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co-founder – editor-in-chief ashley osborn


co-founder – art director cara bahniuk managing editor jenn stookey content director anjel lopez copy editor courtney dondelinger co-founder mckenzie hughes contributing photographers

cara bahniuk, matt burke, dan deslover, brendon donahue, courtney dondelinger, tarina doolittle, jordan fischels, brad heaton, megan, leetz, anjel lopez, nicole mago, charlie martel, david mullis, laura murray, ally newbold, ashley osborn, heather phillips, petey place, danny raybon, sam roenfeldt, sam san roman, daniel shippey, jared thomas and amy willard

contributing writers (online & publication)

ryan argast, christina belles, haley black, jennifer boylen, colleen casey, madison convey, rebecca del castillo, trevor figge, jordan fitzsimmons, zach murman-freer, tamara fuentes, will howard, logan kant, jessica klinner, catt kruger, daisy marietta, theresa pham, karlin reed, ryan bahniuk, annette schaefer, alyssa schmidt, steven smith, morgan waldorf and abby welsh

digital marketing team

olivia adams, geoff burns, rachel carter, sierra eldridge, aaron hinckley, megan shea and catie suliga

news posters

caroline hall, brad laplante, jordyn lockwood, megan shea and sydney wirkus


facebook twitter @highlightzine instagram @highlightzine _________________________ thank you

mkto, winnie lam, mike navarra, columbia records & sony music, fresno media usa, pep talk media, total assault, bullhorn publicity, olivia management, prosthetic records, the catalyst publicist group, perpetual media relations and our amazing readers!

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07 daniel ellsworth and the great lakes provided

state champs provided

american authors cara bahniuk

bricks and mortar provided

beartooth kara smarsh

polar provided

righteous vendetta provided HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 3


05 this or that 08 clothing highlight 10 label highlight 11 venue highlight 12 highlighted artists 13 industry highlight 15 film highlight 16 righteous vendetta 18 polar 20 daniel ellsworth and the great lakes 22 beartooth 24 state champs 28 mkto 36 tour round up american authors the royal concept 40 reviews






EH 1975









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POLAR - 18







COMPANY: Bricks & Mortar LOCATION: Columbus, OH STAFF: Fleur Shomo - Founder, Manager, Concept, Design, Creation, Social Media Christen Cushing - Co-Founder, Artist, Design, Creation




We are called Bricks & Mortar because I’m from Hackney, London (UK). There is a ‘language’ used in that area called ‘Cockney Rhyming Slang.’ It basically replaces words with rhymes. Bricks & Mortar is used for ‘daughter’. We are both daughters. I wanted a name to come from my background so I had a piece of me embedded in the company, seeing as we’re actually based in America. The company started when I asked my friend Christen, who is an amazing artist, if she’d want to collaborate with me by putting some of her drawings on items of clothing and to help work with some other ideas I had. She said yes and we worked on our first designs from that day onwards! We still have so many more designs in the pipeline; it’s still very much a work in progress.


I think our brand represents individuality with style. It’s not too crazy, but it’s not boring. We have range between the outlandish and the simple and we have just the right amount of quirkiness mixed with hip. I wanted to combine street-wear from the UK with Christen’s art to show off Columbus talent – it creates a brand that has a wide scope of appeal, and would give us a broad audience. It represents the best of both countries.


I’d seen a lot of people in the ‘band scene’ start up their own companies, but it was always aimed at the same area: teenage boys. I wanted to create something that gave more interesting items for women and men: new styles that weren’t usually seen in that scene (like dresses and tube tops) and I also wanted to bring the street-wear aspect from London to America. It’s just starting to gain some memento over here, and I wanted to be a part of that. I also just wanted the world to be able to wear Christen’s characters and see her amazing talent; it’s astounding. The clothes are so great, and I feel we manage to show off our ideas well.


1) I just love our Bricks sweater. It’s a classic design, but people go crazy for it. It’s exactly the type of thing I mean when talking about street wear. Men and women can wear it, and you can mix it up to look casual or high end. At the moment it comes in black or burgundy. It’s a timeless style that we’ll always stock and it will never go out of fashion. 2) Our Monster Patch Tee is a big seller. Instead of having a ‘pocket tee’ like our (also very popular) Robot Tee, we decided to create something new. We went with the idea of having a patch hand sewn on, so that the more times you wash the item, it frays around the edge. It just gives an added element to the normal tee. It’s also such a great image, I love what Christen created with the ‘monster.’ It’s one of the characters that you’ll see a lot more of on our clothes in the future. 3) Owl Bag / Owl Leggings – These are new designs that will be coming out in the next month. Our owl logo has been on hats and we wanted to use it on more items. With the bags, we used a new set of owls that will also probably be on a tee in the future. The new season will also involve tube tops, more hats, cardigans and crop tanks. I’m looking forward to being able to give the girls more selection in cuts of clothing that are a bit rarer to find in our field. Hopefully they love them all as much as we do!


If you want something that’s unique and slightly ahead of the trend, then we’re the people for you. We want to keep producing interesting pieces that mix with just the right amount of style, and hopefully we’re something you haven’t seen before. We also give 10% of each sale to local charities! Classic items with new ideas, is a reason to check anything out!

t@wearbricks f/wearbricks HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 9

YOU MAY WANT TO LISTEN TO... Warner Brothers is a household name that does more than just produce movies, but has been signing extremely talented and some of the most famous artists in the music industry since 1958. Back in the day, the label was home to music all-stars like Frank Sinatra, The Grateful Dead, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix just to name a few. Today the label supports a wide variety of artists including Green Day, GooGoo Dolls, Josh Groban, Kimbra, Muse, and Michael Buble. It has since become home to up-and-coming pop rock artists such as Echosmith, and indie’s own darling, Iron and Wine. With an impressive alumni and current roster, Warner Bros. helps the best of the best achieve their full potential in the music industry by giving them the tools necessary to do just that.


What do you get when you combine the innovative musicians David LeDuke, Jarod Palomar, and Anthony Sanudo with dual female vocalist and drummer, Lena Zawaideh, and Olympic snowboard medalist, Shaun White who just so happens to also play guitar? Bad Things. Not literally of course – in fact the exact opposite. The quintet is somewhat eccentric with the lead singer’s infamous blue paint charade during live performances, but they definitely know how to get an audience’s attention in addition to their enticing craft. With their self-titled debut album released late last year, performances at several SXSW showcases, and late-night television cameos under their belt, 2014 is going to be a huge year for the indie-rock newcomers. Listen to: “Caught Inside”

FOALS - It is hard for bands these days to create a sound unique

enough to stand out amongst the hundreds of thousands of artists attempting to achieve the same thing. Foals is the quintet composed of Yannis Philippakis, Jack Bevan, Jimmy Smith, Walter Gervers, and Edwin Congreave out of Oxford, England, supplying ambient infused rock brewed with indie roots to create a rare, unmatchable sound. Yannis’s vocals have a tone that ranges from more than high to low, but smooth to raspy. The use of keyboards in accompaniment to intrepid and often times funky guitar riffs and bold drum arrangements are this one-of-a-kind band’s specialty. United States residents should be sure to check them out on tour with Cage The Elephant in May, as well as Europeans during several tour dates and festivals this summer. Listen To: “My Number”


When psychology student, Stina Wappling was introduced to producers Astma and Rocwell, the unlikely trio NONONO was born. Wappling is a multi-talented vocalist and psychologist, juggling her time between her two passions, which are performing and working in a mental hospital. The Swedish indiepop combo has not even released a debut record yet and they are already on the radar as need-to-know artists in 2014. Their single, “Pumpin Blood” titled after their first EP has already been featured in commercials, flooding their upbeat anthems into everyday households. The threesome are currently about to embark on a nation wide US tour. Be sure to catch them on tour with Twenty One Pilots and Hunter Hunted going on now. Listen to: “Pumpin Blood”


WORDS: Haley Black



The Bluebird has been a landmark in the Mile High City for 101 years, founded in 1913 by a grocer by the name of John Thompson. The venue was renamed The Bluebird and first put to use as a movie theater in 1922 and has evolved throughout the years, providing various functions. The downtown community has enjoyed the building for as long as it In 2000, St. Louis music venue The Pageant opened its doors offering audiences top notch quality in live entertainment. The Pageant is named after St. Louis’s first stadium-style movie theater which was built in 1915 a short distance away from where the music venue currently stands. The venue is located on Delmar Boulevard also known as The Delmar Loop – a hot spot for food, shopping and lots of entertainment. In just over a decade the venue has become St. Louis’s premier venue for live acts from both the local and national stage.


The Pageant is a modest sized club with a capacity ranging from 1,000-2,300. On top of that, the venue features some of the best acoustics and seating in the St. Louis area. The venue is split into three tiers with a pit area in front of the stage. There is never a bad seat in the house with a maximum of 70 feet from the stage. Whether it’s in the pit or up in the balcony, fans won’t miss a second of the show. The Pageant also consists of Suite 100, which serves as a coffee shop by day and a place to sell merchandise by night, and the Halo Bar, which offers early entry to show goers over 21. Not to mention that The Pageant is located in the heart of St. Louis’s entertainment district and is just a short walk front legendary places like Blueberry Hill restaurant and music venue and Vintage Vinyl record store.





REVIEW: Annette Schaefer



Local Natives



ARTISTS JESSE CLEGG Location: Johannesburg, South Africa Current Single: “Sinking” South Africa’s Jesse Clegg has been making music most of his life. His 2008 album, “When I Wake Up” brought a number one to the charts. Clegg uses his South African Rock to bring a unique and truthful sound to listeners. Be sure to check out his latest single, “Sinking.”

JORDAN JAE Location: New York, NY Current Single: “Cloud 9” Jordan JAE is only 14. Do you remember what you were doing when you were 14? Probably not recording the catchiest of pop songs. JAE has the talent, spunk, and that glisten that pulls you in. If you love the produced pop music then JAE will be your new obsession without a doubt.

STILL THE SKY’S LIMIT Location: Orange County, CA Current Single: “Lo Hice A Proposito” Members: John Bartheknass – Guitar/Vocals, Aaron Kramer – Drums & Joshua John Wen – Bass What started off as a side project turned into a fullfledged rock band from Orange County, CA. Their music draws in everything good about the genres of rock, alternative, and a hint of something harder and mixes it together. It’s a classic and nostalgic sound that will take you back to the days you listened to The Used, Saosin or Taking Back Sunday in middle school. Their music is definitely worth giving a chance.


WORDS: Jordan Fitzsimmons & Jenn Stookey

NAME: Matt Brown COMPANY: Haulix POSITION: Founder and CEO WEBSITE: 1. WHERE IS HAULIX LOCATED? Haulix has a remote staff. We have people (myself included) in Minnesota and someone on the east coast.  Our servers are in a data center in Texas. 2. WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL STORY/WHY DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE INDUSTRY? I started a music reviewing website back in 2001 and as it gained popularity our mailbox was starting to overflow with promo packages every week. Publicists were spending money to burn discs, print bio sheets and postage to mail the packages out to people in the press. Once the packages were mailed out, they needed to keep track and follow up with people and then there was the instant threat of the album leaking. I would then have to spend hours of time entering the music into our website’s system so that my writers could access it and write about it. The entire process was expensive and time consuming. I wanted to come up with a way to do this digitally via the Internet with a web application, and that’s where the idea came from. 3. WHY DID YOU START HAULIX AND WHAT IS HAULIX. I already had quite a few connections in the industry and a computer science degree. I was able to hit the ground running with an initial solution that finally launched in late 2009. Haulix has evolved into a web-based subscription service used by record labels and PR firms to push watermarked music out to the press. We offer a full-circle solution for managing digital promos, contact lists and email invitations. Our watermarking and other security layers greatly decrease the chances of the album leaking at the pre-release stage. 4. IT’S BEEN CATCHING ON VERY QUICKLY AMONGST INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS USING YOUR SERVICES.  WHAT MAKES YOUR COMPANY STAND OUT FROM OTHERS WHO OFFER THE SAME THINGS? Couple things: one, our software is intentionally very easy to use. We feel just as good about refining a feature as we do about adding a new feature. Our core system has always been about promos, contacts and invitations. The security and watermarking is all there, but in the background. We stay out of our customer’s way and the system gets them from point A to point B with the least amount of resistance. On the journalist side, we were the first company to compile all digital promos sent to a person on one convenient screen. Press contacts can organize and keep track of which albums they have written about and easily hide albums they aren’t interested in covering. Two: our customer service. When the phone rings here, a customer gets undivided attention from a real person – no waiting, no recordings, no boring dentist office music. Our email support tickets get answered within 30-60 minutes as well. Lastly, we give as much attention to the press (people who receive promo invitations) as we do to our customers (people who send out invitations for their promos.) We feature daily spotlights in our blog and we have a popular music industry job board. 5. WHAT’S ONE WORD OF ADVICE YOU WOULD TELL SOMEONE WHO WANTED TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS LIKE YOU HAVE? In the context of starting a web-based business, there is no better time than now to start one. For literally $1000, you can start a business. You don’t need a physical store or a huge inventory of product. Everything is “virtual” and you can start with one dedicated server and control everything from your home office. When I get into something I’m passionate about -- I sort of get tunnel vision and nerd out and learn everything there is about that thing. I then work hard and do whatever it takes to be the best. Anyone thinking of starting a business needs to realize it’s a ton of work and you’ll have sleepless nights. But if you can build something from scratch that other people across the globe find valuable enough that they will pay you money to use it, then all of the hard work is worth it.






Translating our favorite stories from the book to the big screen can be challenging, especially when every reader has their own interpretations on how the movie should turn out. With a saturated market of young adult book adaptations, each film has the task of standing out from the rest while cementing stability for franchise success. Most recent releases have failed to make it to a sequel (cue the endless list of failed YA adaptations like The Host, Beautiful Creatures, Ender’s Game, Mortal Instruments, Vampire Academy, etc.) although others like The Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter have shattered box office records. Which begs the question: why are some of these films more susceptible to failure when they all follow a similar formula? Each film in this young adult category incorporates the idea of threats and struggles that lead to self-discovery and the power within oneself, a concept which a young adult based audience can easily connect with. Yet most still fall short of success, only to be forgotten by the next film attempting the same feat. A crucial element that is often overlooked by young adult films is clever and appropriate casting. The Hunger Games is the prime example of the perfect storm of casting that encourages both young and older viewers to see the film. While fronting the film with talented but relatively unknown leads not only gives them a platform to launch these actors into mega stardom but also encourages a strong turnout of young fans. The casting error that most of these young adult book to film adaptations make is placing too much weight on their leads without filling the supporting cast to expand the target demographic. Placing timeless actors within supporting roles that adult viewers connect with vastly increases the age range of anticipated audience members. This tactic is not only successfully seen in The Hunger Games which had actors like Donald Sutherland to anchor an older viewership but it can also been seen in the actual writing of these novels. Book series like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight were simply the most successful at crossing over into an adult readership. While most failed movie adaptations are drawn from YA franchises whose fan bases are comprised of mainly younger kids that don’t account for box office numbers. Having material that various age groups connect with in the book translates more successfully onto the big screen in comparison to a film that satisfies only a small fraction of the potential audience. Momentum is also important. The first Twilight movie came out just four months after the final Twilight novel then the first Harry Potter film was released in between the fourth and fifth Harry Potter novels, which helped to deepen and darken the series in a way that drew in more adults. An exception to this pattern is the first Hunger Games film, which came out about a year and a half after Suzanne Collins wrapped up her book series. Yet this film had the unique advantage of being the first to its genre- focusing on a dystopian future with a strong female protagonist (a class now crowded with copies like Divergent). Which begs the question, has this genre hit a wall? How many more young adult based books can be made into crummy films before they start to draw from new material or become cleverer in their construction? REVIEW: Rachel Carter



HOME: Cody, Wyoming NOW JAMMING: “This Pain” off The Fire Inside CURRENTLY: On tour with Cathercist


guessed that a Podunk town in the middle of the least populated state in the US would have a hidden treasure dwelling in its city limits. Based out of Cody, Wyoming, Ryan Hayes (vocals), Justin Olmstead (guitar), Carl Heiman (guitar), Zack Goggins (drums), and Riley Haynie (bass) knew that it was vital for them to break away from the small town to carry out a message that needed to be heard. Thus was born the Christian metal band, Righteous Vendetta. “Starting a band in Wyoming is a very difficult task,” Olmstead confessed. “Basically being from Wyoming forced us to tour. You can only play so many local shows in your town with 8,000 people in it before the people start getting bored!” Righteous Vendetta began their journey in the small town playing anywhere and everywhere for anyone who was willing to listen. Of course, there were only so many small venues, bars, and churches to play before their typical live audience hit a plateau. Olmstead explained the glory days before more advanced sound equipment and larger venues came into the picture. “Places like VFW halls and little dive venues like that. We would get like the tiny two speaker sound systems and just run the vocals through them and everything else would just be raw. After a few of those shows we starting doing some churches and adding a few bars into the mix where we could!” Living in Cody was both a blessing and a curse for the struggling musicians. A curse being that the lack of exposure of their music to be heard in a live setting, which they believe to be very important, by more than just their town of less than 10,000 people was looking slim. Or was it? Righteous Vendetta took any opportunity they could to tour since they were not presented with the opportunities of playing large local shows or trekking to nearby cities. The quintet has racked more miles on the speedometer than your average touring band, playing a total of 314 shows last year. “The toughest part is definitely touring. We can say we honestly tour more than most bands, especially last year,” stated Olmstead. “Touring that much and being completely out of reality for that long can seriously take its toll on you mentally and physically. It is hard to justify the sacrifices with relationships and finances, but it is completely necessary to make our dreams come true.” This Christian metal band may not be worthy local Christian radio play, but they are using their personal styles to reach out to those who enjoy the metal genre. Unfortunately, there is discrimination and a misunderstanding from both the metal and Christian communities. The idea that the two can work together is a foreign concept to many, which is one of the band’s biggest struggles.

are also Christian people. It is quite sad the stigma that comes with being a Christian band because everywhere we go people already have a preconceived notion of who we are and how we will act,” Olmstead said. “Luckily, we usually have enough time with these people to show them that we are different than most of the Christianity they see and develop deep relationships with them.” Righteous Vendetta never allows these preconceived notions to affect their nightly performances, which are guaranteed to be unforgettable. Their passion for music and the message behind it is what they hope to convey to audiences old and new. There is absolutely no time for the endless touring and hours spent in the van to bog them down. “We want people to leave our live show unable to not tell a friend about what band they just saw. We want to give people a high energy, tight, impactful show that will cause them to come back next time and hopefully bring a few friends. As far as music, we want people to hear a positive message primarily revolving around love and how powerful they are because of it.” Focusing on optimism and spreading positivity is important to the quintet in a world that can seem so rotten. The amount of time they have spent on the road seems infinite, time away from loved ones leaves an aching absence, and various conflicts with previous record labels have been roadblocks, yet they have always found a way to push through the not-so-fun aspects of being touring musicians. “I am a firm believer that the journey is the most important and best part of life,” Olmstead stated. “Though I make almost no money, I get to do what I love every day, and not only that, but I get to do it for a purpose and power greater than myself. God is good, all the time.” Countless tours, an appearance at SXSW last month, charttopping singles, three full lengths, and one EP later, the little band from Cody has expanded their audience all across the US as well as Europe and beyond. Their message of positivity, hope, love, and all that God has to offer is what they hope to shower over people and share the incredible experiences and adversities they have overcome with His help. Righteous Vendetta feeds any metal lover’s appetite, all while encouraging and shedding light on the deepest desire of the soul: that you are loved. PHOTOS: Provided INTERVIEW & STORY: Haley Black

“Our support from the Christian community is radical on both ends of the spectrum. Our most loyal and heavy believers are Christian people, but also the people who absolutely despise what we do HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 17

Q: You’ve played all over Europe (Italy, Germany, France, etc.) Have you noticed any differences in the shows (rougher, tamer, crazier) from when you play at home in the UK versus other countries? A: Over the years of touring Europe and the UK we have noticed that European countries want to go crazy from the off. We have had mad shows in the UK and Europe but you really have to work the crowds in the UK to provoke a reaction but once the crowds in UK get into the show they really go for it as much as they do in Europe. Q: Earlier this month you finished up a tour with Being As An Ocea, Hundreth and Counterparts. What was your reaction when you were asked to open for such great bands? A: We were so excited to be asked to be part of such an unbelievable line up and the fact we were touring with bands we were big fans of as well. Every band on the tour had something 18 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET

different to offer and played out of their skin every night, the tour was very inspiring for us. We learnt a lot as a band from the tour, its important for us to educate ourselves from bands with a greater knowledge so in time we can become stronger as a unit. Q: Just a few days after that tour ended, you headed out on your own headlining your with Anavae, The Catharsis and Zoax. What was it like going from one extreme to the other; opening and then headling? A: We had taken a lot away from the European tour and really pushed ourselves to become a well-oiled machine. On the return to the UK we had one day off before the UK tour started so were extremely focused on our show and what we wanted to archive from being a headliner. It really helped watching either Hundredth or Being As An Ocean headline every night and the way they captivated their audiences, we went straight into the UK tour hungry and determined to be the best we could be. We give 110% whether

it’s us opening headlining.


Q: What are some places you love to go to in other countries that you don’t have at home? A: On the last European we were lucky to be on a bus share, which traveled through the night and arrived in the next city before we had awoken. Personally for me I love Berlin as a city and this time I had a chance to explore. The food they have to offer is unbelievable but I had mainly Kebabs, it’s very different to what they have to offer in the UK and there are so many amazing record stores. As a city with so much history and culture, I found it very captivating. It was an eye opener for me, as I come from a country town, which is very sleepy. Q: You’ve released a few different music videos from your EP Inspire Create Destroy and your second album Shadowed By Vultures; which was your favorite to film? A: For me I really enjoyed filming “Glass Cutter” as it was something completely different to any of the videos we had made in the past. It was a really fun concept and the use of water in the video was so affective. Our close friend, Katie Gurr, helped star in the video and the outcome was perfect and probably my favorite video of ours to date. Q: Did you all grow up listening to hardcore? If so, what were your local hardcore scenes like? A: I have always listened to hardcore and have followed hardcore bands for around 15 years. When growing up my group of friends loved hardcore and we played in bands and would listen to records while skateboarding, when we probably should have been studying. From an early age it really sunk into me how much hardcore is way of life and how it builds communities of likeminded people. We had a very strong scene and to be honest, without all the community’s of bands in the area, Polar probably would never have formed.

Q: What are some of your favorite old school hardcore bands and your favorite up and comers? A: I love loads of old school hardcore bands such as American Nightmare, H20, Gorilla Biscuits, and Shelter; the list is endless and I have been lucky enough to catch most of them live. Some of my close friends’ bands have been coming up through the ranks recently and I would suggest checking out Palm Reader and The Catharsis to name a couple. Both of those bands write music that is passionate and true to themselves. Q: What makes Shadowed By Vultures different from your other released and why should potential new fans reading this give it a listen? A: For us Shadowed By Vultures is a journey, not just as an album, but also in learning to be better musicians and really discovering our sound. Everybody in the band had input to all aspects of the songs and we put our heart and soul into this record. Not that we haven’t with past releases but I really feel we achieved everything we wanted to with Shadowed By Vultures. I think potential fans should give our new record a listen because they can come in feeling that they have been on the journey with us and will be able to relate to the passion the record has. Q: What would you say has been the most difficult part of your career for you all personally and collectively? A: I think the most difficult part of our career, personally and collectively, is financially keeping our selves going. We really do everything for the passion of playing live and the love of making records, it can be very tough on the road for weeks on end away from loved ones and being hungry, tired and with no money. Q: How did you, or do you continue to, overcome these struggles? A: We overcome this by seeing the positive reaction our music has on people’s lives. A kid told me recently on our headlining tour that our music had saved his life and given him direction and that is best feeling in the world. Financially struggling is a very small price to pay to being a positive impact on people’s lives via our music. Q: What has been the ‘highlight’ of your career so far? A: There are so many highlights in our career, it’s extremely hard to pin point an individual one. If I had to, it would be having an album released in America. We are incredibly lucky to have Prosthetic Records putting a lot of faith into our record, which we are all so thankful for. 12. What is the one dream the moment at which point either personally or collectively you would be able to say, “Yes I have achieved this, I am living my dreams?” For us all it’s to tour America and the day we are all on the plane together, I truly believe we will turn to each and say we are living the dream. Even if we only ever tour America once, its something we have all dreamed of as kids and the bucket list would have been ticked. Answers by Andrew “Woody” Woodford PHOTOS: Provided INTERVIEW: Christina Belles

HOME: Nashville, TN NOW JAMMING: “Sun Goes Out” off of Kid Tiger CURRENTLY: Promoting their new album Kid Tiger



yet still musically evolving area such as Nashville can make it tough to find your unique voice as a musician and stand out. Indie band Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes have faced that struggle in their career but in the four years they’ve been a band, they haven’t let this hinder them in the slightest. From receiving rave reviews on their albums and live shows alike, the four-piece band featuring singer and keyboardist Daniel Ellsworth, bassist Marshall Skinner, guitarist Timon Lance, and drummer Joel Wren are certainly on an upward slope that shows no signs of dropping off anytime soon. Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes know their voice and they’re ready for the world to hear it. Nashville has become a budding place for indie and alternative rock in recent years and while it can be a great place to cultivate your musicianship and fan base, it can be tough to push your way through the competition. “We’ve been making music as this band for a few years and me prior to that for a few years, so we’ve spent a lot of time playing shows to 30 or less people over the years. Being here that long and sort of seeing more and more people get on board with not only what we’re doing but with what other rock bands are doing. The scene here in the last few years has just exploded. I used to just be able to tell you who all the rock bands were and now I hear about a new one every day,” explained Ellsworth. Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes are more than aware that they aren’t the only ones trying to make a name for themselves in the musical city. That being said, the band doesn’t view their competitors as their enemies and look at the situation in a positive light. “It’s not competitive, it’s more cooperative and collaborative,” said Wren. “It strikes a healthy competition as opposed to a cutthroat competition. I feel like we’re more in competition with ourselves where we’re just trying to do better and if we can do that then that’s great,” added Ellsworth.

along with really well, because we’re nice people, and they hook us up with something else whether it’s another show opportunity or another publicity thing. Our biggest opportunities have come from relationships,” Wren expressed. On their upward spiral in the last few years, the band has released two well-received albums: 2011’s Civilized Man and this year’s Kid Tiger. The group’s latest album was released just over a month ago on March 4th to praises for its lighthearted and fun indie rock sound. While the band has managed to stay true to their laidback sound, they still managed to make a few new strides with this newest release. “Our first record Civilized Man was mixed with stuff that I had before the band and then stuff the band had worked on together, so it was sort of a blend of those things, whereas, Kid Tiger was an album that we wrote together as a band from the ground up,” explained Ellsworth. One particular track on the record that has been making its round on the Internet and airwaves alike is the band’s latest single “Sun Goes Out.” The song features an infectious rhythm, breezy vocals and a fun, upbeat chorus. “‘Sun Goes Out’ is one of the older songs and one of the first ones we wrote and we had actually road tested prior to writing most of the album. We really loved it and when we recorded it we were really excited about how well it tracked. I don’t think any of us really initially thought that that was going to be pushed as the single until our radio guy was like, ‘yeah, that’s the single.’ And our manager was like, ‘yeah, that’s the single.’ And so we were like, ‘yeah, that’s the single,’” said Ellsworth. The world may be listening now, but getting music out to the masses wasn’t exactly an easy feat for the band. It took a lot of work and determination to make sure their music was being heard by as many people as possible.

Trying to shine the brightest in a whole sky of those who want to be the biggest and brightest stars can make it difficult to see just what it is that makes you special. The band, however, find that you can’t just try and shine like everyone else. Being unique comes from just doing what makes you happy and hoping that others want to join along for the ride.

“Touring and figuring out how to grow this beyond Nashville and in every other market, how to grow the band and get the music in people’s ears has been [difficult], especially two years ago when it was just the four of us; when we weren’t working with a manager and we didn’t have a publicist and have all these different things and it was on us to try and figure out how to get these different things in peoples ears. I don’t necessarily think how to overcome it but we’ve definitely learned how to, or taking steps to figure out how to expand in places that aren’t as familiar,” explained Ellsworth.

“That’s sort of been our whole thing – has always been no matter what goes on we’re going to do what we’re going to do and we’re going to make the music we want to make,” explained Ellsworth.

“We’ve been having some success in places and it’s been starting to pay off which has been really great. We’re obviously not done yet and we have a long ways to go,” added Wren.

“Trying to be something you’re not is the best way to sound like everyone else and get weird comparisons made. It’s like, be the biggest version of yourself and do the best you can do,” added Lance.

From recording their new album to setting off on a national tour to getting nods of recognition from the likes of, Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes have a lot of accomplishments they can check off their list, but as a band that’s still growing the guys have so much more to still look forward to and so many things to already be grateful for.

The band’s credentials alone make it clear that they are one of the bands that truly stand out, but just making great music isn’t the only way to get people to pay attention and to gain support. Networking is essential to anyone in any field, even as a musician. It’s about be kind to those that offer you a hand on the way up in order to build a strong support system and Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes take this ideal to heart. “I feel like that’s one of the number one things we try to do because we’re in a business where people don’t treat people nicely. It goes so far and not just in music but in anything,” said Ellsworth. “I think those opportunities come from meeting people whether they’re in a band or a venue that love our live show that we get

“I don’t think I can pinpoint one thing but I feel like every small victory or every person writing about us whether it’s a huge publication or a tiny publication, those are all important,” expressed Ellsworth. As for what the band has in store next… “Burn all the records that we just pressed and start over,” joked Skinner. “Change the band name,” Wren encouraged. Ellsworth finally added, “Touring. Just touring. Feeding the record to as many places and as many people as we possibly can.” PHOTOS: Provided HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 21 INTERVIEW: Jenn Stookey STORY: Annette Schaefer


HOME: Columbus, OH NOW JAMMING: “I Have a Problem” CURRENTLY: On tour, about to release their full-length Disgusting and play Warped Tour Summer 2014


Columbus, Ohio, has actually birthed quite a few bands, such as Like Moths to Flames, members of For Today, and members of Miss May I. And of course, last but not least, Beartooth. “I think the difference between them and us is how we view our music and how we view our live show. It was more of the national scene that affected us as a band because we’re just tired of wannabe rock stars and dishonest people who think their fans are lower than them,” said guitarist Taylor Lumley. Does having been in a successful band make creating a new band an easier or more difficult feat? For Beartooth, it has greatly influenced the way that they tour. Since they’ve all had experience being on the road (and in bands) for years, they know how to keep themselves sane on the road, which is difficult for most groups. Outside of that, the type of music they’re playing now and how they let it out in a live setting is a whole new animal. Speaking of touring, even though the band has only released one EP and is a much newer band to the scene, they’ve been touring with some huge names. It’s been an incredibly surreal feeling and experience for them to have so many crazy experiences based off the support behind just four songs. Even though they’ve been playing a few new tracks live, it definitely has given them a greater confidence and level of excitement to release a full album.

And since we’re on the subject of recording, Caleb really takes the cake in that department too. He writes, records, and mixes pretty much everything. Although he did work on a few songs with “Feldy,” only one of them will be on the record, which Caleb also reworked to give it more of their own sound. With Disgusting, Beartooth’s full-length coming out sometime this spring, they’ll be hopping onto all of Warped Tour next, to enjoy sweating out the summer in the hot sun. After that, they hope to keep touring until they “physically can’t do it anymore.” Recently, the band played Self Help Fest in Southern California for about 8,000 people who were “losing their minds” during their set. It was unreal and they came off stage absolutely in shock as to what happened. It was a beautiful thing and they were so thankful they got the chance to do that, especially so early in their career. Although everyone has their own anxieties and vices, Lumley states he thinks they’re not incredibly difficult to overcome, because their band is built on solid friendships and trust between them. And of course, getting to play shows with a band who considers each other friends, having fun on the road, living your dream isn’t a bad way to kill off any anxieties! PHOTOS: Kara Smarsh INTERVIEW & STORY: Daisy Marietta

When they go into recording mode, Caleb is the one to start demoing and writing out a song. After that, he shows it to the band and they all fall in love with it. Most of the time, they start practicing the songs to see what does and doesn’t work live, and from there Caleb changes and tweaks the songs to finish them.




HOME: Marietta, GA NOW JAMMING: “It’s Always Sunny in Marietta 2” CURRENTLY: In the studio

HOME: Albany, NY NOW JAMMING: “Hard To Please” CURRENTLY: Getting ready for a UK tour next month

Q: Last fall you guys released your second album and it seems to have been very well received. How does this feel as a band that’s only two albums into your career? A: Well I wouldn’t say we are two albums into our career, as the first “album” was a collection of demos. However, it feels great to have this kind of reception to our first official release! Couldn’t have asked for anything else. Q: What new approaches did you take in writing and recording The Finer Things versus your first album? A: We focused more on individual parts of the song and what made sense overall instead of just doing things to fit a mold. We also worked with a producer for the first time on the new record.  Q: In the four years you guys have been a band, you have had the opportunity to tour with some big names in the alternative and pop-punk scene including New Found Glory, Bayside, and Motion City Soundtrack. What is it like seeing your name on the line-up next to these guys and have you learned anything from your time with them? A: It was an honor. We grew up listening to these bands and seeing their videos on TV so when we found out we were touring with them we lost our shit. We learned a bit from them. They are all very knowledgeable because they have been doing this for 26 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET

much longer than us and had great little pro tips to offer. It was a very cool experience for us! Q: You guys are also slated to be on this year’s Vans Warped Tour, which happens to be its’ 20th anniversary. Are you fans of the Warped Tour? What are you most looking and what are you most dreading? A: We are fans of the Warped Tour. I went to my first Warped Tour about eight years ago so it’s unreal to me that I’m going to be a part of it. I’m looking forward to hanging out with friends all summer, making new friends, and meeting fans. I’m most dreading the heat! I’m a warm-blooded guy so I’m going to be hotter than hell all summer! Q: You guys have a lot of energy during your live sets. How important is it for you to put on a high-energy show versus just getting up there and playing through the songs? A: It’s very important. We only have roughly 25 minutes to win people over every night and we want to make the best impression possible.  Q: Recently you guys were named one of the “100 Bands You Should Know” by Alternative Press Magazine. Are titles like this a much needed confidence boost?

A: To be told you’re doing good by a magazine you’ve been reading all your life is a pretty huge compliment and makes us extremely happy. I’m not sure how necessary they are but they are definitely very cool.  Q: Speaking of which, in that issue you guys mentioned that you prefer to consider yourselves a pop-rock band rather than a poppunk band. Can you elaborate on why you prefer the idea of being classified as pop-rock instead? A: Let me start by saying I don’t like being classified. Music is music and you should listen to what you choose to listen to because you like it. To answer your question, I like to go with pop rock because it is more of a general genre and leaves more doors open than instantly pigeonholing yourself by deeming yourself pop punk.   Q: I also stumbled across the State Champs Tumblr blog where I noticed that you answer many fan questions. How obligated to you feel to be interactive with your fans and how important do you think that kind of connection is? A: I don’t do it because I feel obligated; I do it because I enjoy talking to our fans. Without them, this band wouldn’t be able to do everything it does. Our fans are as important to us as we are to them. I believe the connection is very important! 

Q: What would you say has been the most difficult part of your career for you all personally and collectively? A: Writing our first record, it destroyed me. Q: How did you, or do you continue to, overcome these struggles? A: I overcome by the help of some really great friends. Without them, I would have crumbled.  Q: What is the ‘highlight’ of your career so far? A: Either charting on the Billboard top 200 or being a part of the Vans Warped Tour all summer.  Q: What is the one dream the moment at which point either personally or collectively you would be able to say yes I’ve achieved this, I’m living my dreams? A: Well I’m currently living my dream so I think that answers the question! Answers by Tyler Szalkowski PHOTOS: Provided INTERVIEW: Annette Schaefer




HOME: Los Angeles, CA NOW JAMMING: MTKO (Debut Self-Titled Album) CURRENTLY: Promoting their new album

IT’S NOT OFTEN that working on

a television set can be the starting point in forming a musical duo, but it worked for Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller. The two friends acted in a Nickelodeon series called Gigantic where their characters were best friends, and now as real-life best friends they make up the pop duo MKTO. “It was incredible, because of that I’m a firm believer of destiny and it’s because of that I would’ve never had met Malcolm and we would’ve never have made MKTO,” Oller said. “It was an incredible thing – we played best friends on the show and became best friends off the show. We made music as much as we could on set. It fell into place perfectly after the show ended.” MKTO represents the initials of the two musicians together, but Oller wants people to know them as “Misfit Kids Total Outcasts.” Relating to fans in that respect is important to Oller and Kelley and for people to understand that all of MKTO’s music is really just about the two musicians trying to keep their passion through all of life’s hardships it has the potential to deal. “We want to relate to fans on a certain level that we understand going through struggles of getting teased or people saying you can’t do stuff, and you kind of feeling like the outcast because the dream you want to do isn’t the norm,” Oller said. “It’s just us and that’s what our music is and we’re willing to keep it simple.” After the pop duo received positive feedback from posting YouTube videos of their music online, Columbia Records noticed the combined talent and officially signed MKTO to their label at the beginning of 2013. Although Kelley and Oller have released three singles such as “Thank You,” “Classic” and “God Only Knows,” their debut self-titled album MKTO was released April 1. Kelley said during the writing of the album, the two friends would bring a mobile studio on the road and between shows and just keep bouncing ideas off of each other.


we’re having a great time and putting our hard work into making some great music.” “We just go with the flow,” Kelley said. “We might be working on a song at three in the morning and bring it to the studio the next day and kind of break it down. We have a method if a song is stuck in our heads for three days you know we’re on to something.”

we were going through,” Oller said. “Whether it was a relationship or a raw life [we would] just bring those problems to the studio and let it out in the music and write music, basically [it’s] just stuff we’ve been through.”

Oller describes the album as something to get people motivated to keep their inner passions no matter what might be out of the ordinary and as a way to connect to fans by telling them to keep true to themselves, even if it seems like no one else is siding with you.

The duo was able to have one of their idols Ne-Yo work on a song from their album called “Could be Me,” because of their producer working with him before. Ne-Yo listened to the song for about an hour and went into the studio and recorded the first take of his part, which ultimately ended up being the take the duo decided to choose.

“We basically described the songs as 11 stories and it’s what we went through over a year of being in the studio and anything

“It was incredible, he’s truly a humble talented man and he’s done so much in the music game and to be on our debut album



you want to make sure you do something you love.” was an incredible thing and we’re so happy to have him,” Oller said. “It’s a great up-tempo club song and different from our other songs on our record. It’s incredible to hear him with our voices.” Even after the release of the album, the musicians still have thoughts of acting in the back of their minds. Kelley said it’s about finding that “balance” between acting and performing music for finding time to do both. They will look at other people like Justin Timberlake who do well in that aspect for pointers. But for now they are primarily focused on the release of the album. Oller said there is a difference between performing for people as an actor and as a musician. For acting you have many people on set who can stop you or give you advice on how to do something a certain way, where performing on stage gives you the opportunity to be free. “The difference between acting and music is that with acting you have takes and directors but when you’re on stage it’s like you kind of have one shot to meet people over,” Oller said. “We kind of like that immediate reaction from people.”

“Just making sure you stay focused and stay humble and keeping it fun is another thing too,” Kelley expressed. “You want to make sure you do something you love. We’re having a great time and putting our hard work into making some great music.” At the end of each day, Oller said everything is a “team effort.” From the management of MKTO to the faithful fans, everything works as one in order for the duo to exist. And although many people may think getting goose bumps before going onstage is a bad thing, Oller thinks the opposite. Especially after everyone backstage huddles together, puts their hand in and yells “ROLE MODELS” on the count to three. “It’s kind of an inside thing and we just go for it,” Oller said. “It’s a team effort. Everyone should understand that we always get nervous and stuff but that’s a good thing because you’re doing something that you enjoy. You should get nervous.” PHOTOS: Cara Bahniuk INTERVIEW & STORY: Geoff Burns

Kelley explained that performing music and meeting people’s expectations doesn’t have the capability to work unless your heart is truly into what you’re doing. Throughout all of the hard work such as writing, touring and performing over and over the musicians have to stay true to themselves.


it’s just us and th music is and we’ keep it simple. 34 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET

hat’s what our ’re willing to HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 35



P PHOTO: Cara Bahniuk



PHOTO: Cara Bahniuk



reviews artist: MKTO album: MKTO rating:

Sounds like: Emblem 3 Midnight Red Conor Maynard

Recommended tracks: “Classic” “God Only Knows” “Wasted”

Tracks: 1

Thank You




God Only Knows


American Dream


Could Be Me (feat. Ne-Yo)


Forever Until Tomorrow




Heartbreak Holiday




No More Second Chances (feat. Jessica Ashley)


Goodbye Song

Release date: April 1st, 2014

website: REVIEW: Theresa Pham 40 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET

MKTO, compromised of twosome Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller, is a dynamic and jawdroppingly impressive group whose music will not only add a little pep to your step, but also win over your hearts. MKTO’s self-titled album is the perfect balance of pop, hip-hop and R&B. MKTO has created a fool-proof recipe and mastered the art of writing adorably catchy tunes. The album opens with their debut single, “Thank You”, an anthemic shout-out to all the underdogs in the world, or as MKTO would say, “for all the Misfit Kids and total outcasts.” “Thank You” not only embraces differences, but also sends a positive message of living life the way you want to and ignoring what others have to say and proving all the disbelievers wrong. My favorite song off the album is “Classic.” As the first MKTO song I heard, nothing can top it. “Classic” is catchy, fun and like all their other songs, a radio-ready hit! The beautiful pairing of Oller’s luscious vocals and Kelly’s smooth rap skills is brilliant. The chorus not only name-drops the greats of soul and pop, but it also is instantaneously infectious – you’ve been warned. In the midst of all the summer road trip ready tunes, MKTO takes things a bit slower mid-album with “Wasted”, a heartbreaking piano ballad. Instead of the cheesy ballads confessing love, “Wasted” is raw, honest, heavy and haunting. The stripped down setting allows the listener to truly appreciate the mesmerizing depth and brutal sadness of the lyrics. The ballad truly showcases Oller’s versatile vocals and gives MKTO’s album an edge that makes them unique. Overall, MKTO’s self-titled debut album is satisfying and has been on repeat for the past week. Each of the 11 self penned songs is evidence of the Kelly and Oller’s attention and passion, but also their influences throughout history. Hands down a must have for summer!

Artist: Manchester Orchestra Album: Cope My initial thought having listened through the album all the way the first time was how amazing it was. Several times later and I thought, “Wow, they’ve managed to make an incredible album that doesn’t have me sobbing my eyes out. I’m actually happy about this.” If you’ve listened to Manchester Orchestra often or even at all, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Right away, I felt the high-energy, dynamic, in your face type of music and writing that I’d missed being in my life without even realizing it. I missed the sensual crooning, the complex lyrics, and the sadness hidden even behind the loudest and most brutal songs. Even though writing about music has been and continues to be a common thing gracing the Internet, words sometimes just aren’t enough to express how music makes you feel. This band has a way of grabbing you by your collar and shaking you until all your feelings fall out and you’re embarrassedly trying to grab them all back up and shove them back inside, like a woman who drops her purse and all of her private items are on display. If you don’t have a very good poker face like I suffer from, you’ll probably want to be alone when you listen to it, at least for the first few times. That way, when you inevitably break down into an emotional mess, you won’t have anyone to hide from. It’s loud, it’s messy, it’s emotional, but at the same time, it picks you up and drags you down and brings you back up again in such a way that you won’t be able to stop listening. It’s addictive and I want more of it. From start to finish, I was so captivated and impressed with each track. I know I’ve said it before, but if an entire album can satisfy me and not have any tracks I tend to skip over, then color me impressed. The hardest part about writing this was choosing which songs to recommend.

recommended tracks: “Choose You,” “Every Stone” & “The Ocean” review: Daisy Marietta Artist: Neon Trees Album: Pop Psychology In a recent interview, Tyler Glenn said the upcoming Neon Trees record features some of the best and most honest songs he has written to date. I couldn’t agree more. Pop Psychology is the perfect mix between the old school style of their debut Habits and the eighties vibe of their sophomore release Picture Show. Pop Psychology is very upbeat and has obvious eighties influences; it’s full band pop at it’s finest. The first single “Sleeping with a Friend” definitely captures the feeling of the whole record but it definitely has a ton more to offer than just one song. Pop Psychology has lots of synth, driving percussion, flawless vocals, a duet and even some cowbell. In typical Neon Trees style many of the songs have to do with love but there is a good variety of fast paced and sentimental. I have to be honest, for a quick minute it felt as though Neon Trees was writing music strictly for airplay; and I was very nervous awaiting this record, but I could not be more impressed with Pop Psychology. This record feels genuine – it brings us back to the band we fell in love with the Animal days. My favorite record of the year so far, hands down.

recommended tracks: “I Love You, But I Hate Your Friends,” “Living In Another World” & “First Things First” review: Jennifer Boylen

Artist: Polar Album: Shadowed By Vultures Polar, four piece hardcore band from Surrey England, has solidified their place in music with their new album Shadowed By Vultures. The album opens with “First Breath”, a ferocious calling that fully transports and immerses the listener into the heavy depths of their music. My favorite song, “Before The Storm”, is a beautiful layered tracked that swells melodically and dramatically brings the album to a stop. Ellie Price’s voice soars both hauntingly and gracefully above the ruggedness of Polar resilient percussion backdrop. However, the most impressive track would have to be “Mountain Throne.” The song is destructive, addictive, relentless, and has the listener hanging on ever winding riff. Shadowed By Vultures not only demonstrates the band’s maturity, but is also showcases their diversity and raw energy. The album definitely makes you want to see them live. If the album did not have you chanting and your blood rushing, you are definitely in the wrong place, or they have already broken you.

recommended tracks: “Before The Storm”, “First Breath” & “Mountain Throne” review: Theresa Pham



Profile for Highlight Magazine

Issue #26  

Issue #25 featuring MKTO, State Champs, Beartooth, Daniel Ellsworth and The Great Lakes, Polar, Righteous Vendetta, Bricks & Mortar and...

Issue #26  

Issue #25 featuring MKTO, State Champs, Beartooth, Daniel Ellsworth and The Great Lakes, Polar, Righteous Vendetta, Bricks & Mortar and...