it's some of our best songwriting.

PPJ: Do you ever get tired of dressing up all the time for shows?

Ryan: Every show is a performance and whether it's a for 30 people or 300, they all deserve the same experience. It may be difficult sometimes to get dressed, in between loading gear and setting up, but no one really wants to see you in what you had on earlier that day. I've actually always enjoyed dressing up. As a kid, I'd switch from Batman to Superman, to policeman to Spiderman, all in one day.

PPJ: When is your next tour?

Hope: We just came off of the road with a band called Push Play. Really cool guys and a really fun tour. There's some awesome stuff in the works for '09!

PPJ: Have you written anything new since releasing Hey! Hey!

Ryan: Yes. Hope and I are constantly writing. We've actually written a few really cool songs that I feel confident about putting on the next record.

PPJ: What do you want people to take away with them when they hear your music?

Hope: We strive for upbeat, happy songs, and so far the reaction that we've gotten is just that. People have told us that they've had horrible days and once they hear us, for some odd reason, they're in a good mood.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Ryan: I listen to a lot of old stuff that you've probably heard before, but something new that has been coming through my speakers as of late is a band called Cash Cash. Something old that you may not be too familiar with is Owsley and Jellyfish – check it!

Hope: I've always been a fan of whatever Sheryl Crow has thrown at me. The one artist that I've loved from day one of my musical career is Patsy Cline. Also, Natasha Bedingfield has impressed me with her writing and singing ability.

Thanks again to Hope and Ryan for answering these questions, and to Brandon at Universal Music Group for arranging the interview. Make sure to pick up of copy of Hey! Hey! and catch The Love Willows on tour!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Interview - Anarbor

Talk about a band on the rise. Anarbor have been hard at work making their super catchy brand of rock known to the world. I caught up with them for a minute before they rolled onward to conquer the world.

PPJ: First, tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Mike Kitlas: I'm Mike and I play guitar.

Slade Echeverria: I'm Slade and I play bass and sing.

Adam Juwig: I'm Adam and I play guitar.

Greg Garrity: I'm Greg and I play drums.

PPJ: You guys have all known each other a long time. Did you go through other bands or styles of music before arriving at Anarbor?

Mike: Not really. The first band we were ever in was called Troop 101 and it had this exact same lineup. We eventually grew up and changed the name, but the group stayed the same. We all learned how to play our instruments together and we all matured as musicians together.

PPJ: Was it tough to try and choose between college and the band?

Greg: It wasn't a tough decision for us, because we knew that we only had one shot at this. We couldn't be as serious as we wanted to be and be in college. Plus, when we signed a record contract before we even graduated high school, that made our decision easier. We are all taking online courses while we are on the road, so we aren't losing any ground on our peers.

PPJ: Did you ever think Anarbor was going to take off? Or, when did you know you had something big on your hands?

Adam: I think we all had dreams of being big, but that's what kept us motivated.

Mike: We had been getting attention in the local scene for a while, but I guess we new things were taking off when we started getting noticed outside of Arizona.

PPJ: Tell us what it was like recording "The Natural Way."

Mike: Mike Green is amazing. A musical genius. Period.

Greg: Yeah, it was our first time ever working with a real producer in a real studio and we were all kind of nervous. Mike really got the best out of us and I think we were all happy with how the 4 songs came out.

Slade: We're going back in to record our debut EP with him in December.

PPJ: You're on tour with The Years Gone By right now. How is that going?

Slade: The Years Gone By are amazing. They are such great guys and its always good to be touring the East Coast with a band that is from the East Coast. Haha. They have lots of fans out here.

PPJ: There are hundreds of pop bands out there right now. What do you think separates you from the rest of the pack?

Mike: We get thrown in the same sentence as all of these bands for some reason. Like all of these bands that use backing tracks and autotune on their vocals. We just make real music. If you don't like it fine, but at least its really us.

Greg: Well yeah, but in a way its kind of good that we get lost in the mix. Because when someone finally does hear us, they are always pleasantly surprised that we aren't one of those bands.

PPJ: What are your favorite and least favorite songs that you've written, and why?

Slade: I think we're always into the new songs more than the old songs.

Adam: Well, we usually judge our favorites by the songs that are most fun to play. Like the ones with the most energy.

Mike: I like playing "Right There With You" and "Salem's Filled With Witches."

PPJ: What can we expect next from you?

Mike: EP in March 2009. A bunch of new songs and maybe one or two old ones.

Slade: And just non-stop touring.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Adam: The best 3 albums of 2008 are:
Margot & The Nuclear So and So's - Animal/Not Animal
Bring Me The Horizon - Suicide Season
Lydia - Illuminate

Thanks again to Anarbor for answering these questions, and to Mike Cubillos at Earshot Media for arranging the interview. Make sure to pick up a copy of The Natural Way and catch them on tour!

MySpace | PureVolume

Friday, November 14, 2008

Contest - The Stone Angel

So I've got something a little different for you today. I have two copies of the movie The Stone Angel to give away. It stars Ellen Page, who I'm sure you all know from Juno. The Stone Angel was nominated for multiple awards and also stars Ellen Burstyn.

So, if you'd like to win yourself a copy, give me your favorite Juno quote, and the two that make me laugh the hardest will get a free DVD of this movie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Interview - Better Without You

Better Without You redux? Yup, here's a second take on that last interview, this time featuring singer Ryan Braunstein.

PPJ: First tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Ryan Braunstein: Ryan Braunstein, I do the singing and the majority of the crowd pleasing, I like to think! As put by everyone else my job is to be the....pretty boy of the band.

PPJ: Your Myspace says that you're from both Philadelphia and Frederick. So who is from where, and how did you meet?

Ryan: Well, the band and label are centralized in Philly, but Myles, Brian, and I are from Frederick - we went to high school together. Myles and I actually didn't talk at all until Brian introduced us. Alex is from Towson in the Baltimore area and last but not least Brandon hails from good ol' north Jersey. Myles, Brandon, and Alex go to Drexel together in Philly and Brian and I live in Frederick, Maryland. Basically, Brian got me talking to Myles, who in turn brought us all together.

PPJ: Where did the name Better Without You come from?

Ryan: Oh, the funny story behind the name....I'm afraid that's a secret that I will have to take to the grave with me. I will say that it came to Myles while we were snacking on some Pat's cheesesteaks. I will say most people will speculate that it's all about a long lost girl...and I will also say that those people would be very very wrong!

PPJ: How did you get in with Criminal Records?

Ryan: Myles and Brandon started Criminal Records and when they heard some of my garage band demos they snatched me up and signed me on.

PPJ: What went into writing and recording your EP?

Ryan: The majority of the writing typically just happens. I have a tendency to get in with girls that like to play games and generally that makes me a shut in on certain days. Usually I'll start humming a tune or writing lyrics that tell the story of the situation and for some reason as crappy as the situation is....the songs are usually happy sound. Weird, right?

PPJ: What was the best thing about recording? The worst?

Ryan: The best thing about recording has been hearing all the songs and ideas we've had coming to life and seeing the reaction of the people around me and especially that people who don't even know me. The worst? Well, typically you spend a lot of time alone working in the studio, it can get depressing after the first few days once it slips into routine. In the end though it's all worth it.

PPJ: It looks like you guys have been writing a lot of new songs lately. Can you tell us what they're like?

Ryan: Ah yes, well as I said before, most of my songs tell stories of what's happened to me if I end up doing the majority of the lyrical writing. The best of the new songs has to be "Little Miss Stalker," as I'm told. Brian and I actually just put the finishing touches on a new one I wrote about a recent situation with a girl I really like, called "Got Your Girl." Now that song is so badass, I just hope it doesn't make me come off as a douche when really I'm just trying to put a fun spin on a situation that made me feel terrible.

PPJ: Are you planning any big tours soon, or are you just sticking to recording?

Ryan: I know our primary focus right now is getting the full length album finished, but we're trying to book a lot of shows around here to kill the studio blues. Trust me, any chance I have to get on stage we'll be there. It's what I got into this for, to spread the music.

PPJ: What do you hope to do with Better Without You in the future?

Ryan: I really hope to get to a point where I can make the band my lifestyle and keep on doing what I love - playing, writing, and spreading the music.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Ryan: Fall Out Boy is a huge favorite of mine right now. Other then them I would say Farewell and Four Year Strong!

Thanks to Ryan for answering round 2 of these questions, and again to Brandon at Criminal Records. Be sure to check out Better Without You's new EP and catch them at a show!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Interview - Better Without You

Better Without You are bringing the pop-punk goodness with their new EP, titled Seriously... Read my interview with this young group to see how they are building their band from the ground up.

PPJ: First tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Myles Vlachos: I’m Myles Vlachos, I play guitar.

PPJ: Your MySpace says that you're from both Philadelphia and Frederick. So who is from where, and how did you meet?

Myles: I am from Frederick, along with Ryan, and Brian. Brandon was my freshman year roommate at Drexel University, and he is from New Jersey. We met Alex at Drexel too, and he is from MD as well. Currently we operate out of Philly mostly while we finish up our senior year.

PPJ: Where did the name Better Without You come from?

Myles: Well, despite all Ryan’s songs being about girls the name is about a boy. Unfortunately that overly ambiguous hint is all I can give.

PPJ: How did you get in with Criminal Records?

Myles: Brandon and I started that. We incorporated over the summer. We signed Ryan, and are signing a few other acts. We are kind of the house band, and play on all the records like The Funk Brothers were for Motown. We really respect what Motown did and want to be that for the kids today.

PPJ: What went into writing and recording your EP?

Myles: Ryan came to me with “The Long Drive.” We laid it down, and beefed it up with a nice vocal arrangement, and some production stuff, and then Ryan wrote "You’re Going Down (Not In A Good Way)", and "Cutting Ties." Over the summer we slept in the studio and spent 72 hours strait in there and got those tracks recorded, mixed, and mastered. The EP is gonna be a teaser for the full length. Expect even more polished versions of these songs in the future.

PPJ: What was the best thing about recording? The worst?

Myles: The best thing for me was when I kicked Ryan out of the studio to mix "Cutting Ties." I had a lot of playing with delays and various busses to create an interesting space for that song. The worst was Ryan singing the chorus to "You’re Going Down" in nothing but his boxers because it helped him sing. No one wanted to see that.

PPJ: It looks like you guys have been writing a lot of new songs lately. Can you tell us what they're like?

Myles: We have this one called “Little Miss Stalker.” It is an upbeat, energetic, rocker that has more hooks than a pirate ship. That one is gonna be single. I have a few written too, really catchy up-beat stuff. We also are gonna have some slower emotional tracks to balance it out.

PPJ: Are you planning any big tours soon, or are you just sticking to recording?

Myles: Well, we are gonna record and play “showcase” shows regionally until we are done with school. After that Better Without You will unleash their fury on the world!

PPJ: What do you hope to do with Better Without You in the future?

Myles: We want to be a touring force, and give to our fans what our favorite bands have given to us. We just love making music, and we want to bring our music to a huge audience.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Myles:I’m gonna give some bands that really deserve the attention some spotlight.

As Tall As Lions

And... The greatest songwriter of all time, Ryan Adams. He is a prophet.

Thanks again to Myles for taking time to answer these questions, and to Brandon at Criminal Records for arranging it. Make sure to pick up a copy of Seriously... and to watch out for Better Without You on tour.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Interview - Lovedrug

If you weren't aware, Lovedrug is easily one of my favorite bands of all time. They've just released their third LP, The Sucker Punch Show. Read this interview and see if you can pick the brains of this enigmatic group.

PPJ: First, tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Michael Shepard: My name is Michael, I'm a Capricorn, I play guitar, piano, and I sing.

PPJ: You just released your third LP, The Sucker Punch Show. Did you ever think Lovedrug would make it this far as a band?

Michael: Yes... But I never thought it would take this long to put out three records.

PPJ: Where did the phrase "The Sucker Punch Show" come from?

Michael: It's my synonym for life.

PPJ: What went into writing and recording the new album?

Michael: A lot of smoking, drinking, weekend boardroom meetings, and general disarray... but mostly we just thought a lot about what we wanted to write and we sat down and wrote it. It always turns out different anyways.

PPJ: How do you think your music has grown or changed over the years? How is The Sucker Punch Show different from what you've released before?

Michael: The music has evolved into its teen angst stage. I'm looking forward to the hipster stage mostly.

PPJ: What do you think of people comparing Lovedrug to bands like Coldplay, Radiohead, or even Foo Fighters?

Michael: That's very flattering. Those are great bands... which we sound nothing like. Regardless, it's still a compliment, I guess. So.. I don't really mind it. People are more comfortable with comparisons anyway.

PPJ: What's your favorite song you've ever written?

Michael: Right now it's "Blood Like." It's my most confessional to date. It's the window to my soul right now. But soon it will close and change so.. there's that.

PPJ: Would you change anything about any of your records if you could?

Michael: No... and yes.

PPJ: You guys were briefly on a major label before returning to The Militia Group. What happened there?

Michael: We got eaten up, spit out and almost permanently shelved. But we got out with our necks somewhat intact though, so no worries.

PPJ: How did you get signed to TMG in the first place?

Michael: After Rory (the owner) saw us play a gig in NYC.

PPJ: You're on tour now with former labelmates Copeland. What are you most looking forward to on this tour?

Michael: Hanging out with old pals.

PPJ: What are your plans after the Copeland/Lydia tour?

Michael: Headlining, Europe, more writing...another record.

PPJ: What do you want people to take away with them when they hear your music?

Michael: A sense of honesty and confession that hopefully will be appealing.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Michael: Kings of Leon, Rihanna, Donovan.

Thanks to Michael for answering these questions, and to Mike Cubillos at Earshot Media for facilitating it. Make sure to pick up Lovedrug's new album and catch them on tour.

Website | MySpace | PureVolume

Friday, October 31, 2008

Interview - The Urgency

The Urgency are a band from New England who are working hard to get themselves heard. So, lend an ear and take a listen while you read my interview with them.

PPJ: First, tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Tyler: My name is Tyler, and I sing for The Urgency.

PPJ: How did you get into music?

Tyler: I had my parents' old record player in my room back home for as long as I can remember, plus I grew up with lots of instruments in the house, from keyboards and guitars to saxophones. The only thing I really stuck with was singing though.

PPJ: How did The Urgency begin?

Tyler: Ian and Kevin have been playing music together since they were little kids. They're a few years older than me, and even though we grew up just a town apart, I didn't start playing music with them until much later. They ended up playing in bands together throughout school, where they eventually met Guerin in college. Just as I started college they graduated, heard about me through the grapevine, and we started jamming... that was late autumn 2005. After a few EPs, we finally finished our full-length early this past year, where we asked Ryan to join as our second guitarist and background vocals in order to live up to the album live.

PPJ: How did you get signed to Island/Def Jam?

Tyler: A lot of persistence. We really played for anyone who would listen, anywhere possible. Before we got signed we didn't really have any money to tour, no van or trailer, no gas money, nothing. We saw getting signed as a way to keep playing music for as long and as much as possible. Really we can't imagine doing anything else right now. Anyway, we just recorded what we could in our apartment, and played as many shows as we could in the New England/New York area. When we met David Bendeth, he immediately wanted to take us in and record a few tracks. After we leaked the new tracks, we got a few offers, and went with Mercury/Island/Def Jam.

PPJ: What's been the best part of being in a major label band so far?

Tyler: Same as it would be if we were on an indie - we get to play music every night and see the world!

PPJ: You're on tour with A Cursive Memory right now. How is that going?

Tyler: It's going well! There's a lot more little girls on this tour than we've experienced in the past, but I think they're taking to our band quite well considering the difference in genres.

PPJ: Tell us about your time recording your album.

Tyler: It was a life-changing, eye-opening experience. Bendeth took us in to his studio, the House of Loud, which became our home for the next six months. He had us writing and practicing rigorously every hour of the day, every day. He really pushed us to our limits, and we came out of it a much stronger band.

PPJ: How did you choose "Fingertips" to be your single?

Tyler: The album as a whole is very eclectic, and Fingertips is only one facet of our music. I think we ultimately went with Fingertips because of how provocative it is. Personally, I think we have "catchier" songs, but there's definitely an edginess about that song that people are attracted to. I think there's a darkness to it, but on the surface it's this fun, catchy, progressive rock song that people want to hear on the radio.

PPJ: What's it like to see yourself getting coverage on places like and Fearless TV?

Tyler: It's pretty cool. Both AP and Fearless are great ways to get heard. And PopPunkJunkie of course ; ).

PPJ: What are you doing next after this tour is over?

Tyler: Writing new music, recording demos, Looking for more tours!

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Tyler: Kid:Nap:Kin, The Cambiata, and Romans.

Thanks again to Tyler for answering our questions, and to Brian Robillard at Universal Music Group for arranging the interview. Be sure to check out The Urgency's self-titled debut album.

MySpace | PureVolume

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fletcher's Bar 10.24.08

I went to go see Just Surrender, The Higher, The Morning Of, Some Like It Hot, and TV/TV at Fletcher's Bar in Baltimore this weekend. I conducted an interview with The Morning Of, but my computer choked on me and I lost most of the audio I'd recorded. I'm hoping to get my questions answered again via email, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Until then, here are some photos and a review of the show.

TV/TV was the first band on. They came out to Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise" blasting through the speakers, which definitely caught the attention of the crowd. I'd heard a few of their songs before and I thought they were pretty good, so I was interested to see them play. Turned out their live show was also pretty good. They had a lot of energy and did a lot to try and get the crowd involved. The singer was doing his best vocal impression of Pelle from The Hives. Their live act was was much less polished than their recorded music, but it was still clear that they are a band who knows what they are doing.

Next up was Some Like It Hot. They began with a spoken rap-like song over some basic instrumentals, and I thought we were in for something different and fun. However, after that song they launched into a bunch of very generic pop-punk songs. I could hardly tell the difference between any of them. The singer in particular was much too cocky for the quality of his voice or music. It didn't help that I had a gaggle of screaming girls in homemade Some Like It Hot shirts standing right next to me either. They also did a cover song, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. If someone out there knows, help me out!

For one song, a couple of the band members got into the crowd and danced with the homemade t-shirt girls. At least they were all having a good time.

After that was The Morning Of. Their set was bursting with energy - being onstage is clearly a joy for this band. There was never a moment where anyone was standing still. Their dual vocalists blew through their songs and pumped the crowd up while jumping on and off some wooden blocks they set up at the front of the stage. The Morning Of is definitely a band that is only just beginning to hit their stride.

Then came The Higher. I'd seen them a few times before, and their live show was pretty much the same. They have a kind of mid-level energy that gets you going if you know the songs, but if you don't it might take you awhile to catch on. Their singer danced all over the stage, but the rest of the band stayed pretty still - their guitarist was even leaning against the wall for most of the set. They played most of their latest album, plus a new song from an unnamed upcoming album that they recorded after Warped Tour. The new song was a lot more rock than pop, with a drum beat that was very reminiscent of Cartel. It sounded really good - I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the album. They also brought back their cover of *NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye," with Seth prefacing the song by saying, "If you don't know this song, I don't think we can be friends." It was good fun all around.

I didn't stick around for Just Surrender, since I felt like I was going to pass out from exhaustion and still had an hour's drive back home. So, sorry about the lack of JS photos. I do recommend their live show if you get the chance to see it though.

Overall, it was a pretty good show, especially for the low price of the ticket. In my opinion, The Morning Of had the best set, but most of the bands there have real talent and I will continue to watch them as they grow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Interview - Greeley Estates

The screamo genre is full of bands trying to imitate the sounds of others and to cash in on the current hype in the scene. It can be tough to find a sincere band in there. Luckily, Greeley Estates is one of those rare ones, so read on to see how the band pushes forward in this derivative environment.

PPJ: First, tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Ryan Zimmerman: Hi, my name's Ryan and I sing/scream for Greeley.

PPJ: What got you interested in the post-hardcore/screamo genre of music?

Ryan: Bands like Finch, Glassjaw, The Used, and Norma Jean were some of the first bands that I listened to in this genre.

PPJ: How did you go about writing and recording "Go West Young Man, Let The Evil Go East?"

Ryan: We took almost a year off to write and record this record. We thought about what kind of songs we enjoy playing live and wrote a record around that in the past we had both heavy and soft songs. On this record we just focused on the heavier stuff. We had a chance to record with Cory Spotts again: he did our first album. I can't imagine working with anyone else ever again. He really knows our band and how to capture our sound.

PPJ: Did you do anything differently than you had on your previous releases?

Ryan: I think having more time to write really helped our band think outside of what we would have done in the past. We focused on writing songs that were intense the whole way through the album and thought about some things we could add that might be a little outside the box of what we had heard with this style of music.

PPJ: What has the reception of the new album been like?

Ryan: So far I would say almost everyone we have talked to likes this record better than our past albums.

PPJ: What do you think differentiates Greeley Estates from the rest of the bands currently playing this style of music?

Ryan: Hopefully we have been able to find our own sound in a genre that is overcrowded. I hope when someone hears us, they know it's Greeley right away, whether they like it or not.

PPJ: On a related note, what does it take to get noticed? Do you think image or music matters more?

Ryan: I think both image and music matter a lot now. Hopefully though, the music is what is most important to most people. Ultimately if you don't have good music, you will be lost among all the other bands or forgotten, so I would say music is more important still, even surprisingly in 2008.

PPJ: You've been through a lot of member changes over the years. How do you maintain the band's focus and goals through those changes?

Ryan: Yeah it's always interesting having member changes. We were lucky and ended up finding the right guys for the roles, who were on the same page with us and have brought a lot to our band now.

PPJ: How is your current tour going?

Ryan: We just ended the August Burns Red headlining tour: it was great. Every night of the tour was sold out, the kids at the shows we amazing, definitely one of the best times we have had on tour, playing with great bands who are now our close friends.

PPJ: What will you be doing next? Have you written any new material?

Ryan: We have a couple weeks off and then we head out on the road with Alesana and A Static Lullaby until Christmas. Should be a good time. We haven't written any new material yet. We have just been focusing on the new album and touring. Hopefully next year we will get starting working on some new stuff for the future.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Ryan: Three bands I have been listening to lately are Lydia (our hometown friends: their new album is unbelievable), The Honorary Title (this band always puts me in a good mood), and one of my favorite ever is Sigur Ros (I'm always listening to them, amazing band).

Thanks again to Ryan for answering these questions, and to Mike Cubillos at Earshot Media for coordinating the interview. Make sure you check out Greeley's new album, Go West Young Man, Let The Evil Go East and catch them on tour with Alesana and A Static Lullaby.

MySpace | PureVolume

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Interview - The Stiletto Formal

The Stiletto Formal have been working hard at their music for years now, and are finally about to put out their first full length album, Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta! Read my interview for an enlightening glimpse into the life of this unique band.

PPJ: First, tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Paul Neely: My name is Paul and I play bass and percussion.

PPJ: What kind of music did you listen to growing up? Do you think that had any influence on the music you're making today?

Paul: I listened to such a random array of music growing up. There was the Beatles and Zep of course, Ace of Bass, ZZ Top, Hank Williams, Patsy Klein, Tag Team (that’s right) and also remember very vividly my mother taking my Blues Brothers tape away from me for playing it too much. All this randomness of music has definitely affected what music I create. Our new record is filled with classic rock riffs, old county/blues overtones and even hip-hop. Bottom line I appreciate any genre of music as long as it produces value.

PPJ: How did you get involved in "the scene?"

Paul: Oh, “the Scene.” Well, when our previous band started playing shows, I wasn’t even aware of divisions of fan groups like this. I just wanted to play music. But soon after we played a few live shows, the division became very noticeable. Overall, it basically comes down to the fact that Stiletto is a band that by sound has been placed in “the scene” and I’m there by default.

PPJ: When you call yourself "eccentric rock & roll," what do you mean by that?

Paul: Because “indie-sex-core”, “the sextet” and “Metallica” were already taken. I don’t know. I always picture it as high-class drink. It’s music on the rocks with a twist.

PPJ: How did you get signed with Eyeball Records?

Paul: Totally random. We ended up on their Showcase at CMJ in 2007 with no intentions other than we just wanted to play at CMJ. But after the show, we met everyone who worked at the label and friendships were formed. We hung out with the owner Alex multiple times in the ensuing weeks and our love for their views on our band and on the music industry grew. Who knew that touring your ass off for over four years still means something to the right people.

PPJ: Tell us a little about what it took to record "Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta!"

Paul: With Cory and Darrell in control, the process was amazing. Recording is pretty much our favorite thing to do besides playing black jack so the two-month process flew by. We were able to try many different recording techniques and instrumentation. Cory is especially good at taking our crazy ideas and turning them into realities. Mix that in with a little patience and “Fiesta” was born.

PPJ: How does the new album differ from your previous EPs?

Paul: We were actually able to complete a thought process. Our previous ep was going to be a full length, but due to circumstances out of our control, it was forced into an EP. So it ended up what I feel four songs that had nothing to do with each other. We are very proud of those songs, but there was just no cohesiveness. Also, we have a different drummer and Kyle has taken over the roll of keys. This album is everything we wanted it to be and I feel that we have matured a great deal. Every single part has been boiled down to only the necessary for both the song and album.

PPJ: How does it feel to finally be releasing a full length album?

Paul: It feels like Limp Bizkit reuniting, IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME!

PPJ: Your music isn't easily pigeonholed. Do you think that has made it harder or easier for you to break out and get noticed?

Paul: We knew from day one that with the type of music we were wanting to produce, we were going to have to work ten times as hard to become successful at it. Getting noticed was never the problem, it was that whole break out thing that has always put up a brick wall. We don’t fit any mold for someone to just push us through and we have actually had legitimate labels say that they love the band, but they just don’t know what to do with us. We have also been asked to changed major parts of our appearance and sound in order to sign said record deals. This was just not an option for us. We don’t have our noses so high up in the air that we would drown if it rained, but rather strict moral codes when it comes to manipulating our passion. Patience and belief has held true for us and has landed us a solid home at Eyeball. We knew the good guys were out there, it just took more effort than most are willing to give.

PPJ: You guys are from Phoenix. What's the music scene like there?

Paul: The Phoenix scene has been a roller coaster for the past 2-3 years. Right now “Chug Chug” and “Poptasticness” are reigning supreme. Younger high-school local bands do well here mostly because of the large amount of bigger touring acts that are coming out of the Phoenix area. Kids tend to forget about their previous phoenix heroes because they have been gone on the road and haven’t played a home show in 4-5 months so they latch on to the next new band. We have been blessed with very loyal fans though. We have fans that are at every show no matter what and we owe the world to them.

PPJ: What are your plans after your CD gets released?

Paul: Tour, tour, tour, tour, then we will take a break and count all of our money. When that 30 seconds is over, we will tour some more.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Paul: Just try to stop me at three. MURS, The Black Keys, Portugal. The Man, Murder City Devils, Astronautalis, In:Aviate and Master Ace.

Thanks again to Paul for taking the time to answer these questions, and for Mike Cubillos at Earshot Media for putting this interview together and for always getting back to me quickly. Be sure to pick up The Stiletto Formal's new album, Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta and catch them on one of their endless tours.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day.

These days, many big bands are taking up a charity cause. Fall Out Boy promotes Invisible Children, while Jack's Mannequin supports the efforts of 11:11 AM. It may seems like just a trendy thing to do, but there are real benefits and consequences to your actions that are taken.

This year's Blog Action Day theme is poverty, and it's really an important one. Thousands of people around the world live in extreme poverty that is far beyond what most people in first-world countries can imagine. Poverty is also often the root of other life-threatening problems like sanitation and hunger.

A lot of people say, "What difference will my actions make?" when it comes to global issues. You may not think you're making a difference, but if you and a thousand other people begin to change your actions, we WILL be able to see the difference. Even something as small as trying to buy fair trade goods will help. You can even write to your local political figures and urge them to vote for laws that will make a difference. This action will be especially important in this election year. We have the power to vote for an administration that could potentially begin to eradicate poverty in our lifetimes.

So take a minute out of your day and donate some money to a charity that fights poverty, or to write your elected officials and remind them of this enormous issue. If we start now, we can work our way up to making a huge difference in our world.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Interview - Portugal. The Man

Portugal. The Man have been hard at work for the last few years, relentlessly touring and putting out tons of music. I caught up with them briefly to see how things are going, and see where they are headed.

PPJ: First, tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Zach Carothers: I'm Zach. I play the bass.

PPJ: What music did you listen to growing up? How did your musical tastes evolve as you grew older?
Zach: Ha... they didn't much. I've recently regressed back to what I've always listened to. I grew up on a lot of classic rock and pop. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The Beatles. Michael Jackson. Shit like that.

PPJ: What is the biggest influence on your music today?

Zach: Friends and family... and everyone I meet. Any experience. Mostly my band. I just feed off what they make. They inspire me.

PPJ: What is the music scene in Alaska like? Is it difficult to break a band in the continental States from Alaska?

Zach: There's not much scene in Alaska. A lot of bluegrass and metal. Honestly, I think being from Alaska helped our band. Not too many bands come out of there. Anything you can do to set yourself apart from everyone else.

PPJ: Your new album, Censored Colors, has a pretty unique structure. How did you go about writing this album?

Zach: Well, we wrote almost the whole record in the studio in two and a half weeks. We worked hard. It was by far the most productive time we've spent. We were tracking 14 hours a day. We tried some new writing styles as well. Using chord progressions instead of riffs like we normally do.

PPJ: What was different about creating this album compared to your previous ones?

Zach: We had access to so many different instruments. It was amazing. We're lucky to be friends with unreal musicians. Horns, strings, organs. We also tried a bunch our very strange tracking techniques. It was a learning experience.

PPJ: What are your favorite things about your new album?

Zach: All the singing. We all put so many vocals on it. I love doing gang vocals. It's like a party.

PPJ: Is there anything on your older albums you wish you'd done differently?

Zach: Not really.... since we write everything in the studio, we'll often change them if they don't work live. I don't mind. It makes the live show a lot more fun.

PPJ: How did you come to the partnership you have with Equal Vision Records?

Zach: Equal Vision have been good friends of ours for years. They have helped us out many times. We originally wanted to release the record ourselves, but they gave us a really awesome deal. Partnership was totally the best option for us. We share in the risk and the reward.

PPJ: What was it like to collaborate with The Sound Of Animals Fighting to remix songs from their album?

Zach: They asked Johnny to do that a while ago. He had never done anything like that before, but he had a lot of fun doing that. I think he did a good job.

PPJ: You're about to head out on a European tour. What are you most looking forward to?

Zach: Hard to say. Everything is so amazing over there. All the club employees are so nice and helpful to us. The people that come to our shows are rad. We owe them many thanks.

PPJ: What is the next step after that?

Zach: We're doing a headlining tour in the states with Earl Greyhound and Winter Sleep. Then back into the studio for pre production. We're busy little bees.

PPJ: Do you think you'll be able to keep up the album-a-year pace you've set for yourselves?

Zach: I don't think it will be a problem. The only thing that stops us from recording more is our tour schedule.

PPJ: What do you want people to come away with when they hear your music or see your show?

Zach: Well, I obviously want them to have a good time. And I hope it makes them want to come back and see another. We're usually having the time of our lives on stage.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Zach: Lately I've been really into: The Builders And The Butchers, 31 knots, Doctor Helicopter, Hello Electric, The Decemberists, and David Bowie.

Thanks again to Zach for answering our questions, and to Heidi Robinson for arranging the interview. Make sure you pick up Censored Colors, which hits stores tomorrow!

Website | MySpace

Friday, September 5, 2008

Interview - Sherwood

I caught up briefly with Sherwood to talk about what it's like to be such a hardworking band in today's music scene. Read on to hear about more about Sherwood, both new and old.

PPJ: First, please tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Dan Koch: Dan, and I play guitar.

PPJ: What got you into music? What keeps you in it?

Dan: The drums, also my friend in elementary school, Mark Ball, who got me to stop listening to Rap (which I have since learned to enjoy again) and start listening to Grunge. I am still in it because I can't possibly not be.

PPJ: Sherwood has always had a do-it-yourself approach. What do you think are the pros and cons to this? Did you ever think it was just too difficult?

Dan: Mainly the PRO is that you learn to appreciate any success you have, the main CON is that it takes a long time! There were tense moments; I have almost quit at least once I can remember. But somehow we kept it together and are stronger than ever right now.

PPJ: How do you go about writing your songs?

Dan: I generally will write the basic skeleton and then we work out all the details, often the bridge, etc, together as a group.

PPJ: Has your process changed over the years?

Dan: Yes, for this upcoming album, there is a lot more group involvement than on A Different Light, which is making it a whole lot better.

PPJ: How did Dan and Joe get involved with We Shot The Moon? Will either of them return to that in the future?

Dan: We have been friends with Jonathan Jones for a long time, and eliciting our help just seemed like the obvious thing for him to do next. It's his band, so there are no guaranteed of our future involvement, but I am almost positive that he and I will be doing a lot of writing together for his next album, and I'm really excited about that.

PPJ: You guys tour pretty much nonstop. Where are your favorite places to be?

Dan: In this order: Japan, Ireland/Scotland, Mainland Europe, Seattle, NYC, and here in Oakland, writing a new album.

PPJ: You used to tour in the Road Rules van. Did you like that better than a regular bus, or was it not worth the novelty?

Dan: Our new ride is a lot more comfortable. =)

PPJ: Can you tell us more about the unreleased songs that will be on the Sing, But Keep Going rerelease?

Dan: There will be 2 acoustic versions of songs, one full-band song that was never released, and one "Nerdrock Redux" version of another song.

PPJ: There are also rumors that you'll be releasing a new album in 2009. What can you tell us about that?

Dan: It will easily be our best, and it will be out in 2009. There aren't a whole lot of other details that we know just yet.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Dan: Bon Iver, Coldplay, The National.

Thanks again to Dan for answering our questions, and to Mike Cubillos at Earshot Media for setting it up. Be sure to pick up the rerelease of Sherwood's Sing, But Keep Going, and keep your eyes open for new music and tours!

Website | MySpace

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Interview - National Product

I caught up again with California's National Product, who have been touring relentlessly in support of their album Luna since I talked to them last year. Read on to see what they have to say about their experiences working hard on the road.

PPJ: First, tell us who you are and what you do in the band.

Danny Casler: Hey, what's going on? My name is Danny and I sing in the band.

PPJ: What were your favorite bands growing up? How do you think this influenced the music you're making now?

Danny: Growing up I was really into a lot of stuff my parents and grandparents would play. Everything from Frank Sinatra, to Led Zeppelin to Bon Jovi and more. As I started to find music of my own I got into hip hop and from there branched off into indie and punk rock stuff that spans from Fugazi to Jimmy Eat World to Strung Out to a lot of obscure stuff. I think a lot of the ideals that musicians had influenced me more than their music. Obviously their music impacted me in a serious way but there just seemed to be something a lot more tangible and real about bands when I was growing up. Now everything feels so fake and synthetic. Not all but way to many band do. I don’t think I'm alone in saying that, in fact I know I am not.

PPJ: Luna has been out for just over a year now. What was the initial response like, and how have you been maintaining the hype around it?

Danny: Um, I don’t know if we got to experience initial anythings. We have been touring 8 months straight out of that year so you kinda don’t get to sit back and think about to be honest. We have done the USA like 4-5 times, Japan & Hawaii and I think Alaska. My brain is racked from all of it to be honest. I know its making its impact and I'm thankful for that. We were told people would not catch on for about 6 months to a year because that is how this record is, and they were right as we are now watching the fruits of it in certain markets. For example. In Japan, there had to be close to a thousand kids at our headlining show in Kawasaki. First time there ever, and it was pretty huge. Surprised the hell out of us.

With the hype question. I always feel like hype is a bad thing so we don’t really ride that train. We have marketing behind us, a great record label, a great publicist and radio dept. I just feel we are fortunate with a great team. We don’t have all these massive tours but to be honest, we are working as hard if not harder than ANY band in our position right now and we feel confident that all that will come. Some days we get to play festivals with 10,000 people and some days we get to play a small town and get up close and personal with 30 kids. Its all what we love so either way, its equal to what we are trying to do. I said this in Colorado Springs. I would much rather play to 30 kids who come to shows because its all they know and love verse 5,000 kids who don’t care about the bands, don’t support the bands and come only because its a radio crowd. I grew up in the underground punk rock scene of going to shows, so I have more of an emotional attachment to it, and the people who support it. I know it doesn’t make money, I know it doesn’t have fame and glamour but I know it has passion and that’s more than all of those things.

PPJ: Is there anything on the album that you look back on and wish you'd done differently?

Danny: Um, with respect to James Wisner, cause 1. He's my buddy and 2. He is one of the most incredible producers, I would have liked to turn some of the lead guitar up in the mix. Made the drums much heavier, more full. There are some vocal inflection I do live I wish I would have done to make it just less slick and more raw. Other than that, we are very happy with LUNA and have no major deals. We got to do what we wanted to do so that counts. The next one will allow us to take in account all things we forgot and implement the new things we have learned.

PPJ: How does it feel to be recognized by outlets like MTVU and

Danny: Well, you know I am an kid. I always have been. I share a lot of the same ideals as the people who created it, and run it as well as the users who make the site what it is. I also disagree with a lot of people in their too and I am not about just bashing bands to bash bands so I get in there and slug it out with users and use my platform as an educated touring musician who knows what it's like to have no privacy, to put yourself out there every night, to lose fiancĂ©es and girlfriends and miss out on life and try and make a living doing your passion and then have some 14, 17, 23 year old get online and call your band a piece of crap for reasons that are either biased or not backed to a reasonable extent. If you do something really dirty, AKA Sprout (Google it), I am not going to back you up. If you're good dudes who make music you love, you help people and your moving your life forward and helping others with your art AKA Hawthorne Heights and many other bands I get up and defend (not like they need my support) but I back those bands. If you don’t like someone, that’s cool, but don’t get on there calling the fags and saying you wish they were dead or you hope they crash in a fiery accident. All of those statements are unprofessional, not tactful, and very shallow.

MTVU has been dope to us and we get emails from kids all over the country saying things like, “I was in our school gym on the treadmill and I saw you guys,” so that kinda stuff is really cool for us. We come from a small town, who knew?

PPJ: You guys are originally from Hawaii, but you transplanted to Orange County. What was different about the scenes? What was it like to be a more pop-oriented band in a town known for punk?

Danny: Everything full on. Hawaii will have shows with metal bands, reggae bands, punk, indie and ska bands. Here in the US its more genre specific and not even about mixing it up. Ill tell you what. You get more kids to Hawaii shows like that because your introducing new music to kids who may have never had the opportunity to like that style of music. Hawaii just is very eclectic with all types of music so we share that with one another.

PPJ: How is your tour with 1997 going?

Danny: It's going good, I'm in Kansas City with a day off so I'm in bed, resting, watching movies on my computer. We love 1997, great people, and a greater band.

PPJ: What are your plans for after this tour?

Danny: We finally get some time off however, there is talk of a tour in Colombia and Brazil doing some dates with a major acts and after that we will be writing for a new record as well, and I will be headed to Chicago for a lil while to work with a great producer while the guys do their individual writing before we come together to show each other our ideas and start writing as a whole. I love that everyone is so open to writing in different styles to do whats best for the record.

I personally just got invited to India on a mission for the charity organization Faceless International that I'm apart of. So I will be there in Dec/Jan, then off to Ukraine for a short period and Hawaii for my father's birthday and then back to the mainland to take on whatever comes our way.

PPJ: What does it take to be noticed in today's music scene, and to stay in the spotlight?

Danny: Everything you got. A great sound, a great group, a great gimmick, and I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but for example: 30h!3. Great gimmick. You may not like the band or you may absolutely love them, but I think its brilliant. I do the hand thing all the time. I feel like DMX or something or even Jay Z “HOVA!”

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Danny: How about I tell you more than 3?

Jimmy Eat World
Will Hoge
Lorene Drive
The Appleseed Cast
The Get Up Kids

There are many more, but I need to take a phone call, email me, ill turn you into some good music.

Thanks again to Danny for answering these questions. Thanks also to Mike Cubillos at Earshot Media for arranging the interview. Be sure to catch National Product on one of their many tours, and to pick up a copy of Luna!

Web Site | MySpace

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Interview - Punchline

The guys in Punchline have been knocking fans out with their brand of pop-punk for a decade now. I caught up with the band to hear about those past ten years, as well and the present and future status of the band.

PPJ: First, tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Chris Fafalios: My name is Chris Fafalios and I play bass and sing a little bit in Punchline.

PPJ: You guys have been a band for about ten years now. Did you ever think you'd make it this far?

Chris: I always had hope that we would be successful. I like the music that we make and the people that I get to make that music with. I feel like every album that we make is better than the last, and if I didn't feel that way I would probably not play music anymore.

PPJ: Which of your records are your favorites? Which do you wish you could improve on, and why?

Chris: Our newest album, "Just Say Yes", is by far my favorite. It is the best collection of songs we have ever put together. I am still very happy with both "Action" and "37 Everywhere" and proud to say that me and my friends created those albums. I am proud of the songwriting on both "The Rewind EP" and "Major Motion Picture", but I think that the recordings left a lot to be desired. We were a lot younger and inexperienced at the time we recorded those. Our self-titled album and "How to Get Kicked Out of the Mall" (both which were put out in the 90s), I kinda wish no one ever heard. We were very young when we recorded those and not that good. A lot of people in bands would have changed the name of their band after their early releases, but we never did. We have always been Punchline, and always will be Punchline. This is the band that we learned how to play our instruments in, and other than putting out a few bad early albums, I'm pretty proud of that fact.

PPJ: What went into the recording process for the upcoming "Just Say Yes?" Did you do anything differently than you had on previous records?

Chris: We split the recording of the album between 2 producers who we really loved (Jamie Woolford and Sean O'Keefe). We decided which producer would be better for each song, and in the end, everything turned out perfect in my opinion. We also funded this new album completely on our own, which we hadn't done since "The Rewind EP" in 2002.

PPJ: Why did you leave Fueled By Ramen Records?

Chris: We had a 3 album deal with FBR and we had put out 3 albums. It was time to move on.

PPJ: Are you close to signing a deal with anyone else?

Chris: We signed a deal with ourselves. We started a new label called Modern Short Stories that we will be releasing "Just Say Yes" on September 16th. We are very excited about having our own label, and love being able to do things totally our own way. We're also looking forward to signing a few bands once we get our feet on the ground after the release of "Just Say Yes."

PPJ: What can we expect from the new album?

Chris: It is head and shoulders above anything we have ever done. Our album is not out yet so its still acceptable to listen to our own album and really enjoy it. I have been doing that. When I listen to our album, I try to think about if I wasn't in Punchline if I would be a fan of it. I can honestly say that I would be (and I'm a tough music critic!) I think that the album could appeal to anyone, not just people who read AP magazine and go to Warped Tour. My Mom loves it...and my Dad even cracked and finally liked one of our albums. I think aunts, uncles, grandmas, dentists, cardiologists, canaries, and beagles could all like our album. It's got a little somethin' for everyone.

PPJ: What was the best tour you've ever been on?

Chris: It's really hard to pick just one. Although it was a short West Coast leg of a tour, being able to do The Get Up Kids farewell tour was incredible. I always loved that band and to be able to be on a part of their last tour ever was amazing. We have been on a lot of great tours, but that one was almost magical.

PPJ: Is there anywhere you haven't toured that you want to?

Chris: I would like to tour Australia and see lots of cool animals. I've always been a fan of cool animals.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Chris: Procession Came Opposite, The Casual Lean, and Barely Blind.

Thanks again to Chris for answering our questions, and the Mike at Earshot Media for arranging the interview. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Just Say Yes, which hits stores in September!

Listen at: Website | MySpace | PureVolume

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thrills, The - Teenager

The Thrills - Teenager
Record Label - Virgin Records
Release Date - July 30th, 2007

Ireland's pop outfit The Thrills are known for their beachy pop songs, carried by the breathless voice of singer Conor Deasy. Probably the best way to summarize their sound is to note that the band was featured playing in the bar on The OC. With they newest release, Teenager, The Thrills have delivered us another round of exactly this music. The album isn't a huge departure from either So Much For The City or Let's Bottle Bohemia. This isn't to say that the album isn't enjoyable. Rather, the opposite is true. When listening to Teenager, it's hard to believe you're not on the west coast at sunset.

The album opens with some jangly guitars and cymbals on "The Midnight Choir," and launches almost immediately into Deasy's falsetto. The Thrills have often used guitar hooks rather than vocal hooks, and this trend continues here. It's a pleasant midtempo track that sets the mood for the rest of the album.

When listening to Teenager, the lyrics end up taking a backseat to the instruments. Part of this is the thinness of the vocals, but part of it is just the fact that the lyrics aren't particularly memorable. Deasy is always nice to listen to - he never hits a harsh note - but at the same time it doesn't really matter what he's saying. Many of the songs on this album feel like that - like they make better background music than singalong tunes. However, maybe that's the idea. I'm not sure. The downside to this is that many of the tracks blend together and seem a bit interchangeable.

There is a marked change of pace on "Restaurant," where the guitars are clearer than on other songs, and there's a bit of a country vibe to the whole song. Deasy's voice almost clashes with the music, but not quite. There's a fine line there that he manages not to cross, and it makes the song work beautifully. "I'm So Sorry" uses a piano and a harmonica to great effect, also adding to the country feel. Sometimes it's hard to believe that this band is from Dublin, when it feels like their songs are straight out of the American West. The title track is a meandering song that has Deasy longing for a love from his past. The instrumentals are beautifully arranged and complement the pining vocals perfectly.

The final track, "There's Joy To Be Found...The Boy Who Caught All The Breaks," is where the band brings in all the musical elements found throughout the album to create a wonderfully hopeful dual song that winds everything up nicely. Overall, this album is simply "pleasant." It's not inspiring, but it's not unbearable. It's perfect background music for your summer bonfires on the beach.

01. The Midnight Choir
02. This Year
03. Nothing Changes Around Here
04. Restaurant *
05. I Came All This Way
06. Long Forgotten Song
07. I'm So Sorry
08. No More Empty Words
09. Teenager
10. Should've Known Better
11. There's Joy To Be Found...The Boy Who Caught All The Breaks *

* - standout tracks

For Fans Of: Athlete, The Magic Numbers, Nada Surf

Listen: Website | MySpace

Buy: iTunes | Amazon

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Interview - Hit The Lights

Lima, Ohio's Hit The Lights have seen their fair share of turbulence in the past year. Despite the departure of their lead singer, the band have pushed through and are about to release a new album, Skip School, Start Fights. Read on to see what the HTL guys have cooked up for you this time around.

PPJ: First, please tell us who you are and what you do in the band.

Nick Thompson: My Name is Nick Thompson and I am the vocalist of Hit The Lights.

PPJ: Where are you on your tour right now? Which night has been the best so far?

Nick: We actually just made it home from a short headlining run with I Am the Avalanche, Jet Lag Gemini, and Thee Armada. The Chicago and Columbus shows were both pretty insane. The kids were awesome and even though it was incredibly hot, they still gave us everything they had. It was so much fun, a HUUUGE "fuck yeah" to both cities for making us feel welcome.

PPJ: What music did you listen to when you were growing up? Do you think any of it influenced the music you're writing today?

Nick: Growing up my dad and I listened to a lot of 38 special, I remember listening to a lot of 80's radio pop and always being into that. I grew up in a town in Ohio that was kind of cut off from any kind of "scene" so I started out listening to bands like Bush and Nirvana with the rest of my friends, but never really felt close to it. I think the first record that got me into punk was Blink 182's Dude Ranch. It was a total accidental find for me and when I did, I called it surfer rock because I didn't know what pop punk was. From there it kind of blew the door wide open so I could get into all the Fat Wreck Chords bands, all the drive thru bands, all of the Vagrant bands, and then started going to shows in Dayton, Ohio where there WAS a cool scene. Dayton opened me up to hardcore, then along came bands like New Found Glory who showed a hardcore meets pop punk type of music that I shit my pants for. All of those products have combined into how I write my music now.

PPJ: Probably the biggest question on everyone's minds is how things are going since Colin Ross left the band. Are the songwriting dynamics different now, or even just the dynamics of the group?

Nick: It's pretty insane how well things are going for us at this point. We left home in January to do a second record with me covering the vocals, doing it because we felt that we owed it to ourselves to keep pushing this band. We recorded a record that is by FAR the best thing this band has ever produced, went back on tour with a brand new guitar player (Kevin Mahoney) and it's honestly more fun than it has ever been before. It's not something we expected to happen, I think we all just decided to go for it because we knew that this is what we wanted to do. We are all very happy with the situation we are in, I think it shows on stage AND on our new record. This whole situation has really opened up our eyes to appreciating more things, such as friends, the road, and being in this band in general. We're stronger than ever, and I can honestly say that no one here expected things to be going as
well as it has.

PPJ: What has been the fans' response to the lineup change?

Nick: Kids have been amazing at the shows, and that helps me more than anything. It could be a really awkward thing to sing songs that used to have a different voice behind them, but every single night I have kids that have no problem going off and getting in my face to sing the words so I take that as a positive. I get a lot of fans coming up to us and telling us that they were super skeptical(which they should be) and didn't know how they were going to feel about a new voice, but telling us it's the best show of ours they've ever seen. When kids take time to find me, walk up, and tell me that, then I absolutely take it to heart. You don't have to read about it, come out and judge for yourself.

PPJ: Why did you decide to name the new record "Skip School, Start Fights?"

Nick: We had a really rough time deciding on the record name. It's a really important record for us, and one that we feel closest to I think, so we were kind of hoping a name would just fall into our laps at the right time. We were thinking about just keeping it self titled, and honestly, we love the record no matter what, so the name is just icing on the cake. A lot of time went by and we really weren't agreeing on anything that just popped and Omar had this bad advice idea that went "Skip School, Start Fights" that we were going to use, so we decided to go with it. We thought it was easy to remember and was funny but kind of edgy.

PPJ: What was is like working with Hidden In Plain View's Rob Freeman?

Nick: Rob has been our boy for a looooong time. We originally went in with him between some over seas tours to record a few demos for our label. Colin was still in the band then, it was about 2 years ago now. We did three tracks (which ended up leaking) in a matter of four days, and it was just a great experience. Rob and I worked well together with melodies, which is a huuuuge deal to me and the other dudes. He brought nothing but good ideas to the table, so when it came down to making this new record with a new vocalist, we all knew that we could trust Rob to help us create our vision. He's a young producer who gets great sounds, knows his melodies and harmonies, and ALWAYS is about what's good for the song. He kicked ass on our record, just like every project he's a part of. Rob's an untapped resource that I think a lot of people are going to flip out over once they hear the record.

PPJ: How do you think the new record differs from your older ones?

Nick: Even before our first record was officially released, we knew what we wanted out of a second record. Our main goal was to be a bigger, brighter, heavier version of what we were on "Stick Up". Of course the song writing is better but I feel the songs in general are a better representation of who we are. It captures the energy and feel of our band, it gives the vibe of our live show, which is something that I don't think "Stick Up" did a great job of. I'm not slamming our first record by any means, but we're a little older and a little wiser and we have a good grasp on what we want our music to be.

PPJ: What's your favorite song you've ever written, and why?

Nick: I've always loved Save Your Breath, just because there is so much energy in that song live, but in all honesty: there's too many songs that we love to name one. Our songs mean a lot to us, there are so many different reasons to like a particular one. The question is too hard, stop challenging me!

PPJ: A lot of people are talking about how pop-punk could make a comeback and rule the scene again. Do you think Hit The Lights can help do that with "Skip School, Start Fights?"

Nick: I know for a fact that we set the bar pretty high for ourselves when it comes to making our third record. We love pop-punk and we will always rep it hard, it's definitely popping up again so hopefully we can do our part to spread the love and bring the paaaaaaaain!

PPJ: What do you hope people will take away with them when they listen to your music?

Nick: I think the thing that we MOST hope for is that kids genuinely enjoy our music. We don't want them listening to us because we're a buzzy band, we don't want them listening because that's what they're friends are doing, we want them to love our music as much as we do. We could give a fuck if our shows are packed in or sold out, as long as the real fans who REALLY get it, are there to sing and rock out with us. We don't want kids coming to shows because all their friends are going, we want kids to be there on their own accord because they get us. We want the scene that we grew up in; where kids can see the bands face to face and look eye to eye at them and sing
their lyrics back and have that amazing connection that you will only know if it happens to you. We want to spread that experience and we want kids to go away feeling how we feel. That's what it's all about, that's what it SHOULD be about. Straight up.

PPJ: Lastly, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Nick: 1. Third Eye Blind
2. Pantera
3. I Am the Avalanche

Be sure to look for Skip School, Start Fights when it hits stores on July 8th. Until then, go see one of their action-packed live shows! Thanks again to Nick for taking time out of his day to answer these questions, and to Mike Cubillos at Earshot Media for arranging the interview.

Interview - 2*Sweet

Chicago's 2*Sweet have been making waves in the quickly expanding pop-punk scene. They are currently Smartpunk's #1 selling unsigned band - a feat that is sure to capture the eyes and ears of labels across the country. Read this funny and insightful interview to learn a little more about these rising hometown heroes.

PPJ: To begin, please tell us who you are and what you do in the band.

Justin Pence: Hello, I am Justin Pence, I sing in 2*sweet.

PPJ: Can you tell us how your band got to be where it is today?

Justin: We started playing out in many different bands together and decided to form this group very unseriously, 40 demos later and alot of figuring out exactly what we enjoy in music, we started to take this band full time and have done things our own way, making it up as we go, we recorded a record and released it on our own, we book our own tours and that's where we are at!

PPJ: You've always been heavily promoted by "Hey Chris" Gutierrez. How much do you think that endorsement has influenced your fanbase? Has it brought you any negative attention?

Justin: Chris is an amazing dude, it has certainly influenced our fan base, he gave us a chance and has always helped us spread the word on all the new stuff we have going on. Everything about that dude is positive, he is an amazing friend and author, we plan on touring with him again in the near future.

PPJ: Your MySpace page lists your genre as "Chicago Doom Pop." What exactly does that mean?

Justin: We like riffs alot, we like heavy riffs, we try and incorporate as many heavy riffs as we can, we like to think of them as doomy. My vocal style has morphed into a more morbid operatic feel so thats where the first part comes from. In all we are a pop band, we write pop songs with choruses, doom pop!

PPJ: You guys are still unsigned, so you're putting out your debut alone. What has that been like?

Justin: It has been alot of hard work, we developed everything on our own, did all of our own marketing, all our own promotion, the last two months before the release were insanely difficult and busy especially for me, but to have a final product in our hands is an outstanding feeling.

PPJ: Is there promise of a signing announcement anytime soon?

Justin: There is no promise of that sorts, we made up our own label though, C. Walrus.

PPJ: 2*Sweet has a heavy presence on all kinds of social networking sites. How much time do you guys spend on those pages? Do you think it makes your fanbase tighter?

Justin: We spend a good deal of time promoting, networking and communicating on the internet, it's awesome to us that people want to reach out to us like that, we spend as much time as we need to, doing our own promotion has been a very personal process for us. I absolutely believe it helps to make the fanbase tighter, we are a very hands on, extremely accessible band, I believe that it is very important to do so. We have a brand new video upload feed on our myspace, we post and respond to messages daily, on tour it gets slow but we make it work.

PPJ: You've got a relentless touring schedule with The Appreciation Post this summer. What are you most looking forward to on this tour?

Justin: We are on tour with The Appreciation Post right now, we get along with these dudes so well, I am most looking forward to grilling as much as possible this summer, grilling and swimming, that is summer!

PPJ: Tell us one thing about each 2*Sweet band member that people probably don't know.

Justin: I am a vegan. Dave is straightedge. Pete is a shredlord. Andy is a beat maker. Dan is a wolf enthusiast.

PPJ: What are your plans after your summer tour is over?

Justin: More tours, demoing new songs, more tours, more tours, more songs, more tours, working on a dvd, working on a cartoon, more touring and repeat.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Justin: Three bands you should be listening to; two of which we are touring with this summer: Fireworks (from Michigan), This Time Next Year (from Cali), Debello (from Chicago). Also listen to Down.

Don't forget to pick up 2*Sweet's debut CD, Sleep Without Dreams, when you catch their tour with The Appreciation Post. Thanks again to Justin for answering these questions, and to Mike Cubillos at Earshot Media for arranging the interview.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Girl Talk 5.3.08

Girl Talk played at Hollins University last night. The opening acts were Ced Hughes and Kid A.

Since the crowd was rather small (about 200 people), Gregg Gillis took his table and laptops off the stage and set them on the floor and played in the middle of the crowd, while people danced on the stage. The show was one huge dance party. Gillis' show was impeccable - he kept the crowd moving and excited about every song. He played a good deal of new material from his upcoming album, and it's looking like he'll have another Night Ripper on his hands.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Chris Pureka 4.10.08

Chris Pureka returned to my school last night to play "Rock The Stacks" during our Spring Previews weekend. She played here last spring, and I was excited to see her return since I missed last year's performance.

Generally, I am not a fan of female folk music. I don't like the prevailing vocal style or the similar guitar work that the women use. However, Pureka has won me over with her beautiful singing voice, intense lyrics, and engaging banter.

She played for an hour and a half, drawing songs from her multiple albums and threw in a Bruce Springsteen cover ("I'm On Fire") for good measure. She cracked jokes inbetween all her songs. It was a bit odd to jump from banter to songs - the vast majority of Pureka's catalog is extremely depressing. In fact, she joked that the last song she played was the only happy one in her repertoire. She talked about how a friend sums up indie music by saying her record didn't go platinum, but rather went rusty can. She read aloud a letter she received asking her to try out for Miss Massachusetts. She kept the audience in stitches - if she hadn't, we might have all been in tears by the end of it due to her lyrics.

Her performance was near perfect - the acoustics in the library are perfect for this kind of performance. Pureka is a gifted guitarist, and her gravelly vocals complement her subject matter very nicely. Overall, it was a pleasant, low-key evening - one I wasn't particularly expecting to enjoy but ended up loving.

A handful of other photos can be seen here.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter recommendations.

This Will Destroy You.
I actually avoided listening to this band because I assumed they were hardcore or metal. Just goes to show that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover - they're an instrumental post-rock band.
For Fans Of: Explosions In The Sky, Caspian, God Is An Astronaut

She & Him.
This is the result of a collaboration between M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel. Deschanel actually has a very pretty voice, and these songs are delicately beautiful.
For Fans Of: Coconut Records, Tegan And Sara, Bon Iver

The Hush Sound.
This Illinois group just released their third album, Goodbye Blues. It's a wonderful record that may even top their previous recordings.
For Fans Of: Straylight Run, Rilo Kiley, Eisley

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rosematter - Shooter's Gonna Choke

Rosematter - Shooter's Gonna Choke
Record Label - Oort Records
Release Date - October 23, 2007

Okay, time to be honest: I used to be a ska kid. Less Than Jake, Suburban Legends, Save Ferris...I loved it all. To this day, the opening horns of "Come On Eileen" can still get me up and dancing. I think that's why I'm as curious about Rosematter as I am - it sounds like the stuff I grew up on, minus the brass section. That may be a bit of an oversimplification, but you get the idea. Subtract the horns and replace it with a bit of the intensity that Paramore used to have, and you've got yourself Shooter's Gonna Choke.

Lead singer Katie Kolos wastes no time exploding to the front of the track on "Decadence Is Freedom With A Smile." She's backed by pounding drums and thick guitars that complement her vocal style well. Rosematter keeps the songs short and sweet, exactly the way high energy rock should be. The drums on "I Bet She Gives Great Helmet" pave the way for crowd interaction: clapping, jumping, and moshing made easy.

Rosematter have perfected the art of mixing upbeat music with downtrodden lyrics, which are probably best showcased in "Your Mom Doesn't Count As A Fan, Jesse:"

and you are pressing all my buttons / and throwing these colors at me / feeding off my failure / and I am trying to keep my composure / my blue eyes are turning green / but you will never see

The Pennsylvania-based band also often turns their eyes to the west coast, as they do in the beautiful "Fool Me Once, Strike One. Fool Me Twice, Strike Three:"

behind the wheel I am the only one with my eyes open / to witness the Pacific Coast Highway / stretch to become a breathtaking symphony for the soul

This song in particular shows similarities to bands like The Forecast in tempo and vocal style. it also nicely displays the band's versatility in lyrical subjects. On the flip side of that, however, the band doesn't slow down for any of the tracks - every one of them pummels the listener just as hard as the previous one. On one hand, none of these songs would work as ballads, but I'd like to see what other directions they can go in before they pigeonhole themselves. On the other hand, they seem to have no shortage of heavy hitting riffs or choral hooks, even when it comes to ass late in the album as "Being Brave Usually Means Having Your Adult Teeth Knocked Right Out."

"Pull A Fievel And Go West" uses some gang vocals, but they are placed rather far back in the mix. I think Rosematter could use gang vocals to their advantage, seeing how much their music already lends to crowd participation. The last song, "I Drink To Prepare For A Fight (Tonight I'm Very Prepared)," features the most graphic of their lyrics, and is thus one of the more powerful songs. The pop culture references and vivid imagery throughout the album is one of Rosematter's strongest points, and it all comes together nicely in this final track.

Rosematter intrigues me because their influences reach so far back, and at the same time, I am interested to see where they will be going in the future.

01. Decadence Is Freedom With A Smile
02. I Bet She Gives Great Helmet *
03. I Don't Cheat, I Get Results
04. Fool Me Once, Strike One. Fool Me Twice, Strike Three *
05. Do Re Egon
06. Chuck Norris Jokes Aren't Funny Anymore
07. Anyone Who Hates John Hinckley Doesn't Understand True Love
08. Your Mom Doesn't Count As A Fan, Jesse
09. Being Brave Usually Means Having Your Adult Teeth Knocked Right Out
10. Pull A Fievel And Go West
11. I Drink To Prepare For A Fight (Tonight I'm Very Prepared) *

* - standout tracks

For Fans Of: Paramore, The Forecast, Kenotia

Listen: MySpace | PureVolume

Buy: iTunes | Amazon