With the release of their debut album Borders & Fences, the members of Atlanta-based Namesake are ready to make their mark on the pop-punk scene. Lead vocalist Will Crafton, guitarists Brad Wagner and Troy Harmon, drummer Kevin Nordeste, and bassist Seth Van Dusen combine their considerable talents to create a sound that fans of New Found Glory, All Time Low, and The Maine will love.
Recently, Will took some time out from Namesake’s current tour with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus to answer some questions for TWRY.
Interviewed by: Heather Kobrin
This is one band that can’t simply be pigeonholed into one genre. If I was forced to compare them to existing acts to make it easier for someone else to understand, I’d have to say they’re Joan Jett meets the Cranberries. They have a hard time categorizing themselves! Let’s let them tell you…. Read more
I recently sat down with experimental Boston musician Daniel Harris to ask him about two of his exciting new projects, a 3-song EP (with a release date of early December, 2011), and a full-length album with his project 3dCosby (set to release in February 2012). After laboring over his music for months (and in the case of his full-length, years), we rapped about his nuanced process of creation, discussed why a DIY artist’s work is never done, and jawed off about the political (and apolitical) message of it all.
Interviewed by: Dorise Gruber
Tony Carboney – keys/guitar/vox
Individually, the guys in this band are pretty much all over the musical spectrum – other projects are nothing like this band. You’ll find that ::FeeL:: is generally not like any other band you’ve ever met, but, don’t take my word for it – let them tell you.
Brian, Charles, Ian, and Jeff sat down with me recently for possibly the most eclectic interview I’ve ever done – traffic sounds be damned!
Interviewed by: Jessica Messina
Newcomers to the scene The Famous Winters, comprised of Sean Kennedy, Alex Garzone, and recently joined by Matt DeCosta, are a Providence-based minimalist trio with a dynamic sound. Steady and eerie, Kennedy’s strained vocals and icy lyrics make their EP, Carnival Sky, a short but incredibly strong debut. Kennedy and Garzone may not be partnered long, but their chemistry reads so powerfully in their music that when I saddled up to chat with them, I wasn’t surprised to find them echoing each others ideas, and sometimes even finishing each others’ sentences.
Interviewed by: Dorise Gruber
Singer Emily Armstrong and guitarist Siouxsie Medley, the anchors of the band Dead Sara, have been making music together since they were teenagers. When they decided to branch out a little more they solidified their band line up with Chris Null on bass and Sean Friday on drums.
With their debut album due out this summer the band traverses with ease from genre to genre producing melodic gems that flow right into in fierce, tear your head off, metal induced rockers all with a gritty, primal edge that leaves your ears wondering what could possibly come next.
We recently caught up with Armstrong and Medley to talk about the band, their upcoming album and the magical chemistry they’ve seemed to harness.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette
Although not exactly a household name just yet in North America, Mindflow has been tearin’ it up in their home country of Brazil for over six years now. Their progressive hard rock sound is starting to make some waves and the band is currently out on tour with UFO here in The States.
TWRY had the opportunity to catch up with founding members guitarist Rodrigo Hidalgo and drummer Rafael Pensado prior to their show in Foxboro MA at showcase Live and find out a little bit about who they are. Check it out!
By: Roger Scales
You’re currently out on the road supporting UFO here in the US. Have you toured here in North America previously and what have the crowds been like thus far?
This is actually our 4th time here, although most of the dates have been on the West coast and Southern part of the US. So far on this leg it’s been awesome. Every show the crowds seem to get bigger and that’s a good sign. We did play the Prog Power Festival in Atlanta in 2009 and I think that was our biggest show here in America up to this point. We love the American crowds and they seem to be really into the music. You guys are all rockers at heart and we are very happy to be here once again.
With Bare Hands is your 4th studio album and the first with Nightmare Records. Was the recording experience/location any different than you’re your previous releases?
Yes it was. It was a very different experience than in the past because the initial recording started out within a project called “365” where we worked on 1 song a month for an entire year. So we kind of worked on the song, recorded it and released it one at a time. We did move around a bit working at several different studios during this process. We once again got to work with Ben Grosse (Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Disturbed, Breaking Benjamin, and Sevendust) producing some of the tracks on this new record so we were real happy having his contributions and experience at our disposal. We were very pleased with how the final mix came out and we hope the fans do as well.
After watching and enjoying the video for the first single “Break Me Out” I’m curious where that was shot and do you have any interesting stories coming from it?
Everybody always asks about the girl!! No none of us are dating her! Basically that location is a major trucking spot in Sao Paulo Brazil where sand is gathered for distribution to various construction sites throughout the area. We had a lot of fun working on that track I think the director got the most out of us that day and the performance shots are really a good representation of who we are as a live act.
I also watched the video for the new single “Thrust Into The Game” which was a lot different from a stylistic approach than the first video from this album. What is the game referenced in that song?
That “game” is a reference to Brazilian politics and what seems to be going on in local government right now. There was lot of corruption that was going on at that time. It was in the news daily and we just couldn’t help but be affected by it and it came out in this song. It’s all about taking the people and the government and throwing them all in one pot and trying to create a stabilized environment. It’s still a work in progress.
Speaking of games..tell me a little bit about the Alternative Reality Game ‘Follow Your Instinct”. Who came up with the concept, how many people have been playing this game and at what stage is it at currently?
The band came up with the general idea for the game and the concept of the game in 2005 that situates the players as detectives in pursuit of a dangerous serial killer. We thought it would be fun and it started out with about 3,000 players in the first edition of the game that lasted a little more than 1 year. It combines fictional situations with reality, making use of media channels from the real world. The game takes place in websites, e-mails, phone calls, and some other media sources. It’s now up and over 10,000 players at this point. It has a special connection with our younger fans because it’s similar to a video game. We put clues in each of the albums so it combines our records in the game as well.
It’s a little tough to categorize Mindflow into just one musical direction. Hard rock rhythm section with a melodic flow and power vocals is the best description I could come up with. Certainly you appeal to different fans and age groups for different reasons. Did you ever have a goal in mind as a band to overtly attempt to have mass appeal or did it just happen naturally as the band evolved over time?
I think it’s just a natural progress over time. As a band we never tried to limit ourselves or categorize the act into one particular style or direction..just let it flow. That’s how we came up with the name of the band. With the new record With Bare Hands we did try to be more aggressive and heavier for sure so it should resonate with the metal fans all over. We really wanted to share the energy with the crowd when we recorded this new record and couldn’t wait to start playing these songs live and feel that vibe up close and personal by getting back on the road.
In your native Brazil you have played some major stadium type shows and also supported some major acts throughout Europe as well. What has observing these rock veterans in these environments taught you about life on the road, interacting with fans and building the Mindflow legacy?
Great question because we all believe the best experience you can get “cutting your teeth” and creating a band for the long haul is just tour, tour, tour. We need to bond and work as family and friends and you can only gain that connection by going out on the road. Seeing some of these guys that have been doing this for 20 or 25 years just gives us the motivation to someday be that vetern act headlining on a bill with 4 or 5 other bands. Most of these bands we have toured with have been super supportive and we have appreciated the guidance and advice.
There was a recent photo of the band from this tour with Mike Portnoy..now drummer free agent! What was that meeting like and did you think Dream Theater will be the same band without him?
He has been one of the biggest inspiration to us and one of the most important metal progressive performers of his generation. To have him in the audience at our gig watching as a fan was a huge thrill for all of us. We got to talk to him for a bit after our set and Rafael got to ask a few drumming questions which defiantly made his day! He was so cool. We gave him one of our tour shirts and he wore it!! He is a real music fan who just happens to be the best rock drummer in the business. Having Mike Mangini replacing Portnoy in the band they will lose very little from a skill perspective and his style and technique are so similar I can see why he got the gig. But Portnoy was so much more than just the drummer. From a business standpoint it will be different. His spirit is what flowed through the band and it will be interesting to see not only the quality of the new music but how the fans react no matter how good it is because Portnoy is not there. On the other hand maybe the other band members will step out of the shadows and showcase another side from them we have never seen; either way no matter what happens Mike Portnoy will be back in Dream Theater at some point in the future playing like he always did and has with reckless abandonment.
What does the future hold for Mindflow in terms of touring for the remainder of this year, another studio album or maybe a live cd/dvd?
We have actually been filming quite a bit of material since we started in the hopes of putting together a bulk of material for a live DVD package. We have some more touring planned for the summer in Brazil and then possibly back in the studio to start work on a new record by year’s end. Writing, touring, writing touring. We feel the whole spirit of the 1970’s is starting to come back with bands constantly working and trying to release an album a year to keep their momentum going and fan base growing. We strive for that as a band. We have a lot of energy burning inside each of us and want to get it out live on stage and then back to the studio to create new reasons to keep come seeing you guys here in the US! We love it here and want to thank all of the fans on this tour for coming out early to check us out before seeing UFO.
Oh No Fiasco is an up and coming band hailing from Knoxville, TN. Their debut self-titled EP recently came out on May 10th. We caught up with the band’s leading lady Lindsey Stamey to find out all about it!
With their latest release The Terminology of the Situation Is…Della Valle challenge any listener to define their sound. Weaving effortlessly from genre to genre Della Valle draw from the most meaningful moments in their own lives and turn them into beautifully crafted songs we can all savor. Mastering the art of storytelling through music the EP delivers an eclectic and diverse offering of songs that ironically seem to be made for each other.
I recently had the chance to chat with main man Jay Della Valle about the new release, how the songs came together, his evolution from a solo artist to a full-fledged band and of course – the moustache!
So like any true artist you put a lot of preparation in before writing and recording The Terminology of the Situation Is… in terms of new experiences. Can you tell us some of the things you did and how it fueled your song writing?
As a band, we were in a time of huge transition before we recorded these tunes. We had just finished our “Stache Bash” tour and we’d been playing a lot of the same tunes for a while. Touring and playing so much for an extended period of time gave us the ability to see what kind of effect we were having on lots of people and it also helped us to realize what kind of songs we would want to write to help make our act better overall. We ended up changing our band lineup shortly thereafter- Dave Reid and I started to workshop all the tunes we’d had swimming around in our headspace. We geared up with producer Taylor McLam and decided that we wanted to approach these songs differently than I had in the past. The mindset was to cherish the moment and the general vibe, to keep it loose and real but obviously still tight and organized and also to capture a sense of space within the songs so they didn’t sound like recordings done in a sterile studio environment. It ended up taking way longer than we had hoped because so many things were happening in all of our lives and because our producer lived a little far away. We had to get beyond the frustration of things taking so long and just stay connected to the songs and keeping an open mind to how they might change even after we thought we finished them. In the end we did 10 songs, 6 which we decided to use for the EP, because collectively those are the songs that seemed to mirror the experience we were interested in giving the listener.
I love that you described the whole process as “running from mediocrity” – and that seems to kind of go hand in hand with the song “We’ll Always Have Midnight”, can you tell us a bit about that song?
Where that comes from is basically something that seems to drive many artists I meet, especially Dave and I. If you always believe that your best work is never done you’ll keep trying to make your best work or keep allowing yourself to channel whatever source you get your freshest inspiration from. None of us wants to be uninteresting or just one of the many doing the same thing. “Midnight” has a lot to do with standing apart from everyone else, many who seem to be programmed in their routine mundane lifestyles. With “Midnight” the character breaks continuity, he says “something just ain’t right wink wink” and he does something about it by being proactive. Effectively changing his course before he walks into the sunset with a beautiful girl; the dream life. I guess the point being that you write your own destiny everyday so don’t settle or get too comfortable. Mediocrity for us is a passive hellish mindset that bears no fresh fruit.
In listening to The Terminology of the Situation Is… from start to finish it seems that one of your true assets is your ability to shift genres pretty seemlessly – I’m wondering, how does that impact the writing process as a whole? When you start writing a song, do you have a clear idea of what kind of sound you want it to be from the get go or does it just develop throughout?
I get asked this a lot. Whenever a fan says this, it’s meant as a compliment and I take it as one. Many enjoy that we can shift and keep it interesting and unpredictable but still manage to stay compelling and cohesive. However, often times an industry person will point at this and urge us to keep cultivating our sound that this shifting of genres prevents people from being able to categorize and immediately identify with what we represent. I understand both mindsets but the truth is that we just let the song take us to our vision. We both travel and experience a lot of things over the course of a year so 6 months in New York and then 6 months in Hawaii and LA produces some rock songs and some super laid back fun in the sun beachy songs, environment effects us huge. The shift in genre is really a shift in environment when we initially wrote and conceived the idea for the song. Also, the more life experience you have over the duration of recording a song/album the more influence you allow that experience to have on the work. Overall, we have a pretty clear idea of what we want it to be when we start but we are open to how it develops and to the colors/sounds we may use to pursue the vision throughout the process.
One of my favorite songs on the album is “Head Above Water” – staying true to your word it sounds nothing like the rest of the album but it’s a beautiful song. Can you tell me how it came together and the inspiration behind it?
My mom agrees with you! That has been her favorite song for a long time. I have been playing it acoustic for probably 6 years and everyone who has heard me play it like this is always urging me to record it but I never had a bridge so it just stayed incomplete for a while. Later, we were picking some more songs to record for the recent album and my mindset was “this song always captures people’s interest”- it’s a no-brainer- let’s make it a masterpiece! It ended up sounding more like a Radiohead or Muse song than one that should go on this Della Valle record- but it’s totally a Della Valle song in that the lyrics and sentiment originate from a time of pure vulnerability and inspiration from a time in my life that changed everything that happened thereafter. Sso adhering to my goal of always “keeping it honest” this song doesn’t have one lyric that I tried to write. It was a moment and I somehow managed to follow it through after 6 years with the help of Dave and Taylor. It’ll probably find itself onto another record, one filled with other darker and more mysterious songs. In the meatime, I dedicate it to my Mom!
The song “Bitches Be Crazy” is a fun one. It’s said to be inspired by a friend who has some interesting theories on women. I was hoping I could hear more about the story behind the song and how it fell into place and maybe one of those theories or two?
We are having a blast with this one and it’s going to be our next single. It’s our biggest request lately. I was sitting on a rock on a beach surrounded by crabs-in Kona, Hawaii- waiting for my friend to finish work. We had just finished having an infamous conversation about our love lives-and he must have said “Bitches Be Crazy” as an endnote. This sudden title was all I needed to set my mind in motion. I spent the next hour just writing about how crazy the women we love can make us sometimes but how at the end of the day we love these crazy ladies because they’re “ours” and because they keep us in line. The song already sounds chauvinistic and offensive at first but my intention was always to juxtapose this with my sense of humor about relationships. I wanted it be uncomfortable (as achieved with the excessive use of the word “bitch”) yet charming. It just worked for me and my character I guess although after we played it live for the first time in Santa Monica one night a lady came up to me, got in my face and said “you’re a fucking asshole” and then stormed out. Guess she wasn’t listening to the verses. Can’t please everyone! Anyway, I had a rough idea of what I wanted the song to sound like when I got home from Hawaii and when I played it for Dave and a few friends they thought I was kidding and heckled me for writing a jerky song that uses the word “bitch” so many times. I was so certain about this song being great I couldn’t be convinced to change anything about it, especially the number of “bitches.” We recorded the whole song in one really fun sunny day in Long Island. The whole vibe seemed to come together as we blended an old school hip hop beat with this slide guitar part whose essence pays tribute to Hawaii, with that Santos & Johnny Sleepwalk sound. As for my friend and his theories it was basically that Men are from Mars/Women are from Venus theory. We’ll never get it right and they’ll always be there to let us know. Call us old-fashioned, we like our women obedient and submissive and in return we reward them with mustache. Go ahead- roll your eyes!
Which song on the album do you feel most attached to and why?
I would have to say “Put Your Slippers On.” This song is also from Hawaii. Writing it took 10 minutes. I had just had an amazing day which involved jumping off a 50 foot cliff locals called “the end of the world.” It literally looked liked it. This beautiful majestic perch reaching out over the ocean, I had never been so scared. The whole day was epic and when I got home I just picked up the guitar, my friend grabbed his bass and it happened. The whole song is this moment, everything I felt on that great day, captured in story in this song –forever. People immediately liked it and were really encouraging as I developed it and played it for friends throughout the year. Recording it was a challenge because we had to go way overboard in many ways to realize what the song did not need. What we didn’t want was a typical sounding reggae song mostly since we’re not a reggae band and because it was too predictable to go this route. It always sounds best just acoustic around a campfire or on the beach with the ocean as the other instrument. Actually I recorded the waves at a beach called “Pine Trees” when I was surfing one day knowing that I wanted to start and end the song with some ocean sound. In the end and after a lot of experimentation- we improvised a chain gang groove with the percussion and the vibe evolved into what I hoped it would have sounded like all along when fully produced. It’s still best just solo acoustic though.
You’ve released a video for “We’ll Always Have Midnight” – can you tell us a little bit about the video concept and how it all came together?
We knew we were going to shoot a music video for one of our songs with our good friend and director Jack Roberts. We were brainstorming as to which song it would be for when Jack mentioned this concept that involved the TV box heads and how he’d been anxious to experiment with that in a video. We all agreed on a storyline and the scenery that would best compliment the idea and it just made sense that it would work best with our song “We’ll Always Have Midnight” which already had this futuristic, semi-apocalyptic undertone to it. From there, we just fleshed it out as much as possible and tried to keep it simple. Of course, you always end up going overboard a little bit. Thanks to Jack everything went really smooth, everyone had a great time and “We’ll Always Have Midnight” the song was enhanced by a great video which added the gleam that we were happy to have as we kicked off promotion for our new EP.
For people that may not be familiar with the band, let’s talk about your history a little – you started out as a solo artist and then things evolved into a full fledged band, can you take us through that?
Yes, I had started to write my own songs back in 2003 or so- recorded my first EP then- and basically started to pursue this whole existence. Over the years I’ve had many different players in my band as I continued to play solo in coffee shops and wherever I could. Band lineups fell apart. People would not be carrying their own weight so we’d go our separate ways and then I just had to put it all back together. I kept writing songs and looking for more people to collaborate with. Each different “Della Valle” band was an era in and of itself with different guys, different style, but we were always trying to achieve the same songs and it was always a good time. Eventually, I met Dave Reid at The Goldhawk in Hoboken one night. He was a guitar player looking for a worthwhile originals project to sink his teeth into. Our personalities and style meshed immediately and it wasn’t long before we were making plans to reassess Della Valle and take it in a new direction. Two years later- here we are.
You’ve compared your musical career to a roller coaster, to this point what has been the highest of highs and what has been the lowest of lows?
It’s been mostly highs doing what I love to do, lucky enough be able to keep churning out music. I stay positive despite how anxious I tend to become for things to move faster. The lows are really when things got stale, when after so much rehearsing and cultivating with a band you feel like you’re going backwards for whatever reason, worried I may end up 35 with no career and too old to be perceived of as fresh talent. I felt low when I came back from tour last year a little bit. There were so many things I was not feeling good about, that I just knew we were going to have to start all over. This is what I am and what I do though so after I’m done sulking I pick up my balls and do what needs to be done. Ican’t just stop, it’s not in my character. I still have songs to write and lots of energy to perform them. I haven’t even begun my ascent yet.
Your songs all seem to tell stories, do you think that’s an important element to songwriting?
I actually think it’s the most important element. I think “we” need story, whether we realize it or not. In a song it’s the way you tell the story, in the context of the song, that makes it an interesting song. The fragments of thoughts that tell the grime of the story paint the picture and excite or intrigue the senses, allowing the listener to connect, visualize, and actually experience the music. If the story is told well within those fragments or lyrics then the song is a success. If it has holes or broken tracks then it loses us-and it probably won’t be that memorable. As a filmmaker I guess I’ve always challenged my self to hone in on the storyline. I know what it requires to keep someone connected. If we can do without a lyric or a scene or even a small frame, then it gets cut. There’s no room for anything except what is absolutely necessary to keep the song interesting and always leading to the payoff.
And to build on that a bit, as a songwriter and performer what do you think makes a “great” song great?
An interesting perspective on a common theme plus some serious songwriting skills. A “great” song to me is a “moment” captured. Expressing that moment with the proper lyrics and melodies requires a meticulous approach to tempo and structure.
You and Dave Reid also produced your latest album. Over-achiever much? No but really, how hard is it to produce your own album? Is it hard to be objective?
Well, we co-produced it. This just means we go in with as much of it done as we possible can. We have to have a strong vision and idea of what we want to do or else it ends up taking forever. And time is money- so we don’t have the luxury to spend an endless amount of time trying to produce these songs. Our other studio counterpart is Taylor McLam who is a producer, engineer, and multi-instrumentalist whose strengths substitute our weaknesses. His involvement definitely makes the process go smoother and his influence helps underline our purpose in a sense. We all know what we’re going for and how to tell whether something is going in the right direction or not. Hopefully the energy is productive and fresh and brilliance happens. Sometimes it doesn’t- and when that happens, you can’t push it, you just have to go with it. We are looking to work with new producers for the next record and curious to see who can help draw our strengths more and help cultivate our sound.
I always like to ask people about their musical roots. Was music something you were always interested in or what was the path you took to becoming one?
My dad is a singer/musician/bandleader and he’s always been an entertainer- our family survived off of his reputation for doing this well. He’s been in bands and running his entertainment business for over 35 years so my whole life my family and I have been associated with entertainment. As an impressionable kid always impressed with his father. I was encouraged to rock out from a young age, always singing and eager to stand in the spotlight. I always participated in talent shows while in school and started playing in bands while in high school where I also caught the acting bug. I always wanted to act and be a singer in a band although it wasn’t until I got out of college that I actually started being a singer/songwriter. I could never really write a song that I was proud of until my grandfather passed away right after 9/11. He and I were very close and I was tremendously influenced by the way in which I saw him struggle and eventually surrender to sickness and death. He wouldn’t give up and I felt it was because he was either too scared or because he loved life so much, he just couldn’t come to terms with it. My first song “Come With Me” is a conversation between life (posing as death) and my grandfather’s soul finally agreeing to let go and return home. I sang this song and played guitar at his funeral in front of a lot of people, in October 2001. It was the first time I ever experienced what that was like. Since then I’ve been determined to keep writing songs as good and as honest as that first one.
So you and I share a love affair for moustaches – what gives? Have you always been a moustache kinda guy or was it something you found later in life? And in closing..what’s your favorite type of moustache?
Haaa- the mustache has come to precede me. I can no longer “not” have one without being a total disappointment, much like Tom Selleck. I’ve always thought they were bad ass but it wasn’t till I really rocked one for a few weeks and had people give me a hard time about it that I realized it’s potential to stir things up. Before I knew that anyone else had even had an idea as remotely ridiculous as mine I decided to challenge a bunch of charismatic friends under the age of 30 to grow and nurture a mustache for 1 month. I chronicled their experiences and used it as the foundation for my 2008 documentary “The Glorius Mustache Challenge.” Little did I know I’d be one of the forerunners of the modern mustache movement. The whole experience changed and continues to change my life in so many hilarious ways. I can rant about mustaches and mustache philosophy for hours and keep anyone entertained. My favorite type of mustache would have to be the “walrus” (fashioned by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and Actor Sam Elliott) since you can store food deep in the recesses of it- in case you get lost in the wilderness. You can also pluck the bristles out and use it as tinder. Although I have not sported this mustache yet, I look forward to it once I am married and certifiably nuts. In the meantime, I’ll rock the “handlebars.”
Catch Della Valle live at Maxwell’s in Hoboken Thursday May 19 and on tour everywhere this Fall!
For more on Della Valle visit their:
Will Knox was born in London, studied music at Berklee in Boston and now lives in New York City, if that’s not enough to inspire a lifetime of music, we don’t know what is! Inspired and inspiring, his blend of folksy alternative music spins a web of imagery which he captured perfectly by releasing his latest release Lexicon as a comic book. Citing influnces likeTracy Chapman to Ryan Adams to Nick Drake Knox is a true delight through and through.
Currently out on tour with Matt White and Brendan james on “The Troubadour Tour” through mid March we recently caught up with him to talk shop!
Interviewed by: Stacie Caddick-Dowty