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!
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.
When I sat down to talk with Stalking Gia after her performance at Mercury Lounge on June 10th, I was not sure what to expect. She was a gorgeous singer with an epic voice, and I was still sweating from the M14 bus I had taken three hours ago to get to the show. I was worried that she would have an ego to match her talent—but I lucked out. Not only was Gia incredibly kind, but she was a wealth of musical knowledge and passion. In fact, the first thing she did when we sat down was gush about movie soundtracks.
“I’m obsessed,” she cooed. Soundtracks, particularly Donny Darko and American Beauty, influenced her first album, which she admits took a long time to write. She spent two years in LA putting the album together.
But after spending all that time in California, Gia has returned to New York and completed her third show in the city. Why did she leave LA?
“I had to get out of there before San Andreas happened,” she joked. “That earthquake is way overdue I don’t want to be there when it happens.” More seriously, she notes, “there’s nothing like a New York show.”
Her Mercury Lounge performance was number three in her triumphant return to the city, and she has evolved rapidly in her short time back on the East Coast. She has made drastic changes since her first show at Pianos, moving from long setlists with no drummer to shorter, more immersive shows with all live beats. She describes her end goal for live shows as “a reenactment of Snow White.” She believes shows need to be not just heard, but felt. In the studio, “it’s more electronic,” she says. But eventually she hopes “to hire a full band, an orchestra, and have a really epic, evolved sound.”
We discuss what makes her music so transformative— “when you’re writing for publishers you have to have this word and this sound¸ they have to be in control… but I sneak in my own ideas.” She concludes, “people want authenticity.” And that’s exactly what she gives them.
Check out the full photo gallery here!
Many songs have been written about New York City, from sources as diverse as Frank Sinatra and Jay Z. But after living in the city for three years, only one song has come close to capturing the physical feeling of walking down Broadway in the middle of the night and looking up, only to see the city surrounds not just you, but the stars. And it might surprise you to learn that this song comes not from a Manhattan band, but from British rock outfit Young Guns, who just debuted the track “Infinity” in preparation for their third studio album Ones and Zeros¸ due out June 9th.
I recently got the chance to talk to Young Guns' Fraser Taylor about Infinity, writing, and their new album.
Before you start, could you please introduce ourselves?
I'm Fraser, I play guitar and keys in the band.
What Was The Writing Process Like for Ones and Zeroes?
For the first time ever for us it was a lengthy process. We started writing some of the songs back in the beginning of 2013. Aside from time and travelling to different places it was relatively similar to writing our previous albums. Either John or myself will usually start off with a rough idea, be it a riff, a progression or a beat. Then, we'll take it to the other guys and let everyone add their stamp to it. We've always written in quite a democratic way and we generally don't use something unless we are all happy with it.
You've Mentioned in your release of "Infinity" that it was inspired by being in New York-- do you think that grounding music in a physical space makes a difference in how the song sounds?
I definitely think travelling has had an impact on how these songs sound. We spent a lot of time in New York recording some demos in a studio basically above Time Square and I think it would be difficult not to feed off that energy. However we wanted a British sounding record so we finally settled in Bath in the UK, probably the most quintessentially English place you'll ever go.
A Lot of your songs- not just "Infinity"- conjure up a feeling of being somewhere when you listen to them-- is this intentional?
There wasn't any intention to make our songs ground the listener in a certain place. The chorus lyrics for Infinity were written by John and Gus sitting out of the window in the apartment we were staying in and it was very much centered around that moment. I would say rather than wanting to conjure the feeling of being in a certain place it's more about relating to a moment and the emotions you get from that.
Young Guns have been compared to The Killers and Rise Against, and I would definitely say Interpol-- a lot of bands try to avoid being compared to other musicians, do you shy away from the comparisons or embrace them?
People will always have their own opinions on what a band sounds like. If comparing us to another musician gives someone a way in to listening to our music then it can only be a good thing. The Killers and Rise Against are two very different bands and we've never been compared to Interpol before and whether I agree or not, I'll gladly accept all three.
When writing an album, what are you hoping the listeners will get from your music?
I always remember back to the way albums made me feel when I was younger. Music can be so powerful and leave such a lasting impression on people. On a basic level all I want from this record or any of our previous ones is that people connect with it. It's so rewarding getting messages of how a song has helped people through a hard time, inspired them to do something for the first time or even just knowing it's playing at a house party thousands of miles away. That's what it's all about.
What specifically do you hope Ones and Zeros will convey?
I can't speak for Gustav from a lyrical point of view but for me the overall feeling of this record is a positive one. We've spent the last 5 years touring the world with everyone and anyone of all different genres and no matter what the show is people just want to come away having had a good time. There's a song on the record called 'Memento Mori' which means 'remember you will die'. So in other words make the most of every moment you have. That's something I hope people will take away from listening to this album.
Do you have a favorite track off of the upcoming record?
My favourite is a song called Lullaby. It's probably the most intimate song we have ever recorded. We started writing it in 2013 but we didn't actually decide on the finished version until we were in the studio in Bath. So it's been a real labour of love - countless different chorus and beats to get the right one but I'm so happy with the way it turned out.
What are your plans for after the release?
The album comes out half way through the UK headline tour we are on at the moment after that we head back to the states for a tour with Three Days Grace then back for a few European festivals and a show in Taiwan. That's about all the information I can divulge at this point in time but we just want to be out on the road seeing all the fans we haven't seen in a while.
Ones and Zeros comes out next week, and if you want to keep up with Young Guns you can check out their Facebook, or watch more of their videos on Youtube.
Let's say, hypothetically, that the Museum of Modern Art's more avant garde rooms (the ones that we were always told on field trips not to go into) became sentient beings, fell in love with disco and 80s electronic pop, and decided to start a band. What you would get, in the best case scenario, is The Young Professionals, an art-pop band from Tel Aviv that has broken down the walls between visual and performance art.
The Young Professionals caught their first break when their cover video of D.I.S.C.O. (a song originally performed by Ottawan in 1979) went viral, and it's no wonder that it did, considering how many levels of artistry it climbed in just a few short minutes.
I got the chance to talk to the band about their upcoming release, their roles as artists and musicians, and their plans for the future.
Before anything else, please introduce yourselves and let everyone know what your role in the band is.
I’m Ivri Lider, and I am the lead singer of the The Young Professionals.
Let’s address the obvious first—your music transcends a simple sonic experience, the visuals behind your songs add so much depth to the music you’re making. Was it a conscious decision when you started the band that you wanted to take on more than just the “hearing” part of music?
Definitely yes, we always felt like the visual aspect is very important and is a great way to help music and lyrics get to the heart/mind of the listener/viewer. we feel like these days we not only "hear" music , we actually "see" it at the same time usually and that makes the visual aspect really important.
Your springboard came from your viral video for DISCO, do you feel that the videos you make now have to live up to that first phenomenon?
When you do well with your first video it usually becomes a reference to theory stuff you create after. We try not to imitate it but to take the fun creative spirit that led to it as a way to handle all our projects.
Your musical influences (70s disco and 80s electronic) are usually considered to be the lesser side of music, especially when you consider the Disco Demolition in 1979. But you’ve managed to take genres that are normally thought of as sort of brainless and make them dark and thoughtful—where do you draw that darkness and lyrical intelligence from?
We feel like the combination between something that’s "light" and "simple" and something that is darker and deeper to be interesting. combining different styles and moods is interesting for us.
The artists that I would consider to be your contemporaries are Lady Gaga and The Scissor Sisters— but your work is very distinct even compared to them. Who would you consider to be your contemporaries in the modern music scene?
we are honored of those examples and we'll def add the Pet Shop Boys , LCD Soundsystem , Stromae , Justice, NIN
You’ve performed at Tel Aviv’s Museum of Art, would you consider an art museum to be the ideal venue for experiencing the type of music you make?
It's def one of them, we had a great time creating that piece for the museum with the music and video and we really hope we'll get to do a lot more of those next to the more "regular" music venues
You’re releasing your new single “All Of It But Me” on February 20th, what are your goals for this year following the release?
We're finishing our new album these days, we're really proud of it and we hope that we'll get to release more songs and vids from it soon so people all over can connect to it. We had a lot of fun writing and recording it, and there's some really cool collaborations on it so we hope people will like it.
If you want to keep up with The Young Professionals, check out their Facebook page, and visit their Youtube for more exceptional videos.