By Zachary Swickey
It is increasingly rare in today’s modern music world to see a band make it past the ten year mark. It’s even rarer to see a band do it while maintaining musical credibility. Case in point, Every Time I Die – a group of headbanging, enthusiastic Bills fans from Buffalo who feature some of the dirtiest, awesomest metal riffs you’ll ever hear and just so happen to throw the hottest damn concerts in town.
Every Time I Die started off with brothers Keith Buckley and Jordan Buckley on vocals and guitars, respectively, before adding Andy “Paul Bunyan” Williams as a second guitarist. Original drummer Mike “Ratboy” Novak handled sticks for the group from their 1998 inception until 2009 when Canadian Ryan Leger (a madman on the drums nicknamed “Legs”) replaced him. (Insert name here) has been with the group since… sorry, inside joke since the bassist position in ETID has been an eternally revolving door of musicians (they’re on number six or seven) most recently filled by the re-joining of Steve Micciche, who originally handled bass duties for the group from 2001-2005.
ETID are a cast of colorful characters – brothers Keith and Jordan operate two of our favorite Twitter feeds (entertaining as hell is all I can say) and they are some of the nicest guys you’ll ever be lucky enough to meet. Keith Buckley (who was once an English teacher) just oozes badass – he was sporting some bitchin’ snakeskin cowboy boots when I met him backstage at Warped Tour many moons ago (not to mention his name sounds destined for porn), and he has an onstage swagger matched by none in his music circles. If Jordan Buckley ever has an Oasis-style falling out with his brother, he will always have his insane art skills to fall back on. Much of his work is showcased through the band’s own album art and he also runs an online clothing store featuring a bevy of righteous T-shirts. And just forget about all of Andy’s tattoos – the guy is a giant teddy bear. Read More...
By Zachary Swickey
New York City indie noisemakers Battles will be celebrating their tenth anniversary next year and it’s been quite the tumultuous journey for the trio. Not many bands can boast guest appearances from Gary Numan (“Cars”) or indie darlings Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino on their new record, but I imagine it went rather smoothly for Battles – a band that flies under the mainstream radar but has caught the ears of many dedicated audiophiles.
Battles are a trio, consisting of guitarist/keyboardist Ian Williams, bassist/guitarist/effects master Dave Konopka, and drummer John Stanier, who is the ex-stickman for '90s alt-rock outfit Helmet as well as the drummer for Tomahawk, one of Faith No More singer Mike Patton’s many side projects. The group originated as a quartet that included multi-instrumentalist Tyondai Baxton, who was also the first to inject vocals into the predominantly instrumental group’s sound, but he abruptly left Battles last year in the middle of recording process for the group’s sophomore effort. The band continued on with no plans to replace Baxton, instead readjusting their style to once again focus on the music with minimal vocals.
Battles released a series of two instrumental EPs with impossible song titles to remember like “TRAS 2” and “SZ2” before dropping their official debut, Mirrored, in 2007 on legendary electronic label Warp (home of other Bands We Like outfit CANT). “Atlas” is a fun, bouncy number that sounds like a march being led by a munchkin from "The Wizard of Oz," but it’s ridiculously infectious and got the group plenty of indie love. The production on their records is one of the highlights – you can hear the rich sound of each instrument with great clarity: the drums are surprisingly real and raw and the grungy synth sounds have never sounded dirtier (and that’s a good thing). For one of Stanier’s greatest moments, check out the neck-break speed drumming found on “Rainbow,” which clearly proves the man cannot be mortal. Read More...
You know a Beats Antique song when you hear it. The group has a very unique dance fusion sound that would be tricky to even emulate. Normally, I hate using the term “fusion,” but it’s necessary to describe the musical concoction that Beats Antique manages to create. A smorgasbord of varying sounds – the group funnels all of their personal music palettes together resulting in an electronic tribal sound that is ridiculously catchy. Oh, and did I mention they have a full-time belly dancer in their ranks?
I was shocked to discover that the group only consists of three members: multi-instrumentalist David Satori, percussion extraordinaire Tommy Cappel, and sultry Zoe Jakes, a mesmerizing belly dancer. Satori boasts a degree in music performance and composition from the California Institute of the Arts. Cappel is a proud grad as well with a degree in studio drumming from the iconic Berklee College of Music in Boston. Jakes didn’t start belly dancing until 2000, but she already had over 10 years of jazz and ballet dance experience under her belt.
The group originated from the Bay Area in 2007 when Jakes asked her manager Miles Copeland (brother of drummer Stewart Copeland of The Police) about creating what ended up becoming the group’s debut, Tribal Derivations. The album was developed to complement Jakes’ dancing styles, while she also had a hand in production duties as well. A Middle Eastern-influenced sound is one of the last you’d expect to find in the electronic music scene, but Beats Antique are pros about balancing their musical inspirations. Read More...
By Zachary Swickey
When your work is praised by Jay-Z and Trent Reznor, you know you’re onto something special. I’m talking about Brooklyn indie rockers Grizzly Bear, who've been charming us with their hypnotizing melodies for many years (they would slay as a barbershop quartet). The group’s last album, Veckatimest, found praise from all sorts of unexpected places, including Hova, who is an enthusiastic fan. After nearly two grueling years on the road, the guys were all ready to take a break. Well, everyone but member Chris Taylor, the group’s bassist and backup vocalist, who wasn’t very keen on the idea of taking time off and instead opted to craft a solo project with his newfound time. The result is CANT, a studio collaboration with George Lewis Jr., who we know and love from '80s throwback act Twin Shadow.
Taylor first teased his solo abilities two years ago with the release of “Ghosts,” a non-album track, which sounded more like Grizzly Bear than CANT’s current material, but it was the singer’s first venture out on his own (if you don’t count his production duties with groups like Dirty Projectors or The Morning Benders). Taylor and his brothers in Grizzly Bear are critical favorites, but the man is no diva – he didn’t need or demand a fancy schmancy studio to hunker down in for recording, rather a simple big bedroom and vintage Yamaha synthesizers. Read More...
By Zachary Swickey
It’s hard to take some actors seriously when they dabble in music. (Remember when Lindsay Lohan made the attempt?) Sure, there have been a few well-received efforts (like Zooey Deschanel’s indie project, She & Him), but for the most part, being an actor is a stigma to anyone hoping to find credibility in the music world. This is the exact reason I refrain from mentioning the name of the lead singer of Dead Man’s Bones until the person I’m sharing it with admits their ears are digging it. You might have seen him in a few flicks recently too: "Crazy, Stupid, Love," "Drive" and "Ides of March." Yeah, it’s still rather shocking to me how few people know that Hollywood man-of-the-moment Ryan Gosling fronts a rock band, and quite a good one at that.
Dead Man’s Bones first came to be in 2005, when Gosling met Zach Shields, the boyfriend of Rachel McAdam’s (Gosling’s then-girlfriend) sister, Kayleen. The four were once living under the same roof and the two gentlemen found themselves bonding over their mutual fascination with typical fright fare: zombies, ghosts, monsters, etc. It’s clear from the group’s do-it-yourself ethic that Dead Man’s Bones is no vanity project, rather a meticulous musical experiment that had Gosling taking up cello and piano for the first time. The duo didn’t want an overproduced, slick album, so they adhered to some basic principles in the studio: they would play all the instruments (even if they didn’t know how to use them yet), there would be no more than three takes per song, and they would keep even keep some of the recorded imperfections.
Inspired by the free-spirit and imagination of children, DMB recruited a children’s choir from the Silverlake Conservatory of Music – a music education facility in Los Angeles that was co-founded by Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Flea – to help with the recording process. With members ranging from 5-17 years old, the choir would meet with Gosling and Shields every Sunday afternoon for a few months to record. Their playful music video for “In the Room Where You Sleep” was filmed during a wrap party on the final day of recording, and was our first venture into the world of Dead Man’s Bones.
Listen to "In The Room Where You Sleep" after the jump. Read More...
By Zachary Swickey
One of the best things about today’s modern music world is the ease with which bands are able to record. Previously, bands would need to hoard bookoo cash in order to get precious studio time and present a professional sounding album. The line between amateur and professional has become radically blurred, and with major labels becoming more and more unnecessary when it comes to releasing a record, creativity has never flourished as much as it is today (just look at the output of Nine Inch Nails during their final, label-free years). Case-in-point, Crosses – or technically †††, which is not be confused with the Justice album, † – the new side project of Deftones crooner Chino Moreno. A band that probably wouldn’t be possible if they had to deal with the obstacles that music labels can often present.
Crosses is the brainchild between Moreno, his childhood friend (and ex-Far guitarist) Shaun Lopez and Chuck Doom. Lopez is also notable for salvaging the fifth Deftones record, Saturday Night Wrist, when he took over vocal production duties due to Moreno not seeing eye-to-eye with the effort’s legendary producer, Bob Ezrin. Moreno has also tackled side projects before with the ambient sounds of Team Sleep, who released one self-titled (and totally kickass) record back in 2005.
Moreno took his fans off guard with the release of Crosses’ debut EP, †, on August 2. No one was expecting to hear music from the project so soon or so inexpensively (only $5 for a high-quality download). Without the concerns of a label, Crosses are able to take as little or as much time on their recordings and can release them whenever the heck they feel like it, which is music to fans’ ears (pun intended) as labels are known to sit on albums for up to six months (and sometimes shelve them altogether). Read More...
By and large, interviews conducted at red carpet events are brief, to-the-point, too often generic affairs. It's just the nature of the beast. However, every once in awhile the stars align and a bit of magic happens wherein an interviewee takes a question and runs with it, offering up an unforgettable anecdote versus a 30-second response.
Case in point, MTV News' encounter with All-American Rejects frontman Tyson Ritter at the recent "Footloose" premiere, who turned my round-up question, "What is your go-to dance move?" into a hilarious walk down memory lane.
By Zachary Swickey
Some bands or artists may not have platinum albums or chart-topping hits, but they are still critically favored and have loyal, cult-like fanbases. Take for example Ryan Adams or even The Mars Volta – both are revered by fellow musicians and their fans flock to their performances. They may not be selling out arenas, but their attendees know every word to every song. The same can be said about Dredg, an enthralling experimental rock band based out of the Bay area.
Dredg consists of four friends from Los Gatos, California, who have weathered the storm and managed to stay together for well over a decade. The best way to listen to them is in a live setting: Bassist Drew Roulette plays barefoot due to all the triggers and pedals he must set off; drummer Dino Campanella can be seen playing the piano and drums simultaneously on occasion; guitarist Mark Engles shreds on his guitar with insane ferocity; while singer Gavin Hayes often wails on a slide guitar (even known to snap a screwdriver in half while playing with it). Roulette and Hayes are even known to raffle off some of their paintings at their shows. The band has a chemistry and musicianship that is quite rare, something you only see in bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as if they were born to play together.
They’ve been around awhile – one of their first touring mates was Alien Ant Farm if that says anything – independently releasing their first album, Leitmotif, back in ’98 at a time when gladly forgotten bands like Limp Bizkit ruled the charts. While a solid first effort, Dredg truly stepped up their game with their followup release, El Cielo – translated as “Heaven” or “Sky” in English. El Cielo is a concept album about sleep paralysis, a phenomena that occurs when someone’s body is shut-down deep in the REM cycle while sleeping, yet is self-aware, unable to move.
The album is full of thought-provoking lyrics such as “babies are born in the same buildings where people go to pass away,” which doesn’t sound like it would roll off the tongue, but singer Gavin Hayes recites everything with a poet-like charisma (resembling a modern-day Jim Morrison when performing). El Cielo paints a thick atmosphere throughout with hints of Indian-influence – strings abound and there are sounds that were likely obtained using unorthodox recording methods. Even the instrumental segues that connect the hour-long album are must-listens. Oh, and did I mention the album was recorded at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch? Read More...
By Zachary Swickey
Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor had a daunting task ahead of him when his extraordinary touring drummer Josh Freese bowed out of the group in late 2008 to tend to his pregnant wife. Not only was Reznor down a drummer, but he was planning his upcoming “Wave Goodbye” tour to be his last – retiring NIN, at least in a live setting. Fans were shocked when the announcement was made that Ilan Rubin, a shaggy, then-20-year-old kid from San Diego, would be taking over for Freese, who is one of rock’s most revered drummers. What many fans didn’t know (but soon found out) is that Rubin is inarguably a musical genius himself. An ex-pupil of Travis Barker, Rubin is a one-man musical collective in the studio with his solo project, The New Regime.
At the young age of 8, Rubin took to playing his father’s old Ludwig kit in the family garage. By 9 he had already joined a local band – known as F.O.N. or Freaks of Nature – who played some select dates on the Van’s Warped Tour. In 1999, when Rubin was only 11, F.O.N. got the opportunity to open the revitalized Woodstock Music Festival. After five years of going nowhere, 14-year-old Rubin left the group and joined his first “signed” band, Denver Harbor, who would take him across the states on a national tour. However, the group was dropped after just one year with Universal Records. Undeterred, Rubin then joined Welsh rockers Lostprophets, who experienced some love here in the states but were more appreciated on their home turf overseas. After an album release and subsequent touring for a few years, he left after tracking drums for the group’s fourth album.
Before long, Rubin got the call from industrial rock legend Trent Reznor, and fulfilled the fantasy of 20-year-old drummers across the globe. By then, he'd already completed his greatest accomplishment – recording a solo album all on his own under the moniker, “The New Regime.” Other than production assistance from his brother, Aaron Rubin, Ilan did everything on his own – meaning every single sound you hear on his solo debut, Coup, is performed and constructed by him. This alone is an impressive feat (how the hell does that even work exactly?), but even more so when you hear the brilliant musicianship on the album. Read More...
By Zachary Swickey
I was more than a bit surprised when I heard Dallas Green’s subdued, piano-driven cover of his own post-hardcore outfit Alexisonfire’s “Happiness by the Kilowatt.” Despite my affinity for the band (and all things loud at the time), I much preferred Green’s melancholic rendition, which was undeniably moving. It’s not the most common thing to see a tattooed punk rocker bearing his soul with an acoustic guitar, but the toned down sensibilities of Green’s alter-ego, City & Colour, harkens back to the singer-songwriter days of Bob Dylan.
Dallas Green had been the guitarist and back-up vocalist of post-hardcore act Alexisonfire since 2001 but needed a creative outlet for the acoustic fare he'd been writing on the side since the young age of 14. Green soon began releasing a few songs for download online under the moniker City & Colour (the letter “u” gets a lot more use in Canada), which is a playful spin off his own name (Dallas is a city, Green is a color, get it?) as the singer found using his name a bit indulgent.
After compiling enough songs for a proper album, Green released his debut, Sometimes, in November 2005 to critical acclaim – garnering the Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent to a Grammy) for Alternative Album of the Year. The album beautifully showcased Green’s songwriting abilities with its two singles – “Save Your Scissors” and “Comin’ Home” – as both paint vivid imagery in your mind through Green’s storytelling. Read More...