NOAH GUNDERSEN // TEXAS IN JULY // SUM 41 // ALLSTAR WEEKEND // MEMPHIS MAY FIRE & MORE
WE TURNED ONE YEAR OLD!!!
HIGHLIGHT STAFF co-founder – Editor-In-chief – Press – photography Ashley Osborn
co-founder – Art Director – Magazine Production – Photography Cara Bahniuk
CO-founder – legal McKenzie Hughes
Features Editor – Writer Liz Brossard
Digital Marketing Coordinator Misty Frederick
online media coordinator Anjel Lopez
copy editor Haley Todd
Derrick Austinson, Tarina Doolittle, Jordan Fischels, Charlie Martel, Heather Phillips, Sammy Roenfeldt, Sam San Roman and Jared Thomas
Contributing writers (Online & Publication)
Ryan Argast, Haley Black, Jennifer Boylen, Colleen Casey, Tamara Fuentes, Will Howard, Logan Kant, Jessica Klinner, Taylor Pittman and Morgan Waldorf
BECOME SOCIAL WITH US website - www,highlightmagazine.net facebook - www.facebook.com/highlightmagazine twitter - @highlightzine INSTAGRAM - @highlight_mag
38 walk the moon For starting the band in college, Walk the Moon has conquered all their dreams, while constantly creating new ones. Highlight sat down with all the guys in Walk The Moon to discuss everything, and we mean literally everything! If youâ€™re an old fan or a new fan, you HAVE to read this to learn everything you need to know!
8 clothing highlight 18 noah gundersen 48 photos 11:11 Apparel is a clothing company that was born in efforts to spread the word about having faith within yourself. We just so happen to think their designs are flawless!
Noah Gundersen and his sister Abby make one incredible soul pounding duo. We picked their brains about To Write Love On Her Arms, new music and more!
Even if you’re not from Dallas, TX – you’ve probably heard of Mike Ziemer. This music industry mastermind is slowly taking over the scene – one show or festival at a time.
After releasing their first full-length and touring every inch of the world, SECRETS are ready to start the next chapter of their career. We’ve got the 411 on what’s in store!
10 label highlight
24 texas in july
9 industry Highlight 22 secrets
Polyvinyl Records is one of the best labels around. Their dynamic roster and history is sure to blow your mind!
11 venue highlight
Let’s face it… if you live in America you’ve most likely heard of METRO. This incredible Chicago based venue is, in our opinion, the best in the nation (if not the world)!
12 louis posen
For the past six years, Texas In July has been climbing their way to the tip-top of the scene. We caught up with them recently to get some in-sight on their writing process and much, much more.
26 sum 41
After nearly 20 years together, Highlight recently caught up with Sum 41’s Jason “Cone” McClasin to pick his brain about what’s in store for the band’s future and much more!
Tours are finally picking back up! Well, can you blame artists for not wanting to travel in the midst of winter? We can’t. Either way, here are some awesome photos to make you feel like winter wasn’t so boring!
This month’s reviews are in! A Rocket to the Moon is back with their second fulllength album, Hoodie Allen is taking over the scene, Atlas Genius is due to hit the top of the charts and we’d like to kindly introduce you to HRVRD.
Walk The Moon, Meghan Kehoe and RCA Records, Earshot Media, Sum 41 + management, Equal Vision Records, Noah & Abby Gundersen, Chad Jensen, Adrenaline PR, Big Picture Media, Louis Posen and all of the TM’s who arranged most of this on-site for us. We love and appreciate all of your efforts! And of course – OUR READERS. We’re nothing but a bunch of pages without you.
Founder of Hopeless Records & SubCity, Louis Posen has got to be one of the most genuine and brilliant minds in the industry. We recently caught up with him to give you some industry insight! You’ve got to read this interview.
28 allstar weekend mailing list
16 yard of blondes
34 memphis may fire
Yard of Blondes might be a new band on the scene, only forming in 2010, but that doesn’t mean that the members themselves are new to the music business. You’ve got to meet them!
Where do we begin? There’s so much in this story you’ve just got to read. This trio may be changing their name & sound – but they certainly aren’t changing their passion for music.
Make sure you subscribe to our exclusive mailing list!
Memphis May Fire has to be one of the greatest success stories to come out of the scene in years. With a past filled with ups and downs, Memphis May Fire has finally begun a steady spiral towards the top – with no intentions of looking back.
INSIDE PHOTOGRAPHS page 6-7
walk the moon
memphis may fire
yard of blondes
the rocket summer
Washington, DC, Cara Bahniuk
Chicago, IL, Ashley Osborn
Chicago, IL, Ashley Osborn
Houston, TX, Heather Phillips
Tempe, AZ, Derrick Austinson
Chicago, IL, Ashley Osborn
Los Angeles, CA, Jared Thomas
Chicago, IL, Ashley Osborn
HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 5
Walk the moon - 38
noah gundersen - 18
memphis may fire - 34
sum 41 - 26
22 - secrets
28 - allstar weekend
16 - yard of blondes
the rocket summer
TRENDS YOU’LL LOVE
COMPANY: 11:11 Apparel LOCATION: Corpus Christi, Texas OWNER/FOUNDER: Heather Tunches- Founder/Owner WEBSITE: shop.11elevenapparel.com
2 Company story?
At the age of 15, I made a spontaneous decision to create a clothing company. My inspiration came from my core beliefs and I wanted to share those beliefs with others through positive messages on t-shirts and accessories that I felt would appeal to other people. (Ex: Embrace the Journey and Create Your Own Destiny) It was important for me to include messages of having faith in oneself. The name 11:11 Apparel was something that was one of the many choices my sister and I brainstormed over. We decided that 11:11 Apparel was the best fit since many people make wishes at 11:11 o’clock.
What do you feel your brand represents?
11:11 Apparel is a brand that represents having faith and never giving up. I believe it is important to encourage people to work hard and to keep their dreams alive.
Reason you started your brand?
At the age of 15, I started 11:11 Apparel because I thought it would be fun to own my own business and I knew I was dedicated enough that I would work hard to do whatever I needed to do to make my business a success.
What are your three favorite designs?
1) Create Your Own Destiny t-shirt: The design on the t-shirt says, “Create Your Own Destiny, Life is What You
Make of It.” I wanted to encourage people to think positive and with hard work, anything is possible. The words are displayed on a hand to show that nobody can tell you what your destiny is (ex: palm readers). You are in control of your destiny. 2) Embrace the Journey tank: My second favorite design is our best seller; Embrace the Journey oversized tank top. My friend and I were talking about tattoos and she told me that she wanted to get a tattoo that said, “Embrace the Journey.” I liked the phrase so much that I asked her if I could use her idea. To me, embrace the journey is a positive message that every day of your life should be enjoyed. 3) Crafted From Optimism long sleeve: Last but not least, our Crafted From Optimism is a phrase that is meant to be interpreted that my brand, 11:11 Apparel, was created and designed from positive vibes. I love how simple the design is. It has become our most popular design from the fall/winter 2012 collection.
Why people should check out your brand? People should check out 11:11 Apparel because it is a great company that inspires others in a positive way while being very fashionable. Every design on high quality t-shirts and our prices are very reasonable. Every piece has a positive message that anyone can relate to. We are a unique brand that appeals to just about everyone.
who founded and owns
Name: Mike Ziemer Location: Dallas, TX Company: Third String Productions (Owner and
What is your personal story? When I first moved to Texas at the age of 16 from California, the first people I became friends with were all in bands. Naturally, I wanted to help my friends succeed so I started by handing out flyers, burned CDs, and promoting them around Plano. As time went on, I began writing album reviews and doing interviews for an online magazine. By the time I was into the second semester of my senior year of high school, bands were asking me to “manage” them and help them out. The biggest need bands had then were booking all ages shows that were closer to the suburbs so that their friends could actually come out and get into the shows. I booked my first concert at The Plano Centre in March 2004, and the rest is history.
What are three of your most memorable career moments?
In 2005, I was on the cover of Business Week Magazine for a story called “The MySpace Generation” about how I was one of the innovators in creating an “online brand” with social media to promote music and give myself a position to be an “influencer.” In 2009, the Dallas Observer did a cover story called “Rockin The Suburbs” about my concerts in Plano, the bands that played them, and the huge scene that had developed in the suburbs. PHOTO: Chantelle Renee
Founder), Evolve Music Management (Manager), The Phoenix Agency
In 2011, South By So What?! sold out completely in advance, selling 4500 tickets and making us move the festival to a large outdoor baseball stadium in 2012! What do you still want to accomplish in your career? A few of my goals include managing a band that sells 500,000 albums, running a festival that does over 10,000 people, running a festival that does over 20,000 people, and creating a festival that plays in multiple cities. Do you have advice to those pursuing the industry? My advice is to do everything you can to get your hands dirty early. Being on a street team, writing for a music magazine, interning anywhere you can, etc., are some of the best ways to do this. Music industry classes can help, but the most experience you can get is just being out there and being a part of different jobs until you find your passion within the music industry.
Keep updated with Mike Ziemer! www.thridstringproductions.com www.apromoterslife.com www.southbysowhat.com Twitter: @mikeziemer Instagram: @mikeziemer
HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 9
WRITE-UP: Jenn Stookey
Polyvinyl Records does not have your typical record label start up story because it wasn’t even a label to begin with. Travel back to Champaign, Ill. in 1994, two high school kids who loved the local music scene, Matt Lunsford and Darcie Knight (now married), began Polyvinyl Press. The self-published zine hosted album reviews and articles about the local music scene of the college town in central Illinois. Their DIY antics helped spring their hobby of selling the zine as well as local band’s music in the back of local shows. Not long after, the duo put out their first 7” spilt in 1995 featuring Back of Dave and Walker. It didn’t take long for their love of releasing music to catch on, and in 1996 it officially switched from a publication to a label. Polyvinyl is now home to some of the most well known names in the indie-alternative rock genre with artists such as Joan of Arc, Xui Xui, Casiokids and Owen.
Japandroids - When listening to the music of Japandriods it’s
hard to believe that the band only consists of duo Brian King (Guitar/ Vocals) and David Prowse (Drums/Vocals) from Vancouver, British Columbia. This honest rock and roll band hosts an extreme full band sound that started back in 2006. Since then the duo released two EP’s before catching the attention of Polyvinyl Records, which ultimately led to the release of its debut full-length album PostNothing on the label. Ever since the release of Post-Nothing the band has been touring, performing festivals and touring more until finally buckling down and recording another album. Their most recent release, Celebration Rock, is a solid rock album that will have you feeling like you’re in the best days of your life.
Listen to: “Fire’s Highway”
of Montreal -
It’s hard to believe this original psychedelic indie pop band from Athens, Ga. has been around since 1996. Between a lot of lineup changes and 11 albums, one thing has remained the same, the intriguing mind and song lyrics of front man, Kevin Barnes. Originally signed to Kindercore Records (1999-2002), the band transferred to Polyvinyl in 2004 just in time for the release of Satanic Panic in the Attic, which has been one of its best efforts to date. With each album the band continues to grow and slightly change for the better. Its most recent release, Paralyitc Stalks, is one of Barnes most personal works. The album is fluent between each track making it a truly complete collection that will sink your mind into Barnes’s world.
Listen To: “We Will Commit Wolf Murder” STRFKR - STRFKR has done something many are unable to
do. They have grabbed ahold of dance pop music and combined it with the perfect lyrical matter that allows you to let loose while still maintaining a conscious state of mind to breathe and feel the lyrics. All the way from the North West of the United States in Portland, Ore., STRFKR is home to the four piece band; Josh Hodges (vocals/songwriter), Keil Corcoran (drums), Shawn Glassford (bass) and Patrick Morris (guitar). The band began in 2007 and joined Polyvinyl Records in 2010 right before the release of its second full-length album, Reptillians. This band knows how to throw a dance party unlike any you will ever experience, and its new album Miracle Mile is no exception to that. Check it out now and you’ll never go back.
Listen to: “While I’m Alive”
venue highlight metro - chicago, illinois
In the late 70’s, owner Joe Shanahan left Chicago and ventured to New York City. He wanted to explore the arts, music and dance culture in NYC. He came back to Chicago about a year later with the realization that “there wasn’t a club that brought together the visual, performing, experimental and fringe arts communities.” Soon after, he began to host events in his loft. Eventually, Shanahan opened Metro in 1982 and he, “vowed, it would be a place that focused on local and emerging talent from the region, nation, and ultimately the world.” Since opening, anybody who’s anybody has played at the Metro. In fact, it’s probably the first venue that comes to mind when you think of the Chicago music scene. From the second you walk in Metro’s entrance you are greeted by the incredible atmosphere and the faces of its genuine employees. Under INFO of Metro’s website there’s an entire timeline of artists that have played there! It’s truly defined the Chicago music scene.
why play here?
Are you kidding? Not only is it an honor to step foot on the stage of Metro but the venue is located in the middle of Wrigleyville just two blocks away from the home of the Chicago Cubs – Wrigley Field! The entire neighborhood is one unlike any other. There are hundreds of bars, restaurants and shops just minutes away. It’s the perfect Chicago mix all in one. A great place you just HAVE to visit would be the Chicago Diner – which is the best vegan restaurant on the face of the planet. Incase you’re looking for some easy exploration The Metro is also just blocks away from the CTA Red Line, which can drop you off right downtown! Check out more of your soon-to-be favorite venue! Twitter: @MetroChicago Facebook: facebook.com/metrochicago Website: metrochicago.com
MUst attend shows march 7th
Finch & The Almost REVIEW: Ashley Osborn PHOTO: Venue Supplied
Jukebox the Ghost
March 19th STRFKR
Stars & Milo Greene
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owner and founder of Hopeless Records is notorious for its killer roster in today’s scene, and is home to some of our favorite Highlight veterans: The Used, Anarbor, Silverstein, Enter Shikari and more have all been a big part of the music scene over the last 10 years. Hopeless Records is one of the top 10 independent record labels in the U.S., and has lent a helping hand to various causes with its non-profit sector, Sub City. But what does it take to make a successful label, non-profit, and massively dedicated fan base all mesh together to make a monster impact in the music industry? We had the honor of talking to Louis Posen, the brains and founder behind the operation for the last 18 years, and he gave us the scoop on the Take Action Tour and CDs, what it takes to be part of a successful band on the label, and the general history behind Hopeless and your favorite bands. We hope that this interview will assist you in having a better grasp of the industry. How did your interest in music spark from your film background, and how did Hopeless become a real thing? Louis Posen: It’s hard to go back that far, but I started to get into music as a very young kid. Mainly due to my older brother and parents, but I started going to shows as early as 10. I remember seeing Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, and The Police early on. My first punk show, though, I clearly remember going to the Reseda Country Club, which is about a mile away from where the Hopeless Offices are now. I played in bands and wasn’t good at it, and I had a passion for film and communicating with people in that art form. In film school I started directing music videos for bands like NOFX and Guttermouth, and during that time Guttermouth asked me to help them put out a 7”. It sounded like a fun dare so I bought a book called “How To Run An Independent Record Label,” and it all took off from there. How did your idea for a non-profit section of the label, Sub City, come to life? Posen: Spending 7 days a week, 24 hours a day on Hopeless made it hard to fit in time to help out. We just didn’t have the time, so we decided to find a way to connect the fans, bands and causes together. We came up with the name Sub City as play on words for subsidizing non-profits.
What made you have such a strong passion for getting involved in philanthropy along with your work at Hopeless? Posen: I’m actually such a horrible person otherwise that I felt I needed to go do good deeds. [Laughs] But really, I think it came down to growing up in a family with those kinds of values. At Hopeless we tend to hire people with those types of principles, and I realized with Hopeless how strong of a voice bands have, and often times their fans listen to that message more so than from other mentors like parents and teachers. Sub City has donated to over 50 organizations since its inception. What process do you go through when deciding what organizations to support? Posen: It all starts as a conversation with the bands and what issues they’re interested in. Sometimes, the bands know exactly the organization they want to be involved with, and sometimes we have to help the bands figure out exactly what they’re interested in and narrow it down from there. The Take Action Tour is such a unique concept that other tours have branched off of. Did you have any hopes or expectations in mind when the tours and cds began? Posen: On one hand, our hope and expectation was some level of success. However, one that defines us is that we want to remain humble enough to do everything better next time. That has been the general philosophy of the tour the entire time. Is there a story from any favorite organization that has resonated with you over the years? Posen: They all have their own level of reward and impact, but I think one close to my family and I was one of the first organizations we worked with, the Foundation Fighting Blindness. I have Retinitis Pigmentosa, and this organization had an impact on my family personally. But, just because it’s personal, doesn’t mean others we’ve worked with haven’t resonated just as much. A situation that has stuck with me over the years has been receiving a letter from a fan who was depressed and on the verge
of suicide, and she picked up a Take Action CD and called the suicide hotline number on the back. Reading that letter made me realize that as many challenges as there are running a business and connecting charity to business, it’s all worth it. I’ve realized that there are a lot of kids out there who don’t have access to resources or don’t know about them, and there are a lot of people in need out there. We all have something to give, and we don’t have to be a Bill Gates to do something positive and make a difference. I read a speech a long time ago called “Ripple Of Hope” by Robert F. Kennedy, and it has stuck with me over the years. It explained that each bit of kindness and positivity we put out into the world all build up into something greater. Your passion for music has stemmed from punk roots. Who inspired you the most musically growing up, and who do you have your eye on now? Posen: The Ramones, The Clash, those things from the late to early 70’s. I was listening to my parents’ stuff, from 50’s music to classic rock. I found myself later enjoying jazz music. I wouldn’t call myself an aficionado, but you get an amazing feeling when listening to live jazz music. If I had to choose one band to listen to on a deserted island, I’d have to choose The Beatles, though. They have so many great songs, and each album has its own unique feel. As for today, we’re always looking for great bands. We’re not a genre specific label; we try to take on artists with certain types of fans, but not a specific genre. We’ve never been that label that tries to sign 10 bands that sound the same. When signing an artist, what top 3 attributes do you need to have from them? Posen: There isn’t really any preparation or science involved. It’s more of an art and intuition involved than science. The number one thing we look for, though, is a strong connection with fans, and it’s something that’s hard to get better at or be more proactive with. There’s a certain charisma that comes with being able to connect with fans, and it’s not a learned thing. Great songwriters with personality and unique performers who are trying to pave their own way are important to us. As an entrepreneur/someone who started their own label, what would you say is the most important trait someone needs to posses to make it today’s industry? Posen: I would never take my advice, honestly! But what I try to live by are 5 things that drive my life: purpose, principles, persistence, passion and people.
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Our “coined” question, which could be a loaded one in your case, is what has been the ‘highlight’ of your career so far? Posen: Well the number one thing is talking to you, of course. [Laughs] The second thing, the obvious one, would be the birth of our daughter. I also just feel fortunate to live a life where I get to work with my passion and learn something new everyday, and make a difference through music. You have accomplished so much over the history of Hopeless/Sub City. Is there anything left on your todo list that you’re itching to try? Posen: We have a whole list of goals at Hopeless. We all get together at the end of the year, and come up with our top 10 goals for the upcoming year. I then make my own personal goals list, which I separate into 4 categories: personal, family, friends, & professional. I guess my main goal should be to consolidate my lists! [Laughs] I also have a list of 40 things I want to do before I turn 50, so that one is interesting as well. But overall, with Hopeless, we have lots to grow into and continue to learn from as a company. We never know everything, and we’re constantly in a state of improvement. For someone who has been in the industry since the early ‘90s, you’ve been there for all the big changes in the scene and industry itself. What has been the biggest change, positive or negative, that you’ve seen in the industry? Posen: I think what amazes me the most is how little has changed, actually. For the most part, the connection between bands and fans is the same. People love listening to music, and that tends to define the early part of your life and identity. Junior high and high school were spent wrapped up in music and bands for me. I think the only things that have changed are the delivery methods of music and formats, media outlets, and life. Everything evolves and every industry has that type of evolution, and we have to try to stay on top of it and embrace what the evolution of the music industry is and will continue to be. Being able to mix charity with business is a risky task, but Hopeless Records and Sub City have managed to help over 50 non-profit organizations while spreading great music to eager fans over almost the last 20 years. The way Louis Posen has run Hopeless and Sub City over almost the years has been a game of luck and hard work in Posen’s eyes, but with such a strong team and principles mixed with the talent of all the bands on the label, there is no doubt that Hopeless Records and Sub City will be around for a long time to come. STORY: Anjel Lopez
HOME: Los Angeles, CA NOW jamming: Murderology - EP (Released March 26th - High Desert Lo-Fi Records) currently: Preparing for the release of their new EP!
Yard of Blondes might be a new band
on the scene, only forming in 2010, but that doesn’t mean that the members themselves are new to the music business. “We are a relatively new band but we are all experienced musicians,” said Vincent Jacob. “Fanny, Ben and myself had been part of touring bands in France before we landed in California two years ago. Dean had a band signed on Capitol records back in the ‘90s and he is a successful producer, he gives us a lot of good advice regarding the music business. Will is the youngest but he had a previous band in his hometown in Kentucky.” After coming to Los Angeles from France to try to experience what their American idols had gone through, Vincent Jacob, vocalist and guitarist and Fanny Hill, vocals and keyboard, came together to form Yards of Blondes and were then later joined by Dean Chamberlain on bass, Will Schlich on guitars and Ben Lecourt on drums
waterparks 16 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET
to form what they are today. Its name also has its own LA origin, after listening to a cover version of the song “Yard of Blonde Girls” and finding out that LA girls were the original writers, the name stuck. “I like the fact that the meaning is not obvious and I really like the ‘sexiness’ in it,” said Jacob. Even with the band members different backgrounds as musicians, they still feel like they are inspired by LA and the West Coast most of all. “We came here to feel that creative vibe and history this city built in a hundred years. It’s quite impressive to walk on those streets,” said Jacob.” Every path, every single corner has its own great history. And at the same time, the city is changing and moving so fast that it makes you want to be part of the next inspiring generation.” After touring all around the West Coast, the band is excited to be taking out its new EP, Murderology (which
is to be released on March 26th). After being influenced by Berlioz’s “Fantastic Symphony” and finding out about 19th century murder ballads written by folk singers from Chamberlain, Jacob said that he decided to come up with a concept EP about love and death. Once he had the story established, the music came by itself in a rough but sweet form. And when it comes to writing new songs the entire band gets involved in one way or another. “Usually, I start thinking about the songs and then I come up with some chords and melody. I write the lyrics during the process of writing the guitar parts,” said Jacob.” Once I make my first demo, we all gather and arrange the song together. Also, I encourage my friends to come up with their own songs now.” As Yard of Blondes were touring and recording Murderology, Jacob said that each experience was special in its own way. “Being in a studio is priceless because you really get to see your babies born. It’s a really tricky experience because once it’s done there is no turning back and you know your songs will sound like this forever,” he said. For Jacob playing live is more intense, especially because you get to feel the feedback from the audience. This is the moment that you get to share something strong directly with the listeners. “Every time you play a song you get to feel again all the circumstances that made you write it all. Playing live is a time machine,” Jacob said. “You can really feel the mood in which you were when you wrote the song, even if it was 10 years ago.” And while most artists might have a problem balancing both personal and private life, Jacob shares that it’s not a big problem for him because music is a passion first and foremost.
“It’s really part of my personal life everyday. It’s a passion and everyone involved in my personal life shares this. I’m very happy with my life right now, I think I found a good balance between these two aspects. I hope it will be the same all my life,”he said. But not everything is easy in the music business, adding that, “The most difficult part of the music business is to survive. Once you got the attention it’s never over. You have to work continuously in this overcrowded business.” Even then, the band knows how to survive in its own way. For Yard of Blondes the recipes to success is to do what you do with passion, whether that be booking gigs or rehearsing. However, the band doesn’t think that success should be defined by reaching commercial achievement. “Spending some money on studio time is a waste, you should definitely stop. The success is to be proud of what you do and like it the same way you did when you were eleven, when you had your first musical emotions. It’s not always easy but after all the years I can say music brought me so many things that I’m already happy with all these small achievements,” said Jacob. As for what the ‘highlight’ of its career is, Jacob said that he has had so many with everything he has done before and currently with Yard of Blondes, but that the best thing is being able to share with the people no matter wherever you are. And the band is ready for the next step, hoping that it can get as much recognition as it can. “I guess, we’d be happy to be able to get attention by more medias, more people and get to meet more fans on the road. So, pragmatically, I would say a good record deal would be perfect to realize that,” he said. One thing’s for sure, I know this won’t be the last time we’ll be hearing from Yard of Blondes. PHOTOS: Jared Thomas INTERVIEW: Liz Brossard STORY: Tamara Fuentes
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NEW EP OUT MARCH 26th MURDEROLOGY YARD OF BLONDES
gundersen HOME: Seattle, WA NOW jamming: Family - EP (Self-Released) CURRENTLY: Touring across the U.S. until late April
thatâ€™s his sister, abby
There are lots of musical families, but not many of them plan on playing together for a living. After starting out playing in a Starbucks, the rest has been history for Noah Gunderson and his sister Abby. Noah has three EP’s under his belt and the siblings are currently touring the country with no signs of slowing down. Highlight had the opportunity to sit down with this brother and sister during their run on tour to learn about their new EP, their plans and what it’s like touring with family. The Gunderson duo took part in this years Heavy and Light tour. They are huge supporters of the tour and the mission, To Write Love On Her Arms, and want people to know it. “I had heard about this tour years ago when it was in the early stages. Jamie (To Write Love On Her Arms, founder) and I had talked about how cool it would be to do it so I was really excited to be apart of it now that it’s a reality,” said Noah.”What I find so appealing about To Write Love On Her Arms and this tour in particular is that it’s about hope and it’s about conversation. I think to have a room full of people who are here for that reason is a really cool community to be apart of.” “I think it’s an inspiring organization to be apart of for two and a half weeks. The people we’ve been touring with and the entire cause are both just so inspiring,” said Abby. “It’s a good place to gather and I think it both blesses and inspires people in the audience.” Even though Noah and Abby are siblings they only started playing music together five or six years ago in a coffee shop or to be more accurate, a Starbucks in Centralia, Wash. “We kept playing coffee shops and then we spent time in a band together,” Noah said. “We spent a lot of time on the road just the two of us together. And for me... this is all I’ve ever wanted to do. And now we both live in Seattle and we spend most of the year touring. It’s been a long, slow build – which I’m grateful for.”
The description of the EP features the phrase: “In an era of social media and perceived self importance.” And we were itching to learn the meaning behind it as well as Noah’s view on an ever changing technology saturated industry. “I think it’s always changing. Since it’s birth it’s been changing. People make a big deal about the way it’s changed more recently. But the reality is that it’s changed since…in the ‘60s and ‘70s with the radio, and with giant metal band productions in the ‘80s,” said Noah. “ It changed when Nirvana became a huge selling band. So it’s always changing. Currently I guess you could say the biggest ways it’s affecting us now is the internet. It’s exciting to see independent bands doing well. Macklemore has a No.1 track as an independent artist. I feel like it’s an exciting time to be making music because there’s a lot more opportunities. Things like Kickstarter – where you can fund your own records.” For Noah and Abbey the biggest highlight of being a musician is the ability to keep doing exactly what they are doing;making music. “The fact that we can pay our bills and play music, which everyone said was impossible to do, it’s a great feeling. Now the struggle is finding out what’s next,” Noah said. “I think we’ve both experienced that. Like, where do you go? It’s been a dream for like.. seven years maybe,” Abby said. Noah said the next step from here is to find the next big goal. But there is always uncertainty with what is next and every band copes with this differently. “I think it’s scary for me because I’m twenty,”said Abby. “We’re both young. I don’t ever want to appear super young.” Even putting fears aside, every musician has his or her fair share of struggles especially broken trust with people that they may be associated with. But Noah says that they do their best to overcome it, even if it’s difficult.
For Abby and Noah the realization came that they wanted to be musicians when he was 12 and she was eight or nine, but music is just in their blood and it was all that they ever wanted to do.
“I don’t think we ever really have [overcome it]. I rely big on Abby. I trust her,” said Noah. “That’s the nice thing about having family. I’ve learned to really trust Abby and myself. I don’t know if that’s the most hopeful or positive thing to say but it’s true.”
Most people wouldn’t choose to travel the country with their family for the majority of the year, but for these siblings it was a no brainer.
The Family EP was released in 2011, so it’s high time for new music, and the Gunderson duo couldn’t be more excited about their new album.
“I’ve only toured with family. It’s pretty easy touring with just the two of us I think we both know each other so well that it’s easy to stay comfortable around each other. We know how the other person functions,” Noah said.
“I think this album.. we put the most time and effort into it. We kind of felt like it was failing for a while and we struggled to get it to a place where we felt like it was good,” Abby said
“I think there’s less drama,” Abby added. “Which is funny because sometimes you’d think that it would be the other way around. With Noah and I, it’s just less drama.” Since Noah and Abby are brother and sister, it’s only natural that Noah’s latest EP is entitled, Family. “The Family EP wasn’t really written as a conceptual album, it just kind of turned out that way as we were picking the songs,”said Noah. “The ones that stood out the more were the ones that had different elements of family involved.”
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“It’s songs that we’ve been playing for a while, some people haven’t heard yet. I’m really proud of it and excited to have it done. We’ve been working on it since last February,” Noah said. “A lot of shit has gone down in the process of making this record,but the end product I think is very great.” We can’t wait to see the finished product. Even if fans have to wait for it until the fall, the wait will be well worth it. Until then catch Noah and Abby on tour for most of the spring. PHOTOS: Ashley Osborn INTERVIEW: Anjel Lopez STORY: Jennifer Boylen
HOME: San Diego, CA NOW jamming: The Ascent - Full-Length (Velocity/Rise Records) CURRENTLY: Preparing to finish their second full-length album
SECRETS has been a band for just a
couple of years now, writing and releasing its first full length record with Rise Records all before the start of 2012. After spending all of 2012 touring and promoting its debut record The Ascent, SECRETS is ready for the next chapter of its career. Charting at No. #3 on the Billboard Heatseeker chart and hitting 181 on the Billboard Top 200, SECRETS has big shoes to fill, but the band is more than ready for it. “We really had no idea that our CD would do so well, I mean we weren’t even touring when our CD came out,” said vocalist Xander Bourgeois. SECRETS isn’t looking to reproduce its first full length though. Spending the year on the road with hardcore legends like Silverstein, Woe Is Me and Of Mice and Men, SECRETS is learning from the best. “Richard and I both are using everything we’ve been through for our lyrical direction,” said Bourgeois. Currently the band is finishing up the writing process while on tour with Silverstein. SECRETS is slated to head into studio immediately following the tour to finish writing and recording its sophomore record. “I definitely feel more pressure with this next album,” Bourgeois said. And they’re using every ounce of energy they have left to satisfy both the fans and their own musical desires. In the twenty first century, social media can be the success or the downfall of a great band. SECRETS has embraced social media, taking a picture of the crowd every night after its set and posting it Facebook for fans to tag themselves in. But there are some downsides to being so open with fans including the loss of privacy and the never ending hounding of overly enthusiastic fans. SECRETS knows where to draw the line though. “I’m an open book to my fans because I know there are so many people who are struggling with something in their life,” Bourgeois said. Despite his willingness to share, including a blog he’s been using to share the meaning behind all of the songs on The Ascent, he knows how to keep the important things private. “Everything is private unless you share it with people, so anything that is too personal for us to share, we don’t,” said Bourgeois.
Music often comes from a snapshot in time, an expression of how the band and its members feel at that very moment. But what is often lost in these snap shot representations is the process that brought the band there. SECRETS is no exception to this, given its almost metric rise to the focal point of the post hardcore world, all of the trials and tribulations and years of struggle in other bands can be lost on many of its fans. In a recent blog post, Bourgeois referenced Underoath’s They’re Only Chasing Safety as a life changing record. “I was extremely sad when they finally broke up,” he said. “The whole band loves Underoath, but we still listen to them, and probably always will.” The band is influenced by more than just other music, finding comfort and escape on tour outside of the shows. For Bourgeois that means walking around listening to music, exercising and spending a lot of time trying to just relax while writing in the band’s van. For a band which has achieved such success so quickly the ups and downs have certainly been compressed and expedited. SECRETS is on tour for ten months out of the year away from friends and family, constantly tempted to live a rockstar lifestyle. “The hardest thing for me on tour is keeping clean from drugs and alcohol,” said Bourgeois. “You have to look at the big picture, this is all of our dreams to be in this position, making music and playing in front of amazing people every night. Giving in to vices or quitting would never fix anything.” “I think about the fans and all the fans I would never be able to reach, that makes me stronger and keep going.” SECRETS is truly a band that’s as passionate about its fans and supporters as they are about the music. Taking the time every night to meet its fans, taking photos of the crowd so that every fan can feel like a part of the community and SECRETS’ world. “This is our dream, and this is barely the beginning.”We look forward to witnessing this young band’s bright and promising future. Note: Michael Sherman is not pictured in the photograph.
PHOTOS: Derrick Austinson INTERVIEW AND STORY: Will Howard
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HOME: Lancaster, PA NOW jamming: Texas In July - Full Length (Equal Vision Records) CURRENTLY: Just released their new music video for “Bed of Nails” & are preparing for their Canadian Tour (May)
Texas in July started out as just a bunch of friends looking to make music for fun. But now after six years it is readily apparent that Texas in July is more than just a bunch of guys jamming out in the basement. Releasing three full lengths, the third of which was released in October of 2012, Texas and July has been on a steady climb to the top. Going into this recording process, Texas In July wasn’t looking to reinvent the wheel. When we caught up with bassist Ben Witkowski he gave us some insight on the band’s writing process. “All of our songs start on a computer as a raw skeleton outline,” said Witkowski. “After this they get recorded in a simple process just so we hear where the songs are going.” Texas In July did, however, have the pleasure of a few luxuries during this recording process. Recording at a studio with enough space to run a jam room, the band was able to sit and work out brand new songs as well as rework already written songs. The band also allowed themselves the freedom to write in the studio. Rather than meticulously recording only songs that were written prior to the studio Texas In July let the process flow more freely, experimenting and further defining the its sound. The process worked for the band, creating a record that is turning heads both in the industry and in listeners. The band seems to agree, allowing this third full-length record to bear the moniker of its own name. “We were experimenting with new sounds amongst new parts and it seemed to us we were honing in on Texas In July’s sound,” said Witkowski. “The self- titled was appropriate for the discovery.” For those of you unfamiliar with the six-year veterans of the scene, Texas in July started touring just out of high school and they have never looked back. According to Witkowksi, at first touring right out of high school was hard to cope with due to missing out on family events and parties as a kid freshly out of school. But as with many musicians before him, Witkowski and his band mates felt they were called to the world of music, their minds were meant for something more than textbooks. “I wouldn’t trade any of that now for the things I’ve done and the places I have visited,” said Witkowski. I believe anyone who has had the privilege to see the band live would be happy to agree.
A band needs much more than a record and a pedigree to achieve a long-term career. With three full-length records under its belt Texas In July is well on its way to achieving a long and notable career, but they are far from done. Touring as support for bands like The Chariot and Miss May I, Texas In July is constantly pushed to the edge of its comfort zone in hopes of achieving even more success. “The Chariot is hands down one of the best bands to see live. Anyone who has seen them before knows why,” said Witkowski. “They have inspired me a ton to turn my stage presence up a notch.” A true pinnacle of the hardcore and metal music scene, The Chariot, inspire and push the next generation of musicians as the band pours its heart and soul out on stage no matter what. Texas in July is well on its way to such a notable performance style. Taking influences from tour mates, as well as the bands that have come before them Texas In July lets emotions come out naturally on stage, exhibiting true passion for its music. “Our show is all natural,” said Witkowski. “Things that look choreographed are actually just things we have learned from each other over time.” In an industry where perfection both sonically and visually is expected, Texas In July allows the unexpected to play a role in every performance. Taking its cues from both the fans and one another, Texas In July explodes every night with a fiery passion undeniable even at first glance. As the band continues to push forward in its career they are continuously surprised and excited by the opportunities they are presented with. This last year the band had the opportunity to expand its fan base beyond its wildest imagination to the east, touring in places like Japan, Thailand, China and Australia. Witkowski was left at a loss for words from this experience, responding with only, “Absolutely Amazing”. Under the power of its newly self-titled release, and the intense and passionate music video for “Bed of Nails,” Texas in July rises to the forefront of the music scene. This will certainly not be the last you hear from them. PHOTOS: Joel Pilotte INTERVIEW AND STORY: Will Howard
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HOME: Ajax, Ontario, Canada NOW jamming: Screaming Bloody Murder Full Length (Island Def Jam Music Group)
CURRENTLY: Playing Soundwave Festival in Australia and then off to tour Canada with Billy Talent
Iwriting hadthis,forgotten, until I started that it had been almost 20 years since Sum
41 got together. Not only am I starting to feel old, but I am always wildly impressed when a band makes it to that “legendary” category. Not only has time flown by for me, but it has as well for Jason “Cone” McClasin, the backup vocalist and bass player for the band. And we at Highlight were glad that he could speak to us about what is in store for Sum 41. Canadian pop punk band Sum 41’s resume is rather impressive with billboard hits, two Juno awards (seven nominations), a Grammy nomination and sold-out arenas. The band formed in 1996 and released its first EP in 2000, Half Hour of Power. By 2001, the band had received mainstream recognition with its first single “Fat Lip” not too long after signing with Islands Records and releasing its first full length, All Killer, No Filler. The band has since released five studio albums and is set to begin work on its sixth album this year. “I like how our albums have progressed,” Cone said. “There are always those things you look back on and say, ‘man, I wish we would have released this song as a single instead of that song,’ but those are tough decisions that you have to make at the time. You go with your gut and sometimes it works out and sometimes not.” Things have obviously changed for musicians over the past decade or two, especially with social media becoming a daily part of everyone’s life. And as we have all adapted, bands have to do so even more. It wasn’t that big of a jump for Sum 41 according to Cone, but it would have made things a lot easier at the get go because they were already making homemade music videos. “If something like YouTube was around back then it would have made a huge difference to be able to get it to the world on the spot instead of printing thousands of VHS tapes to hand out at shows,” Cone said. “On the other hand, social media can be a bit intrusive if you let it be, as well. Does everyone really need to know what you are doing all the time? In a lot of ways the mystique of rock bands is long gone, but that’s the new world we live in, so you just embrace it instead of fight it.” 26 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET
Sum 41 has been continually touring for over a decade now with sometimes more than 300 shows per year. Most recently, the band has been involved in its 10-year anniversary tour from its album, Does This Look Infected. For many die-hard fans, this was a favorite album, but this tour surprised the band a bit with all of the younger kids that not only knew the words to all of the songs, but were there to sing along. Live shows are an essential part of a band’s lifestyle as well as a way to generate buzz about albums. It is also just a lot of fun for the band and fan alike. But you can’t be everywhere you want to be all the time. “South America is on the top of the list to go,” Cone said. “We’ve had to cancel tours there in the past due to injuries or whatever, and I know we have some pretty passionate fans there.” Cone believes that social media may be the cause for many of the new fans who were so young when the first album was released but, whatever the reason, I am glad to see that they are continuously growing the fan base as well as the repertoire. “At our shows now it’s a really good mix of older fans that are still around when we had our first album in 2000 and there are also 14-18 year olds who were just 2-6 years old when our first album came out and are just discovering us for the first time,” he said. It seems as if Sum 41’s work is never done. The band will end its tour in April and then head right into writing a new album while they take a break from touring. You will not see the end of Sum 41 anytime soon. “It’s like with any job, if you love what you’re doing then you have the drive to keep doing it,” Cone said. And I, for one, couldn’t agree more. Keep an eye out for the next album; I am sure it will be here before you know it. PHOTOS: Heather Phillips INTERVIEW: Jenn Stookey STORY: Liz Brossard
HOME: San Diego, CA NOW jamming: The American Dream - EP (Diggit Records) CURRENTLY: Just wrapped up their last headlining tour as ‘Allstar Weekend’ and will be embarking on the 2013 Vans Warped Tour this summer
Trying to win “The Next Big Thing”
was Allstar Weekend’s main goal, but even losing the contest didn’t stop the band from becoming just that. After making two albums and three EP’s as well as touring with The Ready Set, We Are The In Crowd and Honor Society, Allstar Weekend is now becoming one of the biggest bands in music today. The band has come a long way since signing to Hollywood Records in 2009 and then moving on to its own label, Diggit Records, in 2012. Now, Allstar Weekend is ready to take it one step further by starting up a new project together with a newer sound that fans might be shocked to hear. But even with the news of its brand new project still shocking fans all over the world, the band is super excited to be moving forward and starting something new. As Allstar Weekend heads on its final headlining tour before Warped Tour and continues on to its hiatus, the band members are trying to enjoy every last second of it like it’s the last time they’ll be doing this together. But it won’t be the last time we’ll hear from the band anytime soon as they plan to release its new record, and what would’ve been its third album under Allstar Weekend, very soon. “It’s been… extreme,” said Allstar Weekend bass player Cameron Quiseng. “The shows have been extreme, I was extremely sick and these guys may be getting sick. The fans are extreme for sure.” “It’s our most sincere tour in the fact that we don’t care about anything, which has been awesome,” said vocalist Zach Porter. “And it makes for a really good tour because we just don’t care. It makes it fun, I think the fans like it better, and we’re doing weird stuff.” After the band announced its new project during one of its live chats and later on Facebook, fans scrambled to get tickets for the last tour together under the Allstar Weekend name. While some fans were shocked to hear about the hiatus, drummer Michael Martinez told us that it was just a normal thing had come up over a conversation during breakfast. “It was a natural progression,” said Porter. “We have the new record pretty much done; we’re putting some finishing touches on it like background vocals and stuff, but it’s close to being done. It doesn’t sound anything like Allstar Weekend, and it’s definitely what we all want to do.” Porter said that the band doesn’t want to do Allstar 30 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET
Weekend songs anymore and that they don’t want any fans to expect them to play old songs. The band is just ready to move on to something new, something away from the image of Allstar Weekend. The band’s latest EP, Kevin’s Place, is its first cover EP that they have made. While they might not be performing any of their old songs under the new project, the band will take with them everything they learned together as Allstar Weekend. “As an artist, I think it’s really important to know what you want and what you want to do,” said Porter. “I think that when we went into this, we didn’t know what we wanted and we just kind of went with the flow. I think not only knowing what you want, but focusing on it and putting your whole heart into it is the way to go. Just not bouncing off different things and being wishy-washy, but knowing exactly what you want.” And that’s exactly what the band will be doing for its new album. Even though they just recently announced the new project, they tell us that the album is, in fact, almost done. “It’s almost ready to go to mix. We did the whole thing in Nashville, and it was really fun,” said Porter When asked how different the process for its albums was compared to the new one, they couldn’t help but see a major difference. Porter said that it was really different this time. The band was thrown in with different producers and writers. The last two records that Allstar Weekend recorded were done with six or seven different producers creating a cluster of different ideas and sounds. “This time, we really, really wanted to do it with one producer and I spent most of 2012 writing it. We went to Nashville, found a producer we really liked and were a fan of his production. We kind of hunkered down, and made this really cool record that we all really like,” said Porter. “I think that’s why this record sounds so good,” Martinez said, “because we’ve always been big fans of producers over artists sort of, so we always listen to the same albums have the same producers. I think we just wanted it to be like that for us.” For the band it is hard to listen to its old records from start to finish because they just sound like a lot of different sounds. “It’s like listening to a bad radio mix because of all these different sounds, mixes, and instruments…it’s kind of hard to listen to. We wanted to have something you could listen to from start to finish and have it feel like a complete
thought.” said Porter. In order to help fund the new record, the band started a Kickstarter project that raised about $100,000. While some of the rewards were copies of the album, others included trips to Disneyland and Universal Studios, coffee dates, personalized songs, signed instruments and even surf lessons with the band. After deciding that the new record would be taken out under its new project, the band gave fans the option to get refunds for copies of the album. Even though some fans might have done so, they say that they’re okay with however things work out with its fan base. Allstar Weekend has no expectations going into its new project. Porter said that they just keep reiterating at all of the shows how thankful they really are for everything they have had over the years and that they couldn’t have done any of it without its fans. “You know, we don’t have any expectations, and if they want to follow the new band then that’s great,” said Porter. “If not, it doesn’t really matter. We’re kind of moving on, so we’re thankful for everything they’ve done for us in the past and I don’t want to taint the years we spent by giving some self-serving message.”
When asked who they’re biggest inspirations were and have been throughout its time together as Allstar Weekend and under its new project, they all had different and interesting answers. “I always knew I wanted to do something different and my friends always supported me,” said Martinez. “They were always like ‘Dude, just do your thing and go for it,’ and I guess it all lead to this. And who inspires me now…I don’t know. I feel like it’s everybody and everything that I surround myself with, whether it’s my friends or fans, just anyone who inspires me to do what I do.” “Different people all the time inspire me,” Quiseng added. “I get really inspired by watching certain movies or reading certain books, or just meeting random people in random places, but I think for me, the most inspirational thing at the beginning and now is the unknown.”
For Quiseng everything the band has done over the years has been a highlight for him. The entire experience, from traveling to different countries to meeting various fans and hearing their stories on how they’ve been affected by the band’s music is incredible. Not to mention how they have changed as people from being in the band together and the opportunities that were allotted to them because of it. “It was cool that we were on TV; it was cool that we’ve been on a bunch of different radio stations and that we have been able to play with all of the band’s we’ve been able to play with, “said Quiseng. “Pretty much, everything has been great. I mean, life’s all about peaks and valleys and of course it’s has its downs, like there were times where we weren’t happy with certain situations that suck, but then you realize ‘look what we’re doing, this is our job.” Porter said that the whole ride has been great, but that there are a lot of crappy people in the music business and he is more jaded and bitter than he was at 17. But even with the ups and the downs he wouldn’t take any of it back.
As for what we should expect for them in the future, Quiseng said that they have no expectations for what may come next. “That’s why we can never answer that question because we don’t have any,” said Martinez. “I didn’t even know that we had an interview today.” And he adds that they are just taking things day by day. While we know that everything will certainly change for this band, we can’t help but think that everything is just going to get bigger and better for these guys. As the band head’s on its final journey as Allstar Weekend during Warped Tour, we can definitely see that the next step in the band‘s life, whatever it may be, will definitely be one to watch out for. Allstar Weekend was able to take the music world by storm once and it can certainly be done again, this time with a mature sound and something that is truly more personal for the band mates and for the band’s old and new fans. PHOTOS: Ashley Osborn INTERVIEW: Anjel Lopez STORY: Tamara Fuentes
HOME: Dallas, TX HOME: Essex, England NOW jamming: Challenger - Full-Length (Rise Records) NOW jamming: Troublemaker ft. Flo Rida - Single (Columbia Records now Epic) CURRENTLY: Continuing to takeover the scene with an extensive list of tour dates CURRENTLY: Preparing for tours in 2013 and the US release of his full length album Right Place Right Time on April 16th
Blacklisting, member changes and
poor label support are not what you would expect to find associated with a band like Memphis May Fire. Forming in 2007 Memphis May Fire started out like most young bands, with the intention of having fun. They, however, did not go unnoticed, catching sight of TrustKill Records. The band signed to its first label and Memphis May Fire has not looked back since. In the five years since its first release the band has had nothing but setbacks, but it’s never kept them down. Now after releasing the band’s latest record, Challenger, Memphis May Fire is on top of the hardcore scene, and the future only looks brighter. With a few notable member changes since the beginning, including the addition of Matty Mullins in 2008 and the addition of former Decoder guitarist Anthony Sepe in 2012, Memphis May Fire has been redefining and reinventing the wheel since its inception. With a sound similar yet uniquely its own, Memphis May Fire pushes its own limits. After releasing its newest album, Memphis May Fire is finally receiving the support and respect the band deserves. “Our music has its own attitude and flow,” said lead guitarist Kellen McGregor. “Not to mention Matt’s vocals are very unique and carry us above being in an average band.” Coming together as a cohesive unit, Memphis May Fire hides a pedigree of success deep within its ranks. With Jake Garland on drums, the current drummer of post hardcore outfit Broadway, and former Decoder guitarist Anthony Sepe, the band is certainly not without experience. With a lineup full of talent and drive, Memphis May Fire is ripe with the ability to succeed. Taking its past experiences as a method of learning and improving rather than struggles to harp on, Memphis May Fire continues to push on, both as individuals and as a collective unit; pushing past old labels, old lineups and an industry that continually underestimates the band. Still, Memphis May Fire has surpassed any and all expectations. For a band that’s been together as long as Memphis May Fire the business and the music start to intertwine. What was once just the fun of playing with friends and sharing the music you make together suddenly becomes a career. For many this can be too much too handle, but Memphis May Fire never misses a step. “I started this band just wanting to have fun and play shows,” said McGregor. “While we definitely look at being in a band with a business mind we also remember to let loose,” and they certainly do every night they set foot on stage. Touring is essential to the success of any band. Memphis May Fire is no exception to the rule. Leaving for months
out of the year and living in vans with best friends, touring can sound like a joy to many. Much of the hardships of the road are often lost to the onlooker. “From being broken down in Georgia, getting stranded and having massive bills and debt, how haven’t we been set back should be the question,” said McGregor. Some may say that the band is crazy for sticking with it; however, the love of the music and the love of the fans is enough for Memphis May Fire, even when the band members have to leave behind girlfriends and wives. “We’ve definitely learned that things aren’t always what they seem,” said McGregor. “In order to survive you have to be very business minded.” The Memphis May Fire band members take all of their experiences to heart, attempting to learn from every up and down. “You just pick up small things from experiences whether it is gear related or just touring advice,” said McGregor. The writing process for bands is the most personal and private part of a being in a band. The cathartic moments where the band expresses the things they could not without music. The moments of the deepest heartache and worry put to a melody. For Memphis May Fire, this process begins with McGregor and then shared with Matty Mullins and the rest of the band as they each add their own unique touch. “The writing process hasn’t changed a bit,” said McGregor. “I still write all of the music and then send it to Matt for him to do his thing.” McGregor is not without his influences though. Taking his lead from the bands of the past, looking to the way those bands progressed and defined sound as a template. “I look up a lot of 1990s and early 2000s bands whose records progressed and evolved over the years but still maintained a solid sound,” he said. “Challenger is 100 percent about us and the things we’ve gone through as individuals and as a band.” Challenger is more than just a musical expression; it is a representation of the personal and private struggles of the band. Each and every song represents a different personal experience, an honest representation of the band’s private lives. Despite how honest and personal the band allows itself to be through its music, fans sometimes forget that not everything is for public display. “A lot of fans forget we’re just regular dudes,” said McGregor. “Everyone has problems in their lives, and we’re no different. Personally, I’ve dealt with some terrible experiences, things so bad you would think some Hollywood script writer was writing my love life.” But you would never know it while watching him perform HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 35
every night. Leaving behind friends and family each time the band heads out on the road and sleeping in small smelly vans; life in a band has its troubles. Memphis May Fire never lets the troubles take over, making it to the stage each and every night despite personal strife. Coupling Challenger with Memphis May Fire’s extensive touring has caught the eyes of its peers as well. Using Rise Records as a trampoline; Memphis May Fire has launched itself into the eyes and most certainly the ears of its fellow rockers, most notably Kellin Quinn of Sleeping with Sirens and Danny Wornsnop of Asking Alexandria, who were both featured on Challenger. Memphis May Fire also caught the eye of Fearless Records and the team putting together the Punk Goes Pop compilation where Memphis May Fire display its enticing and catchy cover of Bruno Mars’ song Grenade on the very first track. In a day in age where new music listeners look at songs as files on a computer and not the experience of buying a record, music takes on a whole new meaning. “I think vinyl is super rad, though I don’t own any myself,” said McGregor when asked about the resurgence of vinyl in the last few years. “I grew up on tape players and then cd’s… I still have a connection to owning physical media.” Over the last decade music, both for musicians and fans, has changed dramatically. With the development of technology the way we listen and connect with music has changed, as well as the way musicians write and record music. As bands are offered more shortcuts and ways to create overly perfected music, the role of a live performance becomes increasingly important. Memphis May Fire is no exception to these struggles.
“Any of the stuff on our records that we can’t recreate… we can now backtrack with a MacBook or an iPod very easily,” said McGregor. Memphis May Fire has certainly had its fair share of downs in the past. No band is a stranger to challenges. “Being ‘blacklisted’ so to speak,” said McGregor.“People in the industry had written us off without even giving us the tiniest chance.” It is no mystery what kept Memphis May Fire going through such surmounting challenges. With one look at the band live or one listen to its record you can feel the fire. And the band tries to make its live shows and its records sound as close as it can to one another. The future, however, looks brighter than ever, spending last summer on Warped Tour and recently announcing that the band will be returning again this summer. “I think the highlight in general was playing Vans Warped Tour this past summer,” said McGregor. “Every day we stepped on stage was incredible and an experience we’ll never forget as long as we live.” You can never be certain what the future holds, but there is one thing for certain – Memphis May Fire will keep dreaming big and pushing forward. Nothing will stop the band now. Be sure to catch the band this summer on the entirety of Warped Tour. PHOTOS: Ashley Osborn INTERVIEW AND STORY: Will Howard
HOME: Cincinnati, Ohio NOW jamming: Tightrope - EP (RCA Records) CURRENTLY: Touring? New Music? Festivals? Who knows!
If real music and genuine musicians
is what you’re looking for, you can officially end your search; Walk The Moon is your destination. With only hopes of interacting with other humans and expressing its art, this Cincinnati based band has sparked a flame that has grown into a roaring fire full of face paint and great tunes. Here at Highlight we got to catch up with the entire quartet known as Walk The Moon before its show at the 9:30 Club to get the scoop on its past, present and future, complete with how the band started, everything you wanted to know about its new EP, and what to is come for the band. Since its start in 2008, Walk The Moon has gone through some line up changes, but Kevin Ray, Nicholas Petricca, Sean Waugaman and Eli Maiman seem to be a magic combination. “I started the band more or less in college with some other guys,” Petricca said. “As time went along those original guys went to do other things.” But that didn’t discourage him. “I kept the band going and started going to shows in Cincinnati to meet people and that’s how I met Eli and we started making music together,” he said. “Meanwhile I needed a musician for a show we were playing in New York and Kevin was an old family friend. We had just both graduated and he flew from his family vacation to come play at that show and from that point on he introduced me to Sean. Over the course of a year or so eventually the four of us solidified.” Even with a band together, every band needs a name and Walk The Moon didn’t come up with its name right away. “We had about 400 other terrible band names and none of them felt quite right, and then we were listening to The Police and they have that song ‘Walking On The Moon’ and it just kind of felt right,” admitted Petricca. “We went and checked on MySpace, which was the end all be all of 40 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET
bands at the time, and it wasn’t taken so we grabbed it.” Most kids start a band in high school with hopes of making it big, but Walk The Moon only settled in as a band when the guys knew it was exactly what they wanted; even after testing the waters of a college education. “Everybody [in the band] went to school for music in one way or another, actually mostly in other ways,” the band said. “Everybody went to school for something different but everything in the musical field,” Maiman said. “Being a musician is a weird thing and I definitely had some freak outs and took semesters where I thought I was going to be a doctor and then took the LSAT. Finally, I just kind of settled into who I was; a musician, and its working out right now.” Working out may be the understatement of the century. Walk The Moon has been featured in countless magazines including Esquires “30 Songs Every Man Should Listen To”, which happens to be one of the bands favorite, Seventeen, Nylon and of course Highlight, and they notice every single one. “It’s an honor, first of all and it’s a privilege,” Ray said. “No one opportunity like that I guess is something we see as like our big break, its just little steps towards this ever rising goal,” said Petricca. Walk The Moon music has also been featured on commercials as well as TV shows like Vampire Diaries, and such recognition has opened up the band to almost every imaginable demographic of listeners. “We definitely hear a lot of stories from 25-30 year olds saying my two year- old loves ‘I Can Lift A Car’ or my infant baby rocks to ‘Anna Sun,’ ya know.” Petricca said, “So its weird; we see this huge cut of people coming to shows and really enjoying the music. Although it’s definitely like the 13-17 year old girls who make themselves the most known, they speak the loudest.”
When a band starts out, they get stuck playing house shows, small clubs and local venues. Most bands dream of playing huge venues and festivals, and Walk The Moon gets to live that dream. The band has played Lollapalooza, Firefly and the iTunes festival. Not only are festivals among the favorite events of music lovers, but also for the band itself.
“It’s cool to able to be a fan and not just a band,” Maiman added.
“Those are some of our favorite gigs I think,” said Petricca. “Partly because that’s where, a lot of times, some of the most avid, crazy, music fans go, and you have such a huge melting pot of tastes of different bands and different styles, so it’s a great opportunity to play in front of a bunch of people that maybe wouldn’t have heard of you otherwise. It’s also really fun because occasionally we get to meet some of the other bands who are playing. And some of the bands that we love to listen to.”
“Sure, goals keep coming up, they keep creating themselves. We don’t know what our goals are going to be a year from now,” said Petricca. “We have these ridiculous life long goals. But goals keep popping up. A year ago we had no idea that we’d be playing the 9:30 Club. That was just not something we thought about but now it’s tangible and happened.”
Ray also added the importance of the event and said that he thinks that there’s a lot more weight. Including more advertising and a lot more people attending these shows. It ends up being such a production that the band members have to get there a lot earlier than other shows and stay all day. But of course for Ray and other members of the band it is a fun time, almost like summer camp. They’re excited for a long time leading up to that one big day. “It’s always nice to go check out bands you haven’t seen before or ones you just heard about,” Waugaman said.“And seeing them live is a great way to get introduced to their catalogue.”
Walk The Moon has had so many opportunities open to them, all with in a relatively short amount of time, they have even found it hard to create goals for themselves anymore.
Even with its rising popularity, the band is not taking any of it for granted, and being such a big band was never exactly what was expected for band’s career. Every musician hopes for it, but for Walk The Moon it is slowly but surely becoming a reality. “I don’t think it’s something you can plan for. Except in a pipe dream kind of way. You know you say ‘when I’m rich and famous I’m going to have 18 girlfriends. One in every state.’” Maiman said. Walk The Moon knows that you can’t plan for things to happen, but it is sort of the ultimate goal of most musicians to have as many people hear their art as possible. The members said that every band should just want to be
heard, regardless of what they originally had planned. “I don’t think there are many people who create art in this vacuum of their own head. It’s basically an expression to share with people and express more clearly than you can with actual words how you feel to other human beings. So in that respect I think it’s what we always wanted,” Maiman said. “It’s weird to think that anyone would want to create art to intentionally not be seen,” Ray said. “We want to share with as many people that want to share it. If only ten people show up at a show, great. If 100,000 people show up at a show, great. Either way we are going to have a blast with those people.” On top of that, Walk The Moon doesn’t let popularity change them as people or as a band, they only progress like any good band should. Ray added that if the band has changed it is only because they guys are starting to get to know each other a little better. Human change in general, is inevitable. “We don’t intend on changing who we are or what we do just because more people like us, or more people know about us,” said Petricca. “But we will continue to grow and evolve and I think that’s really important. I think something we’ve learned from listening to other artists that we love is that the ones that succeed and the ones that make 42 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET
an impact are the ones that aren’t afraid to change and branch out and try new things.” Walk The Moon is known not only for its music, but also for the ritual of face paint within the band and fans. It has become sort of a commodity on its own. But who would have guessed the fans encouraged the practice. “It was really a really lucky, wonderful accident,” Petricca exclaimed. “We had sort of a Hook, Peter Pan, lost boys vibe for the ‘Anna Sun’ video. And when we released in our hometown we had a party where we had a face paint station to sort of recreate the vibe of the video just for that one night. It was so much fun, I guess, and people liked it, that they started coming to shows with face paint so we started bringing the face paint and it just sort of spiraled out of our control and became something we did as sort of tradition.” Walk The Moon independently released its first album, I Want I Want, and then released its self-titled after signing with a major label. RCA just seemed to be the perfect fit for the band. “I don’t think signing with a major is something we had previously foreseen. Especially growing up with VH1: Behind The Music, you grow up scared of the man, ya know? But, when that world became aware of us and we started meeting all different kinds of people it really came
down to whom we vibed with the most and who shared our vision and who wanted to support us in the way we wanted to be supported,” said Petricca. “And sort of the path we wanted to go down and it happened that at RCA. They are really great people and we really love the team that’s there. It was a dream come true. They basically were like ‘we don’t want to change anything, you just keep doing what you’re doing and we just want to help you do more.’”
The band agreed that even though there isn’t much money in the record industry at the moment, finding the right label is all about finding someone who strikes the balance between being a music fan and a money fan.
Ray agreed with Petricca and said that the whole process of selecting a label is kind of like dating before marriage. You have to consider that you will be working with these people with the next ten or so years of your life. So there is sometimes a lot of wining, dining and courting. Ray also said that it is easy to forget that the people in those positions, working at the labels are all music fans and they are all there because they wanted to get involved in the music industry.
“There are some crossover tunes. We’ve been thinking about those fans for a while, those people who have been listening since I Want I Want and have heard some of the same songs for a little while and we have this new music that we’ve been playing live for some time so we really wanted to put it out there and put out some new material for ourselves but also for those fans who deserved it,” Petricca said.
“We were really lucky that the first people we dealt with in the industry, the people who took any interest in us were Derek and Lizzie in Neon Gold who showed us that you could be affiliated with a major label that’s still very human and very passionate,” said Maiman. “Being thrown into this major label world, we were prepared to go into it looking for those qualities rather than just assuming everyone was going to be an asshole who was trying to fuck us.”
The band’s most recent release and their second with RCA, the Tightrope EP, is an extension of its self titled record as well as the bridge between now and what is to come.
The Tightrope EP may only be six songs, but Walk The Moon meant it to be that way. “We wanted to focus on the next single. ‘Anna Sun’ has had a great run and it continues to have a great run and we want to focus on some new stuff. So we wanted kind of a creative way to focus on the new single and to release new music,” said Petricca.” It was intentional and I think we haven’t made any final decisions on just about anything but I think it will stand alone. I think the new album will just be a new, freakin’ new album.”
Walk The Moon sees this EP as an extension of what is going on now, but it’s looking towards the future and the album artwork parallels that idea. The artwork for this EP is very distinct, as are most things that Walk The Moon does, but the band has a plan behind it. “The EP art was really inspired by the LP art. We kind of wanted it to be this expansion on the idea of the tree house,” said Maiman. “Where that idea came from was really a very painful process of coming up with art from the first record where we tried a lot of things and nothing quite worked and then finally we had this idea of a tree house drawn by this terrific artist named Mike Perry and it just ended being right.” “Its kind of like when we throw a Walk The Moon party,” Ray added. “Like tonight we’re going to throw a Walk The Moon party, you just kind of want to leave everything behind and leave the bad moods at the door and go out with a force and have this big party and the tree house is kind of the gathering place of where we have our Walk The Moon parties. I think the progression of the artwork on the EP is kind of like the party is growing and more friends are coming over to hang out so we need more space. The tree houses are growing and it’s becoming a bigger party and it’s just exciting.” Walk The Moon has experienced every part of being a musician from writing and recording to touring, but every aspect sort of goes hand in hand. For Petricca every part has an advantage and disadvantage. “We get to do that [tour] and get a glimpse of what we’re doing in other people’s lives but that means we aren’t spending time at home. But really time at home is not part of this equation. If we’re writing, rehearsing, or recording, we’re not spending time with our families; we like to call it the Cadillac problem,” Petricca said. “They are two totally different things. The recorded music will live on forever but the performance will last just as long as it lasts,” Ray said. “I think for me personally, I grew up with the end point as the performance. You get to that
performance and sharing that. I think for other people recording something that will live on forever is the end point but it varies.” Every band has a highlight of its career, but Walk The Moon is a bit more general in its accomplishments than expected, in the best of ways. “I think each tour has its own personality and its own little entity. One of the most recent tours we were on was with fun. out in Europe and it was like 18 different countries or something,” said Petricca. “ Through that month and a half we got to see a big part of the world and that was amazing and now we get to go back. So, that’s an achievement to us. To gain enough traction to have our own tour in Europe is an achievement. This tour in America also feels like an achievement because each one gets bigger and better. After we’ve seen shows and opened shows here at the 9:30 Club it definitely feels like an achievement to now have our own show.” Although we’ve gotten a new EP and a whole bunch of shows from Walk The Moon this year already, I have a feeling the best is yet to come and we can definitely expect lots a shows and touring from this band and maybe even some new music before the end of the year. No matter what happens the band agreed that it will be very busy. “We’ll be going to some places in world we haven’t been before and we’ll be doing a lot of festivals this summer,” said Petricca. “We’re going to make a movie with Harrison Ford. Called ‘Harrison Ford Is Angry In a Tree House,’” Waugaman joked. They all agreed they were going to be very busy. Personally, I think I’m looking forward to Walk The Moon’s movie the most, but I may be waiting a long time for that release. I guess a girl can settle for a ton of new music and a few shows to attend. Looks like I, too, have a Cadillac problem on my hands. PHOTOS: Cara Bahniuk STORY AND INTERVIEW: Jennifer Boylen
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The Rocket Summer
WHERE: House of Blues, Chicago, IL PHOTOs: Ashley Osborn
WHERE: The Marquee, Tempe, AZ PHOTOs: Derrick Austinson
Coheed and Cambria
review: Jessica Klinner
A Rocket to the Moon album:
Wild & Free rating:
sounds like: Brighten Augustana Carter Hulsey
Recommended tracks: “Ever Enough” “Nothing At All” “Wild & Free”
Going Out 2 First Kiss 3 Whole Lotta You 4 Ever Enough 5 If I’m Gonna Fall In Love 6 I Do 7 Another Set Of Wings 8 Wild & Free 9 Wherever You Go 10 Nothing At All 11 Somebody Out There 12 You’re My Song 13 Lost and Found 1
release date: March 26th
In 2009, A Rocket to the Moon debuted as a band with its first full length album, On Your Side. Fast forward four long years to present day and the quartet eagerly awaits the release of its second LP, Wild & Free. Fans have been chomping at the bit to hear the long awaited album especially after the band released a teaser EP featuring four songs off Wild & Free. The wait is finally over and we’ve got the first look at the highly anticipated album. The album begins with the already popular tune “Going Out”, an upbeat song proven to be an instant crowd pleaser. As the album progresses, the pop rock most fans are used to hearing is met with a country sound that is not nearly as familiar. Recording in Nashville gave way for A Rocket To The Moon to explore its inner country artist. On tracks like “Wherever You Go” and “Somebody Out There”, twanging guitars and banjos create a pure country sound mixed with hints of the old Rocket which creates an insane musical hybrid. The more upbeat tracks on the record, “Nothing At All” and “You’re My Song”, act as the perfect tunes to soundtrack a summer barbeque or a road trip with friends. The classic element of storytelling so often associated with country music comes through in the songs “Another Set of Wings” and “Lost and Found”, both lyrical masterpieces. The title track “Wild & Free” rings out with a youthful declaration to live young, wild and free. The band tackles mature themes on this record like coping with the death of a loved one and dealing with feelings of depression. Wild & Free possesses relatable lyrics that any fan can connect with. The Highlight cover veterans pushed the envelope with this record, venturing away from the typical pop rock album that many people thought they would produce again. Fans will have to do a double take after first listening to the new songs. Lead singer Nick Santino does not have the typical country sounding voice, but that is what makes this record so unique. It’s a blend of country influences with the best sounds from On Your Side. A Rocket To The Moon could not have presented a better second full length album. The lyrics are more meaningful, the sound is more mature and Santino’s voice sounds better than ever before. From the first note to the last drawn out guitar riff, Wild & Free beautifully illustrates the growth and maturation of the band in the four years it took them to release it. It’s too early in the year to be certain, but this album is already topping our Best of 2013 list.
Artist: Atlas Genius Album: When It Was Now
Australian indie outfit, Atlas Genius, recently released its debut full length album, When It Was Now. The opening track, appropriately titled “Electric,” kicks off the album with a dissonant disco vibe. However, the electronic aspect included in the album is sedated compared to other artists whose music is heavily saturated with synthesizers. While the funky beats and relaxed vocals are a nice combination, Atlas Genius remain on the softer side of the indie-pop spectrum. It is evident that “Trojans,” and “Symptoms” are hits, which were released on the band’s EP and have been gaining some radio play. The album brightens up the cold winter months, especially with tracks like “On A Day” and “All These Girls,” which are reminders that summer is just around the corner. Aside from the obvious favorites, some songs tend to get lost in the sea of tranquil melodies, lacking a certain spark to make them distinctive in comparison. That detail set aside, the up-and-coming band is certainly a group to be on the lookout for.
recommended tracks: “Don’t Make A Scene” & “Symptoms” review: Haley Black Artist: Hoodie Allen Album: Crew Cuts Hoodie Allen has made a name for himself by doing everything independently and staying connected to his fans. He recently released his fourth mixtape Crew Cuts on his website for fans to download for free. The album features collaborations with well known rappers including Chiddy and Shwayze. Hoodie Allen’s passion and energy continue to show through in each of his songs. The album is comprised of witty lyrics, catchy hooks and references ranging from Waka Flocka Flame and Les Miserables to Jesse Katsopolis from Full House. It’s a fun sing-along record perfect for a party on the weekend or hanging out with friends.
recommended tracks: “Reunion” & “Good Intentions” review: Morgan Waldorf
Artist: HRVRD Album: The Birds Cage
Charlotte, N. C. band HRVRD has gone through a bit of a rebranding as of late. Renaming the band HRVRD, from the original Harvard, the band shed its posthardcore sound in exchange for a new and more-experimental indie post-rock sound. With a sound similar to the love child of As Tall As Lions and Circa Survive, the band has really come through whole-heartedly with its revamp and signing to Equal Vision records, who released the band’s debut album under the new name, The Birds Cage. The record cultivates a beautiful combination of groove and post rock, held together eloquently by the bands’ knowledge of when to restrain themselves and when to push through with perfect articulation. The fifth track, “Kids With Fake Guns,” is one of my favorites. The track begins with a simple guitar picking, while hanging ever so lightly above a simple but eloquent drum beat. Jesse is left to bring the piece together. As he serenades the listener directly into the chorus and bassist Garrett picks up the groove, the track captures the essence of beauty. HRVRD was just another post-hardcore band lost in the shuffle of a genre oversaturated with similarities. Now, with the name change and the new sound, the band has achieved greatness. Regardless of success, the band should rest easy knowing this record will be spinning in my room for at least a decade to come.
recommended tracks: “Kids With Fake Guns” & “We Never Shut Up About You” review: Will Howard
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