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Is There More To Miley Than Meets The Eye?

Miley Cyrus is no stranger to controversy—when she isn’t busy creating country-pop hybrid hits, she’s getting caught on camera making offensive faces or on video taking monster bong hits. (Or facing scrutiny for smoking a cigarette or getting hacked and having illicit photos circulated around the Internet…) But she made headlines last week for a slightly nobler reason after she tweeted a picture of her new, pro-gay rights tattoo accompanied by the 18 character message “All LOVE is equal.”

Miley even responded civilly to one fan who didn’t exactly agree with the message behind the new ink, tweeting, “Where does it say in the bible to judge others? Oh right. It doesn’t. GOD is the only judge honey. ‘GOD is love.’”

If you find yourself confused by where this display of maturity is coming from, well, you probably aren’t alone. But the eighteen-year-old songstress has taken to Twitter to drop knowledge on her followers before. This June, she hopped up on her soapbox to oust Urban Outfitters after they donated to the political action committee of notoriously anti-gay senator Rick Santorum. “Love that everybody is hating on Urban Outfitters,” she tweeted. “Not only do they steal from artists but every time you give them money you help finance a campaign against gay equality. #SHADYASHELL.”

Of course, there’s always the possibility that this latest declaration is nothing but a well-timed publicity stunt. Engaging one of your fans in a theological discussion on Twitter and announcing that you’re starring in and producing a God-themed comedy two days later? Preety convenient there, Miley. And yes, it brings up the eternal question, “Why do we care about celebrity opinions, anyway?” We get it: there’s no way that starring in a Disney Channel comedy qualifies you to engage in political debate. But you have to admit that it’s pretty ballsy of the young Cyrus to risk alienating her fanbase like this. After all, what if fewer people go to see her upcoming film because of her opinion on gay rights? While she’s often the center of controversy, at least this time it’s for something she believes in, not because one of her “friends” leaked questionable video content to TMZ. You go, girl!

Q&A With Ziggy Marley

Transcending the legacy of a famous parent isn’t easy, especially when that parent is the most celebrated reggae musician of all time.  Yet, with all the pressure that such a family history brings, Ziggy Marley consistently lives up to his father’s musical legacy while proving his own songwriting abilities on every new record.  After more than fifteen years of recording with his siblings in The Melody Makers, he went solo in 2003. This June he released his fourth solo album Wild and Free.  We sat down with Ziggy to talk about his new album, his collaboration with Woody Harrelson and how marijuana can (really) save the world.

OS: Tell us about the upcoming album Wild and Free. What was it like to return to your usual material after releasing an album specifically for children?

ZM: It wasn’t as much fun, not like doing the kids’ stuff. The kids’ stuff was easy, light and loose. But this one’s much more serious, much more thoughtful songwriting process. Just more intense. More intense.

OS: Do you think you might do more albums for kids in the future?

ZM: I don’t know, I mean, it depends. I don’t keep planning stuff. We’ll see.

OS: You collaborated with Woody Harrelson on the title track from the new album—what was it like to record with an actor rather than a musician?

ZM: It wasn’t really collaborating with an actor. I don’t look at him as an actor. Woody’s a friend, and we share some ideas on things. So it was very spontaneous actually, and not something we had planned to do. We shared some ideas when we were doing the song, and I started inviting him, “Hey, come sing.” I didn’t think it would be on the album, but then it sounded good to me and I said, “All right, let’s put it on the album.”


OS: The pro-marijuana theme from that song is also included in the Marijuanaman comic you released on 4/20, which features a superhero who saves the world using hemp. In what ways do you think that plant has the power to save the world?

ZM: The fiber of the hemp plant can be used for many different purposes. The whole plant, actually, can impact the environment in a very positive way if we use it instead of certain things we use more widely now, like cotton or trees. Cutting down trees… it can actually help the planet and help the people of the planet, because trees are very important. The seeds are the most complete protein in the vegetable kingdom on this planet. So the nutritional value is really exceptional. And it’s a weed, so it can grow very easily. In a lot of countries where there’s malnourished children or poor children, you could easily find nutrition in the seed. It also can be used to make biofuel. Thousands and thousands of uses this plant has, which can have a positive impact. Everybody’s talking about a “green revolution” and “eco-friendly” and everything—becoming eco-friendly. I just think, it seems to me, that if you really believe that idea, then you have to use this plant. It’s the most eco-friendly plant on the planet. There’s nothing more “eco” than this plant; nothing more good for the soil, nothing more good for the people, nothing more good for the environment than this plant. If you’re not using this plant, then it’s BS, really. All this eco-talk is BS. Without this plant there’s no eco, there’s no green revolution without this plant. If we don’t use it, we’re going to be stuck.

OS: How was the process of making the comic book? It seems like a lot of fun.

ZM: Yeah, I was really excited about it, because I’m into comic books and cartoons and crime-fighting superheroes and things like that. I really couldn’t wait to see it come out of the imagination, on paper. I went through with the artist and writer, scripting what the idea was and the story and the characters and how it works, all these types of things. I was really excited.

OS: Between the comic book and the recent documentary Marley African Road Trip, you’re delving into a lot of different mediums. What inspires you to branch out into other areas?

ZM: I kind of have that creativity inside of me, you know? It’s just a part of me. So it’s like, I have to find another outlet for the other ideas that I have, outside of music, and these are the outlets. The creativity doesn’t stop with music, it kind of goes on into other avenues.

OS: One of those other outlets is your reggae/dancehall label, Tuff Gong. What exciting things do you have going on with the label right now?

ZM: Um, let’s see. Just my album right now. Some stuff in the future, but nothing I can speak about right now.

OS: Keeping it under wraps?

ZM: Yeah, for now, for now.

OS: You split your time between Florida, Jamaica and California—three very different places in terms of their musical culture. How does the music scene you grew up with in Jamaica compare to the scene in the US?

ZM: Well, the music scene in general has changed. Growing up in Jamaica I started seeing it really young, and music was recorded by musicians in the studio, kind of organic. Things kind of changed, now it’s more machine music. A lot of the music now is like, the same. The same beats, the same tempos. Back in Jamaica, in the old days, music was much more free. It wasn’t about everybody trying to jump on the same bandwagon. Nowadays, that’s what it’s like, that’s what music is like. Every song has the same kind of thing… and then the industry itself changed into more of a corporate thing instead of a music thing. So a lot of artistic feeling is lost, and a lot of artistic feeling is stifled because of the corporate ideologies. It’s not about art, more the commercialization of the music instead of the art in the music.

OS: What did you learn from watching your father in the studio as a kid?

ZM: I just remember him working really hard and being into the music, being on top of the music. Working hard through nights, late nights and a lot of rehearsals. And discipline, and what it takes, and what the music means. I learned a lot of that by seeing it and watching it.

Check out Ziggy’s Web site for upcoming tour dates!

Artistic License: Our Favorite Multi-Talented Musicians

Last week, we told you about musicians like Karen O and their crazy musical side projects. (Seriously, how awesome is Goat Punishment?) This week, Tom Morello’s upcoming comic book series Orchid inspired us to take a look at the incredible visual side projects that some of our favorite multi-medium musicians are working on. Let’s get cultured!

Tom Morello isn’t the only musician getting into the comic book game—he actually got hooked up with publisher Dark Horse Comics courtesy of My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way. Way has been working on his own series, The Umbrella Academy, since September of 2007. Currently on its 15th issue, the series follows the antics of a group of misfit superheroes who—what else—unite to save the world. We’re mostly just jealous of The Rumor’s superpower—she can instantly alter reality by lying. That would be SO USEFUL.

Continue reading ‘Artistic License: Our Favorite Multi-Talented Musicians’

Rolling Stone, Creem, And The Rock Mags That Changed The Scene

The publishers over at Creem Magazine must be a brave bunch—despite everything you hear about the impending death of print journalism, the iconic Detriot-based rock mag, which was founded in 1969 but has been published online only since 2001, is making a return to print. We’re pretty pumped to hear that the magazine credited with coining phrases like “punk rock” and “heavy metal” is making a comeback, so we thought we’d take a look at some other famous rock ‘zines and their impact on music history.

NME

First published in March 1952, NME (originally New Musical Express) was the first British paper to include a singles chart. The rag ran cover features on British bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones throughout the sixties, and as NME writer Ian MacDonald so modestly points out: “I think all the other papers knew by 1974 that NME had become the best music paper in Britain. We had most of the best writers and photographers, the best layouts, that sense of style of humor and a feeling of real adventure.” Although some have criticized the magazine in recent years for its lack of diversity, NME’s Web site boasts an impressive 5.3 million monthly unique users, making it the UK’s most popular magazine Web site today.

Rolling Stone

Whether you love it or you love to hate it, there’s no denying RS‘s impact on music, pop culture and even politics. Remember that little incident with General McChrystal last year? And even if you can’t believe they put Snookie on their cover or agree with the critics who think the mag is run by old geezers, let’s not forget that this is the publication that was home to some of Hunter S. Thompson’s most famous work and showed us how crazy John Mayer really is. (We just never thought we’d hear someone use the phrase “Joshua Tree of vaginas.”) As founder and current editor and publisher Jann Wenner wrote in the mag’s first issue in 1967, RS is “not just about the music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces.” We can get behind that.

Spin

Founded in 1985, Spin acted as the anti-Rolling Stone. While they profiled rock legends like Aeorosmith and jazz legends like Miles Davis, they also featured up-and-comers like Run DMC and the Beastie Boys, and were among the first to devote significant coverage to hip hop. The magazine was also groundbreaking in its decision to include editorial contributions from musicians like Henry Rollins and David Lee Roth, and many of its writers—including hipster favorite Chuck Klosterman—used their time at the magazine as a launching pad to success in other mediums.

Billboard

You didn’t think we’d get through this feature without mentioning Billboard, did you? First published in 1894, the publication originally known as Billboard Advertising is one of the longest-running trade magazines in the world. What began as a paper for the bill posting industry soon began covering amusement parks and fairs, and in the ’20s started featuring movies. It wasn’t until the 1930′s, with the development of the jukebox, that Billboard began publishing music charts. And the rest, as they say, is history—Billboard has been publishing their “Hot 100″ since 1958, and today puts out more than 100 charts every week.

What are your favorite rock ‘zines? Let us know in the comments.

Q&A With Matt Nathanson

Following up a beloved album that spawned four popular singles and spent thirty-four weeks on the Billboard charts could be a stressful endeavor for a lot of musicians. But not Matt Nathanson. The San Fransisco-based singer-songwriter catapulted into the spotlight with his 2007 album Some Mad Hope, and since then he’s been everywhere—touring with the Indigo Girls, performing on Live From Daryl’s House and providing the melancholy soundtrack for primetime dramas ranging from CSI to 90210 to Vampire Diaries.

But Nathanson didn’t let the pressure of releasing a follow-up get to him, taking four years to carefully craft his most recent effort Modern Love. We caught up with Nathanson to talk about Modern Love, his new, hopeful outlook on life and the perks of being a rock star.

OS: This album as a lot to do with conflict, and you’ve even said that the title—Modern Love—is about conflicting ideas. Can you explain what you feel the conflicts are between modernity and love?

MN: Well, it’s sort of not conflicting as much as much as it is the duality. It’s just this thing where “love” is ancient and amazing and hard to handle and difficult to understand, and “modern” is a functional concept. Modern art, modern architecture—it’s well-though-out answers to questions like the most efficient way to cool or heat a house. Modern architecture deals with that. Or, the most efficient way to build a chair. So, the idea for me was this duality of these two things that, in theory, are mutually exclusive, but actually kind of work together, and how do they work as a unit? We’re in a time now where things move so fast that if you want to buy a record you can just click a button, whereas before when I was a kid, I had to get on my bike and save up money and bike over to the record store and physically pick it up and bike home and put it on.

It’s the idea of how you can sort of have… well, not sort of. You can have entire relationships on Facebook or Twitter, without actually dealing with people one-on-one. It’s like the great human collision. Is this idea of, where does love exist? How does love function? Where does that molten part of who we are—how does that show up now in a time where the emphasis is not put on actual human contact and being face-to-face with the person or the record? You can see a whole live stream of a show on the Internet and never leave your house, when really the best part of a live show is being in that room. And I’m not saying that technology isn’t amazing, because it’s totally amazing. But it shouldn’t completely replace the experience, because what’s so amazing about these experiences is the effort extended by everyone around and the crashing together of people. So that’s what the record’s about thematically, this idea of, “Where does this stuff come up now? Where do the human parts of ourselves live in a time where we’re more and more technologically based, and moving faster and faster?”

And then sonically, the record took on a similar kind of aesthetic—acoustic guitars and a voice and really well-recorded drums. Then we took it back to the laboratory and kind of mashed it around a little bit, and kind of beat it up. We put it through the computer and messed around, so it became a similar thing—where does the organic meet the non-organic, and the greatness that can come out of that. Not saying that the record is “greatness”. But where can the heart come out of that, the humanity? So that’s a very long answer to your pretty short question. [Laughs]

Continue reading ‘Q&A With Matt Nathanson’

Arrested Development: How Artists Are Affected By Jail Time

There isn’t anything particularly surprising about a musician being arrested on drug charges—after all, artists raging from Willie Nelson to Sly Stone have seen the inside of a courtroom in 2011 following drug-related incidents. What is surprising is the arrest of Coheed and Cambria’s bassist Michael Todd, who held up an Attelboro, Mass. pharmacy last week and walked away with six bottles of Oxycodone.

Here’s the bad news: serving a prison sentence can sometimes effectively end your career. Just take a look at Mystikal. In 2003 the New Orleans-based rapper was at the peak of his career—Tarantula had been nominated for a best rap album GRAMMY, and he appeared on hits like Ludacris‘ “Move Bitch” and Lil John and the East Side Boyz‘s “I Don’t Give a Fuck.” But that same year he was also indicted on charges of sexual battery and extortion, and sentenced to six years in prison. He was released in January 2010, but no one seems too keen to feature him now.

Luckily for Todd, it isn’t always as bad as all that. After all, aren’t these kinds of antics par for the course for rock stars? Jim Morrison’s legendary status was solidified by separate arrests for attempting to incite a riot (1962) and indecent exposure (1969). And Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ careers certainly didn’t suffer following their 1972 arrests for assault and obstruction of justice. (Of course, those charges were later dropped.) More recently, Lil Wayne served an eight-month prison sentence after being convicted of a gun charge that, if anything, only served to increase his popularity. He stayed in touch with fans through the Web site Weezy Thanx You, and the hashtag #FreeWeezy was a constant reminder on Twitter of his plight. The rapper even phoned in his verse on Drake‘s “Light Up” from prison.

Of course, Todd probably won’t be able to submit his bass parts via prison telephone, so what does all of this mean for him and the rest of Coheed? It’s hard to say, but with two previous convictions for drug possession and operating under the influence he’s been in similar situations before. And while Todd’s future may be uncertain, collectively Coheed and Cambria should be just fine. Wes Styles will be taking over bass duties for the remainder of the group’s tour, and this won’t be the first time they’ve played without Todd—he left in 2006 to complete rehab for a heroin addiction. Coheed explained the situation with a statement on their Web site: “We are surprised, to say the least, and will address the situation with Michael after the tour. For now, we just want to have a great time out here and finish with some killer shows.”

Get Lyrical: It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye

You know what they say: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Wait, hold on, that’s not the old adage we were thinking of. What we meant to say was: “All good things must come to an end.” And unfortunately, it’s as true of weekly blog features as it is of depressing Nelly Furtado songs and Brett Favre’s football career (probably). That’s right folks—this is the last week your computer screen will be graced with the fine stylings of Get Lyrical. We’ve had some laughs, we’ve shed some tears, we’ve dispelled some myths and we’ve celebrated some pretty obscure holidays, but before we go our separate ways you should check out these OurStage artists and their musings on goodbyes. There’s no denying that parting is such sweet sorrow, but hopefully these tracks will help ease the suffering.

Stockholm – “Goodbye Tomorrow”

Stockholm frontman Chris Arter says that the group’s song “Goodbye Tomorrow” was inspired by the conflicts in Iraq and Sudan. “It was basically created with the message that if we just simply slaughter each other, turn our backs on our neighbors and friends or those less fortunate than us, that we essentially are saying goodbye to anything we could ever be, other than killers.” But while “Goodbye Tomorrow” references these conflicts, Arter is careful to point out that it isn’t an anti-war or anti-US song. Instead, the track is aimed at all those who commit violent acts “simply because they think they live in a part of the world that no one pays any attention to.”

Stockholm makes a powerful case for peace with the song’s bleak imagery. “Let’s get to know the eyes of a terrified girl/Let’s get to know the price of a terrified world/Let’s get to know the hand that draws lines in the sand/Man away from man, terror to the land.” But despite featuring ideas that are occasionally discouraging, like being “swallowed by the sea,” Arter’s lyrics also display some cautious optimism. “I wanted to balance a sense of despair with a reminder that while we are capable of such destruction, we are capable of immense good, and that our ‘tomorrow’ isn’t gone quite yet,” he says.

Arter also has some interesting thoughts on what it is that makes songs about goodbyes so common. “Though our song isn’t really saying goodbye to a person, or a love, but rather to ourselves and our potential, the finality of the word goodbye holds a lot of power,” he says. “Goodbye has a sometimes heartbreaking connotation of forever, making it an irresistible part of life to write about, because everyone has either heard ‘Goodbye,’ or said it.”

Maren Morris – “Goodbye”

Maren Morris wrote the lyrics to “Goodbye” when she was sixteen, after a close friend was cheated on by her slightly older boyfriend. “She was definitely in a delicate condition and I sympathized with her a great deal,” Morris says. “The song lyrics came to me very organically.” While “Goodbye” has its roots in a sad story, it isn’t all bad because the track’s protagonist is staying song. “You can’t hurt me,” Morris sings, adding that not a single tear has been shed “’cause I’m better than that.” It all leads up to the last line of the song’s anthemic chorus: “Don’t try to get to me, ’cause I’ve already said goodbye.

Morris’s intended for her lyrics to keep her friend from getting lost in her grief, and help her maintain a positive outlook on a not-so-positive situation. “I wanted to present this song to my friend to empower her, not keep her feeling broken about the situation,” she says. And since goodbyes are such a common theme in songwriting, that theme of empowerment is how Morris sets her song apart. “I suppose what’s different about my interpretation of that experience is that it ends on a positive note rather than wallowing about it.”

There you have it, OurStagers, the end of Get Lyrical. Now take a page out of Morris’ book and don’t dwell on the loss—get back out there and enjoy all the fantastic lyricism available to you on OurStage!

Q&A With Less Than Jake

It’s summertime, and that means swimming pools, popsicles—and if you’re anything like us—some uptempo ska-punk joyously exploding from your speakers. And what better group to satisfy those sunny cravings than with sounds from Gainsville legends Less Than Jake? With a brand new EP and a slew of dates on Warped Tour 2011, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to groove to the five-piece’s horn-infused punk this summer. We sat down with Less Than Jake drummer Vinnie Fiorello to talk about the new EP, the good old days and what it’s like to return to Warped year after year.

OS: You guys just surprised everyone by releasing Greetings From… on Monday. Why release a surprise EP instead of doing a lot of promotion?

VF: Well, here’s the thing: are we really living in a world that needs advance promotion when you’re talking about music? I think that’s left to pop stars who want to be actors or actors who want to be pop stars. With Less Than Jake, we don’t have the budget allotted to us that, let’s say, is from a major label where you can do some long term promotion and sort of build it up. I think that the model that we have right now… Less Than Jake has its own brand, we’ve been around for twenty years. So doing something unannounced allows that immediacy of hearing about it and spreading the word from fan to fan to fan. That works where we’re at currently. There’s so much white noise and competition—there’s 150 channels on TV, there’s infinite possibilities on the Internet, there’s your cell phone, there’s everything down the line—so I think that… to cut through the static, a long lead-up for our band is just not possible. Doing it the way that we’re doing it, we’ll probably continue doing it because we’re only a few days in and it feels right. I’ll go back and say to be able to cut through the static, you either have to have a lot of money or you have to have an initial sort of lightning bolt. We went with the lightning bolt.

OS: And you wrote, recorded and are distributing Greetings From… all on your own, correct?

VF: Yes, it’s the first thing we’ve done that that’s basically band-written, band-recorded, band-marketed, band-distributed. And it’s going well. Without getting too lofty on it and making it a music industry interview rather than a Less Than Jake interview, here’s the thing: You have a certain amount of the pie, right? And ten years ago, the revenue of that pie for a musician was three-quarters record sales. And that shrinks, and you have to find ways to fill that gap as that revenue shrinks out. So people replace it with extra touring, you know? But there’s only so many days of the year where you can do that, so many people that will come see you, so many hours that those people will spend. So when you starting talking about, “Okay, we need to fill this void in revenue,” and you start working it out that way, you realize that currently if you’re signed to a major label it’s a 360 deal where they own 1/3 of your song, 1/3 of your touring revenue, 1/3 of merchandise sales. So you start figuring it out like that, and I think doing it how we’re doing it extends the revenue flow into our band. We may sell less records, but we’re making much more money than we would if we sold ten times the amount of records on a major label because we’re not profit sharing with anyone.

OS: So you can enjoy that freedom now of not owing anyone and being able to record and distribute on your own terms. But last time we spoke, you said the most creative freedom you ever had was when you were just starting out. If you could choose between the two would you go back to the days when there were no expectations or preconceived notions of what your music should be, but you maybe had a little less freedom in other aspects?

VF: I’m going to have to say yes. And I’ll tell you why, because I like the days when we could do whatever we wanted and we didn’t have a twenty-year track record. When we did, let’s say, the Grease soundtrack or we did something else that was fun, Slayer covers, no one was judging it. To give you a familiar sort of scenario… we did TV/EP last year, where we covered TV theme songs from the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, 2000s. And the reviews of that EP… it was eleven minutes of fun. It was meant to be fun. It was meant to be a stopping point between writing new material. And people took it and reviewed it as such that it was this release, and they sort of dragged the fun out of it…if we were a band of two years, the review of TV/EP would have been decidedly different. So I think that doing a TV covers CD when you’ve been a band for twenty years, people are judging it as this decisive career move and all this shit. It’s not! It’s just fucking fun, and that’s what it’s supposed to be. People trip out and get sort of wound up in the details and facts and history when they should just let it be what it is. Not everything is supposed to be a social statement, not everything is supposed to be exclamation marks. Sometimes, there’s a fucking comma in there, and that’s okay.

OS: Right. And sometimes you just want to put your own spin on the Animaniacs theme song.

VF: Exactly! But it goes beyond that. Lately music is so dour. It’s such a downer. I understand why dubstep and that sort of modern DJ-based music is much more popular than its counterparts in live rock and roll. Because people are showing up to go have fun, you know? I would defy anyone to get together thirteen mid-sized rock bands and have 10,000 people show up and lose their fucking mind. But that happens on a weekend basis across the United States when it comes to DJs and live DJ gigs. People are showing up to dance and have fun. I think the state of rock and roll over the last decade or maybe more, it’s dour. It’s a downer. It’s taking itself way too seriously, and I think it has to have a turnaround or live music is just sort of going to go the way of the buffalo.

OS: Well the good news is, bands like Less Than Jake and ska/punk bands in general are certainly keeping the fun in the live show.

VF: Yeah no, the style of music that we play is definitely indicative of fun and it’s based on a live show being fun and being… not very mellow. That’s who our bands are. But I think we can only be a life-preserver in that way for so long before people start not coming out to go see live shows. [Laughs] But let’s move on on that one.

OS: [Laughs] Now that we’re sufficiently bummed out. Well on a less depressing note, Anthology was also released earlier this week–you’re not worried about overwhelming fans with releases or one taking attention away from the other?

VF: No, because with Anthology it’s directly for the fans, directly for the longtime fan. It’s eight hours worth of music, it’s four DVDs, it’s awesome. And the price is right, it’s $15.00 direct from the band, $15.00 from Amazon, Interpunk.com, things like that. It’s for the longtime fan who wants to see six records played in their entirety. And beyond that, I don’t think it’s that overwhelming. I think with the EP, it was sort of designed for shock and awe, and with the DVD it was meant to be more of an organized release than what the EP was.

OS: Hitting them on both fronts.

VF: You have to. Once you have people paying attention to you, you sometimes have to kind of jump into the fray a little bit more and throw a few tricks out while they’re looking at you.

OS: That’s something that’s notable about Less Than Jake in general–you all seem like pretty savvy businessmen in terms of getting fans to buy your records and keeping fans interested in your merch. Were you clever about it from the beginning, or did you get better at it through trial and error?

VF: I think that it’s something that we’ve been good at all along. We’re on our 287th release, between vinyl records and things like that. But we always designed it where we were adding some extra touches like doing a 7”. There was a little bit where we were concentrating on touring more than doing releases, and we’re sort of reversing that—we’re touring less but we’re going to release more music.

OS: And speaking of tours, you guys are gearing up for Warped—is that strange for you now, since with the exception of bands like Big D, you guys have been playing together for a lot longer than most of the other bands on the tour?

VF: It kind of is, you know? It’s a loaded question, and I’ll tell you why. We were a young band once, and I understand it. You’re trying to go for the brass ring, everything’s fresh, everything’s new, and I’m cool with that. I’m cool with bands who get overexcited about being on Warped Tour and maybe let the excesses and the fact that they’re on a big summer tour get the best of them. I’m okay with that, and I don’t feel weird about that. But at the same time, I think that how Warped Tour is designed—Warped Tour is designed for popular music. A lot of people sort of give it a bad rap of, “Oh, it’s changed.” Well, Warped Tour hasn’t changed, the skeleton is the same. It’s always about popular music, and what’s popular now is Christian metal and sort of poppy screamo. And that’s what most of the tour is on. So when I’m sitting around, are there a lot of bands that I’m going to enjoy listening to? Not particularly, you know? And that’s not being an old fuck about it. I can appreciate them as musicians, I can appreciate them for their show and for their drive, but there’s not a lot out here for me to go like, “Oh, yeah, you heard that one song? Oh, I love that one song. Or that one record.” It’s not that tour anymore.

OS: Then what is it about the tour that brought you back this year?

VF: I think it’s a good way to play in front of people who have heard our band but maybe not necessarily ever came to see our band play.

OS: So if the Christian metal isn’t doing it for you, what are you listening to these days?

VF: A lot a reggae, to be honest with you. Sizzla, which is great, and then a lot of old reggae as well. Punk rock— I think that there’s a really good, fresh generation of punk rock out there. Red City Radio, the Menzingers, bands like Make Do and Mend which are great friends but also did a great record. I think that you have a new group of bands that are coming out—like Tigers Jaw is a great band, you have Dear Landlord—there’s a massive and healthy crop of catchy punk rock, and I pay most of my attention to that. And a lot of reggae as well, just to kind of balance things out. It can’t always be fast and rough punk rock, the converse side for me is slow and mellow reggae.

Check out Less Than Jake at their Warped date nearest you, and grab a free download of their latest single “Goodbye Mr. Personality” here!

Get Lyrical: Alkaline Trio Rework Favorites On “Damnesia”

When we spoke with Airborne Toxic Event guitarist Steven Chen a few weeks ago, he remarked that “a good song is a good song in any genre,” and that a truly great song should sound great no matter which style it’s played in—be it punk, folk or country. Alkaline Trio must subscribe to the same school of thought, because the group is re-imagining old favorites on their upcoming release Damnesia. (Apparently Good Mourning and From Here to Infirmary weren’t the only dark puns the Illinois natives had up their sleeves.) But puns aside, hearing the excellent lyrics of classics like “Mercy Me” and “Calling All Skeletons” in a semi-unplugged state is a great reminder of why this band ruled so hard in the first place.

The first single from Damnesia is “Clavicle”—one of the most joyous songs about unrequited love that we’ve ever heard. Originally found on Alkaline Trio’s 1998 debut Goddamnit, “Clavicle” is probably the closest the three have ever come to writing a love song. And even though their subject matter generally leans towards the macabre, they do a damn good job with sappier fare as well. The song is infused with cheer from the unbridled joy of its opening line, “Been on top of the world since about six months ago/Marking the first time I laid eyes on you.” And it’s totally endearing how unabashedly straightforward frontman Matt Skiba is when he relays his desires in the song’s chorus: “I want to wake up naked next to you/kissing the curve of your clavicle.” Alas,  “I’ve called you twice /It’s been a hellish fight/To not think about you all the time/Sitting around waiting for your call.” Girl must be blind, deaf or just heartless…why else wouldn’t she call him back? Our heart goes out you to, Matt Skiba. Still, isn’t it nice to hear Alkaline Trio singing about feelings instead of cannibalism?

You can give the revamped version of “Clavicle” a listen below to hear for yourself how well it translates from riotous, uptempo punk jam to melodic, acoustic love song. (Don’t worry, it hasn’t been slowed down that much.) And if the stripped down versions of the Alkaline Trio you’ve grown to love aren’t enough to convince you to pick up Damnesia, keep in mind that there are two new tracks on the album—“Olde English 800” and “I Remember A Rooftop”—as well a cover of “I Held Her In My Arms” by eighties indie rock trio Violent Femmes. See? There’s something here for everyone.

Music Videos Become Music Feature Films

Get pumped, Nine Inch Nails fans. Early last week, Trent Reznor announced that the upcoming HBO miniseries based on his concept album Year Zero will be penned by Fight Club screenwriter Jim Uhls. And if that isn’t the greatest thing you’ve ever heard, you obviously weren’t reading closely enough. It’s Trent Reznor! And Jim Uhls! Writing a sci-fi miniseries based on Year Zero! Sure, aside from that, there are essentially no details about the show at the moment. But if previous HBO miniseries like Band of Brothers or Generation Kill are any indication, there’s no way this won’t be awesome.

Year Zero was praised for taking the concept album to places it had never been before after Reznor and 42 Entertainment created an online alternate reality game to accompany its 2007 release, but a miniseries like this would be the first of its kind (although it’s probably just the next logical step in Reznor’s journey toward total media domination). And Reznor isn’t the only musician who’s using television and film to create a more immersive music experience, which has us wondering if long play movies—or miniseries or short films or video games—could be poised to eclipse the music video.

Arcade Fire are one of the other bands using multimedia components to compliment their work. In February, the Canadian indie rockers unveiled a half-hour, Spike Jonze directed film called Scenes From the Suburbs at SXSW. The film was inspired by their GRAMMY-winning album The Suburbs. (It was also supposed to be available for free online last week, but hosting site Mubi pulled the video down at the last minute for residents of the US, Canada, Australia and Germany. Womp Womp.) The heart wrenching film scored rave reviews and had many fans begging for a full-length movie.

Angels & Airwaves are jumping on the movie bandwagon as well, announcing last week that their upcoming album Love II will include a co py of the movie Love, which the band produced and scored. Even Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk is getting in on the multimedia game for her forthcoming album Biophilia. Each song on the album will have its own iPad app, and all of those baby apps will reside in one “mother app”. Yeah… it’s about as confusing as it sounds. And sure, Björk is exactly the type of artist we’d expect to include some sort of super outlandish component with her album. But with all the buzz that Biophilia is generating already, it can’t be too long before other artists try their hands at it.

Of course, There are plenty of critics who believe that movies and visual experiences accompanying the music are a scheme intended only to drum up interest and sell more albums. It’s an accusation Reznor was met with as he geared up to release the online experience for Year Zero, and he admitted that it was “frustrating” to hear the word “marketing” tossed around in conjunction with his work. “It’s not some kind of gimmick to get you to buy a record—it IS the art form,” he said. But frustrating as it may be, the success of albums like Year Zero and The Suburbs can only make multimedia releases more prevalent.

And even if these long playing music videos aren’t the wave of the future, plenty of standard vids have won us over this year as well. If you haven’t yet, check out the Foo FightersFalling Down-inspired video for “Walk,” watch Red Fang smash a car in the most fun way possible in their video for “Wires,” laugh as Matt and Kim beat the shit out of each other in “Cameras” and get creeped out by Tyler, the Creator‘s “Yonkers”.

 


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