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founders penelope martinez mariana patino editor-in-chief + design penelope martinez managing + copy editor lori gutman writers lindsy carr, kelly fadden, vivien bui, abbey dufoe photographers bethan miller, craig taylor-broad, erlinda sanchez, grayson hary, jason cox, kelli coyne, leah dickerman, lori gutman, mimi hong, penelope martinez, priten vora
THANK YOU lights payton wang // warner brothers pvris mike cubillos // earshot music moose blood austin griswold // secret service pr ajr ceri roberts // warner brothers â€˜68 bill meis // entone group anakin austin griswold // secret service pr
connect: @focuszine facebook.com/focuszine focuszine.tumblr.com website: focuszine.com for any inquiries: email@example.com
seth kean, sara legel, heidi robinson-fitzgerald, michele stephens, joshua hammond, katie leggett, herfitz pr, epitaph records, reybee productions, press here publicity + everyone who made this issue possible.
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CONTENTS 6 artist of the month 14 behind the band 18 local spotlight 22 24 28 32 36 42
anakin â€˜68 ajr moose blood pvris lights
58 album reviews 60 show reviews 74 gallery
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t s i t r A he t f o th n o M
PHOTO: IZZY COMMERS
WHO: Sara Legel WHAT: Design + Illustration WHERE: facebook.com/legelsara
SARA LEGEL TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU GOT INTO ART. I’ll be turning twenty this year. I grew up in Farmington, Minnesota, and I moved to Minneapolis this past August. I can't exactly remember a time where I "got into" art or suddenly found an interest in it or anything like that. When I was a kid, my dad was always drawing silly faces on paper tablecloths, and we played drawing games on napkins with the pen from his wallet. My mom has photos of me when I was super little passed out with my face stuck to the pages of a notebook that I was doodling in. I guess I can't really tell you how I got into art— it's just always been involved in my life some how. I can't even remember my first art show. In high school, I painted a couple of installations around the school and community, and started working on merchandise for a few local bands. Now I'm living in Minneapolis and creating art is a full-time obligation for me. DO YOU CURRENTLY HAVE ANOTHER JOB OR DO YOU ATTEND SCHOOL? Right now, I'm a freshman in my second semester at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I'm currently undeclared, but I'm teetering between a major in Drawing and Painting or in Print Paper Book. I don't have any other jobs right now. Freelancing is my main focus, along with being a full-time student. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE AND LEAST FAVORITE ASPECTS OF CREATING ART? I think my least favorite thing, and the only thing I don’t like sometimes, is the concept of time—whether that be the time it takes to finish something or the time crunches that come with deadlines. When something takes too long to finish, I usually get pretty bored with it and
leave it be for weeks, months, and even sometimes years at a time. I have a lot of unfinished pieces sitting around. Time crunches… I think they speak for themselves. Creating art in a stressful environment isn’t always fun. I really, really love everything else WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS LIKE? Honestly, I spend a lot of time on Google. If I have an idea or if I’ve been given an idea, I’ll spend some time researching and looking up different references or photos. Then a lot of trial and error comes along after that. I always go through a bunch of different drafts and sketches before I come even remotely close to giving a client something to give me feedback on or, if it’s a personal project, until I’m happy with it. I guess it just develops over a period of time. That’s actually really fun to pay attention to and be able to look back on to revisit certain things. YOU DO A LOT OF REALISTIC PORTRAITS OF PEOPLE. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT DRAWING THESE? I really like the satisfaction of being able to reproduce something that's so unique, even though the portraits are basically just renderings. Faces tell a lot about the people they're attached to. The way somebody chooses to look, the wrinkles on their face, all the way down to how their eyes appear in a photo—it all tells a lot about their personality and who they are as a person. I find that really interesting. Granted, there isn't much creativity involved in copying a photo, but there are always different things you can do or different tools you can use to create a different or specific look for something. That sometimes takes some creativity in terms of technique. I think that was my favorite part when I really started getting into portraiture. I
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loved that it was something I had to set out to master, and I’m still making progress every time I start to draw a new face.
somebody’s idea and then creating and collaborating with them to get that vision on paper is such a cool process.
HOW DO YOU GET INSPIRED WHEN YOU HAVE TO DESIGN SOMETHING FOR A CLIENT? Again, I guess it really depends on what I'm working on and whom it's going to. A lot of the time, with merchandise specifically, I get a lot of artistic freedom. Sometimes, that's extremely frustrating, but other times it's incredibly fulfilling. Being granted artistic freedom is also always an honor. Being trusted to just go forward and create something completely unique for somebody who appreciates your work is truly inspiring, and that's why I find it so personally fulfilling. It’s also awesome to be given and trusted with a concept. Being able to run with
YOU ALSO DESIGN TATTOOS FOR PEOPLE. HAVE YOU CONSIDERED BECOMING A TATTOO ARTIST? I definitely have considered tattooing, and I still would very much like to go on to tattooing after I'm done with school. I've approached and have been approached by artists about apprenticeships, but everything involving tattooing has been put on hold for school at the moment. I have plans to pursue an apprenticeship after spring semester ends in May, and hopefully this summer holds some good things in store for me. Until then, I'll be up for designing more tattoos if anyone would like one. It's really an
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indescribable feeling when you see your art as a permanent installation on somebody's body and they're proud to wear it. IN SUCH A COMPETITIVE FIELD, HOW DO YOU STAY INSPIRED AND SET YOURSELF APART FROM OTHER ARTISTS? As far as setting myself apart from other artists, I just try to be as present as possible. Because merch is my main focus right now, I just really try to be around… As vague as that sounds. Talking to people really is the best way to get exposure of any sort, no matter what kind of art you create—whether that's music, photography, tattoos, or fine art. I've met so many extraordinary musicians, artists, promoters, show goers, and even supportive parents. Without them, I wouldn't have had the opportunity or privilege to work with so many different bands and projects. Now that I'm thinking about it, I think the people I’ve encountered inspire me to keep doing what I'm doing. It's inspiring to know that because I created one design for a band, they may be able to make enough money to make it to their next show, whether that's in the next neighborhood, next city, or even over a few states. It's also fantastic to see people wearing shirts, pinning buttons, or sewing patches
onto their jeans, and wearing them proudly. By throwing on that shirt in the morning, they're supporting so many people: the band whose name is on it, the artist who made it, and even the people who printed it. It's just great to see all of the continuous support. WHEN IT COMES TO CREATING MERCHANDISE, DO YOU FIND IT DIFFICULT TO COME UP WITH IDEAS? Yes and no. I think it depends a lot on what band it is and what kind of music they make, along with how well I know them. It seems like it’s always easier to create something original when I really know the band and their music. It’s also a lot easier when the band gives me a concept to work from. HAVE YOU HAD A ROUGH TIME IN THIS CAREER? IF SO, WOULD YOU MIND SHARING THE EXPERIENCE AND HOW YOU WERE ABLE TO STAY FOCUSED AND DETERMINED DURING THAT TIME? Like with anything else in the art industry, it takes time and so much effort to become established with your work even in the slightest— personally and publicly. I have had some really tough times with sticking to it all and not giving
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in to the pressure that comes along with such a competitive area of interest. You could create a piece that you’re proud of and really excited to release or to let people see. But then you see somebody else’s work and it seems so much better than anything you could ever make. I feel like everyone in any creative career has been discouraged like that at some point. I think I’ve really had to think about how lucky I am to be able to do something as fulfilling as art as a fulltime occupation. That’s what really keeps me determined and helps me keep doing what I do. It’s about not giving up or giving in to all the pressures and competitiveness surrounding freelancing. WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE IN FIVE YEARS? I definitely want to have graduated with my bachelors by then. Eventually, I would really like to get an apprenticeship completed at a shop and be licensed in tattooing as well. There are so many things that I could be doing in five years with what I will have learned in school as
well as from freelancing, and my goals are to keep my options open. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE HOPING TO PURSUE ART AS A CAREER? I think that anyone that’s planning on being serious in the art world needs to remember that nothing comes without an insane amount of hard work. You have to be willing to put a lot of time and effort into it. WHAT ARE YOU FOCUSING ON RIGHT NOW? Currently, I’m focusing on school, freelancing, and trying to network and build as many relationships within the art world as I possibly can. In the very near future, I’ll be collaborating with lots of people on a project that we’re all really excited about and hopeful to start.
GET CONNECTED: facebook.com/legelsara saralegel
ALL WORK BY SARA LEGEL
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BEHIND THE BAND NAME: Seth Kean JOB: Promoter, Artist Manager + Booking Agent RESUME: Queen City Productions, The Reflex Agency TO START OFF, TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU GOT INVOLVED WITH THE MUSIC INDUSTRY. I am a full-time promoter (Queen City Productions) and artist manager/booking agent (The Reflex Agency) based out of Springfield, MO. I put on concerts in Springfield and Kansas City, MO, and in Lawrence, KS. I got my start in the industry as a promoter doing shows out of my church in a very small town called Rolla located in the middle of Missouri. There wasnâ€™t much of a music scene there,
but we were able to work with some awesome bands, including For Today, A Plea For Purging, and War of Ages, while they were at their peaks or about to blow up. After a few years of doing shows there, I made the move to Springfield, MO, so I could start working with larger bands and a bigger music community. I worked a few jobs while doing shows, up until about two years ago when I realized that I could pursue this as a full-time job. I don't know if I could ever go back to working a "normal 9-5 job" ever again. Getting to do what
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN BOOKING FOR? HOW MANY MONTHS OR YEARS OF EXPERIENCE DO YOU THINK PEOPLE NEED BEFORE THEY CAN SERIOUSLY GET INVOLVED WITH THE INDUSTRY? I have been booking shows since 2007, so I’ll have been booking for eight years this upcoming September. I think it just depends on the person. I didn't stand out to most people until about two years ago when I decided to risk it all and go full-time as a promoter. I took on several larger shows on my own to push our area and to see what it could do, and it has been insanely successful. Springfield is a market that most people push off as a small market due to competition with Kansas City and St. Louis. Over the last few years, we have changed that mindset. We have become quite the dominant market in the Midwest, and we’ve been taking a lot of shows from the larger cities. We show more consistency here than other markets in the region do, and we have always had great turnouts. I think anyone who starts this profession and has the right drive and mindset can pick it up. You have to be super organized and have the finances to back things up. I definitely feel like having solid income is a priority before taking on shows. You need to be able to plan for the worst so that you can back up a show if it has terrible attendance. I [knock on wood] can say that in all my years, I have only lost money three times—the most was ninety-six dollars. I have heard horror stories of people losing thousands of dollars after trying to take on more than they could. I definitely tell that to any new promoter who thinks he’s ready to make the plunge into this full-time. You spend a lot of time working from the bottom and picking up small shows before you can work with major agents and artists. It won't be a quick process by any means. I tell most promoters to not get discouraged and to just fight for any shows they can in order to show agents that they're worthy. WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES, GOALS, AND TASKS OF A BOOKING AGENT? My goals as a booking agent are pretty basic. They just consist of getting a band or package
from city to city with short drives and good guarantees. I have to route the band’s whole tour out, get it approved through the bands and their management, and then start the process of booking it with promoters and venues all over the country. A lot of booking agents make it seem like a difficult task, but, in the short six months I have switched to booking for bands, I have found it very easy and quite successful. I've heard horror stories about bands having to make ten to twelve-hour drives, and it never made sense to me considering how many cities and markets there are across the country. I feel that being a full time promoter has helped with booking because I have so many connections and friendships with promoters from all over the country. It made the transition very easy. I tend to keep most of my drives for the bands under six hours, with a max of eight hours. My main goal is for bands to enjoy the time on the road and to actually see the cities they're playing in. There is nothing worse than going to all of these cities and not seeing anything besides the venues.
PROMOTERS ARE THE LEAST RESPECTED PEOPLE IN THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY AND WE HAVE THE MOST AT RISK.
I love has been wonderful—it’s my dream job.
WHAT IS A NORMAL DAY FOR YOU? Haha, I don't remember the last time I had a normal day. I start working from the time I wake—usually between seven and eight in the morning—until I go to bed some time between midnight and two in the morning. I usually start my day with breakfast and a work out. The gym has played a huge part in keeping my sanity over the years, and it’s a great way to clear my head for a little while each day. If it's a non-show day, I usually get to a local coffee shop around noon and stay there until anywhere from six to eight in the evening, depending on workload. If it's a show day, I am usually at the same shop, but I leave to do load-in around three or four. After that, I go nonstop until about midnight. Each day varies by the tasks I have to do, but you can normally find me at one of our venues or at Mudhouse. I tend to only sleep and shower
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DO YOU ONLY BOOK SHOWS IN A CERTAIN STATE, OR DO YOU TAKE ON FULL TOURS? As a promoter, I book shows in two Missouri markets (Springfield and Kansas City) and one in Kansas (Lawrence). As a booking agent, I book all over the US. I’m still building myself up in some areas, but, luckily, I have some amazing bands under my belt. They make my job really easy. Promoters and fans want them all over the country, so it’s usually easy to lock stuff in for them. FROM YOUR EXPERIENCES SO FAR, WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND TO BE THE MOST CHALLENGING? AND HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH IT? The most challenging thing is the time and effort that you have to dedicate to the job. I am easily the busiest person I know. Most people think we just show up the day of a show and that’s it. They don’t take into consideration the months of prep and promotion we have to do as a promoter. Promoters are the least respected people in the entire industry and we have the most at risk. It’s definitely a very discouraging task to take on at first, especially when you have so much going against you. YOU’RE ALSO AN ARTIST MANAGER. WHAT ARE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS A MANAGER COMPARED TO THOSE OF A BOOKING AGENT? As a manager, I tend to feel more like a parent than anything else. I’m in daily contact with all of the members of the bands, and I help them with all the tasks they need to do. I’m also the one normally relaying info to labels, booking agents, and the members themselves on everything. I’m usually in charge of everything band-related (scheduling, finances, merch) so that the members can focus solely on playing without having to worry about anything else. This is the newest part of the industry I have broken into. For years, bands have asked me to step into that role due to my knowledge of the industry and connections, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually decided to pursue it. I was a little shocked at the amount of bands that hit me up when I announced that I was going into this profession.
HOW IMPORTANT IS A BAND’S SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE FOR YOU, AS BOTH A MANAGER AND AS A BOOKING AGENT? In this day and age, it is easily one of the most parts of being in and managing a band. You have to have a strong social media presence or you’re easily forgotten and you’ll lose buzz. Having a dedicated member or two to stay on top of your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts is a must. This is also the best way to stay in touch with fans. I work for bands that will comment and reply to every single post or message they get, and it means the world to fans. A lot of bands get a taste of fame and tend to forget that it’s their fans who really got them to where they are. I think social media is easily the best way to keep bands and fans in contact and to pass along all upcoming information. They also need to take into account when to post things so they can have the best possible reach. A band’s social media presence has become quite the art form, and you can definitely differentiate between those who have mastered it and those that are lacking. Keeping people engaged is the main objective to stay on top of.
I DON’T KNOW IF I COULD EVER GO BACK TO WORKING A “NORMAL 9-5 JOB” EVER AGAIN.
GETTING TO DO WHAT I LOVE HAS BEEN WONDERFUL.
at my house, so I’m not there much.
YOU’RE THE FOUNDER OF QUEEN CITY PRODUCTIONS. HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT, AND WHAT ARE SOME PLANS FOR THE COMPANY THIS YEAR?
Queen City Productions [QCP] came about as a way to help small bands I enjoyed or was already friends with. I wanted to help them get more shows. I saw a lot of worth in these artists, and I wanted to make sure others did as well. As the bands started growing, I kept up with them. I started building my name throughout the industry and gradually took on more shows. This year is going to be absolutely insane for us at QCP, and we are only two months in! I have locked in some of the biggest shows of my career already, and it’s only going to get crazier from here on out. We’re in the early stages of doing a first-ever Warped Tour style music festival here at the end of 2015, and we’re working on bringing in some amazing heavy and radio-rock artists. This will be very unheard of for the area considering the caliber of the artists we’re throwing around right now, so I’m very excited. I’m still a kid at heart, and I get really excited when it comes to new shows or branching out of my comfort zone with genres I have never worked with. I don’t like settling, and I always want to push myself to do bigger and better things. Still, at this time in my career, I’m just having a lot of fun. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST LESSONS YOU’VE LEARNED THUS FAR? I have learned that hard work and grinding is the most important thing in this industry. You always have to be on top of your game, or else you’ll be passed up for another person. This industry is always changing and you have to be flexible enough to adapt with it. You either give this job everything you have or you don’t even try and branch into it. I have met some of the best people in my life through this job, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
I have this crazy wild lifestyle, but I feel like I’m one of the most boring people ever. I am totally happy with just spending time with my friends in a small setting or being home watching a movie instead of doing something crazy. I feel like I have the mindset of an old man as I type this, and I’m only twenty-six! DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR THOSE WANTING TO GET MORE INVOLVED IN WHAT YOU DO? Don't ever let anyone try and change your passion for this industry. If this only becomes a job, then you will start to hate it. That’s when you risk losing everything. I see this more as an opportunity to build friendships and have fun than as a career. I get paid to hang out at concerts and send my friends all over the country to have fun with people that believe in them. It's easily the coolest thing in the world to me.
GET CONNECTED: QUEEN CITY PRODUCTIONSfacebook.com/QueenCityProductions queencitypro REFLEX AGENCYfacebook.com/reflexartistmgmt TheReflexAgency SETHsethismusic
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS? This is a very tough question for me. I'd like to say that I’ll be living somewhere with a less temperamental climate than in the Midwest, but this area has been very good to me. I see more and more success coming to me here, and I like being close to my family and friends. I'd hope to be known as one of the top promoters in the country, and I’d also like to take on several other artists for management and booking. I am a very simplistic person and do not need a lot of change. People think that, with my profession,
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Hail Your Highness HOMETOWN:
GRAYLING, MI FOR FANS OF:
FROM INDIAN LAKES, ARCHITECTS, CIRCA SURVIVE, VERSAEMERGE, CHIODOS
FOR ANYONE WHO ISN’T FAMILIAR WITH THE BAND, CAN YOU STATE YOUR NAMES AND ROLES? JESSIE: I sing and play the guitar and the bass. NIKI: I sing and play the drums. HOW DID BOTH OF YOU FIRST GET INTO MUSIC, AND HOW DID THE BAND FORM? JESSIE: Music has been a part of our lives from a very young age. We’re sisters, so we’ve been playing music together for quite some time now. Our dad had an old Alvarez acoustic guitar that I would always sneak out of the case and play. NIKI: Jessie started playing instruments first, so I wanted to play as well. I have ADD, and drums were a perfect fit for a hyper kid. We played music in church for most of our preteen and teenage years. The older we got, the more we wanted to start something of our own and really use our own voices for things that were important to us. We grew out of that church “four walls” mindset. Our parents started a venue/youth center, and that really gave us the opportunity to play every weekend and to test the waters for starting a band. That’s really where the birth of Hail Your Highness came out of back in 2006. WHO OR WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATIONS, MUSICALLY OR OR NON-MUSICALLY? Musically, what started the inspiration for our band was a band called Kids In The Way. They were, and still are even though they’re not
together anymore, one of our all-time favorite bands. They lit the fire underneath us. We had the opportunity to see them live so many times, and also to befriend them and learn from them. It was incredible for us as teenagers. Devin and Toby from Emery were also great inspirations for us as a band getting started. They really showed a great example for us as a band with two lead singers. Their melodies and lyrics really helped mold our style. Architects have always been an underlying inspiration for us, and even more so over the past year. They’ve changed the game for us musically and lyrically, and also introduced us to a lifestyle. It has been incredibly eye opening for us. From Indian Lakes is another band that has really heavily influenced us over the past few years. The way Joey Vannucchi sings a melody is absolutely insane. JESSIE: Personally, Judy Garland is a huge inspiration for me. The way that woman performed live, along with the unique power in her voice, gives me Goosebumps every time I listen to her or watch her sing. I’m a huge old Hollywood fan, so powerful ladies from that era, like Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe, Debbie Reynolds, and Joan Crawford, really inspire me. Niki: Pocahontas. I am Pocahontas. YOUR EP, ALBION, WAS RELEASED IN NOVEMBER. WHAT WAS THE WRITING AND RECORDING PROCESS LIKE? Albion is the sixth EP we’ve put out independently over the past nine years. It’s a very special and important EP for us. It feels like the first real thing we’ve ever done. We came to a place in our careers where we really needed to showcase what we could do as a two-piece band. Over the years, we never really had anything that fully represented us as a band with a good quality sound or as a two-piece. There were always former members or fill-ins playing on our previous records. We wanted to do this EP all on our own. The first two songs off the EP, “Violent Ends” and “Hoax,” came together fairly easily. We had been playing “Hoax” live for two years, so we had that one locked down. Finishing “Once & Future,” the last song for the EP, was a little bit more difficult. We could tell this was going to be a really special song, and we wanted to get it right. The pressure and expectations for that song really hindered us.
During the writing process, we were able to go see Architects live two nights in a row, and that absolutely gave us an incredible push to finish it. We were in awe both nights, and the things we saw, heard, and experienced were more than enough to fuel the rest of the writing and recording process. We recorded with some of our best friends in the entire world, Joe Stockton and Chris Duke, at a great studio called Butchertown Pub Studios in Louisville, KY. They’ve watched our band grow since we were teenagers. They’ve played our music and seen our shows, and it was Joe’s idea to fully embrace the two-piece lineup a few years ago. It was a very encouraging and safe environment for us to make this EP in. Joe and Chris were incredibly supportive and were willing to try anything. It was the best possible fit for us. We laughed a lot, we cried a little too, and it was a great learning and empowering experience for us as a band. IS THERE A SONG OFF THE EP THAT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT TO CREATE? Like we said, “Once & Future” was probably the most challenging. Still, it was exciting to work on once we got the proper inspiration to finish it. We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go with it lyrically, but going to those Architects shows helped immensely. Really digging into their latest record, Lost Forever // Lost Together, helped us zone in on what we wanted to say. We knew the lyrics of this song had to be strong and powerful throughout, and we wanted to bring a sense of hope and encouragement towards its end. We really believe that we were able to convey that through the song’s lyrics and through the intention of the music. WHAT MAKES YOUR BAND STAND OUT? Well, we’re sisters, and we’re a two-piece band. Yes, it has been done, but not with a sound like ours. We take inspiration from so many different styles of music and try to steer away from your typical “female-fronted band sound.” We want to be taken seriously as a band and as musicians and not be seen as just a gimmick. It makes us push harder and go the extra mile to really floor people with our music, not only in recorded form but also at our live shows. Seeing it all come together live really sets
us apart—hearing the sound that only two FOCUS MAGAZINE // 19
WE WANT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS A BAND AND
people can make with drums, a guitar, a bass track, and two voices. THE EP WAS CROWD-FUNDED ON INDIEGOGO. WHAT WAS IT LIKE USING FANS’ HELP TO CREATE THE EP? WERE THERE ANY CONCERNS? It was very humbling and fulfilling to be able to crowd-fund the EP. We didn’t think anyone cared about a new direction for this band. We figured we’d be lucky to get a couple hundred dollars. When we hit the first thousand dollars in our first week, we knew we had some very special people still supporting us and standing with us as a band. It’s a really beautiful experience working with the people who love your music— people who have chosen to support it for the long run. It made sense, and people showed us that they still believed in us and were willing to support a new journey with our band. They financially stepped up and supported a new EP, and we think that’s really amazing. WHAT IS YOUR LOCAL MUSIC SCENE LIKE? It’s not nearly as developed and supported as we hope and wish it would be. But we’re lucky
enough to have a great friend in our hometown, James Lee Jones, who runs a venue and record store called Trust Fall Records & Coffee. He’s really pushing to develop our community musically. We’re from Northern Michigan, so sometimes it’s hard to get people on board with live, original music. There are communities thriving three hours away, or even one hour west of where we live. We’d really love to incorporate what we’ve learned and seen over the years into developing a really diverse group of musicians up here. There needs to be a unity, and the musical needs to be encouraged up here. It’s an upward battle right now, but we’re hoping to continue seeing original music grow and be nurtured up here. We also want to be able to bring more statewide and regional bands up to Trust Fall. It really is such a cool venue, and it should be a destination for any band traveling up past Grand Rapids or Lansing. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO TOUR OR WORK WITH IN THE FUTURE? Oh jeez, there are so many musicians we’d love to work with and tour alongside. Bands we dream about touring with include Architects,
AS MUSICIANS AND NOT BE SEEN AS JUST A GIMMICK.
From Indian Lakes, and Circa Survive. It’d be so sick to play shows with bands like Dead Sara, Deap Vally, and The Joy Formidable—bands that have incredibly strong female musicians. Just to be able to open for and tour with any of those bands would be an incredible treat for us. We’re willing and waiting! WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UPCOMING PLANS CONCERNING LIVE SHOWS AND MUSIC? Right now, we’re working on writing a new EP and finishing some new music. We’re going to need to put another recording plan in motion. We’re really working on broadening our horizons musically and pushing ourselves to write better. We also want to create an intriguing and exciting live show. We’ve been putting together our press kits and really seeing what we can do with Albion. We’re hoping to have a good run of festivals and shows this summer. We really didn’t get to play a whole lot last year because of the writing, recording, and production process with the EP and the Indiegogo campaign, so we really want to have a good summer run this year. So, yeah, we just really want to play more shows and pursue the possibilities of taking our band
to a new level, while also growing, learning, and proving that we belong in this industry.
INTERVIEW: Lindsy Carr GET CONNECTED: facebook.com/hailyourhighness hailyourhighness.bandcamp.com hyhband
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INTERVIEW + STORY: Lindsy Carr
When the members of Anakin came together in 2010, they had a clear goal in mind—to create an auditory atmosphere for listeners. Since the band’s formation, they’ve released two EPs, and, most recently, their sophomore record, Celestial Frequency Shifter. Within that time, they have definitely succeeded and surpassed that initial goal. Originally, the band started as drummer Brad Chancellor’s personal project. “I initially created Anakin to act as my own little experiment… One that would enable me to write and record music that I would personally love to listen to,” he states. “For the most part, I had always been the drummer in bands, but I always wrote on the side and saved those songs in the hopes that one day I would eventually turn them into the real deal.” With time, he developed friendships and recruited people that could help him develop his music and create a band. “It wasn’t until I met Jon [Wessel] that it seemed like I had discovered the one person who I could partner up with and establish what I had always envisioned Anakin to be,” he continues. “We then added Landon [Cobarrubias] and Beki [Andreasen] into the mix. Both are very close buddies of mine. I had played music with them in the past, and it worked really well, so it was a no brainer for them to be included. The rest is history.”
GET CONNECTED: anakinmusic.com facebook.com/anakinmusic anakinmusic
The band has many musical inspirations, including HUM, Weezer, Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins, Helmet, Failure, Self, Fountains of Wayne, The Rentals. “Jon is obsessed with the Beach Boys and I love that about him. I honestly don’t listen to many current artists. I’m a 90s kid at heart, and that’s about all I listen to, really. However, there are a couple newer bands that I’m into at the moment—The Lees of Memory and Superheaven. Our buddies in Sidewave are pretty awesome as well.” Still, musicians aren’t the only people who inspire the members of Anakin. “I would have to say my buddy, Luke Simmons, is a huge inspiration. For five years, he battled brain cancer and somehow kept positive down to his very last breath. He was only twenty-seven years old when he died. I could have never dealt with that as well as he did. I continue to strive to live within a positive mindset, and he’s the main reason behind that,” Brad confesses. All these influences really inspired the band during the writing and recording of their second full-length, and, as any artist does, Anakin continued to grow as the work on the album progressed. “I would say that our communication has improved as a band, and that makes this all so much easier. I think we’ve developed a process or a recipe that really works, and it’s
not rocket science,” he tells us. “I don’t want to downplay what we do, but, honestly, we simply write and record music that we love… Music that we would listen to ourselves,” Brad states. That’s the whole idea behind the band, and it’s been there since day one. In December, while in the midst of putting the record together, the band signed to No Sleep Records. Brad believes that this was an excellent choice for them. “For me, it was how down to Earth and honest they were. Not once did they ever make it seem like they were above us. They’re normal people who truly care about the music they release. Most importantly, they were willing to give us a chance, and not too many labels out there will do that with a band as unknown as Anakin,” he explains. On February 3rd, Anakin released Celestial Frequency Shifter via No Sleep. For them, choosing “Satellite” as the first single was an easy decision, although they considered another track. “We pretty much had it in our minds that ‘Satellite’ would be what we chose to premiere, but we seriously thought about going with ‘Clairvoyance’ as well,” Brad says. “In the end, we decided that ‘Satellite’ was the best option for introducing Anakin to new listeners. It has a pretty mellow vibe and I think it sits well as a winter tune, whereas ‘Clairvoyance’ is more upbeat and would probably be better received in the summertime,” he adds. From the track titles to the album artwork to the song lyrics and anywhere in between, there is a recurring theme of space—something that has fascinated Brad for as long as he can remember. “I think it probably all started when I was four years old. My dad told me he had a UFO encounter. He still swears to this day that he was nearly abducted. Ever since then, I have been obsessed with UFO conspiracy theories and ultimately the vast unknown that comes with outer space,” he discloses. The band’s lead vocalist also shares this passion. “When I met Jon and uncovered that he was as much a nerd about it as I was, I realized we were a match made in Heaven,” Brad continues. Even with Celestial Frequency Shifter getting outstanding reviews, the members of Anakin have had their fair share of obstacles, personal-
ly and within the music industry. “Outside of the band, we all have our own careers and lives. For me, personally, I think the main obstacle early on was not being able to have a voice in whatever band I was in at the time,” Brad expresses. “More likely than not, it’s abnormal when the drummer writes the music. It seemed like I always butted heads with musicians in the past due to that. Hence why I created Anakin. Within the music industry, I think the idea that you have to tour until you were broke in order to advance your musical career really set me back a bit. I made some terrible choices in that mindset,” he adds. Despite this, for Anakin, all of the challenges and doubts are worth the outcome. On top of creating music they once only dreamed of, they are developing a new family with their fans. “I want Anakin to be as much theirs as it is ours. I believe they all take part in Anakin’s existence. We couldn’t do this without them, and I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Brad shares. The band hopes that their listeners can take relate to their music and any way possible. “I hope they take whatever it is they want from it. However it relates to them... I’d like to think it translates to what they need it to.” When Anakin isn’t busy writing new music or promoting their latest release, the band makes sure to interact with those fans via social media, which, admittedly, is extremely important for them. “Those people mean the world to this band, and we try to let them know it on a consistent basis. Anakin would not have made it to where we are now without all their love and support. It’s not hard at all to respond to someone who comments or writes in. I think it’s simple respect to do so. The “Fanakins” need to know they are as much a part in this as we are. We love them,” Brad exclaims. With the recent release of Anakin’s second fulllength, they admit that they don’t have any set tour plans just yet. “We’ve discussed it quite a bit. Families and careers can make that all pretty tricky. It’s still early 2015, so we’ll see. I hope that our music is able to reach as many new humans as possible,” Brad explains. 2015 is just the beginning for Anakin, and we can’t see what the future holds!
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NOT LONG AFTER JOSH SCOGIN’S PREVIOUS BAND, THE CHARIOT, DISBANDED, THE FRONTMAN KNEW HE WANTED TO CONTINUE MAKING MUSIC. WITH THIS IN MIND, HE CALLED UP HIS OLD FRIEND, MICHAEL MCCLELLAN, AND SHARED A NEW BAND IDEA WITH HIM. TOGETHER, THEY SET OUT ON THEIR CURRENT, ON-THE-RISE MUSICAL ENDEAVOR—A ROCK DUO CALLED ‘68. Because he wanted a name that wouldn’t be lost in translation, Scogin decided to title the new project after his father’s car. “My dad had a '68 Camaro. It was something that really bonded me and my father while he was still alive,” he shares. Luckily, over the past year and a half, this project has grown and blossomed into something that fans worldwide can recognize and bond over. Prior to actually sharing the news of his new band, Scogin created a website, theyare68.com, with a counter on it. Once the time ran out, the project was officially announced, and the band’s first two-song EP was on sale. This EP, titled Midnight, received an overwhelmingly positive reaction, with the original pressing selling out in less than a day. “We didn't know what to expect,” Josh explains. “We could have had [the EP] sitting there, selling for a year. We were overwhelmingly thankful that it did so well.” Due to all of their efforts, the band was signed to Good Fight Music/eOne Music only a few months after its debut. “I enjoyed working with them [in the past], so it was the first place we went. We have a really great working relationship,” he admits.
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After being signed, ‘68 was able to collaborate with Matt Goldman, whom Josh had also worked with, on their first full-length. Working with Goldman was great for the band because of his friendship with Scogin. “Me and Goldman are friends, so there's no learning curve. There’s no ‘let me try this’ or ‘well, I'm not really into that,’" Josh tells us. “We know what each other’s likes and dislikes are.” Having this relationship made the production process a lot easier and faster because Josh didn’t need to waste time trying to sell an idea or convince Goldman of what he was envisioning. “He has such a good work ethic, and his beliefs are very much like mine. Music shouldn't be just copy and paste perfect,” he elaborates. “We try to keep it as real and as human as possible.” Josh remembers the times when they would listen to guitar distortions or effect pedals for hours on end in order to see what would happen and to determine whether they would work on In Humor and Sadness. “We were like kids in a candy shop. We were just trying new things and laughing about how we were two pretty much grown men listening to feedback for two hours and liking how it sounds,” he reminisces. Whilst getting ready to release In Humor and Sadness, Josh realized he didn’t want the songs to have titles. Unfortunately, technology was not on his side. After a few attempts, he was able to come to a compromise. Each track would have "track one, track two, etc.," followed by a letter. When lined up vertically, the letters would spell out "Regret Not." Josh wanted the message to be "as vague and not descriptive as possible, and that was the only way it was going to work." As is evident with the tracklisting, the album needs to be listened to track by track. “One song on its own won’t give you the full story. It needs the song before it or the one after it to really help it make sense in the big picture,” Josh confirms. With the success of their first release, the eagerness for this full-length was at an all-time high, especially once Alternative Press named it one of the Most Anticipated Albums of 2014. Although Josh is extremely grateful that everyone is so supportive of the music, he admits that they would still be proud of and happy with the release, even if the new record hadn’t received positive feedback. "At the end of the day, you have to create art based on your own convictions and your own thoughts, not
on whether people or critics will get it,” he elaborates. “I don't think that should define if you're on the right path or not.” Still, the feedback is appreciated and doesn’t go unnoticed. “It’s always really nice when people seem to really understand your music and relate to it in someway. Or if it helped them. That's always awesome because I believe in art; I believe that it's a very powerful thing and that it can help,” Josh shares. “It can make the world a better place, but, unfortunately, that doesn't mean it will.” With In Humor and Sadness finally out in the world, ‘68 can focus on other facets of the industry. The goals for the band are the same goals Josh has always had: to play as many shows as possible and to meet people from many different walks of life. “I love meeting people. I love learning about different cultures,” Josh adds. “They are the same goals I had when I first started a band. I was just like, ‘I want to play shows and meet different people and learn about different cultures.’ Nothing really fancy. Nothing’s changed. I'm still in that position where I try to enjoy every moment and soak it all in.” As part of that goal, ‘68 was fortunate enough to have traveled to Alaska and Hawaii, which were the last two states Josh needed to play in to check off his bucket list. While we know that ‘68 won’t stop there, and that their music will take them to cities and countries all over, the worldwide travel will have to be put on hold this summer. In just a few months, the band will be doing a full run on Vans Warped Tour. Make sure to catch the duo, because they definitely put on a set you don’t want to miss. “It's always fun to hear a guy sing terribly loud while playing a guitar, so you might as well come out and lose your hearing for a day,” Josh jokes.
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INTERVIEW + STORY: Kelly Fadden POSED PHOTO: Provided LIVE PHOTOS: Lori Gutman
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t’s true that music can bring people together. Still, it’s one thing to unite strangers and another to unite siblings. Siblings tend to fight and bicker with each other instead of bonding and sharing common interests. But for the AJR brothers, getting along has never been quite the issue. Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met began their careers as AJR in Washington Square Park, similarly to many other street performers. Growing up listening to artists like The Beach Boys, they were inspired to start harmonizing as well. Soon enough, they began to take up guitar and piano, amongst other instruments. “We went to Washington Square Park in NY and started to try to raise money to buy a microphone and other instruments,” Ryan mentions. Every new instrument was brought home, and they would begin practicing and learning the ropes immediately.
After a lot of hard work, the guys began receiving tour offers. Like many musicians their age, a majority of AJR is still in school, making the decision to leave for weeks at a time a tough one. Because Adam has already graduated from Columbia University with a degree in business and philosophy, school isn’t really an issue for him anymore. His brothers, on the other hand, aren’t as lucky. Ryan, who currently attends Columbia, took a gap year in order to tour. Jack, the youngest of the three, is a senior in high school. Fortunately for him, his school allows him to take time off in order to be on the road. “I tell them I need two months or so, and they give me the work,” he elaborates. While on tour, Adam and Ryan help him stay on track with school, making everything a lot easier for him. Thankfully, from the moment the brothers began to play, their parents have shown them nothing but support, and, instead of chastising their sons for taking time off from their educations, they encouraged them.
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Once they finally made it out on the road, the guys realized that being street performers prior to touring has helped them a lot. “It’s extremely personal,” shares Jack. “It’s just about the most nervous you could possibly get when performing live. These people are walking on the street and they don’t want to see you, they don’t really want you there.” They had to work twice as hard to win people over and, because of that experience, performing on stage to a crowd doesn’t seem as bad as it used to. Of course, being an unsigned band still has its disadvantages when it comes to touring and releasing new music but, luckily for AJR, they have formed a good relationship with Warner Brothers. “We’re not signed, but they do a lot of our distribution,” explains Ryan. While WB deals with most of the business, the guys are able to focus on the creative and crazy aspects of the industry. With this in mind, the trio admits that they feel very lucky to be able to be the artists they want to be while having the support from WB and from fans. With the help of Warner Brothers, AJR are currently on the road promoting their debut full-length, Living Room, which was released on March 3rd. With the new album, they hope to really shock the fans. “We were going for musical surprises—you think we’re going one way and we end up going the other way,” Ryan tells us. Because of the tour schedule, AJR are focusing on their live shows rather than on writing new material for their future records. Not only do they prefer the living room setting to writing in the back of a van, but they also wanted to take a break until the album came out. “We want to look at the album as a whole and not think, ‘Oh, I wish this one would have made it on there,’” they elaborate. Despite this, the guys are carving out some time in their busy schedules to write more songs—just not for their band. They are constantly writing and creating new music and, while most of the time it’s for themselves, other artists ask AJR to write
music for them every now and then. “When we’re doing stuff for others, we usually start from scratch,” explains Adam about their writing process. “So we think, ‘this artist is going to like this type of song.’ Then we do more research. We don’t give them AJR songs.” Much like when writing for AJR, the process can vary depending on the song. Sometimes they have a rhythm or beat in mind, while other times Ryan might have more lyrical ideas than anything else. By the end, Ryan does most—if not all—of the production. Evidently, it’s just the beginning for AJR, and the brothers certainly have big goals for the project. “We have a vision for what we want the band to be, and we’re always going to hold on to that,” they explain. As long as they keep their objectives in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised to catch AJR playing stadium shows in a few years. With continued hard work and ambition, they have nothing but success in their future.
INTERVIEW, STORY + PHOTOS: Penelope Martinez GET CONNECTED: ajrbrothers.com facebook.com/ajrbrothers youtube.com/ajr ajrbrothers
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MOOSE BLOOD PHOTOS: Bethan Miller INTERVIEW: Lindsy Carr STORY: Penelope Martinez
ailing from the UK, Moose Blood have made their way onto the US charts without even knowing it. After releasing their debut album, I’ll Keep You in Mind, From Time to Time, via No Sleep Records, the band attracted enough attention to land at No. 45 on the US Billboard Top Heat Seekers chart. “I never knew that before and I'm pretty sure the other boys wouldn't have known that either! That is crazy,” comments Mark Osborne upon finding out the news. “The increasing support and interest we seem to be getting from the States is fantastic.” With influences like Brand New, Lloyd Christmas, Zack Morris, and their own parents, the guys of Moose Blood have successfully created a musical style that has caught the attention of musicians and fans alike. After the band released a split with their friends in Departures, their manager, Stu, began talking with No Sleep Records about releasing a full-length. What followed was a process unlike that of any of their previous EPs. Before Moose Blood could actually record the album, they needed material that they could
use. Whilst writing the record, they came across a few challenges. One of the biggest was writing the track “I Hope You’re Missing Me.” Osborne tells us that “that song was messed around with and re-written about three times.” Once they got over the lyrical portion, they continued to work on the rest of the album. During that time, they already had an idea of what they wanted to use for the cover art. Glenn Harvey loves photographer Sam DeSantis’ work, and he shared it with the rest of the band. Once they all saw her photos, they fell in love as well. They ended up using her work on both the album and the single. “We had the photos for the record for a while and we always knew that was what we wanted for the album cover,” shares Osborne. When Moose Blood was finally ready, the band was given the opportunity to travel to the US to record their first album and work alongside Beau Burchell of Saosin. Although they had previously recorded with their good friends, specifically Punk Rock Rick at Annex Studio and Steve Sears at Titan Studios, the guys were more than excited to work with Burchell. They explain that Burchell “was amazing and really
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helped us get structures and tones down. We never want to record with anyone else going forward.” Moose Blood has done a handful of tours in the past, but they recently finished a headlining UK tour in support of the full-length. “The fact that most shows sold out was unbelievable. We never expected that to happen!” they exclaim. They were truly taken by surprise by just how much support they had in so many cities all over the UK. What made it even better was the reassurance that the people at the shows were there to see them. It was an incredible experience, and a nice change of pace from being an unknown opening band that concertgoers sometimes don’t pay attention to. With that in mind, Mark shares that “we’ve had some fantastic experiences opening shows for Mallory Knox, Balance and Composure, I Am the Avalanche, and Funeral for a Friend—all tours we couldn't believe we were actually on!” Still, prior to taking those opportunities and being able to go on the road with those bands, the guys had to make a tough decision. They had
to either leave their jobs in order to continue to pursue music full-time, or they had to give up their dream in order to have slightly more stable lives. “We were offered tours with Balance and Composure and Seahaven, and Mallory Knox with FrnkIero andthe Cellabration, which we just couldn't say no to,” explains Mark. Once more tour offers began to roll in, including their own headliner, the guys knew they were at an ultimatum. “We had a choice: go to work or take the tours. To some people, it may seem like a no-brainer, but it was the hardest decision of my life,” adds Mark. Luckily, they all made the right choice. Since then, Moose Blood has reached countries all over the world—places that the band could only have dreamed of—and they have yet to slow down. This summer, the band will be touring the US for the first time whilst on the Vans Warped Tour. Before heading overseas, Moose Blood will continue to work on their second album in hopes of finishing it by the end of this year. Hopefully they’ll be done sooner rather than later, because we definitely can’t wait to hear more from these talented guys.
The increasing support and interest we seem to be getting from the States is fantastic.
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INTERVIEW, STORY + PHOTOS: Penelope Martinez
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PEOPLE TEND TO COME UP
with their wildest dreams when they’re young. Some hope to get rich and famous or to change the world. Others want to become rock stars or successful doctors. Not long after meeting, the then-teenage Lynn Gunn, Alex Babinski, and Brian Macdonald realized that they had similar dreams: to create the best music they could and to be happy while doing it. “We met through a venue that we used to play at,” explains Lynn about their start. At the young age of fifteen, the trio created a band called Operation Guillotine. After working on a few songs and then taking some time to really think about what they had recorded, they realized that it wasn’t the direction they wanted to go in with their music. “We thought it wasn’t the best idea,” comments Lynn. What once started as a metalcore/ post-hardcore band gradually turned into Paris in 2012. Not long after, the band released their self-titled EP and announced their sponsorship by Stheart Clothing. Within the same year, they had the chance to play on the Ernie Ball Stage for the Massachusetts and Connecticut dates of Vans Warped Tour. Up until this point, the band was still known as “Paris,” but, after coming across some legal problems, they had no choice but to change the name. Trying to stay within the same concept, the band experimented with other ways of spelling “Paris,” but ultimately decided to replace the ‘A’ with a ‘V’. Ultimately, this change benefit-
ed them more than they could have imagined. Lynn elaborates on that, saying that “when we were ‘Paris,’ kids would be like, ‘we searched you up and nothing came up.’ They’d get the Eiffel Tower and stuff.” In contrast, the new spelling was hard to miss. “It confuses some people pronunciation-wise,” she jokes. Since then, PVRIS has been busy working non-stop where new music and touring the country are concerned. Still, it hasn’t all been fun and games; every opportunity comes with a downside. “You name it, it’s been sacrificed,” says Alex. Although waking up in a new city every day and being out with some of your best friends seems like the dream, they admit that it can get tough at times. Luckily, all three have people waiting for them back home and supporting them every step of the way. “I don’t really see it as a sacrifice because everyone back home is so supportive of us and they’re happy. That’s a gift. We look forward to being home, but this is what we want to do for the rest of our lives—even if it means sleeping in a van when it’s cold or getting into bickers,” shares Brian. Lynn builds on that, adding, “Some people make the sacrifice of staying home and doing a nine to five job, but we’re doing the opposite.” Thankfully, all their hard work and sacrifices have paid off. After two EPs, they were signed to Rise Records, a label that has supported them for a long time. “[Signing with Rise] was a great idea. Everyone that works there is so welcoming, and they were on board with what we wanted to do,” Brian
tells us. He also lets us know that doing the album with them wasn’t difficult at all. When coming up with song ideas for White Noise, the band preferred to have some time to concentrate rather than writing in the back of a moving van. “I want to write on the road so bad. I’ll write ideas and then look back, and I won’t remember what they were about,” confesses Alex. Lynn, however, does a lot of the writing in the van, especially on long drives, “It’s definitely more convenient to write at home. You are more inspired on the road, but it’s a lot harder,” she explains. Luckily, the band had the help and support of Blake Harnage during the writing and recording process, and they worked extensively with him. After Lynn met Blake at a Versa show, “he gave me a bunch of pointers and advice and we kept in touch since,” she exclaims. Since then, he’s been a mentor for her. When the band signed to Rise Records, he got in touch with her, and everyone agreed that he was the best person to work with. “His brain is amazing, and he’s so fun to work with,” Lynn comments. After PVRIS had more than enough songs to create the album, Lynn went to the studio to meet up with Blake. “I picked and chose the ones that I thought we should work on,” she shares. “I went with the ones with the weirdest melodies and progressions. They were unique, so we went with them.” After narrowing down the tracklisting, they had thirty or so songs that didn’t make the cut.
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“I’VE LEARNED THAT I HAVE TWO PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN THERE FOR
ME THIS WHOLE TIME, AND I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHERE WE’RE GOING.” 40
While they continued to work on the record, the band released three singles, as well as music videos for two of them. Although the videos may seem odd and eclectic at first, they all have deeper meanings. According to Brian, they all tell a story, and they all connect somehow. “There’s a whole underlying story that we’re not going to release yet,” he reveals. “As more videos come out, you’ll catch on.” In the last few weeks leading up to the debut, PVRIS, with the help of Rise, promoted their long awaited full-length. During the week prior to its release, White Noise was available for streaming on Teen Vogue, where it was able to reach a completely different audience. Brian thinks that this was a really cool opportunity for the band. “We got to meet up with them beforehand. They’re all great people, and they liked the album,” he adds. With a lot of excitement and hype surrounding it, White Noise was finally released on November 4th. After all the goals they have accomplished since they started, the three understand that nothing worth having comes easy. “I’ve learned that I have two people who have been there for me this whole time, and I can’t wait to see where we’re going,”
Brian admits. They’ve also realized that they want to create music for themselves. Not for fans, labels, friends—for themselves and themselves only. With this in mind, Lynn explains that she’s learned to only do something if she enjoys it. “If you’re not [enjoying it], you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Don’t do it for the money or the fans. Do it for you,” she discloses. Now that The World Tour with Pierce The Veil and Sleeping With Sirens has come to an end, PVRIS will have some time to themselves before heading overseas for a UK tour and later a full run on the Vans Warped Tour. And while touring the world and spending the whole summer on Warped is truly the dream for many bands, these achievements weren’t the prime focuses of PVRIS’ original agenda. “Our main goal was just to make awesome music that we were proud of. Anything that came after that was just icing on the cake,” Lynn tells us. It’s safe to say that PVRIS has definitely surpassed their initial goal, and the band is quickly on the path to bigger and better things. Still, although it is a nice perk, the fame isn’t what the trio is concerned with. “It's just about making it with the people I started with,” Alex exclaims.
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here are many things that can make or break your teenage years, but some experiences don’t happen to just anyone. For Lights, getting a manager at fifteen and her first development deal at sixteen was a dream come true, despite the many sacrifices it came with.
“I was three or four, and I was on a long drive with my dad. We kept putting in tapes and singing along, and I remember him looking over at me and saying, ‘You have a really good voice,’” she reminisces. Since then, music has been one of her top priorities. At the young age of eleven, she picked up her first guitar and began teaching herself how to play. “I learned a couple of chords, and I just thought ‘I can—I can write a song!’ After that, I ran upstairs, wrote my first song, and never stopped,” she shares. A few years down the road, she found herself trying to balance out her schoolwork and music. School is no easy task; keeping up with work, extracurricular activities, and maintaining a healthy social life while still managing to sleep—it’s all just the beginning. When you add traveling to other cities to write and record music to the mix, you get Lights’ teenage years. “My mom never let me slack in school, so I was always working hard. But I had to be gone a lot because I was constantly going back and forth to Toronto to write and record,” she elaborates. Granted, she had to take off days at a time, only to spend them alone in a hotel so that she could write. “I went to school just to sit in class, and then went home as soon as I could because I didn’t care much. I didn’t even go to my own graduation because I already had a career,” she adds. Because of her nonchalance, Lights didn’t have many friends. Regardless, having only a small group of friends didn’t bother her. The constant traveling meant more time with her family, which is where most of the stability in her life came from. She points out that she “didn’t really need friends. Even to this day, I don’t have that many. But the ones that I do have, I can be myself around. I think a lot of people think that they need to have lots of friends. But no, you just need a few that you can trust,” Lights explains.
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She also believes that having a lot of friends wasn’t a necessity for her because she had music to fall back on. Music was there for her whenever she needed it. It was her core—everything that she wanted to do and be. She admits that she was never a rebellious kid because she used music as an outlet. “If someone pissed me off, I went and wrote an angry song. If I got into a fight with my parents, I wrote a song and I put it on their pillow,” she shares. Having such a powerful tool helped her in the long run, so Lights truly understands the importance of having a healthy outlet for emotional release. She was fortunate enough to have had her dad, who is also a musician, pass on his instruments to her, but she’s fully aware that not everyone has that privilege. “I know that most of the schools I went to in Southern Ontario didn’t have music programs. It didn’t stop me from learning how to do it, but that’s not necessarily the same for every kid,” she confesses. “If kids don’t have music in their lives and they don’t have it at school, they can’t always access it.” As a result, Lights has been working closely with an organization in Canada called Music Counts. “They put instruments in the hands of kids who don’t have any, and it’s such an empowering tool,” she explains. She hopes to help people realize how important it is to exercise all the angst that builds up, and to do so in a healthy manner. One thing she has noticed is that many people turn to the Internet to let go of their negative thoughts and feelings, while others use it as a platform to get noticed for having depression or committing self-harm, and even to discuss plans for suicide. Thus, Lights wants to uncover new methods of helping these people early on so that they can discover healthier alternatives. “There are better ways, more productive ways— ways that can lead to success down the road,” she continues. Though it’s evident Lights has found her passion within the industry, that wasn’t always the case. Early on, she set some goals and tried to get
a good grasp on her sense of self before she got too involved with her career. One of the biggest challenges for Lights was determining who she wanted to be as a musician. Luckily, she never felt pressured into having a specific sound or “being sexy” like many female artists today. Instead, she explored her options until she found a sound that she was content with. “I went through so many phases of music,” she elaborates. “It was everything from metal to acoustic to R&B, to super pop and piano rock. I was trying everything.” Because of the inconsistencies in her sound, many people in the industry didn’t believe in her. Playing one thing and then playing something with a completely different style gave her music no continuity, and it left a lot of people thinking she wasn’t quite ready as an artist. Although she’s aware that that’s all part of the process, she admits that it feels great to be able to prove the people who doubted her wrong. As Lights continued to experiment with her music, she reached out to different audiences through social media until she found the persona and the sound that she enjoyed the most. “In the beginning, when I was going through all these music phases, I created a bunch of different Myspace profiles under different artist names. One was Veronica X. Another one was ;you. I had all these different projects, but Lights was the final one,” she reveals. “That was when I finally found my place.” With each of these projects, she was able to test the waters and see if she enjoyed it, as well as how it resonated with the fans. Although this was a long and time-consuming journey, Lights didn’t mind. “I got to try something different, a different facet of my talent. It was a fun process,” she adds. Back then, Myspace was one of the main tools she used to connect with people. Lights believes that there’s no other social media platform that allows an artist to truly have creative power over who they are online. “That’s part of why the industry is so weak right now. There’s a give and take with social media. It puts the power
“I JUST WANT TO ENJOY THE MOMENT AND MAKE SOMETHING OTHER PEOPLE CAN ALSO ENJOY, BECAUSE, FUCK, THAT’S THE POINT.” FOCUS MAGAZINE // 47
in the artist’s hands to create who they are. It’s not in anybody else’s hands,” she comments. “But with Myspace, you could make a profile, you could customize your page, and you could be the musician that you wanted to be. I think that was such a big part of me becoming who I was as an artist." Admittedly, working with development people earlier in her life helped her create and pursue her artistic vision as Lights. She simply had to experience everything so that she could further expand the vision of what she wanted to be in the future. Once that was out of the way, she finally understood what she really liked and what she was capable of. “If you have this sense of self, of what you want to say and of what your goals are, then you’ll know what you don’t want,” she tells us. She distinctly remembers sitting in A&R’s office at sixteen, listening to what others had planned for her. They kept giving her ideas, but she knew that she didn’t agree and instead had something else in mind. “You’re not just a piece of clay that can be molded by anybody. As an artist, you have a huge power... A huge edge,” she states. In spite of all of the learning curves, Lights continues to grow and change as an artist, namely when it comes to lyrical content. “You’re always kind of figuring that out,” she discloses. Her most recent release, Little Machines, is the successor to 2011’s Siberia. It’s pretty evident
that the writing process took a bit longer than she had planned, but all for good reason. Lights wanted to make sure she was releasing an honest album—one that she would be proud of. She didn’t care about releasing something that was written to bring her fame. As many other writers do, Lights struggled to get past her writer’s block. Eventually, in the midst of trying to decipher which direction she wanted to go in for the record, she came to the realization that writers block is not due to a lack of talent, but a lack of vision. “As I said, you need vision in order to accomplish anything,” she explains. Unfortunately, under certain circumstances, your vision can get clouded by other unimportant goals that people bring attention to—making money, getting hits on the radio, landing on the charts. And the deeper you delve into the industry, the more people surround you and make you think that those achievements are what matters although, in reality, they weren’t even your focus to begin with. For some time, those aspects were pestering Lights. She found herself thinking about changing her style and trying to write music for others, all so she that she could be more successful. She has since learned that, in order to get out of that mentality, you have to get rid of all those expectations. “It’s easy to lose the charm of what brought you there in the first place,” she adds.
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“IT’S HARD ENOUGH BEING A WOMAN IN T INDUSTRY, LET ALONE BEING A MOTHER.” “I was just pretty confused about what I wanted to say and where I wanted to go with it,” she continues. Once she found her way, Lights remembered just how much she loves what she does, and she wanted to continue on that path. “I just want to enjoy the moment and make something other people can also enjoy, because, fuck, that’s the point,” she states. “At the end of my life, that’s what’s going to matter... Not all the other things.” With Siberia, her main focus was on the sound and the instrumentation of the album. She admits that, in a way, she was trying to rebel against the polished sound of her first album. With Little Machines, however, she felt as though she had much less to prove. “I just wanted to make a really good record that felt good and was heavily focused on the songs instead of on the way it ended up sounding,” she says. During part of the creation of Little Machines, Lights was pregnant with her first child, Rocket Wild Bokan. Her pregnancy, along with the writer’s block, allowed her to gain a broader perspective and helped her rediscover her passion for life. Instead of worrying about what was going to happen in the future, Lights began to recognize the importance of living in and experiencing a great moment while you still can. “Our lives go so quickly because we’re so afraid of what’s next, and we just forget to sit down and smell the roses,” she points out. “It’s important to always understand yourself and take time to invest in the things you love.”
It would be a lie to say that she didn’t sit down and attempt to come up with a song about motherhood. The truth is, she did, but it didn’t make the final cut because she thought it was “too cheesy.” Luckily, what we got instead was even better: a completely honest record that you can listen to when you need to get away from your problems, which is exactly what Lights hoped for. “I just wanted it to be one of those records that makes you want to sit down and listen to it and forget about everything for a minute,” she confides. And that’s what music is—an escape or, as Lights puts it, a “cheap vacation.” Since the release of Little Machines, Lights has continued touring extensively in support of it. In an effort to be with her daughter as much as possible while still being on the road, Lights chose to bring Rocket on tour with her. After her husband, Beau Bokan, joined them for some time, having her family there made being away from home a lot easier on Lights. Of course, it wasn’t that simple. That decision brought with it more responsibilities, more work and greater expenses, but, after finishing a show or an interview, being able to spend the rest of the night with her family made everything worthwhile. Unfortunately, there were some not so pleasant experiences while on the road with Rocket. Apparently, there were some venues that wouldn’t allow Lights to bring Rocket in, simply because she was underage. “It pissed me off
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“I WENT TO SCHOOL JUST TO SIT IN CLASS, AND THEN WENT HOME AS SOON AS I COULD BECAUSE I DIDN’T CARE MUCH. I DIDN’T EVEN GO TO MY OWN GRADUATION BECAUSE I ALREADY HAD A CAREER.” FOCUS MAGAZINE // 53
“YOU’RE NOT JUST A PIECE OF CLAY THAT CAN BE MOLDED BY ANYBODY.” a lot. I thought, ‘How is it that this industry is so discriminatory against being a mother?’” she elaborates. These experiences got her so upset that she has since decided to take it into her own hands to change how the industry views mothers and families in general. “It’s hard enough being a woman in the industry, let alone being a mother,” she comments. “As of right now, if you want to be in the industry, you can’t have a family. Well, no. That’s something that is going to be changing down the road.” Luckily, Lights has plenty of touring plans this year where she can work on changing that aspect of the industry. Seeing as how Little Machines was released last fall, she expects to continue doing a lot of touring over the next two years. This time around, however, she wants to make sure that she can stay inspired and creatively excited so that she doesn’t run into writer's block again. While we anxiously await any new material she writes, we can expect new music soon in the form of collaborations with various artists. One song she’s particularly excited about is “Zero Gravity,” which is a collaboration between her and EDM artist Borgeous. Keep an eye out for it, and don’t forget to catch Lights on tour with One Republic in the spring! GET CONNECTED: iamlights.com facebook.com/lights lights lightsy POSED PHOTOS: Lori Gutman LIVE PHOTOS: Grayson Hary INTERVIEW + STORY: Penelope Martinez
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HAVING A VISION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU COULD EVER DO. IF YOU DON’T HAVE THAT IN YOUR MIND, SOMEONE ELSE WILL PUT THAT THERE.
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ALBUM REVIEWS 58
Janet Devlin first made her way onto the muJANET sic scene when she appeared on the X Factor UK in 2011. At just sixteen, she proved her talDEVLIN ent with her unique voice. Since then, she has RUNNING WITH SCISSORS only improved and, instead of taking the folk route, the Irish singer has chosen to display her abilities through fun, indie pop songs. The nature-inspired “Creatures of the Night” is the opening track, and the strong chorus is what makes the song memorable. It was co-written by singer/songwriter Newton Faulkner, who also worked on “Hide & Seek” and “Wonderful.” The two songs are happy, guitar-driven love songs that have the ability to stand on their own. While the former is about figuring out a potential relationship, the latter is about letting someone into your life.
BY LINDSY CARR
The record’s new single, “House of Cards,” contains piano, violin, and rhythmic drums that will keep you tapping your foot along with the beat. Still, as she sings, “like a house of cards / we came crashing down / and the King of Hearts’ heart was never found,” you realize that the message contained within the lyrics heavily contrasts with the happy sounding instrumentals. The slow paced “Lifeboat” has a similar message as it describes one’s ability to be independent during a difficult or confusing time. My personal favorite, and the album’s biggest surprise, is Devlin’s cover of The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love.” It’s a song that I’ve loved for years, and her bright voice does it justice while simultaneously putting her own spin on it. It starts off slow before going into the chorus, where it speeds up as the instruments build. The closing number, “Whisky Lullabies,” is a slow ballad that sounds like a song being played straight out of a music box. Her hushed voice fits elegantly with the crescendo of drums and strings. While the song is much different from the others in terms of sound, it still succeeds in tying everything together. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, the songs on this album are relatable and interesting. With help from a few co-writers, Janet’s music has continued to develop and mature over the years, and this album displays that growth beautifully. Her voice is refreshing and provides something new, and I definitely think this is a record that should be listened to at least once.
OTHER GREAT RELEASES
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& FEBRUARY 9TH MARKED THE BEGINNING OF YOU ME AT SIX’S AND ALL TIME LOW’S HIGHLY ANTICIPATED UK ARENA TOUR. FITTINGLY, CARDIFF APPEARED TO HAVE BEEN INVADED BY EXCITED YOUNG FANS WHO WERE STRUGGLING TO CONTAIN THEMSELVES FOR THE UPCOMING NIGHT.
PHOTOS: BETHAN MILLER REVIEW: KIERAN JAMES
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First to take the stage was Ohio’s Walk The Moon, who crashed in with the opener, and their single, “Tightrope.” The band was quick to give the audience a shot of energy, and their unique sound, previously dubbed as art-pop, translated well in the unfamiliar territory of the arena. “Shut Up and Dance,” the group’s monster hit, was a clear highlight of their set, with vocalist Nick Petricca inviting the crowd to sing along to its insanely catchy chorus. Not long after, the band caught fans off guard with a surprise cover of The Killers’ “All These Things That I Have Done.” It was executed beautifully, and the audience united in chanting the lyrics, “I got soul but I’m not a soldier.” The set soon winded down with “Anna Sun,” a staple in the band’s catalogue and a strong choice for a closer.
The excellent “Backseat Serenade” and “The Irony Of Choking On A Lifesaver” followed suit as the band performed more material from their most recent release, Panic!. Alex rushed around the stage scouting for fans to join him as drummer Rian Dawson and bassist Zack Merrick took part in an unexpected drum and bass improvisation. He finally recruited six young fans to join them on stage to sing “Time-Bomb.”
Nothing Personal appeared to be a favorite as they performed two more hits from the album. “Weightless” commenced with an acapella sing-along before the band dived in at the chorus and enticed the crowd to jump uncontrollably. “Therapy” worked as a nice change of pace; their set finally took a break from the speedy up-tempo pop punk riffs and filled the arena with teary-eyed fans as vocalist Alex Gaskarth poured his heart out. 62
“The Consequence” was an unexpected choice, but with Josh nailing the high notes, it was chilling and beautiful. “Underdog” followed with its percussive snare blasts before uniting the whole venue in chanting along to its chorus. The band proceeded to draw more material from their latest record, Cavalier Youth. They performed “Carpe Diem,” which is not one of the album’s strongest tracks, but it worked well to make the set a little less predictable.
Alex later made the announcement that All Time Low are planning to return later this year in support of their upcoming record, Future Hearts. This was followed up with live debut of the band’s latest single, “Something’s Gotta Give,” which was well received despite it being the least familiar song of the setlist. Teasing old school fans, Gaskarth demanded to see some crowd The arena lights dimmed, and the hysteric surfing before ending with the classic “Dear cries of thousands of excited fans filled the Maria Count Me In.” This unleashed a wave air. The frantic chants were soon answered, of nostalgia within the audience. The show as All Time Low raced onstage and wasn’t over, however, until Barakat paraded propelled straight into “A Love Like War”—a off the stage in nothing but his boxer shorts. bold start to their first show of 2015. With the unforgettable classic “Lost In Stereo,” Headliners You Me At Six were up next, and the band gained momentum and showed frontman Josh Franceschi wasn’t going no signs of slowing down. Their 2009 hit to let a broken ankle prevent him from “Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)” performing at his best. The underrated brought the crowd together in singing and “Room To Breathe” was a fitting start, dancing to its addictive chorus. A seemingly bringing us into the newest era of the band’s endless supply of All Time Low’s typical amazing career. The set wasn’t without old sex jokes soon lowered the tone. That was favorites, however. The inclusion of “Stay later followed by guitarist Jack Barakat’s With Me” and “Lover Boy” was a perfect unsurprising claim of spending all of his reminder of just how far the band has come money on hookers and candy. in the last four years.
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The emotional “Crash” followed and morphed the crowd into a sea of bright lights as they held their smartphones in the air. Josh stopped with a huge grin on his face before exclaiming, “There’s no better feeling than standing in front of eight thousand crazy Welsh people.” Not long after, the band unleashed dozens of inflatable balls onto the crowd during their closing song, “Forgive and Forget.” It wasn’t over quite yet, however, as the cries for more were answered. After the band stormed back onto the stage, “Bite My Tongue” led the inevitable encore. Evidently, Josh pulled off the screams and shouts without quite living up to the irreplaceable Oli Sykes. The evening finally drew to a close with recent hit “Lived A Lie,” which invited the audience to sing and dance one last time. The bridge filled with the arena with the sound of eight thousand people roaring, “We are believers.” As the thousands of fans poured out of the stadium, it was the perfect moment to reflect on the progression of each band’s career. Fortunately, with the rise of fans came a rise in quality and performances that will certainly be difficult to forget.
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COMMIT THIS TO MEMORY 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY TOUR PHOTOS + REVIEW: Penelope Martinez
June 7, 2015 marks the tenyear anniversary of Motion City Soundtrack’s second studio album, Commit This To Memory. As a result, the band embarked on a six-week tour in celebration of the record. Their supporting acts varied from city to city and included The Early November, Copeland, Hellogoodbye, TEAM*, and Citizen amongst others. The last date of the tour took place in Chicago, IL, on February 26th, and it was nothing short of perfect. The opening band was dynamic duo Brick + Mortar from Asbury Park, New Jersey. The band released their most recent EP, Bangs, in 2013 and have since toured in support of it. Seeing them live made me realize why MCS picked them as one of their opening acts; their live performance is unreal. For a band with only two members, they were
able to put on a raw and personal performance. Up next was William Beckett, who has gone solo since the disbanding of The Academy Is… I made the mistake of not paying enough attention to this extremely talented individual, but seeing him perform definitely changed that. During the first song, I needed a moment to really take it all in: his voice, his music, his lyrics. It’s no secret that listening to him reminds us of The Academy Is..., but it would be unfair to compare who he was as a musician back then to who he is now. I specifically enjoyed seeing him interact with fans. From telling stories of his time with TAI to asking fans about what he should change song lyrics to, he had the whole room laughing and wishing they were in love by the middle of his set.
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Once he finished, fans had twenty minutes or so to prepare for Motion City Soundtrack. Before taking the stage, however, the band was kind enough to play us a new track. As soon as that song ended and the lights dimmed, the crowd knew what was coming. When Joshua Cain and Justin Pierre kicked off “Attractive Today,” the room filled with nostalgia. When the album was still in the works, I distinctly remember it being leaked days after its final mastering, still a couple of months before its official release. Later on, the first single, “Everything is Alright,” was released. It’s a great track to listen to, but hearing it play after “Attractive Today,” knowing that “When You’re Around” was next, made me feel like I was back in middle and high school and playing it over and over again. One of my favorite moments of the night was when the band played
“L.G. Fuad.” The energy and the crowd weren’t the same as they would have been had it been another tour with a setlist of their greatest hits and favorite songs to play live—they were greater than that. Although the room was packed, everyone seemed perfectly comfortable singing at the top of their lungs. After they played Commit This To Memory, they did an eightsong encore of more of their other hits that was followed by a second encore of “My Favorite Accident.” Commit This To Memory was one of the best albums of the 2000s. Everyone in the room knew that, and witnessing it being performed in full was something special. It wasn’t like other shows where kids waited for hours while their parents could be seen sitting in the back waiting for the night to be over. Instead, it was a room filled with adults trying to figure their lives out and reminiscing about the songs that filled their high school years.
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THE WORLD TOUR FT. PIERCE THE VEIL & SLEEPING WITH SIRENS PHOTOS + REVIEW: Leah Dickerman
It’s rare to have such massive tours in the winter months due to the weather causing safety and travel issues. Still, even with snow banks higher than highway guardrails and temperatures hitting the low teens, nothing was going to stop the arrival of The World Tour in Lowell, MA, this February. With this being my first show of 2015, I couldn’t think of a better way to start off the new year. Mallory Knox, the first band up to take the stage at the Tsongas Center, had such control of the stage—it was hard to believe this was their first tour in the United States. This quintet from Cambridge, UK, received a warm welcome from fans as many jumped to the beat in order to warm up after waiting outside in the frigid cold. They were definitely the perfect openers for this tour. Their set was electrifying as they got the crowd ready for what was to come. The hometown heroes of Lowell took the stage next. After following PVRIS for the past six months, it’s apparent to me that they’re the next big thing in this alternative music scene. Although lead singer Lyndsey Gunnulfsen’s voice was not at one hundred percent, she was still able to entrance the audience. The crowd’s movements became 70
more intense and animated with each song. Although I’m sure everyone wanted a longer set from PVRIS, the crowd was definitely warmed up and ready for the headliners to take the stage. The lights went down and a short little video appeared on two screens on stage. The audience screamed and cheered and only got louder once Sleeping With Sirens actually took the stage. As they did, they launched into their first single, “Kick Me,” off of Madness due out in March. Overall, their set was a good mix between Let’s Cheers to This and Feel, which appeased both old and new fans. I myself have been a fan for the last couple of years, although this was my first time seeing the band live. Prior to the show, I got into some of their older albums but soon drifted away. After seeing Sleeping With Sirens live, it’s safe to say I’ve been pulled right back in. Each member had so much enthusiasm during the performance, which only revved the crowd up even more. During their last song, frontman Kellin Quinn even suggested that everyone bob up and down in place so that they could conserve energy for the next and final band. Unsurprisingly, the crowd didn’t quite listen.
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Still, when the curtain dropped, the crowd roared. They put their all into letting go, having fun, and screaming the lyrics back to Pierce The Veil at the top of their lungs. The band definitely received that energy and put it right back into the show, making it one of the best ones I’ve ever been to. As if the fans weren’t pumped up enough, each member was able to interact with the crowd from the stage. Guitarist Tony Perry and bassist Jaime Preciado moved around between both sides of the stage in order to see all the fans. Even drummer Mike Fuentes was able to stand up, clap, and point at members of the crowd, directing them further to stay with the beat and, above all, enjoy themselves. Front man Vic Fuentes’ shining moment, in my opinion, was during his solo acoustic performance of “I’m Low on Gas And You Need A Jacket.” Personally, I love being able to hear the crowd sing louder than the blaring instruments. When a song is stripped down acoustically, there is nothing like hearing thousands of fans belt
out the words to one of their favorite songs. Above all, my favorite part of the show was when Kellin Quinn came back out to perform “King For A Day” with Pierce The Veil. This was the song that introduced me to both bands and performing it with both vocalists was the absolute perfect way to end their co-headlining show. Pierce The Veil’s fan base is truly astonishing. Although the band hasn’t released a new song since Collide With The Sky first graced listeners’ ears during the summer of 2012, fans are still flocking to see them by the thousands as they continue to sell out shows on the second leg of The World Tour. If there’s anything concertgoers and critics alike have learned from The World Tour, it’s that Pierce the Veil has some of the most dedicated fans in the business. With their fourth studio album being released sometime this year, this fan base will only get bigger from here on out. FOCUS MAGAZINE // 73
STRIP TO THIS TOUR FT.
GALLERY PHOTOS BY GRAYSON HARY
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SILVERSTEIN by Lori Gutman
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by Lori Gutman
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by Grayson Hary
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