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Needle in the Haystack Follow Up: Satellites and Sirens

To close out the week with Christian rockers, Satellites and Sirens, we have a follow up video featuring the band’s lead singer, Geoff Hunker. Learn how Satellites and Sirens have used social media to advance their career and how this week of promotion has affected the band. Remember to grab their free download and check out their MTV Music Interview!

Punk On The Rocks: Aston

Aston‘s catchy pop-punk tunes and contagious energy have been winning over fans since the band got together in 2005. Unlike most high school bands, the member of Aston knew that their music was too good to give up on after graduation. Originally from North Attleboro, MA the band has now taken up residence in Boston, where its members are attending college. Their decision to stick with their music is paying off: The band has had Top 2o finishes in both the Bon Jovi’s Wanted: A SuperBAND Tonight: Hershey, PA Channel, where they competed against 835 artists, and the Converse Battle of the Bands Competition Channel. Aston first caught my eye when I stumbled upon their song “Damn The Man, Save The Empire” in the Punk Channel months ago. As soon as the guitar-filled intro hit, I was hooked. Their sweet, two-part harmonies are just the icing on the cake.  The band lists The Ataris and Weezer as influences on their MySpace page, and it shows.

For an up-and-coming band, Aston has worked with some pretty big names. They recorded their 2006 debut album Another Second Chance with GRAMMY-nominated producer George Dussault and have even shared the stage with The Plain White T’s, Secondhand Serenade, All Time Low, The Ataris, Permanent Me, Four Year Strong, Zox and more. They’re continuing this trend by working with John Collura and Paul Caberello (formerly of The Ataris) on their new EP which is due our this summer.

Check out the Empire Records-inspired “Damn The Man, Save The Empire” in the player below!

Tour De Force: Maps & Atlases

Maps & Atlases is, in a word, eclectic. Citing influences  from Ornette Coleman to Jethro Tull to David Bowie and coming together from all corners of the country, the quartet’s mutual love for classic rock and layered guitars converged while attending school at Columbia College in Chicago. They generated quite the buzz after their debut EP Tree, Swallows, Houses and eventually signed with Sargent House. After re-releasing their debut, they released their follow-up EP You and Me and the Mountain. National tours with the likes of Frightened Rabbit and Ra Ra Riot followed,  which eventually led them to be signed by Barsuk Records (Death Cab for Cutie, Rilo Kiley, Ra Ra Riot etc.)
Since Maps & Atlases’ 2006 debut, their songs have slowly progressed from a type of experimental “math rock” (as the pros like to call it) to pop sensible songs with a flair for technicality—pop songs at the core disguised by layered instruments and mixed meters.
Lead singer and songwriter Dave Davison is one busy guy. He is at once writing and touring nationally with Maps & Atlases while working on his side projects Cast Spells and Hey! Tonal, and still finds the time to maintain his crazy awesome beard. In between Maps & Atlases’ tour with Frightened Rabbit and their upcoming summer tour in support of their new record Perch Patchwork out June 29th, Dave found some time to talk with us about past tours and who they’re ideal tour-mates are. Check it out!
MD: When did you guys start touring?
DD: We began playing shows in fall of 2004, but since we were still in school we weren’t able to tour until our spring break in 2006.
MD: How often do you tour?
DD: We have been touring more regularly in the past two years, at least a few weeks every month or two, but we still like to make sure that we keep it fun and don’t over do it.
MD: What are some of your favorite venues or regions to play in?
DD: There are specific spots in almost every city and region of the country that we’ve played that make us excited to come back. We really try to seek out local places to eat and hang out in every city in order to get a better feel for each place.
MD: A lot of bands say that writing music and touring are two separate entities. Do you ever write on the road? If so, do you think writing while on tour is easier or harder than writing at home?
DD: I have definitely written some songs on the road, but don’t necessarily know that it is easier or more difficult than writing while at home. I think that any place has potential to be inspiring and interesting, and we have had a lot of strange experiences that I have tried documenting in songs.
MD: How do you guys occupy yourselves while driving from city to city?
DD: We listen to a lot of books on tape, comedy albums and podcasts to pass the time. One of the benefit of listening to books on tape is that it really feels like you are making progress on long drives.
MD: Who are some of your favorite bands that you’ve toured with?
DD: We just finished touring with Frightened Rabbit which was really fantastic. Touring with Ra Ra Riot last fall was a great experience as well as touring with Foals in the US and UK.
MD: If you could choose one artist or band to go on tour with, who would it be?
DD: There are so many bands that we would love to tour with. We have played a couple of shows with Deerhoof, a band that we have all collectively enjoyed for years, and we would love the opportunity to do more shows with them.
MD: What can fans expect from your live show from the upcoming US dates? Will you be playing songs off of your upcoming LP Perch Patchwork?
DD: We will be playing old songs and the whole new album and we are very excited about it!
Bonus: Check out this awesome video of Dave playing “The Ongoing Horrible” way back in ’06. Pure talent.

Mennonite Rock

Glen Yoder

Glen Yoder’s music is unexpected only when you put it in the context of his upbringing. Born in Amish country, the singer-songwriter’s humble upbringing may not have been exactly conducive to electro-rock. But that simple, organic culture is one that’s found its way into Yoder’s music. “Daughter of Zion” is ambient indie rock —wiry guitars and synths entwining around Yoder’s airy vocals. The complex, rhythmic, and stylish arrangements here make Yoder’s soothing voice stand out if only for its low-key simplicity. Likewise, the spacious “Hollywood” merges a lapping acoustic guitar with waves of electronic textures to create sorrowful electro-pop a la Flaming Lips. But all hope is not lost, as the plucky “Greenland” makes known. A marching beat, chugging electric guitar and laptop ether equals an uplifting indie pop gem. As influential as his years in Amish country may have been, be glad Yoder moved on and found an outlet (literally) for his music.

iRock: Big Birthday Bash!

Well, it’s that time of year again to celebrate a great summer birthday. Today (coincidently) is that wondrous day that I was born on, so what better way to ring in a new year than a birthday playlist! So that’s the idea behind this week’s iRock post, a playlist of bands that I’ve enjoyed and listened to on OurStage over the past 6 months that I’d want to play at my “Big Birthday Bash!” or simply artists that I think would have a great time partying with and hanging out with for a day.

Since I’m a huge fan of the rock genre (and all of it’s sub genres for the most part) there are many greats that I’d love to have play my party like Foo Fighters, Third Eye Blind, The Clash, The Strokes, Michael Franti, Green Day, The Offspring, maybe even a little Tommy Lee drum solo… well you get the point I hope. Since I’m not made of money and don’t have one of those awesome money trees to afford huge names like that, I’d love to gather a group of underground independent artists that hold their own just like the aforementioned heavyweights.

As you listen through the playlist you’ll see many of the artists that have a lot of influence from many large rock acts over the decades. Begin with a group called Europa who feature a vocalist that is a chip off the shoulder of Dave Grohl, don’t believe me? Listen to it. From there we’d keep the momentum moving with some I Fight Dragons (awesome Nintendo rock group) to The Days The Nights who hit hard with a punchy guitar riff and excellent vocal melodies. Throw in The Worsties in the mix for some feisty rock n’ roll that blends many decades of punk rock together into a glitter glam explosion. To add some variety to the mix next few artists Junebug, Brantley, City City bring in many varities of indie rock with breakdowns that’ll get your head bobbing and feet moving. For some fun I threw in Gills And Wings who share many influences of the previous bands but with a twinge of Queen and The Killers to their sound. As the night comes to an end, Shotgun Crackers track Runner Runner is right on target to bring the momentum back up, (and of course as we know closer to the end of parties we like to “have some fun”). And to end the night with one of the most fitting songs for the occasion, The Girlfriend Season with the song You Gotta (Live While You’re Young). How true that is!

Well there you have it, my Big Birthday Bash playlist! Maybe one day this will actually happen and you better believe you’re all invited to partake in the festivities.

Until next time iRockers!

Metal Monday: Dub And Ragga Metal

For anyone who knows anything about metal, they’re probably aware there are a plethora of sub genres—  death, thrash, metalcore, stoner, sludge, doom, progressive, folk, pagan, etc. Perhaps two sub genres you’ve not heard of are dub metal and ragga metal. What are they, you ask? Read more to find out!

Continue reading ‘Metal Monday: Dub And Ragga Metal’

Chameleon Rock

Jeffrey James

On his song “Cover Up,” Jeffrey James declares himself, “Such a chameleon, always changing my skin.” It’s no empty claim. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter from Nashville is a bit of a sonic shape-shifter. On “Always the Same,” he keeps it mellow, sounding like a cross between John Mayer and Jack Johnson sans surf board. It’s a friendly little pop melody that ambles along with bright horns and breezy guitars. “Just Like Breathing,” with its shaken percussion, has a decidedly jazzier feel. Then there’s “Cover Up,” a high voltage rocker with distorted guitars and trembling organs, with the fine-grain sandpaper scratch of James’ vocals giving the electricity an extra snap. But, if we had to pick, we’d choose “Trouble” as our favorite of James’ many melodic skins. The up-tempo, blues rocker is sexy, soulful and full of swagger. He may molt a little in the years to come, but here’s hoping James doesn’t shed any of the ‘tude.

Download Of The Week: Satellites And Sirens

Boasting a bright, electronic christian rock sound, Nashville natives Satellites and Sirens are making waves in the industry with their first, self titled LP.  The band formed via Craigslist when frontman Geoff Hunker moved to Nashville.  Today, the band’s chart success here on OurStage includes three Top 10 finishes and a 2010 Best Of ranking. Their  song “Light The Night” is currently featured as the theme song for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s annual Light The Night walk.  And with 5 weeks on the Top 40 Charts, the band’s single “Anchor” seems like the perfect pick to be this week’s free download for Needle in the Haystack.

Keep an eye out for more from Satellites and Sirens throughout the week!

Punk On The Rocks: Against Me! “White Crosses”

On June 8th, Florida’s Against Me! released their fifth studio album and second full length on Sire Records, White Crosses. So far, the release has been met with mixed reception by fans. What do I think? White Crosses is a solid album. In fact, the first three songs —”White Crosses,” “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” and “Because Of The Shame”— totally kick ass. The problem? It doesn’t sound like Against Me!, or at least it doesn’t sound like the Against Me! that first caught my attention.

To be honest, I haven’t been keeping up with Against Me! all that much since I last saw them in 2004. Maybe I was more shell shocked than most by the monster guitars and clean, processed vocals that met me when I popped White Crosses into my CD player instead of the folk-punk sound of their previous releases. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the record. “We’re Breaking Up” is a straight ahead rock song about growing apart and the end of a relationship, and “Because Of The Shame” is a real standout—a touching track about the grief and surreality of attending an ex’s funeral. I just couldn’t shake the feeling “This is great! What band is this again?”

But who are the fans to say what a band should sound like? Against Me! themselves sum it up best in the Crosses cut “I Was A Teenage Anarchist: “Do you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?” Against Me! wrote “Baby, I’m An Anarchist” almost 10 years ago. To expect someone to be the same person they were 10 years ago is ridiculous. To expect musicians to  make the same music they made 10 years ago is even more so. As you get older, you lose some of the fire of youth. Ideals change, friendships fade, lovers leave, people die. Fans either have to accept that Against Me! has chosen to go in a different direction with their music and embrace it, or move on. After all, demanding someone conform to your personal taste standards is so not punk.

White Crosses is available in record stores worldwide and as a deluxe version on iTunes. Against Me! will be touring the US (with Silversun Pickups) and Europe all summer.

A Q&A With Rooney

Rooney’s back and their new album has everyone saying “Eureka!”  As both the name of their new album and a statement of independence, Eureka is the culmination of a long journey for the four-piece California band.  It’s been a while since fans have heard from the band, but after a long awaited break from their major label, Rooney is back on track and happy to be doing their own thing for once.  Their latest release is proof of this.  With catchy pop hooks and honest enthusiasm, Rooney keeps up with their signature sound all while showcasing more mature and in touch writing.

With the boys reaching a new level of confidence and pride, fans are taking notice.  OurStage got the chance to catch up with Rooney’s Taylor Locke (guitar, harmonies) t0 talk about their upcoming tour with Hanson, their newly declared freedom and advice for other artists.

OS: With your latest release, Eureka, you’ve declared independence by recording and producing it on your own.  What has the road to freedom from a major label been like?

TL: Getting out of our old deal was a stressful and slow process.  We are happy to be an independent entity now, and it suits us much better.  The major label system is dated and corrupt and non-conducive to creativity.

OS: The title of the album seems to point towards the moment of breaking free from a major label’s control.  But what does “Eureka” mean to you?

TL: “Eureka” is a word that appears on the California state seal. It has a regal look and sound to it. I suppose it means pride. We are proud to have made this album ourselves, and to be a band without ties to a major label.

OS:  The album shows your maturity especially in your lyrics, yet maintains that catchiness and pop feel of your previous albums.   How has your growth shown through the writing on the album?

TL: Most of the songs are by Robert. Like any songwriter, he has a bag of tricks that he pulls from, but naturally he’s always going to want to try new things too. The combination of striving to do something different and not repeat yourself, yet maintaining some staple go-to styles, shapes the identity of the writing. I think most artists want their music to be both expressive and catchy. When you can show a part of yourself and also craft a hook, it’s a winning combo.

OS:  What was it like self-producing and recording the album?

TL: It was freeing to self-produce. We’ve done so much recording with a handful of great producers, so we took with us the best techniques from each of them and made the record how we wanted to. In a sense, we didn’t produce ourselves— we produced each other. Whether it was somebody coaching me through a guitar solo, or somebody giving Robert feedback on a vocal performance, we took turns and made sure everything was sounding good.

OS:  That sounds like a lot of fun.  Your new video for “I Can’t Get Enough” looks like it was a great time as well.  With all of this moving forward from the past, why go with such a retro, yet awesome, feel for your “I Can’t Get Enough” video?

TL: The video relied heavily on special effects treatments that were done in post-production. Therefore, we had to trust the director’s vision completely, because we wouldn’t know what it looked like until it was finished. It was a leap of faith, and we’re glad that it’s getting favorable reactions.

OS:  You guys have always been very fun and imaginative in your blogs and videos.  Have you come up with any creative ways to promote Eureka?

TL: We have an epic US tour coming up. We’ll be out there for 9 weeks. As for the techy online stuff, we’ll be using all the networks that everyone uses these days—Facebook blasting and tweeting every five.

OS: Speaking of touring, you’ve toured with a lot of very prominent pop rock bands before.  Which bands have been your biggest mentors or friends on the road?

TL: It was exciting to open for The Strokes because they had just really broken wide open. The shows had so much vitality to them. They played like they really meant it. They were riding a huge success wave at that moment and they were having a shitload of fun. The Donnas were also great to be on the road with, because they’ve been together for so long and they are incredibly respectful and friendly people. It was always great to play with The Redwalls, because I never get sick of watching them. Their songs are so cool and they sing so well. Speaking of great singing, The Bridges are another great group to be on the road with. They’re excellent and I miss seeing them. I like touring with girl bands. They smell better.

OS:  Agreed!  You guys always put on a great, energetic live show.  When supporting Hanson on tour this summer, there will be OurStage local winners playing as well.  What advice do you have for these up-and-coming bands while sweating it out on stage?

TL: Starting at 5am you’ll want to do Bikram Yoga. You should sweat out at least 7 lbs. Then you’ll want to find the nearest organic macrobiotic market and buy some raw fruits and vegetables for the day. At this point, it’s best to take a 10 mile jog, and then immediately do 500 sit ups. After that you’ll be ready for a cold plunge. Find the nearest spa and shock your system by jumping into a small pool of nearly freezing water. After that you can shower. Use an exfoliating gel-scrub. Make sure it’s organic, too. Once you’ve dried off and put on a clean outfit that you’ve never worn before, it’s best to read the first 200 pages of an extremely dense novel, in a single sitting. Since your mind is already opened at that point, it’ll be just the right time to practice a new language. Pick something that’s both tonal and character-based, because you love the challenge. When your Cantonese lesson is over, you’ll want to look at the stock market, make some trend forecasts, and tweak your portfolio a little. Shift some money around. Then you’ll want to call all of your living relatives, and have a meaningful talk with each of them. Finally, you’ll take the stage and play a very focused show. You wont make any mistakes, and you’ll look natural and at-ease up there. After the standing ovation and triple encore, you’ll have no problem calming your adrenalin in a natural, drug-free way and drifting off to sleep. This rigorous touring lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but it sure works for me.

Check out Rooney on tour all summer long and get pumped up with “I Don’t Wanna Lose You” as a free download on their Web site.


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