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.