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Augustana Announce Winter Tour Dates

Augustana have announced a brief acoustic tour this winter, with support from Lauren Shera. The tour will make stops in Oregon, Massachusetts, New York and California throughout the month long trek. You can find a full list of dates and ticket links right here.

Be sure to enter our #FreeTicketFriday contest every week for your shot at tickets to your favorite band’s concert!

If you like Augustana, check out OurStage artist Shane Gamble.

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Q&A With Augustana

California-based rockers Augustana caught lightning in a bottle back in 2005, when their first single “Boston” skyrocketed the young five piece to sudden success. But the track’s unexpected popularity meant that since then it’s been an uphill battle for the band; no song from their 2008 follow-up Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt could match its runaway success and the album faltered commercially as a result.

Augustana are hoping to change that in 2011. With a new album, a revamped sound, an instantly likeable first single and a co-headlining tour with Arizona pop-punks The Maine, the band is ready to claim a spot on your next romantic mixtape. We caught up with Augustana frontman Dan Layus to learn about the new album, their new sound and life after “Boston.”

OS: You guys got an interesting start thanks to the success of “Boston”—you didn’t have a huge fan base yet and all the sudden you had this insanely popular single. Was it weird to get thrust into the scene like that?

DL: That’s a great question. You know, not to sound arrogant, but we were so young. And I think a lot of younger musicians would identify with this—people that were younger and hadn’t had much prior experience and did well in their first ventures— it felt normal to me. It didn’t feel crazy, didn’t feel that exciting, you know what I mean? It was just normal. It was like, “Oh yeah, of course it’s going to do well.” And that’s a testament to our immaturity at the time. There’s a lot of people that would kill for that kind of experience and that kind of success. And me, now, I would kill for that. It’s tough because when you’re sort of just picked off the sidewalk of a suburban street and don’t have much life experience, all you know is, “I went to high school,  I had a good upbringing, I did a couple semesters of college, and started this band, and here we are!” You didn’t have to fight tooth and nail and work and work and work to get to the place that you are. That being said, we were incredibly fortunate. I look back now and go, “Wow, I’m a lucky motherfucker.” [Laughs] It sort of worked in reverse in the sense that now we work our ass off and we’ve really fought tooth-and-nail to get to this third record and to get to this place where we have an opportunity to put our music out and do this for a living. It’s a really phenomenal thing, ‘cause you look around and there’s so many people that want to be able to do something like this, something that they love, and make a living at it and enjoy it. And it doesn’t happen for them. You see it all the time. I’m a really, really fortunate young man. It’s nice to be able to look back and learn from your arrogance and appreciate where you are now. Not to say that we were assholes about it, but it felt like it was supposed to be that way, I guess.

OS: When “Boston” was featured on an episode of The Big Bang Theory, one of the characters jokes that it’s a great song “If you’re compiling a mix CD for a double suicide.” How did you feel about the track being featured in that way?

DL: Oh, that was awesome. I loved that. That was one of those weird moments when you sort of go, “Is this real? Is this really happening?” That’s a really surreal thing. Because it’s one thing to hear your song on, like, a WB show. It’s another thing to see something like that where somebody pulls the iPod out of their ears and they’re singing your song, and it’s a pop-culture type moment. It’s just really weird. It’s hard to wrap your head around that. It just doesn’t even feel real, to be honest. It felt kind of like a weird dream, or something. But that was really flattering, you know, that’s a really successful show. It was great.

OS: So what can you tell us about the new album, Augustana?

DL: Well whenever you make a new record, you always think it’s the best stuff you’ve ever done. You always think it’s way better; you always think it’s a huge step forward. I’m going to go ahead and say that that’s the case. In my opinion, I think it is a big step forward in a lot of ways. It feels really good to have new material to be able to bring out to the… whatever you want to call it. The forum of music listeners. The process of making the record was at times very frustrating, a very trying experience. But it was so worth the effort that we put into it, and the hours, the days, months, years that we ground away trying to get the product possible. Trying to get the best product of ourselves and balance that world between making it satisfying to ourselves but also satisfying to other music listeners. It’s a tough thing to do, because you can really over-intellectualize it all, and you can really over-think a lot of it. Especially when you’re spending years doing it. It’s just ten songs, you know what I mean? It’s just a couple of songs that are three-and-a-half minutes long. It’s funny how you can really over-think it. But it feels great.

OS: Augustana definitely goes in a different direction than your previous albums, was that something that you did intentionally or something that just happened as you were working on it?

DL: Yeah, it was very intentional. We wanted to make something that felt— to our own ears and our own gut—felt timeless and real. We wanted to feel the conviction in the music and the lyrics and the performance and delivery of the takes. And we also wanted it to feel relative to what’s happening today. Essentially, we wanted to make a 1975, Tom Petty/Bruce Springsteen American rock record, but we wanted it to make sense for 2011. And that’s a tough thing to do. It sounds sort of easy on paper, but when you really set out and try to do that, you run into a whole set of issues. Sometimes it’s easier to kind of just go back and do the same thing. It’s hard to push yourself into new frontiers sonically and in the writing process. But if you do it right, it sounds like you just made some music. [Laughs]

OS: Was “Steal Your Heart” the obvious first single?

DL: For me, it was the obvious single. There was no doubt in my mind. If it was my money, and I was putting out the record and needed it to do well, that was the song that I would do. Luckily, we were able to get everybody that works in our camp on board with that. They were considering some other songs, and sort of going down that safer road like we did with the previous record, which really didn’t do that well commercially. I don’t know if that matters or not. I don’t think “Steal Your Heart” was the obvious choice for everybody involved, but I hope that it was the right choice. I think it’s the right choice, for whatever that’s worth.

OS: So why did you choose to self-title this album? Were you trying to say, “This is Augustana, this is who we are?”

DL: That’s exactly it. It just felt like it was all in the record. Everything was in the music. There’s so many emotions and words and stories, that it was like, “Let’s just self-title this thing.” This is the band, this is the sound, these are the songs. This is what we’ve been essentially working on for my entire adult life—making other records, maturing, finding my voice (both metaphorically and physically), finding out how to write what I think is a good song, touring and touring, playing show after show—it just felt like it was all leading up to this. I don’t know where it goes from here, but it felt like the end of a very long chapter of Augustana, and hopefully the beginning of a new one. It just felt like the period at the end of a sentence.

OS: All of your releases have been on Epic Records, which is pretty unique since bands switch labels so often these days. Why do you think that relationship has been so successful?

DL: You know, I can speak from my experience. [Pauses] I don’t want to assume how other people feel, but from my observation and my own experience, it’s easy to look at the major label as kind of the big bad wolf. I don’t know why they get that stigma, but to be honest, it’s kind of a cop out. I don’t know if they get enough credit for what they do. They invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into kids, hoping that they get their shit worked out and know how to make a good record. I think that we’ve been very fortunate that they’ve been incredibly patient with us. Epic Records has been beyond supportive when the cards were down and when things have been really rough over the last couple years. A lot of bands get hung out to dry, and maybe that’s because they tarnish their relationship with their labels and the people they’re working with. But essentially, I don’t have the money to finance my own record. I need these people. And they certainly don’t need me. There’s always somebody waiting in your shadow to take your place. There’s plenty of kids that would be hungry to make a record, and be happy to be on a label. I think you have to look at it like, I’m in a really fortunate position. These people want us to do well, because if we do well they do well. Everybody wins. Everybody’s happy. So if you can look at it from that perspective you can make it a positive relationship, and then it kind of feeds off each other. Then you start taking steps forward, in the right direction. Nothing positive comes out of rolling up your sleeves and thumbing your nose at the label. It really doesn’t get anything done. They don’t need you; there’s a million other bands out there. So you just have to work with them and try and move forward. It can be a good thing, if you look at it like it’s a good thing.

OS: That’s great, because there are a lot of horror stories out there.

DL: Well, yeah, at the end of the day it can be tough. They certainly ask a lot of you, and sometimes they want you to do things that maybe you wouldn’t normally do if you were on “Augustana Records.” But I think at the same time, they ask you to do things that maybe at the time you don’t want to do, or you think it’s a bad thing, but I think sometimes they do know better. It’s good to have people outside your bubble pushing you to go further into your songwriting, pushing you to write a competitive, commercially viable song. Maybe you want to be cool, or you don’t want to go there, but sometimes I think they know what’s better for you. It is what it is.

OS: So what do you guys have coming up? Are you planning a summer tour to support Augustana?

DL: We head out in May and June. We’re going to be doing a tour of fairly… not small rooms, but 500, maybe 1,000 at the most and see if we can fill out those rooms. ‘Cause it’s been quite a while since we’ve really done a real tour that wasn’t supporting somebody else—as far as a headlining tour it’s been about three years. So we’ll see what we can do, and if we can take it beyond that, that would be great. If there’s a demand for us to keep going out and playing, then we’ll do it, for sure.

Stream Augustana’s latest single “Steal Your Heart” on AOL Music until the album hits stores on April 26th, and be sure to catch them on their upcoming tour with The Maine.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Call: Best Of OurStage 2010

This year was certainly a huge one for rock on OurStage. Our 2010 competitions allowed winning artists to play with incredible acts, such as Bon Jovi, Hanson, the Goo Goo Dolls, Mayday Parade, Anberlin and John Mayer.

Outside of the site, our artists have received national radio airplay, scored festival performance sets and had songs placed in TV shows, commercials and movie trailers. From experimental to pop punk, here are 10 of the best OurStage rock artists from 2010!

The Worsties

The Worsties

It takes a very talented band to be able to reach the Number 1 spot on the Best of Rock Charts, and The Worsties kept that spot for 20 weeks! After having their songs placed on MTV and Oxygen, the band won the coveted opening spot for Bon Jovi and Kid Rock in Chicago. Take a listen to “What’s Her Face” in the player below—we guarantee you’ll be headbanging with this female-fronted rock outfit in no time.

Eclectic Approach

As their name suggests, Seattle’s Eclectic Approach pull from a variety of influences to make funky pop rock that is sure to get you off your feet. Meeting somewhere between Maroon 5 and the Black Eyed Peas, Eclectic Approach have got it all— tight beats, catchy hooks, sweet guitar licks and smooth vocals. This year was a big for these guys thanks to six Top 10 wins, including two in the “Shout It Out with HANSON” Competition (they ended up opening for the trio in Portland, OR). Check out “Cool” in the player below and be sure to add it to your next party playlist!

Again and Again

They’ve played at the Vans Warped Tour, sold over 150,000 records and had their album mixed by top modern rock producer Marc Hudson (Chiodos, Saves the Day). They’re Again and Again from Renton, WA and they’re shaping up to be the next big electronic pop rock act. While competing in the “SUBWAY Fresh Artists” Competition (they finished in the Top 10 for their region), the bad was out on tour across the US. Listen to “Excuse This Honesty” in the player below and get ready to mark your calendars with future tour dates!

Take One Car live at Bamboozle

Take One Car

Millerton, NY’s experimental rock group Take One Car have had an extremely successful year. Having released their full-length album When the Ceiling Meets The Floor last year, the band set out to tour and promote their effort as much as possible in 2010. Their hard work paid off when they were selected to perform TWICE at New Jersey’s Bamboozle festival in May (once at Hoodwink, covering At The Drive-In, and a daytime set on Saturday, as themselves). The group followed their Bamboozle performances with more touring, competing in Airwalk Unsigned Hero Contest and opening for the likes of VersaEmerge and The Gay Blades. Check out “The Menagerie” in the player below and be sure to stay tuned, because these guys (and girl) will be releasing a new album next year! They’ve also been invited back to Bamboozle for 2011, so don’t miss their set!

Transmit Now

Can you imagine watching the People’s Choice Awards and hearing your song play as Hugh Jackman accepts his award for Best Action Hero? Well, Tampa, Florida’s pop rock group Transmit Now experienced it in 2010. Additionally, they were featured in J-14 Magazine as a weekly “Hot Band” and released their first full-length album, Downtown Merry-Go-Round. Listen to “Let’s Go Out Tonight” in the player below and blast it on your next night out!

Bronze Radio Return

Bronze Radio Return won fans over in 2010 with their smooth and sultry indie rock. With a warm acoustic sound, Bronze Radio Return are easily compared to Damien Rice and Coldplay. They won the coveted John Mayer “Side Stage Warfare” Competition for the Boston date and racked up four more Top 10 wins in Acoustic, Indie Rock and Modern Rock Channels. Check out “Digital Love” in the player below by BRR, a band that MySpace Records calls one of the best unsigned groups.

Cedar Avenue

Minneapolis acoustic rock outfit Cedar Avenue had great success on OurStage this year. They opened for Hanson in Milwaukee, had their song placed on ABC’s Cougartown and had eight Top 10 wins on the site, including the “SUBWAY Fresh Artists” Competition for their region. Fronted by husband and wife team Derrin and Jesse Mathews, Cedar Avenue has also opened for sold out crowds at Augustana, A Fine Frenzy and Graham Colton concerts. Check out “Up North” in the player below and get ready to rock!

Orange Avenue

Orange Avenue

From one avenue to the next, pop rock group Orange Avenue was named as one of MTV’s newest Buzzworthy bands for 2010. They’ve shared the stage with the All American Rejects, Rihanna, Smash Mouth and more, and had three Top 10 wins on OurStage, including one for their region in the “SUBWAY Fresh Artists” Competition. They also had their music featured on “MLB Tonight” and their video for “Just Refrain” was played at the Winter Olympics. Listen to the track in the player below and be on the lookout for Orange Avenue on MTV and on the radio!

The Appreciation Post

After being named Alternative Press’ Top Unsigned Band in 2009, The Appreciation Post took 2010 by storm. In addition to releasing two EPs, the group also competed in the “Converse Battle of the Bands” Competition and took home the title of champion after opening for Mayday Parade and Anberlin. Check out the synth-heavy “The Beating of a Lifetime” in the player below and check out the band’s webstore for awesome deals and free music!

The Black Rabbits

Indie rock group The Black Rabbits spent 2010 as both the winners of a year’s worth of guitar strings from Ernie Ball and one of our Needle in the Haystack artists. They were subsequently signed to Rock Ridge Music and have been working hard putting together their debut album! Listen to “Emotion” in the player below and stay tuned for new music coming soon!

We’re already looking forward to meeting the next rock stars of 2011! Who were your favorite OS rock artists this year? Let us know in the comments below!

Q&A With Counting Crows

Sometimes it’s tough to gauge a band’s success. You can count GRAMMY nominations, charting singles or perhaps the size of venue that a band performs at during their tours. In the case of Counting Crows, the most striking statistics are their album sales and RIAA certifications. The band’s debut full-length, August and Everything After sold over 7 million copies. Almost every album the band has released has been certified at least Gold, and in most cases Platinum. However, if you asked lead singer Adam Duritz, if he thought August was their best effort, he would probably say “no.” That’s exactly what we did. Read on to find out why, what his favorite album really is, and why the band chose to perform alongside Augustana and rapper NOTAR, rather than the headline their own tour, during this past summer’s Traveling Circus Tour.

OS: You guys have a really big lineup, obviously…how do you make sure that everyone contributes effectively to a song when you go in to put it together?

AD: The first thing about our band that we drill into everyone is that it’s far more important to listen as musicians than it is to play. I think that playing comes naturally, if you’re good enough. You need to hear what’s going on around you. When we were making our first record, we’d stand around and just play for hours. None of us really come particularly from this background at all, but it’s kind of like jazz, you know, you need to interact with the other guys.  And so then we’ll stop and break everything down and we’ll work on the songs with just acoustic guitars or just the three guitars and we’ll sing together. My vocals are almost always done before we practice them. And on stage, it’s kind of the same thing, you just really have to listen to everybody else. Especially now, with the Traveling Circus Tour, there are 17, 18 guys on stage. It can be a mess.
OS: Your breakout album August and Everything After was a really early release for the band, and you’ve said that it was recorded before the band really had a feel for each other. Was there a point where you felt that the band really did come into its own?
AD: I think we kind of come into our own over and over again. With the first record, we really hadn’t been together very long. As a result, it was brutal to make, but we did spend that time making it…We stripped everybody’s effects off the guitars. We took half the drums off our drummer. Everybody was forced to play much simpler, and we stood around in circles, playing quietly until we got things. And the next album, Ben had joined the band on drums and Dan had started electric guitar right after we finished August, so we had a year to be on the road all together. Ben came much more from like a punk, sort of indie background, which is where the rest of us came from, our drummer didn’t. So by that time, we could play the kind of songs I really wanted to play that we couldn’t do on August and Everything After—like “Catapult” and “Angels of the Silences” and “Have You Seen Me Lately?” That was also a big part of my background, that sort of came from college radio, it came from my band The Himalayans—a much more guitar band, I’d grown up on late ’70s punk music and could play a lot more of that stuff, like those loud songs on Recovering the Satellites. I thought we came into our own a different way there, it was a much more raw, emotional record. In the third album, we really wanted to experiment with what it’s like to just be in the studio and do all the quirky things you can do with drum loops and messing around in a recording studio. Right now we’re learning how to play with 17 guys for the last couple years.
OS: So it’s kind of like an evolutionre-defining yourself with each release?
AD:  With each show. It’s just a constant thing you go through. I think the releases are a better way to market because they’re how everyone sees it, but within the band, it’s a daily thing. It’s almost that Dylan line, “he not busy being born is busy dying.”
OS: Do you put more weight or more stock into your live show then, than a release? Or are they just different things?
AD: I think the simplest way to put it is that there are really three parts to being a musician. I think you have to write songs—and that’s very difficult and requires this whole willingness to open your soul up to things. Then you have to make records and crystallize those songs into something. And then you’ve got to play them live, which is where you take your daily life and you filter your songs through it. I think they’re all equally important, equally satisfying, equally horrible, and equally wonderful. Especially to a band like us, I wouldn’t put one part over the other. You can’t. Without any of the three parts, the whole thing falls apart.
OS: Do you have a release that you feel was most successful?
AD: We were trying to do so many different things on each record…and I felt like we completely succeeded in every way on them except the first one, maybe? People don’t understand what I mean when I say I’m not trying to badmouth that first album, because people mistake it because they think I just played it a lot. I could play “Mr. Jones” every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of playing it. That song is a fucking great song. “Round Here” is an even better song. The only failure on that album is me. It’s just that I wasn’t a good enough singer yet. To me, singing is all about baring yourself, opening up your inside and letting someone see it…with a beat. Two of the songs—”Rain King” and “Mr. Jones”—I know I did sixty-plus takes on those two songs. I could not sing them.  Those songs just kind of jog, they’re not mid-tempo songs but they kind of have to rock and roll at a kind of relaxed pace. But it’s really hard to find that middle ground between rocking out and relaxing. That’s why soul singing is so hard. People think it’s this big, overdone thing, but it’s a lot about restraint. I look back on some of the songs now that I thought I had at the time and go, “shit.” I fucked up three songs, I think. On those songs, I feel like I just wrote it better than I sang it. But I was such a new singer then. I wasn’t quite good enough.
I think, in a way,  the one that satisfies me the most is the second album, Recovering The Satellites, because that’s an album where we made a huge leap towards something we weren’t able to do on the first album. We played songs like “Goodnight Elisabeth,” this really beautiful, long, sort of country rock song. We had “Long December,” which was written and recorded in under 24 hours—we had single takes, there are no overdubs on it at all. Then we had songs like “Catapult,” “Angels of the Silences,” “Have You Seen Me Lately?” “I’m Not Sleeping,” where they’re like, either vicious punk songs or they’re huge departures with strings and all kinds of other weird stuff. We really strove to do things that were outside our comfort zone. It’s an album of a really great breadth. I got cut a lot of slack. I did have a nervous breakdown on the road, I did lose my fucking mind, and I had a really fucking hard time dealing with what happened to us. So I decided to write about it, and we played it with as much passion and conviction as we’ve ever done anything. I’m proud of all of our records, they’re exactly how I wanted them to be, but Satellites really went out there. I love the way the band plays with just, utter abandon on it. I think I love that record the most. Also because we could have completely fallen apart with that first album and not have been able to make that record. Also, not just us, but for the record company, because when you make August and Everything After and sell so many copies, they do not want you to go find The Pixies’ producer to make your second album.
OS: Let’s talk about the Traveling Circus you did this year. Why did you go with a more collaborative effort rather than opener/headliner?
AD: I’ve always thought that format sucks.There was a concert a long time ago at the Fillmore: It was Miles Davis, The Stones and The Dead, I think. It must have been quite the trio of bands, and they’re all very different. People would see them too, because they were really cool bands. Now-a-days there are sometimes outrageously good bands onstage and no one is there. And even co-headliners, all the fans might not be interested. It all seems very unsatisfying to me, especially because all the bands are goods.  I had done the collaborative thing with Augustana before. At first it was the first three hours with all three bands. We started playing with Augustana, flowing in and out of each other. Audiences were listened to all different kinds of music. So, you didn’t miss the great opening bands, because they were all in the middle of the show. This year, we got Augustana again and now the rapper NOTAR. NOTAR can spit too man…I watched a Counting Crows crowd fall in love with hip hop. I can’t tell you what it’s like to tilt your head back and sing in 12 part harmony with 19 other guys. It’s about just loving music. I think it’s a real groundbreaking show. We tried something new. We sold out some places, but not others. It’s sad, but I don’t think we’ll ever be able to do it again.
Coming up, we’ll have the Underwater Sunshine Web site dedicated to indie bands. The indie web is really where new rock is. If we can sell music at a price that music buyers won’t feel like they’re getting ripped off, then hopefully they’ll want to buy it. We’ll put it right up there with the Counting Crows. I want this Web site to be just like a home entertainment center—read magazines and find stuff. There are less ways to find music now, but there isn’t less music.  No one is talking about indie music anymore, except for Web sites like yours of course. You guys are definitely doing the type of thing I want to support with Underwater Sunshine. I’m still fascinated with what we’re doing. It still matters the world to me.
If you missed the Traveling Circus, keep an eye out for the new indie Web site that Counting Crows are developing, and check out which indie bands they think you should know about.

Daily Download: Merrill

With recent success, landing a spot opening Maroon 5 and Counting Crows, pop-rockers, Merrill have been tearing it up. Honoring their recent accomplishment we have a track for download today that proves, “It’s U” (helping great music succeed!) A shockingly sunny sound from oft rainy/cloudy Portland, Ore., Merrill overcame missing equipment and technical difficulties, at the Maroon 5 set, to rock the crowd. Discover, Merrill.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Merrill | It’s U
Need help downloading? Click HERE for step-by-step instructions.

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Merrill Opens for Maroon 5 Thanks to OurStage MarketPlace

You may remember the band Merrill, who won a performance slot at last year’s Bumbershoot Festival after landing in the OurStage top-ten for Pop and Rock. Well this year, they landed an opening slot for Maroon 5 and Counting Crows, using the new OurStage Marketplace (like Craig’s List for musicians). After the show, Chris Merrill (for whom the band is named) wrote me the following letter:

My Dearest OurStagers,

Continue reading ‘Merrill Opens for Maroon 5 Thanks to OurStage MarketPlace’

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