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Q&A With Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association

Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the Americana Music Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating and cultivating the community of Americana artists across the country. The AMA works around the clock to host events, participate in conferences, conduct research and keep fans in the know. They also know how to put on some incredible concerts, which have featured such influential artists as Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith and Buddy Miller. We had the chance to catch up with Executive Director Jed Hilly to hear all about the exciting events and initiatives that the AMA has done in the past, as well as their plans for 2011.

OS: As Executive Director, what is your role in the AMA?

JH: My job was designed to shed light on those artists who otherwise would not be heard. The association was created in 1999 and the group of 30 some-odd folks who became our founding council created the organization pretty much in response to the commercialization of radio in the ’90s and how artists like Steve Earle and Roseanne Cash, these great artists of integrity, were pretty much shut out from airplay. So that’s where it started from. We’re a trade association, but I feel like I work for the artist. The beautiful and wonderful thing that seems to be happening in the last couple years is that there’s a tremendous momentum in the Americana world. Some of these artists that have embraced the Americana community and style and genre of music, they don’t need me to shed any light on them at all…artists like Elvis Costello and John Mellencamp and Robert Plant, and yet, I’m thrilled that they’ve embraced this style of music because my job is to raise the tide for all ships. The participation and support of artists like that really helps.

OS: What are the advantages to joining the AMA?

JH: Well, I tell people that we are a non-profit with a very small staff…there’s actually only 2 full-time employees. I wish we were larger…people think we’re a much bigger organization. Because of the passion of the volunteer efforts that we receive, we put on a festival and conference each year. It’s an exceptional event and an amazing volunteer effort. About 150 people join forces with me and Dana Strong, our Director of Operations, and make it this wonderful community gathering. The benefits [of becoming a member]…you get a discount on our community gathering, we keep you updated, we’ve joined forces with an independent insurance plan, which is really helpful for artists who are always on the go. I would encourage people to support what we’re doing because I truly believe that we’re changing the landscape of the music business and it’s long overdue.

OS: The AMA recently announced the Top 100 Americana albums of the year. How is this list compiled?

The Belleville Outfit performing at the 2009 AMA Awards

JH: We have about 75 radio stations that are sanctioned certified reports, what they call a “radio panel.” When somebody says to me, “How do you define Americana?” This is our tool. Through these stations, they report spin counts—the number of times they play a particular song from a particular record. When you add them all up across 75 stations, your Top 40 chart is going to look different from every station, unlike mainstream stations, where it’s 10-20 songs played over the course of a week in every city in the country. This is unique, it’s a cross-section of 75 stations and specialty shows and the like, where we’re getting their definition of what Americana is. As spin counts accumulate, they bubble up. When you look at that over the course of a year, there could be a debate about some of the artists that could be at 700 or 800, but when you get to the Top 100, there’s your definition. There’s your landscape of the Americana world. Our radio stations are our heatseeker chart, if you will.

OS: Every year, you have a showcase at the Americana Music Festival & Conference. What do you look for in acts that submit applications for this opportunity?

JH: Similar to the way you’ve got 75 stations who are putting forth what they perceive to be the songs most worthy of airplay on their stations, so too do we have a committee that both surveys online and physical product that is submitted to us. They go through it, and I love what they do. Last year we had over 800 acts submit to play our event. The worst month of my year is when the 700 letters of regret, as we call them, go out, because we’re a small organization. We can only invite between 85 and 100 artists to be a part of this and it’s not necessarily the best of the best. Sometimes artists’ schedules change and they can’t come, or vice versa. But the bottom line, musically, is that Americana music— as we define it—is contemporary music that honors or derives from American roots music. And after that, a number of factors come into it. We’re grateful because the venues extend to us their homes, for free. This is our annual fundraiser. One of our venues, for example, is the world famous Station Inn in Nashville, which is the mecca of bluegrass. What you’ll find in that particular venue are more singer-songwriter, bluegrass-oriented performances. The room holds about 200. By contrast, we use the Cannery Ballroom, which holds over a thousand. That’s where we put people like Dirks Bentley, who played our event last year. So in the case of some of these artists who we’ll put in the Cannery, it’s because they can put a thousand people in there, and that’s how we make some money to survive.

OS: The AMA endorses Sound Healthcare. What can you tell us about this initiative?

JH: That’s our insurance plan. Sound Healthcare is an organization that has gone to a number of nonprofits, like the AMA, or the Country Music Association or the Folk Alliance. It’s a managed healthcare plan by consolidating these non-profit groups. An organization like the CMA has anywhere between 4,000 and 6,000 members. We have 1,000…but it’s great that we are all a part of the same plan that gives us the volume and numbers to support getting reasonable rates by being part of it. I think it’s a brilliant idea that the folks over there put together and we’re thrilled to be part of it as a benefit from our membership.

Buddy Miller performing at the 2009 AMA Awards

OS: What is your most memorable experience from an Americana Honors and Awards Show?

JH: It’s hard for me, because I’m working that day! (laughs) I’m a ball of stress, hoping everything goes well and it always does. But I remember a few years ago when Lyle Lovett came. He showed up at rehearsal and the great Buddy Miller is our band leader. We generally ask people to tell us what song they’re going to do and Buddy puts together this incredible all-star band. Last year, the band featured Buddy on guitar, Don Was on the upright bass, Greg Leisz on steel…just an amazing array of musicianship supporting the artists who perform in our show. Lyle didn’t deliver a song to me or Buddy, and quite honestly, I’m not going to push Lyle Lovett to a decision! So Lyle shows up and Tony Brown, the great producer, happened to be in the house. So Lyle’s standing there and he says, “What should I do?” Tony says, “If I Had a Boat!” and Lyle says, “Does anybody have a copy of ‘If I Had a Boat’ for the band to hear?” And they pulled it up off iTunes and there was dead silence. One by one, Buddy and the members of the band start playing along with it, halfway through the song. The song finished and Buddy said, “Can we hear that one more time?” And they ran it through, and it was amazing. Just watching this level of artists and musicians listening, thinking, absorbing…and about 45 seconds into it, They went and did this first take, not ever having played the song together. It really was an extraordinary moment, sitting there for the next four and a half minutes, and they stopped and Lyle said, “I think you got it!” (laughs) It was truly wonderful and the essence, I think, of what the Americana community is all about. It’s about the enjoyment, the passion and the love of music and it’s about the talent level. Man, they nailed it.

OS: You’ve said that, “The typical Americana act is in the music business for the long haul.” Why do you think this is?

JH: I think they’re artists. I heard Emmylou Harris talk a couple years ago…she had been presented with one of those big platinum awards, commemorating 15 million records sold or something. She looked around at the room and said “I’m honored and privileged to be able to do this, but I’m honored and privileged to play with all of you. Whether we made money on this or not, I think we still would have done it, and I think we still would have been playing music, because that’s what we do.” Living in Nashville can be so hard. There’s that old bus station story about Nashville, where you show up with your guitar and you leave without it to get the bus ticket out. But that’s not this community. This community is about telling a story through song in the best way they know how. It’s not about selling records. To me, it’s the difference between fine art and commercial.

OS: What are some events that the AMA has coming up in 2011?

JH: We will be back at SXSW and doing our annual showcase there. We’re thrilled that the organizers of that great event give us a pretty nice venue. We get to be at historic Antone’s every year and have had some wonderful performances. I’m not at liberty to say who will be performing this year, but what I can say is that it will be a cross-section of 5 or 6 artists, among them will be some newcomers and truly legendary figures from the American music world, which will be pretty special. We do a Bluebird series, which is a pretty nice little event. It’s a benefit. We’ve had artists from Nanci Griffith to Rodney Crowell put on shows for us. About 100 people fit in the room. We don’t make a ton of money on it but it’s a pretty magical event. We’re planning a little mini festival that will be a benefit to support the AMA that will take place at Blackberry Farm, which is truly one of the country’s finest inns. It’s a magnificent inn and spa and culinary experience.

The 12th Annual Americana Music Festival & Conference event dates are set for October 12th – October 15th 2011 in Nashville, TN. For more information on the AMA and to register for the conference, visit their official website!

Q&A With Silverstein

In a scene where the “next big thing” seems to be different every day, Silverstein is one of the few bands able to maintain their place among the best in the post-hardcore genre. It’s not hard to see why, either, as they’ve worked tirelessly for a decade, writing, recording and touring non-stop. They’ve released four LPs, two EPs, a live DVD and individual tracks for successful compilations like Punk Goes Acoustic 2 and Punk Goes Pop 2, and toured all over the world, including runs with the Vans Warped Tour, Taste of Chaos and Australia’s Soundwave Festival.

Today, Silverstein releases their brand new EP, Transitions, a collection of B-sides and previously unreleased tracks. The band will be putting out their eagerly-anticipated fifth album in 2011, after touring through their home country of Canada, the US and Australia. We had the pleasure of catching up with vocalist Shane Told to hear his thoughts on today’s modern rock scene, the story behind the new album and what to expect on the next big tour.

OS: You’re currently out on a Canadian tour with The Devil Wears Prada. How have the shows been so far?

ST: They’ve been awesome! We’ve been across the country now and we’re on our way back east. It’s been really good. We’ve known The Devil Wears Prada ever since they were just a local band in Ohio and watched them grow and watched their popularity really skyrocket, so it’s kind of cool now to be doing like a co-headlining tour together and sharing everything and splitting everything 50/50. It’s a cool thing to see a band go from being basically high school kids to a real, legit, serious band. The shows have been awesome, the only thing that’s sucked is the drives! The drives are the worst. We had to drive one time 30 hours straight, in the middle of nowhere where there’s no cell phone service or anything…we ended up buying Monopoly. The only one they had was Disney Monopoly so we ended up playing Disney Monopoly for as long as we could to kill some time on the bus while we were driving (laughs).

OS: You have a brand new EP called Transitions, which includes two tracks from your upcoming album. What made you decide to release these songs in advance?

ST: We kind of wanted to do something to hold our fans over until the record came out. Not only that, but we also just had a lot of songs this time around. We went in the studio and we recorded…I think we were going to record seventeen and we actually decided—I haven’t told anybody about this yet! We had a little extra time in the studio when we recorded the drums and we recorded in a really nice studio and wanted to use all the studio time. So, what we did is, we tried to write a song in one hour. We did it, we filmed it. We haven’t finished tracking all the parts but we wrote it and we recorded all the drums for it. We had a lot of extra stuff so we put this EP together. I’ve always been a fan of EPs, I think it’s because I have the worst attention span. With so many records, I love the first six songs…and then with albums, I’ll be like, “I love that album,” but I won’t even know what track 11 sounds like. I always thought it would be better if a band, instead of putting out a full-length album every two years, they put out an EP every year (laughs). I always liked that more. So we decided to put out an EP because we like EPs, and we had the extra stuff to give our fans a little treat before the holidays.

OS: You’ve said that the new record will not be a concept album, like 2009′s A Shipwreck in the Sand. Can you tell us a bit about the lyrical themes of the new material?

ST: It’s kind of broad to say it, but it really is just about my life. Everything I’ve gone through over the last ten years of being in this band and going through the relationships I’ve gone through and doing what I’ve had to do…the ride that it’s been. I was on stage and we played a new song from the EP, it’s an acoustic song…and I just said like, “This song is about my life.” And it is. This record is way more personal than A Shipwreck in the Sand. It’s way more through my eyes and things that I’ve seen, rather than through a character’s eyes, that I sort of created. It’s a lot different. I loved writing Shipwreck, it was challenging and fun and I’m really proud of it, but with this record, I didn’t want to do that again. I wanted to get some things of my chest and explore a lot of different themes, not just one. I’m sure down the road, we’ll do another concept album…but this time around, I just didn’t want to force it.

OS: Musically, how would you describe the new album?

ST: It’s pretty heavy, I think. There’s a lot of screaming on this record, but at the same time, we really tried to make the choruses pop and make it catchy, as well. There’s quite a few technical parts, parts that aren’t exactly the easiest to play on guitar and drums and stuff. I think we dug deep and really tried to do some things that would challenge us as a band, but at the same time, we still wanted to write good songs and didn’t want to make extraneously long parts that didn’t go anywhere. The songs are relatively short and to the point. It’s sort of more like The Blue Album than it is Pinkerton, in a way. It’s the Blue Album, not The Green Album…if you like my Weezer analogy!

OS: Having been a band for ten years, and with a steady stream of new bands constantly emerging in your genre, do you ever find yourself pressured to stay relevant?

ST: Yeah. I actually had a really great conversation with a guy on the tour in a band called For Today about that. We were just talking about all these bands coming out now that are basically playing to backing tracks. It’s something I’ve never really encountered. We’ve been a band for ten years and I think the only band we ever encountered that had backing tracks that we played with was like, Avril Lavigne’s. It’s just weird to have bands in hardcore doing that. It really sucks because obviously if you play your CD live, it’s going to sound better than having to mic all the instruments and playing them live. So then kids go and see a band and they’re like, “oh, this band sounds awesome!” Well, they sound awesome because it’s not real. That kind of stuff is upsetting. We’ll never play to a backing track, just because of where we come from. Nowadays, I think part of it might be because of the technology that’s in studios now…bands record and it’s not real, either. Bands will record entire songs on guitar, literally recording one note at a time and then placing it all together. When you do that, that comes off in the studio and you start doing stuff like that live, just to try to get a step ahead of the next band. We don’t let it phase us. We don’t want to play to backing tracks, we just want to be real and play the best we can and have fun and write the best songs we can. We’re not trying to be the heaviest band out there or try to out-do anybody. That’s, I think, the whole problem with this genre now. These bands are coming out and they’re tuning lower and lower and trying to be heavier than the next guy and have the “sicker breakdown” or whatever, and to me, that’s just tiring. We just want to write the best songs we can and have a good time. It’s a bit disheartening to me that things have gotten this way now.

OS: In January, you’re hitting the road with Pierce the Veil, Miss May I, The Chariot and Bullet for a Pretty Boy. What can fans expect from this tour?

ST: A lot of great bands, a bit of a diverse lineup. Pierce the Veil is a great band. We’ve been friends and fans of them for a long time so we’re really happy to have them. Miss May I is a younger band that’s blowing up right now, kids are loving them. The Chariot is a super heavy band that we’ve also been big fans of for a long time, so it’s a bit all over the place with the lineup, but I kind of like that. With my influences, they span everything from folk music to death metal, so I love it. I think it’s going to be a really good bill and I think if kids get there early and watch the whole show, there’s going to be something for everybody. It’ll open up people’s minds a little bit to some new music! It’s also good that we’re playing a lot of the smaller cities, they call the “B-Markets”, so it will be cool to bring really great lineups to those smaller cities that might not get a lot of shows. We’re really happy about that. We’ll be touring in the major markets a little bit later in the year and we’re stoked about that too. There will be more details about the tour we’re going to be on later, I think pretty shortly.

OS: In February, you’ll be playing at Soundwave Festival in Australia for the second time. What are you most looking forward to this time around?

ST: Well, Australia’s the best! It’s incredible. We did it two years ago and the lineup was just insane. Our stage, which wasn’t even the main stage, had some of my favorite bands. It was like, Alkaline Trio and Saves the Day and Rival Schools and Face to Face, the list goes on and on. That was just our stage, not to mention Nine Inch Nails was the headliner. It was the coolest thing. I think the only reason they can pull that off is because bands love going to Australia so much. It’s such a beautiful place, so bands are like “Yeah, sure, just fly us over, we’ll go!”  The people are awesome, they have great food, the weather’s awesome, it’s really just a beautiful, clean country. I think that’s why they can put together such a great lineup for Soundwave every single year. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world they can pull that off. We’re really excited for that and hanging out with some really great friends of ours, too, on that tour. We’re really looking forward to it!

Be sure to pick up Silverstein’s new EP, Transitions, on iTunes now, and don’t miss Silverstein on tour this winter. Check out the tour stops below!

December 8, 2010 – Saskatoon, SK @ Louis Pub
December 9, 2010 – Fargo, ND @ The Venue
December 10, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI @ Rave
December 11, 2010 – Toronto, ON @ Kool Haus
January 7, 2011 – Clifton Park, NY @ Northern Lights
January 8, 2011 – Allentown, PA @ Crocodile Rock
January 9, 2011 – Poughkeepsie, NY @ The Chance
January 11, 2011 – Toledo, OH @ Headliners
January 12, 2011 – Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre
January 13, 2011 – Palatine, IL @ Durty Nellie’s
January 14, 2011 – Iowa City, IA @ Blue Moose Tap House
January 15, 2011 – Springfield, MO @ Remmingtons Downtown
January 16, 2011 – Tulsa, OK @ The Marquee Theatre
January 18, 2011 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater
January 19, 2011 – Tucson, AZ @ The Rock
January 20, 2011 – Las Vegas, NV @ Hard Rock Cafe
January 21, 2011 – Pomona, CA @ The Glass House
January 22, 2011 – Orangevale, CA @ The Boardwalk
January 23, 2011 – Reno, NV @ Knitting Factory
January 25, 2011 – Colorado Springs, CO @ Black Sheep
January 26, 2011 – Kansas City, MO @ Beaumont Club
January 27, 2011 – St. Louis, MO @ Pops Nite Club
January 28, 2011 – Lansing, MI @ The Loft
January 29, 2011 – Buffalo, NY @ Xtreme Wheelz

January 30, 2011 – Baltimore, MD @ Sonar
February 26, 2011 – Brisbane, AU @ Soundwave Festival
February 27, 2011 – Sydney, AU @ Soundwave Festival
March 4, 2011 – Melbourne, AU @ Soundwave Festival
March 5, 2011 – Adelaide, AU @ Soundwave Festival
March 7, 2011 – Perth, AU @ Soundwave Festival

Q&A With Foxy Shazam

You can try, but you probably can’t put an accurate label on Foxy Shazam. Their eccentric and eclectic mix of punk, soul and straight up rock ‘n’ roll has earned the band critical praise and performances at Lollapollooza, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Reading & Leeds. Following a summer tour with Hole and the release of their smash self-titled album, the band recently finished a two-month cross-country stint with Free Energy and is preparing for another huge year in 2011.

One might expect that outrageously energetic 24-year-old frontman Eric Nally lives an equally wild life. On the contrary—offstage, he is a soft-spoken, friendly father of two. We had the pleasure of speaking with Eric about touring memories, writing with Meat Loaf, modern day rock stars and what it’s like to lead a double life.

OS: You’ve just finished your fall tour with Free Energy. How were the shows and what were some of your favorite moments from the tour?

EN: We went to the UK for a week in between this tour and that was awesome. I loved that because we sold out London for the first time. It was big for me because we’re from Cincinnati, Ohio and it’s just really far from home. To sell a place out so far away is an awesome feeling; to bring your music to a different country and do that. I liked playing Montreal because Hollerado, the band that’s opening on this tour, is from there. All their crowd was out and it was just really fun.

OS: Foxy Shazam is well known for its incredible, off-the-wall performances. What inspires the band to become so theatrical on stage?

EN: I usually tell people, “that’s just the way we were born!” It’s just natural to us. We  don’t have to do any preparation or any pre-show rituals to summon these things on stage, they just come out naturally. It’s just the way we came out of our moms, I guess. When I’m on stage, I’m an entertainer…when I’m off stage, I’m a spectator. So I just kind of sit back and watch and soak everything in. When I go on stage, I let it all out.

OS: You’ve stated that Foxy Shazam are “not concerned with what category it falls into.” Do you often find that people are trying to fit you into a genre or compare you to other bands because they’re not sure where to place you?

EN: Yeah, that happens all the time. Anybody I ever meet that’s an artist…everybody wants to be themselves. But really, in the way that everything works now, it’s just what people have to do. I accept that. Everything needs to be compared to something else just so you can wrap your head around it easier, I guess. Either way, I don’t mind it, but people do try to compare or group us into a category. Every time it’s different, so it’s cool.

OS: You’ve said that you would never want to make the same record again and the evolution of the band’s music has certainly reflected that. How do you see Foxy Shazam’s music evolving in the future?

EN: I don’t know…every record we make kind of stands for where I am at that moment. I’d have to kind of be in the moment to understand, but that’s exciting for me. I really like not knowing. It’s kind of cool to not think about it and not prepare.

OS: In the song “Wannabe Angel” from your self-titled record, you sing, “For you I wear this mask, at home I take it off.” Is it difficult to transition between your life as a rock star and your life as a dad and husband?

EN: Yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say with that. I feel like I’m a completely different person when I’m on stage. It’s kind of like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type thing and that’s awesome to me. It’s like how actors do…entertainers, really. It’s just who I am. Being a dad compared to being a professional touring musician…it’s just the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I feel so different when I’m not on stage.

OS: Earlier this year, you helped write some songs for Meat Loaf’s album Hang Cool Teddy Bear. What was your role in the writing process? Would you be interested in writing for other artists again?

EN: Absolutely! I love being associated with people that have rich history in music and Meat Loaf is obviously one of those people. I just co-wrote two songs with Justin Hawkins who used to be in The Darkness—he’s one of my best friends now. It was just awesome. We went there together and we wrote together and sat with Meat Loaf. It was great, I made a lot of good friends through that whole experience.  A lot of the other writers that were there were a lot older and have done stuff like that before. That was something that I couldn’t believe I was experiencing so early in my career.

OS: Are there any artists in particular that you’d like to write for?

EN: I would love to, whether it’s writing or whatever, work with Cee-Lo Green sometime. I think he has the best voice in music right now. I think it’s just awesome, it hits me in the right spot. It’s the perfect voice for me. I’d love to work with him someday.

OS: Foxy Shazam was one of the first bands featured on ChatRoulette for album promotion, but you aren’t a huge proponent of bands using social media. Can you share your thoughts on that?

EN: I feel like the rock star is kind of a dying breed, we’re becoming extinct. You don’t seem them very much anymore. I think one of the most important things about what that persona was, was that you didn’t know them. It was almost like a mythical creature. People would gather backstage for hours just to catch a glimpse…and you don’t get that anymore. People know everything that everybody does because of Twitter and Facebook and they’re updating constantly. Everybody’s so human now, I guess, which is fine. That’s how it’s always been, everybody’s just a person. But I think there was this certain mysteriousness about the artist and that’s not really around anymore. So I kind of try to keep that going. I think it’s important to have people make their own stories about you rather than know the hard facts because chances are the hard facts are extremely boring (laughs).

OS: Foxy Shazam has recently announced some big touring plans for 2011. Can you tell us about the tours and festivals you’ll be playing next year?

EN: In January, we have a tour with Circa Survive. That will be awesome because I’ve heard their new record is great. I haven’t heard it but I’m really anxious to! I’ve heard a lot about that band and I know a lot of people who know them and they say they’re great guys and that’s really important to me, to share a tour with people that are nice. I’m really excited about that one, I think it will be awesome. Then we go to Australia [for the Soundwave Festival] in February and I’m really looking forward to it. I just love taking my music to different countries. I’ve never been to Australia, so it will be awesome. We have a bunch of days off in between the shows there so I’m going to do a lot of sight-seeing.

Check out this live video of Foxy Shazam performing “The Rocketeer” and don’t miss them on their upcoming tour dates, listed below!

Dec 16 Detroit, MI – Shelter
Dec 17 DeKalb, IL – House Cafe w/Victorian Halls & ‘Richardson’ Richardson
Dec 18 Minneapolis, MN – Popsickle Festival w/Motion City Soundtrack, Minus The Bear & more!
Dec 19 Kalamazoo, MI – The Strutt w/Their Teeth Will Be of Lions
Jan 14 Richmond, VA – The National w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 15 Charlotte, NC – Amos Southend w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 16 Ashville, NC – Orange Peel w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 18 St. Louis, MO – Pop’s w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 19 Omaha, NE – The Slowdown w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 20 Des Moines, IA – People’s Court w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 21 Grand Rapids, MO – Orbit Room w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 22 Columbus, OH – Newport Music Hall w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 24 Cincinnati, OH – Bogarts w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 26 Baltimore, MD – Rams Head Live w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 28 Rochester, NY – Water Street Music Hall w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 29 Albany, NY – Northern Lights w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 30 Allentown, PA – Crocodile Rock w/Circa Survive and Anberlin

Feb 26 Brisbane, AU – Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
Feb 27 Sydney, AU- Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
March 4 Melbourne, AU – Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
March 5 Adelaide, AU- Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
March 7 Perth, AU – Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!

Q&A With Jim Henke, Vice President of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Located in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. is home to an invaluable collection of information and artifacts from the world’s greatest rock artists. The nonprofit organization also exists as an educational institution to help teach music enthusiats of all ages.

In January of 2012, the Hall of Fame will be opening a brand new Library and Archives, which will be the world’s most comprehensive collection of documents, music and videos relating to rock music. We had the opportunity to speak with Jim Henke, Vice President of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs, to hear all about this incredible new building, as well as the amazing artifacts and educational opportunities at the Hall of Fame.

OS: What do you take into consideration when nominating artists for induction into the Hall of Fame?

JH: The only real rule is that they become eligible 25 years after the release of their first recording. From there, we try to take into account things like the longevity of their career, the impact they had on other artists, innovation, superiority in their style and technique and musical excellence. It’s not based on record sales, it’s basically based on how important of an artist they were and the quality of their body of work.

OS: How typically does the museum procure for its rare memorabilia collection? From private collections? Estates?

The exterior of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

JH: Most of the stuff we have comes directly from the artists and their families or their managers. It varies, but I’d say that 25% of what we have on exhibit here comes from the artists, their families or people who are associated with them. For example, right now, we have an exhibit on Bruce Springsteen. Most of the items came from Bruce directly, but there were a couple collectors out there who had fairly decent collections, so we also borrowed some pieces from them to fill in some of the holes.

OS: What should we expect to see in the new archive/library?

JH: It’s going to operate on two levels. One level will be more of a normal library that the general public can go into, where we’ll have books, magazines, periodicals. People will also be able to access music over the computers, and we’ll also have a lot of videos. The museum itself has been open for fifteen years and we’ve done a lot of events here, and virtually all of them have been filmed. We do a program every year called American Music Masters, where we honor one of our inductees with a week-long series of events and various performances. We’ve done maybe ten of those and we filmed all of them, but that footage has never been available. We also have a program called The Hall of Fame Serieswhere we bring in the inductees and we’ll interview them and often they’ll perform. The archive part of it will be more for students, scholars, historians and journalists. You’ll make an appointment to come in and we’ll have certain collections from various people and it’s their private papers…it could be contracts, correspondence, set lists, manuscripts. So, if someone’s writing a book or if someone’s doing a thesis, they’ll have a private room with an archivist and they’ll be able to go through these people’s papers.

OS: Why, now, is the library starting this archive?

JH: We talked about having a library and archive ever since before we opened and originally it was going to be here at the museum, but we never had quite the proper space. But it’s always been something that’s been on our radar, and we’ve always wanted something where we could preserve the history of rock and roll and allow historians and scholars access to stuff. We looked at other places in the Cleveland area…and there’s a college here called Cuyahoga Community College. Their president has been on our board since day one and has been very active. They also have a program called Recording Arts and Technology and a music production program. It turns out they were building a new building for that program, so their president thought they could build a larger building and we could put our library in there. The building’s complete and we have staff in there now and they’re cataloging everything. It won’t be open to the public until sometime next year, but we’re getting everything up and running.

A look inside the Bruce Springsteen exhibit, on display until February 27, 2011

OS: The Hall has a lot of different educational programs, particularly in classroom settings. How are the topics for classes determined?

JH: We have a program called “Toddler Rock” that’s open to preschool kids. They come in and we use music to teach them, the alphabet and counting. Then we have a program called “Rockin’ the Schools,” which is [offered to students in] kindergarten through twelfth grade. Those classes are taught here at the museum in our theater upstairs. Basically, we take rock and roll and try to use it to each about other things. For our first grade to fourth grade kids, we have a class called “Tell Me Something Good: Music and the Language Arts.” They listen to music and hear some of the stories and they examine how lyrics can establish setting, introduce characters, develop plot and narrative. We have another class called “Rock and Roll and the Science of Sound” and that’s for grades five through eight…it looks more at the audio aspect of rock and roll and how sound travels into our ears. We have another class called “The Message: The Birth of Hip Hop Culture,” which talks about hip hop and what was going on in our culture when hip hop was developing back in the ’70s. We try to go beyond music and talk about sociology or mathematics or science. We also have a distance learning program called “On the Road,” where we use interactive video conferencing technology to go into schools all across the country. We also do college-level classes.

OS: How will the Archive factor into the educational initiatives?

JM: With the kinds of things we’ll have there and having these very personal papers from a lot of people, one of the things we talked about was doing academic conferences and maybe tying it back to an exhibit. It will definitely help us to expand our educational offerings.

OS: What are some of the more interesting,  rare and noteworthy acquisitions you’ve procured?

One of the museum's most impressive items: John Lennon's Sgt. Pepper uniform

JH: We have a great collection from Jim Morrison’s parents. It turns out that they kept every piece of paper related to his life, from the hospital bill from when his mother gave birth to him to virtually all of his school report cards. In an interview for Rolling Stone back in the 6’0s, they asked him what the first poem he ever wrote was, and he said it was called “The Pony Express”…they [his parents] actually had his hand written manuscript of that. So that’s one of our great collections because it really is very thorough. It goes through his college years and formation of  The Doors, Jim had a falling out with his father and when he was arrested for allegedly exposing himself on stage down in Florida, the probation officer down there wrote his father a letter, asking what Jim’s shape was. Jim’s father wrote back this really sad letter about how he hadn’t talked to his son in many years. So there’s this gap through part of The Doors’ years and there’s letters between his father and different legal officials, and then there’s the official announcement from the American embassy in France that he had died. That’s a really nice collection. Yoko Ono has been very good to the museum, we have a great representation of John Lennon. We have a Sgt. Pepper uniform, a lot of his handwritten lyrics, report cards, different correspondence, a couple of his guitars. Similarly, we have a very good relationship with Jimi Hendrix‘s estate. As a young man, he was interested in becoming an artist, so we have all these different paintings that he did when he was younger. It’s interesting because there are a couple of rock band pictures, but there are also a lot of sports drawings that he did. You don’t really think of Jimi Hendrix as being a football fan but he did these different drawings of football players. We have a great collection from U2 that goes back to record company rejection letters, when they were first sending around their demo tapes…those are funny. We have some correspondence between the different band members and some lyrics manuscripts, some guitars and stage outfits. There’s pretty much something for everyone, no matter what your tastes are. We have sections that deal with the roots of rock and roll, the blues and rhythm and blues and gospel and country and folk. We have another section that looks at different cities and the history of rock and roll. It starts with Memphis in the ’50s and then includes Detroit during the Motown years and San Francisco during the psychedelic era and Los Angeles during the singer/songwriter country rock era and it ends in Seattle during grunge. There’s a lot of stuff here!

OS: The new library is already garnering some notable media coverage. What do you hope it will do for the Rock  & Roll Hall of Fame’s already renowned collection?

JH: I think it expands what we’re looking for and the fact that we’re actively out collecting for the library and archives. We’re going to musicians and producers and people in the music business, trying to get their papers. I think it will deepen our collection and broaden the extent of what it is. We’ll have many more documents to show how a lot of the music developed.

Check out the video below to watch Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins induct Queen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001!

Q&A With fun.

When indie rock band The Format announced their hiatus in early 2008, thousands of fans were devastated by the news. Luckily for them, frontman Nate Ruess had a new project up his sleeve. Teaming up with members of Anthallo and Steel Train, Ruess hit the studio a few months later to record the first fun. record, Aim and Ignite. In anticipation of the record release, the band hit the road, opening for pop rock powerhouses Jack’s Mannequin and Paramore.

The eclectic and whimsical Aim and Ignite received fantastic reviews across the board and left fans in eager anticipation of what’s next to come. As the band rounds out a few UK dates with Paramore and 2010′s hottest new rapper, B.o.B., we caught up with Nate to find out more about the story behind fun., touring and plans for a new release.

OS: You’re well known as the former lead vocalist and lyricist of The Format. For those who haven’t heard fun.’s music yet, how does it differ from The Format’s?

NR: Just different songwriters. Different approaches to writing songs. Different songs. Different band. Same vocals.

OS: Rounding out the fun.’s lineup are Jack Antonoff of Steel Train and Andrew Dost, formerly of Anthallo. How did the three of you come to collaborate on this project?

NR: It’s something we all had talked about in the past. And the time window opened up when The Format broke up. So we flew to Jersey and got to work.

OS: Your debut album Aim and Ignite is very eclectic, at times sounding like indie pop and other times sounding like a Broadway musical. Which artists were the biggest influences on that record?

NR: The Xanadu soundtrack. Really that was all we collectively listened to at the time. Otherwise, we all bring different influences to each song. I like how unique that is.

OS: Your song “Walking the Dog” was used in an ad for Expedia.com. What was it like to see your music in a national television commercial?

NR: I didn’t see it for a long time and then one day I was walking through the airport and saw it. I wanted to grab some random person, shake them, and say, “Hear that? That’s me. So stop judging how I look.”

OS: You’ve toured multiple times with Paramore and Jack’s Mannequin. What do you enjoy most about touring with those bands?

NR: The music, the members, their crew and their fans. All great things.

OS: Speaking of Paramore, you’ve embarked on three straight months of touring, including some dates in the UK playing stadium shows with them and B.o.B. How did you prepare for those dates?

NR: I built a mock stadium in my bathroom and I just practice my arena moves.

OS: You were recently signed to Fueled By Ramen. Why did you decide to choose to sign with them and how has it changed things for fun.?

NR: The ink is still really fresh. So nothing has changed yet. Hope it eventually does though. We went with them because we’ve known them for a long time and thought they could supply us a nice balance of artistic creativity and sheer power.

OS: What can fun.’s fans expect in terms of a new record? Any release plans for 2011?

NR: Working on it now. Plan on really digging deep into the new songs once we get home from tour. Not sure what it’s going to be stylistically. I do know these are my favorite lyrics I’ve written so far. Hopefully it will be out summer 2011.

Don’t miss out on the fun! Check out the band on tour this fall with Steel Train and The Postelles:

11/18 – Newcastle, UK @ Metro Radio Arena with Paramore & B.o.B.

11/19 – Manchester, UK @ Manchester Evening News Arena with Paramore & B.o.B.

11/20 – Aberdeen, SCT @ AECC Arena with Paramore & B.o.B.

11/27 – New York, NY @Webster Hall with Steel Train and The Postelles

11/29 – Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa with Steel Train and The Postelles

11/30 – Toronto, ON @The Mod Club Theatre with Steel Train and The Postelles

12/2 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club with Steel Train and The Postelles

12/3 – Boston, MA @ Royale Night Club with Steel Train and The Postelles

12/4 – Rochester, NY @ Water Street Music Hall with Steel Train and The Postelles

12/5 – Charlottesville, VA @ Jefferson Theater with Steel Train and The Postelles

12/7 – Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum with Steel Train and The Postelles

12/8 – Fort Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Room with Steel Train and The Postelles

12/9 – Orlando, FL @ The Social with Steel Train and The Postelles

12/11 – Atlanta, GA @ The Loft with Steel Train and The Postelles

12/13 – Ashland, KY @ Paramount Arts Center with Steel Train and The Postelles

Q&A With Matt & Kim

In 2004, after meeting while pursuing art school degrees at the Pratt Institute, friends Matt and Kim decided to form a band— even though Matt had never played keyboard and Kim had never played drums. Surprisingly, the indie pop duo was able to self-release their first EP a year later. Matt & Kim continued to tirelessly practice, write, record and tour—which eventually earned them thousands of new fans, sets at massive festivals, a gold single (“Daylight”) and a VMA for their “Lessons Learned” music video.

Earlier this month, Matt & Kim released their highly-anticipated new album, Sidewalks, and received rave reviews from Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard and more. Though these two hardly take a break from their work, we got the chance to catch up with Matt Johnson about the new record, the group’s influences and life on the road.

OS: Your last album, Grand, was recorded in your childhood bedroom, and you mixed it on your own. How was the recording process different for Sidewalks?

MJ: Well, the recording process was different because we didn’t do this one on our own. We had some people who knew what they were doing helping us, which was nice. While we were very proud of Grand and we’re very happy with what came out, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. We were just guessing about, “I think this is how you mic a kick drum…” but there’s all these techniques that have worked for years and years that the guys we worked with on this latest one knew. But basically, what this came down to, was that Kim and I could concentrate more on the actual songs than the technical aspects of having to know what the fuck you’re doing.

OS: When the band first started, you didn’t even play your respective instruments. Did you start taking lessons and learning theory or did you just learn by ear?

MJ: We’re still figuring it out (laughs), just going by ear. Yeah, Kim had never played drums, I didn’t play keyboard. I played guitar and bass in bands, I sort of sang in other bands, but it wasn’t so much singing as screaming in punk and hardcore bands. I never tried to hit actual notes. Really, the only thing that has expanded our ability of playing is that we’ll write something that’s kind of harder than what we can actually play and then we just have to practice it enough to be good enough to play it. But singing was the one thing that I took a couple lessons for, mostly because I was really singing from all the wrong places and screwing my voice up super bad. When you have to sing every single night, it gets to be a lot. Also, I’m not opposed to singing on key, that wouldn’t be so bad (laughs).

OS: You and Kim started with, and still have, a very DIY approach to this band… how did you get the band to grow in terms of doing your own promotion?

MJ: We have a machine that does a lot of things, and that machine is Kim. For all the beginning years of this band when we did so much for ourselves, Kim booked all our own tours, she answered every e-mail about everything, she handled this and that….she doesn’t need to sleep. Her last name’s Schifino but I like to call her “Machine-o,” I think it might fit better! So it was a lot to take care of. Even now, we want to be so involved in so many things, but we have to give things away because there’s just so much and we’re on the road so much. Thankfully, we have a great team that takes care of a lot, but we still stay involved with everything and approve everything and put our input in.

OS: The two of you met at the Pratt Institute and continue to use your art skills for the aesthetic elements of the band. Where do you draw your artistic influences from?

MJ: Kim has had a style she’s worked in and you can notice from the album covers that they stay in a similar style, which is typical among artists that work in a wave rather than changing everything up. We like keeping things in that style. The fact of the matter is, through the last few years of this band, there’s been no time for anything non-band related. So whenever Kim works on art, it’s related to the band. Whenever an opportunity comes up that we need something for the band, it gives her a chance to work on art stuff again. But for me, I’m really involved with the videos. I have a lot of ideas on what makes a good video and a bad video. People have definitely appreciated our videos and they’ve had such a reach. We have one we’re shooting in a couple weeks that I’m excited about, it will definitely make some people angry.

OS: You won a VMA for Best Breakthrough Video for “Lessons Learned” and developed the concept for it yourself…which has you and Kim taking all your clothes off in Times Square. Do you have any crazy ideas for things you’d like to try in future music videos?

MJ: Yeah, it never hurts to get naked! We definitely have a dumb idea we’re going to do, coming up. We were supposed to shoot it before the tour started, but things got a little too hectic so we had to push it back. But it will be fun and  it will be very much another Matt & Kim video.

OS: Even though you’re an indie pop act, you seem to be influenced by a lot of hip hop. Which hip hop artists influence you the most?

MJ: We’re big fans of whatever is fun. But I think a lot of who I find inspirational in the hip hop world are different producers, because I key really into beat and melody and composition, even more than to lyrics, for any sort of music. I think there’s producers like Swizz Beatz and Pharrell and the Neptunes and Timbaland, who make really creative, awesome, energetic music that can be very bizarre but still have such a reach. I think that’s very inspirational.

OS: You were on tour for most of 2010 playing both club shows and festivals. How were the two types of shows different from each other and how did the fans react to the new material?

MJ: Well, we’re not playing anything off Sidewalks yet. When people go and see a band and the band’s like, “Who wants to hear some new songs?” The general feeling in the crowd is sort of, “Well, I’d rather just hear the things I know and can sing along to,” and that’s my feeling when I go and see a band. So, being that the album wasn’t really out, people didn’t have a chance to study up yet. We decided that we’re really going to make this the last tour of Grand and we added some other little bits and pieces of new stuff and kept it fresh, but we’re waiting on Sidewalks for what will probably be a late spring, early summer trip. But as far as clubs and festivals, I love doing both, for similar and different reasons. Kim and I give every show we play 110%. There’s no point to doing it if you’re not going to give 110%. We love it and if I can squeeze 112% out, I totally do. But this year, with Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits and places where you’re playing in front of 30,000 people…it’s pretty wild, because you can feel all of that from so many people. But then when you’re in a tighter atmosphere, playing for 1,000 people or 1,500 people, everyone’s so close and they’ve paid just to see you and they know all your songs and they can sing along really loudly. That can harness that same energy that all those people can as well, but whoever’s willing to go wilder is usually my favorite. We love doing both.

OS: You and Kim live together in Brooklyn when you’re not on the road. How do you like to spend your time when not working on your music?

MJ: It sounds almost like it’s impossible, but Kim and I don’t ever really do things that aren’t really related to Matt & Kim. This last year, we never took more than one consecutive day off. But we’re happy working really hard on everything band-related. After shows sometimes, we’ll come back to the bus and we have a lot of things on Hulu, TV shows that we keep up to date with—Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—that’s sort of a good downtime for us, to take an hour and just chill. But we don’t usually take more than hour at a time!

Be sure to pick up Sidewalks, in stores and on iTunes now. Check out the band’s award-winning video for “Lessons Learned” below!

Putting Back the Boom-Bap in Rap: Q&A with Nottz

Nottz wants to restore the boom-bap in rap.  He misses the kind of hard-hitting bass patterns that formed the undercarriage of so many of hip hop’s no-frills golden moments before Diddy added glamor to the street and took it mainstream.  As a beatmaker he has stuck to that creed in his productions of artists like Snoop Dogg, Kanye West and Busta Rhymes among countless others, both radio popular and underground. But this year he entered the club of producers who rap with his solo artist premiere You Need This Music.  It is a minute group peopled with such luminaries as Dr. Dre, Kanye West, J.Dilla, Diddy and Q-Tip who have all had different levels of success being able to direct the mic and hold it as well.  The artist role may be new to him but the lack of compromise that all great artists possess is already in his DNA. In this interview he explains why maintaining his vision is necessary, the creative process and why you really do need his music.

Why the transition to the artist slot?

There’s a lot of wackness coming out right now to sum it all up. Too much trash coming out right now, my kids listen to this music. You got dope talk, you got gun talk, you got gang talk and all that and kids look at it like it’s cool, and it’s not cool.

How does it feel to have finished your first solo album and to now promote it and take on the duties of the artist?

I’m starting from the beginning. I really started out rapping and how I got into beats is no one would give me beats so I started doing my own thing. I like it and then I don’t like it because a lot of people don’t know who you are. They know my music as a producer but they don’t know what I look like. But being an artist, it’s hard for a new artist to come out being a producer. It kind of gives me a big push on everything.

I’ve noticed that you will produce someone like Kanye West then produce a rap act like Pitch Black.  A lot of guys on your level won’t touch any underground rappers. Why are you so democratic?

It’s just the way I was raised, my heart is bigger than anything. I will work with anyone, my manager will tell you I don’t care who you are. I will work with you. I just want to hear good music on the radio. I just want to hear it. To hear good music is like the best thing to me.

You use a lot of soul samples and movies soundtracks, can you tell me something about your creative process?

The majority of the records that the tracks came from we had major artists that wanted to deal with the record but they got kind of scared of the record and didn’t want to mess with it. The tracks that’s up there I took from them, I said I’d write something to it and make it work. With the samples, my father he was a DJ back in the day in the ‘70s. And my brother he started doing DJing, and my dad has all kinds of soul records. I grew-up listening to all that so that’s how I really got into soul. I really listen to everything from jazz, gospel and all that.

Why do hip hop fans “need this music”? What is different about your work from the stuff you call “flashy”?

It’s good music trying to bring the boom-bap back the way it’s supposed to be. Everything evolves, it’s going back you had like Kid ‘N Play and Just Ice and BDP and all that, and these young folks don’t know about none of that. We really need to school them on this kind of music. The album I did, it’s versatile. I got Travis Barker up there, I got Snoop up there, I got Dwele up there, Mayer Hawthorne, it’s a whole record. It’s full of substance. I’m not just rapping on it, I’m talking about something on it. I’m not going to the club making it rain and all that. It’s just good music that the world needs to hear.

Any more updates on Dr. Dre’s Detox that you have  worked on?

All I can say is it’s coming out but I don’t know when.

How did you connect with Dilla and what did you take from that relationship?

Dilla wanted to work with me. I was one of his favorite producers and it as crazy because he was one of mine. He came out here and we started working. At first he was little quiet until he felt everybody out and he just felt at home. I did a couple of joints for his album that was coming out on MCA. I did two joints and I guess “Diamonds” made it. I still got two records that nobody heard ever and you’ll never hear them. I’m not wasting it right now. I probably never let people hear them unless you come here. That dude was so cool, he got Diamond D to produce a track for him. I was one of the first people he reached out to for that album. We were supposed to do an album together. We sent hundreds and hundreds of beats back and forth just vibing off of each other. He did the album with Jaylib. I wish my homie was still here, we’d take the world over right quick.

Your album with Rah Digga is solid and yet even you admit that not as many people that should be listening to her are. Why do you think she hasn’t reached a larger audience yet? Do you think this album will change that?

You got the pop-rap people versus people who are on Digga’s level. Digga is more of a rapper than an entertainer, it’s no gimmicks with her. She’s just raw. There’s not too many female emcees who can touch her. Not even female emcees, emcees period. She’s better than most dudes.

How did you come up with the beat for Dwele’s “I Wish?”

I did it for Game and Dwele was like “We need to get Game on the record.” I hit Game up and he said he would do it, but it never happened. I never told Dwele that, but he will see it now.

Who are your favorite producers?

Black Milk, 9th Wonder, Hi-Tek, Diamond D, Lord Finesse, it goes on. There’s a lot of dudes out there. A lot of people don’t hear these dudes and they need to hear them.

What’s your advice to up-and-coming beatmakers on how to learn the business side of things?

You’re gonna get shafted one day or another. You send beats out or whatever then you just got people who are just leaking your records. If you just get it started sometimes that don’t even matter, it’s free promotion. It’s not doing you any good money wise, but it will help you out in the long run. As far as dudes being artists coming up, turn the radio off, stay in your own lane. I’m in the studio everyday from 4:00 to 4:00 except Sunday. I work.  I don’t have a radio in here, a TV. I’m constantly working. I listen to my own music. Dilla always told me  “Man don’t change for anybody.” One year when I was making music, I changed my bassline and I could tell nobody was really feeling like they were the year before.

You did “My Whole Life” for Sunshine Anderson. Are there any other female R&B singers you would like to produce?

Everybody. I wanna produce for everybody, I don’t care who you are.

What inspires you as a beatsmith and a rapper?

People doing the same thing I’m doing. People who want to make a change who want to bring the real hip hop back. Really the underdog, they inspire me.

Anything else?

You know we have the Raw project coming out in November. Me and Asher Roth, that’s going to be crazy. We got Derrick 32Zero on the Raw Concept label. We have Stacey Epps is coming out. Truck North is coming out.

How do you like being a label owner?

I love it. We don’t have to answer to anyone but ourselves and the fans. The fans are the ones that count. At a major label, they just throw stuff out and if people don’t bite on to it then you’re done.

Are you going to tour the record or do any videos?

We got a couple of videos. We probably shoot the one with Snoop then we’re going to shoot the one with Dwele, the one with Mayer Hawthorne and we’re going to do a couple of videos off the Raw EP.

By Tamara Harris

Tamara Harris is a music blogger who has published past work in Blues and Soul, Floss, Grip, AOL City and The Metro Times.

Q&A With Hey Monday

Most kids in their early 20s spend the majority of their time in college classes or at 9 to 5 jobs, but the members of powerpop group Hey Monday spend their time touring the world and playing sold-out shows across the country. After performing on the full string of this summer’s Warped Tour and releasing a new EP called Beneath It All, the band are currently co-headlining a fall tour with Cartel. We caught up with lead vocalist Cassadee Pope on what’s in store for the band for the rest of 2010.

OS: This will be Hey Monday’s first headlining tour since the release of Beneath It All. How is this tour going to be different from your last headlining tour?

CP: We’ll be playing pretty much the whole EP. That in itself will add a whole different element to the live show. We’ll have a bunch of old songs in the mix also. We’re working on some really intense transitions between some of the songs the we think the fans will enjoy. We just want this set to bring the crowd into an alternate universe with us.

OS: Beneath It All was originally supposed to be a full-length, but you cut it down to seven songs and released it as an EP instead. Will you be playing any of the songs that were cut from the album on this tour?

CP: We won’t be playing any of those songs yet. Eventually we will when it’s closer to the next release. But we want to focus more on the material we’ve just released. Plus, fans can’t really get into songs they’ve never heard. We want it to be a huge sing-a-long!

OS: You have done live guest vocals with All Time Low, Cobra Starship and Fall Out Boy, just to name a few. What vocalist(s) would you most want to join you on stage for a cameo, and for what song?

CP: I think having any of those singers (Patrick [Stump of Fall Out Boy], Alex [Gaskarth of All Time Low], or Gabe [Saporta of Cobra Starship]) join us on stage would be a huge honor. I’ve had Alex come sing with me during “Homecoming” a few times. I’d have Patrick come sing “Mr. Pushover” just because his soulful voice would really add a ton to that song. And Gabe could sing “I Don’t Wanna Dance” with me, because it’s a fun and upbeat song.

OS: You’ve been on tour overseas multiple times. How is touring in the US different than touring abroad?

CP: The fans overseas are so thankful for when we come through. American bands are so scarce over there, so they really show us the best time. Not to mention, the cultures are all so different. We’ve learned so much abroad.

OS: Cartel, The Ready Set, We Are The In Crowd and This Century will be joining you on the road. What are you most looking forward to about traveling with those bands?

CP: I’m a huge fan of Cartel. I actually wrote one of my first songs I ever recorded with Will [Pugh, vocalist of Cartel]. I love all the bands we’re taking out. I can’t wait to just hang out with everyone everyday, and watch their sets every night. I guess I’m looking forward to every aspect of touring with these bands!

OS: Even though your band members are still young, you have toured all over the world for the past two years. Can you give some tips to young bands going out on tour for the first time?

CP: I think sometimes, young bands who get the privilege to do such great things like tour get big headed. Just make sure to be thankful for what you have, and the opportunities you are given. You should always be confident in yourself and your music, but not cocky. Nobody will want to tour with a band who thinks they are the bees knees!

Catch Hey Monday on tour with Cartel, The Ready Set, We Are the In Crowd and This Century this fall:

November 9 – The Rave, Milwaukee, WI
November 10 - Station 4, Minneapolis, MN
November 12 – Marquis Theater, Denver, CO
November 13 – Avalon, Salt Lake City, UT
November 15 – El Corazon, Seattle, WA
November 16 – Hawthorne Theatre, East Portland, OR
November 17 – Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA
November 18 – Glasshouse, Pomona, CA
November 19 – El Rey Theater, Los Angeles, CA
November 20 – Epicentre, San Diego, CA
November 21 – The Nile, Phoenix, AZ
November 23 – The Door, Dallas, TX
November 24 - Emos, Austin, TX
November 26 – House Of Blues, Orlando, FL
November 27 – Culture Room, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Q&A With Good Charlotte

Bands can easily fade away like a passing trend, but Good Charlotte remain at the forefront of the scene they helped create a decade ago. The band, which includes now-celebrity twins Joel and Benji Madden, has released four studio albums and toured worldwide, while at the same time adjusting to life in the limelight and an ever-changing music industry.

Today, the band releases their brand new album, Cardiology, a record that was originally finished in January and set to release in March. Feeling unsatisfied with the final product, Good Charlotte returned to the drawing board and created a pop-punk record that they are truly proud of. We got the chance to speak with bassist Paul Thomas about life for GC a decade after the debut, being in a band with celebrities and the changes that occur when a young band grows up.

OS: The music industry has been through a huge transformation since Good Charlotte first started out a decade ago. Has it been difficult to adapt to the changes?

PT: Yeah, it’s a lot different now than before, like you said. It’s been difficult, but we’re trying. You’ve got to do a lot of online work and a lot of touring. It’s brought it back to like… it really matters about touring and building fantasies. Just hitting the road nonstop. It’s cool because it’s like the music has to be better to cut through now, it can’t just be fabricated and thrown in your face.

OS:  One big change for the band is having two members become as famous for their personal lives as they are for their talent. Has that impacted the band?

PT: It is what it is, you know? They’re just living their lives and we’re still doing the same thing that we’ve been doing. It’s been a good thing. We’ve been able to keep touring and doing our thing for ten years now. Hopefully we’ll still be able to keep doing it for another ten.

OS: Joel started off writing lyrics about high school and now he’s writing songs about his kids. Are you intentionally aiming your music to an older audience or is your songwriting more a reflection on where you are in your personal lives?

PT: That’s just what it’s always been about, what’s going on in our lives. Talking about where we are. It’s not like we’re aiming it towards anything, it’s just that’s what’s going on now. We’re not in high school, we’re having babies. The twins are really truthful with their lyrics, like when they talk about their lives and families…they just can’t help but write about what’s going on. If babies are being born, there’s gonna be a baby song, you know it! (laughs)

OS: Do you have any plans for commemorating the ten-year anniversary of your self-titled record this year?

PT: We haven’t really talked about that too much…we’re all focused on Cardiology right now. But it’s not a bad idea, maybe I’ll bring it up! (laughs).

OS: It seems to be a big trend lately. A lot of bands are getting back together, doing reunion tours, re-releasing albums…

PT: I think it’s a great idea. I hope all those shows do well for those bands. We’ve talked about something like that before but we definitely have not been focusing on that lately.

OS: Your last album, Good Morning Revival, was more of a pop record than your previous releases. Has your sound evolved again on Cardiology?

PT: I think pop has always been part of our sound, no matter what the albums sound like. The twins can’t help but write catchy pop songs. The music to it is always changing. We’re always trying to do something different. We don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. I think Cardiology sets itself apart…I think every album is completely different. It’s still Good Charlotte, I don’t think any album doesn’t sound like us.

OS: So it’s still Good Charlotte, just a different take on it?

PT: Totally.

OS: Cardiology was finished awhile ago, but you decided to throw everything out and start over with a new producer and a new record label. What was the reason for that decision?

PT: We just weren’t feeling it, you know? Things weren’t feeling right.  We established a lot of good relationships with Sony and it was a peaceful parting. We were just ready to move on to a new label that would be a little more energetic and focusing on us instead of other bands. Capitol is really making us feel that way. We haven’t felt this much love from a label since The Young and The Hopeless, so we’re really excited. Things are hopefully winding up really well here and that’s what we wanted. We wanted a proper setup for a release and stuff instead of everything just being pushed out there when we weren’t ready, so that’s why we took so long with this one.

OS: Some of the bands you’ve been on tour with recently were fans when your first record came out. What is it like to play shows with bands who grew up listening to your music?

PT: It’s a lot of fun. They all told us they were fans every day! It was really cool. It definitely made me feel a little older…we’re not the “spring chickens” on the tour buses. We started so young and we were always the youngest, but now that’s just not the case. But it was cool. A lot of the bands made us feel really good about ourselves.

Pick up Cardiology, in stores and on iTunes now…and check out the music video for the first single, “Like It’s Her Birthday” below!

Q&A With Meg & Dia

For most bands, being dropped from a record label is a devastating experience. But for Meg & Dia, it was a blessing in disguise. The indie pop group, founded by sisters Meg and Dia Frampton, took a break from life on the road and decided to self-record and release new material on their own. The band stayed in an isolated cabin to cultivate their creativity for their new EP, It’s Always Stormy In Tillamook, which will be released on November 2nd. We caught up with Dia to learn about life off the road, the recording process for Tillamook and the band’s future plans.

OS: How has the writing process for the upcoming release been different than the writing process for Here, Here and Here?

DF: We wrote a lot more together as a 5 piece band.  We usually just forced us to sit in a room all together at first.  It was uncomfortable because we weren’t used to it, but after a while someone would start to play a riff or I’d get a melody in my head and we’d build off of it.  Also, for the songs I wrote all by myself, I tried to write lyrically more simple, because I’ve learned from my past that less is more.

OS: You wrote a blog about your separation from Warner Brothers and trying to find a job in New York. Is it difficult to transition back into a “normal” lifestyle after touring the world?

DF: It is very difficult!  In fact, today I was just talking to my roomies about how odd it is to find myself in a routine.  I get up at 9:30.  Shower, eat breakfast.  Go for a walk.  Commute to work, one hour away.  Work for 8 hours.  Take a break, in which I read and get coffee. Commute back. Watch How I Met Your Mother.  Eat dinner.  Read.  And go to bed.  It’s all very odd.

OS: What do you miss most about being on the road?

DF: Of course, playing music, and then meeting so many wonderful new people.
OS: The new material was recorded in a cabin in Oregon. What made you decide to go this route and is your music going to have more of a “homegrown” sound to it this time around?

DF: We wanted it to be really low key.  No chunky double guitars, auto-tune, perfect isolation. In fact, I think you can hear the dishwasher going in one of the songs. We set up the studio in a little cabin, so we were all just secluded in with each other.  There were no parties to go to like when we recorded in L.A.  No big industry shows or distractions.  We were literally in the middle of nowhere and it was awesome.

OS: You have always incorporated fictional stories into your lyrics, both ones that you’ve read and ones that you’ve written yourselves. What literature or music has inspired you the most in the writing for the upcoming release?

DF: I wrote mostly about my life and the things that have happened.  I still enjoy reading but none of the songs save for one, called “Teddy Loves Her,” is actually about a book.  ”Teddy Loves Her” was written actually about a romance novel that I wrote in my spare time!
OS: You perform acoustic often and you’ve even recorded some songs and videos in your bathroom, like “Halloween” and “June Gloom.” Do you ever plan on doing an “acoustic only” tour or album?

DF: I think it is definitely a possibility. 

OS: You’ll be releasing a new record next year. Is the EP a preview of the album or are they two separate pieces?

DF:  They are two separate pieces.  There might be a song or two from the EP that end up on the record, but for the most part, they are their own people!

OS: Can you tell us about the tour you’re going on?

DF: Yes…we are touring with opening bands that I think are great.  We are very, very excited.

Catch Meg & Dia on tour this fall with Joey Ryan and The Spring Standards:

Nov 09 – Salt Lake City, UT – Avalon Theater
Nov 12 – Modesto, CA – Modesto Virtual
Nov 13 – Bakersfield, CA – Jerry’s (w/The Rocket Summer)
Nov 14 – Hermosa Beach, CA – Saint Rocke
Nov 15 – San Diego, CA – Epicentre
Nov 16 – Scottsdale, AZ – Martini Ranch
Nov 18 – San Antonio, TX – White Rabbit
Nov 19 – Woodlands, TX – Shadowplay Lounge
Nov 20 – Denton, TX – Hailey’s
Nov 21 – Metarie, LA – The High Ground
Nov 23 – Orlando, FL – The Social
Nov 24 – Douglasville, GA – The 7 Venue
Nov 26 – Hoboken, NJ – Maxwell’s
Nov 27 – Philadelphia, PA – Barbary
Nov 28 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
Nov 30 – Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot
Dec 01 – Columbus, OH – The Basement
Dec 02 – Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen
Dec 03 – DeKalb, IL – House Cafe
Dec 04 – Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club
Dec 05 – Des Moines, IA – The Vaudeville Mews
Dec 07 – Denver, CO – Soiled Dove


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