You Sing, I Write: August 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Add You Sing, I Write On MySpace!

My summer goal was to create a MySpace for my blog. I still can't believe it's Labor Day weekend, marking the end of the summer! I feel like over the past few years each summer flies by faster and faster. I'm currently in the process of merging my MySpace into one for my blog, hoping to get more readers and fans of music interested in reading. Feel free to check it out and add me as a friend! Definitely leave me comments or suggestions on making my MySpace better because I'm still a bit new at it. Feel free to check out You Sing, I Write on MySpace here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Song of the Week: "Green"

I've been getting tons of emails lately, many requesting coverage of various bands for my blog. While I do read them all, I don't always get to post every band I come across, but I try my best to sooner rather than later. About a month ago I received information on singer-songwriter Brendan James and didn't check him out until recently and I'm so glad I finally did! I think you will be too once you listen to his song below. His piano influenced music is a bit mellow, but extremely intriguing to listen to.

Each song has a hidden story masked underneath more classical piano features played throughout. Said to be reminiscent to James Taylor and Damien Rice, maybe even a little Billy Joel mixed in, you'll have to listen and decide for yourself. Check out his video for "Green" below. If you like what you hear, be sure to visit his MySpace for more music and future tour information.

Green - Brendan James

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Calling All California Slash Fans

Next Wednesday, September 3, the Guitar Center in Northridge has a special treat, the next installment of their Guitar Center sessions — An Evening of Dialogue and Insight with Slash. Beginning at 6 p.m., the event is free and open to the public.

Possibly one of the most recognized guitarists in the rock world, Slash will be talking on topics ranging from guitar techniques and songwriting tips to touring and music business advice. Additionally, Slash will discuss intriguing insights into the book Reckless Road: Guns N' Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction. The night will also include a book signing.

This is one intimate event you don't want to miss! If only gas prices were a little cheaper and a flight to California was affordable, I would definitely be there! If you make it next Wednesday, send me a comment. I'd love to hear how the event went and any music advice Slash gives for this crazy music business!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Artist to Listen For: Benjamin Wagner

I've caught two of Benjamin Wagner's performances over the past year and both were incredibly solid, impressive sets. Performing for over 10 years throughout various New York venues, Wagner is one singer-songwriter you should check out if you haven't yet. His latest album, The Invention of Everything Else, is a strong lyrical and musical album. Most of the songs on the album are a mix of acoustic rock and slower ballads. When in play, the entire album takes you away from reality which for a musician, is a good thing.

The Invention of Everything Else encompasses an album full of raw, honest emotion. In "The Last Time" the listener feels exactly what Wagner is singing throughout the song, not always an easy feat for a singer-songwriter. Lyrics, "Write our names in black and white on the freeway so you see it/And maybe you’ll notice the lengths that I’m going to/I believe I’m going down for the last time, the last time/I’m afraid nothing I can do, oh no/I believe I’m going down for the last time, the last time/Baby it’s you" let the reader envision the story being told in the song.

"Giving Up the Ghost" opens up the album with a strong guitar presence in the middle of the song, somewhat reminiscent to Gin Blossoms’ "Follow You Down." This song segues nicely into an edgier, catchier track "Trying to Tell You." Positively the most up-beat track on the album, the faster guitar rhythm accentuates Wagner’s vocals extremely well.

Throughout much of the album, instrumental interludes flow perfectly breaking up the lyrics and music effectively with guitar, drumming and light tambourine features. "(I Won't Let You) Get Away" has this feel as well. A much slower track, Wagner's acoustic singing and light guitar playing achieve that laid back, tell-all, emotional feel. Constant repetition of lyrics, "I won't let you get away from me" communicate his yearning to be heard.

In fact, most of the songs on The Invention of Everything Else are ballads. "Promise," one of the strongest lyrical tracks, sounds like the quintessential wedding song. Lyrics such as "I promise you at the end of the day/In your darkest blue, in your deepest grey/I will sing to you, keep your demons at bay/I will see you through, I will shoulder the weight," exhibit Wagner’s prowess as a songwriter, allowing the listener to delve into his inner psyche.

While the first two tracks incorporate more fun, up-beat, rock show type songs and the remainder makes up more of an emotional journey, The Invention of Everything Else progressively reveals its depth. Not incredibly overproduced, this album has the stripped down feeling of watching a performance in an intimate, local venue. One of the strongest songs on the album is somber "Secrets & Lies." The slow guitar strumming encompassing the song seems simple, but so deep in meaning when listening closer to the lyrics and realizing this epitomizes the emotion of the story. This song differentiates from the more optimistic chronicles throughout the beginning of the album. Wagner sounds much older than his years on this track, a bit reminiscent of Bob Dylan.

With praising reviews from R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe calling Wagner a "future superstar" and VH1 News referring to his songs as "Timeless," Benjamin Wagner is one artist to look out for. His songs are likely to stay in your head long after the last chord is played.

You can preview the album on iLike or MySpace and if you dig, check out Authentic Records to buy the album or iTunes for the album plus two bonus tracks — covers of Oasis' "Wonderwall" and a favorite summer song of mine, Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer." Benjamin will also be performing September 20 and September 25 at Rockwood Music Hall so be sure to catch a show if you're in NYC!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wake Up With the All-American Rejects Every Morning

Does that title have you intrigued? I have a special contest going on for you to win an autographed mug from the All-American Rejects as well as a Dr. Pepper coupon thanks to Denny's Rockstar Menu launch happening tonight at 10 p.m. Currently, at Denny's restaurants across the U.S. fans can order dishes created by their favorite bands, including Taking Back Sunday, Plain White T's, the All-American Rejects and Eagles of Death Metal.

The current menu includes:

Taking Back Bacon Burger Fries, created by New York-based band Taking Back Sunday, combines two of the artists’ favorite foods — bacon cheeseburgers and loaded cheese fries — in a new, sharable way with familiar flavors of fries, cheese, hamburger, crispy bacon, onion, tomato, and pickles. They even top it off with ketchup and mustard.

Plain White Shake, by the Chicago band Plain White T’s, blends whole milk, vanilla ice cream, creamy cheesecake, whipped cream, and white chocolate chips creating a heavenly, drinkable dessert.

Heart on a Plate, by rockers Eagles of Death Metal, starts with heart-shaped pancakes topped with raspberry sauce, hot fudge, strawberries, white chocolate chips, and whipped cream. The Heart-themed entrée — a tribute to their soon-to-be-released album Heart On — is served with crispy bacon and eggs any style.

The All-American S.O.S. brings the timeless classic and hometown favorite dish of Oklahoma band, the All-American Rejects, to life with hamburger, cheese, grilled onions, and gravy on top of grilled Texas toast and hash browns.

Of their dish, All-American Rejects' frontman Tyson Ritter said, "The S.O.S. is a dish that we eat on the road all the time. There’s something for everyone in this dish and it fills you up good. From the trailer house to the lunch tray, ours is a dish that is often imitated, but never duplicated."

Does that have you hungry yet? If so, you can check out the latest Denny's menu here and to watch videos of each band making their dish click here. To watch the All-American Rejects busy in the kitchen, check out the video below.

AND now for the contest! This one will be a bit longer than the contest yesterday. I'll be accepting entries for the next two weeks, picking a winner on Wednesday, September 10. What I need is for you to E-mail me or leave a comment on my blog with your name, the best way to contact you if you win (by email or phone) and an answer to ONE of the following three questions, your pick:

1.) If you could ask the All-American Rejects one question, what would it be? (Be creative folks, I do interviews all the time so I'm expecting something a little more out of the ordinary!)
2.) What's your favorite AAR song and why?
3.) If you could spend the day with AAR, what would you do?

That's it! I'll be taking submissions up until Wednesday, Sept. 10th so keep 'em coming and good luck!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Free Tickets For YOU!

Hey everyone! Sorry I've been M.I.A. for a bit, the apartment in South Carolina had very little wireless connection so I wasn't able to upload anything. However, as a special thanks to you for being extremely loyal readers, I have a pair of tickets to see Swedish rock musician Kristoffer Ragnstam this Wednesday night at Pianos at 8 p.m. in NYC. Quite an accomplished singer-songwriter, Kristoffer's lyrics are a bit out of the ordinary from anything I've come across and I think you'll like him. Listen here for a stream of his song, "Swing That Tambourine" or check out his Twilight Zone-esque video for the song on YouTube or Quicktime. You can check him out on MySpace as well.

What I need from you:
E-mail me with:
1.) Your full name and
2.) Why you deserve tickets to see Kristoffer this Wednesday.

I need to pick a name by the end of the work day so act fast and let me know why you want to see him. Be creative!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Song of the Week: "Jailhouse Rock"

This past weekend was Elvis Presley weekend on all the oldie stations here in South Carolina, commemorating the King of Rock 'n' Roll's death just over 30 years ago. It's crazy to think it's been 31 years since the King's death (well before my time, I know) but the reality of his impact throughout the music industry and rock 'n' roll is inarguable. Growing up, I listened to a lot of Elvis thanks to my Dad and his favorite station, New York's WCBS 101.1. And, while at the time I'd wish he'd listen to anything but the oldie's, I've come to fully appreciate and respect the music I grew up with, Elvis being one of my favorites. Below is the King's fun video for "Jailhouse Rock" — a classic which can never be forgotten. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Backstreet Boys Fans Hit The Jackpot In Atlantic City

This past Friday I, along with several hundred other 20-somethings relived our childhood when seeing the Backstreet Boys’ show at the House of Blues in Atlantic City. Having been performing for the past 15 years, the majority of them now in their 30s, those Boys proved that they still have it goin’ on.

I should preface this review to explain just how hardcore some of my friends and I were dedicated to this band, hopefully not incriminating myself too much in the process. Back during the height of the BSB era two friends stood outside “TRL” with a “Beam Us Up, Carson” sign for hours, one making it on Channel 11’s “News at 11,” being interviewed by a reporter about the pandemonium outside the MTV offices with a record number of fans — think 10 times the extent of Jonas Brothers fans today. Another friend learned the entire “As Long as You Love Me” chair dance, and that’s no easy task — trust me, especially for the uncoordinated like myself. I can’t even do the “Everybody” dance, and I’ve tried many a time.

Sure, we got a lot of heat for liking them. Seventh and eighth grade definitely isn’t an easy period in any kid’s life, and I could never explain to people what “I Want It That Way” meant. Come on, could you? “Ain’t nothing but a heartache/Ain’t nothing but a mistake/Tell me why, I never wanna hear you say I want it that way.” The Backstreet Boys made life a little easier. I could escape from that awkwardness of middle-school life and be in my own world listening to their music. And I did. Granted, they weren’t the first “boy band” to walk the earth, and they definitely won’t be the last, but you cannot deny the presence they’ve had on my generation’s music influence.

The concert Friday night started out the same as every show of theirs I’ve been to — the continuous Backstreet Boys chant minutes before the venue goes dark. Soon thereafter, Brian, Howie, AJ and Nick were spotted onstage in boxing attire as an announcer introduced each member to the crowd. Thunderous applause and the most exasperating high-pitched screaming I have ever encountered at any show followed. I think every woman unleashed her inner 13-year-old Friday night, myself included.

The Backstreet Boys’ set began with a high-intensity performance of “Larger Than Life,” then segued into a cover of Kanye West’s “Stronger” before the venue went dark once more. Seconds later the Boys appeared in leather jackets for “Everyone” off of 2000’s Black and Blue album and “Any Other Way” off of their latest album, Unbreakable, with nonstop energy and impeccable dance moves. Their stage interaction with each other and the fans in the crowd demonstrated their prowess for performing.

Whether it was Brian constantly making comical faces while waving to audience members or Howie winking and blowing kisses, their love for what they do was evident the entire night. Despite having lost one member — Kevin Richardson — and having not been on tour the past few years, the Boys proved to the crowd that they’re not going anywhere, with the promise of a solo album from both AJ and Howie in the near future as well as another album in the works.

“We want to thank you all for 15 unbelievable years,” Howie told the screaming crowd. “We want to thank you for keeping the Backstreet pride alive.” Their nearly two-hour set included 26 songs from their 15-year career. The entire venue was singing along to many of their old hits and fan favorites such as a medley of “As Long as You Love Me,” “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” and “All I Have to Give” complete with their infamous hat dance. Their newer material, such as faster-paced, edgier “Panic” and slower ballad “Unmistakable,” continues to showcase BSB’s solid harmonies, catchy choruses and impeccable intonation.

In addition, each Boy took the stage alone, singing a song off of their previously released solo album (in Nick and Brian’s case) or the debut of a song from their upcoming release (AJ and Howie). While Howie’s song had a Latin vibe to it, AJ’s was much more rock influenced and heavier than the Backstreet Boys’ material.

It was evident that the Boys held a special appreciation for their Jersey fans. “I love Jersey so much that I actually married a Jersey girl,” Howie told the crowd. AJ later added, “Just to set the record straight, my Mom’s from Jersey. Hackensack to be exact,” as the screams rose and echoed throughout the venue.

Screaming isn’t all the Boys got from fans Friday night. During a slower take of their hit “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” each of the four members sat down at a makeshift card table. While mimicking playing a card game and talking with one another before beginning the song, two fans threw their bras at the Backstreet Boys, practically hitting a startled Brian and Howie in the face. Another fan could be spotted on the balcony flashing the guys continuously throughout their set.

The crowd favorite of the night seemed to be “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” as the Backstreet Boys had everyone jumping along throughout the song. The last song before their encore of “Shape of My Heart,” the guys got the crowd energized, and if they hadn’t come out for one more song, I think fans would have walked away content. Singing their famous line “Backstreet’s back all right,” the Boys have proven that they have lasted 15 years strong. I’m interested to see what the next 15 will be like.

For more on the Backstreet Boys be sure to check out their Website.

Special thanks to Wendy Hu for the picture from the show Friday night!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Song of the Week: "As Long As You Love Me"

A blast from the past, but so necessary for this week's song of the week. After catching the Backstreet Boys' performance a few hours ago in Atlantic City, I cannot deny that the Boys are still alive and kicking. And pretty well might I add. Their nearly two-hour performance brought me back to my childhood days and no matter the negative vibe the so called "boy band" genre has gotten over the years, their talent cannot be dismissed. Although they didn't do my beloved chair dance tonight (as can be seen in the video below), their energy, solid harmonies and hard-core dance moves kept the crowd screaming and singing along word for word all night long. Look for my full review sometime next week while I'm in South Carolina (Internet permitting).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Q&A with Toby Butler of the Duke Spirit

Gracing Rolling Stone's Breaking Artists blog as well as being part of many summer festival line-ups, U.K. band the Duke Spirit is getting quite some attention as of late. With catchy choruses provided by singer Liela Moss and solid musical accompaniment backed by the rest of the band, the Duke Spirit is definitely a band to check out. Their MySpace is worth a listen and to watch two music videos from their latest album, click here. Read below for my email interview with bassist Toby Butler, who talked about their sophomore album, Neptune, their writing process and why you should give the Duke Spirit a listen.

How do you keep your songs sounding new and fun from track to track?
Our producer Chris Goss was really instrumental in helping us give each song a personality. I think it's important not to get stuck in a regimented way of approaching things. It’s good to try new things as much as you can, to spread your wings. We'd use lots of weird instruments and sounds on each song to give them a less formal 'rock' sound. Guild the lily.

Did you go into the studio with a certain concept for this album?
Not really. We went into the studio with a bunch of songs, and we chose the album with Goss from them. I guess the concept was more the sound we wanted. We went to Goss because we love the way the records he makes sound. Heavy yet delicate.

Having already had the experience of recording your debut album, do you feel the process went more smoothly or was entirely different?
It was a whole lot different. We are now much more confident and open minded about making music. We were pretty inexperienced when we made that first album. I love the way it sounds, but in retrospect there are things I would have been more conscious of and things I would have done differently. Making Neptune was a much more fun and creative process, that was more a product of what is in our heads.

I love the song "Dog Roses." Does that have timpani in the background? It just has such a deep, dark feel to the song. What was the inspiration behind the song?
We recorded that song back to front. It was probably the most fun and openly approached song to record. We laid down an acoustic guitar track and just weaved everything else into it. Just four mics on the drum kit. I don't think it was a timpani, I think it's a de-tuned floor tom with loads of reverb on it.

What's the typical writing process for you like?
We demo whilst we write. If one of us has an idea for a song, then we record it in our little studio in London. Melodies and lyrics generally come after we have some kind of musical structure, or verse and chorus at least.

When I first heard "I Do Believe" the intro to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" came to mind. Did that occur to you at all when you were recording the song?
Ha ha. Well we're all fans of Queen! It wasn't the inspiration for it, no. It was something Liela came up with that we thought would be great as an intro for the album.

Do you have a favorite track on the album? If so, why that track?
This Ship Was Built to Last” is a favourite. I love the big rolling sound it has. I wanted it to have sound like a huge ship pounding through massive waves. That's how it makes me feel. I love playing it live.

What makes the Duke Spirit stand out as a band? Why should people check you out as opposed to other bands out there?
We make interesting, intelligent, psychedelic, heavy, delicate, rock and roll music that makes you wanna bang your head and shake your ass!

If that wasn't enough of the Duke Spirit for you, be sure to check out Rolling Stone's feature on them, with two live performances and a brief interview and if you like what you hear, catch a show when they're in town!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Colbie Caillat, Army of Me Featured on Team USA Olympic Soundtrack

I'm so excited to report (as I'm currently watching the USA men's volleyball team destroy Argentina) that two of the artists I've covered and interviewed earlier on my blog have songs featured on the Team USA SoundtrackColbie Caillat and Army of Me. These songs include Caillat's light and airy "Somethin' Special," written exclusively for the soundtrack as well as Army of Me's acoustic version of "Perfect" from their debut album, Citizen. Other artists on the album include Sheryl Crow, Goo Goo Dolls, Taylor Swift and Queen Latifah.

By checking out AT&T's Website you can watch the music video for each artist's song as well as two interviews where they explain the inspiration behind the song chosen as well as their favorite Olympic moment, among other topics. You really get to know more about each musician as they talk about what the Olympics mean to them, the similarities between athletes and musicians and how inspiring others through their music affects them.

To check out Army of Me's page on AT&T click here.
For Colbie Caillat, click here.
And, to view the other artists featured on the album check out the AT&T Website's artist lineup on the right side of the page. If you like the tracks, be sure to download them as a ringtone before the ceremony ends on August 24!

If you recognize the Army of Me photo from previous posts, it was taken by my friend Wendy Hu and it's also featured on the AT&T Website!

Michael Phelps in 30 minutes! You think he can beat the all-time record? I don't doubt it for a second.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Q&A with Corey Warning of the Graduate

Continuously on tour throughout the past two years, Illinois-based band the Graduate has been gaining quite some attention. From stints on Warped Tour and Germany’s Rock am See festival to tours with Jack’s Mannequin, Simple Plan and currently Secondhand Serenade, the Graduate has definitely been keeping busy.

Frontman Corey Warning was nice enough to sit down with me before their show last week in New York to talk about the band, their music and what it feels like while performing: “It’s a different feeling being onstage. As reserved as I can be in person, being onstage is definitely an empowering feeling,” Corey said. “That’s one of the best parts about being on tour too. If something bad is happening I feel like I can work that out onstage, even if it’s just pounding on a drum or strumming a guitar for a while. It just has this power to work out whatever you need to work out.”

Read below for the rest of my interview with Corey as well as some MP3's and videos of their songs. Be sure to check them out on MySpace for when they’re on tour near you — you won't be disappointed.

How did the Graduate begin?
We were all in different bands before the Graduate. Myself and Jared who plays bass, we were in a band together for about three years and Max, Matt and Tim were all in another band. We all played shows around the central Illinois area for a few years and we all knew each other from trading shows back and forth. Both of our old bands had broken up around the same time and there were still a handful of us that wanted to keep pursing music so we got together and wrote the song “Sit and Sink.” After that we decided it was something we all wanted to follow through with so we came up with a band name and made a MySpace page and just started getting serious with it. We wrote our Horror Show EP in a few months after getting together and recorded that with a friend. After we put that out online we started getting response from labels. We realized it was getting more serious than we had thought it was going to a lot faster, so all of us dropped out of school and pursued it full time.

Horror Show was the EP that eventually had you featured on the cover of CMJ Magazine after being the number one most added in college radio the end of 2006. How was that experience for you?
It was all pretty strange to us. People who we were working with were telling us how great these things were that were happening and we didn’t know anything about what was really going on. We’re all just small town kids and were clueless at the time so we were excited, but I don’t think we really realized how much that was giving us a head start. We had got that feature when we were in the studio, so before we put out the album we already had our foot in the door and people had their eyes on us and realized who we were and what we were trying to do, so we were really lucky for that.

You guys have been on tour non-stop for the past few years. How do you keep going?
It’s just something that we jumped into head first. We all kind of knew what to expect before we got going out. We grew up with bands like Junior Varsity and the Park who were always on tour all the time and we just knew that was going to be the road that we were going to be taking. At the same time, I don’t think you can really prepare yourself for something like that. It’s a little bit more exhausting than you’d think, but it’s fun. It’s definitely a very different way to live your life. It’s a pretty cool feeling to be able to wake up in a new city everyday and see parts of the country and even the world that we might not have ever gotten the chance to visit.

What’s the most memorable aspect of touring?
I think so far for us, one of the biggest things was that we got to go overseas last year. That’s something that I didn’t think I would ever get the opportunity to do. Our first day over there we drove to Germany and we opened up a festival called Rock am See. We opened up for Nine Inch Nails and the whole day we felt a little out of place. It was definitely a really humbling experience for us and we’re very grateful for that opportunity.

Did you get to chill with Nine Inch Nails?
No. [Laughs]. Our dressing room was actually right next to theirs and we all had talked about, “Should we go say hi? Our friends are going to think we’re idiots if we don’t try to talk to them.” But, we’re pretty shy guys and I think we were too scared that we were going to embarrass ourselves or something like that.

How was your experience performing at Rock am See?
It was really strange. There were probably about 5,000 people there when we played. We have pictures that I can look at and it’s still so hard to believe that’s something we did. This was in the same year that we were going on tours and sometimes we’d play for 50 people, sometimes we’d play for three people and we went to a country that we had never stepped foot in and there are 5,000 people. I remember there was one moment onstage after we played our first song and I wanted to see if I could get everybody clapping and just kind of gage how we were doing and almost the entire crowd was going with their arms with us. That was definitely one of the best feelings I’ve ever had onstage.

What was your worst moment onstage?
I think one of the worst was when we were playing a show in Delaware. At the end of our set, sometimes we bring out additional percussion and we have a drum off and sometimes we like to pour water on the drums for an added visual affect. So we did this and the stage was soaking wet and it was a hardwood floor and I took a step and just slipped and fell flat on my back in front of a crowd. That was probably most embarrassing, for myself at least. I think the only thing that really hurt was my pride.

So tell me about your album, Anhedonia. How did you come up with that title? It’s so unique.
Anhedonia is a condition where you can’t feel normal emotion or things that give you pleasure. When we were writing the album I had a bad case of writers block and everybody that we were involved with was saying, “Write about what you’re feeling.” I was just feeling pretty empty and hollow. We came across the word from our producer’s wife when we were talking about different album titles and it just really struck me on how I was feeling at that time. I ended up writing the title track that day and it really felt like that fit the feel for the rest of the album.

Did you have a certain concept for the rest of the album or did the title mostly affect the rest of the album’s writing process?
I think that all the songs on the record are really just about everything that was going on during that time. We had just signed with a label and we all quit school and quit our jobs and we had spent three months holed up in a basement writing the record, no contact from our friends or family. Everything was just a lot different for us. The record is mainly about all the things that were going on in my life and the different changes and how it was affecting all of our relationships.

Are you the main writer?
No. It’s definitely a five-part process. Everyone writes. I write the lyrics, but as far as music and the songs go, all five of us contribute to every song.

Where do you find inspiration for the lyrics?
The more I’m reading books the more I tend to write. It’s always different for me. I can watch a movie and sometimes I’ll pull something out of that that will make me think of something that’s happened in my life. I always try to write things from a personal perspective. I usually try to make it so if somebody else listens to it, they can relate to it so it’s not too personal where nobody knows what I’m singing about. I always want there to be that connection with the listener.

Do you tend to write more while you’re in a relationship or after a break-up looking back on it?
I’m kind of a moody person and I always let whatever is going on in my life affect everything. So, if I’m writing a song then yeah, a lot of that will get put into it. Even if we’re getting ready to go onstage and something’s happened back home that’s affected me, that’ll come out onstage too. A lot of times I can be like a sponge and anything that’s going on I just soak up and let affect me. I think that’s a good thing because I don’t think people that are frozen can really put themselves out there and write good music.

I really like your song “Doppelganger.” How did you come up with it? [You can listen to the song here.]
Well, there’s a myth that somewhere in the world there is your exact copy going around. When I wrote that song I was just in a transition in my life and I was going in and out of a relationship and there were parts of me that I felt like were changing and sometimes I felt like another person. The song had this eerie feel to it and a lot of times what will kick in with me with songwriting, I can just get inspired by the music the guys will write and show to me. For some reason I had been thinking about that that day and it just felt like everything was clicking. That song is about me changing and feeling like I had almost another personality.

I really like "The City That Reads." I was curious about the story behind it.
I wrote “The City That Reads” last minute in Baltimore. The song almost didn’t make the record. I stayed behind while the band left to spend the holidays with their families. I never realized how important that time of the year was to me until that year.

What would you be doing if it wasn’t for music? Did you grow up thinking, “This is what I want to do”?
Absolutely not. When I was 16 there was a girl that I had a crush on in high school and I had no musical background at all. I never even took piano lessons when I was a kid or anything. This girl was selling her acoustic guitar and I figured if I could get that and learn how to play it, maybe I could win her over. That didn’t happen, but I learned how to play guitar. It kind of spiraled from there. I had a couple friends that I was working with that played music and they wanted to start a band. It’s actually not something that I really saw myself doing. I’m not always the most outgoing person and being on the stage in front of people is terrifying to me. I finally got talked into it and it just moved on from there. I really don’t know what I would be doing if I weren’t in a band. Ever since we got going it’s just something that really intrigued me. Being able to put yourself out there like that was kind of a cool experience for me. Once we started writing songs I was able to get onstage and express myself like that, it kind of changed everything. I guess if I wasn’t doing this I would be bagging groceries or something like that, I really don’t know.

Do you still have stage fright? How do you move past it every night?
Sometimes. It’s something that I just worked out after time. There’s always those moments onstage. It could be as simple as making eye contact with someone you see that maybe you don’t think you’re connecting with and then all of a sudden you get paranoid and think maybe everybody else isn’t paying attention. Sometimes when that happens I just close my eyes and get through the set. But most of the time all it really takes to keep me going is just seeing that one person that is really into it and I can get over it pretty easily. The crowd always makes such a huge difference on how we play onstage. I think a lot of times too, how we are with each other. If we had a good night the night before that could really affect it because we really play to each other when we’re onstage. There’s a lot of collaboration with us onstage. If everybody’s doing different things you can get really into it. Sometimes in a set there’s something real small that can set us off. Tim can just do some quick fill that everybody thinks is badass and that’ll just set us all off into badass mode I guess.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
That is the hardest question that everyone always asks and I just don’t know how to put it. I think the reason that it’s hard for me is because when we got together we never really said, “We want to sound like this” or “We like this band, so let’s try to sound like this band.” I guess I would just say that we’re youthful, emotional rock, trying to steer clear of the emo. We get thrown into it so much and when I was younger it wasn’t anything that I ever cringed at. It just has such bad ideas that come with it now with guys crying and wearing eyeliner and all that kind of stuff.

What is your ultimate goal with the Graduate?
We’re kind of getting close to where we’re going to start the next record and my hope is that we can distinguish ourselves more on the next record to get out of some shticks that we have right now. Maybe they’ve heard one song of ours and they’ve already made up their mind about our band. I think one of my biggest hopes is to get some of the people who are on the fence with us on the music that we write. Just try to step it up on the next record.

Do you have any songs written already?
We have a lot of ideas and concepts right now. We’ve been on tour so steady for the past two years that it’s been tough for us to actually sit down and write. I’m hoping that we can start getting real heavy on it at the end of this year.

Do you have a favorite song that you’ve written?
I think so far “Anhedonia” is probably my favorite, which is kind of why we went with that for the title of the album too. That song kind of got me out of a really bad funk that I was in so that song is just my favorite because it just pushed me over the edge that I needed. [Listen to "Anhedonia" here.]

How do you feel the Graduate stands out from other bands coming out now?
From what a lot of our fans have told us recently, they always say, “I heard your CD and I liked it and I thought you guys sounded cool.” But, a lot of people say that they come to our show and see us live and that’s what really pushes them over the edge for us. I guess just from what we’ve heard and the responses from people that come to our shows, our live show is what makes us stand out. We try to be as genuine as possible live without being too over the top and fake, trying to manipulate the crowd or anything like that. It’s actually kind of weird if we see people crowd surfing or moshing or anything like that. It always makes me feel uncomfortable, I don’t know why. I guess it just seems so strange to me. I think the best way for me to gage if the crowd is into it is we can always tell on people’s faces if they’re really paying attention. That’s always the best feeling for me, just to look out. Nobody has to be jumping up and down or pushing people over their heads or anything like that. If somebody’s paying attention or just the little nod of the head is all it really takes for us.

What about those nights that you don’t feel like you’re getting their attention? How does that affect your performance?
I think a lot of times I let it affect my performance too much. I think I tend to focus on it and freak myself out and sometimes I’ll get this real blasé attitude and just try to close my eyes and get through the set. That’s something I’m trying to work myself out of because I feel like that’s definitely not the right attitude towards the show. Just because you see one person that might not be getting into it, there’s no reason to take it out on the rest of the crowd. You just have to work past your insecurities.

What is your advice to aspiring musicians?
The reason I always have a hard time with this is because I still feel like I’m learning so much. We’ve been touring for two years but I still feel really new to this. I think that my biggest advice to bands that are starting out is, as cliché as this sounds, just be honest and don’t try too hard. Don’t try to fit into what you think is popular right now or anything like that. I think the best music comes from people that are just being honest. Don’t take it too seriously. Have fun.

For more on the Graduate check out their Website or MySpace and watch their most recent video for "I Survive." For Windows, click here. For Quicktime click here. Or, if you just want to listen to the MP3 feel free to check it out here. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Remix Mariah Carey's Song and Win Money!

Have you ever heard a song and thought to yourself, "I could remix that better"? Well, now is your chance! Mariah Carey is allowing fans and remixers to compete with each other by remixing her current single, "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time" off of her most recent album, E=MC².

Act fast though, because submissions will be accepted only until August 28th. Tools to remix the song will include eight instrument stems from the song, available here where fans can mix lead vocals, keyboards, brass, bass and drum parts as well as an advanced audio package for contestants who want to create more intricate entries.

The contest is being launched through Mariah's website, with the help of UltraStar Entertainment and while online fan voting begins August 29 and ends September 12. The 10 finalists voted by fans will then be judged by the co-executive producer of E=MC², dance columnist of Billboard and the EVP of Indaba Music with the grand prize including $5,000 cash as well as the remix being posted on Mariah's website, MySpace and record label site.

I might try it out for myself, let me know if any of you do as well! I'd love to check out your remixes!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Song of the Week: "American Boy"

Despite how you may feel about Kanye West, you cannot deny that every song he produces or artist he collaborates with, he seems to strike gold. "American Boy" is no exception. Estelle's soulful, catchy vocals make the song enjoyable to listen to and Kanye's slow rapping interludes throughout the song only accentuate and add to the song. If you haven't heard it yet, I'm sure it will hit your radio station soon, check out the video below and let me know what you think!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Graduate Treat NYC Crowd To A Wet Finale

Though they were onstage for just under 30 minutes, the Graduate easily stole the show Wednesday night at the Blender Theater. With a high-energy set and solid instrumental interludes, the Graduate kept the crowd alive while continually jumping around onstage.

All the while, the Graduate drew concertgoers closer and closer to the stage throughout their seven-song set and had many in attendance clapping along to each song. With previous stints on Lollapalooza, the Warped Tour and Germany’s Rock am See it’s easy to tell that their busy tour schedule over the past two years has only strengthened the band’s onstage performance.

Starting the night off with “I Survived” from their debut album, Anhedonia, the five-piece Illinois band quickly grabbed the crowd’s attention with an almost organ-sounding keyboard intro before frontman Corey Warning took over on vocals. When he introduced their next song for the night, “Sit and Sink,” screams permeated the venue. “Did I tell you how much I love New York?” he asked the crowd. “Well it’s true!” New Yorkers seemed to love the band as well.

The Graduate’s live show far surpassed expectations I had from just listening to their album. The band’s lineup is made up of a drummer, bass player and two guitarists, one who splits his time on keyboard, while frontman Corey Warning alternates his time on vocals and guitar. The instrumental accompaniment between the bandmembers was strong, never overpowering Warning’s vocals. The instrumental “Interlude” exemplified the core sound of the Graduate, and although no one was singing, the crowd was surprisingly really into it.

“The City That Reads” started off a bit slower than their previous songs, with strong instrumental features that fit the mood change in the song well. When Warning sings, “Baltimore is quiet and cold,” you believe him. “Doppelganger” livened the night up with Warning rocking out on tambourine before playing their last song of the night, “The Formula.”

Ending zealously, each guitarist put down their instrument before bringing out a set of drums, dousing them with water for visual effect and then hammering on them. You can’t get a better finale than that, except maybe a fireworks display. Eventually, the guys picked back up their guitars to finish the song and left the stage to a room filled with screams and thunderous applause.

When I asked Corey what makes the Graduate standout from other up-and-coming bands, he explained that fans have told him their live show is what pushes them over the edge and makes them keep coming back. After seeing their performance last night I have to agree.

To listen to their music and see when they're coming on tour near you, be sure to check out the Graduate on MySpace. Lead singer/guitarist Corey was nice enough to sit down with me before the show and answer all of my questions about the band, touring and their music so be sure to come back in a few days for the full interview!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Priscilla Ahn Keeps Concertgoers Intrigued with Quirky Stories and Unique Instruments

With a glass of red wine in one hand and guitar in the other, Priscilla Ahn had the audience at Maxwell’s laughing along during each song introduction Friday night. Whether it was explaining uncomfortable social situations at L.A. house parties in “Wallflower” or prefacing “The Boob Song” by telling the audience, “It’s not about my boobs, don’t worry; it’s about another girl’s boobs,” Priscilla's hilarious onstage banter heightened curiosity throughout her mellow and relaxing set.

The night included many songs from Priscilla’s recent debut album, A Good Day, as well as a solid cover of Willie Nelson’s “Opportunity to Cry” and some unreleased material. Strong instrumental accompaniment never overpowered her soft, angelic vocals and at times she even harmonized with herself with the help of a loop pedal. Definitely a diverse set, Priscilla’s band was made up of cellist Oli Kraus and bass player Gus Seyfrett, better known as Willoughby, who opened the show, as well as herself on guitar, harmonica, ukulele and kazoo.

Having just over an hour set in Hoboken, Priscilla started off the night with stand-out track “Dream,” which has garnered much attention from being featured on the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, it only makes sense that many of her songs were linked to nature. She even told the crowd, “It’s always been a dream of mine to live in a tree. I always thought it’d be cool. Some people do it, and that’s cool,” before segueing into a song with the appropriate title, “Living in a Tree.”

Priscilla’s voice is so captivating, it felt as if she was singing a lullaby to the room during her slower songs. The crowd was so still and mesmerized that at times the only sound heard besides the musicians onstage was the click of cameras capturing her performance. While some songs were pretty mellow, others, such as “I Don’t Think So” were a bit more edgy, Priscilla referring to it as her “sassy” song with deeper and darker vocals and a fitting harmonica feature.

Her quirky introductions followed suit with her unique lyrics to each song. On “Astronaut,” a song with musical accompaniment reminiscent to a carnival, she sang “The fish in the sea have many things to tell me/Well what could they be?/I’ll never know/I had to go/Because I don’t associate with fish.” Laughter quickly filled the room.

Last song of her set was low-key “Find My Way Back Home” featuring Priscilla on ukulele. Sounding somewhat like being at a Hawaiian luau with a mix of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” Priscilla ended the night on a high note. Soon to be joining Willie Nelson on his tour, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect fit.

For more on Priscilla, be sure to check her out on MySpace and if you haven't yet, you can read an interview I had with her a few months ago by clicking here.

Special thanks to Deana Koulosousas for taking the photos from Friday's show.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Song of the Week: "Crush"

I was never a big American Idol watcher, but with runner up David Archuleta's radio debut yesterday on local station Z100 I've decided to make his song, "Crush" song of the week. It has already started to make quite a buzz and it's undeniably pretty catchy. Reminiscent to something the Backstreet Boys would have sung back in the day, but more upbeat. I was lucky enough to see him and David Cook talk about their experience on American Idol a few months ago while interning at Rolling Stone and it's so nice to see two artists so humble and appreciative and still very much in awe of their success. Definitely a cool experience. Read about one staffer's take here. You can listen to the full radio interview and the song by clicking on the photo below. Enjoy! Let me know what you think!


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