“Well, I've been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I've come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.” If your first instinct is that this came from your new favorite Tumblr-core hype band, I want to hit you over the head with a baseball bat. I’m (slightly) kidding of course, but hopefully I have your attention. It’s from the fantastic film High Fidelity, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly advise you do. Right away.
If you don't recognize that quote, perhaps I’ve already proven my point. Prior to writing this introductory entry to “Four Chords & Seven Years Ago,” I was really torn about how to introduce this new editorial to the site. While the name may be cheesy, the intent is anything but that. As a teenager, I was a young, hungry, and impressionable music consumer (I still am), and I was constantly searching for new music to listen to. Perhaps at the tender age of 23 I sound jaded, but I observe a general disinterest among the new generation of music listeners to scratch beneath the surface and search for the inspirations of their current favorite acts. For example, someone that is fan of The Wonder Years might find an appreciation for The Get Up Kids, as Soupy and The Get Up Kids singer/lyricist Matt Pryor exhibit a similar heart on your sleeve writing style that unmistakably and individually define them.
During my middle and high school years, I turned to various outlets, publications, and recommendations including MTV, FUSE, AP.net, my friends’ blogs and music players, Purevolume, MySpace, etc. This lead me to stumbling across a wide array of popular bands that ranged from blink-182, Simple Plan, UnderOATH, Thursday, and many others. As these mediums now continue to evolve, we have an unlimited access to music through YouTube, Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, iTunes Radio, and any other digital streaming and hosting service out there.
As I got older, I began to delve deeper into the music I fell in love with. I feel like every day I learn about a new band or a different influence behind an artist that I connect to. It created a better appreciation for what my favorite performers were doing. Their writing styles, melody structures, the nods to the past, there was someone that had to have paved the way for what I was currently listening to. It didn’t always click for me, but at times I found myself latching onto an artist I would’ve detested had I not been previously exposed to listening to a relevant artist.
“Four Chords & Seven Years Ago” will not be a fire & brimstone lecture of “you kids have terrible taste.” Quite frankly, that idea is uttered among every generation and I find that notion to be nonsense. Tastes are completely subjective and I’ll almost never tell someone they’re wrong for liking a certain artist. What I hope to accomplish is to open your ears (and mine) to something that you may not have heard before in hopes that it will drive you to explore deeper down the rabbit hole that is…music. In addition, I’ll be calling upon others to weigh in with an artist from generations past that expanded their listening perspective.
So, let’s get started. The inaugural band to be featured is Down To Earth Approach. I first heard of DTEA through the Vans Warped Tour 2004 Compilation Disc which featured the single “Exhibit Of The Year.” At the time my musical rotation included New Found Glory, blink-182, Simple Plan, and other heavy hitters, but these bands were a steady diet of fast-paced, pop-oriented tracks. This is one of the first times I had heard something melodic with an emo twist that wasn’t a slick pop song. There was something raw and rough while still maintaining a catchy core. I wanted more and the band’s first full-length, Another Intervention, provided just that.
It’s not as if DTEA was a garage band that stumbled onto the scene. The band was signed to Vagrant Records, who was one of the hottest independent labels out there. With a venerable “who’s-who” of giants including Rocket From The Crypt, Saves The Day, Senses Fail, The Get Up Kids, and Dashboard Confessional, along with a crop of newcomers that included Emanuel (who we’ll hear about in a later installment) and City And Colour, Down To Earth Approach was on the fast track to success. Touring with the likes of Circa Survive, Say Anything, Saves The Day, and Moneen, the band was receiving the attention and development it deserved.
Shortly after the release of their second record, Come Back To You, the band decided to call it quits. Although they had a short career, Down To Earth Approach holds a special and nostalgic place in my music library. For me, Down To Earth Approach was a gateway band. This opened my eyes and ears to other emo-rock acts of the mid-2000s like The Early November and Hot Rod Circuit among others. Even listening now, I can hear huge similarities to bands like The Get Up Kids and Superchunk. Another Intervention allowed me to delve into a grittier, more emo and rock sound versus the polished and produced records I was used to.
To the members of Down To Earth Approach - thank you. Although I never got to see you play live, your music has left a permanent impact on my tastes.
To those that decided to read this to the end - thank you. I hope this is the first installment of many that will talk about artists that need to be heard.
"Do It Yourself" - it's a term thrown around a lot in today's scene. Bands that practice and preach this mentality wear it as a badge of honor. The only question, what does DIY truly mean? What does it mean to fully embrace the DIY ethos? In this feature, we will be speaking with people in the industry that run the spectrum of what it means to be DIY and their advice to people wanting to learn more about the entire process. This can range from booking your first tours, setting up a press kit, or recording on a budget. The topics are nearly endless.
This guest blog is brought to us by Mark Woodbridge, A&R at Radium Records and has been in a slew of touring and signed bands.
Do It Yourself - it's a term thrown around a lot in today's "scene." Bands that practice and preach this mentality wear it as a badge of honor. The only question, what does DIY truly mean? What does it mean to fully embrace the DIY ethos? In this new feature, we will be speaking with people in the industry that run the spectrum of what it means to be DIY and their advice to people wanting to learn more about what is available to them. This can range from booking your first tours, setting up a press kit, or recording on a budget. The topics are nearly endless.
Today, we are proud to present our first entry for DIY 'Til I Die, Support The Tour run by Sara Stile.
It's been a long time since I've updated my blog. For the millions...AND MILLIONS! (That's an ode to The Rock) of my faithful readers, I'm happy to let you all know I'm going to be on all of Warped Tour this summer. My buddies in Shut Up and Deal from Idaho are allowing me to TM and make it count for my college internship!
I'll try and stay as active as I can on the site but it's going to be tough doing it in a van. I'm also going to try and feature smaller bands on the tour that you should try and watch, there's a lot of great talent that needs to be recognized.
How do you start a review for a show that features one of the most iconic bands in the "scene" playing a once-a-year show? Either way, with a lineup like this you knew it was going to be a special night.
Such Gold kicked it off with an energetic 30 minute set. Most of the crowd wasn't familiar with them, but for the small portion that did, it was a treat. As someone that has seen Such Gold, in a bar with about 40 people no less, I'll admit that it was a bit weird to see them on a big stage and a 10 foot barrier between the crowd. The awkwardness of not being able to be right in the faces of the crowd was definitely something they had trouble dealing with at first but they got over it fairly quick. Either way, this didn't stop them from putting on one hell of a set.
If you're a fan of Title Fight, Transit, and The Wonder Years you will dig what these guys are doing. If you're wondering why a heavier pop-punk/hardcore influenced band was on the bill, they were touring with Hit the Lights in December and this was one of the stops on the run before the show was re-scheduled due to snow. They started off their set with two old songs but kicked right into fan favorite "Sycamore" much to the delight of those in attendance. From there, a slew of crowd-surfing and moshing ensued and the band's comfort level increased rapidly.
One of the noteworthy things about Such Gold is their ability to pull decent harmonies live despite their heavier sound and complement it with screaming. It's very nice to see melody in this style of pop-punk. During "So Close," Kenny Vasoli fulfilled his guest vocals duty live much to the enjoyment (and surprise) of the crowd. You could tell by Such Gold's demeanor that this was a childhood dream come true because how many bands can say Kenny Vasoli is featured on their record, let alone have him perform it live. This instantly brought credibility to the band with the crowd, so what's better to do next than cover Saves the Day in New Jersey? Reign Supreme's Jay Pepito joined them onstage to play a rendition of "You Vandal" much to the delight of the crowd. The band closed with "Four Superbowls, No Rings" from their EP Stand Tall.
The entire time during their set, frontman Ben kept thanking the crowd and The Starting Line for letting them play a show they'll remember for the rest of their lives. Be on the lookout for some new releases in 2011 from Such Gold.
Next up were veterans Hit the Lights. It's no surprise why they were on the show, they're co-managed by Randy Nichols (Who manages The Starting Line) and Matt Watts (Guitarist of The Starting Line). They openly acknowledged this during their set.
One of my first concerts was New Found Glory/The Early November/Cartel/Hit the Lights in 2005, and I had not seen HTL since. I've rocked Skip School, Start Fights for several years so it was a real treat to see some material live. If you've seen Hit the Lights live with Nick, you'll recognize that he's much deeper live than he is on the record. However, I really didn't mind it. It actually plays out well with the harmonies. Guitarist Kevin Mahoney and synth player Andrew Kane usually pull off the highs with near perfection while Omar and David would do most of the lows which gives a really nice addition to their set.
Their set was an even mix of "old" and "new" Hit the Lights' tunes, pleasing fans from both the Colin and Nick eras. One thing that has always remained an anomaly for me is the amount of guys that dig this band. I know that my friends and I blast them, but it became evident why this isn't a hard question to answer. They're heavy but in their own way. Their guitar riffs and tones scream Four Year Strong but their pop sensibility like All Time Low keeps everyone happy. Of course, they played This Is A Stickup... favorites "309," "Speakers Blown," and "Bodybag" but I really wish I heard more from Skip School... but I'm just picky. My favorite song of the set was "Breathe In" because that is what I think is the perfect example of what Hit the Lights is now - the heavy and pop elements are balanced perfectly. The surprise of their set was covering "Holly Hox" by Saves the Day.
I had the chance to catch up with some of the guys after the show and talk about the new record. I'm not going to spare any details, but if it's anything close to as how they described, we're in for a great album.
Now onto The Starting Line. I can't describe the excitement and anticipation I had leading into the show. I promised to remain under some composure and keep some sort of journalistic integrity during their set because it was my first time seeing them and I needed to remember their set to write this review. Thankfully I did, but that doesn't mean I didn't have my 13 year old self singing on the inside to every word.
As soon as the lights went out, the crowd erupted and began moving back and forth, pushing forward to the stage to get as close as possible. A sea of people were waiting for legends of the Drive-Thru era to take the stage and the band immediately began right into a song that has meant so much to me "Somebody's Gonna Miss Us." If anyone has seen their documentary, the outpour of emotion in that song is so moving and it never ceases to make me realize how lucky I am to work in this circus called the "music industry." It didn't take long for them to get into older material as the crowd exploded for the next song, "Up and Go."
Every song you could see the 15 year old Vasoli come out. His energy and exuberance was unmatched by anyone that night. You could see the youthful glare gleaming from his eyes when he jumped around and danced on stage. It was evident that he was born for the spotlight, he is the ultimate performer. He just fed off of the crowd and their energy. He was somewhat affected by a shoddy bass power supply which he kept missing with the entire night, but that was a minor glitch in an otherwise nearly flawless set.
I know I'm in the minority, but I feel like Direction is the 2nd best TSL album behind Say It Like You Mean It. Music is all a matter of opinion, but this album just hit me at the right time. The idea of growing up and shedding the young and naive self came off in a manner where it's hard to depict it, but it's one of those inexplicable situations. I could tell the amount of songs played from Direction bummed out some of the crowd because they wanted to hear older songs like "Bedroom Talk," "Greg's Last Day," and others but I wasn't complaining in the least.
The band trucked on mixing in old and newer songs. They completely owned the crowd, as they sang along to every word of every song. During "Given The Chance," Vasoli added "But it will never be as good as tonight" after the line "Every minute I will count 'till the next show in the next town." He wasn't just playing to the crowd, it was a sincere line and it was reaffirmed by the many thank you's to the crowd and to everyone else that has helped TSL.
They finished off their set with three of their best songs, "Island," "Leaving," and "Best of Me." I don't know if I have ever seen a crowd more explosive than when they played these last three songs. I literally got goosebumps because the entire crowd was singing along and you could barely hear the band. After a short call for "encore!" they came out on stage and Vasoli said "You know, we secretly pray that you guys don't leave when we're finished playing." In their encore they performed a new song "Luck" which sounded a lot like a b-side off of Direction and then finished off with "This Ride."
My only two gripes of the night were the mix and the crowd. The mix for TSL was horrendous. You could only hear vocals, bass, and kick drum. There was no snare or guitars at all. It was definitely a bummer because there are some classic riffs and leads that you couldn't really hear that well. Also, the venue has a terrible habit of over-packing shows. There was hardly any room to move around and if you're one of the unfortunate ones who don't like to see a concert squished and tend to stand in the back, then you're in the only walkway and are constantly getting bumped around.
Other than that, this was one of the most incredible events I've ever been a part of. I hope it won't be the last time I can see The Starting Line. Then again, why would a band that's not together be writing any new material?
There's no way around it, this site loves Lydia. I had the opportunity to intern at Linc Star Records during the album cycle of Illuminate, and that's where I first heard of the band. So I have a personal attachment to the band, as they are the first band I ever helped work on an album for. So it's no surprise I'll be the first to write about Gates, the project of ex-Lydia member Ethan Koozer. Don't expect Illuminate Part 2.
My take? Think Jimmy Eat World's Clarity meets American Football meets The Appleseed Cast's Mare Vitalis. I just saw their second ever set tonight and I was damn impressed. The instrumentation is on par with many of the post-rock acts of today, the 3 guitar attack sets it apart from its peers. Using phasers, delays, and other effects, the band creates an upbeat sound that never seems to slow down. The drums are the backbone as simplistic rhythms are perfectly syncopated to match the songs' flow and the drums are complemented by the smooth basslines. The vocals are the norm for what we consider to be the ambient post-rock of today, a lot of reverb to cover up a rough tone of sometimes pitchy vocals. However, you never seem to be bothered by it because it comes off so natural. Mixed with the backups and harmonies, the chaotic layers of sound create an ephemeral concoction that will please the ears of many.
Yesterday the amazing people at FUSE allowed me to be in attendance for a taping of A Different Spin With Mark Hoppus on FUSE on Thursdays at 7 PM. The guest was My Chemical Romance. The taping began with My Chemical Romance sound checking. I stepped into the studio at FUSE and I was blown away with the size of it. It's tiny but they make the most out of the small space they have. As someone who runs a college TV show quite similar to this, I can appreciate little things like this. Their lighting and sound is incredible for a TV studio, it would make a lot of concert venues jealous to see the amount of equipment they have. Their lighting is what makes a lot of the performances so special. Using intelligent/moving lighting, it gives the vibe of a live performance and you lose the fact that it's a tiny TV studio.
The vibe inside the studio is great. If you read my previous entry with my dinner with Mark, you'll read that Mark is a genuinely awesome guy. He isn't a prick talent (See: Bill O'Reilly) who sits in the chair, does his bit, and then peaces out. Mark goes around and talks to everyone. He gave some gifts to the studio audience that entered to win a spot to watch the taping. He'll then go around and talk to the people in attendance. The best thing about Mark is his witty comments that he makes while everyone is prepping to record. If you've seen a Blink concert or know what the band is like, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Let's not forget about his co-host Amy. She provides just as much charisma as Mark. She plays off of him so well and comes up with a lot of funny things off the top of her head.
As for the interview part, I prefer this over the "TRL" style any day of the week. Having the band sit down on a couch and Mark interview them is truly a pleasure and made it feel so intimate. Although Mark comes in with pre-prepared questions (Most likely thanks to lovely interns and producers), Mark makes interviewing seem like such an easy task. He is so conversational with the bands and can easily improv something and have it come off so natural. I think that's the most underrated part of the show and should be commended much more.
Do you want to know the only thing that sucks about the entire situation? I don't get FUSE in my dorm. FML.
I'm pretty sure you're all aware about Movember and what the site is doing for it. I'm a pretty hairy dude (Except on my head...thanks Wagner gene pool) so it should be interesting to see how this turns out. If you scour the interwebs, you can find n00dz (just kidding), but you can actually find what I look like when I have a 2-3 month beard that was untouched.
Drive A are young guns to the music biz, but be warned that they'll be on your radar very soon. I had the opportunity to catch their set when they played to no one at Bamboozle '09, and ever since then I've kept my eye on them. They have scored tour spots with The Used, HIM, the Bamboozle Roadshow, Bullet For My Valentine/Escape The Fate and more; the band has been gaining fans that normally wouldn't follow a band like this. The best part about them: their age range is 18-21. They have such a sensible and understanding view of the industry and its workings. Their music is fast paced, energetic, I don't give a sh*t punk rock...something we're all desperately missing nowadays.
They let me sit down and listen to their new album and I can only describe it in one way: wow. It's 13 balls to the wall tracks, and not a single song about love. Standout tracks (In my mind) include "Young Cunts," "Robbery," "Empty Pages," and "Dead End Lives." Themes of songs include going over to Europe and experiencing the people, band sluts (Band-Aids; yes, that's an Almost Famous reference), and many other relatable topics. The underlying message: to break out of conformity and speak your mind. One of the more impressive things about the album is that it was tracked live. The band doesn't miss a step the entire time. Singer Bruno Mascolo brings to mind a younger sounding Strike Anywhere or Anti-Flag with his scratchy delivery. The guitar tones are muddy but define their sound rather than distract the listener and give it character. It's clear the band takes a lot of inspiration from the aforementioned Anti-Flag and other bands like Bad Religion, The Ramones, and more. This band is a definite winner, be on the lookout for the new album soon.