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Rock ‘n’ Roll Call: Man On Earth

Melodic and eclectic, New York City’s Man On Earth are combining their indie pop sensibility with experimental instrumentation to create memorable and radio-ready rock tunes.

Man on Earth draw from a wide array of influences, including U2, Pink Floyd and Radiohead. With guitar parts belonging to prog bands and technical, syncopated drum beats, the band keeps things fresh from track to track. The vocals are raw and not overproduced, a welcome change from many of the band’s pop peers. There are moments on their last album (2008′s The Time Spent Wondering) where the band could pass for The Gay Blades, Joshua Radin or The Kooks, but ultimately, the band never settles into one groove long enough to be compared to anyone else.

Man On Earth’s talents don’t stop at writing great music. In fact, they are just as talented at promoting themselves to masses of potential fans. Their hard work has paid off, earning them music video rotation on MuchMusic and impressive TV and film placements, including having their music featured in the 2010 Winter Olympics broadcast on NBC. They have also been featured in TIME magazine and even opened for Creed.

With two full lengths already under their belts (Time and 2004′s Disposable Sounds for the Fickle Mind), the band is about to return to the studio to record their next LP. Check out two of their older tracks below and some new demos on their MySpace page!

OurStage Hip Hop Habit: J

The life of a music journalist often walks a fine line between the excitement of a baited chase for great new musicians and the mental drain that occurs when that wild hunt returns stillborn results. When that seesaw teeters towards the latter, it takes a rare gem of an artist to resuscitate any sense of invigoration back into a writer. J is that kind of artist. From her scant profile and its two obscuring images, little on the surface tells that this petite southern wordsmith is an adept poet. But, one listen will leave you finding faith for a generation of urban artists and begging for more.

J manages to tell the world who she is without ever inserting a concrete autobiographical factoid in what is arguably her best song, the pondering “My Story.” The dense lyrics in this track, if nothing else, teach us that J is an observeran astute observer at thatwho’s realized she’s cut from a different cloth. Her poetic background steps forth in this piece around the halfway point, where her immaculately consistent rapping rhythm morphs into unbridled spoken word, wisdom overwhelming with each and every linefrom shunning materialistic nonsense in“time moves fast/ so hold on to the things you really want to last/ because after all your Js fitted and true religions pass/ you’re gonna want something you can hold on to to questioning the meaning of this thing we call life in “I’m wonderin’ if some of us have to lose/ life just don’t seem fair sometimes and I know it don’t have to be/ and I ain’t even writin’ this cause I want you to be sad for me.” If J’s content paints her as a youth trying to make sense of everything around her, then the beat is sonic cultivation to match. The curtains open with a puffing woodwind ensemble that blends into a cool lavender beat more fit for an R&B song than a hip hop beat, but it works, especially as autotuned vocals find that common ground. As layered voices tenderly suggest taking life in stride over a sweeping piano and whistling synth run, any question as to whether the aforementioned rhetorical questions are tinted with anxiety can be put to rest. She’s just trying to tell her story.

JT MusicThe innocent questioning depicted in “My Story” is swallowed in the sheer blackness of “This Life,” a haunting story profiling two teens falling in love with the streets and losing their lives because of it. As a panicked angelic voice conjuring images of urgent prayers swirls above the blizzard of fatal content, it seems as though the memories of “My Story” were only smoke and mirrors and that J believes “this is real life/ no camera no actors.” Simply put, the track is irreversibly opaque, from murderous gang violence to a colorful portrayal of lethal crack addiction that would be camouflage in James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces. Dire, hopeless and chronicling depressingly anonymous subjects, “This Life” is everything you could ever ask for in a dramatic narrative detailing ghetto tragedies. Now more than ever, the clever connections J makes and splices into her gripping storytelling come across as insight belonging to a mystic four times her age, most notable in lines like “ predestined lessons of a young boy in love with the streets/ wouldn’t let the block rest so they put him under sheets” and “there’s no turning back now/ just gotta react now/ fendin’ like a slave/ the addiction got a chain on her/ the streets took her put their name on her/ stake their claim on her” that leave a lasting impression long after heard.

Taking life in stride becomes difficult when the life lead resembles that in “This Life,” but no one ever said it would be easy, especially not J. For all her talent, this young rapping dame has been polite enough to lyrically profile her progress to the top humbly acknowledging that if she fails, at least she can say she tried. But, rest assured, the day she achieves her dream of “rockin’ mics in front of sold out crowds,” she promises to “scream from the top” so do yourself a favor and keep your ears on. It shouldn’t be too long.

Metal Monday: Metalcore, Grindcore, Deathcore – What’s the Difference?

Metal as a community—made up of bands and their fans— is a tight-knit population, but that does not mean this happy family is without its schisms. With the somewhat recent rise of deathcore into the mainstream, many death metal and grindcore acts have drawn a line in the sand to separate themselves from this sub genre of metal. The same can be said for metalcore, which at one point in the early 2000s had a major surge within mainstream music and was ostracized by many metal sub genres. You see, if someone isn’t raised in the metal scene, then they may not be able to tell the minor differences between these sub genres. Add to this the large number of bands  spilling over and changing sides between sub genres, and you’ve got a recipe for a giant mess.

Grindcore, metalcore, deathcore—they all came from very distinct roots: death metal and hardcore (scenes ultimately born from punk). Death metal is known for its heavy and constant nature, taken to an extreme level. Lots of bands fit this bill and have had the “death metal” label slapped onto them, but the essence of death metal lies in bands like Death, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Suffocation and Decapitated. Change anything the classic death metal  formula and you’ve probably found yourself wandering into sub genre land—bands like Necrophagist are known as “technical death metal” but to the inexperienced listener are really not much different. For a good example of death metal, you can check out this video for Cannibal Corpse’s “Death Walking Terror”:

Early in the death metal days, grindcore was born—taking the heaviness of death metal bands of the time along with the avant-garde nature of post-rock, the frenetic rhythms and breakdowns of hardcore punk and an extra splash of craziness to create a totally new sub genre of music. The more famous grindcore acts include Napalm Death, Pig Destroyer, Brutal Truth and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Check out this music video for Brutal Truth’s “Sugar Daddy” to hear a good example of  grindcore:

The late 1990s witnessed the next offshoot: metalcore. Though its beginngs lie in early 90s bands like Converge and Zao, its current style was brought about by bands such as Unearth, God Forbid and Shadows Fall. Taking a lot of influence from trash, the metalcore tag may be a bit misleading, as the only real element taken from hardcore is the style of breakdown used. Most of the stylistic choices lie in heavy thrash, and the vocals often feature big melodic lines evident in heavy metal bands like Armored Saint. The most famous example of more modern metalcore is All That Remains‘ “This Calling”:

Soon after metalcore’s rise, deathcore began to brew. Take out the melodic vocals, make the sound a bit heavier and use more extreme breakdowns and you’ve transformed regular metalcore into deathcore. Bands such as The Acacia Strain, Caliban, The Red Chord, Animosity and Job For a Cowboy are known as some of the first true deathcore bands. To get a taste of an archetypal deathcore song, check out The Acacia Strain’s “Angry Mob Justice”:

Nowadays, though, bands are breaking these boundaries. Act such as The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Cephalic Carnage, Job For a Cowboy and Brain Drill have completely shattered the mold for these genres. This has been a much needed change for the metal scene since many separate sub-genres began drawing lines in the sand because, really, many of these bands aren’t that different at their core—they’re all just looking to have a good time by making extreme music people want to move to.

The Four Wise Men

Les Sages

Les Sages is a band of four brothers, which makes them even more genetically formidable than Tennessee’s Kings of Leon. Hailing from Seattle, Washington, the group is comprised of Joe, Andrew, Peter and Kris Larson, all of whom share vocal duties with uncanny likeness. Currently signed to Deep Elm Records, Les Sages purveys moody, elegant rock for les misérables. “Tricks” begins with a brooding piano dirge. The melody unfolds slowly and methodically—lumbering through cryptic phrases like “By the time it took me to take my pills, she left me for a spy.” Like watching a psychological thriller, you’re rapt, but on tenterhooks. “Driver of the Hearse” cracks the whip, shaking off the mood with an angular guitar salvo and fitful percussion. Things get more élégant with the spacious ballad, “Mumbled,” where a dusty trumpet note and glistening keys ratchet up the emotion. “Les sages” means “the wise” in French. Be wise, and give these guys a try.

Needle in the Haystack: Sneaky Pete

Needle in the Haystacks are artists that not only have unmatched musical ability, but also have the will power and resilience to withstand what can often times be a tough industry. This week’s Needle in the Haystack is no exception. Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, Sneaky Pete has been working his way up in the business for quite some time. Inspired to make hip hop his life back in high school, Sneaky Pete began honing his craft, staying in on weekend nights with passionate friends and hip hop enthusiasts to create beats.

Fast-forward a few years and Sneaky Pete is being introduced by Ludacris as his new protégé to a room full of media writers, photographers and tastemakers. As you can see, this week’s Needle in the Haystack honor is only one of Sneaky Pete’s many accomplishments.

Sneaky Pete’s rhymes are hot, his persona is cool and his beats are fresh! Download his free track, “U Don’t Know” below, and stay turned this week for more Sneaky Pete to come!

Tune Up: Placing Your Microphones

Microphone placement is one of the most complicated and technically difficult tasks in recording/live sound. Ironically, it is also one of those things that people think they’re doing right without actually having looked into the proper techniques. The topic is broad and is obviously different for every application, so in this article we’ll focus on only two kinds of placement: acoustic guitar and vocals.

Acoustic Guitar

You may recall our recent post about acoustic guitar pickups; microphone placement is a completely different ballgame. Say your best guitar doesn’t have a pickup or, even if it did, it probably sounds better acoustic rather than direct in. So, capturing that full rich sound is often really tough. Let’s first talk about where to place the microphone when only using one. As a rule, the most bass sound comes from the sound hole area and the most treble sound comes from around the 10th–12th fret area. So, guitar is often recorded just over the 12th fret. Sometimes though, you may want a little more bass, so try and gauge your placement to taste. It can be helpful to listen to someone playing the guitar and actually move the microphone gradually until you hear the sound you like.

If you intend to create a stereo track, there are a few other ways to do it. One technique is to leave one mic in the same place as if you were recording mono (see above) and to place the other mic the same distance from the strings down by the bridge of the guitar. However, you often get better results by placing two mics near the 12th fret (i.e., one pointing at the 14th and one pointing at the 10th). Again, be sure you do some gradual movements and place the mic’s where the guitar sounds the fullest and most realistic.

Vocals

Almost as tough as effectively recording an acoustic guitar, capturing a vocal take is more complicated than it sounds at first. It is quite rare to record vocals in a pop, rock or hip-hop song in stereo, so we’ll focus on mono microphone techniques. For live settings, you’re probably familiar with the popular Shure SM57 microphone being sung into directly in front of the mouth. This is the most popular (and arguably most effective) live vocal placement. Keep in mind that many backup vocalists stand further back from these mic’s to create a more-distant, blending backup sound.

Where things can really get creative is in the studio setting. Most engineers have a good collection of large diaphragm condenser microphones that they use for different vocalists and different applications. Placement, however, is certainly not an exact science here. Most often, you’ll find a microphone placed directly in front of a singer, a few inches from their mouth. This will create a clean, full sound and, if a pop filter is used, won’t have many unwanted artifacts. However, based on the vocal style, you can place the mic further away or even off-axis. Another popular placement is about 7–8 inches from the face at forehead level, pointing down toward the mouth. This will give the singer the ability to sing louder and with more emotion without a lot of artifacts or the strong possibility of clipping.

Microphone placement is something that has been studied by physicists and sound engineers for years. It can be way more complicated than the scope of this article (for example, when recording a full orchestra or using non-directional microphones). But for home-studio settings, these are some standard tricks to use when making sure you get the best sound possible. As a closing note, be sure to always use your ears. After all, we can give you all of the statistics and techniques in the world, but when it comes down to it, your goal is to record what sounds the best. So trust your ears and experiment with your placements. You’ll get a better track.

Scene & Heard: Phoenix, AZ

This week, we’re going down to the southwest to take a look at Phoenix, AZ. To break it down, Phoenix seems to have a few genres that are specifically important. First of all, due to its location near Mexico, music created by people of Mexican descent is prevalent. Therefore, in terms of traditional performance, you  will find places to hear a lot of mariachi and conjunto music. Also in the instrumental realm, you will find the Phoenix Symphony as well as the neighboring Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. Both of these groups are known for high quality performance of  difficult classical repertoire.

Moving into popular music, Phoenix centers around pop/singer-songwriter as well as rock music; a pretty standard set of genres for a major metropolitan area. Let’s start with rock. Some of the most notable bands to come out of the area have been Jimmy Eat World, The Gin Blossoms and Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers. In fact, Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World has referred to Phoenix as a mecca for rock music. Beyond rock, there is also a strong representation  for singer-songwriters. There are many clubs and bars that cater specifically to solo sets and are very accepting of the “community” feeling.

Just like most cities, Phoenix does have its share of major venues. If you’re looking to catch a major touring act at a very large venue, head over to the Dodge Theater. Here you’ll find shows from the likes of John Mayer, Kinds of Leon and KISS, to name a few. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find clubs like the Big Fish Pub, which caters specifically to up-and-coming rock acts. Much like many other bars, it also boasts a wide array of other types of entertainment (not to mention a great drink selection).

With blossoming 3 or 4 part harmonies and laid back guitar figures, Phoenix-based OurStage folk act The Sweet Remains brings you one step closer to the golden days of folk. Throw in the modern blues/pop twists evocative of Jason Mraz or John Mayer and they present the complete package. The band has been compared to everyone from Crosby, Stills & Nash to Guster to Paul Simon. Separately, the members’ music has been heard on the Shrek 2 soundtrack as well as a nationally aired Subaru commercial. If you asked the band, they would tell you that one of the best venues around is the Voce Lounge in Scottsdale, AZ. “It’s just got great character. Voce Lounge is the only music venue in town that I have experienced where the artist comes first.” He even mentioned that blues legends like George Benson and Steve Gadd are sometimes found sitting in for shows at this club.

An interesting fact that vocalist/guitarist Brian Chartrand brought up is the difficulty with promotion in Phoenix. “Because PHX is so spread out, you really need to find some ‘champions’ of the music that can help get the word out to friends.” He also recommended targeting your tour as an artist more toward the fall-spring months, as many of the younger demographics seem to leave for the summer. If you’re a fan, Chartrand mentions that there is a venue for really any style of music. If you want to stay up-to-date about who’s coming into town, check out AZCentral.com or the Phoenix New Times for schedules, venues and local picks.

The Sweet Remains is currently on tour through Europe, passing through Denmark and Germany and is also working on their next album. Check out their OS profile and hear their song “Moving in Slow Motion” right here.

Marketplace News: OurStage’s New Features

It’s been a busy summer here at OurStage. Since the beginning of May, we’ve launched three new features: Classifieds, Events and a revamped Artist EPK. For those of you who are new to OurStage, we wanted to recap the details of these features and how you can use them to enhance your OurStage experience.

OurStage’s music-centric Classifieds offers a vast array of categories and sub-categories to help artists, fans and industry professionals connect with each other to fulfill their music-related needs. OurStage members can post listings in six main categories: Musicians Wanted, Artist Opportunities, Services, Events, Connect and Personals. Posting will be free for a limited time, so get posting! For more info on Classifieds, check out the Classifieds FAQ.

Events is OurStage’s next step in helping fans discover their new favorite artists, and artists and industry pros help spread the word about their shows. Artists and industry pros add events to their OurStage calenders, either by hand or by enabling OurStage syncing, which are then displayed throughout the site on the artist’s profile (calendar tab and overview tab) and media item pages. Fans can also click on the “Hot Shows Near Me” link on any genre channel page to generate a list of shows in their area featuring hot artists in that channel. RSVP-ing to OurStage events adds them to the Calendar on your OurStage profile, which you can sync to your Google calendar to keep track of all of your upcoming events in one place! For more info on Events, check out the Events FAQs.

OurStage’s Artist EPK has always been a great tool for artists to present themselves to industry professionals, but now that we’ve talked to industry pros about their wants and needs, we’ve used this info to make our EPKs even better. The “Artist Info” tab is now easier to read and contains new fields so that artists can easily enter the info that industry pros need to know. Artists can write a 50-word mini bio for the new “Artist Preview” section on the EPK “Overview” tab, which also includes the ability to select a primary and secondary genre. EPK bios have a limit of 150 words to encourage artists to focus on their achievements and to keep industry professionals from being overwhelmed. This latest version of the EPK is more streamlined—allowing industry pros, who are looking to help artists take their next career step, to easily find the information that they need. Artists: Make sure you’ve filled out all of the new info fields and that your EPK is up to date. For more info about Artist EPKs, check out the FAQs.

Keep up with OurStage Magazine for the latest updates on new OurStage features for artists, fans and industry pros! If you have any questions about these new features, please email us at marketplace@ourstage.com.

New Music Biz 101: Mobile Applications

In today’s day and age, technology allows artists the opportunity to be in a lot of locations where their fans hang out.  The increase in smartphones, for one, has made the idea of being everywhere your fans are, quite literal. Today, artists are empowered to stay connected to their to those that support them, and engage them on a meaningful level from anywhere.

You know you can use Facebook to engage your fans from your smartphone, but the lack of branding opportunities perhaps makes the experience less than what it could be. Fortunately, there are a few businesses out there that work with their clients to create smartphone applications that represent the artists brand image and allows them to engage directly with their fan base. One such company is Mobile Backstage.

“Mobile Backstage is an individually branded social application for bands and artists to interact directly with their devoted fans via mobile.” The application offers the fan a focused way to interact with the artist, undisturbed by the often times distracting social media sites. The application immerses the fan in your own brand and your own image.

Some of the features include:

  • Sharing – Create and share exclusive media to your most committed fans
  • Music – Interactive discography, in-app listening and easy shopping prompts via iTunes
  • Visual – A tailored look and feel for each customer
  • Fan Interaction – Rate and comment on all media, create and share fan media, relevant and real-time feedback and other basic social media features

Tools like this are really great stepping-stones for artists in their revenue-generating careers. The cost of setup isn’t cheap and it is only when you’re gigging consistently and have a nice revenue stream that a tool such as this should be considered. The application cost $75/month to run, and has a $1,516 initial setup cost.

Let us know what you think about these applications. If you have any experience with mobile apps as a Mobile Backstage, share your wisdom!

Needle in the Haystack Follow Up: Lucy Bland

We’ve had a great week of promotion with the band Lucy Bland, this week’s Needle in the Haystack winners. If you haven’t done so already, download their free track here. Also check out their feature on MTVMusic.com. If you were wondering why you should become a fan of Lucy Bland, just take it from them in our Tweet & A. “Every time you listen you’ll hear something new. Our music has many different elements —something for everyone.”

We had a really great interview with the band and it was fun to get to know the band members a bit better during our call. Check out the video below. It provides a glimpse into the life of Lucy Bland!

Stay tuned for next week’s Needle in the Haystack featured artist!

 


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