Archive for the ‘features’ Category

Bands Under the Radar Changes The Game

November 28, 2009

Written By: Trisha Hanudel

100 Songs for $10 @ Bands Under The Radar

There’s a great new website, Bands Under the, who has created an innovative way to get the best in the hottest music coming out today. Only $10 gets you 100 songs, emailed to you over the course of a few weeks in 20-song chunks until you’ve amassed 100 songs. Want more instantly? Throw down another $10. Want to give your new songs some time to sink into your head? You can buy 100 more songs whenever you feel like it. Never want another song emailed again? After you get your 100 songs, you’re free! There’s no commitment here.

If you’re feeling a little gun-shy, you’re welcome to listen to the entire playlist on the website before you buy it. (see below) It’s really as if you had your own commercial-free radio playing all the music you never knew you liked, and it’s a wonderful alternative if you’ve had it Indie 103.1’s streaming radio – this music is much, much cooler.

Featured currently on playlist and podcast #38 is the ubiquitous indie darlings Band of Skulls, The Fray and Jack Johnson’s love child, Jack Savoretti, and my new favorites, Elle Macho. Elle Macho is a trio based out of Nashville, and is a powerful blend of agro-sexiness. They take Concrete Blond’s sound and twist it into a minor, angsty key, overlaid by a powerhouse female vocal that evokes mullet-era Joan Jett without all that unnecessary rasp and bravado.

Other favorites were Lord T and Eloise’s Black Limousine. This independent hip hop act is a refreshing newcomer to the scene – they put the emphasis back on the show, so if you ever get a chance to see them in concert, go! Amazing Baby is also featured, with their sparkling sonic void filled with reverb and wailing guitars. Jesse Woods’ It Girl is a song reminiscent of a live Jeff Buckley, and is the reason Bands Under the Radar exists – I would have never known about Jesse Woods had I not checked out the playlist.

All told, this first installment of playlist #38 is a great mix – as if your coolest friend made you a mix tape. Bands Under the Radar is a great way to scan for new music without having to search for it yourself. Each artist is listed with the names of their songs and links to their website, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter pages so you can become their instant biggest fan after just one listen – and you’ll become the new biggest fan of handful of bands featured. I might even start the new Elle Macho fanclub, after just one listen!

La Roux Is Bulletproof

November 28, 2009

Written By: Hallie Madenski

Following the legacies of androgynous icons such as Annie Lennox and David Bowie, La Roux’s new CD invokes the good part of the 80’s. It also invokes the good part of dance music that sometimes seems forgotten. Less pathetic and beat reliant yet more invigorating. Like Lady Gaga, La Roux’s videos are not necessary to the music but are key in the message, visionary yet simple. Singer Elly Jackson’s face is unmistakable and so is her voice. Meaningful with a power that never wanes, one similar to that of New Zealand native Ladyhawke or electro pop sensation Little Boots. A sometimes monotonous yet beautiful high-pitched glory that I am completely smitten with.

Singer Eleanor Jackson and her song writing partner and co-producer Ben Langmaid make up the band. Influenced by 80’s bands like Yazoo and Heaven 17, they are vintage electronic candy to my happily melting ears. Jackson and Langmaid first encountered one and another several years back, in 2006. Their first single as La Roux, “Quicksand,” came out in late 2007. “In For The Kill,” their second single, has done quite well on the UK charts. As is expected, England is quite a few steps ahead of us when it comes to music. La Roux only just started catching on in a major way recently with the appearance of their video for “Bulletproof” on MTV.

La Roux, meaning “red-haired one” in French, are signed to Polydor Records, the same label as Klaxons and Kate Nash. Polydor also acts as the UK label for distribution of music by a wide variety of bands such as Weezer, Lady Gaga, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and even the Jonas Brothers. Before they released their debut on Polydor, the duo called themselves “Automan,” writing mostly acoustic tunes. From reading interviews I can do more than speculate that Elly Jackson is not a follower and has strong opinions. And I don’t mean she’s a bitch. Just not the shy nervous wallflower you might imagine from looking at her. She seems critical of herself and as a result, of others as well.

Angular and pasty with fiery red Tilda Swinton hair, Elly Jackson is not only musically talented but has all the attributes of a potential icon. She is strange and fashionable and boyish. The band’s songs are lyrically simplistic but also rather ingenious in that “I wish I’d though of that” type of way. I can’t really respect anyone who doesn’t take great care in all aspects of their craft. This is a band who takes great care, and it shines though invigoratingly through each song.

Almost every song from their self-titled debut CD is worthy of your Itunes music collection. But then again this music isn’t for everyone. Their sound is very reliant on beats and could only be described as electronic pop music. Don’t sour your face at the word “pop” though, that word may have some negative history but you have to remember the spirit. Their song “Tigerlily” starts with a booming Jackson spouting angrily and then calming her voice gently on the chorus. Something she does amazingly well, I might add. An expected formula with some unknown tweak of brilliance.

Jackson Croons “I don’t like the taste of your morality,” mid song. Well, I don’t like the morality of bands like La Roux not getting more recognition. Put your crappy Adam Lambert CD down and pick up this gem. With an even selection of thought provoking ballads like “Colourless Colour” and “I’m Not Your Toy” and loud brain drilling hits like the previously mentioned “Tigerlily” and “In For The Kill.” La Roux’s synth-happy CD will have you humming their tunes by the end of the day. The best two-piece band to enter your ear canal since you first heard The Kills, La Roux will rattle your listening device right off it’s platform or tightly gripped hand.

The XX

November 19, 2009

Written By: Steve Sawyer

Listening to The XX’s debut, eponymous, album should be considered substance abuse. And not for any negative consequence that listening to the album may bring, but rather because the music leaves the listener in such a state of euphoria that it’s absolutely drug-like. The music has induced such a deep state of unshakable catatonia upon myself that I find I’m unable to escape the rhythmic bass lines, or the haunting echoes of the intricate, and absolutely chilling vocal work. It’s so perfect, that it kind of bothers me.

Take for example the opening of the album itself. The drone of sound that hits you is tonal hypnotherapy pure and simple, and it could be said that within the first minute, if you aren’t hooked you may be one of the few immune to the drug. But for me, and for what I suspect will be the rest of the population, there was an immediate addiction formed. It’s funny how I didn’t even notice the song “VCR” creep up on me after the intro, it’s delicate chiming, and soft snare almost lullabied me away. And when Romy’s voice hits, it’s absolutely out of this world, it hasn’t been since I first heard Maynard James Keenan’s voice on a Tool album that I’ve been so simultaneously creeped out, and breathtaken. “Crystalised” is as close to a perfect rock song you could get. It’s minimalistic brooding approach, and it’s refusal to do anything but get under your skin as quickly as possible is captivating in a very terrifying way. By the time the album gets to “Shelter” I’m just absolutely awash in the ocean of sound.

The album is a truly inspired collection of songs that encapsulate the experience of living in the modern age. It’s strange, but I feel like the music is the perfect soundtrack to the almost cynical society we’ve created for ourselves. The lyrics are self-deprecating enough to make the music not only relatable, but downright essential. But at no point do they ever loom ideas over your head, or make you stretch for meaning intended or implied. And that radically stripped down approach has made for the single best release of 2009. More prominent bands that keep adding more gloss, sound, and production magic to their equation should take note of the work that’s on display on the album. I have a feeling that even older groups that have the advantage of years over the relatively new The XX will learn quite a few things about songwriting after submitting themselves to repeat listens.

And it’s all made that much more perplexing by the fact that they’re all only nineteen years old. Not only that, but this is the band’s debut. No albums precede this one, and yet they display a level of maturity, and depth that most bands strive to achieve in an entire career. It’s so startling to see such young talent being able to accomplish so much with just one release, but they’ve managed to do it. But what happens when a band is this good this immediately? Have they set the bar impossibly high for themselves, or will they simply make it look easy, when it’s time for the next go around? I’m certainly rooting for them, and hoping that they can pull it off, because if this album is any indicator of their future career, the world is going to be their oyster.

It’s odd, I typically wax verbally, and semi-philosophically when it comes to talking about music that I love, and for the first time in a very long time, I’m almost completely at a loss for words. I feel like I’ve said everything that’s needed to say about The XX in order for someone to just dive in and enjoy them, but at the same time simply because I’m used to being so wordy, and full of praise for those that I admire, I’m hesitant to draw this to a close. But I’m going to take my own advice, and learn from the example set by The XX. Sometimes simplicity is better. Go buy their album.

Two Nights of The Used

November 18, 2009

Written By: Jim Markunas (Editor-In-Chief) and
Jason Coldiron (Rock/Metal Editor)

Photos By: Brett Gulbrandson

View all of Brett’s photos of The Used here.

Jim: First off… Opening bands… I’m a huge fan of Drive A; they’re punk, catchy and a great choice for an opening act. (check out our review of their debut) The Almost… Yeah, their music was really good, but did their pants have to be so fucking tight? Seriously? I haven’t seen that much blatant cock in my face since the last time my friend Paul took me to West Hollywood. I would have given The Almost an A-, but their horrid sense of fashion knocked them down to a C- or D+.

The Used were hella cool. They had what I can only describe as the cleanest and most well-organized stage set up in Rock ‘n’ Roll history. The drums were on a wide square riser that lit up, the amps were the embodiment of perfect symmetrical aesthetic, and the stage was left pretty much bare except for a few half-stacks piled on either side of the drums. The band ended up looking tiny compared to the massive/well-organized stage, but it allowed them a lot of room to move around, which Burt McKracken did with the greatest of ease. Before The Used even walked on stage, a piano intro was played through the house PA and a quick movie was projected across an arena-sized backdrop. This set the stage for one of the greatest rock shows of this month (and I’ve been to a lot of shows this month). As the band casually strolled on stage, the backdrop changed from a movie to a giant syringe with “The Used” over it. Skipping ahead a little bit, the best thing about the backdrop was that it changed graphics digitally throughout their set. Very cool!

Jason: The following night, the Used moved up the coast to play the Warfield in San Francisco. Chicks with Guns was there as well.

Getting a late start, Drive A took the stage. They were very young, but very mature and poised for their age(s). They seemed to understand their role in this show perfectly. They were there to get the crowd woken up and moving a bit, light a fire and set the stage for The Almost and The Used. The lead singer was great in interacting with the crowd. The band got things going in the right direction. Their punk sound was a perfect lead in to the rest of the sounds of the night.

The Almost was next to hit the stage. My female friend loved them. Their music didn’t really fit their look at all. They rocked though. Their set was great until the end, at which point the lead singer killed the momentum and ended it on a poor note. The last song they played was their big ballad. The song wasn’t bad at all, but it should have been played earlier in the set. The singer followed this ballad up by preaching to the audience about God and how He loves us all.

Jim: I HATE shit like that!!!!! Flyleaf can get away with this kind of thing because their singer is pretty and talented. I’m not sure I’d want to hear football player-wannabe’s with guitars wax poetically on that type of thing at all. God and politics belong at home; shows are meant for rocking… Also, Jason, were their pants any less tight when you saw them. Once again… too much cock in the face!!!!!!

Jason: It’s hard to give a definitive answer on the cock in face issue, due to the lighting in the arena. That said, it was clearly more than any reasonable fan would expect or want from their metal show. Granted, this band is his side project to the Christian rock band he is the drummer in. Granted, he said that if you aren’t down with God, that is fine, we can all still get along, etc. That wasn’t enough. It was poorly timed. Following the ballad with this just didn’t work. If he was going to insist on preaching, he should have done it between songs earlier in their set. Not to mention that it was crucial they end their set with a big, heavy song to lead into The Used. This was a poorly conceived ending to their set. Thankfully, The Used were up next and would soon make us all forget about this.

As with the previous night, the Used began with a short film with a piano intro playing. This built the tension and energy in the building to a peak and had the crowd dying for the band to hit the stage. When they finally did, it was on! The band quickly jumped into, “Blood on my Hands” from their latest record, Artwork and knocked it out of the park. They let loose for the next hour-and-a-half and blew the roof off of the Warfield.

They played a great mix of newer and older songs in their catalog. At one point they played four consecutive older songs, including “In love and death,” without stopping between them at all. This was a kind of medley of sorts. It was fantastic. The stage show was amazing. They really utilized the lighting of the arena perfectly. The lights and darks, with shadows, half lit faces and a sense of mystery and awe all worked beautifully. This was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. They closed the set with and encore of, “On my own,” followed by one more rocking tune to end the night. Their rendition of, “On my own” was arguably the highlight of the entire night. It brought the house down and is the single moment I’ll remember most from this show.

The Used brought it big time on this night. I was blown away. I have to admit that before this show I was a fan, but not a fanatic. After this, I’ll be buying their albums and singing their praise. They won me over in a big way.

Jim: Ok… But… What was it like to hang out with the guys back stage? Were there antics, drinking, etc.? Did you score with groupies? Did you see The Almost in their underwear (I’m assuming they wore ‘whitey-tighties?’) Inquiring minds want to know!

Well, technically, we only met Quinn and a few random venue employees back stage. However, on the way in while we were waiting out back to get in for the interview, Bert walked by as he was talking with some of his people. Brett (my photographer, who is a HUGE Used fan) took the opportunity to say hello, shake his hand and tell him what a huge impact he had made on him. A funny thing about this is that there were a couple of hundred fans out front waiting to get in. Meanwhile, Bert and his people were casually hanging out around the side of the building where the buses were, smoking and drinking like there was no care in the world. There was hardly any security there. Any fan who had walked just 20 feet or so down the street would have seen the buses and the band and been able to walk right up to them.

If only they had known how easy it would have been…

Want More of The Used?
CWG review of Artwork
CWG Review of Loss Of Desire
View all of Brett’s photos of The Used
Rock/Metal Editor, Jason Coldiron interviews Dan of The Used
Rock/Metal Editor, Jason Coldiron interviews Quinn of The Used

10 Reasons Why Everclear Is Still Relevant

November 17, 2009

Written By: Jim Markunas

Photos By: Ed Hannigan

View all of Ed’s Everclear photos here.

10. Art Is Cool – He is, isn’t he? Yes! At 47, Art’s still got it, a rarity in a world of Fleetwood Mac and Eagles reunions that never seem to end when they should. Significantly less gay than Joe Perry, and more fun to watch than Frank Black, Everclear frontman, Art Alexakis makes this band what it is. The world loves a good frontman, and Art is one of the best – Take that Don Henley, you big ass!

9. Work Ethic – Everclear has never been a lazy band. They’ve toured incessantly since 1994, and aren’t afraid to start from scratch. Capitol drops them… Who cares? Band mates leave… no problem! Art is a working man, and much like B.B. King, he’ll be doing this until the day he dies.

8. They Treat Their Fans Well – Even when they were the biggest band in the world, Everclear always (and still do) made an effort to meet their fans after every show. In their arena days, they even went as far as letting some fans strap on a guitar and play with them. I managed to catch Art Alexakis on his “All By Mice-Elf” solo acoustic tour in 2003, and he actually brought audience members on stage to play various instruments. This quality is priceless – in a world of “we must treat our idols like they jump into their pants in the morning,” Art and Everclear remind us that they put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us.

7. Street Cred – Most rock bands, musicians, and rappers get soft in their old age. Can I believe Dr. Dre is still shooting people and running drugs out of his mansion and cushy office at Interscope? Do I believe Bruce Springsteen is still a ‘working man’ suffering through poverty and bad economic times just like the rest of us? Fuck no! These old guys are major paid… and soft! Artists like this have forgotten what hardship feels like. Art, on the other hand, can never catch a break. Yes… This sucks for him, but is great for Everclear fans, as Art never runs out of painful shit to put on wax! In 1995, Art frequently wrote songs about loss, being poor and drug addiction (stuff he really experienced). In 2009, he’s writing about divorce, being poor once again, and more loss (again, things that he’s REALLY experiencing). “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom” aside, you’ll never catch Art over-using his artistic license for the sake of staying credible – he’s 100% real.

6. The Hank Williams Syndrome… Or… What’s Bad For Everclear Is Good For American Music – Once you see what’s happened to Art in his life, suddenly your problems don’t seem all that bad. Yes… Art has had a hard life (like a Hank Williams song on steroids), and he can’t seem to stop living a hard life. Because of this, Everclear will always be the “underdog,” the band we root for. We want to see Everclear succeed, because if they can make their lives and career work despite all the fuck-ups, we everyday folk feel like we can succeed and make our lives work. Remember, if Everclear wins, we all win!

5. There’s Still Demand – The Roxy was damn-near sold out last Thursday (see our review). People still want to see a band with a track record play live. Can you assume that bands like Papa Roach, Everclear, Dinosaur Jr., The Foo Fighters, etc. will always put on a good show? I’d say it’s a safe assumption. Everclear has a proven track record, and it hold more weight than the next indie/L.A. flavor of the month.

4. They Change Just Enough – Critics have busted Everclear’s balls for years on the notion that they sound the same on every album. Yes… Everclear will always sound like Everclear… How is this a bad thing? Someone please explain that to me! When I buy an Everclear album, I expect it to be consistent. Would I like it if Art put out a speed-metal album? Would I like it if he crossed the bullshit, overrated stylings of Sigur Rós with the whininess of Fallout Boy? Fuck no, I wouldn’t!!!! However, Everclear changes just enough from record-to-record to sound fresh. Were American Movie 1 & 2 re-hashes of So Much For The Afterglow? No! They were different enough to be great, just as Welcome To The Drama Club is different from Slow Motion Daydream . Basically, we expect Everclear to sound like Everclear; I wouldn’t bust Paul McCartney’s balls for sounding like Paul McCartney, would I?

3. The Nirvana Syndrome… Or… Disenfranchised Youth – As long as high school, depression, and teenage angst/ennui exist, Everclear will have fans. People need music that makes them feel better about the shitty parts of life – Everclear is the perfect music for that.

2. Hooks – Everclear is catchy. Enough said.

1. Everclear’s Music is Timeless – Yes, they have the habit of sometimes sounding a little bit like they walked right out of the 1970s bar scene, but you can’t beat the tried-and-true pop/gunge/alt formula of verse, chorus, verse, bridge, etc., and you can’t beat the catchiness of almost any Everclear song or album. Radio-friendly without being wussy and uninventive, the entire Everclear catalog (with the exception of World Of Noise ) will never sound ‘dated’ – Art planned for this (he’s the principle songwriter and producer of every Everclear album), and judging by Everclear’s pop sensibility, his plan seems to have worked. I just hope he get’s his publishing rights back sometime in the near future.

Want more Everclear?
Download Everclear’s “Here Comes The Darkness
Everclear Feature – 10 Reasons Why Everclear is Still Relevant
Rock/Metal Editor, Jason Coldiron interviews Art Alexakis
Everclear Tour News
View all of Ed’s Everclear Photos (Roxy)
View All of Ed’s Everclear Photos (House of Blues)
CWG’s review of In A Different Light

Rock Out With Nico Vega

November 9, 2009

Written By: Khadeeja Coonrod
Photos By: Ed Hannigan

View all of Ed’s Nico Vega photos here.

What do you get when you take a hard hitting rock band that’s full of three talented musicians? A whole lot of sound that should be thought to have ten people making music. This L.A. American rock band is Nico Vega, who knows how to turn up the volume. Nico Vega formed in 2005 and has a self-titled album out on Myspace Records, which had Linda Perry and Tim Edgar on production and Tchad Blake mixing.

The album starts with “Burn Burn,” and the lyrics are telling, “Even if we tell a lie nobody’s gonna know until we fall back, fall back. Even though we’re so sharp. Even if we tell a lie nobody’s gonna know until we fall back, fall back. I built this house on solid ground. Will you come and stay with me? I’ll settle down.” The guitar riffs speed up and go with the flow of Aja’s voice who echos behind in the background. The chorus repeats at the end with both the guitar and drums until they all suddenly all go off in unison. The guitar and drum intro set the album nicely in until you hear the singers voice who is in between singing and wailing but in a beautiful rhythm.

“Million Years” reminds of a song that would be heard in a video game with guns. “I’ll be around for a million years. No matter how hard you try you can’t fuck with this,” a statement about a female being mad after a man tries to play her. The music gets a satanic sound in the background after the flirt lines are revealed.

“So So Fresh” is as if there’s a teasing going on, “You’re so so fresh even when you drop it, you turn like a man. I know you’re just a boy but I can hardly tell and no one I really can.” Aja’s voice backgrounds sounds like a chant as her voice teases saying “Na na na na na na na.”

“Living Underground” puts me in the mood to watch a Children of the Corn flick, “We are in demand of the truth. We are children of the world. We wear all of our scars. We stand up and we fight for what we choose. We are in demand of a name.” Aja’s voice sings in a soft soothing while the guitar and drums come out in an 80’s rock form then Aja’s voice comes out in a snarl as she belts out the song then the guitar and her voice blend together to go from soft like a whisper, builds up louder, and it ends in a trance like state.

“Wooden Dolls” comes with the soft overtones in this. I could hear Linda Perry’s influence on this one as I thought of 4 Non Blondes, What’s Up. The voice was simple as all the theatrics were stripped away. Aja’s voice was singing like a mother sings to a child. Her voice cuts to the core of the spirit and gets strong only to go back to being soft once again.

“Iron Man” is my personal favorite by Nico Vega. “You are relentless in the way you ask me so many questions of my days in the city. I wish that I could tell you something. I’m a hostage of my pride. I’ll take all the heat you’re packing. ‘Cause I’m an iron man. I’m an iron man. You are relentless in the way that you know me and I’m a sheep when it comes to explaining. I wish that I could keep you happy. I wish that I can could keep you young. Please forgive me for the distance, but I’m an iron man. I’m an iron man. You are relentless in the way that you love me and I’m afraid of the thoughts that you’re making. I wish that I could know the difference between your smiles and your frowns. Now I’m buried in the armor ’cause I’m an iron man. I’m an iron man.” The mood is a touch of space meets heaven on earth in a labyrinth setting.

On Nico Vega’s Myspace, under influences, this was said, “Any sort of passion, fire, or interaction between two people, or many people. Any person who has the will to lead people and sacrifice their own needs for the well being of others. Any warrior with a purpose, or a mission, and any artist who is not scared to be great. Anybody that decides to forgive themselves for the mistakes that they have made, and change for the better. We have a lot of musical influences, probably similar to the ones that you like. Oh…and, anybody who is a Lion at heart (support the pack, and be strong without judgement).” I was struck by how genuine the words are. I had to share that with anyone who didn’t know about them before reading this.

Nico Vega’s band members are: Aja- Singer, Rich- Guitar, Dan- Drums.


November 9, 2009

Written By: Hallie Madenski

As the time inches closer and closer to the day the new “Twilight” movie is released, fans become more and more hungry for pale brooding guys with elongated hair. Though the vampire craze seems strongest now, society has always been fascinated with vampires. Perhaps because they are a monster that is actually human and could appear sexy in that “you might die but it will feel good first” type of way. The association that vampires feed or kill during sex is another alluring aspect to various desperate homemakers and young people with their inability to control hormones.

After the recent appearance of the show “The Vampire Diaries,” and movies like “The Vampire’s Assistant,” and of course the raging boner that is the Twilight franchise, I tend to wonder when it will end. Like I said before, society has always been obscenely fascinated with vampires. Early films like “Nosferatu” and “Dracula” sparked interest and were deemed classics. Especially “Dracula,” featuring the now deceased Bela Lugosi. Bela Lugosi’s swift suave movement and bulging eyes brought a unique aspect to the vampire image, one altogether different from the one we see today. Bela Lugosi could incite fear with a simple twist of the hand, one clawed gesture, and a deep penetrating stare with his slicked back hair and protruding lips. Though he did have a hypnotizing charm, he was more the image of a father than of a sexy man you’d want ravishing you.

This new wave of vampires makes you wonder, which is more enjoyable? The older frightening and primal vampires or this generation’s Bill Compton or Edward Cullen of Trueblood and Twilight fame. Clearly we know who is more frightening, the earlier movies incited fear where today’s might seem thrilling to some, the actual origin is left relatively untouched and romance is largely magnified. Certainly Hollywood and the population’s majority are set on bringing us more sex, not only with vampires but with everything. I’m always surprised by how sexual everything in America appears while the overall attitude is mostly that of a tattered old prude. I’m still waiting on a show or movie that depicts vampires as brutal instinctual animals who could never be a friend to any human. I guess that was “30 Days of Night” but still, let’s get noticed.

Aside from the countless vampire movies and TV shows made, there are actually a lot of songs inspired by those mysterious undead Romanians. Concrete Blonde’s “Bloodletting” (The Vampire Song) was inspired by the Anne Rice novel “Interview With The Vampire.” The soundtrack for “Queen of the Damned” was partially written by former Oingo Boingo keyboardist Richard Gibbs and Jonathan Davis of Korn. In an unusual teaming up of sister labels Warner Brothers and Reprise Records released the soundtrack on February 19th of 2002. Two singles from the CD were released simultaneously. “Cold” by Static X was the more successful single of the two, the other being “Forsaken,” featuring the lead singer of Disturbed.

We all know the band Vampire Weekend with their lively tunes and smart lyrics. The band’s name comes from a film their lead singer made with the same title. Hopefully it’s about vampires but with my questionable journalism skills I am unable to dig up any footage or information about this film other than the title. Punk band Bauhaus has a meaningful origin in the bloodsucking spirit. Their first single, released in 1979, was titled “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” The song is a lengthy epic recorded in one take featuring the lyrics “Bela Lugosi’s dead, the bats have left the bell tower, the victims have been bled.” And later the line “undead undead undead” in repetition.

Godsmack, Slayer and My Chemical Romance have all penned songs about vampires but certain compilations stand out over others. While the Queen of the Damned soundtrack lacked luster, others flourished in all our memories, hopefully. The TV show version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer had a great little soundtrack featuring songs by Nerf Herder, Garbage, Rasputina, and Guided by Voices. Of all vampire-related things, the soundtrack and the movie alike for “The Lost Boys” belong in the Vampire Hall of Fame. “Cry Little Sister” by Gerald Mcmann, “People Are Strange” by Echo and the Bunnymen, and “Good Times” by INXS are favorites.

In reference to the new vs. old argument, I’d like to state that I’d take Dracula over Twilight’s Edward Cullen anytime. At least Dracula could entertain me. Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of a boring and mopey yet handsome character remind me all too well of how easily personality is disregarded. Somehow if someone cares about you and looks good you should just bury your nose in their ass and never leave their fecal fortress? Over anything else I am perplexed and aggravated by people with nothing interesting going on. It seems where Robert Pattinson lacks a personality, his costar Kristen Stewart makes up for it. Even the whiney werewolf character Jacob is more likable in that he at least cares. Oddly, while reading Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn I even feel that author Stephanie Meyer is in some sort of trance when she writes about the character Edward. Everyone in the book is more intriguing than him but somehow he is a main focus of the series. The character is written about in little detail and is described mostly just as “beautiful.” Clumsy and pessimistic protagonist Bella somehow falls for his charms and boom, they’re in love and she can’t part with him. At least her dad has the good sense to dislike him.

Another recent author who writes of vampires is Charlaine Harris, writer of the many books that inspired HBO’s “Trueblood.” While her concepts and ideas are very interesting and original her actual writing leaves a lot to be desired. I get the impression that she is a person living vicariously through her characters, maybe too much so. Her last few books in the series lacked discipline and character development, so I can only really recommend the first four books with a straight face. The show itself is actually better than the books. Though more than half of the show has nothing to do with the novels, it does follow the same basic story.

I caught a few minutes of the latest CW pooper “The Vampire Diaries” and after a few minutes I’ve concluded that you need not waste your time with that one. As with “Gossip Girl” and the remake of “90210” this show sifts out all the good parts of “The O.C.” and filters in gaudy queens and their fumigated hair extension arm candy otherwise known as Blake Lively and that other one who tries to sing. Leighton Meester! I remember now. But I won’t in a few years now will I?

While Twilight’s fangs will never compete in sales with Harry Potter’s wand, fans are crazier than ever. I don’t envy not being able to walk down the street without cameras flashing at me. While Kristen Stewart is highly criticized for complaining of the downfalls of fame, Robert Pattinson gets nothing but sympathy when he whines about how he can’t get a date in real life. Which is funny/sad since he is dating Kristen Stewart. Vampire films have been around since 1909 to now, 2009. All I can do is wait to see if the craze swells or is replaced by something new. How about something less sexy, like the always popular Wolf theme? “The Wolfman” starring Benicio Del Toro and Emily Blunt, looks promising but sadly the box office will surely show that vampires are still number one. Perhaps the next monster movie will star Zac Efron as Frankenstein or Brad Pitt as The Mummy? I can only encourage Hollywood to get a little ugly or “real” with these ever increasing monster movies.

5 Reasons Why After Midnight Project Is The Next Big Thing

November 5, 2009

Written By: Jim Markunas

Photos By: Ed Hannigan

View all of Ed’s AMP photos here.

I find it difficult to call After Midnight Project a “baby band,” as I saw them not only upstage Chevelle at the House of Blues in Anaheim, but also because I’m 100% convinced that AMP is the future of modern rock. I’d be willing to bet my left testicle that in 2-3 years, this band will be the biggest thing in rock music; bigger than the Chilli Peppers, bigger than Nickelback, hell – maybe even as big as U2.

Some would call their sound marginal and/or derivative, but anyone using that label (a.) hasn’t truly heard “Let’s Build Something To Break,” and (b.) has obviously never seen this band live.

In some ways, After Midnight Project are derivative, but they’re derivative in the same way as U2, The Deftones, or The Chilli Peppers are derivative; in that they’re styles and influences span a lot of familiar, yet respectively different and interesting genres. Part of what makes AMP’s music interesting (which is the same key factor that’s worked for The Deftones and U2 all these years) is that you never know just where they’ll take a song. Yes, they have pop sensibility (i.e., verse, chorus, verse, catchy vocal hooks, good guitar riffs, etc.) but… they’re exceptionally good at bending and meshing genres in a fashion that simply put… works. A great example is “Backlit Medley” this song begins with a balls-out hard rock riff, and flows seamlessly into a Jimmy Eat World/Postal Service-inspired soft-rock opus with slight hints of electronica and a manly vocals that seamlessly flow in and out of uber-feminine Brit-pop falsetto; it’s so seemless, you wouldn’t notice unless you were looking for it.

Then, there are songs like “Hollywood” that take the played-out Strokes-inspired sound and bend it into something completely new, or the twice-released single “Take Me Home” that merges aspects of Tool with aspects of Jimmy Eat World and Owl City.

Editor’s Note: I can wax poetically on this for hours, but my words can’t do this band justice, just buy “Let’s Build Something to Break,” or catch them at any live show, and you’ll realize exactly what I’m talking about.

I digress… The top 5 reasons why After Midnight Project is the next big thing:

Reason #1 – The front man must have made a ‘crossroads’ deal with the devil… or Motown (same thing) – Singer, Jason Evigan, is the hands-down best front man of this decade. He’s got swagger, charm, extreme stage presence, and most importantly, excellent vocal chops. Picture what it would sound like if Jim Adkins’ testicles dropped, or if Daniel Johns had stuck with hard rock, and you’ve got Jason – a singer with a vocal range of a few octaves (he hits falsetto as well as Thom Yorke) and has the tonal clarity of Mark McGrath.

Reason #2 – Pop sensibilities – After Midnight Project understand how to write good songs. Officially, they’re one album deep, but any die hard fan has a copy of their pre-major label EPs. In theory, AMP has two full records worth of material released over a span of about 4 years. On their EPs, they proved that they could write and produce major label-quality songs without the help of a big name producer or a $200,000 budget. At the core, AMP understands that it’s all about making quality songs.

Reason #3 – Mainstream, yet completely inventive and original – After Midnight Project play radio-friendly, mainstream rock… if mainstream rock had multiple drug problems. Their sound, on the surface, is safe, but bends and molds the modern rock genre, breaking it into pieces, and taking it in a completely different, yet logical direction. They adhere to the genre, while simultaneously crafting a style all their own. Answer this… Why do people like Owl City? People like Owl City because what they REALLY want is a new Postal Service record. Would Owl City be as popular if they didn’t sound like The Postal Service? No… They definitely wouldn’t. Same thing with Hinder… People like them because they sound like 3 Doors Down and Creed. My point is that all modern rock is actually “post modern rock,” meaning it’s all been done before, and there’s not much left to do with the genre that hasn’t already done. Some bands attempt to ‘try new things,’ but miss the mark (Interpol, Silversun Pickups, etc.). Not only is After Midnight Project original (no one sounds quite like them, and they don’t sound quite like anybody else), but they’re also masters of styles, able to merge several different genre-specific ideas into one in ways that have truly never been done before; what other band can successfully mix a speed metal opener with a Radiohead-styled verse?

Reason #4 – The Lenny Kravitz effect – In short, girls and guys can enjoy this band together. I wouldn’t want my girl to catch me listening to Avril Lavigne, and I wouldn’t want to catch her listening to Pantera; there’s an un-written rule: guys listen to guys music, girls listen to girl’s music. After Midnight Project, much like U2 and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, is the kind of band men and women can both listen to without shame and/or violating any un-written rules.

Reason #5 – Work ethic and values – After Midnight Project is permanently on tour. They’re willing not only to tour incessantly, but they take every opportunity to meet with their fans – Every show ends with the band signing autographs and meeting fans at their merch booth (for the sheer talent they possess, they’re an unabashedly humble and down-to-earth group of people). Since their inception, After Midnight Project have been all about their fans, and even have a special phone number for their fans to call and bug them. (P.S. They return every phone call they receive.) This type of approach, which is completely genuine, has worked for other bands in the past (Everclear, Deftones, etc.), and it works especially well for After Midnight Project, who pride themselves on their accessibility.

No disrespect to Chevelle they were great too!!!

Other AMP Articles:
Review of “Let’s Build Something To Break”
Interview With Jason Evigan

My Conversation With Mark Bego

November 4, 2009

Written By: Victoria Hill
(Urban/Pop Editor)

I had the pleasure of spending a Saturday morning talking to a truly interesting man- Mark Bego, a best-selling celebrity autobiographer. Mark Bego started writing in high school and college and had the opportunity to go to New York to meet and write about some of the biggest stars of the day like Barry Manilow, Steely Dan, Elton John and Three Dog Night.

Mark has written about Elton John, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Martha Reeves of Martha & The Vandellas, just to name a few, and what I took away from our conversion was the love Mark has for music. Mark grew up listening to his parents’ record collection and now has made a career of his first love.

The first thing he does in the morning is turn on the stereo; he spends his day studying music, trends, and who is going to be the next big thing – It’s a talent that Mark has had all his life. In the early 80s, a large publisher asked Mark who he thought would be the next big thing in music.
“Madonna and Michael Jackson,” had been Mark’s reply. He turned out to be right!

Mark was the first writer to champion and write books about Michael Jackson and Madonna. Mark even traveled with Michael and his brothers on the ‘Victory’ tour and wrote the book “On The Road With Michael!” Mark admitted that sometimes not all the stars he has written about are still successful, and some have died young, like Michael Jackson. Mark said it was strange to see people he’s written about starting to pass away.

We talked about the difference between Elton John and Whitney Houston (Mark has written about both). Both have had issues with drugs and both are currently drug free, Mark and I noticed how much drugs can affect a career. Elton was lucky, drugs didn’t affect his voice or writing ability, but Whitney has lost some of her vocal ability due to her flagrant drug abuse. Mark said he was happy to see Whitney back, but sad at the same time because her gift is somewhat gone.

Throughout our conversation, Mark shared great stories about meeting his heroes. Mark told a great story about seeing a young Pat Benatar singing a reggae version of “Stairway To Heaven” in a NY club, and while writing “Dancing In The Street: Confessions Of A Motown Diva” with Martha Reeves, Mark told me about the time when Martha was living in his Tucson, AZ home. He came into the kitchen one day to find Martha cooking soul food and singing to The Beatles.

How Mark got his house in Tucson was another story in-and-of-itself. While Mark was living in New York, Jimmy Greenspoon (of Three Dog Night) stopped by Mark’s apartment and commented on how small it was. Jimmy asked what Mark was paying for it. Mark told him the rent, and Jimmy said, “You could get a house in Tucson for that price.” Soon after that, Jimmy helped Mark find a great house in Tucson. The rest is history.

Mark has had a great year; five of his books have been released this year, including one about Ruth Mueller, who escaped from Nazi Germany and came to America with no money, but by the 1980’s was the president of her own corporation.

Mark is in no way just resting on his laurels. In addition to being a writer, he’s also an actor (he’s working with Angela Bowie (David Bowie’s ex wife) on the film “Bureaucratic Assassin.”) I asked Mark if he would ever retire, and he said, “No, because music and writing is my love and you can not retire from something you love.” I admire this quality. How many people can say they’re doing what they love?

It’s always great to talk to people who love music and love their career, and talking to Mark was a great experience. As an up-and-coming editor, starting out in my writing career, it was refreshing to see the opportunities available; just makes me want to work harder!!

Diary of a Fading Rockstar, Part VII

November 3, 2009

When Did The Midnight-To-Six Become Six-To-Midnight? Or: How The Real World Ruined My Breakfast

Written By Erik Rader

There’s a cliche I think we’re all familiar with that a rockstar’s alarm clock is usually set for noon, but he/she tends to like sleeping in a little past that. I think the whole concept of brunch was invented by a rockstar, or whoever provided that person with food. Since I generally provide my own food, my stomach is more or less my alarm clock these days, beyond the predictable mayhem caused by various small two and four-legged mammals parading about the house.

When we went out and got day jobs (or went back out and got back our day jobs, or whatever order it came in for you) we pretty much had to let go of the rockstar brunch. Maybe it really was a luxury. But in all truthfulness we had a full-time job with weird hours – all day most weekdays for songwriting, arranging, rehearsing, interviews, photo shoots, driving to the next gig, and night shift on the weekends – the gigs themselves, and all that low-rent spec time between paying customers at the big shot recording studio. Plus the fact that we were always expected to take our work home with us. And that’s just the work – there’s all the socializing you’re asked to do on top of that. Let’s see you get up bright and early after a night tossing back brandies at an awards ceremony. Unless there are hairs of the proverbial canine involved, it’s just not a reasonable expectation.

These days I do well with a structured work schedule – I usually get to work early and leave late; sometimes I even get asked to please stick to my scheduled hours. To get out on time, I’ve established a routine whereby I start a series of specific tasks around 5:00 PM, cycling through different areas of my responsibility each hour. It may sound anal, but it helps me not miss details. I’m not really a detail-oriented person, as the friendly credit card company representative reminded me over the phone today.

On unstructured time (you normal people call them “days off” I guess) there was always other activities you could do that were more or less set by the culture. If you weren’t writing, rehearsing, recording or playing a gig, you were supposed to be buying and listening to records, seeing somebody else’s band play, doing “research” on some sort of mind-altering substance, or showing up at some protest rally or other. Oh, and then there’s putting in the necessary “girlfriend time”, which in their minds was usually about 37 hours a day. This involved going to their parents’ house to eat meals in stony silence, or paying nail-biting visits to a doctor’s office to make sure the home pregnancy test was a false alarm, or listening to them talk about what a bitch their best friend is. There were nights when you’d feel torn three ways – having your parental landlords expecting you to be at home in bed before dawn, while having your girlfriend expecting you at her place even sooner, and your band mates expecting you to sleep it off on the rehearsal space carpet with them. It’s no wonder that many musicians burn out from taking too many stimulants and avoiding sleep altogether.

Actual “free time” is hard to find for anyone, especially if like me you have a propensity for making promises. Finding that zone in which one has no responsibilities to anyone or anything, where nothing is due, or overdue, actually requires a focus of mind and effort that takes years to develop. Avoiding responsibility is hard work; most of us fall into responsibility without looking for it or choosing it.

When you are the lead singer of a rock and roll band, this is actually your most important job, second only to actually singing in a rock and roll band. Everybody has something to do at soundcheck except you; and in the studio, you are always the last person to be recorded. You’re expected to stand there and look cool, but not too distracting, during the solos; and interviewers are always more interested in what the guitar player has to say, because they think you’re an idiot. Many people project onto you what has been termed “the soft bigotry of low expectations” – in other words, the popular perception of you is being about as connected to the daily realities of life as a spoiled housecat.

But you’re the focal point for the audience. Like Jesus Christ, no one may enter the Kingdom of Heaven except through you. You are the doorman at the Gates of Delirium. You are the tribal shaman, your community’s channel for mystical forces. You are expected to be toothless, insane, and needing to be fed. If you exceed these expectations, you are liable to have someone come up to you and say “Excuse me – are you the manager?” (This in and of itself is not so bad, as there is actually a narrow chance that somebody might unintentionally give you the money.)

It’s hard work playing an instrument, and no mistake. You have to stay in your room and play scales all day while other kids are playing stickball, going out on dates or getting high. You have to sit around sucking on a reed, or checking your pockets for guitar picks, or super-gluing your calluses. It’s especially hard being a drummer because you have to drive everybody around in the vehicle you bought to drive your gear around. Then the lead singer sits on your pedal by accident and breaks the strap, and you have to borrow a pedal from that asshole in the opening band. If you’re the bass player it’s even worse, because you have to pick up the guitar player at his girlfriend’s house, and he’s always late because, well, you know, and plus you have the most cripplingly heavy and unwieldy piece of equipment in the band: The Dreaded Bass Cabinet. Consequently, it is also the most dropped piece of equipment in the band. So is it any wonder that 2/3rds of all technical difficulties on stage are bass-related? But I digress.

It’s hardest of all being the lead singer, because your instrument is your body. You can set fire to your guitar or put explosive charges in your snare drum, but if you do either of those to yourself you’re liable to get killed, or wish you had. If a roadie drops a box of drum hardware, the most likely thing to get damaged is his foot; if he drops you, you’re the one who’s damaged (not even mentioning the fact that you were pretty damaged in the first place, which is why he’s carrying you). Band members can hang around backstage playing with their instruments; the singer can only play with him/herself. Vocal chords are dreadfully susceptible to extremes of temperature, atmospheric contaminants, or bad vibes. You can play guitar when you’re in a bad mood, but when you’re the singer the bad mood affects your instrument directly.

Another thing that sucks about being in a group of instrumental musicians is that they don’t think you play an instrument. You’re as functional as a coat rack in their eyes. They’ll stand there at parties blandly telling you that you should “take up an instrument”, as if using your own body as an instrument onstage is somehow lazy. You’re the lowest priority in the house mix, the monitor mix, even the studio mix. Every show for your first few years on the road will culminate in at least three people saying “You looked great, I wish I could hear you!” or “I wish I could tell what you were singing. Was your microphone even on?” It doesn’t matter how much presence you get in your mix during sound check; fill the house with people, and fill the sound man with cocaine, pot, PCP and Bushmill’s, and all of a sudden the lead guitar is louder than the thoughts inside your own head, followed close second by the drums and bass, and maybe the trombone after that. The trombone player is your hero, because he will never under any circumstances NOT be heard, not if they cut his mike, not if they stick a sock in his trombone, not even if they shoot him and bury him six feet under the stage. If they do that, a flaming trombone from hell will play Dixieland jazz straight up their asses. I think the trombone is an outstanding and often unsung instrument in the rock and roll pantheon. People latch onto the sax because it’s got a certain amount of built-in attitude in its sound, but the trombone wins because there’s no subtlety or pretension about it. Trombone is raw moonshine to the sax’s fancy wine. Trombone steps past the sharpshooter precision of the sax and pulls out a sawed-off shotgun.

I learned some things about being a rockstar from the trombone player. He never, ever, ever took himself seriously onstage or off; when he acted like he did, he was fucking with you. The trombone player made no enemies, was threatened by no one, and was ready with a smile in almost every situation. The trombone player was all about confidence, easiness and humor. If anything the trombone player said or did pissed you off, you knew you were probably being an asshole and should get off your high horse. The trombone player never sulked; it was almost impossible to hurt his feelings, and heaven knows I tried. The trombone player was the first to laugh if a practical joke was played on him; but his revenge was always swift and merciless, and the rest of the horn section were always there to back him up. The trombone player never gave a shit about what anyone else thought; he was only in it for his own entertainment, every minute he was in it. When he was done, he went to college and got himself a real job. He’ll probably be the one who pays for the lead singer’s funeral.

But more importantly, no one ever questioned whether the trombone player was “living in the real world” or not. (Okay, there was that time during his freshman year in college, but everyone’s freshman year is like that.) The trombone player, today, is as much a representative of “the real world” as anyone the lead singer has ever known. And yet he is still, and will always be, the trombone player. His spirit comes and goes across the face of creation with that sound forever following in his wake.

The trombone player represents something pure and eternal about the whole rockstar trip. Something that perhaps used that trip as a springboard to transcend all the shallowness and waste. The trombone player doesn’t have any regrets. The trombone player presents a lesson for us all: Play loud. Be heard. Wear whatever you want. Don’t be afraid to look ridiculous. And don’t bother having enemies – it’s just not worth the effort.

The trombone player understands brunch – that it’s a necessity, and not a luxury, of life.

Read the other part of the series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6