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NEXT IN LINE: A Q&A WITH PATRICK MEESE

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If you had describe the current Denver music scene in three words, you might pick “killer piano rock.” Over the past few years, bands like The Fray and OneRepublic have taken their melodious, ivory-driven pop balladry to multiplatinum levels. Rounding out this Rocky Mountain trifecta is Meese, a group formed by brothers Patrick and Nathan Meese. After rising to the forefront of the Denver scene in 2006, Meese hit the road opening for their friends in The Fray. Fan adulation and industry buzz quickly ensued. This month marks their major label debut, Broadcast, led by the irresistible single, “Next In Line.” We caught up with Patrick on tour to see how rock stardom was treating him.

What’s the biggest “we’ve made it moment” you’ve had so far?
I turned on my iPhone and saw our ‘free single of the week’ logo on the front page. That was definitely a cool moment. Then I checked out our website and saw we actually had a whole summer of tour dates posted, which is new for us. I also like the smaller ‘we’re making it’ moments too, like when we meet new fans.

You’re the third major band to emerge from the Denver music scene (behind The Fray and OneRepublic). Do you see yourselves as part of a Colorado piano rock movement?
We know both those bands pretty well and we’ve learned a lot from them. We have a good amount of piano-based stuff like OneRepublic and The Fray, but our set is becoming more guitar heavy. We’ve also started incorporating more electronic elements into our music, like a bonus track we released called “The Working Class” that is very Postal-Service-esque. Colorado is really great for bands right now though. And when you learn how to sing at the elevation, you feel like Pavarotti when you get to sea level.

Tell us a little bit about the tour so far. What has life on the road been like?
Right now we are out with Copeland. They are a band we’ve listened to for a long time, and they are nice dudes. We’re leaving San Diego right now and headed towards San Luis Obispo, one of our favorite towns. All the crowds have been very receptive and I really think performing these songs is becoming more natural each night. Our band and crew are all really close friends, which makes a lot of days feel like vacation. I almost got arrested for setting off fireworks in Albuquerque, however. I’m talking hands on the hood. We bought some real deal fireworks in Texas, but apparently those laws change from state to state. Who knew?

What is your favorite song off Broadcast and why?
My favorite song off the record changes. I’ve been in a more rockin’ mood lately so my favorite track right now is ‘Say You’re OK.’ It’s a fun one live too. But I’m most proud of a song called ‘Margot.’ I really pushed myself musically on that track.

You’ve shared some details about your past addiction to drugs… Now that you’re in a major rock band, is it a challenge to stay sober?
I don’t do drugs anymore. I’m surrounded by a crew of great guys who always keep me in check. It’s inevitable that drugs will pop up on the road from time to time. But this summer we’re touring with very respectful bands. No Guns ‘N’ Roses stuff backstage or anything. I view this band as a job, and it’s a job I don’t want to lose or forget about.

Have you had any crazy fan moments on tour?
Not particularly, but there’s a lot more summer left! I’m just fascinated that people want to take their picture with me right after the show when I’m sweating an ungodly amount.

What’s one thing you have to have on the road?
I just got my first iPhone, and I have to admit I totally love it. Every band guy I meet on the road has one. It really is useful when driving around the country and sitting in a van for hours and hours. Also, sun tan lotion is important. My white Scottish meat can’t handle all this summer sun.

What’s next on the agenda for you guys?

Tour, tour, tour. We got to spread the word. We’re touring with other bands this summer like The Fray, Barcelona and Our Lady Peace. The road beckons…

For more on Meese, visit www.atlanticrecords.com/meese. If you like what you hear, check out this OurStage artist:

METAL MONDAYS: KRIS NORRIS AND OTHER FACE-MELTERS

osblog_metalmondays_01New to OurStage this year, Kris Norris is a fifteen-year veteran in the metal community. He floated around from obscure metal band to obscure metal band until he landed with Darkest Hour in 2001—his first successful gig. Recently he parted ways with the band to pursue a solo project (The Kris Norris Projekt) and production ventures as well as make instructional videos for JamPlay. Back in May he landed among the Top 10 in the OurStage metal channel. We recently caught up with Kris to ask him a few questions. Here’s what we got:

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Kris Norris, master of shred

JM: You have worked on a few different projects in your career as a guitarist, which was your favorite?
KN: Probably the Undoing Ruin CD with Darkest Hour. Having Devin Townsend as producer really expanded my guitar playing and brought me to a new level.

JM: How about at an engineer/producer?
KN: I really haven’t done too many at this point, but so far doing the Kris Norris Projekt getting to produce myself was an interesting and fun experience.

JM: Are you working on anything big in the studio these days, either as a producer or a musician?
KN: Not really. Doing my full time job and doing side work for James Murphy at his studio doing drum editing work. Not many bands have come to ask me to produce their stuff yet, but I think that’s because  I have yet to prove myself as a producer.

JM: If you could have a solo face-off with any guitarist— alive or dead—who would it be?
KN: John Petrucci definitely. I know he’d kill me but it would be such an honor to lose to my idol.

JM: Who is your favorite artist/band these days?
KN: My favorite band these days is still and always will be Dream Theater— they never cease to excite me in their records.

JM: What’s the strangest fan interaction you have ever had?
KN: People getting the same tattoos that I have then showing them off to me. Always strange.

JM: If you were forced to work under a pseudonym, what would you choose for a name?
KN: I actually have one and it’s Kaiser Rune [laughs].

JM: What was the most influential album for you while your music taste blossomed?
KN: Probably Lunar Strain by In Flames.

JM: Any good, young, bands you think we should keep an eye on?
KN: There’s a band from [New] Jersey called Mutiny Within. Just awesome melodic power-metal-ish stuff.

JM: How about some advice for young, aspiring guitarists?
KN: It’s so cliché but never give up. In my teens I worked at Wendy’s with the drummer from Darkest Hour in our early teens. Who would have ever thought that we would tour all over the entire world later on playing music together?

JM: If you could only eat and drink one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
KN: Hmmm… Well porterhouse steak to be exact for food and I know I couldn’t live on it- but Vanilla Coke. Always stocked in my refrigerator!

As the perfect accompaniment to this feature, check out the playlist of Kris’ best songs here on OurStage, as well as a few other face-melters from similar artists.

GAME ON, PLAYERS

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When the first 8-bit version of Nintendo Entertainment System was dethroned by the slick, 16-bit Super Nintendo in 1993, there was plenty of cool gear left to gather dust in the basements of teens all over America: the zapper gun from Duck Hunt, the Power Pad from World Class Track Meet and countless controllers with their tiny microphones. It was the end of an era. Or was it?

Enter I Fight Dragons, a band from Chicago with a penchant for video game nostalgia. The group, fronted by singer-songwriter Brian Mazzaferri, repurposes vintage NES parts and churns out irresistible power pop. They scavenge old soundchips, dance on the Power Pad and work the controllers, festooning their songs with cheerful bleeps and blips. Ostensibly, they are dorks. Their shtick is kitschy. But it’s also full of passion, intelligence and big juicy hooks.

“Heads Up, Hearts Down” and “Money” are radio-ready salvos of distorted guitars, swirling electronic chirps and emotive vocal harmonies. But even in the most action-packed video game, things can’t always be on warp speed. I Fight Dragons also turn out some lovely and languorous slow songs like “With You.” Even if the ballad is inspired by Princess Toadstool and not a real girl, who cares? I Fight Dragons make their video game rock appeal to the masses. And in that regard they score big.

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SASSY KRAIMSPRI: NORWAY’S HOTTEST POP-METAL-PUNK ROCKER

Scandinavia has given the world some wonderful gifts over the years: saunas, IKEA, The Muppets’ Swedish Chef (who I still argue is really Danish or Norwegian because of the conspicuous letter Ø that often appears wherever he does.) Now we can add Sassy Kraimspri (pronounced “crime spree”) to the list. This rocker was born, and still lives, in Norway though much of her youth was split between both New York City and Sydney, Australia.

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Sassy’s music is inspired by many different genres while speaking to the ghosts of the riot grrrl movement. She even made our Women in Rrrock playlist a while back. Self-described as “pop-sensibilities choked on Norse Black Metal roots, mixed with a love for 40s blues and old school punk,” Sassy Kraimspri is a force to be reckoned with. Her vocals can be both sweet and powerfuljust like her personality letting everyone know who’s in charge when she takes the stage. Multiple Top 20 finishes in rock, pop, hard rock, and punk, attest to her ability to vary her sound and cross genres. Check out this playlist of Sassy Kraimspri’s OurStage music. “Toy Boy” is my favorite pick!

WALKING ON SUNSHINE

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There are a couple of names that normally spring to mind when you hear the words “Bloomington, Indiana.” Hoosiers. Alfred Kinsey. John Cougar Mellencamp. Tibetan monks (true story —look it up.) Here’s one you can add to that list: Jenn Cristy.

Cristy has been a fixture on the Bloomington music scene since 2003, playing alongside such acts as Shawn Mullins, Antigone Rising, Bree Sharp and Jeffery Gaines. Her bright piano melodies will win over fans of Colbie Caillat and Norah Jones —or anyone looking for something pretty, sunny and simple. Case in point: “Mr. Beautiful Brown Eyes,” which coasts along with brushed drums, cascading keys and breezy-sweet vocals. For those who prefer a coarser sheen, “Butterfly Wings” gets a little more raw — the piano iterates defiantly as Cristy plays the scorned lover. It’s not “You Oughta Know,” but it’s as close as an upbeat girl can get.


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KNOW YOUR ROOTS: MUSIC HISTORIES THAT WON’T PUT YOU TO SLEEP

You’ve heard of The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, but how much do you really know about punk? Or hip-hop? Or even reggae? Here’s some recommended reading for those of you looking to find out more about you favorite genre of music and learn some kick ass music trivia:

cindarellas-big-scoreCinderella’s Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground by Maria Raha – How many female punk rockers can you name? What about indie rockers? Contrary to what most “Best of” and “Crucial Album” lists would have you believe, the punk and indie scenes are full of women who can rock just as hard as the boys. How many women? Enough to fill a rather large book, actually. Raha gives lady rockers from the Runaways to the Raincoats the recognition they deserve. The back of the book even contains full discographies for many of the women profiled.

6a00c11413e997819d00e398b789cd0001-500pi1Please Kill Me : The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain – The story of the birth and death of punk from the people who were there. Unlike most histories, which focus mainly on the musicians involved, Please Kill Me includes interviews not only with musicians but also with venue owners, producers, managers, journalists and fans. While some of the people featured attempt to debunk the mythology surrounding punk’s explosion in the the music world, others try to add to it. This book makes it clear that punk, like most music movements, was about people who wanted their voices to be heard.

cantstop1Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation by Jeff Chang – At some point in my educational career, I realized that if I was going to major in music industry, I needed to know more about hip-hop. A casual listener, I didn’t know much about the origins of the music or the culture that surrounds it. Enter Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. While it’s clear from page one that this is as well-researched as any music reference book, it reads less like a text book and more like a page-turner. The reader gets a thrill from watching Chang piece together the political, social and economic climates that came together in a perfect storm to create what we know now as hip-hop culture.

roughguidereggaeRough Guide To Reggae by Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton – The title of this book is a little misleading. The Guide actually covers Jamaican music from the 1950s to the present day, running the gamut from mento to ska to rocksteady to dancehall. In addition to pictures and information on the genre’s stars, it offers recommendations of artists’ best records and records that best represent the genres. The Rough Guide music books are a great way to discover lesser-known but talented artists in a genre you are already a fan of.

HEY NOW, ARE YOU AN ALL-STAR?

Can you handle the Jonathan Papelbon face?

Can you handle the Jonathan Papelbon face?

Get yourself some peanuts and Cracker Jacks because it’s that time of year again: the MLB All-Star game! Tonight at 8 PM Eastern, the American League and the National League of baseball go head-to-head to determine who will have the home field advantage during the 2009 World Series. Maybe a few of you readers are lucky enough to have tickets to the game, but my bet is on most of you sitting close to the television.

If you’ve ever been to a major league game before then you’ve probably heard an array of theme music accompanying each player as they go up to bat. Their choices make for an interesting mix of all different music. That’s why we’ve put together this All-Star playlist of diverse, hand-picked songs by OurStage artists. These songs will get you ready for a good game or whatever curve ball comes your way this evening. Batter up!

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THE REAL HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL

Kids these days— they’re getting more adventurous and better at everything they do. While we don’t really have as many young kids on OurStage as say Star Search or America’s Got Talent, we do have plenty of great teenage bands and musicians (check out Marnee). Some rock, some rap, some pop. But whatever the genre, their youth always impresses us.  Below is a playlist of nine bands who rock who just happen to be teens. These kids aren’t alright, they’re downright awesome.

 

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

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In the world of animated vehicular robots, The Constructicons are a special team of six Transformers that combine to create the ultimate fighting machine known as Devastator.

Funny enough, The Rescues share a similar blueprint. The band is made up of four established singer-songwriters (Adrianne Gonzalez, Kyler England, Gabriel Mann and Rob Giles), who combined in 2008 to form a songwriter supergroup. Yet unlike their robot counterparts, this team uses their powers for good, not evil.

When you put four solo talents in a room together to flesh out songs, the stakes are always high. Too often the result is a disjointed compromise of styles. Luckily, The Rescues trim the fat and deliver unified and exciting arrangements on their sophomore release, Let Loose The Horses. Whether it’s the romantic sweep of the title track with its four part, call-and-response vocal harmonies or the bluesy bohemia of “Can’t Stand The Rain,” the group understands that a great joyride is knowing when to veer and when to merge.

The Rescues have already been featured on Grey’s Anatomy and the major motion picture, The Lucky Ones, and completed a residency at the famous Hotel Café in Los Angeles—proving that you don’t have to be a robot to combine forces and kick some serious ass.

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ROCKING THE BOAT

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Matt Mays thinks about love, sure. Only sometimes the object of his affection is a boat. Or the trees that hang over the road while he’s driving. But just when you think he’s just not that into you, he redirects his focus, tells you your boyfriend is a dick and invites you to go listen to music in his car.

At least that’s how things go on his new record, Terminal Romance. Far from being a collection of songs about love-gone-wrong, the Halifax songwriter avoids the predictable and delivers a confident, diverse rock sampler. These days, Maysformerly a member of the seminal alt-country group, The Guthriescan be found in the company of his backing band, El Torpedo. Together they churn out anything from staccato rockers with whiffs of The Ramones (“Rock Ranger Record”) to epic heartland rock tailor-made for afternoon drives (“Tall Trees”). Mays is always going to garner comparisons to Tom Petty and Ryan Adams, but he’s got his own ideas on how love and rock-n-roll should harmonize. And it’s a message worth hearing.

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