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!

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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.

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