Changes to the monthly competitions

Hi and welcome back to Amazing OurStage. We want to let you know that there will be changes to the prizes we are offering. Every month will be different.
This month we are awarding prizes of $100 to winners of the competition finals. In the future there will be prizes to help your musical career. Check back to find out.

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U2 Can Be A Publicity Nuisance!

When it comes to staging street performances, there’s a fine line between building buzz and buzzkill.

Ever heard of Imperial Stars? If you Google the band name in proximity to search terms such as “stupid band tricks” or “idiots 101,” you’ll probably find a rash of news reports regarding the Orange County, CA band’s recent publicity grab. (Make that act of altruism to “raise awareness for homelessness,” as the band inexplicably explains.) They held a Los Angeles freeway full of rush hour commuters hostage this month and forced the captive audience to endure their crummy music.

Imperial Stars positioned a truck to block three lanes of southbound 101 freeway traffic near the Sunset Boulevard exit, hopped on top and began playing their single “Traffic Jam 101.” California Highway Patrol and morning commuters were less than pleased. Three band members were arrested and each was released on $10,000 bail that day. They’re scheduled for a Nov. 3rd hearing.

Welcome to the latest ill-conceived music marketing ploy. Luckily, no one got shot in a fit of road rage. Bands engage in less-than-epic fails all the time, of course, which is why groups like Imperial Stars occasionally try to break the idiot barrier for publicity.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for creative uses of music marketing. By all means, bands should build a better mousetrap and take advantages of opportunities to go public. Remember when music stunts were fun, goofy and harmless? I’m sure even my square parents heard about the animal-eating antics of Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper at PTA meetings when I was a tot, but those artists weren’t taking their stage acts to middle America’s living rooms. These tales of entrails were exaggerated urban legends anyway passed along by kids in a game of rock telephone. Now that’s marketing!

Rule of thumb when it comes to intrusive publicity stunts: Bands, like consumer brands, must tow the line or they will pay a fine. Either in hard cold cash or hearts and minds.

On the brand front, Nike, Nintendo, Sony, Snapple, IBM and others have tried to attain street cred by literally taking their brands to the street. Many failed by breaking the etiquette of street stunts, and have paid in fines and negative publicity. Most everyone remembers the Adult Swim’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force Boston bomb scare of 2007, in which ad units resembling Lite Brites were mistaken for terrorist tools.

Some agencies work fees and fines into their brand budgets so that the inevitable tickets and cleaning costs are covered, though we doubt IBM was able to justify that $100,000 fine it had to pay the city of San Francisco in 2001 for going to town on sidewalks and embellishing them with Linux logos. Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it: A few years after the IBM stunt, NBC stenciled teasers for a TV show called 4400 on sidewalks across the city. Residents of SF didn’t get glad—they got mad. Fines alone for a first-time graffiti vandal in San Francisco run $100 to $300 per site.

Sorry to be so direct, but a friend gives it to you straight. Until your band is on a Let It Be Beatles level, it probably has no business filming a midday performance on a London rooftop as bobbies and shopkeepers look on. And when you’ve released something on par with The Joshua Tree, we suggest only then that you, too, might (carefully) consider scaling a downtown L.A. building for a surprise concert as U2 did in its video for “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Sorry to be so direct, but a friend gives it to you straight. Until your band is on a Let It Beatles level, it probably has no business filming a midday performance on a London rooftop as bobbies and shopkeepers look on. And when you’ve released something on par with The Joshua Tree, we suggest only then that you, too, might (carefully) consider scaling a downtown L.A. building for a surprise concert like U2 gave the public in its video for “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Until then, you can always hustle and busker a la Atomic Tom. As far as we know, that’s not technically illegal and only mildly pisses the public off. Earlier this month, the Brooklyn group taped itself “performing” its song “Take Me Out” on a subway using iPhones as instruments. The carefully crafted stunt has gotten flack from music fans and writers, who find the noise pollution, dubiously excellent sound quality and/or indie spirit of the marketing ploy offensive (a title card claims the band’s instruments were stolen; Atomic Tom is signed to Universal Republic). Band members claim there was zero label or pr involvement.

The snark has been offset by 1.3 million YouTube hits since the clip was posted Oct. 15, and “Take Me Out” has jumped to No. 86 on the iTunes singles chart. In a true Cinderella of Rock story, Atomic Tom was approached by Apple and “a partnership is being discussed.” The Moment, the band’s debut album, got prime placement on the iTunes Store home page and hit No. 11 on its albums chart.

At the risk of overstating the obvious, there is a season (turn, turn, turn…). It’s time to put away childish things. Pulling dumb shit without pulling proper permits in a post-9/11 world is asking for a world of hurt. Forcing people to hear your music under an underpass while stressing that their boss is going to can them won’t endear your band to anyone.

Charges and fines may be the least of the Imperial Stars’ problems—they’ve damaged their “musical” brand. While they define themselves as “hardcore hip hop,” they’ll go down as pariahs in a recording industry that has made room for Kevin Federline (who?) and Paris Hilton. That is, if anyone remembers them at all.

By Becky Ebenkamp

Becky Ebenkamp is a Pop Cultural anthropologist and former West Coast Bureau Chief for Adweek Media. Becky has a radio show called Bubblegum & Other Delights that airs 7 to 9 p.m. PST every other Tuesday on

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

Local Natives In New York: “It” Band Blows Up But Boys Escape Ego

California’s Local Natives have slowly but surely strummed, drummed and sung their way to the top of critics’ and general listeners’ “It” list. The outfit of five, comprising Taylor Rice (lead vocals, guitar), Kelcey Ayer (vocals, keyboards, percussion, guitar), Ryan Hahn (guitar, keyboards, mandolin, vocals), Andy Hamm (bass, backing vocals) and Matt Frazier (drums) officially formed five years ago, with the innocent intention of following their hearts by making meaningful music. Says Ayer, “We didn’t have a lot of money; we had a passion.”

From the lyrical content to the instrumental arrangements, the exhilarating live delivery to the pristinely produced disc, the quintet has succeeded in amassing both a cult and commercial following. Of their rise from at one time attracting a sum of five show-goers to performing nine sold-out sets at SXSW (not to mention roughly 200 other shows over the course of the past year-and-a-half), Ayer admits, “It’s pretty incredible. I don’t think there’s any other word to describe it.” He humbly elaborates; “It’s those [small] shows that make [bigger] shows so much more special.” The process wasn’t simple, he explains. “It didn’t happen overnight. We earned it. This band has always been about longevity. I think that will help us in the long run.”

by Nell Alk

Performing in Manhattan last week at a Ray Ban-sponsored SPIN showcase for CMJ, Local Natives took the stage close to 11:45 and played until 12:30. Before emerging, the longtime friends gathered backstage in a huddle, a more modest and adorable assembly of the classic football pre-play rally. Speaking of the specific show, which took place at Lafayette Street’s Firehouse, Rice shares, “Our live performance is a lot more energetic; has raw energy to it. At a small party vibe venue, like this, it’ll come off a lot more that way.” ’Tis true. They tore into their album, proving their rock star status by playing their hearts out. There was no lack of enthusiasm for these limelight pros. Rice commanded the mic, but a great deal of their appeal has to do with their powerful harmonies, which were in full force. Ayer took the lead on “Airplanes,” given the fact that he wrote it about his father’s father, whom he never met. All members were impressive, but Ayer takes the cake, earning major cred when balancing both keyboard and percussion simultaneously. Right hand plucks keys as left hand soars over other to tap his solitary drum. Pat head, rub belly much? Wow. And to think, this guy used to be, as he confessed, “A server at a California Pizza Kitchen.”

Rice, who before becoming LN’s lead sold products door-to-door (“I was hawking really expensive kitchen cutlery to housewives in Orange County”), says he enjoys intimate engagements as well as massive festivals; “There’s a different type of connection when it’s a mass of people versus a sweaty club packed to the gills. I like the fact that we get to mix it up.” Local Natives wound down the evening with the amped anthem “Sun Hands,” a pulsating song that manages somehow to channel the precise clip-clop pattern a horse makes when galloping. This thanks to Frazier, whose severe focus is evident when staring, mouth agape, from stage right. And he seemed so unassuming! Color me floored by their collective and unflinching gifts.

Perhaps the most recently buzzed about Local Natives venture is their music video for “Wide Eyes,” a soaring and somber number with so much more lurking beneath its surface. Much akin to the antagonist co-starring in said mini-narrative: a shark, who stalks a suburban man, flaunting his fins everywhere the increasingly insecure individual goes. Undoubtedly this cinematic decision aroused some questions about the band. Maybe they’ve an underlying desire to feature their twinkling track on Shark Week? Hahn fills in the blanks matter-of-factly; “I’ve got a fear of sharks. They always make fun of me.” So why go viral with a phobia? “I had the idea for the video a long time ago. Many of our ideas were way out of budget. It was a play on my ridiculous fear of sharks,” he laughs.

So, what’s next for this party of five? After enough bus travel time to make you hate highways, the boys are stoked to get back in the studio. That is, after writing the entire record, a shared responsibility. Of the experience, Frazier says, “We’ve learned so much.” He hints at the sophomore follow-up: “The bits and pieces of songs we have so far are really promising.” Ayer adds, “Everyone’s excited to jump into it next year.” Next year can’t come soon enough for fans, including this chick. But, for now, I’ll keep my impatient chin up; they’re returning to the Big Apple this Friday to blow away Webster Hall.

By Nell Alk

Nell Alk is a culture and entertainment reporter based in New York. Her work has appeared in Paper Magazine,, Zink Magazine and, among others. She also contributes to NBC’s Niteside blog.

New Music Biz 101: Free Track Giveaways

Ever since the rise of the independent artist, free track giveaways have been a promotional tool rapidly increasing in popularity. Artists are giving away free CDs, MP3s—anything that can get their music to the masses. However, music is an artist’s most powerful asset, so why not use it to it’s full potential.

A lot of musicians are handing out free music like its nothing, just for the sake of exposure. Although this method isn’t completely ineffective, we think there is a better approach.  If someone is interested enough in you as an artist to listen to your music, you’re going to want to know who this person is and engage them as a potential fan.  You need to connect with them on some level, collect their email address, encourage them to join your Facebook artist page, get their phone number, etc. Bottom line: you need a way to reach out to these potential fans in the future. Luckily, there are a few tools out there that can help you with this.

Nimbit, Topspin, and Bandcamp are a few Web sites that help artists make more out of their free track offerings. They provide online tools that allow you to capture user data with every free giveaway. For example, in order to download a free track from one of these sites, a person must provide their email address. With some of the available tools, fans must provide their name, zip code and email address. This gives artists a sense of where their fan base is located which can be invaluable for touring purposes.

When you’re on the road, use mailing lists or download cards to capture user data. Maintaining fan connections for future marketing initiatives is vital to the success of your future releases. For those who don’t know, download cards provide your fans a unique key that they can enter into a Web site in exchange for a download. The best way to distribute these items is to make an announcement during your show that you have free download cards at your merch table, available for anyone interested in picking one up. This way, not only do you only give a download to those who like your show enough to go get one, but you also got the fan to go straight to your merch table.

We hope this gives you a better idea of how to better utilize your music to your advantage. Let us know if you have other suggestions that we didn’t mention in the comments section.

Needle in the Haystack Follow Up: Yael Meyer

We hope that you all have enjoyed listening to and learning more about our Needle in the Haystack artist, Yael Meyer as much as we have. Our taste-making team discovered Yael Meyer sitting in the Top 10 of our Indie Pop Channel charts (Here’s a hint for all you Needle in the Haystack wannabes: We find a lot of our NITH artists on the Best Of charts. So be sure to participate in our competitions, and stay active on OurStage.)  If you haven’t already, download Yael’s free track, “Shed Their Fear” here!

Watch the video from yesterday’s interview with Yael Meyer. It was a lot of fun!

Pop in Advertising

The more things change in the music industry, the more one thing in particular stays the same: Radio remains as integral to star- and hit-making as it was back in the days when Bill Haley & His Comets first rocked around the clock. Video may have killed the radio star in the 1980s, but today—if you get the sound and vision right—you still could live long on radio, and YouTube too.

Nowadays, though, even if you don’t look like Katy Perry or Rihanna—and/or if your sound doesn’t quite fit radio’s increasingly slender formats—there are other options. Ten years ago, Moby became a superstar—mining multi-platinum with his Play album—despite having virtually no radio airplay and looking nothing like a traditional pop idol, after licensing every single track on the CD to movies, TV shows and commercials. By the time “South Side” became a bonafide radio hit, making it all the way to No. 14 in 2001, nearly two years after Play‘s release, it was gravy. The following year, Moby’s fellow electronica act, Dirty Vegas, scored a No. 14 hit of its own after “Days Go By” popped up in a Mitsubishi Eclipse TV commercial.

Music Meets Advertising in New Iva Furhlingova / ghd haircare combo Music Video /Ad Spot by RKCR/Y&R and Floria Sigismondi

Hollywood and Madison Avenue have borrowed from pop for years (for a price), often using well-known tracks by established artists, but recently, they’ve been selling new music, and up-and-coming acts (along with their own product) like never before. Some agencies are even launching their own labels, as is the case with RKCR/ Y&R. In 2008, music placement in ads helped M.I.A. land an unlikely Top 10 hit after “Paper Planes” was cast in the trailer for the film Pineapple Express. Coldplay‘s “Viva la Vida,” the Ting Tings “Shut Up and Let Me Go” and Mary J. Blige‘s “Work That” all became chart hits after starting life in iTunes commercials, and the chart life span of Yael Naim’s “New Soul” was extended by it’s use in an Apple MacBook Air TV ad.

Sade enjoyed her biggest hit single in 20 years in January when “Soldier of Love” became as much a beneficiary of the TV promos for the final season of Lost as the show itself. Then along came Britain’s Florence and the Machine, virtually unknown in the US until the single “Dog Days Are Over” upstaged Julia Roberts in the trailer for Eat Pray Love. That massive exposure raised Florence’s profile before a plum gig performing the song on the MTV Video Music Awards in September helped the single surge to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and boosted its parent album, Lungs, to No. 14. (What is it about that number?)

Meanwhile, Brit band Muse also has benefited from heavy trailer  action and owes much of its high US profile to the overuse of its music in movies (in particular, the Twilight series), trailers and TV promos, such as the newly released global TV campaign for Virgin Atlantic Airways and the much touted 2010 Super Bowl Google spot. “Map of the Problematique” has featured in ads for Prison Break, The Children of Men and the upcoming Angelina Jolie/Johnny Depp film The Tourist, and “Uprising” popped up earlier this year in the trailer for Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz’s Knight and Day.

Rihanna’s “Rockstar 101″  saw increased sales on iTunes and a surge in popularity after being featured in a commercial for MTV’s Video Music Awards as well as becoming the soundtrack for the promos of the  CW’s new show Nikita. Who’ll be next? Christina Aguilera could use Hollywood’s help now that radio appears to be totally over her. But even if her debut film, Burlesque, flops when it opens on November 24th, maybe the studio will stick her new single in the next trailer and watch both song and star soar [soundtrack hits stores November 16th].

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.

Punk On The Rocks: Punk Halloween Costumes

Halloween’s just a few days away— have you picked out your costume yet? If not, don’t fret. This week’s Punk On the Rocks has some tips on how to create some easy, last-minute punk Halloween costumes from items you probably already have. Special thanks to the awesome OurStage interns for volunteering their time and modeling skills.

Intern Rebecca as Joey Ramone

Joey Ramone
What you need: Skinny jeans, Converse, ratty t-shirt, leather (or “leather”) jacket.
If you’re anything like the OurStage crew, you can find most of the pieces for this costume in your closet. Long hair and round, John Lennon-style shades are easy ad-ons that really complete the Joey look, but the costume basics can be adapted to any Ramone.Go as the group with some buddies or fly solo as your favorite member.
Total cost: $10
Variation: Lose the jacket, add some bling & questionable tattoos and you’re Dee Dee Ramone during his ill advised rapper phase!

Interns Rebecca and Martin as Sid and Nancy

Sid & Nancy:

What you need (Sid): Skinny jeans or plaid pants, safety-pinned t-shirt, punk pins, spiked collar necklace, snarl.
What you need (Nancy): Disheveled blond hair (real or fake), heavy-handed makeup, mini skirt, fishnets, leather jacket.
Another costume you can put together with items from your closet. We only had to buy the wig, fishnets & t-shirt. What better way to scare the neighborhood kids on Halloween than by showing them what their future will look like if they don’t “just say no”?
Total cost: $25 (both costumes combined)
Variation: Don’t have a Sid? No problem! The Nancy look also doubles as a Courtney Love costume.

You can only push interns so far


What You Need: socks, Converse or skate shoes, a smile
Recreate Blink’s infamous streaking “What’s My Age Again?” video this Halloween for little to no cost (Note: total cost of costume does not include any fines you may incur for lewd or indecent behavior)! We chose not to photograph this one for obvious reasons. You can only push your interns so far.
Total cost: $0
Variation: add some black clothes and some eye liner and you can be Tom from his “serious musician” days in Angels & Airwaves.

Intern Munson the Destroyer as MC Bat Commander

MC Bat Commander of The Aquabats

What you need: Teal shirt, felt, stick-on felt, elastic, safety pins, scissors.

The perfect for those of you who dig wacky ska-punk but break out into a cold sweat at the site of a sewing machine. Use the stick-on felt for the details, then safety pin everything together! Voila!

Total cost: $12

Variation: Honestly, there’s not much you do to transform this outfit, but with a costume this rad, who cares?

What will your costume be this year? Let us know in the comments!

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

The National win best album at Q Awards

This week Q Magazine’s Q Awards took place, bringing together some of the biggest names in music. Winners included Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine for Best Female, Paolo Nutini for Best Male, and Mumford & Sons for Best New Act. The National beat the likes of Green Day, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon and Muse for the highest honor of Best Album for High Violet. Check out the full list of winners here.

Katy Perry gets hitched

Katy Perry and Russell Brand got married in a lavish ceremony on a wildlife reserve in India this past weekend. Bo-ring!

The Bad

Bon Jovi neighbor pens apology letter

“Dear Bon Jovi,

I’m sorry for throwing empty beer cans on your lawn.”

So begins a grand apology by a 17-year-old neighbor of Jon Bon Jovi, posted to So what possessed a teenage boy to vandalize the lawn of New Jersey’s favorite son? Bad lyrics, apparently. Read the letter in its entirety here—it’s funny stuff.

T.I. changes album title

Now that T.I. is facing 11 months in jail for violating his probation, his album name, King Uncaged doesn’t make much sense. This week the rapper announced that the new title will be No Mercy. Still no word on a release date … for the album … not T.I.

The Ugly

Alice Cooper loses blood and other stuff on flight to UK

Don’t you just hate it when the airline loses your fake blood, skulls and plastic bats? Oh, that’s right, you’re not Alice Cooper. The ghoulish rocker was en route to a Halloween show in London when he discovered his luggage had been misplaced, and with it, all sorts of props for his show. Cooper was not happy, nor should he be. Oversized syringes and skeleton arms don’t grow on trees.

Taylor Momsen flashes audience at New York show

Is there anyone, ANYONE, more desperate to be seen as a bad girl than Taylor Momsen? The dead hooker makeup, the underage smoking, the torn fishnets, the apathetic gaze, the pointless trash talking—it’s like a 17-year-old pretending to be Courtney Love for Halloween. The Pretty Reckless singer borrowed another move from the bad girl playbook this week when she flashed a crowd during a performance, revealing taped nipples a la Wendy O. Williams. Yawn. Julia Roberts’ performance in Pretty Woman was more shocking. Sorry Miss Momsen, you’re not bad, just unoriginal.


Q&A With Senses Fail

Having been a constant presence in the modern rock scene for nearly a decade, post-hardcore band Senses Fail have refused to conform to current trends on and off the stage. Their fifth studio record, The Fire, a testament to the bands evolution and experiences grappling with self-doubt, anger and forgiveness, was released on Tuesday. We got the chance to speak with frontman Buddy Nielsen about the new record, the first-ever Senses Fail DVD and being on tour with Bayside.

OS: Senses Fail recently returned from touring Australia. How did the crowds there react to seeing you live for the first time in four years?

BN: It was awesome! I had a great time. Everything went really well and I thought the shows went great. I can’t wait to go back. Australia is really my favorite place to go.

OS: The Fire is the first Senses Fail record with Zack Roach on guitar. How has the lineup change affected the band and the writing of the record?

BN: Zack didn’t really do a ton of writing, it was mostly the three of us. Heath (Saraceno, former guitarist) had a lot to do with the writing, but he was kind of a guy who came in after the fact and added to it, he didn’t really write the bulk of the stuff. Not a lot has really changed, as far as the writing process. Garrett (Zablocki, guitarist) usually wrote the bulk of it and he and Dan (Trapp, drummer) arranged it, then I would come up with the melodies and lyrics and help arrange it. I think people would expect that there would be a change, but there really wasn’t.

OS: Senses Fail’s music seems to get heavier with each release. Is this a conscious decision or has it happened naturally?

BN: It just happens. It’s hard to explore different avenues, going a poppier route. It’s very linear, what you can do with something that’s catchy, as opposed to taking a different vibe and taking a different feeling and taking a heavier route. We try to write songs that we would like to play, ultimately…stuff that isn’t too out of the box for us. I think a lot of bands tend to jump the shark sometimes in trying to be experimental. Sometimes it works but I really think most times it doesn’t.

OS: There’s a way to progress without going too far.

BN: Yeah. You’ve got to know who you are as a band and who your fans are, too. You can’t just abandon what made you popular. You can’t get ahead of yourself and what you think are.

OS: That’s something you show on The Fire. You guys have definitely come a long way but you still sound like Senses Fail.

BN: Oh, awesome, thanks! That would be what I want to hear. I don’t like when my favorite bands decide to do something stupid and change their thing. It’s like, “Why? You just ruined it. I liked you for this reason but you decided to mess up what was good about it.” I think bands that have been around for a long time feel a sense of urgency to keep up with what’s going on or out-do what’s going on to stay relevant. It’s hard not to go, “This is what’s popular, should we do this? Do we need to have all these breakdowns and then a techno part? I hope it’s not what we need to do.”

OS: Tell us about the title track of the new record.

BN: “The Fire”… that song, to me, just opens up the record to what the record’s going to be. “The Fire” is about going through a process of change in your life with uncertainty, but ultimately telling yourself that you’re at the right place at the right time and that everything’s pretty much happening for the right reasons. It’s kind of a bipolar song where part of it’s positive and then at the breakdown it goes back to reflecting on ways that I have chosen to deal with things and ultimately want to change. Walking through the fire; walking through a time of hardship leaves you stronger and better off.

OS: Your lyrics have have always been extremely personal, but varied, in terms of their themes. What would you say are the lyrical themes of The Fire?

BN: Self-exploration and working up a lot of self-doubt and anger…definitely anger towards relationships that I’ve had within my family and coming to terms with them. I think forgiveness is definitely a theme on the record…and just trying to figure out what to do when you’re 26 and in a band. The same things that everyone else is trying to figure out.

OS: You’re releasing a live DVD with the first pressing of The Fire. What was the concert shoot like?

BN: We did it last Halloween in New Jersey and it came out great, I’m happy with it. It was our first time that we did a live DVD and it’s a pain in the ass (laughs). The whole process is just kind of a pain in the ass. But it came out really good, I’m psyched. People have been asking for it. We’re not the kind of band that’s going to put on a Nine Inch Nails kind of a show where it’s very visual and stuff, it’s more the kind of show that you need to go to, you know? It’s just a band playing music and it’s kind of hard to sell that on its own, nowadays, with people not buying records and people just not buying things, period. I think it’s better off that it comes with the record, because it’s an added bonus, like, “Hey, here’s a live show, if you’ve never seen us.” You can’t ever really get what it’s like to be at a show, unless you’re there…or unless you’re watching a Muse DVD and it’s just hundreds of thousands of people and a crazy stage show and lights. That’s visually entertaining and you can sit there and watch.

OS: You’re touring with your friends in Bayside. What are you most looking forward to while on the road with them?

BN: I’m just excited to finally be on tour with a bunch of bands that I don’t think suck. We tried, with the last record, to bring along bands that were doing well and that didn’t work. We’ve been a band for nine years now and a lot of our fans are a little older and they go to the bar…they don’t want to see some of the shit that’s going down now. We made some decisions in underestimating how much our audience has grown and what they would like to see. I think that they would probably like to see stuff more along the lines of what we’d like, which is great. I think this tour is going to do really well. I don’t know how much the crossover is between Bayside fans and Senses Fail fans, but I definitely know that Senses Fail fans do like Bayside as well.

OS: And the other two bands…you were saying on Twitter that people should definitely listen to them. What are they like?

BN: Oh yeah, they’re great bands. Title Fight is punk rock, hardcore band. Like Good Riddance, kind of. Balance and Composure sounds like a mid-90s Midwestern emo band. They’re very spacey but heavy, not in a breakdown way…like Deep Elm Records kind of stuff, which is really cool. There are times when they sound like older Recover. They’re doing very well so it should be fun.

OS: In addition to providing vocals for Senses Fail, you also front a punk band called Bayonet. Are there any recording our touring plans in the works for 2011?

BN: We have a bunch of stuff recorded and we have a bunch of stuff we’re still writing, it’s just in between having to write this whole record and then record it, I haven’t really had any time to do anything with that. But I think our full-length will come out next year on Vagrant.

Check out Senses Fail on tour with Bayside at these upcoming tour dates:

10/28 – Omaha, NE at The Waiting Room
10/29 – Denver, CO at The Summit Music Hall
10/30 – Salt Lake City, UT at In The Venue
11/01 – Seattle, WA at El Corazon
11/02 – Portland, OR at Wonder Ballroom
11/04 – San Francisco, CA at The Regency Ballroom
11/05 – West Hollywood, CA at Troubadour
11/06 – Anaheim, CA at House of Blues
11/07 – San Diego, CA at House of Blues
11/09 – Mesa, AZ at The Nile
11/10 – Albuquerque, NM at Sunshine Theatre
11/12 – Dallas, TX at The Door
11/13 – Austin, TX at Emo’s
11/14 – Houston, TX at Warehouse Live
11/16 – Jacksonville Beach, FL at Freebird Live
11/17 – St. Petersburg, FL at State Theatre
11/18 – Lake Buena Vista, FL at House of Blues
11/19 – Atlanta, GA at The Masquerade
11/20 – Charleston, SC at The Music Farm
11/21 – Greensboro, NC at Greene Street
11/23 – Towson, MD at The Recher Theatre
11/24 – Sayreville, NJ at Starland Ballroom
11/27 – Philadelphia, PA at Electric Factory

Soul Searching: Daryl Black

In our quest for soul, it’s not uncommon for us to run into an artist who got their start by singing in church. Gospel training tends to lend itself well to the soul genre. Daryl Black came up on our radar and we knew we had to feature him as this week’s Soul Searching artist. Yes, Daryl Black is someone who first trained as a singer in the church, but Daryl is more than a great vocalist. This artist is both a talented writer and producer as well. These three skills combined create original music that gives the listener a deeper sense of what the artist is trying to portray. Daryl hails from California, and works to prove himself as a serious artist everyday. He’s most certainly has some impressive accomplishments to add to the resume including opening and or performing for Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Coko, R. Kelly, Marvin Sapp, Daryl Coley, Prince, Shirley Caesar, J. Moss, Tonex just to name a few.

Daryl’s music has heavy pop influences that makes it ready for the mainstream market. Listen to his song “Radio” and you’ll see what we mean. We’ve added the song below for your convenience. Let us know what you think in the comments section and, as always, if you have suggestions for who we should feature next, let us know!


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