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founders penelope martinez mariana patino editor-in-chief + design penelope martinez art + managing editor mariana patino copy editor lori gutman writers jamie lynn photographers leah dickerman, lori gutman, penelope martinez
THANK YOU sleep on it ivana spadina // ruthless relations northlane zach shaw // syndicate publicity bravesoul lauren mele // co5 media alexa ferr amandah opoku // umusicians
connect: @focuszine facebook.com/focuszine focuszine.tumblr.com website: focuszine.com for any inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
matt romero, anam merchant, rabananda bennet, rey renolds + everyone who made this issue possible.
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CONTENTS 6 artist of the month 10 behind the band 12 14 16 22
alexa ferr bravesoul northlane sleep on it
30 album reviews 32 show reviews 40 gallery
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WHO: Anam Merchant WHAT: Design+Photo WHERE: amerchantphoto.tumblr.com
ANAM MERCHANT SINCE YOU’RE A PHOTOGRAPHER AND A GRAPHIC DESIGNER, WHICH DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST? I’ve been doing photography a lot longer and I think I enjoy it much more than design. Design stresses me out a lot. It can be fun, but most of the time it makes me want to tear my hair out. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH GRAPHIC DESIGN? WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO STUDY IT? I’m not entirely sure how I got started, actually. I’ve always had an interest in art, specifically drawing. I learned how to use Photoshop when I was eleven and used it to edit the photos I took of my friends and random stuff during school. As I got older, I started to really appreciate design and then took a Digital Art and Design class at my high school. Looking back, my work was actually really, really bad. However, at the time, it was so much fun and it really pushed me to do a lot more. My junior and senior years of high school, I joined yearbook and was the Arts and Graphics editor, meaning I did a lot of the design for the yearbook. It was a great albeit really stressful experience. Since graduating, I haven’t done much design but I’m getting back into it. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PARTS ABOUT YOUR JOBS/HOBBIES? LEAST FAVORITE? My favorite part about design is getting to
conceptualize an idea and bring it to life on paper. Going in to create it is probably the most tedious and least fun part, but the end result is usually pretty cool to look at, especially when you think about where something started out as a sketch and where it ended up as a final product. My favorite part about photography is getting to work with people who are so passionate about what they do. I love doing music photography, but portraits are something that I really enjoy doing too. I also really like editing. A lot. Probably more than what is considered normal. I like to revisit photos all the time. WHAT BROUGHT YOU INTO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY? I’ve always been really passionate about music and art, and since I cannot play a musical instrument for the life of me and always loved to take photos, I guess I just combined the two. WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO WORK IN THE FUTURE? I have no idea. I’ve always had freelancing in mind, but it would be awesome to be working for a company. I’m not totally sure. WHO HAS BEEN A GREAT INFLUENCE ON YOU? I absolutely love Jon Contino’s work. I’ve been doing a lot of hand-drawn stuff lately and it’s a lot more
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fun and involved than creating vectors in Illustrator. Otherwise, I’m inspired by a lot of the things around me. WHAT HAS BEEN A PROUD MOMENT FOR YOU? I recently designed a shirt for a local band called Sleep On It. It was a proud moment for me because I was in this rut for such a long time. I heard their song “Bottom of the Ocean” and designed something based off of it for fun. I showed it to them and they liked it! It made me feel like my work doesn’t totally suck. I’m really thankful for that. With my photography, a proud moment of mine— and if you follow me on social media at all, you will already know this—was having a photo I took used in an ad for Warped Tour in Alternative Press Magazine. It was pretty cool because it was the first show I was shooting with a photo pass! I’m pretty lame, haha. WHO HAVE YOU WORKED WITH? WHO DO YOU HOPE TO WORK WITH? I haven’t worked with a ton of people with my design stuff besides my high school and a couple of people here and there. I hope to work with some more bands in the future. As for my photography, I haven’t worked with a lot of bands directly. The few I’ve worked with are Knuckle Puck, Kittyhawk, New Beat Fund, and My Gold Mask. ADVICE FOR ANYONE THAT WANTS TO DO DESIGN AND PHOTOGRAPH AS WELL? Please please please remember that music photography is not only about your portfolio or networking skills or about “making it”, whatever that is. It’s about capturing moments of the bands and their fans, for the band and for their fans. Keep working at your craft. There are times when you’ll be disappointed in yourself, and I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened to me, but you need to keep shooting! GET CONNECTED: amerchantphoto.tumblr.com facebook.com/anammerchantphoto @amerchantphoto
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BEHIND THE BAND NAME: MATT ROMERO
TOUR MANAGER, TECH + MERCHANDISER
A LOT LIKE BIRDS, I THE MIGHTY, HAIL THE SUN, THE SEEKING, THE ORPHAN, THE POET, STOLAS, THE VICTOR SHIP HOW LONG HAVE YOU HAD THIS JOB? I’ve been TMing for only about a year and a half, although I’ve been touring for the better part of the last six years.
TM should be doing to keep his bands comfortable, successful, and most importantly happy (or at least content) with how the tour is going. I really learned a lot from these few years of my career.
HOW DID YOU START WORKING IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY? I got into touring a few years back in my first few bands, playing the regular DIY circuit and really pushing the acts that I was in. In around 2008, I started really hitting the major markets when I started venturing off to do more national tours while playing in a piano-fronted blues/jam band that had some pretty decent success (doing SXSW, Wakarusa, the Sundance film festival, etc.). While I was in this band, I started getting the idea of what a
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR THOSE WANTING TO BECOME A TOUR MANAGER AS WELL? Take your time to learn anything and everything you can about being on the road—and I mean everything—even if it’s something you think is small. Learn the ins and outs of how shows are run so that you’ll be able to handle any situations that come your way. Be open to talk with anyone that’s involved with shows, be it the production manager, stage manager, front of house tech, the promoter, etc. It’s more than likely that they’ve been
doing their job for quite some time and can offer some insight (if they’re willing). Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I always say, “A closed mouth never gets fed.” If you don’t have any tour experience, find some local bands that are starting to venture out on their own and offer help. Be a merch dude, a ‘guitar tech,’ an all around tour dude… ya know? Just be there in the thick of it, learning what it’s like to be on tour and adjusting to the life that comes with it. There’s no better way to learn how to be a TM than to actually be on the road with these bands. When you finally get to a certain level of touring, where the band you’re working with is pulling anywhere from 200 to possibly 1000+ kids each night, you’ll be well versed in how shows/tours are run just from previous experience. That’s what worked for me, anyway. WHAT DO YOU DO BESIDES BEING A TM? I’m also a guitar/bass tech for the bands I work with. I’ve been playing guitar and bass for the better part of fifteen years now, while being in different bands (both touring and local) for about the same amount of time, so I understand how gear is supposed to work. BEST AND WORST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB? The best thing about my job is the travel and the non-monotony of it all. Being in a different city and venue nightly helps to keep it fresh, or at least as fresh as it can be, ya know? I’ve always loved the landscape of the states, from small towns to the major markets, so why not get paid to see it all? I mean, who wouldn’t want that? That plays into the worst part of my job: constantly being away. I couldn’t tell you how many birthdays, mother’s days, Easters, Thanksgivings, etc. that i’ve missed while touring. Relationships are definitely tested and sometimes the touring lifestyle wins. You’ve got to learn to be good at saying goodbye. WHAT’S A TYPICAL TOUR DAY? A typical day usually starts in the hotel. Depending how long the drive is, usually dictates how long we get to sleep. For the most part, not more than a 4 or 5 hour drive to the venue. I’ll make connection with whoever happens to be my ‘Day of Show Contact’ and we can go from there. Load in/sound check, blah blah blah (the usual). If we have a meet and greet or local press interview we typically take care of that before doors. Then the show starts. If everything goes as planned, it shouldn’t be too hard. WHAT HAPPENS ON OFF DAYS? What we do on our off days usually depends on anything from how far the drive is between the two show days, what time of year it is, or what kind of band I’m with. For example, I was with a particularly athletic band recently and on our off days we’d find a park to play football, baseball, frisbee and what not.
We like to keep the blood flowing, ya know, because sometimes being in a van too long can feel a bit stagnant. And when I say ‘time of year,’ I mean what activities we are sometimes limited to can be chosen for us. If we’re doing an east coast run in the winter, through snow drifts and such, we’re not exactly going to be able to play in parks or find a river/lake to have fun in like we can while on summer/spring tours. At the same time, if it’s 110 degrees outside and you’re in the southwest, you might want to find an air conditioned mall or movie theater. There’s nothing wrong with spending the day catching the newest flick. FAVORITE TOUR SO FAR? My favorite tour so far was last year’s Coheed and Cambria east coast run. Balance & Composure and I The Mighty opened up. Just being able to watch Coheed and Balco nightly was a treat. I’ve loved both those bands for quite some time, so interacting with them and their teams was a lot of fun. Such great dudes on that tour. WHAT ARE YOUR PET PEEVES ON THE ROAD? I’m a fairly relaxed guy when it comes to everyday operations, so when I tour with people who are uptight or neurotic, I can get annoyed pretty easily. Also, as far as personal space goes, I’m fairly clean. So when someone is messy or disrespectful to other’s personal space/belongings, I get annoyed as well. But, I feel like that goes with out saying. Oh and lastly, being late. I absolutely hate being late. I know it happens, but barring any natural disasters or any major issues, you should always be on time. ANY BAD EXPERIENCES YOU’D BE WILLING TO SHARE? Anyone who doesn’t have as many bad stories or experiences as they do good, are liars. Things happen. From waking up to a trailer frame that’s been completely snapped, tire blow outs while doing 70 on the highway, or traveling through weather that makes living on the ice planet Hoth seem easy, I’ve seen it. I was recently offered a home to say in for the night, only to find out that this particular house had trouble with bed bugs in the past. Definitely not cool. Fortunately, in comparison to some horrible stories I’ve heard, I’ve been fairly lucky. WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED THUS FAR? I’ve learned to be humble, patient, open-minded and most importantly, I’ve learned to keep myself motivated in my work.
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INTERVIEW: Penelope Martinez PHOTO: Provided
HOW DID YOU GET IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY? WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO START SINGING? I’ve always had a strong passion for music, and I’ve always felt a connection to it. I remember being six years old and singing for my family all the time. When I was around seven or eight, a family friend told my parents that they should take me to vocal lessons because they believed I had a talent. That’s when I knew I wanted to pursue a music career. WHAT’S YOUR WRITING PROCESS? Singing and writing are basically therapy for me. I usually write poems on my own and, if I’m lucky enough to remember a melody I came up with, sometimes I’ll record a voice note. Otherwise, when I’m in the studio working with other writers and producers, I like to come up with a concept and hear other people’s personal experiences. I write based off of that.
anywhere without them!
YOUR MUSIC DEFINITELY STANDS OUT. WHERE DOES YOUR INSPIRATION COME FROM? First of all, wow, thank you! I love being able to create music that isn’t so generic and doesn’t sound like every other artist trying to make huge radio and club bangers. I guess the inspiration comes from always wanting to stand out and be different from anyone else.
WHO DO YOU HOPE TO WORK WITH SOMEDAY? I would absolutely love to collaborate with artists like Rihanna or Drake one day. I love their music-especially Rihanna’s. I look up to her as a musical and style inspiration, so getting to work with her would be a dream come true.
NOT ONLY DO YOU SING, BUT YOU ALSO DANCE AND ACT. WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY? Yes, I sing, dance, and act, and I love all three! My ultimate favorite is singing, because it’s been my passion since day one, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t explored other art forms. I started recreational dancing at the age of four and quit when I was eight because it wasn’t challenging enough. A year later, my mom enrolled me in competitive dancing and I fell in love! I quit competitive when I was fifteen, because it got hard to balance school, long practices, and travelling to L.A often, but I still take classes every now and then. Acting is also more of a hobby for me than a main focus.
WHO HAS SUPPORTED YOU SINCE DAY ONE, BESIDES FANS? My parents have been my biggest supporters since day one. I’m so lucky to have their love and support because I think that it’s very rare to find supportive parents in this industry. It’s a tough one to be in, and the fact that they’re still here by my side showing moral and financial support means the world to me. I wouldn’t be
WHAT HAVE YOU ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH THIS YEAR? This year I’ve released some covers and my mix tape on Christmas. I’m planning on releasing more videos and new music this year, on top of some more performances. Hopefully I’ll get signed to a major label this year… that’s definitely a huge goal of mine!
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VESOUL INTERVIEW: Penelope Martinez PHOTO: Provided
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY? We’ve all been playing music since we were kids, and Marty started writing songs at an early age. Not sure what constitutes as “getting into” the music industry, but I guess we started making money off of it in high school and college while playing shows and working in recording studios. WHAT’S YOUR WRITING PROCESS? It really depends on the song. Sometimes we’ll develop a song by jamming or sometimes Marty will come to the table with a general chord and melodic structure and we’ll write on top of it. For example, “Man On a Wire” was created after Eric came up with a bass line, and Marty wrote lyrics and a melody on top of it. Then Max came in and sort of orchestrated the movement and rhythm of the track. WHO DO YOU HOPE TO WORK WITH SOMEDAY? I think we all hope to work with a legendary producer someday… someone like Rick Rubin, who has worked with some of our favorite artists growing up. That would be a huge honor. WHO HAS SUPPORTED YOU SINCE DAY ONE, ASIDE FROM FANS? I guess the obvious answer here is our families. Fortunately for all of us, we have supportive parents and siblings, which can be pretty helpful and encouraging for any artist. A LOT OF NEW MUSIC IS BEGINNING TO SOUND GENERIC AND NOT VERY UNIQUE. YOU GUYS, ON THE OTHER HAND, HAVE A SPECIAL SOUND THAT SETS YOU APART. AND ANYONE WHO HAS HEARD YOU CAN BACK THAT UP. WHERE DOES YOUR I NSPIRATION COME FROM? Our inspiration comes from everything that we hear that sticks with us. When we come to the writing room, we play what we feel and what we
feel is heavily influenced by what we listen to. Our band is made up of only three people, but we all happen to listen to different styles. That can be a blessing and a curse. It makes it difficult to come to any sort of consensus on things, but it also gives us the opportunity to blend many different styles of music. That’s probably how we’re able to come up with something different and unique— it’s that blend of indie and alternative rock, with some soul. R&B, and electronic elements thrown in. YOUR NEW ALBUM SOUNDS GREAT! WHAT DOES IT REVOLVE AROUND? IS THERE A CONCEPT THEME? Our first EP had a more rigid structure and theme, but this second EP isn’t really like that. The EP is called The Infinite Hourglass, which also happens to be our logo. The tracks are not thematically related. Musically, we aimed to maintain a high level of dynamics with every song. Lyrically, there’s always an undercurrent of the idea of transience and running out of time in all walks of life. Whether it is love, hate, success, or struggle… everything has that hourglass attached to it. That’s just the reality we live with, but how you embrace that reality can affect the way you appreciate things and ultimately your happiness in life. WHAT HAVE YOU ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH THIS YEAR? We have recorded songs for two EPs, got put on a VH1 “You Outta Know” compilation CD, have recorded multiple music videos (some of which have already been released), and we’re set to play a VH1 Showcase at SXSW alongside some major artists on March 12, 2014. This year, we want to get our music out there as far and wide as possible, and to collaborate with artists and filmmakers to create new mediums for connecting with the music. We also hope to get on a tour this summer and really get as many people around the country to see and hear our live show.
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NORTHLANE INTERVIEW: Jamie Lynn POSED PHOTO: Provided LIVE PHOTOS: Penelope Martinez
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WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THE MUSIC WORLD? My uncle also plays guitar and was definitely a big influence on me in that respect. I also spent a lot of time with my grandparents as a kid. My grandparents on both sides were very musically orientated people: one side of the family was full of piano players, and the grandparents on the other side were very much into Jazz and Classical music. I caught a taste for this at a very young age and it never really went away. HOW WAS THE BAND FORMED? HOW DID YOU GUYS FIND ALL THE MEMBERS AND ESTABLISH THE BAND? DID IT TAKE LONG? It took a very long time actually, around eighteen months. We started off as just Alex and Jon. Jon had been writing some riffs in his bedroom. His girlfriend at the time was actually Alex’s ex. Alex’s band had just broken up and he was looking for something new. Jon and Alex started chatting and sharing their work online and came up with our first track, “The Deadmines.” This song was recorded in Jon’s bedroom instrumentally and used to recruit members. I was the third member of the band. I came across the Northlane Myspace one day because I was looking for a new band to play in. My band at the time had also just split up. We originally had Dre of the Sydney band Hellions on vocals, but, after two weeks, we weren’t sure if that was working out. Instead, Alex brought Adrian to a jam and that was that. Unfortunately we didn’t have much luck with drummers in our early days. Nic is actually our third drummer. We met Nic on our very first tour; he was playing in the other band on the tour—Maze. Sadly (but great for us!), Maze called it a day not long afterwards and Nic joined Northlane. Since then it’s been more or less smooth sailing! HOW WERE YOU DISCOVERED? DID YOU GUYS GO OUT AND SEEK A LABEL’S ATTENTION OR DID YOUR LABEL JUST STUMBLE UPON YOU GUYS? This is an interesting story actually. We recorded our first album Discoveries with our own funds as an unsigned band. This took a huge toll on us financially; we were still juggling jobs, university and trying to tour. No record labels that we approached were interested and we were finding it hard to get good attendances at our shows. Around this time, we started working with our booking agent and good friend Thom Johannesen. He talked his mate Chris (formerly of the band House vs. Hurricane who were on UNFD) into coming to watch us play in Melbourne. The show was part of a stupidly big regional tour Thom and I booked because nobody was offering us any support slots. Anyway, Chris thought he saw something special in that daycare centre… special enough that he told his manager Luke Logemann about us. Fast forward a few weeks and we had signed to UNFD. We hadn’t approached
UNFD prior to this because, at the time with their roster, we didn’t think they would be interested. Luke is now our manager. IT’S BEEN A LONG JOURNEY FOR YOU GUYS. WOULD YOU MIND SHARING SOME STRUGGLES THAT IMPACTED YOU THE MOST? There have been some huge struggles for us. The toughest part of our career so far was definitely just after we recorded Discoveries. Three months after recording, we still had no label interested and we were on the tour I just spoke about, pulling less than 30 kids a night and at times driving for days to any old town to do so. In those days, nobody would throw us a bone, most clubs weren’t interested in booking us, and there were no supports coming our way. This almost broke our resolve because we had sacrificed so much—some of us even dropped out of University, lost our jobs and girlfriends, etc.—and we were seeing no results. We almost split up on this tour, before anything really began. This hardship served us well though, because it forced us to learn to get along, and to be positive and optimistic. It made us a better band because we had so much riding on where Northlane would go. You really have to give it your all when you’re under that sort of strain. Ever since then, we’ve always had a philosophy of doing things our own way, trusting our judgments, and appreciating every helping hand that we get. We also know that because we did do those hard yards, we are prepared for anything the road can throw at us. WHAT ARE THE GOALS FOR THE BAND? I guess we really just want to be the best possible version of ourselves that we can be, and the best possible band we can be as a whole. WHAT INSPIRED THE LATEST ALBUM? It’s hard to say what exactly inspired Singularity… more than anything, it was probably the record before it. We took all the aspects of Discoveries that worked, did away with the bits that didn’t, and used that to steer us in the right direction. In fact, we have started planning and writing for our next record. It won’t be tracked for at least another year but we have some very big, exciting ideas for this one. I think it will be very special. YOUR SECOND ALBUM, SINGULARITY, WAS RELEASED LAST YEAR IN MARCH. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SONGS FROM IT? What was the writing process for it? My favorite songs are “Quantum Flux” and “Dream Awake.” I think those songs, more so than the others, really speak to people on a personal level. From my end, they are really fun to play and perform live. Sometimes a big riff is exactly what you need, the chorus from
“THIS HARDSHIP SERVED US WELL THOUGH. IT FORCED US TO LEARN TO GET ALONG, AND TO BE POSITIVE & OPTIMISTIC.”
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“Quantum Flux” always gives me a wicked grin when I play The writing process was extremely rushed. Essentially, Jon (our other guitarist) writes our songs section by section with each instrument being written simultaneously. Then Adrian lays his vocals on top in the pre-production stage and everyone puts their own spins on their parts (especially Nic). When we hit the studio, the tracking process is repeated but with a fine toothed comb. A few or a lot of alterations might be made, the producer will add his ideas, and the song is in its final form when the record is pressed. CONGRATS ON YOUR HEADLINING TOUR! HOW HAVE THE RECENT TOURS TREATED YOU? HAS ANYTHING OUTRAGEOUS HAPPENED? Recently, following the release of Singularity, things have been pretty wild, and leagues above our expectations. We’ve been getting an outrageous amount of love from every corner of the globe and it’s something we never really expected—it’s extremely humbling. The craziest thing that’s ever happened to us was probably getting stuck in the middle of a very bad hurricane. It wasn’t much fun at all. Hanging out with some of my childhood heroes, like Stephen Carpenter, has been pretty surreal too. It’s always a great feeling when the people you look up to for years turn out to be the best of dudes and on the same wavelength as you. Steph is probably the biggest example of this. I can’t say enough good things about that dude and he’s very inspiring. YOU’VE DEFINITELY GROWN AS A BAND AND AS INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS. WHAT OR WHO HAS IMPACTED YOU ALL TO TAKE THIS STEP FORWARD? For one, the amount of time we’ve spent both on the road and in the studio has made us a much better band in every possible way. Touring with certain bands has made us really pick up our game as musicians too. By far the most influential in this aspect was Karnivool. After touring with such an incredible band, we were really put in our place. We completely re-evaluated everything that we did because of Karnivool’s live performances—from songwriting, to studio/live translation on songs, live sound, equipment, lighting, playing, and performance—the whole lot. This has made a massive difference to us as a live band and I daresay it will have an even more profound effect on our next record because we are far more honest with ourselves these days. ARE YOU GUYS EXCITED TO BE JOINING BRING ME THE HORIZON ON THE AMERICAN DREAM TOUR? WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST? We never thought that we would have such an amazing opportunity come our way in the U.S., let
alone on our second trip overseas. I can’t express in words how grateful and excited we are to reach such a broad audience. We are really looking forward to the two shows in NYC. It’s an absolutely magical city and the last/first time we played there was one of my favorite Northlane shows ever. WHO HAS BEEN THERE FOR YOU GUYS SINCE DAY ONE? ANYONE YOU REALLY HAVE TO THANK FOR WHERE YOU ARE TODAY? Our families have always had our backs and we will never be able to repay them for that. Like I mentioned, Thom Johannesen played a huge role in the early development of our band; later on, our manager Luke has played a huge role too. Richard Fernandes (formerly of Distort records Canada) enabled us to take our very first trip overseas that really got the ball rolling. This kick-started our international career. There have been lots of people from Sydney backing us from day one too, and a few close mates from other cities as well. These guys know who they are; I won’t mention them all in case I forget somebody! WHAT ARE SOME LESSONS YOU HAVE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY? Believe in yourself and your unlimited potential. Be honest with yourself, and be critical of yourself. Be prepared to work harder than anyone else and take more risks than anyone else if you want to be rewarded more than anyone else. Most of all, never ever give up. SUMMARIZE THE ALBUM WITH ONE WORD. Singularity.
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SLEEP ON IT
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THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF PEOPLE: those who own vinyl to listen to it and those who own vinyl for the hell of it. The guys in Sleep On It are a little bit of both. Composed of TJ Horansky (guitar, vocals), AJ Khah (bass), John Cass (vocals), Jake Marquis (guitar, unclean vocals), and Luka Fischman (drums), Sleep On It have created their own little family whilst doing what they love: playing music.
band wants people to know them because of their music, not who they know or have been associated with.
Being a Chicago-based band, you would think at least one member would be from Chicago, right? Wrong. John was born in Jersey but lived in Cleveland and Detroit, Luka was born and raised in Massachusetts, AJ is from Georgia, TJ is from Cleveland, and Jake is from Maine/New Hampshire. All five guys came to Chicago to attend university and ended up with something even better: a killer band with great music. They were brought together by their choice of college and, while many people would handle rejection poorly, these guys learned that some of the downfalls in their life might have been leading up to Sleep On It.
Small details such as this one are what set Sleep On It apart from many other artists in the scene. Of course playing with bigger artists opens up a lot of doors and helps to create a bigger audience, but the guys in SOI know that they’d still be enjoying everything about their music even without some of the opportunities they’ve had.
“Don’t brag about all the bands you’ve played with. It’s great to accept that and advertise it if a show’s coming up, but don’t make it the biggest thing on your description page. Talk about YOU and YOUR project,” asserts John.
“I got rejected from my top choice college, which was probably the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me,” says Luka. TJ and AJ can probably agree that DePaul University was actually a great decision; the two met during their freshman year there.
“If you look at our description, we talk about ‘this is who we are,’ ‘this is where we come from,’ and ‘we’re all different and this is all a collective project and we’re ready to go as far as we can with it.’ That’s all that matters. I don’t care who we play with as long as we’re playing. We could be a basement tour band for the rest of our lives, but at least we’re doing what we love. I’d like to be bigger than that and I’m confident enough to say that we can be bigger than that. But you have to enjoy what you’re doing all the time,” exclaims Luka.
Sleep On It was created by Jake and John back in 2012, and the band has been playing local shows in Illinois ever since. Although they’ve played with some great artists, the
The guys have been greatly influenced by different genres of music. They all include their own preferred sound when writing music. They’ve also been influenced by the music
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they didn’t quite want to be a part of. Luka, for example, grew up in a household of mostly classical, jazz and folk music. His parents were in a band before he was even born. He was introduced to bands like Slipknot in high school, and he has had a passion for hardcore music ever since. AJ and his sister had to discover their own preferences and niches due to their parents being from other countries. “The house just sounded really annoying to me, hearing Persian wailing and Portuguese trumpets all the time,” he exclaimed. Being in a band isn’t easy, of course. Apart from building an audience, you have to invest a lot of money into something that might not work out. “Everything that we’ve put into our band is coming out of our pockets. It’s not easy. It’s not the glamorous life. It’s like, ‘let’s put everything we have into this.’ You have to work so hard, hope someone notices, and do it. And it’s scary! If you love it, you have to do it,” reveal John and Luka. The band waited two years or so to finally be able to get moving with this project. In that time, they made solidifying the lineup a priority. Although many of their friends have careers and ‘real jobs,’ TJ believes that he would never prefer any other life besides this one. “It’s kind of hard sometimes. They can go out and have the financial means
to afford things we can’t because we make the sacrifice to put everything into this. But, not even for a second do I question it because I love what I do… they don’t.” They do have a lot of people to thank, starting with their families, who have always been supportive of the project, and also their closest friends from back home and in the city. “We have a great group of friends that have been so supportive since the day we began practicing. They’ve been so great: helping us with design stuff, giving us haircuts for free, lending us their cars, Ashley doing promos for us. The support is awesome.” Their friends also give constructive criticism, which is very important to the band. A lot of people just support bands and sugarcoat things to artists and, instead of helping them grow, it holds them back because it leaves no room for improvement. They guys are grateful for everything their friends have done for them. They truly believe that “our friends really are family, it doesn’t get any better.” “A music scene is a community, not a contest,” declares Jake while discussing the many things they’ve learned throughout the years. “Some people get so ruthless when it comes to their own projects. As soon as they see something they don’t like or get jealous of someone else, they start shit talking and demeaning them, and finding reasons to hate them for doing better. It’s wrong. It will never reflect well on you,” he adds.
“IT’S NOT THE GLAMOROUS LIFE. IT’S LIKE, ‘LET’S PUT EVERYTHING WE HAVE INTO THIS.’ YOU HAVE TO WORK SO HARD, HOPE SOMEONE NOTICES.” FOCUS MAGAZINE // 27
“WE COULD BE A BASEMENT TOU FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES, BU LEAST WE’RE DOING WHAT WE LO 28
UR BAND UT AT OVE.”
Since they have been in other bands, the guys have learned what not to do. Comparing it to being in a relationship and thinking about why it didn’t work out with their other music projects, they know not to repeat the same mistakes. “As an artist, it’s really easy to think what you want to think in regards to how something’s going to come out. When you’re playing in a band, you’re working with four other people. Everyone’s voice counts,” conveys John. Admitting that when making music, he used to want to do things his way. Now he’s learned that you have to be open minded, work as a team, and compromise. Luka expands on that realization, saying, “If everyone in your band wants to be a solo artist, it won’t work out. I’ve seen too many bands fall apart because of that.” The dudes in Sleep On It are on their way to making great things. It’s only a matter of time—and money—for them to get the attention they deserve. For now, make sure to pick up their recently released EP, Everything, All At Once. INTERVIEW, STORY + PHOTOS: Penelope Martinez GET CONNECTED: sleeponitil.bandcamp.com facebook.com/sleeponitband @sleeponitband
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ALBUM REVIEWS 30
For Today is not your average metalcore band. Inspired by Christian faith, For Today’s latest album, Fight The Silence, wholly embodies their beliefs without seeming solely like a sermon of the word of God. The opening track, “Molotov,” details lead vocalist and songwriter Mattie Montgomery’s dreams of performing for audiences and being able to be the spark that can cause some form of change in their lives. The band isn’t trying to just change their lives, however. With this album, the members of For Today hope to change the lives of strangers in every corner of the world.
FOR TODAY FIGHT THE SILENCE
The messages in Fight the Silence deal with issues not normally addressed in music. The title of the album tries to tackle the problem of sex trafficking worldwide. It can hopefully inspire BY LEAH DICKERMAN listeners to stand for what they believe in and to “fight the silence” of those who choose to pretend that this issue doesn’t exist. It doesn’t matter whether or not these tracks are directed to those of the Christian faith; most of the lyrics on this album speak indirectly to everyone. “Fatherless,” for example, manages to do just that. Many kids can relate to the track, which is about the struggle of growing up without a father after he lost his fight against cancer. Overall, Fight the Silence is honest and real, with a positive, albeit controversial, message that anyone can take something from and relate to. I definitely recommend you give For Today a listen. The album is available on iTunes now!
YOU ME AT SIX CAVALIER YOUTH
BY JAMIE LYNN
“Can we learn to love again? Can we learn to feel again? Cause we’re too young to feel this old. Yeah, we’re too young to feel this old,” sings lead vocalist Josh Franceschi. The chorus of “Too Young To Feel This Old,” the opening song to Cavalier Youth, perfectly summarizes what this album is trying to convey. You Me At Six recently released their fourth album, Cavalier Youth, which pushes forth the idea of youth easily disappearing within the blink of an eye. It should be embraced, rather than replaced with an eager longing to grow up and take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Their fourth time around, the boys combined pop and punk more so than in previous albums. The punk riffs greet the pop choruses harmoniously, ultimately creating moments of bliss for their audience. If you haven’t listened to You Me At Six before, you definitely won’t regret it. Cavalier Youth is now available iTunes or Amazon!
It opens with the ballad “Solstice,” which quickly gives listeners a taste of the band’s softer side before diving into an edgier song. The second track, Bottom Of The Ocean, is much more driven by a faster tempo, quick riffs, and a prominent bass line. Near the end of the song, the vocals become less clean and are laced with the emotional angst that is relatively common in pop punk. It’s a one-two punch that really encompasses the versatility that Sleep On It offers. The lyrics overall are sincere and relatable. The album fittingly ends with the gang vocals, “This is it / This is our lives now.”
SLEEP ON IT EVERYTHING,V ALL AT ONCE
BY LEAH DICKERMAN
The band started up almost two years ago to do what they love, and hopefully Sleep On It will continue to be their lives for some time to come. Fans of bands like Real Friends, Neck Deep, Fireworks, etc. should definitely consider giving Sleep On It a listen. You can stream Everything, All At Once on Spotify and purchase it on iTunes now! Seahaven’s latest EP, Silhouette (Latin Skin), is a precursor to their sophomore album, Reverie SILHOUETTE (LATIN SKIN) Lagoon: Music for Escapism Only, which is due to be released on March 25th.
In Silhouette, the guys in Seahaven perfectly portray great influences from the indie music scene while still remaining true to their original emo and post- punk sound, as noted on the track “Phantom Family.” However, compared to Winter Forever, Silhouette provides a more relaxed, dreamlike ambience that one may experience while on a late night trip to the beach during the summer. “Sleep Alone” perfectly exemplifies Seahaven’s attempts at trying to create a calmer, dreamier BY MARIANA PATINO sound. The song initially begins with a more upbeat tempo in comparison to the other two tracks on the EP. Kyle Soto’s vocals should be duly noted because he temporarily strays from his lower pitch and instead sings in a higher range. The guitars contribute greatly to the songs’ progression towards an overall softer sound. This slight difference in their sound should spark interest in music lovers since the unique blend Seahaven has created will be difficult for one to successfully duplicate.
Fresh onto the pop punk scene, Sleep On It made a strong debut with their first EP, Everything, All At Once.
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BY LORI GUTMAN
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M K T O
#Bandlife Tour To say that MKTO was one of my favorite discoveries of 2013 would be putting it lightly. I can’t remember how or when it happened, but I suddenly found myself constantly listening to and excitedly singing along with their singles, “Thank You” and “Classic.” When I found their cover of Lorde’s “Royals,” I knew I was hooked. Tony Oller and Malcolm Kelley somehow managed to combine pop and hip hop/rap in a way that I never thought I could enjoy. After the Bandlife Tour was announced, I knew I had to go see MKTO.
As you may have expected, their set was comprised of a lot of the songs from their upcoming self-titled album, which will be released in the U.S. on April 1, 2014. They played their first two singles, of course, and also included “Heartbreak Holiday,” “American Dream,” “Could Be Me,” and “Goodbye Song” in their set list. I was really excited to hear their cover of “Royals” live; Oller’s vocals are consistently smooth and on point, and are perfectly backed up by Kelley’s
rapping capabilities. I would be lying if I said I preferred the original. I’m not ashamed to admit that, after I was finished shooting, I was singing along and rocking out at the side of the venue. Some bands don’t sound as good live as they do on their records, but that isn’t the case for MKTO. Their songs are incredibly catchy and I feel confident in saying that their fan-base is definitely growing as this tour continues. Honestly, my only complaint about their set is that it wasn’t long enough. I wish they had a bigger discography and a longer set time, but alas. Those things will surely come in due time. If you ever have the opportunity to see MKTO, I highly recommend it. The duo will kick off the Thank You Tour in Australia on April 23rd, so get tickets for that while you still can! PHOTOS + REVIEW: Lori Gutman
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Before Emblem3 came on stage, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I briefly saw Wesley Stromberg, Keaton Stromberg, and Drew Chadwick on X-Factor 2012, but the only things that came to mind whenever I heard “Emblem3” were abs, nice hair, and cute smiles. They definitely proved to be more than that; the guys had huge biceps too! On a more serious note, I came to the show with no expectations but an open mind. I weaved through the crowd to the photo pit with caution once I realized that most of the people in attendance were teenage girls. When the guys came on stage equipped with a skateboard and started off their set with a cover of Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us,” I knew it was going to be an interesting—yet very fun—set. Their set lasted over an hour and was comprised mostly of tracks from their debut album, Nothing To Lose. It also featured songs not on the album, namely “Tequila Sunrise” and “Indigo.” Throughout the performance, I was shocked not only by the quality of the vocals but also by the fact that all of the guys played instruments! At some point or another, Wesley, Keaton, and Drew all played guitars, and Drew even brought out a ukulele for “Indigo.” They finished off with a two-song encore. From start to finish, most of the crowd held up ‘I’m a Chloe’ signs during “Chloe.” “Sunset Blvd” was a great choice for finishing off the night, considering it was their X-Factor audition song and the start of their journey to fame. Towards the end, the performance had all but turned into an onstage party. I don’t know who was on stage with the boys—whether they were crew members, members of the live band, friends from home, etc.—but everyone seemed to be having a blast. There were skateboarding tricks, handstands, and backflips galore; it was great to see people clearly having fun doing what they love to do. The highlight of Emblem3’s set, for me, was when three girls appeared on stage. The boys told the crowd that these VIPs had asked to come on stage for “I Wish,” and evidently the boys were sweet enough to actually bring them out. Musician-fan interaction is always enjoyable to witness, mainly because of the effect it has on the fans. It was easy to tell that this was probably one of, if not the, best moments of the girls’ lives thus far, as the boys hugged them and took turns dancing with them all over the stage. Overall, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised. I may not listen to Emblem3 on a daily or even monthly basis, but I can’t say I’d be opposed to seeing them again. You can catch them on the remainder of the Bandlife Tour, which ends on March 15th in Los Angeles, and UK fans can catch the boys playing a few shows in April. Don’t forget to get tickets before they’re sold out! PHOTOS + REVIEW: Lori Gutman
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When a tour has a line up this great, you don’t miss it; the American Dream Tour was one of the most anticipated shows of the year. When I got to the venue, I was anxious to see who would play first, as ISSUES and letlive. were rotating set times throughout. ISSUES hit the stage with a bang and quickly brought the crowd to their feet. They opened up the show with one of their newest tracks, “Stingray Affliction,” and fans were singing along to every word. Crowd surfers were coming and going with nothing holding them back. The best part was that this was only the first band. Letlive. took the stage next, and they had no problem keeping people entertained. Many stared in awe at front man Jason Butler, either because it was their first time watching letlive. or because they were seeing their favorite band. As he made his way across every part of the stage, the rest of the band played without flaws. When Jason began to sing the first words to “Muther,” he threw the microphone onto the balcony and began to make his way up. Once
at the top, he began to walk on the edge, from balcony to balcony. Overall, letlive. had incredible energy, as always, and made a lasting impression on everyone attending the show. Up next was Of Mice & Men. Fans, with what little voice they had left from the first two bands, sung along to “Bones Exposed,” as the members of the band put their all into the performance. At the end of the set, they gave Chicago a surprise by playing “Second & Sebring,” which had not been played on the tour thus far. Finally, Bring Me the Horizon hit the stage and confetti exploded from the cannons on stage. After starting off their set with “Can You Feel My Heart,” they played a mix of new and old songs that varied from “Diamonds Aren’t Forever” to “Blessed with a Curse.” They finished off the night with two encore songs and a whole lot more confetti. If you missed this tour, you’re probably going to regret it in the future, because it was definitely one for the books. PHOTOS + REVIEW: Penelope Martinez
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ISSUES by: Penelope Martinez
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Bring Me The Horzion by: Penelope Martinez
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letlive. by: Penelope Martinez
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Four Year Strong BY: PENELOPE MARTINEZ
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Bayside BY: PENELOPE MARTINEZ
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