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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 photographers bethan miller, craig taylor-broad, erlinda sanchez, grayson hary, jason cox, kelli coyne, leah dickerman, lori gutman, mimi hong, penelope martinez, priten vora

for any inquiries: connect: @focuszine website:

THANK YOU the color morale tim marecki // fearless records pup jared falk // killbeat music have mercy becca wilson // big picture media arkham adam bevel hope for the day carl j. evans + jonny boucher haulix matt brown + james shotwell max schneider hannah fuhrman // rogers & cowan


sudden suspension austen backe gates austin griswold // secret service pr kevin devine alissa kelly // pr plus matty vogel, anam merchant, alyson coletta & to everyone who made this issue possible and our amazing staff and readers. Here’s to a fantastic new year.


CONTENTS 6 16 20 22

artist of the month behind the band local spotlight organization of the year

26 30 34 38 44 48 52

sudden suspension have mercy pup gates max kevin devine the color morale

64 album reviews 68 gallery





photo by curran blevins


artist of the


Matty Vogel



WHO: Matty Vogel WHAT: Photography WHERE: ​ OW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SHOOTING? HOW H DID YOU FIND YOUR WAY TO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY? I’ve been shooting for nearly six years now. I started when I was eighteen and just graduating high school, armed with a camera I received as a graduation gift. I picked up a camera with the intent of shooting concerts, so it was kind of my step one. And it’s still what I do today!

HAPPY WITH THE WORK YOU HAD DONE THUS FAR? HOW DID YOU SNAP OUT OF IT? I’ve gone through phases of not being happy with my work but, in the past few years, I’ve been pretty content with what I’ve been putting out. Being able to produce a huge amount of work means that I’m only publishing my very best stuff. I don’t put out mediocre work just because I feel like I have to post something.

DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST SHOW YOU SHOT WITH AN ACTUAL PHOTO PASS? When I first started shooting, I shot a lot of smaller shows without a pass. I think the first concert I shot with a photo pass was a Quietdrive show in Minnesota.

WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME DIFFICULTIES YOU’VE COME ACROSS ALONG THE WAY? HOW DID YOU DEAL WITH THEM? Learning “how” to tour as a photographer was a huge one. Going from shooting three songs of one or two shows every couple weeks to an entire show every night was a massive gap I had to bridge in my workflow. I have a system down now, but that was definitely one of the biggest things I had to overcome.

WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU WERE PUBLISHED, AND HOW DID YOU REACT? I had a photo published in Alternative Press and, as someone who grew up reading that magazine, I was really excited. I had a subscriber copy and bought another one, just in case! CAN YOU THINK OF A TIME WHERE YOU DIDN’T FEEL LIKE SHOOTING OR YOU JUST WEREN’T

WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU WENT ON TOUR? HOW WAS IT PLANNED OUT AND HOW DID IT GO? I went out with The Dangerous Summer, who were nice enough to bring me out for a short US


tour. It went great. That tour was a really unique one, and I will always remember it fondly. After that, they brought me back out again for a UK run. SINCE THEN, HOW MANY OTHER TOURS HAVE YOU GONE ON? WHICH ONES ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITES? It’s really hard to choose favorites, because there are things from each tour that I really enjoy. I love traveling, so I love getting to go to amazing places I’ve never been to before. I did an overseas tour with Our Last Night that brought us to Russia, Europe, and Australia -that was an incredible experience. I really enjoy doing Hoodie Allen tours. The insane productions and large venues are incredible, especially from a photography standpoint! There’s a lot of value to all types of touring. I can’t think of a situation where I wouldn’t see touring as a really fun experience. WHO OR WHAT HELPED YOU GROW AND DEVELOP YOUR STYLE? I don’t really look at work from other concert photographers very much. I really enjoy the work of all types of photographers and draw inspiration from cool images, ideas, and photo series that I


see. I’ve tried to create my own style, in which I try to emulate the colors of film but not always the texture of it. I think it helps my work feel documentary and “snapshot” styled, but I also try to make my work technically appealing and thought out too. DUE TO YOUR STYLE, YOUR WORK STANDS OUT FROM THAT OF MANY OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS IN THE INDUSTRY TODAY. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT FINDING AND DEVELOPING A STYLE IS SO IMPORTANT? Thank you! I think developing a style that matches what you shoot is important and helps elevate your work. I try to shoot documentary style and make my photos work well as a glimpse into the life of the artist. I think the goal is really the same for everyone: make your style match up with the mission you’re going for and you will excel at it! MANY PHOTOGRAPHERS TEND TO AVOID NOISE AND GRAIN, YET YOU ALWAYS SEEM TO MAKE IT LOOK PHENOMENAL. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS TECHNIQUE THAT YOU LOVE? I’m not afraid of grain. I avoid it when it’s avoidable, but there are moments where a photo is going to be an amazing photo with or without


grain. If it’s a mediocre photo with grain, then people notice the grain. If it’s an amazing photo with grain, people notice the amazing photo. At least that’s the way I see it. Technically speaking, I would rather have some grain than have my shutter speed too slow.

WHAT WERE SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF 2014?​ Shooting my first album cover was a really big accomplishment and something I’m going to value forever. It’ll be hard to top that in my music photography career, but I’m going to try.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS, EXPERIENCED OR NOT, SHOULD KNOW ABOUT PURSUING A CAREER IN CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY? You have to be cool! But really, you have to be a person that people enjoy being around, and you have to be comfortable playing lots of roles. If people don’t enjoy spending time with you, they probably won’t continue working with you. You’ve gotta know when to be a fly on the wall and when to inject yourself into conversations, when to take pictures and when to put the camera down. You have to be considerate, but sometimes you need to also be pushy when you need a specific photo. It’s a hard thing to explain, but you have to be ultra-aware of social situations when you’re a photographer.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT TOURING? I work full-time from home, actually, for an Internet radio station called idobi Radio. I also take time off to shoot personal projects and to travel whenever I can.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOURSELF? I don’t think I would tell myself to do anything differently.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR 2015? Hopefully, I’ll get back on the road this spring, work for some new artists, and create better photos than ever. 2014 TAUGHT ME… 2014 taught me to work smarter and harder. GET CONNECTED: @mattyvogel @mattyvogelphoto










WHERE AND WHEN DID THE IDEA FOR HAULIX BEGIN? I created a website that reviewed metal music back in 2001 as a sort of practice after getting a computer science degree. As the years went on, our mailbox was receiving more and more promotional CDs. It got to the point where we were getting hundreds of discs in the mail every month, and it was a pain having to manually input them into our system so that our writers could have access to them. I also noticed how much labels were paying for postage, and it just seemed like such a flawed and inefficient system. I’ve always had the itch to start a software business, and so, in 2007, I purchased the name in anticipation of creating a web-based solution for distributing promos to the press. The idea got put on hold for a couple years, until, in 2009, I decided to dive in headfirst. I let LeakSecure go and decided on Haulix as the name.

and files and issues automatic takedown requests to those sites. DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS ON EXPANDING TO OTHER ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRIES RATHER THAN SOLELY FOCUSING ON MUSIC? We have explored going into video watermarking, but we’re going to focus on music for now.

HOW ELSE DO YOU PROTECT YOUR CLIENTS' WORK WITH HAULIX? There’s a wealth of settings that our customers set on a per promo basis. They control everything—when the promo goes live, when it expires, how many times each contact can stream or download it. If they ever have an emergency, they can “pull the plug” and take the promo down instantly. We fingerprint the music with watermarks as it goes out the door, and customers can optionally set up automatic DMCA takedowns. The combinaSINCE HAULIX IS ONLINE, WHAT PREVIOUS tion of those features makes for a very powEXPERIENCES OR EDUCATION HELPED erful solution that enables maximum reach YOU WHEN CREATING IT? and minimal chance of an early leak. Prior to Haulix, I worked professionally as a web developer for over ten years. I also built HAVE YOU HAD TO DEAL WITH MANY SITa new version of that reviewing website every UATIONS WHERE MUSIC GOT LEAKED? year so that I could keep my skills fresh. HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT RESOLVING THE ISSUE? ANYONE WHO USES YOUR SERVICES Leaking situations are very black and white KNOWS THAT EVERY LINK SHARED HAS A to us as we are just the middle man. GeneralDISTINCT WATERMARK FOR PROTECTION. ly, a customer finds an album that was leaked HOW DO YOU PREPARE THESE, AND HOW and they submit it to us. We have no idea SOON CAN YOU TELL IF SOMETHING HAS where they found the music—we just scan it. BEEN LEAKED? If we find watermarks, we share who the leakOur platform performs a pre-processing step er was with the customer. It’s up to them to after the customer uploads the music. We handle the remainder of the situation. Some also generate the special links as emails get customers will remove the contact from their sent out to the press. The actual watermark promo list while others will do a full prosecuinjection process happens when a person tion. streams or downloads the music. It’s then up to our customers to submit leaked MP3 files YOU OFFER A WIDE VARIETY OF PACKAGto us if they find them in an illegal sharing ES FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN YOUR SERnetwork. We scan the files and, if our water- VICES. HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON THESE, marks are there, we will know the exact per- AND WHAT PLANS DO YOU RECOMMEND son who leaked it and their geo-location info. FOR BANDS? We recently introduced a new piece to our Way back in the beginning, we glanced at services that proactively seeks illegal links what the competition was charging and we


I’m still amazed at how I can purchase an album on for the price of a coffee and have it in my possession within minutes! $7.99 for something I will get at least fifty listens out of? That’s a small price to pay for that much entertainment.” compared that with our costs in order to come up with fair pricing. We have competitors who literally rob their customers with astronomical charges. Simultaneously, there have been some new guys who under-charge and practically give away their services for free. We haven’t changed our prices in six years because we’ve been pricing everything fairly from day one. If a band isn’t concerned with leaking, then our base Rising Star Plan is a great place to start. If watermarking is required, then the next plan up—the Indie Powerhouse Plan—is the way to go. Our customers can upgrade, downgrade, or hibernate their accounts from month to month. It’s very flexible to meet the ups and downs of running publicity.

reason we’re becoming the standard.

FROM YOUR EXPERIENCES, WHAT HAS BEEN THE MAIN REASON FOR THE LEAKING OF MUSIC? I’m not going to blame it all on the younger generation because people of all ages have leaked an album or downloaded pirated music. Now, we’re in this always-connected, instant-access world, and it has, in turn, spoiled us. I also believe that the bar for actual talent has been lowered due to all of the pop crap that the media spoon-feeds to the youth. Part of the younger generation doesn’t know any different—they just accept that music should be free. Perhaps others leak and pirate music because their friends do it. If “everyone” is doing it, then why not?! Speaking DO YOU OFTEN THINK, “YOU SHOULD for myself—a guy who grew up with cassette HAVE USED HAULIX,” WHEN A NON-CLI- tapes—I’m still amazed at how I can purchase an album on for the price of a ENT’S MUSIC LEAKS? **coughs** Madonna… But yeah, all the time. coffee and have it in my possession within Our very first forty or so customers from 2009 minutes! $7.99 for something I will get at least are still with us today. After a label learns our fifty listens out of? That’s a small price to pay system and realizes how easy Haulix is to use, for that much entertainment, in my opinion. coupled with the (large) return they get on their investment, many say that they can’t WHAT ELSE CAN ARTISTS DO TO PREVENT live without our services. We’re hoping one THEIR WORK FROM BEING LEAKED? of the majors gives us a try soon. There’s a Hire a publicity firm that has a good solid


track record and healthy relationships with there will be consequences if someone is their press contacts. Many artists stream their caught leaking. Gauge how serious the jouralbums before releasing it. nalist is based on how they reply. Do they accept those terms? Also, talk to other people DO YOU THINK STREAMING IS A SMART in the industry. If a blog seems questionable IDEA, OR DO YOU BELIEVE IT’S BETTER TO to you, ask someone else in the industry if WAIT FOR THE ALBUM TO DROP? WHAT they know about the blog, etc. CAN THEY DO TO PROTECT THE MUSIC THAT’S BEING STREAMED? YOU GUYS STARTED A BLOG THAT COVI think it’s a good idea to stream a track or ERS A WIDE RANGE OF THINGS, INCLUDtwo before an album is released in order to ING INTERVIEWING OTHER INDUSTRY give the listeners a taste. Haulix watermarks PROFESSIONALS AND POSTING ABOUT streams, so, even if someone holds a record- AVAILABLE JOBS. WHY DID YOU BRANCH ing device up to the computer speakers, the OUT INSTEAD OF KEEPING THE COMPANY watermarks survive. It’s been said that CD AND ITS SERVICES SIMPLE? sales have gone down in the past few years The nature of our business is very private and because fans are buying the music online “behind the scenes”. We needed a beefed now. up public presence. We are also passionate about giving back to the industry that we WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR HAULIX AND work in. It’s nice to have a platform for sharYOUR TEAM? ing industry profiles and broadcasting new As long as labels see value in feeding pre-re- jobs for those who want to get into the inlease watermarked music to the press, there dustry. will be a need for our services. Many fans don’t understand how leaking music affects WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM HAULIX IN artists. 2015? We’re going to continue adding new features FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE, CAN YOU GIVE and refining the services we currently offer. US A RUNDOWN OF HOW LEAKING THE We’re also looking into offering a new press WORK OF MUSICIANS AFFECTS THEM? release type service. Twenty five percent of total album sales are pre-orders, and another twenty five percent of sales are during the first two weeks post-album release. If an album leaks before the release date, there could be a great decrease in opening sales due to listeners already having GET CONNECTED: the music. I really wish we could take mali- cious leakers and put them in the studio with an artist so that they could experience how much work goes into putting an album to- gether. Anyone can start a blog or zine nowadays and call themselves journalists. WHAT PRECAUTIONS DO YOU SUGGEST PR AND ARTISTS TAKE BEFORE DISTRIBUTING THEIR MUSIC? I suggest PR people and artists lay all of the cards on the table when they initially contact a new blog or zine. Inform them that the music you send will be watermarked and that








Adam Bevel does vocals, Charlie McKeown plays guitar, Matthew Meifert plays guitar, Jack Mazurek plays the bass, and Andrew Smith plays the drums. HOW DID THE BAND START?

Charlie and I (Adam) started playing in bands in high school. When we were seniors, we both thought it’d be cool to play in a heavier punk band. Thus, Arkham was born. We played shows, released demos, and toured a bit for a few years. Eventually, midway through 2013, we landed on our current lineup. That was essentially the start of a whole new outing, but we kept the name. YOUR EP, THE GREAT AMERICAN GOODBYE, WAS RELEASED AT THE END OF JULY. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THE WRITING AND RECORDING PROCESSES WERE LIKE?

It was long... Really long... We started writing what was going to be our “debut record” in August of 2012, after releasing two demos earlier that year. I wrote lyrics for a record, we tried writing music to it, and it didn’t really go anywhere. So, I wrote a new record. We wrote a song, recorded it, didn’t really like it, and went back to the drawing board. Around that time, our lineup was shifting and, eventually, it solidified in the summer of 2013. That’s when we started writing again. We wrote a lot of songs, we scrapped a lot of songs, and, ultimately, we landed on the six that made it

onto The Great American Goodbye. I think they’re a great representation of what we want to do as a band, of what we stand for, of where we’re going, and the like. Recording was actually the easiest part. We sat down with Jeff Leber (Awe Howler) and knocked it out in a few sessions.


The local scene is really the reason we’ve gotten anywhere. We owe everything to all the kids who have supported us. From the DROP girls who set up so many of our shows, to every kid who keeps coming out, they’re the reason this band has kept going. We’ve met some of our best friends, and have found YOU PLAYED A SHOW WHERE YOU OPENED places that we really feel like we belong. The UP FOR REAL FRIENDS AND NECK DEEP. HOW local scene will always be home. WAS THAT EXPERIENCE?

It was a lot of fun. The whole idea of the show was about this international band getting back to their roots. It was so cool, and there was just such a good atmosphere to the whole thing. Obviously, when you’re a band that plays what we do and you’re opening for two of the most prominent pop punk bands in the world right now, the crowd isn’t going to be as inherently receptive to our music as it would be if we opened for bands like letlive. or Stick to Your Guns. That just means we had to work for it a little more. We had a ton of fun playing, the crowd got into it, and I think a lot of the kids really got what we were doing and what we’re about. The ones that didn’t were respectful. The whole show just had an amazing vibe to it, and we’re really thankful that we were asked to be a part of it. WHAT IS YOUR LOCAL MUSIC SCENE LIKE?

It’s really cool. There are a ton of really interesting, different bands putting out great stuff. Chicago has such a diverse music scene: you’ve got your straight hardcore bands (La Armada, Bitter Thoughts, Thieves), you’ve got your emo bands (Mighty Ships, Awe Howler), you’ve got your melodic hardcore groups (Widower, I Made You Myself). There are the straight punk bands (Dead Split Egos, Haki), the post-hardcore bands (Shallow Graves, Live this Down), and of course the singer/ songwriters (Sarah Jo, Elizabeth Carol K). All of these musicians are putting out some of the best music in their genre. Because we don’t really fit neatly into one genre, we’ve been able to bounce around and see and play with so many of these fantastic groups. CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW YOUR LOCAL MUSIC


At the risk of sounding egotistical, I honestly don’t think there are any bands out there that are really doing what we’re doing. I don’t think there are any bands out there combining punk, post-hardcore, aggression, melody, politics and emotion the way we are. I think we offer something very unique that simultaneously manages to be angry, urgent, and accessible. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO TOUR WITH IN THE FUTURE?

Metallica and Kanye West… More realistically: Stick To Your Guns, Beartooth, Gallows, Real Friends, Every Time I Die, Cancer Bats, Ghost Key. Honestly, we’ll tour with anybody. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE SHARE?

We are currently working on a follow up to The Great American Goodbye. We’ll have some shows around Chicago and the Midwest and, come this summer, we should be touring fairly frequently. All our music can be found for free on ARKHAMCHICAGO.BANDCAMP.COM interview by: lindsy carr



on i o t f a t h z i e n Y a e g a r r O While the scene is surrounded by wonderful organzitions for various causes, Hope for the Day stands out amongs the rest. Aiming to use arts and music as defense mechanisms to suicide, they have developed various programs to get both fans and artists alike involved. Whether it be at a show or online, the people at HFTD are always active and ready to educate people on the stigmas and misconceptions of mental illnesses, and to provide hope and prevent suicide. We are proud to have them be our Organization of the Year, and we can’t wait to see what they have planned for 2015.


I got involved with music when I was thirteen. That was when I started organizing punk shows for my friends. I always wanted to be involved in the music industry in any way I could. At one point, I was working for a man named Mike Scanlan, who promoted concerts and festival-sized events. In 2011, he committed suicide. I dropped everything to start HFTD because that was a last-straw type of moment for me. WHERE DOES THE IDEA OF USING ART AND MUSIC AS DEFENSE MECHANISMS STEM FROM?

Music and art are defense mechanisms in a sense because they act as barriers between the crisis stage and people experiencing stressors and traumas. On one side, we’re talking to those in crisis, those who feel like there are no options or ways to end their pain. We’re breaking that silence and letting them know that they aren’t alone and that they do have options. On the other side of that barrier, we’re educating the public in order to dispel stigmas. We talk about how to healthily cope with trauma and stressors by channeling and embracing self-expression. Silence and stigmas are the biggest obstacles because people are compelled to stay silent about their issues. They are afraid of judgment. We challenge these issues by encouraging people to find their platforms of expression, like music and arts, even though we ultimately extend that concept to anything people find a passion for. Finding a platform of expression empowers people, and they can empower and encourage others through it. WERE THERE ANY CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY THAT YOU WOULD BE WILLING TO SHARE WITH US?

The biggest challenge has been keeping up with Hope For The Day’s growth. It all started out with me hoping to reach folks around the Chicago area, in communities I already occupied, and amongst my friends. I took my savings and started handing out homemade flyers with the national suicide hotline number on it. We are only limited by the amount

of funding we have, because demand and need are evident. Our reach has grown far, far larger than our actual physical footprint, and keeping up with the expansion has been difficult.




The goal of HFTD is to press the conversation and shatter the silence built around suicide and mental health. We want to reduce suicide rates and get people talking about, caring about, and improving their mental health. Our strategy is manifested in three types of initiatives: informational advocacy, building


emotional literacy, and grassroots empower- nois’ oldest and largest mental services agency. We hope to have the program in a vetted ment. curriculum that will be available to schools, Informational advocacy happens when we community organizations, and anyone else partner with artists and bands for tours and before this summer. concerts. They share their platform with us so that we can introduce and discuss suicide The Hope Defined project is about using art and mental health with their audience. Music to create conversation starters and to reSaved My Life is a project that incorporates lay the message in relevant mediums. In the artists who are willing to share their experi- summer of 2013, we built this project with the ences, and finding healthy avenues to take participation of DuPage County high school students, caring families, and individuals in the air out of stigma. the community. It’s an intimate, unique effort In order to build emotional literacy, we started to explore suicide and its effects on a comthe BEATKEEPERS project, which is a hands- munity without trivializing it into a plot point. on effort that uses music education and com- We wanted to avoid the ‘after school special’ position as a vehicle for exploring emotion- feel, and the project carries the HFTD style of al literacy and recognizing, understanding, being direct and absent of hollow platitudes. and channeling emotions into healthy forms Our first work out of The HD Project is a short of expression. We finished a year’s worth of film titled “I’m Fine,” which we finished shoot pilot trials of the program. It was running at ing last summer. Nickel A Day Films comBoys & Girls Club and Thresholds, which is Illi- posed it with the support of students and


families in DuPage County, IL, and the city of IN 2014, YOU EXPANDED TO EUROPE FOR A COUPLE OF SHOWS AS PART OF YOUR “INNaperville, IL. Grassroots empowerment is relatively new. The majority of people who contact us are looking for resources and referrals, while others just want a trustworthy ear but aren’t in need of crisis intervention. Still, there is a growing group of folks asking what they could do to help, and how they could get involved in their own communities. We wanted to answer that question responsibly. We wanted to give them more than just “share our webpage/social media with your friends.” Right now, we provide access to free materials and resources, and we hope to have strategy guides about how to take action in communities and schools. This aspect is constantly evolving, and it’s really exciting to see this starting to take shape as it naturally blossoms by people’s requests.


We did the same thing that we do at local shows and on the many tours we support. We set up a booth with the best resource information possible. We got on stage and spoke to the crowd every night, and distributed materials relevant to the conversations. A critical part of our ongoing mission is working with each venue to connect with and incorporate local health partners. It’s important to have a presence inside the venues even when we aren’t there. That way, we can keep the dialogue going not only with the bands we work with but also with the venue’s community. WHAT ARE SOME OF HOPE FOR THE DAY’S BEST MEMORIES?

Launching the Music Saved My Life series. The Warped Tour 2014 Indiegogo campaign. HOW DID YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ALTER- Every opportunity we’ve had to get on stage NATIVE PRESS BEGIN FOR THE “MUSIC SAVED and speak. Every opportunity we’ve had to assist someone who was struggling to start MY LIFE” PROJECT? We sent a simple email to AP explaining the his or her journey of recovery. Every time we organization, along with an overview of what educate people on how they can be an imthe project would entail. It was very organic, pact in their own community. And we can’t and we love AP because they never tell us forget traveling to Europe. how to do certain things. They just believe in But the most important moments have conthe movement. sisted of getting feedback and reassurance WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE MILESTONES that we succeeded in saving a life. OF HFTD?

Every day is a milestone for us. We are always the underdogs, and we pride ourselves on that. Every day that we work, we move forward and create new ways to inspire necessary conversations. In 2014 alone, we’ve had so many successful moments: our BeatKeeper pilot classes, our Artwareness events, our Sip of Hope coffee collaboration with Dark Matter Coffee and Whole Foods Markets, our Warped Tour gig, our European Tour gig, Maya’s Wall of Hope, moving into free office space donated by MB bank, being invited to high schools for inspirational speaking. These are all noteworthy events for us.





Unfortunately, Sudden Suspension, comprised of Brandon Stasi, Griffin Taylor, and Austen Backe, are all too familiar with these issues. “I remember there being a lot more shows when we were younger. Austen’s high school even used to have a Battle of the Bands, but now that’s all sort of gone,” shares Brandon. “Northwest Indiana seems to still be lacking either venues, a fan base, or something, because it’s just kind of dead out here.”


much music meant to him. “At family parties, my uncle would let me play on his drums, and I immediately fell in love with the instrument,” he explains. While Austen also shares a passion for drums, he soon realized that they were too expensive and instead settled for a bass. Griffin wasn’t the only one influenced by his family’s love for music. Brandon, who is Austen’s cousin, distinctly remembers listening to his dad’s cassettes from a young age. “When I was three, I remember jumping on my bed listening to all his cassettes, or sitting in the living room while my parents made me guess the artists on the radio,” he tells us. When he got older, he got a TV in his room, and that’s how he discovered Fuse. “Steven’s Untitled Rock Show would be on after school, so I’d sit on the futon of my bunk bed and learn about Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance, and so many bands that I now feel cool for listening to when I was still in elementary school,” he elaborates. A couple of years later, Brandon got his first guitar, and he began playing music with Austen. The duo quickly developed an interest in starting a band. At the time, Griffin was singing for another band. Luckily, Brandon soon found out that Griffin was also a drummer— something that Sudden Suspension lacked. “When our drummer at the time quit to go off to college, we gave Griffin a shot,” Brandon shares. During their first practice, they wrote “Stay Golden,” and this assured them that Griffin was exactly what they were missing.

Luckily, the guys have found the Chicago local scene to fall back on. Many times, they find themselves driving up to the suburbs of Illinois or the city of Chicago to play or watch their friends put on a show. “Chicago and the suburbs aren’t that far, and there are a lot of cool things happening over there with bands like Homesafe and Bonfires,” they add. Sadly, like most independent bands, Sudden Suspension has faced difficulties along the But before they knew the dilemmas they way. One of the challenges the band had to would face as a growing band, the guys of overcome last summer was going on tour. Sudden Suspension were simply a couple But, instead of facing the traditional issues of of kids with one thing in common: a passion being broke and living in a van, the guys dealt for music. For Griffin, music has always sur- with a bigger problem: Griffin was unable to rounded him, mainly in the form of his uncles join them on the road. Because he was sixplaying in bands and his dad joining them teen and still in high school, Griffin’s parents from time to time. It wasn’t until he got his weren’t too happy about him leaving during hands on a drum kit that he realized just how the school year and living out of a van. As a


solution, the guys decided to tweet about Much like with any other profession and comtheir situation, and that’s how they discovered mitment, the guys occasionally have second Brandon Blakeley, their touring drummer. thoughts about playing music. “It’s generally a terrifying thing to pursue because there is Although the touring lifestyle may seem fun, virtually zero promise of it doing anything for many of us forget the sacrifices musicians your future,” comments Brandon. “You’re just have to make to be able to travel. Brandon, hoping people like what you do, and continue for one, gave up his first year of college. While liking what you do, because once they don’t, many people would say that leaving school is you’re kind of done.” Aside from that, they a dream come true, the situation wasn’t that also worry that they won’t be able to do it forsimple. “It was kind of a bummer to come ever. “I just hope that I can have some great back from tour only to find that all my friends times with my best friends before I have to had already moved away. You just see them go be miserable at some department store,” meeting all these people, and making new Austen tells us. friends, and having these adventures. You get sort of jealous, which is stupid, because Fortunately for Sudden Suspension, their you’re out there meeting people, and making families have been nothing but supportfriends, and having adventures too,” he ex- ive. They have consistently encouraged and plains. Another thing they all had to sacrifice helped the guys throughout their journey, in was having a steady job. Austen has turned the form of buying their newest merchandise, down several promotions to avoid having to expressing how proud they are, and even quit for tour. Like Brandon, he also gave up lending them a van for tour. Having people school, and he believes that “now that it’s to fall back in during difficult time helps to been a couple years, it feels almost impossi- subdue some of the fears of pursuing a music career, even if only for a short period of time. ble to go.”



While he also appreciates traveling and gaining new fans all over the country, Griffin’s fondest memory is a little closer to home. “To start off 2014, we played a holiday show in downtown Chicago where we had the opportunity to play for hundreds of kids. The fact that anyone knew the words and enjoyed us was very surreal, and I still think it was one of Still, despite all the challenges that may come our tightest sounding shows,” he explains. their way, the guys believe that the struggle is worth the outcome. While on tour, Brandon Although 2014 was a great year for Sudden and Austen had revelations that have stuck Suspension, the guys know that 2015 will be with them since. “We had an off day, so we hit even better. “It’s too early to really tell what’s up Manhattan. That night, as we took the fer- going to happen, but we do have some inry back to Staten Island, I just kind of stood credible things to announce, and I have high there and took it all in. I looked out at the hopes in where the year could potentially skyline and sort of realized that I was across take us. We worked on some songs and they the country touring with my band. We’d been have music in them,” they spill jokingly. If all out for a few weeks, but it all just sort of hit goes well, Sudden Suspension will be visitme in that moment. It was a really indescrib- ing places they haven’t had the opportunity able feeling,” Brandon shares. Austen agrees to go to yet, and we really can’t wait to see before adding, “I remember we played a few where their adventures take them. songs at a show in Canada, and it sort of hit me. Here we were in a different country, and interview + story: penelope martinez live photo: anam merchant people were there singing to us. It was just posed photo: provided kind of everything I ever wanted.” Another thing that helps quell their fears is learning that their music means something to people. Brandon shares that “most of [the] songs are about me feeling kind of awful. If hearing me complain about that can make a few people feel a little less awful, that makes me feel a little less awful too.”


WHEN BASSIST NICK WOOLFORD WAS SIX Formed in Baltimore in 2011, Have Mercy conyears old, his parents took him to see The Beach Boys. He was in awe of the large crowd and everyone’s positive reactions and excitement, and the memory of that concert stuck with him for years to come. From that moment on, “I knew I wanted to be that guy on stage. From every show I've played to all the people I have met, I owe it to my parents for taking me to that concert,” he shares. And although he has been pursuing music since the age of fifteen, it’s safe to say that Nick never expected to be playing in a band whose moniker was inspired by Full House’s beloved Uncle Jesse.


sists of vocalist and guitarist Brian Swindle, bassist Nick Woolford, drummer Todd Wallace, and guitarist Andrew Johnson. In their relatively short time together, the guys of Have Mercy have had their shares of ups and downs. Unfortunately, difficulties are practically a rite of passage when it comes to the music industry, and you have to learn to persevere despite how bad things may get. The guys did just that, and together they learned one of the most important lessons that come with the territory: “Never give up. It's hard, it's damn hard. Sometimes, after a ten-hour drive, you end up playing to nobody, and

you just want to say, ‘Screw it, I’m done.’ You really took everything piece by piece.” As far can’t do that. If you love it and feel passion- as the new material is concerned, Nick doesn’t believe that there is an astounding change ate about what you do, it’ll work out.” in sound. “We are Have Mercy and these are Nick and his band mates are proof of that. Have Mercy songs. With A Place of Our Own, Despite the odds against them, the four have we really just pushed ourselves to try and besuccessfully released one EP, and two full- come better songwriters,” he exclaims. length albums. After signing to Hopeless Records in 2013, Have Mercy began working on While you would think that a touring band their latest record, A Place of Our Own. When would be tempted to write about all the new it came time to write a new album, Woolford places they have had the opportunity to exlets us know that the process was very collab- perience, the idea behind Have Mercy’s secorative. “Brian wrote a main idea and came to ond album was inspired by their hometown. us with it. We sat down, broke it apart, and “We wanted to show what it’s like to actually threw ideas around. We saw what works, and live in Baltimore. Everyone sees the harbor


stadiums, but what they don't show you on TV is what we see every day when we leave our houses,” Woolford explains. “It's a little rough, but it's a place of our own.”

at the Glamour Kills Holiday Fest in New York City. According to Nick, “It was a huge party. So many of our friends were playing, and it was definitely fun.”

In just a few short years, this indie rock quartet has accomplished what many bands only hope to achieve, and it’s still just the beginning for them. Nick agrees, stating that “as long as the fans keep coming to the shows, the sky's the limit on what can happen.” With 2015 already well underway, Have Mercy have a lot of big plans. Although Nick can’t reveal what’s in store for the band just yet, he does share that Since then, the guys have been promoting A one of his childhood dreams will be coming Place of Our Own on many different tour cy- true very soon. Could it be a headlining tour, cles. More recently, this past November, Have a support slot alongside one of his favorite Mercy wrapped up a full U.S. tour in support bands, or perhaps playing at one of the many of Real Friends and Neck Deep. To close out big music festivals of the summer? Whatever 2014, they were one of four main stage acts it is, it’s bound to be an incredible opportunity. When it came time to record the LP, Have Mercy learned from their past mistakes. Instead of cramming the recording process into only a handful of days, the band took their time and recorded eleven songs over the span of a month. The hard work paid off: the response to the album “has been phenomenal, and we’re so excited about it.”


interview: kelly fadden story: lori gutman + leah dickerman photos: provided






interview+story: penelope martinez

photos: lori gutman



For two years prior to being known as PUP, however, the band went by the name Topanga—inspired by the character in Boy Meets World. In 2013, the band took it to Facebook to announce the new development. “Fuck Disney, and fuck Topanga. WE ARE PUP. Let's do this,” they wrote on a status, thoroughly explaining the name change. After Disney decided to launch the Girl Meets World T.V. series, PUP decided to avoid any potential legal issues.

tion their music and themselves quite a lot. “There is no snapping out of it. It's part of the deal,” Stefan explains.

In the few years that PUP has had together, they have created memories to last them years to come. Opening for The Hives in London UK and being part of Riot Fest are some of their greatest highlights. Still, even with all of their accomplishments, they tend to ques-

Fortunately, the guys have some touring already planned for the new year. They’ll be visiting Australia, North America, and Europe over the upcoming months. And, if we’re lucky enough, we might get a new record sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed!

As a result, the guys choose to not take themselves so seriously, and they are incredibly committed to that decision. Nestor, for one, ate ten burgers in one day. “That was pretty momentous,” comments Stefan. Even on stage, they manage to always have fun—perhaps too much fun at times. At a show in St. Catharines, Ontario, Stefan decided to climb A few months later, in October of 2013, PUP a stack of cases to jump off of. Consequently, released their debut self-titled album after the stack collapsed and he fell. “It was very working on it for roughly a year. In a short ouch for me. There's footage of it somewhere period of time, they began to get noticed by online. It's painful to watch,” he reminisces. several national and local outlets. By December, the guys signed with SideOneDummy Like with most other careers, the music lifeRecords. style came with its fair share of challenges. But despite being broke and sleep-deprived, Somehow, before they knew it, they became and having their girlfriends and pets hate a full-time band. “I think we were all just super them for not being around, the guys still manbored with life, and most of the fun we had aged to make the past year their best one came from hanging out and playing music thus far. With over two hundred shows and together. One day we just said, ‘Fuck it, let’s numerous “Top Albums of the Year” lists untry to do this full time,” shares Stefan. They der their belts for 2014, it has definitely been proceeded to quit their jobs on the same day, an exciting albeit exhausting few months for and the guys have since been pursuing mu- PUP. Stefan echoes that statement, saying, sic without outside distractions. After making “We're tired as hell but we've had a lot of fun such a life-altering decision, it was great to last year, and we're very grateful that we get have support from their loved ones. “We all to tour and make music every day. We never have awesome parents—my parents come to thought we'd get the chance to do this, so almost every show we play in Toronto,” Ste- we've just been enjoying the ride. Now I'm exfan adds cited to sleep forever.”



gates photos + interview: jason cox story: lori gutman



Kevin Dye was working as an audio engineer in upstate New York, and, when he wasn’t working at the studio, he was tracking his own songs. Around the same time that he was considering moving down to New York City, his best friend noticed that New Jersey-based band gates was looking for a singer and a guitar player. Kevin sent them an email, and they sent him instrumental versions of “Burned Us Alive” and “A Vague Ambition.” At that point in his life, Kevin didn’t think he was going to play music again. “I showed up at that band practice thinking, ‘These guys are amazing. There’s no way they’re going to like what I send them.’ But they thought it was awesome,” he shares. Before they knew it, the gates lineup was officially finalized. Still, Kevin had doubts about his potential, and, in the beginning, he assumed that his collaboration to the music industry would be via recording music rather

than playing it. “I joined the band just being like, ‘If this doesn’t work out, let me record the EP. I just want to record it.’ I was hoping to prove my recording skills to them more than anything. And when we put out the first EP, I thought, ‘Oops. I guess I’m a singer now,’” he explains. Kevin delves deeper into his thought process at the time, stating, “I was in bands when I was younger, but I was always just a guitar player. The first song on The Sun Will Rise and Lead Me Home was the first thing I ever recorded vocals to. I think [the band] saw something in me and believed in me more than I believed in myself for a number of years.” Life has its ups and downs, and Kevin was definitely no stranger to that notion. During the production of the band’s second EP, Fear, the self-doubt resurfaced within Kevin and really made itself prominent. “It was very hard for me to write vocals to it; it was very guitar-driven,”


he explains. “It was one of those things where I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I’m good enough to write lyrics to these songs.” While he was producing and recording the album, Kevin was given a deadline that made things even harder for him. He barely finished on time, and the end result wasn’t the product he wanted to create. “I had really bad anxiety for the year following the completion of that EP because it was just too much for me. I think that was the biggest hurdle for me to overcome. I thought about quitting music and not doing it anymore,” he elaborates.

any age and background. When writing the vocals, Kevin wanted to include a recurring motif, and, during that particular time in his life, a fear of dying plagued him more so than usual.

Kevin goes more in depth about the experience, sharing, “I think the general theme of the whole record to me was me wanting to live life to the fullest before I ultimately die, and that just kind of set in very hard during that particular time. I was feeling really intense about it. I was afraid of dying. I think I still am, but I’ve gotten a little bit better about it. Maybe playing the record has gotten that out of my system a little bit. I just had this Thankfully, not longer after, Nate Gluck, a intense fear that I was going to die and not friend of the band, decided to help the guys accomplish the things I wanted to, including out and manage gates. Not only did he facili- this record we had worked on for two years. I tate gates’ signing to Pure Noise, but he also was like, ‘What if this doesn’t get done?’ got them a meeting with their current booking agent, Phil Battiato. “Having that stuff was The recording process that followed put Keva support system for what we were doing. It in in a better mindset. It was a particularly led us forward and gave us more direction. It memorable experience, because the band felt like we were aiming towards something,” had the opportunity to work with producer Kevin tells us. Mike Watts. “[He] was one of the reasons I got into audio engineering, and I’ve always With all the support backing their efforts fol- wanted to work with him. He really worked lowing Fear, gates was able to move past the with us so we could go into his studio and redifficulties and evolve their sound with the cord our record there, and I think it turned out writing of their first LP, Bloom & Breathe. With way better than we even deserved to have this new effort, the band’s main goal was to our record sound,” Kevin shares. “He really be more collaborative. They really aimed to killed it. There was one point where he was work off of each other’s strengths and play mixing during the day and I would go in and to them, rather just playing on top of one tweak it during the night, and then he would another. No one wanted another musically come back in during the day and tweak it, claustrophobic record. When they began the and so on... Right from the bat, he treated me writing process, they thought, “Can we write like an equal. I still can’t believe that. Out of something that has a main riff that isn’t be- all of the studios that I’ve worked at, he was ing walked all over? Maybe we should work the only guy who was like, ‘I respect you, I on the vocal melody instead of just riffing?” think you’re awesome, and I really think you The overall goal was to create a big, cohesive know what you’re doing. Let’s work together.’ piece of music composed of individual songs. It wasn’t like we were working, it was like we were creating. It was a direct extension of the Musical technicality isn’t the only important rest of the writing process.” aspect of creating a record, however. Lyrical content is just as significant, if not more, Ultimately, everyone’s combined efforts paid in determining the quality of an album. The off, and gates exceeded expectations with theme behind Bloom & Breathe is personal, Bloom & Breathe. “We had a lot of goals, and heavy, and incredibly relatable to listeners of I feel like we met most of them. I couldn’t ask





for that record to have come out any differ- Thankfully, the reviews for B&B definitely won’t be hurting gates’ career any time soon, ently,” Kevin says. and the band can continue carving a signifiIt’s safe to say that fans and music critics cant-sized niche in the music scene. In 2015, alike are just as excited about the album, al- “we’re doing a full-on arena tour of the entire though Kevin is somewhat ambivalent to world,” Kevin jokes. Although they won’t be the response from the latter category. “For- playing in arenas or amphitheaters, the band mal reviews never really get me excited,” he will be touring the US April and May. Gates discusses. “But when people who have liked will also be releasing a B-side of some of their our band since the very beginning like this favorite tracks that didn’t make the record, record, that means a ton. And when friends and there are talks about collaborations on call me up saying, ‘This is really good,’ that some splits. On top of that, Kevin mysteriousmeans a lot to me as well. It’s crazy to see ly mentions that the band has “some crazy more people than ever enjoying the music ideas that may or may not happen—we’re althat we put out. It seems to be in a lot more ways working on stuff.” Whether these ideas people’s hands than ever before, and that’s come into fruition or not, gates is bound to amazing to me. It’s really surreal. People are have a big year, and we really can’t wait to emailing us from Indonesia saying, ‘Yeah, I lis- see everything that’s in store for their inevitaten to your record all the time. It’s my favorite bly successful future. record.’ People are getting tattoos and such. I honestly don’t know what to say here. It’s like, ‘Wow, I cannot believe it.’ To see our fans love [the record] is awesome. It’s cool to see positive reviews on it too, but I think reviews GET CONNECTED: are weird. I always have. Like, who are you to say your opinion is the finite end-all opinion of a record? That can kill a band’s career, and opinions are very subjective.”


photos + story: penelope martinez interview: lindsy carr



Many fans recognize Max from his various acting roles. He appeared in several TV shows, namely Law and Order SVU and The View. Max was also casted to play Zander in the Nickelodeon TV series, How To Rock, to which he sold a song that was co-written by Matt Wong and Claire Demorest. Later on, he landed the leading role in the Nickelodeon original film, Rags. After being chosen out of six thousand other applicants, Max got the opportunity to attend the YoungArts Program in Miami in January of 2010. That same year, when he wasn’t preoccupied with acting, he modeled alongside Madonna for the Dolce & Gabbana Fall/Winter line.

can have strenuous personal and physical effects, but Max’s experiences have taught him that you need to stay grounded, regardless of what you choose to pursue in life. “The fame and whatever else doesn’t really matter. Respect and happiness are the only important things in this line of work,” he exclaims.

Max finds this happiness when he is able to work on projects that fulfill him creatively. Still, a career in the spotlight isn’t always smooth sailing. Although he doesn’t show it, Max, like any other person, has had some difficult times. But, instead of dwelling on the struggles he has faced, he has learned to focus solely on the things that are withMax’s list of accomplishments doesn’t in his control. He believes that “you should end there, however. In 2012, he co-wrote never be waiting on someone else to conthe song “Show You How To Do” with Ben tinue pursuing your dreams and career.” Charles for the popular Disney series, Shake It Up. Being a keen songwriter, he also wrote Actions speak louder than words, and Max “Standing in China,” which is featured on sticks by his. He stopped waiting on bookCody Simpson’s album, Paradise. His mu- ing agents and producers when he wantsical talents eventually landed him a tour ed to create and release music. Instead, he with Victoria Justice. After the success of began his own YouTube channel so that he Justice’s “Making it in America Tour,” Max could share what he needed to with those and his band decided to continue touring. who helped him get to where he is. “I found a This time, they wanted to be the headliners. huge amount of stability in creating my own content on Youtube when I wasn’t booking Despite the fact Max is only in his early twen- acting gigs or going on tour,” he says. “It’s ties, he has successfully gathered up a loy- just so important to know there’s always al fan base that helped him release his LP, a way you can keep doing what you love.” Nothing Without Love, in 2013. At the time, he was in a low place musically. “I had been In May of 2014, in another attempt to give with a label for a while and wasn’t able to back to his fans, Max shared his four favorrelease any of my own music,” he explains. ite tracks off of his upcoming album. “I had The moment he was out of that deal, he been working on this full album for a few turned to his fans for helping in creat- years now and we (my management and ing the music he’s always wanted to make. I) decided my fans had been so patient for new music that we had to give them a Being a young artist with this much success taste of the album to come,” he explains.



That is essentially how Say MAX came to be. Whilst recording and writing it, Max realized that patience is everything, because “most special songs always come when you least expect them.” In the moments when he would get creative blocks or realize he didn’t have songs he really believed in, he reminded himself that “people always deserve your best and your best takes time.” Thankfully, all of his hard work is paying off. In 2014, he collaborated with Hoodie Allen on two songs—“Won’t Mind” and “Against Me”—for Hoodie’s latest album, People Keep Talking. In support of Say MAX, Max opened up for Hoodie on the People Keep Talking Tour this past fall. Max thought that the whole experience was wonderful, mostly because they’ve created a great friendship in the process of making music together. “It’s always the best working and performing with people you have a real connection with because it’s just easy,” he tells us. “You’re never putting on a smile. It’s always authentic, and that’s a really rare thing to find.” Because these last few years have been great for Max, it’s safe to say 2015 holds much more in store for him. He has new music that he is excited to release and many unexpected collaborations up his sleeves. And, as far as Max’s acting is concerned, fans should be on the lookout for his upcoming movie, Love & Mercy.





There are many things we can blame our parents for: moving our stuff around, throwing away tiny scraps of paper that contain important information, shrinking our clothes, embarrassing us. But most, if not all, of the time, our parents rule. They introduce us to many great things and want what’s best for us. Occasionally, their influence is so impactful that we end up following in their footsteps. This is the case for Kevin Devine, whose mother was also a musician. “She was a product of the 60s... Lots of Dylan, The Beatles, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Simon & Garfunkel, stuff like that,” he shares. Although his mom introduced him to the wonders of music, she wasn’t the only one to inspire his path into the music industry. Various bands, such as Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana, led him into the underground punk scene. He then discovered more bands like The Replacements and Pixies, which, in turn, led him to Elliott Smith. Anywhere Kevin went, new music and genres popped up, but they all led him back to his mom’s music. With such a wide range of artists surrounding him, Kevin realized what he wanted to create. “I like songs, I like proficiency but not flash, and I like noise and melody in equal measure. I like music that’s expressive and articulate. That’s what I enjoy, and that’s what I try to make,” he explains.


Devine released his first solo album in 2002 and, by 2005, he had released his third fulllength album, Split the Country, Split the Street, via Triple Crown Records. The following year, Kevin signed to Capitol Records and released Put Your Ghost to Rest. Unfortunately for him, along with most of the developing and semi-established bands and staff working at CR, everyone was let go due to the merging of Virgin and Capitol Records. Kevin explains to the best of his knowledge that “EMI, which owns both—or did—fed Capitol to Virgin stateside, and a sort of bloodbath ensued.”

“It was a pivot, a confirmation that the path I was cutting was working. My audience got it and supported me doing things a different way, as outside of the traditional system as possible.”

same industry due to the competition, Kevin assures us that the competition is actually what makes an industry move, for better and for worse. “I think we all challenge and push each other to be the best possible versions of ourselves and to keep making better music than we made last time,” he elaborates. “No one wants to be the weak link creatively.” He believes that one thing that’s different now is that more people are competing for less: less money, less power, less fame. But at the end of the day, Kevin tries not to worry too much about the “numerical competition,” because “there are too many external, circumstantial factors affecting stuff like that, and I don’t think it’s the only metric of measurement available to use for judgment. Certainly not the healthiest for someone like me, anyway.”

Should he ever need a plan to fall back on, Kevin majored in Journalism at Fordham University. Although he’s still relatively active in that field, writing for blogs and websites along with odd bits every now and then, Kevin doesn’t see himself leaving his music career for journalism. “I could see myself expanding on that, but I’m not sure I’d leave music to pursue it full time... Maybe kind of fold it into the frame, and make room for both,” he explains. Besides, there’s no reason for him to leave the music industry. He creates music unlike any artist currently out there, and he has a loyal Fortunately, this road bump didn’t slow him following of fans that have demonstrated just down. He was brought out on tour various how much Devine’s music means to them. times by Brand New, which is where he met Manchester Orchestra. “We both opened for In 2013, Devine launched a Kickstarter to help Brand New in 2007 and became close pretty fund his two upcoming albums. Within the much instantly,” he tells us about the begin- day, his entire goal amount had been raised. ning of their relationship. In 2010, the band “To this point, it’s been the most transformaworked with Kevin on a split where they tive experience of my career,” Kevin shares. covered Kevin’s music and vice versa. This “It was a pivot, a confirmation that the path soon turned into a bigger project called Bad I was cutting was working. My audience got Books, which consists of Devine and some it and supported me doing things a differmembers of Manchester Orchestra. This col- ent way, as outside of the traditional system laborative effort has “spent much of the past as possible.” He was shocked by the overall eight years touring together and making mu- result—reaching the goal in eight hours and sic,” Kevin adds. doubling it over the course of the fundraiser. While many people may think that it’s dif- When it came time to actually create the alficult to be friends with people within the bums, the processes surrounding both were


unlike anything Kevin had done in his career thus far. He set out to come up with fun, creative, and authentic ways to promote the records. Once Bulldozer and Bubblegum were released, he enjoyed being able play them all over the world to his wonderful fanbase. “The audiences obliterated my apprehensions and rewarded the risk a million times over. We actually grew through it, which I never expected,” he tells us.

ly and externally,” he shares. “If I can be part of that for other people, that’s a crazy gift.”

Ultimately, Kevin Devine is someone who will never cease to grow as a human being and as an artist. Although the future is uncertain, Kevin hopes that, in five years, he is still making music while also being able to afford living in Brooklyn—or at least someplace that can feel like home—with the people he loves. But for now, his attention will remain Although he overcame his worries about fund- focused on reissuing some out of print music, ing his music via Kickstarter, Kevin admits that as well as releasing new material and tranhe still has other fears in regards to his profes- sitioning into the next phase of his career. sion. He worries that “aging into health issues will become an impediment in [his] career.” As a writer, he is also concerned with eventually running out of things to say and ways to say them. Still, music is such a prominent GET CONNECTED: aspect of his life that none of these obstacles will stop him from doing what he loves. “It’s such an enormous part of how I interact with myself and with the world, and of how I try to interview + story: penelope martinez process and make sense of things—internal- photos: lori gutman





photo by penelope martinez

WHEN GARRET RAPP WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL, HE DEVELOPED AN INTEREST IN WRITING. INSTEAD OF PURSUING A PATH IN JOURNALISM, HOWEVER, HIS CHOICES EVENTUALLY LED HIM TO A SKATEPARK IN ILLINOIS. ASIDE FROM RUNNING THE PARK, HE HOSTED A VARIETY OF DIY PUNK SHOWS THERE AND OCCASIONALLY “GOOFED AROUND PLAYING BASS OR DOING VOCALS.” EVENTUALLY, A FRIEND ASKED HIM TO SING FOR HIS BAND, AND, AS GARRET PUT IT, HE “ENDED UP IN A BAND ON ACCIDENT.” HE NEVER EXPECTED THIS “ACCIDENT” OF A CAREER MOVE TO PUT HIM ON A PATH THAT POINTED AWAY FROM THE SKATE PARK AND ONTO MANY DIFFERENT STAGES AROUND THE WORLD. In 2007, Garret, Steve Carey, Ramon Mendoza, and John Bross formed The Color Morale after their previous band broke up. Not long after, the guys, along with Justin Hieser, performed in a Battle of the Bands. Without much stage experience, they “played with [their] backs to the crowd the whole set,” and “didn’t remember half the words to half the songs.” Since then, the band has undergone many changes, most notably within its lineup. Today, The Color Morale consists of vocalist Garret Rapp, drummer Steve Carey, rhythm guitarist Aaron Saunders, guitarist Devin King, and bassist Mike Honson.

to drop the metalcore, low screaming thing because I didn’t feel anything from it. When you’re releasing an album titled Know Hope, you can’t really use a vocal style that doesn’t evoke any emotional connection with you, personally. It was a necessary change and, on Know Hope, every song had a raw connection with the listeners.”

After being involved in the music scene for the better part of a decade, the band has picked up some valuable lessons. With the days of the Battle of the Bands performance long behind them, the guys have learned that you need to be confident in what you’re doAnother more recent change is a progres- ing. “Kids aren’t stupid. They will spot insinsion out of the hardcore genre. After their cerity a mile away, so, for me, that’s a really first two studio albums, The Color Morale important part of what we do—being sinwent with a cleaner direction for Know Hope cere, meaning what we say, saying what we and Hold On Pain Ends. Garret comments on feel, and being extremely authentic about it,” the development, explaining, “I wanna delve Garret shares. “Putting actions before words into different parts of being a singer, being a should be the focus in trying to make a real musician, being an artist. And, for me, I had change in anything.”


Another lesson that Garret refers to daily is “you get what you give. What you put into the world is what you’ll get back.” He elaborates on his beliefs, saying, “I find that being kind—even to the biggest of assholes—and just trying to stay kind and stay grounded… Putting that out into the world, doing random acts that half the time no one will even know about for nothing in return… That stuff will come back to you eventually, if you just stay consistent with it. That’s how I try to live my day-to-day life.”

his music career. “I think seeing the response and the reaction—the connections that I could make just through being open and honest about things I’ve dealt with in life—they kinda give me a resolve and an explanation as to why I’ve gone through certain events in my life. If [those hardships] can ultimately help somebody else, then they’re pretty necessary at that point. So it’s pretty cool to just be honest about things that I’ve dealt with, and to have people connect to them. Helping them in that way gives me a sense of resolution as to why I’ve done the things I’ve done, why Unfortunately, life isn’t always so kind and un- I’ve been the places I’ve been. It’s really cool, derstanding in return, especially on the road. having that resolution in life,” Garret explains. Being constantly on the go, musicians are often detached from any kind of stability in life, Although performing these extremely perand the guys have all had to make sacrifices sonal tracks can be daunting at times, they in order to turn their dreams into a reality. “At are essentially an outlet for Garret’s emotions some point, most of us had jobs that we could and also a way of fostering positivity. “That’s have worked to make pretty reliable incomes. a place that I like to go when we play our live A band provides a very unstable, very incon- set—a place I only go in that half hour time sistent income, if any,” Garret tells us. Addi- span so that I don’t have to anymore. But I tionally, forming and maintaining close bonds never really anticipated what it would be like with people outside of the band becomes dif- having people come to me with my lyrics,” he ficult once you make touring a commitment. reveals. “I try to write very positive and uplift“Understanding that this is my life and my ing lyrics, but sometimes... This is my release priority, and this is where I need to put all my and my art and my craft, so there are some time and effort—that doesn’t leave a lot of pretty urgent and aggressive lyrics as well. room for any other kind of relationships, and The subject manner in our songs is not easy any other things that you really need to focus to deal with sometimes, but, at some point, attention on. I put really, literally everything I we see it affect someone in a positive way. I have into this band,” he adds. know this whole positive music thing can kind of come off as a gimmick sometimes, but, for With so much time devoted to touring, The people like me or people like our fanbase, it’s Color Morale have learned the hard way that something that is necessary in my life. It’s embracing the lifestyle full-time can take a something that I need to keep me positive, heavy toll on you physically, mentally, and to keep me focused and on a good path.” emotionally. But instead of dwelling on the difficult times, Garret has figured out how to As such, common themes in albums like cope with the challenges life throws his way. Know Hope and Hold On Pain Ends revolve Unsurprisingly, he finds writing and perform- around overcoming the stigmas surrounding music to be a therapeutic outlet. “Kids ing mental illnesses and suicide. On “Suicide; always think that they need shows and they Stigma,” an eye-opening, standout track off need to see you. It’s like, I need this just as of H.O.P.E., Garret sings, “Suicide doesn’t end much as you guys do,” he admits. the pain, it passes to the ones you love and remains.” The song was inspired by the high This is especially true when it comes to writing suicide rate that plagues society, especially in about the obstacles he has faced outside of the teenage and young adult demographic.


photo by penelope martinez




“The number one mental illness in our country is depression. It’s something I’ve dealt with since I was a kid. It’s something I will most likely always deal with. I had a lot of people come to me last year while I did merch for us on the entire Know Hope album cycle. In doing so, I really had an ear to the ground as to what people are dealing with, and what people are going through. I can’t count how many people came to me just explaining, ‘This is my friend. He passed away, actually. Took his life. You were his favorite band, and I know he would’ve wanted me to thank you for the music that you make.’ And to me, that’s a huge, humbling experience,” Garret shares. “At the same time, you’re left with this feeling of ‘What can I do bigger and better? What did I not do good enough?’ I actually had to start talking to someone to capacitate the weight and gravity of things like that. For me, music is all I have to give back, really. So I wrote a song about it, and that’s what the song was for.”

spite hectic studio and tour schedules. “For our band… for any band… You don’t have a band without fans if you plan on being on tour or doing this every night. I really like to put actions where my words are. So, a lot of times, I’ll do merch for us on the tour. It’s crazy to see the reaction of kids and how taken aback they are that I’m there doing merch for us. The other night, I had a kid walk up and just freeze because he didn’t know what to say. It’s cool to see the appreciation, because they wanna come there not only to experience your music but also to experience you. And you can kind of embrace that and really just give back by being at the merch table. It’s awesome.”

It’s safe to say that, through their music and their actions, the guys of The Color Morale have ultimately grown into one of the most prominent positive influences in today’s music scene. And while they never expected to have such a loyal following when they first began this project, at this point in time, they can’t Evidently, a lot of what The Color Morale do imagine The Color Morale without their fans. is driven by their desire to help their fans, de- “I still don’t really think of our fanbase as just


fans that come and go. I feel like our fanbase is a part of what we are. They’ll always be a part of what we are,” Garret explains. “There’s literally twenty six hundred photos of tattoos on my laptop. Those are all people that believed in us so much that they got us branded on them for the rest of their lives. So at that point, you don’t just have fans. Fans come and go. But our ‘fanbase’ is like an extension of what we are and always will be.” After partaking in the Vans Warped Tour, supporting The Word Alive on the Get Real Tour, and releasing Hold On Pain Ends this past September, The Color Morale have had a successful 2014. With no plans of slowing down, the band will be heading out on a headlining tour, fittingly titled the Hold On Pain Ends Tour, in March. According to Garret, “This is a really exciting time for us. It’s a huge opportunity and platform to do things differently, to give back, to play acoustic sets in the street after the show, to hang out at merch all night, and to really stay grounded. That’s what our band always wants to be. You’ll never have to

pay money to meet us. You’ll never have to do anything special. We’ll be right there. The only reason we can do that is because we’ve been given this by everyone that supports our band. It’s everyone that buys merch, and buys the music, and comes to shows. Thank you.”

GET CONNECTED: story + photos: lori gutman interview: penelope martinez + lori gutman


photo by alyson coletta



still don’t really think of

our fanbase as just fans that come and go.


feel like our

fanbase is a part of what we are.


always be a part

of what we are.”



Over ten years since their first release, Fall Out Boy continues to change and make their sound increasingly dynamic. This can easily be heard throughout their sixth studio album, American Beauty/American Psycho, which is titled after two influential works: an album by The Grateful Dead and a book by Brent Ellis.


The record opens with the horn driven “Irresistible,” inspired by the deadly romance of Sex Pistol bassist, Sid Vicious, and Nancy Spungen. The lyrics contain references to culture, a theme featured over the duration of the album as well as on previous releases. The album’s first single, “Centuries,” contains a sample of “Tom’s Diner” by Susan Vega. While it succeeded in becoming a notable radio hit, the second single had no such luck. “American Beauty/American Psycho” created confusion when it was released as a single December, because the layered vocal effects and the addition of too many instruments cause the song to be too busy and over the top. Luckily, the rest of American Beauty/ American Psycho makes up for what the title track lacks. The album’s catchiest song, “Uma Thurman,” is a pop rock song that contains a sample of the 1960s sitcom, The Munsters. While Fall Out Boy’s usage of samples earlier in the album detracted from the quality of the song, this adds an extra element to the song that blends in well. In regards to the name—rather than being based on the traditional Uma Thurman role—the song was inspired by her character in Kill Bill. The chorus is about an empowered woman, while the verses are about what someone would do to catch that woman’s affection. My personal favorite, “Fourth Of July,” is a powerful track thanks to Patrick’s strong vocals and the varied drum beats. When Fall Out Boy streamed the song, the only note posted along with it was “T’es la plus belle saison de ma vie” which translates to “You’re the most beautiful season of my life.” Although, musically, this is the kind of song you can dance along to, the lyrics tell a different story. As the song slows down, Patrick sings, “I wish I’d known how much you loved me/I wish I cared enough to know/I’m sorry every song’s about you/The torture of small talk with someone you used to love.” The latter half of the album contains two of its most memorable songs: “Favorite Record” and “Immortals.” On “Favorite Record,” the lyrics “And you can get what you want but it’s never enough/And I’ll spin for you like your favorite records used to” and the band’s classic use of “oh’s” will have fans singing along in no time. Although “Immortals” was featured in the Disney movie Big Hero 6, the album recording is different. The claps in the cinema version have been replaced by rim clicks, and the weakened electronic sound ultimately makes it more cohesive.



Anakin, a four-piece band from California, have been on a mission to create an auditory atmosphere for listeners, and that is exactly what they accomplished with their sophomore album. Celestial Frequency Shifter has a fuzzy, melodic sound that is anything but boring, thanks to the use of a changing rhythm and engaging instruments. The musical journey begins with the song “Astro[not].” Based on its intro, it’s no surprise that some of the band’s inspirations are artists like HUM and blue-era Weezer. The track begins with singer Jonathan Wessel’s smooth vocals and space-themed lyrics. As the song continues, the layered instruments build on top of one another with distorted guitars and a nice balance of drums and keyboard. “Astro[not]” is the type of song that plays during a movie’s closing credits and makes you wonder who it’s by.

With distortion, it’s easy for a band’s songs to blur together, but the guys of Anakin clearly know how to make each song unique. “Ludicity” has a driving instrumental introduction, while “Satellite” showcases a mix of heavy and light motifs through the blending of loud guitars and mellow synths. A clear standout on this record is “Sunbeam.” On this track, Wessel’s vocals are more distinct and easier to hear compared to some of its counterparts, and this makes it easy to listen to the story-like lyrics that are present throughout the album. One of the more memorable lines of the song is when he sings, “We’ve made it through this test of time / sit back review / we can’t deny that every dream we ever wanted came true because of you.” After recently signing to No Sleep Records and releasing their second album, it’s easy to believe that even more dreams are bound to come true for Anakin in the future. Celestial Frequency Shifter comes out February 3rd, so make sure to pick it up!


While American Beauty/American Psycho as a whole is a nod to pop culture and how the world is constantly changing, Fall Out Boy have still managed to make a song that relates to one of their previous releases. Containing a darker and heavier sound, “Novocaine” sounds like part two of Save Rock and Roll’s “The Phoenix.” When the song states that “this is our culture,” it is an accurate summary of what this record is. Overall, Fall Out Boy have successfully continued to make songs that contain lyrics full of substance, while simultaneously reinventing their sound with each release.



If you haven’t swooned over Nick Santino by now, you most likely will once you hear his latest music. Since the disbanding of A Rocket to the Moon, Nick has been able to focus solely on his own music. After two EPs performed with Nick Santino and the Northern Wind, Nick released his first solo full-length, Big Skies, in May, and has now followed it up with his most recent EP, Savannah.



On this new album, Santino strips down the music, and what we’re left with is a heartbreaking story accompanied by a raw yet soothing sound. The opening song, “Rio,” shares the relationship of a couple that would often escape to Mexico. When Nick sings, “I’ll buy us some plane tickets out of here/I’ll take you away from your worries,” a wave of relatability really washes over the track. Escaping reality is a dream for many, despite how unattainable that desire might be for some. On “I Just Want You to Know,” Santino admits his mistakes but is honest about his feelings, and he shows his regret through lyrics like “I don’t think I can change, I might stay the same but I keep breaking your heart anyway/I said I was doing fine but we both know that’s a lie.” Although this song has a simple melody, Nick complements it by not holding back on the harmonies and raising his voice every so often. What follows is the track “How To Live With A Ghost.” When he croons, “There’s a ghost in this house and she rattles my bones, she’s haunting my heart and shaking my soul,” Santino emphasizes the struggle of moving on after a relationship has ended. With the eerie bridge, a repetition of “No you can’t go away now,” the desperation in Nick’s voice is loud and clear before fading into the music. Is he talking about a love that has passed away or a love that was lost somewhere along the way? “That Old Corolla” will bring you back and make you relive your teenage years. On this number, Santino describes all the wonderful moments when nothing mattered except being together and living in the moment. Santino writes some of the most heartbreakingly honest lyrics about growing up: “If only then we knew the truth, that when we get old it gets hard, I think we’d stay forever young.” Overall, this six-track EP exceeded all expectations. Nick really took me by surprise with release, especially when considering the previous album’s country influence. It is hard to believe that this music was written during Nick’s busy schedule last year, which consisted of playing all of Warped Tour and various other tours. Because he was able to write such a brilliant album with a packed schedule, I’d love to see what he has in store when he has time off to relax and write.


While their sound has changed since their self-titled EP that was released back in 2012, they’ve only progressed in the best way possible. The album starts off with “Smoke,” which emphasizes the power and maturity in singer Lynn Gunn’s strong vocals, and, unsurprisingly, that strength remains present throughout the whole album. What follows are the two very energetic singles, “St.Patrick” and “My House.” The album then slows in tempo with the song “Holy,” which has honest lyrics that don’t hold back. Lynn sings, “You can right all the wrongs just to feel you belong, but simply calling out sins don’t bring you closer to God.” The song speaks to people who don’t follow what they preach. With the clever repetition of “You’re just a poor unfortunate soul,” you’ll find yourself singing along sooner rather than later. However, the most impressive track of all is “Ghosts.” It contains beautifully done harmonies and backup vocals featuring Sierra Kusterbeck (of Versa), whose voice blends beautifully with Lynn’s. This haunting track is followed by the album’s title track and third single, “White Noise.” Despite its slower tempo, it still manages to hold as much weight and strong lyrical content as the rest of the debut LP. PVRIS have simply outdone themselves with White Noise, which is a brilliant showcase of their talents. The album is full of songs that will please fans of many genres, and it allows the band to go in any direction they want with their future releases. I’m positive you’ll be hearing the name “PVRIS” more often than not this upcoming year, so make sure you keep up. For this trio, 2015 is going to be huge.



If you’ve already picked your favorite album of 2014, this one will probably make you change your mind. From getting signed to Rise Records back in July to releasing singles and now their debut full-length, White Noise, it’s safe to say that PVRIS is just getting started. With this album, Lyndsey Gunnulfsen, Brian Macdonald, and Alex Babinski managed to infuse alternative rock with synthpop in a way that can only be described as infectious and powerful. As such, it’s no surprise that they’ve taken the past year by storm.



N E W P O L I T I C S by lori gutman



august burns red by lori gutman


MISS MAY I by lori gutman



marmozets by Penelope Martinez


hundredth by Penelope Martinez



cruel hand by Leah Dickerman

real friends by Penelope Martinez


architects by Penelope Martinez




real friends & knuckle puck by Penelope Martinez



pierce the veil by Penelope Martinez


g-eazy by Penelope Martinez



gates by Jason Cox



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Profile for Focus Magazine

Issue 9  

Featuring The Color Morale, PUP, Kevin Devine, and more

Issue 9  

Featuring The Color Morale, PUP, Kevin Devine, and more

Profile for focuszine