Archive for the ‘artist to watch’ Category

Kate Miller-Heidke

October 24, 2009

Fearless. That was the word that kept coming up when Kate Miller-Heidke was dreaming up her second album. Fun was another one. The fact that she dared to dream either while her 2007 debut Little Eve was still ringing loud and clear suggests a couple more F-words. Forward. And Fast.

“We had no songs,” she says. “What we had was a huge burst of inspiration. We went into this album with a vision. We mapped out how we wanted it to sound; the aesthetic, the spirit of it. Experimental, hooky, unashamedly pop… we wanted to exploit everything that’s unique about my music.”

She had a tough act to follow. After a trilogy of EPs from ’04 to ’06 – Telegram, Comikaz and Circular Breathing – Little Eve burst onto the scene to land in the upper reaches of the ARIA charts and earned the singer a host of accolades. The album went Gold and clocked up four ARIA nominations.

But her sophomore set Curiouser, which began to take shape on a holiday in Laos shared by Miller-Heidke and her partner and guitartist/songwriter Keir Nuttall, brought the dream to brilliant life. Radiating a newfound sense of mutual certainty, Curiouser immediately struck a chord with fans and critics when it was released in October 2008. The Gold-selling album earned itself another F-word: the first album of Miller-Heidke’s to be an iTunes #1 and storm into the ARIA Top 10 Albums chart.

Impressively, it’s the wonderfully unself-conscious yet accomplished songwriting that takes both Curiouser and Miller-Heidke to the next level. Remarkably, it’s also the first time she’s opened herself up to collaboration – here, working closely with Nuttall – and the results are inspiring.
“Songwriting was always too personal and I felt too self-conscious to collaborate,” Kate says. “But after a certain point, I just lost my inhibitions and I didn’t care. We got into a groove where we bring out the best of each other. These songs are better than anything we’d written individually before.”

Recording with Los Angeles producer Mickey Petralia (Beck, Peaches, eels, Dandy Warhols), who had the right mix of humour, enthusiasm and weird old electronic stuff to offer the new tunes, Miller-Heidke, Nuttall, bassist Ben McCarthy and drummer Steve Pope spent two months crafting Curiouser. With his strict 4pm to 4am shifts (with no days off), Petralia’s studio wizardry turned out to be the perfect galvanising force for Miller-Heidke’s and and Nuttall’s carefully detailed home demos.

“To me,” she says, “it sounds like a modern album, a forward-looking album.” To everyone else, however, it sounds like one of the best Australian records in recent memory – a set embraced by an enthusiastic audience and one lauded with critical acclaim.

“Can’t Shake It”, possibly the world’s first booty-swinging tune about a booty that just won’t swing, was the first taste of Curiouser and one eagerly devoured by a growing fan base. It became the most-added track to radio upon release and gave Miller-Heidke her first Top 40 single. The icing on the cake was its nomination for the 2009 APRA Song of the Year.
Meanwhile, a very different song, “Caught In The Crowd” – a double-fisted tug of heartstrings between the gently tootling texture of the music and the recognisably real story of lingering childhood regret – shot to greater heights. Miller-Heidke made history as the first Australian to win the prestigious International Songwriting Competition grand prize, with “Caught In The Crowd” handpicked from more than 17,000 entries to woo judges including Tom Waits, The Cure’s Robert Smith, Neil Finn and The Kinks’ Ray Davies. The song shone with heart and soul – something indicative of Curiouser, even in its most fun and playful moments.

“Songs had to either have heart and be really emotionally affecting or have a sense of fun or wit about them. If a song didn’t meet either of those criteria it was out. I’ve written songs in the past that don’t fit those two categories and those are the songs I kind of get sick of. They don’t seem to have much potency after a while,” Miller-Heidke adds.

Then, one such emotionally affecting moment, “The Last Day On Earth”, ideally surmised the universally resonating power of Curiouser. A beautifully compelling tune, which perfectly captures the indestructible power of love in the most fragile and finite surrounds, it was viewed a phenomenal 200,000 times on YouTube in just four weeks, going on to sell Gold and becoming Miller-Heidke’s first #1 ARIA single.

It also cemented the Brisbane native’s status as one of the country’s finest artists. Building on the unique vocal and performance dynamics learnt through early operatic training and a love of musical theatre, Miller-Heidke’s shows are as affecting, fun and memorable as her songs. And thanks to word-of-mouth renown through her Little Eve tours, Miller-Heidke is now right at home on stage in large rooms filled to the with her ever-growing hoard of devotees. It’s been an incredible journey for an artist whose dream of an album came from such a, well, curious origin.
“Mickey thought Curiouser was a noun, something that made you more curious,” Miller-Heidke says. “That’s what made up my mind about the title. Wouldn’t it be great if people listened to this album and it made them curiouser?”


October 23, 2009

At 24 years old, Orianthi has already experienced what most aspiring musicians only dream of. She’s opened for her hero (Steve Vai), backed an Idol (Carrie Underwood), traded solos with a legend (Carlos Santana) and shared the stage with the King of Pop (Michael Jackson). What’s left to conquer? The world stage, for one, and this guitar wunderkind has her sights clearly set on the road ahead.

After a performance with Carrie Underwood on stage at the 2009 Grammy Awards the blogosphere was buzzing with news of this little-known guitar prodigy. It prompted Michael Jackson to call with an offer for her to be his guitarist for his dates at the O2 Arena in London. When offered the gig in Michael Jackson’s live band, Orianthi joined a prestigious line of guitar players including Eddie Van Halen, Santana, Slash, Steve Stevens, Jennifer Batten and Larry Carlton. Sadly the tour was not to be and music lost an icon. “Working with Michael was a life-changing experience,” Orianthi reflects, “One I will never forget.”

Her story starts in Adelaide on the southern tip of Australia where, at the age of six, Orianthi began taking an interest in her dad’s record collection. “Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Cream, Santana… he was into guitar players that are real songwriters,” she boasts. Growing up in the 80s, a decade remembered for its many guitar greats, Orianthi also listened to a lot of Whitesnake, Van Halen and Def Leppard. Her father, who used to be a player in a Greek band, also kept plenty of instruments around the house, and it didn’t take long before Orianthi strummed her first chord. Mastering the six-string came naturally.

“When I was 11, Carlos Santana came to play Adelaide and that show really affected me,” she recounts. “I begged my dad to get me a second hand electric guitar so I could be like Carlos, and that was it, no more acoustic. After that, I would buy all of Carlos’ videos — on VHS! — which I kept rewinding to try and learn his solos. I totally wore out the tapes.”

Some seven years later when Carlos Santana passed through Adelaide again Carlos’ brother arranged a sound-check meeting between the guitar god and his young disciple after hearing some of her music. A sound check jam evolved into an invitation to join him on stage where Orianthi played for about 35 minutes and took a solo in front of a hometown crowd. Performances, tours and guest appearances with Steve Vai, ZZ Top and Prince have kept Orianthi busy up to this point.

But guitar is far from Orianthi’s only means of expression. Before she received the call from the King of Pop, Orianthi had already been hard at work on her upcoming album, Believe, on which she sings, writes and leads her own band. Working with Geffen Records Chairman and A&R veteran Ron Fair and producer Howard Benson (All American Rejects, Daughtry, My Chemical Romance, Three Days Grace) her fierceness of character has made its way to songs that will simply knock the socks off of any boy in the rock star schoolyard.

Orianthi packs modern girl-power punch into every turn of phrase, but it’s the shredding that takes her brand of rock to an entirely new level. Songs like “Suffocated” and “Think Like A Man” are anthemic rock tracks recalling at time Evanescence, Avril Lavigne, Paramore and even a less-music row more-sunset strip Taylor Swift. First single “According To You” is a catchy tale of an ungrateful boyfriend with a killer guitar solo. The result: a thunderous, hook and riff driven debut that sounds larger than life. If, for a moment, you’ve thought the music world could use another taste of The Runaways’ Joan Jett, let us introduce you to Orianthi.

Love And Theft

October 20, 2009

The story of Love and Theft has been a steady stream of magic moments:

— Developing a distinct sound with three equally and uniquely talented singers, where each member shares lead vocal duties and join together for harmonies that explode on the chorus;

— Their three-song showcase for representatives of the performing rights organization ASCAP ended with many in the room pulling out cell phones to tell friends at record labels, “You’ve got to hear this band before someone signs them!”

— After making the rounds with a few labels in Nashville, the band performed a 3-song showcase in the offices of Lyric Street/Carolwood Records for A&R chief Doug Howard who immediately declared, “You should have never made it to my office…you should have already been signed! Please don’t play for anyone else,” and the label quickly moved to sign the band

— After Taylor Swift heard the trio’s music, she brought them on board as an opening act for her headlining concerts in ’08

— Audiences at those and other shows have been swept away at first listen by the trio’s soaring harmonies and on-stage charisma, standing in line for up to three hours after the show for a chance at an autograph and to meet the band.

The magic behind those episodes has been apparent since Stephen Barker Liles, Eric Gunderson and Brian Bandas first sang together. During an early rehearsal, they worked up the harmonies for “Drowning,” a poignant song about loss and hope.

“When all three of our voices came in together on the chorus,” says Stephen, “I got chills.”

“There was obvious chemistry from the beginning,” adds Brian, “personality-wise and musically. The harmonies blended effortlessly and immediately. That was when we were like, ‘OK. We’ve got something here. We need to stick with this and make it a priority.”

Others quickly came on board–seldom does a new act find people both inside and outside the industry signing on so quickly and eagerly as fans and supporters. The secret, if there was one, was the patience with which Stephen, Brian and Eric developed their sound.

“We rehearsed for six months before we ever felt like we wanted to take our music out in front of people,” says Stephen.

“We wanted to spend time writing music,” adds Eric, “and making sure we had the right songs to showcase our vocals and make our harmonies stand out.”

That approach and their undeniable talent — all three are also strong songwriters who wrote or co-wrote every song on their debut album –threw open doors that normally give way slowly in Nashville, launching the young trio toward the national spotlight.

Stephen, Eric and Brian met not long after each arrived in Nashville, and their backgrounds bonded them as strongly as their love of music. Each was born in 1984, first sang in church and developed an affinity for harmonies at a young age.

Stephen grew up in Palm Harbor, Florida, exposed to a great deal of early gospel and contemporary Christian music. He was a fan of Michael W. Smith and Elvis early on. As a teenager, he expanded his tastes to include everything from Johnny Cash to MxPx and has always loved the music of Tim McGraw and George Strait. He was on scholarship as the Head Student Assistant for the University of South Florida Men’s Basketball team and intended to coach college ball after graduation. While traveling with the team he would bring his guitar and write songs, but it wasn’t until reaching the state finals of the Colgate Country Showdown in his third year of college that he realized “music was where I was supposed to be.” With his decision made, Stephen left college to pursue his dreams in Nashville.

Eric, raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, picked up an appreciation for Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison from his grandfather, who played banjo in bluegrass bands, and for the Eagles and Beatles from his father. He went on yearly mission trips to Romania throughout his childhood and realized early on “I didn’t really want to grow up and have a normal job.” He began writing songs and played in bands while at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. In Nashville, Eric got a job playing bass on a six-week college tour. When the singer dropped out at the last minute, Eric was forced to fulfill the dates, so he hired a percussionist and toured singing his own songs. That went so well he realized his days as a sideman were over.

Brian was surrounded by music from birth and comes from a long line of accomplished musicians, including a grandfather and uncle who were noted jazz players. Growing up in Austin, Texas, he started playing piano after listening to Michael W. Smith then later began playing acoustic music, writing music and eventually started his own band after hearing the Goo Goo Dolls. Both an athlete and a musician, he showed up at Tuesday night open mic nights with his basketball warm-ups on after high school games. When his parents talked to him about his options in life after his second year of college, he jumped at their mention of Nashville and took off on what he viewed as “both an adventure and a life calling.”

Their obvious chemistry enabled them to forge a distinctive three-way sound.

“We consciously decided not any one of us would be the lead singer,” says Eric. “We all rotate singing lead, and see where the harmonies fall most naturally. In most songs, each of us will sing a different verse or the bridge. Then, our signature is that big three-part harmony on the chorus. It doesn’t really matter who’s singing lead or who’s singing harmony. Somehow it just works.”

“Love and Theft,” adds Brian, “is in this really comfortable place that lands right in the middle of all three of us and makes us all really satisfied with what we’re doing.”

Once they had their label deal, they signed with O-Seven Artist Management and began working with producers Robert Ellis Orral and Jeff Coplan on their debut album. In capturing the energy and incredible harmonies they bring to their live performances, the project introduces country fans to one of the freshest new acts to emerge in years. Underpinning it all is an authenticity that resonates with audiences everywhere.

“We believe,” says Brian, “that the most impactful music is written from a personal place, which is the way we approach it. The priority for us is to write something people are really going to connect with. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

“Lyrically,” adds Eric, “we feel like rawness and authenticity is a real driving force behind this band.”

“Nothing beats country songwriting,” says Stephen, summing it up for his brothers-in-song. “That’s as real as it gets and that’s why we’re here. We love what it represents and we want to carry it forward.”

Hotel St. George

October 18, 2009

Hotel St. George is a four-piece band from San Diego, but you would think they were the neighbors of English bands like Artic Monkeys or The Cribs with their catchy guitar rhythms and their quick, and equally catchy lyrics. The band formed in late November 2007, after a chance meeting between singer/guitarist Matt Binder and bassist/guitarist Erik Visnyak. As a guest at Matt’s Thanksgiving Party, Erik proceeded to spill an entire glass of red wine on Matt’s borrowed Wurlitzer Piano.

After a sincere apology and some chit chatting, the two decided to form a band, enlisting Erik’s pal Simon Leader to play the drums and guitarist Brian Reilly. Two months later they recorded their first EP titled Yippee!!!, a simple, but fun collection of songs reminiscent of early British Invasion. The song ‘Watch Out, It’s the Blues’ won a SPIN Magazine contest and became a feature song in the new video game MLB 2K10. The release earned them two nominations at the San Diego Music Awards, including Best New Band and Best Alternative Album.

The band followed up Yippee!!! with their second release titled Hundreds & Thousands. Where Yippee!!! was written mostly by Brian and Erik, H&T’s songs were written almost exclusively by singer Matt Binder. Less poppy and predictable, the new album was richer in maturity and texture. A lack of money and time for touring led them straight back into writing. The next record City Boy Lemon was by far the boys’ most collaborative to date. The record got picked up by LA based label, This Is Tightrope. The album was released August 2009 for vinyl/digital download only. With only 500 copies of the vinyl in existence, each copy was hand silk screened by a member of the band. The new album will be featured in the second season of the hit MTV show “The City.”

The boys are now hard at work on their fourth record, tentatively titled Fun Shine Line. Though Hotel St. George is predominately a guitar band, the new album is heavy in keyboards and bass synthesizer. While we won’t see a release until 2010, the band is confident in the album’s new direction.

Beatnik Castle

October 16, 2009

Bay Area psychedelic pop duo Francillia and Quincy B – collectively known as Beatnik Castle, released their stunning debut cd maxi-single “Will U B Mine?” in spring 2009. CD Maxi-single features mixes from internationally known remixers Cato K, Lenny B and, of course, Quincy B. The single is currently getting airplay on over 100 dance/mix radio stations across the country, including XM/Sirius BPM and 16 radio stations in Europe, including the UK and Germany, as well as Australia and South America. The Bay Area’s hottest musical duo was recently added to Clear Channel’s New Discover/Uncover nationwide artist roster, including local station 95.7 The Beat and the single has over 15,000 spins! Also set for release later this year is both an audio and video unplugged acoustic performance (featuring “Will U B Mine?” and five songs from Francillia’s 2010 solo CD “Temptation”) and the much-anticipated music video for “Will U B Mine?”

Since signing with promoter DJ Harry F. Towers of DEET Promotions in March 2009, Francillia and Quincy have been extremely busy – performing at the Winter Music Conference in Miami, Urban Music Awards in New York, the grand opening of Club Q-S.I.N.Y. in Staten Island, as well as personal appearances at local dance clubs, art exhibits, fashion shows, charity events, as well as performing their unique dance/club songs “unplugged” at coffee shops and private parties as well.

Written and produced by Quincy, “Will U B Mine?” was originally released in 2008 by Scovill Avenue, yet another unrecognized Bay Area gem whose 2008 Mad Monk, LTD CD “Big House” amazingly garnered seven Grammy nods from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Committee last year, including the coveted categories “Record of the Year,” “Album of the Year,” and “Song of the Year”. Incidentally, “Will U B Mine?” in its original version, was in the Grammy category “Dance Single of the Year” as well. In 2007, Beatnik Castle’s Mad Monk label mates Peasants of Posture had four different songs nominated in four different categories for the 2008 Grammy Awards. All nominated songs were written, arranged, and produced (and, in some cases, performed) by Mr. Quincy B. himself! US Virgin Islands born singer Francillia not only is a US Army veteran but a current member of the active reserves.

In addition to his duties with Beatnik Castle, Mr. Scovill is continuously busy. Though his priority is collaborating and co writing his unique brand of hard-edge psychedelic hippie trippy metallic hop-pop for Francillia’s solo CD “Temptation” (which features a cover of a 1971 Alice Cooper classic!), he’s working on a doom/death hip hop/rap project and Blind Granny’s Euro-techno debut CD-release.


Adelitas Way

October 15, 2009

Rick DeJesus – vocal
Chris Iorio – lead guitar
Keith Wallen – guitar
Trevor Stafford – drums
Derek Johnston – bass

“Invincible,” the edgy, empowering rocker that kicks off the self-titled debut from Adelitas Way is also an apt description for singer Rick DeJesus’ undaunted focus and determination. Born and raised in a rough Philly neighborhood, he saw family members in jail and on drugs, and a friend shot in the head and killed by drug dealers. Rick’s future was likewise bleak — “my friends were carrying guns, selling drugs, doing drugs, leading reckless lives. I knew I was going to pay the consequences,” Rick acknowledges. So, in 2005, grasping for any escape, on a dare Rick auditioned for a VH1 show that would take him to Los Angeles. With no idea what he was in for, in short succession Rick appeared on the VH1 show ‘Strip Search,” then ended up in Vegas, living in his car for three months, doing anything to make ends meet. “Anything” included the “American Storm” show at the Rivera. Rick calls his short stint in the revue “a rock moment. I was young, poor and crazy… and it beat robbing people.” It also allowed him the means to focus on the anthemic, potent hard modern rock that would become the calling card of Adelitas Way. Rick’s compelling personal dramas are channeled into his performances — and every dynamic note on Adelitas Way. The heartfelt, radio-ready songs, captured by Grammy-nominated producer Johnny K (Disturbed, Plain White T’s, 3 Doors Down), Adelitas Way, range from the sexy romp of ‘Dirty Little Thing” to the emotionally charged rock anthem of “Last Stand” to the classic mid-tempo rocker “Scream.”

Rick is joined by kindred spirits in the Las Vegas-based quintet. First to join Adelitas Way was Iorio, a high school senior who credits his “rock & roll parents” with getting him a guitar at 7, and turning him on to KISS, Ted Nugent and Van Halen. His style is a mix of ‘70s rock with modern flair, and he notes: “I like Slash and Randy Rhoads—both bluesy and ‘shreddy’ styles.” Trevor Stafford, an in-demand tour and studio drummer, was on Ozzfest with the band Shuvel at 17, and is a fan of System of a Down, Primus, and grunge. A Huntington Beach, California native, he moved to Vegas to be in the band full time. The final puzzle pieces are New York-bred bassist Derek Johnston and West Virginia native guitarist Keith Wallen, who joined after the record was complete. They both bring indie, hardcore and classic rock influences to the Adelitas Way stew.

Trevor gives major props to Rick for getting Adelitas Way shows with artists like Chris Cornell, Hinder and Tantric, and generating the huge industry buzz that ended with the band signing to Virgin. “I played with a lot of people,” says Trevor, “but never anyone like Rick; his work ethic is out-of-control amazing.” Rick and Trevor have more than rock in common. Determined to rise above the chaos of his existence in Philly, Rick graduated high school with a 3.7 GPA and went to college for three years, playing college baseball. Likewise, Trevor earned a partial baseball scholarship, but, like Rick, ultimately chose music. It wasn’t until Rick was 18 and snuck into a bar for an acoustic night, singing in front of 60 people for first time ever (and getting a standing ovation), that he thought, ‘hey, I might not suck!’” Now they’re team players in Adelitas Way, Rick’s winning personality and dogged work growing the band’s reputation one fan at a time, literally. “Every second of my life was focused on music. I bought nothing for the first year doing music in Vegas. I wore the same shirt every day. I handed a demo to every person I saw, and that’s how the mystique began. If I was in Walmart, Dunkin’ Donuts… I probably handed out 6,000 demos. So our first show we drew 900 kids at the Rainbow Bar.”

Rick and the band (in a different lineup) sold 10,000 self-titled records under their own steam, “Move On” earning #1 song accolades in 2006 on Vegas rock station KOMP. Regional tours further honed their reputation as a powerful live act, solidifying Rick as a charismatic frontman who wrote songs that exorcised and explored the demons of his past. Their songs, like “Scream,” written in a scummy Memphis motel room, are a whole-band effort. Rick’s lyrics are at once introspective, compassionate, unflinching and inspiring. On “Invincible,” a band favorite, Rick explains, “I was going for that ‘Incredible Hulk’ feeling; a song that pumps you up, a crowd-pleaser. It’s about our attitude: I’m not going to let anyone stand in the way of my dreams.”

One of the band’s most-asked questions is their name. Rick, the consummate storyteller on and offstage, relates a great true tale. During a band road trip to LA, they took a detour to San Diego, and when Rick woke up from a nap in the back of the band truck, they were getting arrested in Mexico. Corrupt cops robbed the band, but Rick secreted away a little cash in his socks. Freaked out, the band went to the first bar they saw in Tijuana to have a beer and calm their nerves. It was the Adelita Bar. “There were a bunch of young, really pretty girls and I realized it was basically a brothel,” explains Rick. “I chatted with one girl, questioning why she was living this life? And I wrote a song about it. The band name emerged from the sad stories behind the ‘Way’ they lived at the Adelita—Adelitas Way. As a songwriter,” Rick continues, “I’m very emotional, I put myself in people’s shoes a lot and live vicariously. My songs are about true situations.” That’s reflected in their well rounded and timeless album. For instance, “All Fall Down” is about Rick’s headspace before he left the mean streets of Philly. “Before I moved, everything was gloomy and depressing. But as a kid, your only concern was what you were going to be for Halloween, or get for Christmas. So the song is about how you should have savored those moments. I took things for granted.”

In 2009, with the rising success of Adelitas Way, Rick takes nothing for granted, and some days, feels lucky just to be alive. As teenage guitarist Chris observes, “we made it this far by hard work and nickel-and-dimeing it, vans breaking down in the middle of the desert, the whole bit. It took a while to find this ideal lineup, where we all want the same thing. And everything finally feels right.”

Dare 2B Dif’rnt

October 15, 2009

Dare 2B Dif’rnt is a co-ed act that consists of Debra Torres and Paulie D. They both hail from Staten Island, New York and got together in 1993. Paulie had studio time booked for himself and Lisa Gonzalez known as Split Dis. They were to record a cover of the Machine disco classic “There But For The Grace Of God.” They chose this song because the original made waves with its reference to a place with “No blacks, no Jews, no Gays.” They wanted to flip the line to make it a positive one by replacing that line with “No crack, no crime, no A.I.D.S.”

They felt in a small way they could affect the world in a positive way. However on the day of the studio appointment Lisa had to back out of the act due to some long term dental work that she didn’t realize would affect her pronunciation of certain words. Debra Torres was Lisa’s cousin and since she knew the tune and happened to be there hanging out, volunteered to do it. Debra and Paulie worked together so well that they decided to make it permanent and changed their name to Dare 2B Dif’rnt. That studio effort became the “B” side of their debut ZYX release in 1994 called “A World Of Love.”

“A World Of Love” scored number one placements on the International Hi-NRG Chart in DMA Magazine and in Streetsound Magazine on the Canadian Dance Chart. It was also a Sales Breakout in Billboard Magazine. “A World Of Love” was also licensed to Indo China where it still appears on compilations today in it’s original version. This single led to many gigs, the first of which found them performing with KC & The Sunshine Band!

They followed up “A World Of Love” with a cover of the Melissa Etheridge hit “Come To My Window.” Where the first one established them in the clubs, this one went straight to radio, going top 10 on the Hitmakers Mix Show Chart and garnering enough airplay, (particularly in Texas) that the group popped up as Chartbound in the Billboard Radio Monitor. Performances in clubs such as the Rock Island in San Antonio for KTFM, the Sound Factory in San Francisco for the Billboard Dance Music Summit and Sanctuary in Miami for the Winter Music Conference followed and they soon became a hot live act. Both of these singles were produced by B Squared D Productions which was made up of Billy and Walter Brandt who went onto success as part of the group Seven & The Sun on Atlantic Records (“Walk With Me”) and Guiseppe D. (Celine Dion, N-Sync, Michael Jackson), who still remains one of the hottest remixer/ producers in the dance business.

ZYX released as their third single a white label extended mix of the Tony Moran produced “Live Without Your Love.” At that very time their A&R guy and Promotion man at ZYX, Harry Frank Towers left to do the same job at Popular Records and the new A&R man Kevin Doyle was more interested in bringing in his own acts than working with the artists already signed to the company. A commercial release of that extended version of “Live Without Your Love” was never to be even though the single was an out the box add on the radio in Chicago on Energy 88. Debra and Paul started proceedings to get a release from ZYX to join Harry at Popular but the proceedings took a bit longer than Debra was willing to wait so she left to pursue a career as an Emergency Medical Technician with the New York City Fire Department.

For the next couple of years Debra and Paulie toyed with the idea of coming back, the events of September 11th 2001 made that a possibility. Debra is a member of the FDNYEMS. So when the Twin Towers fell she was called to the scene and remained there for many months searching through the rubble for her friends and also working in the morgue at Ground Zero. She eventually came to the decision that rerecording “A World Of Love” would be a positive statement and help her get through one of the most difficult experiences anybody could ever go through. They were positive that this was the right move after they heard from Lexington, Kentucky disc jockey Marvin Collett who told them that after 9/11 he ended each evening with the original “A World Of Love” as he wanted to send people out into the world with a positive feeling at such a difficult time. In 2003 “A World Of Love” was remixed by Guiseppe D. and came out on Cetacean Records. It became a top 15 mix show single and secured airplay in a number of markets of which KNRJ in Phoenix had it in gold rotation until they went off the air in 2009

Their next single “Please” was on the TVI subsidiary Sirenia Records (formerly Cetacean). “Please” was written by Paulie D. as a description of the day he moved out of the house to pursue life with his lover as a Gay man. This tune pays tribute musically as an Interpolation of the Bronski Beat single “Smalltown Boy.” It was produced by Chris “The Greek” with remixes from Chris Brophy from the UK, Liquid 360 and Guiseppe D. The Liquid 360 mix entitled “Mother May I,” has additional vocals by Bruce Donnally of Liquid 360. He added the first verse of “Smalltown Boy” and perfectly integrated it into the track to really nail home the connection between the two songs. “Please” was featured on “The Wedding Party” compilation raising money for Gay Rights and Same Sex Marriage Initiatives. It was released in July 2005 by the Tone 1 Music Group. Also Centaur Records licensed it for their Pride CD mixed by world reknown DJ and Splash NY resident Max Rodriguez which was released in June, 2006.

Their latest single, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” by Dare 2B Dif’rnt f/ Nancy Yvonne will be on the forthcoming full length Capp Release entitled “Best Of 80’s Dance.” Other cuts on the album are “Freeway Of Love” by Pepper MaShay, “I Can’t Wait” by Ohsha Kai, “Time After Time” by Rikah, “Be Near Me” by Ernest Kohl and “Magic” by Jacinta.


September 30, 2009

Written By: Steve Sawyer

Paulson has managed to be one of the few notable musicians besides Bon Jovi, to stumble out of New Jersey. Amidst a haze of glorious praise and an equally remarkable DIY attitude, they have netted themselves in a plethora of shows, untold amounts of street cred, and respect among their fans and peers. But unlike Bon Jovi, and New Jersey alike, they’ve also managed to avoid being repetitive or creatively barren, while doing it for 8 years to boot. That’s quite a long time.

Time is a complex, and nefarious thing for music, and musicians in general. Time treats most musicians with the same regard as wine. A wild experiment that is dependent on the virtues of patience, dedication, and most of all creativity. If you are one of the few musicians that manages to stand the test of it all, you will have a catalog that sheds light on the birth of your idea, evolution, and ultimate maturity. But at the same time, just like wine… music can fall victim to any number of factors that would serve to make the end result bitter, sometimes with very little sweet to fall back on.

So it’s no surprise that when we find something that breaks the barriers of mediocrity, we do one of two things. We either run to the phone (or whatever your preferred method of communication is) and tell every single person on our contact list. Or you clutch it to your chest, and hope that no one else learns of your discovery, for fear that the band will somehow be poisoned by fame and recognition; or that the music that you love and cherish so dearly, will never be the same.

The fear isn’t without merit. Most bands lauded with critical praise don’t make it past a second album without any casualties. Whether it be fans that are left confused by a change in sound, or critics that are perplexed by the evolution… no one involved ever really seems to be pleased by progress.

It’s odd then that Paulson is able to do it so well and without having to do much in the way of damage control. They started as a melodic post hardcore band from the seemingly always overflowing sea of talent that is the east coast hardcore scene. While they managed to established a fan base, and carve out a comfortable DIY niche within the scene, they weren’t content to settle creatively. They managed to include elements of new wave and pop, and still avoided the pitfalls of sugar coated nonsensical lyrics, or worse, taking themselves far too seriously. With their EP “Ridiculous Engine” Paulson managed to both establish themselves, and their sound. Heavy bouts of screaming post hardcore noise was often suddenly replaced by delicate fuzzy synth grooves and catchy melodies. It made for an amazingly catchy collection of tunes for the disenchanted and dance prone.

But, where most bands would just plod through their own repertoire, Paulson took the extra time to grow and expand. So it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise that their second release (and first official album) “Variations” not only managed to escape the dreaded Sophomore Slump but completely blew their first body of work out of the water. Even more interesting than the albums many twists and turns through both familiar and unfamiliar territories, was the fact that their fan base remained virtually nonplussed by their musical progression. No small feat unto itself when you keep it tucked in the back of your mind, that east coast scenesters are notoriously fickle. Maybe it was that the changes themselves were so subtle that most fans never noticed that they were listening to something far more complex than it’s individual components ever accomplished on their own. Or maybe, just maybe it was the fact that Paulson was, and remains an immensely talented band.

Their last release “All At Once” is very aptly named. It’s the culmination of a band that has been dedicated to creating something very different within a genre that has seen it’s share of silly archetypes. But they somehow still manage to avoid anything that comes close to self parody. In fact beyond that, they became incredibly important. Paulson represents some of the few things that are still right within music itself. All throughout the album Paulson pushes themselves. Whether it be the absolutely breathtaking, and at the same time sincerely haunting melodies that make the heartbreaking song “Voids”, or the amazing groove and energy of “Ultra High”. The album is never at a loss for ideas to play with, or sound to explore. It is constantly pushing the definition of their own sound, and expands on almost every single idea they have ever crafted. The resulting product is pretty amazing. Which just may explain why even through their third total reinvention in sound, their number of fans have remained largely unchanged.

It’s undoubtedly a sign of a great band that they have managed to take east coast hardcore kids, and get them singing along to infectiously sincere ballads about love and loss, without the horrendous lip gloss and eyeliner that seems to go hand in hand with such subject matter. And all the while they’ve done it without falling prey to themselves or the industry. Their work ethic, passion and music, is pretty much unquestionable at this point. And if their new song “No For an Answer” is any indicator of how their next album is shaping up, then with a little luck and a healthy amount of word of mouth, 2010 will most likely belong to a little Midtown New Jersey band named Paulson.

It will be about damn time too.

Enter Shikari

September 18, 2009

Common Dreads is the new album by St. Albans-based quartet Enter Shikari. It was born in a back garden shed in St. Albans after a mental two years (we’ll get to that in a minute) in the lives of these young men. Here, during summer 2008, in a bungalow dubbed The Low built in bassist Chris Batten’s parents’ back garden, the words and music came together

The band then moved to Arreton Manor, a studio amongst the remote and picturesque rolling moors of the Isle Of Wight with producer Andy Gray (who has not only worked with U2, Korn and Tori Amos, but penned that ubiquitous Big Brother theme music). In this the rural seclusion that seems totally odds with the apoplectic and articulate squall of Common Dreads, our four plucky young heroes created a squall of political protest handily disguised as a club bangers and mosh-pit epics. The end result is a soundtrack for an entire generation – one where the party is as important as the politics.

Some are already suggesting Common Dreads will come define the era into which it was born: one of recession, paranoia, state control and the fallout of decades of accelerated capitalism. But – and this is important – also an era of hope and creativity, humanity, hedonism, irreverence and fun. This revolution may not be televised, but it will certainly be amplified. Just check out lead single ‘Juggernauts’, a song that is already eating it’s way through Britain’s radios and sending all the other songs running for cover.

“Politics are unavoidable,” says singer Rou Reynolds. “We just can’t write sappy music. Personally I can’t write limp soulless songs about how lovely a girl is. If the first album was quite cryptic and metaphor-heavy, this one is more direct. Since we gained popularity we realised, whether we like it or not, we have the ability to influence people – and with that is a responsibility to speak our minds.”

And what are Common Dreads exactly? “They’re shared worries,” says Rou. “The things that concern people today on a global level – catastrophic climate change, wars, terror laws, CCTV society, modern imperialism and the affects of capitalism.”

All of this may come as a shock to those who had Enter Shikari pegged as nothing but a lurid new band for the misunderstood Skins / ‘Broken Britain’ generation. Wrong. They were always more than that. But let’s not get too distracted by the politics – ‘Zzzonked’ is pure head-stoving drum ‘n’ bass metal madness with a double side order of donk while ‘The Jester’ is a wry, jazz-infused chooon with a stomping cocksure klaxon of a melody designed to destroy festival crowds. lt’s an album for the late 00s, basically; a big, bold record bursting at the seams with ideas.

Let’s put all this into context for a moment. Enter Shikari (the name comes from a boat that belonged to singer Rou Reynolds’ uncle) formed in 2003 in the quaint and historical home counties town of St Albans, just near enough to London to know something exciting lurked beyond the horizon, but too far away to run headlong into it.

They spent their formative years forging a sound that audaciously melded hardcore punk with hardcore rave/trance. And while media scenesters down the road were harping on about the fictional nu rave scene, Enter Shikari were out there doing something much more exciting. Something that hit a nerve.

Remember those early shows? We do. We remember the sweat and the smiles, the laser beams and the elegiac choruses. We remember the blur of flashing Shikari cygnet rings as somersaulting fists pumped the air; we remember the surges of serotonin up the spine into the lower cortex. We remember looking at the crowds and thinking: holy shit – this is a generational thing! We remember Tony Wilson telling Seymour Stein to check out Enter Shikari – and we remember his reaction: “You’re not a band – you’re a revolution.”

And it was. And it still is. And then things got hectic. In summer 2006 Enter Shikari packed out the MySpace tent at Download festival on reputation alone, and by November of that year had become only the second ever unsigned band to sell out the London Astoria. Two sold nights at the Hammersmith Palais followed shortly afterwards.

This all happened away from the patronage of any of the big record labels. Enter Shikari did it themselves – the old way. The DIY punk way. Which is why, despite plenty of offers, they decided to release their debut album Take To The Skies on their own Ambush Reality imprint. When it cruised in at No. 4 it became one of the most successful self-released rock albums ever. That’s ever.

Accolades came thick and fast: the NME John Peel Award for Innovation in 2007, Kerrang! Awards (including Best Live Band), with sales of their debut now pushing 250,000 worldwide and frankly silly statistics, like the one about their single ‘Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’ having clocked up 6.3million plays on YouTube.

And so onto Common Dreads then, an album whose politicised ‘people power’ beginnings were inspired by the band joining fellow St Albans’ residents to fight against Tesco when the supermarket chain unveiled plans to build a big new store on a green patch of land. “It was the first time we actively got involved in something like that,” smiles Rou. “And, collectively, we won.”

Musically, there are still twists of Refused’s screamo punk in there, but also the everyday colloquial man-in-the-street chats of The Streets’ Mike Skinner and nods towards The Prodigy, the most pumpin’ drum & bass, the most euphoric of trance, Altern-8 and even some of the darkest of dubstep too. More than anything though Common Dreads is an album destined to unite the tribes, divide the critics and thoroughly satisfy anyone who has witnessed the mad live spectacle that is Enter Shikari.

“The main thing we stand for is unity,” concludes Rou. “Although it’s fair to say this is a political album, we’re aware that we don’t want to preach ideas – our only solution to today’s problems is to get together, share ideas and have fun. Because ultimately that’s the Enter Shikari way. You’re only young once, so positivity during dark times is as important to us as anything else.”

Q&A with Rou Reynolds – (lead vocals, keyboards/samples)

Your first album Take To The Skies–released on your own Ambush Reality label–debuted at #4 on the U.K. chart, becoming one of the most successful self-released rock albums ever. With your choice of major label offers in the U.K., why did you decide to release it on your own and what did you learn from it?

At the time, we didn’t really feel like we had a choice–we’d been touring for around two years properly without any press or label interest. We’d done everything along the way ourselves from the booking to the designing and printing of T-shirts to recording our demos. It was only as we released “Sorry You’re Not A Winner” that the interest suddenly boomed and by that time we realized we could do it ourselves with the help of the family we had built up around us. I’m glad it happened just as it did as I’d hate to be tied up in a major label deal now in this current era of uncertainty.

Your new album COMMON DREADS will be officially released in the U.S. in the Spring of 2010. For the U.S. release, you are partnering with DGC/Interscope. What made you decide to join forces with a major at this point?
We were lucky enough to get involved with a good crowd over there as there’s no way we could repeat the same rise in the U.S. as we did in the U.K. It’s obviously colossal in size compared to the U.K., so we knew we’d always need some help along the way and have to play a different game. Saying that, we have done a fair few tours now by ourselves– just playing the toilet circuit and it’s been really fun and still feels organic.

On COMMON DREADS, you teamed with producer Andy Gray (U2, Tori Amos, Korn, Gary Numan) and holed yourselves up in the isolated Isle of Wight. How did this work for you? What did you feel the result was for COMMON DREADS?

It was superb– it couldn’t have been more of an opposite experience from the recording of our first album. That was rushed down in two weeks and I’ve never been happy with the way the vocals sound. This time around, it was a conscious decision to get away for a few months and experiment. Andy (Gray) was wicked as well–he was up for anything from burning pianos (“Havoc B”) to breaking into churches and recording organs (“Fanfare”) to singing outdoors in boxers whilst it was snowing at 1:00AM to get that real ‘cold’ vibe (‘’All Eyes On The Saint’’). It was a real fun experience and I’m really proud of the result! COMMON DREADS really captures the live feel of the band and our vision.

Fusing such polar genres of music such as electronic and hardcore, how would you describe your music to someone who has never heard of you?

Good Music. There’s good music and bad music. That’s all.

What would you describe as the most powerful song to you on this album? Which new song do you really enjoy performing right now?

That’s a tough one–I’d probably have to go with “Fanfare.” It was all done pretty last minute, so I guess it came out as a final outpouring of frustration with both our countries’ aggressive foreign policies this past decade. I’m loving performing “Havoc B” at the moment–Chris pulls down some vicious sub bass to get the ground shaking and at the end hearing the crowd join in with the chanting creates such an unbelievable sense of unity.

What was it like growing up in St. Albans, England and how did it shape you as a musician?

St. Albans has always had a struggling, but thriving music scene. First getting into the local hardcore, punk and ska scenes was great, but as we got older we noticed the local Council really started coming down hard on gigs and local venues. We fought for years putting on shows at our local youth club, and they’d actually go to crazy lengths to try and pull our live shows. Ironically, it created a sense of community for our scene and everyone got involved to do what they could to keep it alive. It still happens to this day; the last time we did a homecoming the Council tried to pull it–luckily the local press were on our side and exposed them for how stupid and malicious they were being. Other than the music, St. Albans has a great Roman history and the most pubs per square mile in the U.K.!

You’ve performed at some of the most impressive festivals in the world including Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, Download Festival, Reading, Leeds, Summersonic and all of the major European festivals. What’s the difference between your festival performance and your club show?

Nothing really–we don’t really approach them any different. It’s just a longer run to get to the crowd at a festival which is always a bummer, but we get there.

What was the inspiration behind the song “Juggernauts?”

We campaigned to stop a local superstore giant here in the U.K. from building a store right in the center of our town. It was just a nice quaint victory that was really inspiring to see everyone getting involved. The song itself is about how important it is to feel involved and to have a sense of belonging to your community and how our current economic and social system actively discourages this.

Describe your worst night on tour, ever.

On our last U.S. tour our van broke down as we were leaving Philadelphia. We spent 12 hours in a Walmart car park with a mechanic trying to fix it from 1:00AM whilst right in the middle of a thunder storm. It was pretty horrendous. We had no sleep and had to miss our show the next day so we were totally gutted.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about ENTER SHIKARI in the United States?

Rob isn’t allowed in the States because he posted a box full of his own shit to Walmart’s Headquarters and there was consequently a bomb scare and the whole building was evacuated (joking).

Why is English food “as some people say” so bad?

Who needs good food when you have good beer and cider?

How would you define English food? It’s just a culmination of other cultures food really… oh no we have Trifle! Come on! Trifle rules.

The name ENTER SHIKARI came from a boat that belonged to your uncle. Why did you choose it and what do you feel it means?
Shikari means “The Hunter” in many Indian languages. My uncle was a fisherman and back when I was a kid I used to go out onto the high seas with him and just thought it was an awesome word. When we made the band, it just kind of fitted into what we had to do. We knew to make changes in this world you have to get out there and hunt yourself. It just seemed apt for how we were working as a band (the whole DIY style) as well as our political outlook.

What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Lady Gaga.

Have you been to Stonehenge and what do you think of Spinal Tap?

Stonehenge is awesome. Still fills me with absolute wonder and awe every time I go there. Spinal Tap is just the industry standard, total classic.

If you could record a song with an artist outside the genre of music for which you are known, who might that be?

I’d love to work with a rapper called Lowkey from London. He does really political hip-hop, which is such a breath of fresh air from the normal commercial bulk of hip hop which just glorifies violence and condones negativity and greed.

If you could have a conversation with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

John Lennon.

What has surprised you most in your career so far?

How nice the majority of people you meet around the world are.

Any hobbies outside of music? Sports, etc?

I like swimming and dirt jumping (bikes), but other than that I’m not really into sports. I don’t like the sense of rigid and ruthless competition promoted in most sports. It always puzzled me in high school the amount of anger sports produced in people. I think it’s kind of pointless and silly.

HalfDown Thomas

September 1, 2009

HalfDown Thomas’ third album was blown away by Hurricane Katrina. Literally.

The band, which hails from the sleepy little backwoods town of Cullman, Alabama, had the honor of working on the record with 3 Doors Down’s Chris Henderson. They entered the studio in Mississippi, with Henderson producing, in 2005, laying down the tracks in short order. Then, the hurricane hit, leaving the studio, and the master recordings for the album, under twelve feet of water.

Not easily deterred by Mother Nature, the band and Henderson reconvened in the same studio (completely rehabbed from the hurricane damage) in 2006. Again, they laid down the tracks, completing the majority of the recording in three weeks’ time, only to find a computer glitch had rendered a large portion of the recordings unusable. Because they had meshed so well with Henderson (who said he really wanted to be involved in the rest of the recording), the band was willing to wait to work around his 3 Doors Down schedule in order to re-record the tracks that needed to be redone in Henderson’s new Rivergate Studios in Nashville in 2007.

“This band is so easy to work with,” says Henderson. “From a production standpoint, they provided me with a wide open palette, bringing some amazing riffs into the studio, then taking my suggestions to the next level in their continuing songwriting endeavors. And they’ve been so amazing about recording the album three times. It was not anyone’s fault; it’s just the way that things went down. But they took it all in stride and they made it fun.”

“Chris is the hardest-working guy I know,” says guitarist Wesley Smith. “When we were in the studio with him, he’d only get four to five hours of sleep before he was back to work. It was fantastic being in the studio with him. He’s very down-to-earth, and he gets what we are doing.”

The result is HalfDown Thomas’ third-full length album, “Beautifully Strange,” which will be released via Rock Ridge Music on February 17, 2009. In addition to Henderson’s production, the album boasts mixing by Geoff Ott (3 Doors Down, Nickelback, Unwritten Law) and Kirk Kelsey (3 Doors Down, Creed, Redding). Bobby Capps of .38 Special contributed vocals on several songs, and Ivan Arnold of Five.Bolt.Main engineered some of the album.

HalfDown Thomas (or HDT) was begun on the verge of the new millenium by a group of friends with one simple goal: to start a band and see how far it could really go. Eight years later, singer Randy Ayers, guitarist Wesley Smith, bassist George White, and drummer Mark Underwood are finding out. Starting as everyone does in sweaty little clubs, opening shows for renowned local acts, HDT spent their time developing a high-intensity stage show to compliment their hard-driving modern rock sound. The band came to the attention of their label after they won a Birmingham, AL, Battle of the Bands and went on to compete in the finals in Biloxi, MS. Henderson’s 3 Doors Down bandmate Todd Harrell was the creative force behind the contest. Rock Ridge Music CEO Tom Derr, who was a judge at the Biloxi contest, was so impressed by HDT that the efforts to sign them began immediately.

The band has continued to plug away live, sharing the stage with acts as diverse and influential as Kings of Leon, OutKast, Evanescence, and Fuel, just to name a few. At the same time, HDT has also worked hard to hone their personal sound. With two full-length releases, three EP’s, and numerous compilation spots under their belts, writing and recording have been a large piece of the equation. Somewhere between Pearl Jam and Nickleback, between Stone Temple Pilots and Breaking Benjamin, is where you’ll find HalfDown Thomas’ sound. Throw in individual influences as varied as Southern rock and 80’s hair metal, and what shakes out is modern rock alternative with scorching guitar solos, bombastic rhythm work, and attention to lyrical hooks that create an interesting and listener-friendly mix.

Just how far can four guys take a dream? The answer seems to be a lot farther than anyone expected. And they won’t let a little something like Mother Nature get in the way.

Check Out HalfDown Thomas Online – MyspaceWebsite