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Soldier On

The Design

It takes a mighty presence to hold an arena-sized audience captive. And though Kat Robichaud, who fronts Raleigh-based band The Design, has spent the bulk of her career on smaller stages, she’s the kind of heavyweight performer who could shake the rafters of a stadium. Armed with a muscular contralto, the singer powers through theatrical rockers that harken back to the ‘80s. “Young America” is the soundtrack to defiance, a stomping gutter groove for those with their jaws firmly jutted out. But even protestors like to take things to the dance floor now and then, and “Sing, Girl, Sing” provides the chunky rock guitars, a funk bass line, and angular percussion to get things moving. Still, The Design is a band that thrives on dissent, and nowhere is their unrest more palatable than on “Burn”— a rallying cry sounded by syncopated drums and a salvo of gnarly guitars. “I will not be found wanting,” Robichaud warns. No, ma’am. Absolutely not.

Family Guyz

GoodGrandKidz

Life on the streets can make you grow up hard. But that’s no excuse not to be good to your grandmother. Chicago rap duo GoodGrandKidz, comprised of first cousins Adrian Boykin and E.J. Wilson, manage to go H.A.M. with no disrespect to their elders. In “BMF” they lay down the law, saying, “We the good grandkids but still some bad motherf—ers” over sighing synths and a trilling Spanish guitar loop. Good as they may be, they’ve got a little devil in them, proven by lyrics like, “OMG Jesus tweets? Tell him he should follow me.” “Midnight Dreamers” has the same haunting, jazzy vibe as Lupe Fiasco’s “Daydream,” complete with a powerhouse soul singer. But on “Much Higher” it’s The Doors’ “Light My Fire” that provides the inspiration. Over shrill blasts of brass the duo aim high, saying “I’m elevated like prayers.” Even if Jesus doesn’t follow them, you should.

Fire and Ice

Just across the Hudson, tucked between the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, is Hoboken, NJ. A less frenetic, friendlier version of New York City, Hoboken still functions as sort of a microcosm of Manhattan with its restaurants, galleries, and vibrant music scene. Just like Hoboken, ARTWORK reflects the sometimes opposing forces and surprising beauty of the big city. On “Skies” gnarled guitars and stomping drums give way to a coasting melody with blissed out vocals and twee lyrics reminiscent of Owl City. But just as soon as you begin to get lulled into submission, in comes a menacing, spoken word bridge to upset the calm. On “Casting Stones” staccato guitars, blasts of distortion, thrashing drums, and whirls of synths create a decidedly more turbulent vibe. “I’ll set the world in flames,” singer Darren Fisher promises. True, but they’ll also provide the salve to soothe the burn.

Testify

Undergrad

Spirituality is a personal thing. Some people wear theirs on their sleeve, “witnessing” to anyone willing to listen. Others prefer to keep their religion between them and their god … or gods … or goddesses. You get the picture. Wesley Forte, a.k.a. Undergrad, is definitely a member of the first camp. Raised in the church, Forte kept to the straight and narrow, dedicating his life to his beliefs. As Undergrad, he funnels his ministry into pious hip-hop and R&B. On “Man In The Mirror” he declares he’s “trying to build up the Lord’s turf” while a female chorus provides the song’s soulful hook. Digital arpeggios rain down in “What’s Your Mission” as the rapper spits out witty lines like “Is your mission to be like Microsoft and Excel?” On the swaggering “Spark The Dark” things get more urgent. “People selling their souls like retail / I gotta give glory to God.” Preach on, preacher man.

Wrangled Up & Bruised

Ula Ruth

Brothers Nicholas and Lucas James may have had a wholesome upbringing—home school, Quaker school, Connecticut suburbs—but they didn’t let that corrupt their rock and roll souls. The brothers stood by their “hot sauce-lovin’, God-fearin’, skinny jeans-wearin’” values, joining up with likeminded brethren Kevin Clymer and Dean Miller to form Ula Ruth in 2011. Their rock is steeped in distortion, with banged up and bruised grooves. Exhibit A: “Empty,” a stylish and subversive rocker with zig-zagging guitars engulfed in feedback. Exhibit B: “Call To The Lonely,” where handclaps, reverb riffs, guttural bass lines and throaty hollers combine for the New England version of Kings of Leon. “I always open my mouth instead of walking away,” Nick laments. Be glad he does—Ula Ruth’s rebel yell is worth the listen.

Party Patrol

DaCav5

Prepare to “sweat your weaves out,” people. Coming straight outta the city of brotherly love is DaCav5, an electro-pop band armed with its own party rock anthems. Like LMFAO, DaCav5 specializes in crazed, pitch-bent beats that burrow down into your brain and command your body to move. “Dirty Style” has a whiff of “Party Rock Anthem,” kicking off with a big, fat, bassy beat. Add defiant mantras like “I don’t care what people say, Ima party anyway,” with a sexy female refrain and you’ve got yourself a hit. David Guetta, eat your heart out. “Party Started” does exactly what it proposes to do. The track gets underway with orchestral pulses and edgy vocal stylings. “Bitch get back, you know the kid got swag.” The kid definitely has swag. Make that all five kids. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have some partying to do.

 

All About It

 

All About A Bubble

There’s a pantheon of music constructed of staccato guitars, thrashing drums, and searching, volatile vocals. Some call it emo, some call it pop-punk, some call it alternative. The name itself isn’t important. What matters is the legion of fans who flock to festivals like Warped Tour, snatch up records put out by Fueled By Ramen, and pour their love into every note, every word uttered. Band like At The Drive In, Taking Back Sunday, Motion City Soundtrack and countless others have supplied this demand over the course of two decades. You can add the name All About A Bubble to the list. The Tulsa, Okla. group delivers frenetic, precise rockers like “West Coast,” with its chugging guitars and monster melody. “Impossible to Fade” begins with singer Dustin Storm’s innervated croon before kicking into a coursing power ballad. The calm after the storm comes from “Paper Planes,” a mostly acoustic heartbreaker moved along by—you guessed it—big guitars and drums. Welcome to the pantheon, guys.

OS @ Warped Series: War Games

With summer right around the corner, we can’t help but be totally stoked for Warped Tour. In case you haven’t heard, we’ll be sponsoring our own stage for twenty-two dates and bringing twenty-three artists out to perform on it. Twenty-two acts will snag a performance at their local tour stop, and one lucky artist will get to perform on every date (tour bus included). In addition, there are a handful of other OurStage artists already booked to play various dates of the tour. We decided to catch up with them to get the scoop on their summer plans.

Having earned their stripes from a young age under the name Another Option, War Games are primed to be breakout stars on this year’s Warped Tour. Comprised of lead vocalist/guitarist Kyle Therrien, guitarist Ian Provost, bassist/vocalist Andy Calheta and drummer Cameron Raubeson, this indie rock outfit promise fun and energetic shows this summer that are sure to win over plenty of new fans. We caught up with Kyle, Ian and Andy to talk about the band’s history, who they want to see at Warped Tour, and why they love Ace Enders.

OS: How did the band first begin?

KT: Technically, the band started when me and Andy were very young. We decided we wanted to start a band after being pretty heavily influenced by bands that were big at the time, like Green Day, Blink-182, Saves the Day. Before we even knew how to play any instruments, we decided we were going to be in a band. We started walking around our lunchroom in middle school and started taking donations so we could start buying equipment, literally, with a bucket, walking around. We were pretty popular at school so we made a lot of money and were able to actually buy some equipment for ourselves. We assigned each other instruments and started to learn them. If you jump forward to where Ian joined the band as a drummer and things started to get serious, ever since then, the better we got at our instruments, and as soon as we started playing shows, we became more and more determined to become more of a serious band. Somewhere along the line, we decided it must be a career choice, so we never let go of that dream and we’re still kind of chipping away at that.

OS: Where did the name War Games come from?

IP: It kind of just popped into our heads one night. It wasn’t anything thought out, there wasn’t a general way we wanted to go with a new name…it thought of itself, I guess.

Continue reading ‘OS @ Warped Series: War Games’

Moody Dudes

Set It Off

The name alone should tell you Set It Off’s M.O. The Tampa-based band is all about starting a frenzy through adrenaline-soaked, emotive rockers. Led by singer Cody Carson, Set It Off blends theater, social sensitivity and angst a la bands like My Chemical Romance and Panic At The Disco. On “Horrible Kids” Carson, guitarists Dan Clermont and Zach DeWall, bassist Austin Kerr and drummer Maxx Danziger delve into bullying with equal parts empathy and rage. It’s jittery and paranoid, but ultimately a redemptive tune. But on “Breathe In, Breathe Out,” the mood takes a turn towards a manic carnival. Jabbing guitars, coursing verse and a soaring chorus create a totally irresistible, totally schizoid rocker. Set It Off are masters of mood swings. On “Pages and Paragraphs” Carson sings, “I’m on cloud nine.” Even if happiness is fleeting there’s still pleasure to be found in pain. Enjoy the ride.

House of the Rising Star

Sheila Star

Having the last name Star bodes well for a music career. Let’s see, there’s Ryan, Mazzie and Ringo to name a few. In time, you may see the name Sheila Star on that list of illustrious musicians. The San Francisco-based singer-songwriter is already active in Bay Area songwriting circles, penning lustrous piano pop that’s seductive and punchy. “Keeps Me Alive” starts with a somber piano intro before the beat snaps in and transforms the track into a sexy, soaring pop ballad. Star’s breathy vocals bring a feline quality to her songs. In “Addiction” she coos “Every day and every night, yeah it gets me high,” adding some headiness to the song’s squelching groove. “Bad Dream” is pure piano swagger where Star struts around in her bad girl persona: “The devil himself he took the good out of me.” We think there’s plenty of good to be found, especially if you like your good to break bad sometimes.

 


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