From the void and also from Lancaster, PA.
Yes, after almost a year of not liveblogging my life in the music business, I've finally returned to the digital sphere to catch you up on what went down at Launch Music Conference this weekend. To ease you into the absolute flood of activity that comprises Launch (think Warped Tour meets college meets comic con meets Amish Country), I'm going to hit you with my top five moments from this weekend.
5. The Artist's Team Panel
The first panel I attended Saturday morning was all about The Artist's Team, and covered a whole lot more than just who comprises the team behind the musician.
The cliffnotes version of the panel includes key tips such as:
4. Approaching Troy
3. Getting Your Band Noticed Panel
Since I've been managing Birds In The Boneyard for the past six months, getting awareness of the band up has been a top priority. This panel was a pretty comprehensive breakdown of what that entails, with trademark Emily Becker cliffnotes below:
2. Chilling With Catalyst PR
I love the girls at Catalyst. They're not only easy and delightful to work for, they make it easy for anyone to join their squad of incredible musicians and industry professionals. I would not have met half the people I Did this weekend without the help of Kate, Chrissy, Jen, and Heather.
1. Midnight Mob
Recently I sat down with post-hardcore Que Sera at Fat Baby's, and I was STOKED as heck, because they're one of my favorite up-and-coming rock acts right now. They'll be on tour until August 3rd, and I highly recommend going out to catch a show.
Que Sera are incredibly enthusiastic about touring, everyone is in high spirits, excited for the chance to meet people on a common ground-- as a newer group fans are coming out not for the name of the band but for the shared love of music-- excited to try the best food in every city they visit, and excited to promote their album "Nomad" -- they're even excited about the album being leaked online. They explain that, as strange as it sounds, there's something about having your album illegally downloaded that let's you know you've really made it.
I asked them about their ideal tour, and they put together a diverse list of tourmates: Led Zeppelin, Andrew WK, Underoath, Letlive, and Ellie Goulding.
I was eager to talk to the band about their music videos-- some of the best and most theatrical I've ever seen. They explained that they come up with concepts based on indie films. Where the music is more emotionally driven and personal, the videos are cinematic, focusing on a plot and an event rather than the story of the song.
If you want to catch the band before they blow up, head over to their facebook, or grab their album "Nomad" on itunes!
Warped Tour this year was absolutely phenomenal-- the mix of artists was great, the weather was great, and I didn't get sunburnt. I could spend a week talking about everything I crammed into one day at punk rock summer camp, but I've condensed it down into one top ten list, for your reading pleasure.
In just a few short weeks Two Cheers are releasing their new album Splendor, a summery, deceptively upbeat album, featuring major chords with major angst. If you've got a taste for The Wombats, The Strokes, or Neutral Milk Hotel, you'll want to get your hooks into Splendor. I recently got to talk to vocalist Bryan Akcasu about their music, their writing, and their new album.
(Photos by Shab Ferdowsi)
1. First, please introduce yourselves!
My name is Bryan, I am the singer of Two Cheers and I also play rhythm guitar. Mitchell plays lead guitar, Al plays bass, and another plays Bryan the drums. Our good friend John O’Reilly Jr. also played drums on the record.
2. When you sat down to write this album, what were you hoping to achieve?
We sort of knew we were probably writing songs for an album, but most of the time we were just playing with ideas for the sake of it. In the past, we used to write songs in a very crafty way, kind of from the top down, and we wanted to break out of that and capture more improvisational, off-the-cuff elements. Sometimes we’d build a whole song around a tiny fragment of a riff. The entire song "Super Owls" was built around the brief chromatic power chord riff right before the chorus… It was a weird little thing that Mitchell was playing during one of our girlfriends’ play dates and I thought it would be fun to try to make a song out of it - kind of building a song from the inside out. I don’t have very lofty goals when I set out to make a song; my songs often start out as curiosities and only later do they become meaningful to me. Most of them do, anyway.
3. The entire album was created in an apartment, how was this different from working in a studio?
I’ve actually only worked in a proper studio a handful of times, and I’ve found that I am way more comfortable recording in a non-traditional studio environment. I find it very unpleasant to be on the clock when I am trying to capture a particular emotion or performance. Plus, I know what kind of microphones, preamps, compressors, and reverbs I like to use for each instrument, and I have them all set up and ready to go in my home studio. There is no prestige about it. For instance, I recorded the vocal for “The Explode Boys” in the middle of the night, right after I brushed my teeth before bed.
That said, there a few producers I’d like to work with if my budget ever allows it…
4. How did you achieve the unique musical tone of the album?
We used only a handful of instruments, amps, and effects for the album demos, and so they all kind of shared an aesthetic. I think the song that became “Splendor” was the blueprint in that regard. For example, we used Mitchell’s Fender Jaguar through a small Vox tube amp and some classic Lexicon reverbs and delays for most of the lead stuff. I used those same reverbs and delays on my vocals as well to give them the same vibe and authority. I also used only a small handful of organ tones from an old Roland JX-3P.
On top of that, we came up with all the songs in a relatively short amount of time, maybe four or five sessions over the course of a few months, so our tastes probably didn’t change too much during the demoing stage. Then, throughout the whole recording/mixing process we referenced our demos a lot to make sure the final recordings had the same flavor and excitement as the original sketches. But I think the fact that we were in complete control of every technicality from the demoing to the recording to the mixing to the mastering gave us the opportunity to craft a distinctive, pure sound without any compromises.
5. The album feels like a story- what story were you hoping to tell with the songs?
Well, the story isn’t an explicit one; it’s only a story in the sense that there is a spiritual, emotional progression that takes place from the beginning to the end. I mean, the details come from my life, but only in a very mixed up, asymmetrical way -- kind of like a collage of flashbacks. I can’t really explain it too much. That said, it’s vaguely a story about a series of cataclysmic experiences in my life that transformed my whole psyche.
6. How do you reconcile such melancholy lyrics with the upbeat music?
I don’t think the lyrics are particularly melancholy! I think that many of them deal with death, loss, insanity, and mourning, but even in those that do, it is in the spirit of facing those things, embracing those things, healing from them, and restructuring reality in order to deal with them. That's the gift of death -- it reminds me that nothing can be taken for granted and every moment I remain alive is sort of a revelation. Of course, life is still going to be harrowing, but I feel like there is a way to embrace the hardship. “Let Me Remember” and “Life Is Full Underground” are both about that: I’m telling myself to go ahead and hurt as badly as I can, to mourn with zeal, to remember everything about the dead as intensely and vividly as I can, but to do it all in the spirit of celebrating the life about me. Despite all that, the whole thing is still a fantastic, wondrous array. That’s why the album is called Splendor.
7. What surprised you most about making this album?
I was surprised by how naturally it came about. The music, the lyrics, the tones, the arrangements, and the concepts all seemed to just happen of themselves. The few times I had blocks on the lyrics it was because I had started trying too hard, so I picked up on that and just walked away for awhile. The hard part was in all the technical aspects of capturing it, particularly reproducing the energy and vitality of the demoes, and that is something I worked pretty intensely at and even fretted over a bit. But I think Mitchell and I tapped into something and it happened to be very deep and very generous! We are in love with these songs.