S O R O R I T Y N O I S E – A S C I T I E S B U R N – M O O N TA X I – C A D Y G R O V E S & M O R E
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editor-in-chief jenn stookey
co-founder – art director cara bahniuk co-founder – photo editor ashley osborn managing editor jessica klinner online editor nick yacovazzi digital marketing manager olivia adams design assistant benjamin bacon co-founder – legal – finance mckenzie hughes contributing photographers
cara bahniuk, demi cambridge, jordan fischels, lori gutman, rachel kober, casey lee, charlie martel, natalie montaner, savana ogburn, ashley osborn, heather phillips, sam polonsky, taylor rambo, sam roenfeldt, nicole fara silver, kara smarsh and clark terrell
contributing writers (online & publication)
lauren ball, haley black, jennifer boylen, geoff burns, haley buske, colleen casey, rebecca del castillo, ally fisher, trevor figge, caroline hall, annette hansen, jessica klinner, zoe marquedant, bridjet mendyuck, theresa pham, alyssa schmidt, alex shimalla, catie suliga, nick yacovazzi and bailey zeigler
digital marketing team
geoff burns and tim mcgovern
laura arthurs, kristen torres, samia mirza, sarah akomanyi and brad laplante
_________________________ website twitter highlightmagazine.net @highlightzine facebook instagram facebook.com/highlightmagazine @highlightzine _________________________ thank you
thank you to bebe rexha, shelbi mulcahy, brixton agency, impulse artists, the cadence pr, vagrant records, ezco, molly texeira-torres, the catalyst publicity group, a-squared management, nettwerk music group, epitaph records, and secret service pr. highlight would like to personally thank courtney dondelinger for her hard work as our copy editor over the past few years. we appreciate all the work you did for highlight and fully support you in your future endeavors. thank you for everything you did. we love you!
_________________________ 06 bebe rexha sammy roenfeldt
07 moon taxi sam polonsky
sorority noise demi cambridge
as cities burn casey lee
cady groves provided
ezco rob norris
molly texeira-torres brad heaton
one direction cara bahniuk
september 05 this or that 08 clothing highlight 11 label highlight 12 venue highlight 14 industry highlight 16 highlighted artists 17 film highlight 18 sorority noise 22 moon taxi 26 as cities burn 30 cady groves 34 bebe rexha 48 tour round up pierce the veil halsey one direction neck deep one direction lord huron 56 reviews
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BEBE REXHA 34
SORORITY NOISE 18
CADY GROVES 30
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INDUSTRY HIGHLIGHT 14
22 MOON TAXI
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44 TOUR ROUND UP
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FOUNDER & DESIGNER Andrew Cook LOCATION Nashville, TN by way of Los Angeles, CA
WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND EZCO?
EZCO started from a very pure place, which was my friend Dave and I conceptualizing funny pop culture mashups at my parents’ kitchen table about 6 years ago, starting with “Larry David Bowie.” I started making stencils and painting the occasional canvas or wall and just kept going from there. The clothing element started when enough of my friends asked me for LDB shirts so I just took the plunge, threw it on my credit card, and started printing and selling as best I could. WHAT DO YOU FEEL YOUR BRAND REPRESENTS?
I think EZCO represents the concept of not taking life too seriously and enjoying the absurdity of life and culture. WHY DID YOU START YOUR BRAND?
I started it because I wanted to see my designs on t-shirts as well as canvases and walls, quite simply. WHAT ARE YOUR THREE PERSONAL FAVORITE DESIGNS AND WHY?
LIL WAYNE GRETZKY: This is my favorite because it gets the most comments and has sold the most, so naturally I love it for that since someone has to pay off that credit card bill. YEEZY RIDER: I think it perfectly encapsulates what I do when I design stuff for EZCO. It borrows from two of
my favorite things, hip-hop and film, and mashes them up into something that stands alone as a design from afar but really says something unique and funny when you look closely. DRAKE HARDCORE: My third favorite is the collaboration I released with my buddy Nick from Poor Souls Design, the “Drake hardcore tee,” because it mashes up one of my favorite artists with a genre of music and style of merchandise in which I immersed myself as a young kid from Massachusetts. I think there’s something brilliant about the crossover merch concept that really resonates with my generation of music and pop culture lovers. I only hope that after destroying Meek, Drizzy doesn’t pick us as his next target. WHY PEOPLE SHOULD CHECK OUT YOUR BRAND?
People should check out EZCO because they’re gonna find clothes, designs, and art they can’t find anywhere else. f /EZCOlovesyou t @AndrewToTheMoon i @EZCOlovesyou EZCOLOVESYOU.COM PHOTOS: Rob Norris
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YOU MAY WANT TO LISTEN TO... Every month roughly 7,000 people are moving to Denver, a city booming with alluring attractions like the Rocky Mountains, craft beer and legal marijuana. There is also a tight-knit community of local musicians that has been greatly influenced by none other than Greater Than Collective. They aren’t your typical record label, but are an expanding effort created by Illegal Pete’s founder, Pete Turner, who has created a franchise of Mexican restaurants similar to Chipotle but vamped up in a livelier environment that also serves as a bar and occasional music venue. Illegal Pete’s feeds musicians traveling through Denver a meal on the house through their Starving Artist’s program. Turner, along with his partners Virgil Dickerson, Suburban Home Records founder, and Erin Barnes, publicist and founder of Donnybrook Writing Academy, support and promote a handful of local musicians in the area such as Ben Roy, Ian Cooke, Andrew Orvedahl, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake and more.
ESMÉ PATTERSON The Colorado native may have migrated to the Pacific Northwest, but she is still very close with the local music scene in Denver and continues to be supported and praised by Greater Than Collective. Esmé Patterson previously led the local Denver band Paper Bird before transitioning into solo efforts and numerous impressive collaborations. Close friends with Alejandro Rose-Garcia, aka Shakey Graves, Patterson sang on several of the folk artist’s tracks on his 2014 album, And The War Came, most notably the playful duet “Dearly Departed.” Frank Turner recently recruited the dreamy vocalist for one of his tracks called “Silent Key” on his newest release Positive Songs For Negative People. The solo albums All Princes, I and Woman to Woman are included in her impressive resume as a musician who has experienced many creative dynamics. She will be embarking on a fall tour in support of Craig Finn in early October.
Listen To: “Wildflower”
THE EPILOGUES One of Denver’s most loved local rock outfits, the Epilogues, is made up of Chris Heckman, Nate Hammond, Jason Hoke and Jeff Swoboda. Resembling the likes of Night Riots and late Saosin, the group released a successful debut album called Cinematics in 2012 and are currently working on a follow-up EP. Their discography may not be vast, but the Epilogues spend a large chunk of their time performing locally as well as nationally at festivals including SXSW, the Sunset Strip Music Festival and CMJ. The experimental rock quartet make a frequent effort to tour as much as possible whether it is along the Front Range or to neighboring states. College towns are a popular destination for the group, as they are not yet recognized on a mainstream level but are appreciated by locals and in the underground music scene.
Listen To: “Paradigm Shift”
ARK LIFE Ark Life is truly a hidden gem in the world of folk music. They may not be a well-known band, but the Denver local act are like the little siblings of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes and the Avett Brothers with their warm spirit and heavy dose of soul. Jesse Elliot may be considered the lead vocalist and guitarist, but some extraordinary ladies outnumber him and drummer Ben Desoto. Ark Life is packed with girl power from the talented Anna Morsett (bass/vocals), Lindsay Giles (keys/vocals) and Natalie Tate (guitar/vocals), who all harmonize each other like a heavenly choir. The quintet already have an impressive full length album from 2014 titled The Dream of You & Me and a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater under their belt, which is quite the milestone considering the short lifetime of their band. As much as Colorado would love to keep Ark Life’s music all to itself, they deserve to be shared with the rest of the country and the world.
Listen To: “Proud of Me Out There Mama” WORDS: Haley Black
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VENUE HIGHLIGHT SATURN - BIRMINGHAM, AL
HISTORY Within the last few years, Birmingham has developed into quite the concert market. And with this growing popularity in the city’s music scene comes a need for great music venues. Enter Saturn: the newest venue in the Steel City. Although Saturn is the new kid on the block, that hasn’t affected its ability to bring in huge acts including mewithoutyou, William Fitzsimmons and the Dead Milkmen.
WHY PLAY HERE? Saturn isn’t just a music venue. The newest edition to Birmingham’s Avondale neighborhood also operates as a bar and café. If the décor in the venue isn’t enough to intrigue you, the local brews and baked goods will do the trick. Because of Saturn’s connection to the deeply beloved and now shut down Bottletree Café, it is a hot spot for friendly locals. If you want to establish a fanbase in Birmingham, this is the place to play.
The Good Life
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REVIEW: Jessica Klinner
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NAME: Molly Texeira-Torres LOCATION: Walnut Creek, California JOB: VIP Coordinator
allows me to change aspects of my job that aren’t working out into something that works for me. I wish I could change points of view rather than the position itself. For instance, I wish fans would walk in with zero expectations to get the most out of each experience.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL STORY? WHY DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE INDUSTRY? At a very early age I was going to a local show every Friday or Saturday night but never realized there were people behind the scenes putting on the show. It wasn’t until I was 15 and went to a concert at the Warfield in San Francisco where it all clicked. I realized that there was a world behind the stage, and I desperately wanted to be apart of it. As the small DIY tours progressed, my resume grew, then I got on my first U.S. tour. Now here I am 8 years later just wrapping another successful summer tour.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY AS A VIP COORDINATOR ENTAIL? It really depends on the artists. All advancing starts 3 to 4 weeks before the very first show for all our artists. For the larger scale headliners, for someone like Demi Lovato or the Jonas Brothers, it is a huge production in itself because we are looking at around 4- to 5 VIP packages being offered, which we will most likely have fans in the venue as early as 12 p.m. That early in the day you probably just had the stage pushed into place. That means, for me, everything has to be in place for all VIP experiences by the time the first fan enters for their VIP experience. So 7:30 a.m. venue walks with house security going over every little detail from where fans line up, to where they are held afterwards, to how the artist walks from A to B to C and every other movement possible. Then it’s the set up of step and repeats, swag bags, coordinating guest lists, radio winners and making sure the artist’s security is aware of movements and times. Then finally, 15 minutes before that 12 p.m. call time, it is the final security meeting with the actual house security who will be with you from start to finish, briefing on walks/ wristbands/protocol for every possible situation. We are a totally separate world in our own.
PREVIOUSLY, YOU’VE TOURED WITH WE ARE THE IN CROWD, MIDDLE CLASS RUT, SET YOUR GOALS AND HOODIE ALLEN AS A MERCHANDISE MANAGER. HOW/WHEN DID YOU MAKE THE SWITCH TO WORKING AS A VIP COORDINATOR? IS IT A JOB YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO HAVE? Doing VIP was always a ‘tack on’ to my merch gigs, so it was a natural transition from one job to the next. With great friends who always have their ears to the ground, my resume was being passed around, and I got a wonderfully unexpected email from the company Adventures In Wonderland looking for new reps. I had a phone interview within the hour. Two days later, I was hired for a Darren Criss tour followed by a Jonas Brothers tour. Now here I am 3 years later; it was the right job/company at the right time. WHAT’S THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR JOB? I think it is easy to find rewarding parts of my job because I get to see the direct fan interactions opposed to just a crowd reaction. The difference being that there are crowds that give just as much energy back to the artist as the artist puts in, and there are crowds that stand there with their arms folded and you cant tell if they are into it. However when the small crowds of 50 to 150 people each get their oneon-one moment with the artist and walk out ecstatic, that’s where I get the instant gratification. But hands down the best part of my job is any time I get the honor to work alongside charities like Make-A-Wish or the Riley Foundation. All those kids have had to give up their childhood for unforeseen illnesses and being able to give them a day where they can be a kid or teen again is genuinely an honor. WHAT’S SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD CHANGE ABOUT THE POSITION IF YOU COULD? I am very lucky to be able to work for a company that
YOU JUST WRAPPED UP THE BOYS OF ZUMMER TOUR WITH HOODIE ALLEN AND YOU’VE ALSO RECENTLY TOURED WITH DEMI LOVATO. THESE ARE BOTH LARGE-SCALE TOURS. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A PART OF SUCH A BIG PRODUCTION? The first 2 to 4 shows are always a little overwhelming trying to not step on toes, meet and remember anywhere between 30 to 90 crew member’s names. But as the shows go on, you find your place, and it just becomes a lovely daily routine. WHAT ARE THREE OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE CAREER MOMENTS? 1) Doing my first arena tour 2) First time going to South America— nothing can ever prepare you for that. 3) Pranking Demi on the last day of the Neon Lights tour. Everyone ran on stage for the encore with silly string and poppers. She was covered in at least 20 cans of silly string. It was chaos but hilarious. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH? I’ll just wait and see what happens next.
t @Molly_Texeira i @Molly_Texeira PHOTO: Brad Heaton
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ARTISTS A COLLEGIATE AFFAIR Location: Richmond, VA Current Album: Full Disclosure Members: James Tuck – Vocals, Mikey Stecher – Bass/ Vocals, Dylan Morgan – Drums & Tim Fogg – Guitar Loud and in your face, A Collegiate Affair will get your blood pumping, The punk outfit based out of Richmond, Virginia, combines melodic choruses with aggressive riffs and vocals for a high-energy, thought-provoking sound that will leave you wanting more.
MICHAEL MCARTHUR Location: Lakeland, FL Current Album: Magnolia Soulful pop artist Michael McArthur has been playing music his entire life. Hailing from Lakeland, Florida, McArthur grew up in a family of musicians. In 2012, McArthur released his debut EP, The Year of You and Me, setting the songwriter on the road to showcase his work. 2013 proved to be a successful year when McArthur self-produced his sophomore EP, The Home Recordings, a fully acoustic EP showcasing his compelling tone and raw sound.
PRINTZ BOARD AND THE BOARDMEMBERZ Location: Hollywood, CA Current Single: “Rock N Roll” Members: Liso– Guitar, Lucy Grave – Keys, Patty Miller – Drums & Ashley Dzerigan – Bass Producing and artistry go hand in hand. For Printz Board And The Boardmemberz, both seem to come easy for him. Based out of Hollywood, the producer/artist mixes rock riffs with a twist of bluesy soul to create a provoking musical hybrid.
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WORDS: Nick Yacovazzi
This past winter What Happened, Miss Simone? opened the Sundance Film Festival. Paired with a performance by Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter John Legend, it was a grand opening for an ambitious film. The documentary aimed to portray Nina Simone, one of the largest names in American music and one of the best blues/jazz singers of all time. The feat had been attempted before with less success, which is understandable given that encompassing the life of a legend isn’t so easily done. For What Happened, Miss Simone?, director Liz Garbus chose to depict both the past and the present, pooling stories from Simone’s childhood and interviews with her family and friends. This method allowed Garbus to build a vivid picture of the talented singer that made it clear how much of an all-around inspiring force Simone was and how deserving she was of the title, “High Priestess of Soul.” The most captivating moments of the film came from the live footage of Simone’s performances. Watching her draw the attention of the room with just her presence, without the aid of the modern bells and whistles that today’s brand of showman relies on, is incredible. She holds every eye and yet she simply performs. The documentary opens on one of these performances. The camera pans over a seated audience as Simone is announced. She walks on stage in a simple-but-striking black dress to loud applause. She pauses at her piano, bows deeply, and then looks around the room as the clapping and whistling continues. There is such a serious look on her face—it’s transfixing. She completely draws the audience in without even saying a word. It isn’t until she is seated in front of her instrument that she greets the audience with a quiet, “Hello.” The spell is only broken after an audience member yells “Hi! We’re ready!” Simone cracks a smile, leans gently for a moment on her piano, then returns to position and counts off the song. A remark she made during that clip- “I will sing for you or we will do and share with you a few moments”- echoes what the rest of the documentary goes on to achieve. Dappled with her songs as well as different accounts of her life, What Happened, Miss Simone? forms a rich picture of a dynamic soul. While it doesn’t spend much time dwelling on the darker passages of her life, it doesn’t leave off much. The film lives up to its mission and its name. The title was pulled from a Maya Angelou piece, which asks, “Miss Simone, you are idolized/ Even loved, by millions now. / But what happened, Miss Simone?” Posing this question itself, the documentary explores the rise, the fame and the fall of Simone. Jumping through the decades, the narrative moves from her childhood in the American South through her education as a classical pianist and forward to her future on the stage. By including all these aspects of her evolution, the film shows the roots of her talents, her passion, her rage, her drive and follows them into the future. The period in which Simone sang shaped her music. Her role as a civil rights activist was integral not only in shaping her music, but also her motivations. Lisa Simone Kelly, Simone’s daughter, commented during an interview that through that work, her mother “found a purpose for the stage, a place from which she could use her voice to speak out for her people.” In one of the interviews that interjects between clips of public gatherings and conflicts, Simone plainly states, “I chose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself. How can you be an artist and not reflect the time?” The tension of the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement is definitely felt in her music. Her song “Mississippi Goddamn” is featured as both a performance as well as one of the songs that was inspired by the current events, specifically the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. The ability of the documentary to intertwine serious moment in history with breathtaking performances and news casts, television interviews and other footage is perhaps why it is so successful at depicting Simone in her entirety. What Happened, Miss Simone? creates a multidimensional view of every moment it moves through, whether it be a piano lesson in Tryon, North Carolina, or a car ride with her manager. It excellently joins her intimate moments, like those with daughter, with the public appearances and live performances and creates one seamless narrative. That one continuous thread keeps the audience listening, reading, watching and interacting the entire time whether they’ve grown up listening to Simone’s music or not. REVIEW: Zoe Marquedant
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HOME: Hartford, Connecticut NOW JAMMING: Joy, Departed CURRENTLY: Prepping for a fall tour with Knuckle Puck
SORORITY NOISE VOCALIST
Cameron Boucher lets a timid smirk form as the camera flashes in front of him. With his signature beard, ball cap, long hair, and an unsung joy for music, you would think he’s the second coming of Dave Grohl. Humble but confident in his own right, the chemistry between him and his bandmates is a driving force for their art. Sorority Noise’s music is not about looks, reputation, or their role in the emo revival. It’s rather a way of expressing the pain inflicted by a dark passenger that rides with Boucher, one that he says is the focal point of his music and life— manic depression. Sorority Noises’ full-length releases give evidence of Boucher’s dissonance between his brain and body. Forgettable recalls a past of troubled thoughts and actions—a time he says where the fault for his problems was projected onto others rather than his illness. “On 2014’s Forgettable, I was very self-deprecating. I still maintain that point in my lyricism, but I was to a point where I was talking about killing myself, wanting to die, how girls were a negative impact, and blaming others for my issues,” Boucher said.
Nobody likes me, that’s what I tell myself. I live alone in my own hell. I want to be the person you want me to be,that I know that I’ll never be.
- “Mediocre At Best”
Almost a year later, Sorority Noise released their second full-length, Joy, Departed. Signing to Topshelf Records and working with Property of Zack’s own Zack Zarrillo as their manager, Sorority Noise dug their heels in to create a record that gave a full-bodied and synergetic sound to the group. “The first song I wrote for the record was ‘Nolsey,’” Boucher recalled. “And that was written about seven months ago originally for my solo project. Over a three-month period, I was writing the guitar parts for the album. We then got together and jammed out all the full band songs and went to record,” Boucher said. Along with creating Sorority Noise’s concentrated sound, 20 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET
Joy, Departed gave Boucher an opportunity to grow both as a songwriter and as a person living with a mental illness, which he embraced to its fullest capacity. “A huge thing for me was accepting that I have manic depression, so I started taking accountability for a lot of the things I did because of how my brain works, and realizing that it involves myself to get better, understand what is going on, and convey to people who don’t know they are suffering from mental illness what they have and how to make the best of it,” Boucher said. Joy, Departed echoes similar sentiments of Forgettable. With Boucher’s self-deprecation at the forefront of his lyrics, the album opens with a soliloquy to a lost love. The record carries a sorrowful tune across the first five tracks, giving listeners a chance to glimpse into the life and mind of Boucher.
If you ask me how I feel about myself I’d ask you that right back and expect a pause Who are we to be really feeling anything? It’s always been my dream to be empty
And then we are introduced to Side B. Boucher perhaps shares with us one of the most important and intimate moments of his life. The track “Art School Wannabe,” an anthem of the comeback kid, is where the album hits a turning point. We are introduced to an aware man, one who doesn’t push away the pain, but rather embraces it and takes the first, uninhibited breath of acceptance.
Maybe I won’t die this time Maybe I’ll be fine this time
- “Art School Wannabe” Boucher has learned to use his music as a way to channel his pain and empathize with those on a similar journey. He parallels his mental growth with his songwriting and performances, even claiming that he no longer will play older, self-deprecating tracks.
“I’ve stopped playing older songs because it’s not where my mind is at all anymore,” Boucher said. “It’s a complete 180. I’ve had too many friends pass to talk about killing myself rather than encouraging myself to keep going because there are so many important things other than death.” Despite his mental awareness, Boucher is not immune to his bad days, and Joy, Departed reflects that. Bouncing from extreme highs to lows, Boucher claims that the album is meant to encompass the definition of manic depression. “Nothing is consistent. I believe the record [Joy, Departed] bounces around a lot because I wanted to audio-visualize manic depression,” Boucher said. “I have days where I feel great and others where I feel depression. You can’t see it, but it’s here. People need to understand that there are dark days
and experiences in my life that are still very personal. While the second half of the record has that upswing, it still reflects things I can’t handle and things I don’t understand.” Sorority Noise and Boucher’s journey with manic depression have extended a dialogue for society to raise awareness for mental health. Boucher considers it his, and his community’s, duty to raise awareness of mental illness and depression, citing through a series of tweets that society stigmatizes depression and mental illness to the point that those who suffer don’t feel comfortable sharing. Moreover, Boucher assures that he and the band will keep communication open because mental illness is not a choice. PHOTOS: Demi Cambridge | INTERVIEW & STORY: Nick Yacovazzi
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HOME: Nashville, Tennessee NOW JAMMING: “All Day All Night” & “Make Your Mind Up” CURRENTLY: On a US Tour
EVERY YEAR, MANY ARTISTS FIND A
home in summer festivals. Some music is just made for the festival environment and audience, and Moon Taxi fits that bill. Thanks to their summery, jam-rock vibe, the Nashville outfit has had their fair share of festival slots this summer including Bonnaroo, Governor’s Ball, Lollapalooza and several others. Even with extensive festival experience, playing in that type of atmosphere can still be tricky for any band. Not only do they have limited set times to put their best foot forward, but they also play in the middle of the day as opposed to an indoor venue accompanied by a killer light show. That being said, from planning the harmonies for a Lolla duet with Nick Petricca from Walk The Moon while being evacuated to a Chicago parking deck to their hometown crowd at Bonnaroo, Moon Taxi have successfully put their music in front of a diverse array of ears this year. However, their experience as musicians has not always been so glamorous, according to bass player Tommy Putnam. About five years ago, Moon Taxi went on a tour that covered most of the country for the first time and have since titled that run “Disas-tour” because that is exactly what it was in their opinion: a disaster. They had never played in many of the cities on that tour while traveling from Nashville up the east coast and through the Midwest—where they really struggled. Throughout the Midwest, many shows had as little as ten people in attendance and others had rooms that were completely empty. “Every band kind of goes through one of those tours where it’s real light; it’s hard just sort of paying dues at that point,” Putnam admitted. “Many bands just sort of quit and say ‘I don’t want to do this any more’ but we fought through it. We just kind of had to keep our head down and work through.” While the shows were less than ideal during that tour, they spent a lot of it writing music. Those songs subsequently became their debut release, Cabaret, and things began to turn around. Moon Taxi have been dubbed a must-see live band, and that is something they take into consideration while writing. Obviously, they want their music to be enjoyable as a recorded product, and they also consciously make an effort to understand what a new song will look, sound and feel like when being played live. “A lot of times when we’re writing songs, we’re imagining what the crowd would be doing as we’re playing,” Putnam said. “We’re just starting to get into Daybreaker a little bit and we’re already adding some elements live that wouldn’t
necessarily work in the studio. Like extending few parts a little bit, maybe change an ending [and] just take a little bit of liberty in what we’re going to do to make the song fly.” As a band, they all work together collectively during the writing process. All five members are constantly writing and bringing new ideas to the table. Whether it is a lyrical or musical idea, Moon Taxi work together from start to finish. Putnam said that having input from everyone really helps a song grow into what it is meant to be, even if it changes sounds and even genres in the process. “Usually someone has the foundation for a song, an idea of what they want to with it and we present [that] idea to everyone else,” he said. “That becomes your baby and you kind of help take it where it needs to go, but I think you’re a lot better having people hear what you’re doing with your music.” Their new record, Daybreaker, drops October 2, and Putnam said not only has this album been entirely a collective project for each member of the band writing wise, but they also took a very organic, live-based approach to the process making this Moon Taxi’s best record. “I’m so excited for everybody to hear it, if they like it half as much as I do, it will be a hit,” he gushed. Since forming at Belmont University in 2006, this is the first time in the band’s career where they did not self-produce any parts of a release, but instead recorded at Blackbird Studios and worked with producer Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse, James Bay) every step of the way. They met with lots of producers, Putnam said, but Moon Taxi really wanted to work with King and were very impressed after sitting down with him. “He’s just a pro in every sense of the word,” Putnam shared. “He makes this musical landscape on your record. I can’t really explain it. You can just hear every element very clearly. He helped us take what we were already doing and make it sound really, really, really fucking good.” Not only has Moon Taxi had many successful television placements featured during the Olympics and after the Super Bowl, but they have also had some success on late night television. The highlight of Putnam’s musical career so far was being able to watch their performance on Late Show with David Letterman from a TV in their van on the side of the road while driving home to Nashville. With the release of Daybreaker, Moon Taxi hope for even more opportunities to share their music on a national level. PHOTOS: Sam Polonsky | INTERVIEW & STORY: Jennifer Boylen
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HOME: Nashville, Tennessee CURRENTLY: Preparing for the release of his first book, Backstage: How I Almost Got Rich Playing Drums in a Christian Hardcore Band, out September 15th.
INSPIRATION CAN STRIKE AT ANY moment—at a concert, the grocery store or after waking up from a dream. For Aaron Lunsford, it came while doing the dishes.
“I just thought I should write a book, and I started writing it like two weeks later,” he said. It wasn’t just a random idea though. Lunsford had been pondering the thought of recording his time in post-hardcoreturned-progressive rock band As Cities Burn for years. “I remember being on tour 10 years ago telling Cody [Bonnette], our singer and guitar player, ‘Yeah I wanna write a book about all this.’ Every time I would start—I would write a first chapter or first page—it was just awful,” he remembered. “I realized I didn’t have anything to say. I was like 23 years old, just a stupid kid, which maybe now I’m just a stupid adult, but I have life experience at least.” These life experiences are candidly chronicled in his book, Backstage: How I Almost Got Rich Playing Drums in a Christian Hardcore Band. From funny tour stories to more serious moments, Lunsford tells all. No filter. No shame. “I like to state my opinion on things,” he said. “I’m a very opinionated person, and being the drummer in the band, there’s just not a lot of opportunity to have a voice.” The Nashville native definitely makes up for lost time in Backstage, digging deep into the early years of As Cities Burn. However, it wasn’t an easy feat. As Cities Burn had their fair share of ups and downs, which Lunsford depicts very bluntly. One issue Lunsford doesn’t shy away from is money. It’s a taboo almost—something bands rarely discuss openly, but Lunsford even went as far as putting it in the subtitle of the book and speaks openly about the financial struggle in the chapter appropriately titled “Money.” “With bands at our level, it’s feast or famine,” Lunsford said. “You either get to a point where you’re making a lot of money or you’re just waiting to get to that point. ACB was always waiting to get to that point.” “I don’t know how much it happens anymore, but kids say you sell out or they accuse you of being a certain way because you’re trying to make money. If you’re T-shirt prices go up, they’ll say that you’re [sellouts],” he added. “The truth is there’s just not a lot of money to go around, and when you’re touring for five years full time and you only make 10 grand a year on average over that time, it’s tough. I’m not complaining necessarily about that. I would definitely do it again. I would do it again for sure. I don’t regret doing it. The money is just whatever, but I thought it would be cool to show people how it really works.”
Readers and fans get several wake-up calls like that throughout the book. Lunsford’s voice is direct and blunt—no sugarcoating allowed. It’s this approach to his writing that has caused fans to voice their concerns about the book via social media. Some criticize Lunsford for his negative attitude while others display their concern for the other members of As Cities Burn, who have known and been around Lunsford for years. But Lunsford doesn’t care what they have to say. In fact, he finds the comments amusing. “Whatever personality I display in my book is obviously not new to the guys I’ve been in a band with for 10 years so to them it’s funny and entertaining,” he said. “It’s the same guy they’ve been around for 10 years. Now just on a public level.” On a related note, Lunsford wants readers to know that his bandmates have read the book and liked it—though he admits that they’ve had discussions over stories in the book that may not have happened exactly as Lunsford described. It might seem like Lunsford would get backlash from the other band members, but it’s actually those outside of the group he’s most worried about. “The thing I’m nervous most about would be people saying I’m full of shit or peers and other people in bands I know not liking it or thinking that I’m just writing it for attention,” he said. “That’s the biggest reservation.” But after reading through the book, it’s hard to believe that Lunsford would be nervous about anyone not liking Backstage. He openly trashes fans, the music business and airs out issues with the Christian-based music scene that As Cities Burn came up in. “As far as fans go or just general people reading it, I’m not worried about offending anyone I don’t think… So far the response I’ve got from people is they appreciate the honesty,” he said. “I’m just gonna keep running with that and not worry about hurting people’s feelings or making people feel uncomfortable.” Backstage is a memoir like no other. It’s not every day that a musician in the music scene takes to paper and writes about the harsh realities of being in a band. Lunsford is taking a leap of faith with this book, but at this point in this life, he has nothing to lose in his music career. As Cities Burn just wrapped up their 10-year anniversary tour for Son I Loved You At Your Darkest, and the future of the band is up in the air. But regardless of what happens with As Cities Burn, Lunsford is certain of one thing he wants to keep producing—words. At this point, he’s not quite sure what his next book will be about, but he is sure that it will be written. “I don’t have anything set in stone,” he said, “but it’s definitely something I ponder on a daily basis trying to figure out when to start that next project.” PHOTOS: Casey Lee | INTERVIEW & STORY: Jessica Klinner HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 29
HOME: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma NOW JAMMING: “Dreams” CURRENTLY: Getting ready to releasae a new EP
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SIMPLY BEING YOU CAN BE ONE
of the hardest and bravest things to accomplish in this world. There always seems to be pressure from others, and even from yourself, to be something that fits the status quo. Upand-coming singer Cady Groves has lived and persevered through this struggle. Getting her name out there as a young pop singer, Groves fell into striving to fit a mold that she really had no desire to fit into. After years of playing the “pop star” role, the singer decided to step back and bring forth music that felt more honest to who she wanted to be as an artist. “I think growing into a woman made me want to be more honest, not just in my writing but with myself,” Groves said. “I’ve learned that you have to find out who you are, and then figure out how to not be afraid of that.” Instead of letting fear and her own inhibitions stop her from being herself, she embraced it. She traded out her pop image for a one that seemed more fitting even if that meant defying traditional music labels. “I’m not sure anyone ever told me to ‘be a pop star.’ I honestly did that crap myself and it was so boring and such a waste of time,” she explained. “I did everything I thought I was supposed to do, to look and be like something I wasn’t. But then again, it’s all about learning who you aren’t sometimes.” With Groves’ recent musical endeavors, one of the changes that listeners may notice is the country tone that has been added to her sound. As a self-proclaimed country music lover, this transition is quite fitting and compliments the singer’s sweet vocals. “Country music is such a huge influence for me because I’m just a kid who grew up in a tiny town in Oklahoma,” she expressed. “Whether it’s the slide of a twang or a heartfelt lyric, it’s just who I am and the way I was raised being reflected in my music.” And the singer has no objections to being considered a country artist, or any genre label for that matter. “One thing I don’t understand in music or art in general is labels,” she said. “If you need to think I’m a country singer to connect to the songs, then tell yourself whatever you need to in order for the song to hit home.” While genres help listeners identify and connect to different styles of music, the limitations that they place on artists can sometimes be restricting. It’s no surprise that musicians like Groves tend to strip themselves of these titles. “People want you to be a ‘thing.’ Being asked, ‘So…what are you?’ is normal in the industry and sometimes you want to just be like, ‘Well I thought I was just me,’” she explained. 32 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET
This musical change of pace was introduced to the world through her recent single, “Crying Game.” The song chronicles a story of deep loss and heartbreak. With its pretty, simple melody and straightforward lyrics, the track feels even more raw and honest. “Seriously, ‘Crying Game’ for real put me in this huge depression for like a week. It was so intense I couldn’t get away from it. I sat down in the studio with my producer Josh, and we wrote the song in like 20 minutes. It just came out. And then I sat there and was like, ‘I think I need to leave the room for a second,’” Groves relayed. “[Josh] was really good about getting me to this uncomfortable place of realness, and encouraging me that that is what makes me a real person, and people respect that.” Groves doesn’t want this genuine new sound to stop with “Crying Game” and has plans to release more new music in the form of her new single, “Dreams,” and an eventual EP, exposing her listeners to this whole new side of herself. “This is so exciting because I’ve promised fans music for so long now because I genuinely thought I would give them some. After a few years and some setbacks, I’m here for good and hope to continually release genuine music,” she expressed. And her fans mean the world to her. One stop on her Twitter page and this becomes very clear. Littered with loving and inspirational messages to her followers, Groves seems to share a mutual admiration. “I have never really understood the idea of a fan because I’m just a fan girl too. They think it’s funny that I freak out the same way when I meet them. I freaking love them…They are my spirit animals,” she enthusiastically explained. Despite the changes she has made in her career, her fans appear just as dedicated and supportive as she is of them. “I think my long time fans are happier with my new/old sound coming back,” she mused. “Although I’ve always been me, I really hope they like this current version of me as I feel closer to who I am than I ever have.” It seems that Groves is more confident these days in who she is, not only as an artist but as a person, and she desires to radiate those positive vibes to those that admire her and are witnessing these changes. “I just hope that people always see me as human because I never claim or hope to be perfect,” she said. “I genuinely want to love and be loved. I hope it’s just all positive energy when you hug me or listen to a song.” PHOTOS: Provided | INTERVIEW & STORY: Annette Hansen
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HOME: Brooklyn, New York NOW JAMMING: “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You” CURRENTLY: Preparing for a tour with Nick Jonas
ONE OF THE SUMMER’S BIGGEST HITS WAS David Guetta’s “Hey Mama,” an electro, house anthem that features pop icon Nicki Minaj and EDM artist Afrojack. However, one of the biggest questions following the release of the song was who sings the catchy chorus. The answer? Brooklyn native Bebe Rexha. At only 25 years old, the singer-songwriter has penned massive hits such as “The Monster,” the hit single notably sung by Eminem and Rihanna, as well as co-writing “Hey Mama” alongside Guetta. She was featured on the 2013 summer hit “Take Me Home” by Cash Cash and was also the lead singer for Black Cards, Pete Wentz’s short-lived, post-hiatus side project, from 2010 to 2012. Gaining her impressive laundry list of credits as well as recognition for them has been a bit of a rollercoaster. While Rexha is listed as one of the seven songwriters on “Hey Mama,” she was not originally credited as a featured artist, sparking the debate of who actually sings the red-lettered chorus, Minaj or another artist? Fortunately, all confusion ceased in May when Rexha was officially added to the song credits. Now fans are left to wonder why Rexha wasn’t credited originally. Due to formalities, having more than two displayed and mentioned names on the radio looks like a lot, but Rexha fought for her recognition and succeeded. Now, three months later, she has made her mark on the radio and also on the Vans Warped Tour. Warped Tour can be brutal, especially for the artists playing the entire summer. The days are long and hot on the punk rock summer camp with set times varying daily, cold showers, and extensive walks between the bus, stage and merchandise table for signings. Though the “summer camp” resembles more of a boot camp, Rexha was ready and willing for the challenge. “I was so excited to do it from day one. I knew it was going to be a challenge and I wanted that,” she said. As a pop artist on a tour comprised primarily of alternative and punk acts, Rexha’s reception was one of the main challenges she expected to face, but she was welcome with open arms and laden with inspiration. “I’m not the typical Warped Tour artist, but I’m just like everyone else in the sense that we all go through the same things,” Rexha said. “At the end of the day, we’re all here for music and that’s what brings us together.” Despite the difference in sound, Rexha’s angst-filled and powerful lyrics, dealing HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 37
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"At the end of the day,
we're all here for the music and that's what brings us together.â€?
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with issues such as anxiety, depression, and other types of mental illness, have put her right in line with her tourmates. During the early years of her life, Rexha’s parents’ conservative lifestyle and overprotective nature led to her being trapped within the confines of her house and her thoughts. While this upbringing is what inspired Rexha to become the bold and outspoken artist she is today, she had to overcome her demons first. In her late teens, Rexha suffered from a mental breakdown spawned by the release from her first record deal with Island Records. During this time, she succumbed to the darkness of depression but used music and songwriting as a source of light. She attended therapy sessions, where she overcame doctors and looming medicine prescriptions, and gained the inspiration to write her massive hit, “I’m Gonna Show You Crazy,” an electropop ballad that has over 45 million plays on Spotify. “There’s a war inside my head/Sometimes I wish that I was dead, I’m broken/So I called this therapist and she said/‘Girl you can’t be fixed just take this,’” sings Rexha in the opening verse. The song continues with weighted lyrics about depression: name calling, the internal overthinking and the judgment from family members as well as peers. But Rexha delivers solace too, preaching the lyrics, “I don’t need your quick fix/I don’t want your prescriptions/Just ‘cause you say I’m crazy/So what if I’m f*cking crazy?” Loving yourself and the faults that come with life is a prominent message that Rexha continually preaches to her fans. “Growing up, I didn’t know how important it was to love yourself,” she recalled. “Loving who you are is the strongest thing you have. I wish that I had someone who told me that. So I want to share that with all my fans and anyone going through a hard time.” Rexha’s second hit single, “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You,” tells of another dark subject matter—one that is masked by the fast tempo, smooth rhythm and heavy, pop synths of the song. The contradictions between the sound and heavy message notably reflect what it is like to be in a dark place—consistently trying to conceal the darkness with light, but the shadows are still there.
running through her veins, she coped in the best way she knew how—writing a massive pop hit. The beat of “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You” pulses through listeners as the song starts off with a slow tempo but gradually picks up as it reaches the chorus, creating an illusionary parallel to a night out. Rexha’s emotionally enticing lyrics layered with a heavy, pop synth sound are a combination that is making her a star on the rise. Now signed with Warner Bros. Records, Rexha released her five-track EP titled I Don’t Wanna Grow Up in May, which features both “I’m Gonna Show You Crazy” and “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You,” as a sort of teaser as to what to expect on her debut album that drops next year. The debut will be much like Rexha—fresh and lively with a bit of an edge. The latter comes with her desire to work with up-and-coming producers. The advantage of working with up-and-comers instead of those who have their feet already planted in the industry is the musical freedom. While experienced and reputable producers are more inclined to steer the artist toward what is radio worthy, those just starting out are willing to give the artist more control. But Rexha’s personal choice of using up-and-coming producers such as the Monsters and the Strangerz and Jon Levine does not mean she was completely against those already established in the music business. Rexha also worked with notable producers such as Max Martin and Martin Solveig, as well as Fraser T. Smith, who helped with production on Sam Smith’s multi-platinum album, In the Lonely Hour. With the combination of producers as well as Rexha’s gifted songwriting skills, the debut album from the 25 year old should fall nothing short of immaculate praise. In the meantime, as Warped Tour has come to a sad close, Rexha is enjoying a well-deserved break before she heads out on tour this fall with pop sensation, Nick Jonas. “He’s super talented and I love his voice,” said Rexha of her soon-to-be tourmate. Even though Rexha has had her fair share of ups and downs in the music industry, she credits her now flourishing career to none other than music.
Rexha speaks of this musical styling by saying, “I like to keep a balance. I don’t want people to feel down all the time, but I do want to keep it real in what I am saying.”
“I always dive into my music to cope with anything,” she said. “It has always been there for me during the ups and downs. Music is all I need.”
In “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You,” Rexha keeps it real by singing about a universal topic: heartache. Written about an ex-boyfriend who was harboring feelings for his own exgirlfriend and ultimately ending their own relationship with a screeching halt, Rexha turned to her friends and alcohol as a remedy for the pain. With heartache and betrayal
PHOTOS: Sammy Roenfeldt | INTERVIEW: Jenn Stookey | STORY: Ally Fisher
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TOUR ROUND UP
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PHOTO: Ashley Osborn HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 45
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PHOTO: Cara Bahniuk HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 47
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PHOTO: Cara Bahniuk HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 49
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PHOTO: Demi Cambridge HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 51
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Family of the Year ALBUM
Family of the Year
SOUNDS LIKE The Mowgli’s Lord Huron RECOMMENDED TRACKS “Facepaint” “We Need Love”
Make You Mine
We Need Love
May I Miss You
Give A Little
Blue Jean Girl
BUY IT ON September 4th, 2015
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Summer may be on its way out the door, but Family of the Year are Los Angeles settlers, so warm weather and a sunny disposition are appropriate all year round. The quartet’s third album, Family of the Year, is a compilation of songs that embody the spirit of the band not only based on their unique craft, but also the content of each track. Single and opening track “Make You Mine” exudes a luminous atmosphere with the simple yet sugary sweet lyrics: “All the boys and all the pretty girls/ Summertime I’m gonna make you mine.” Sand, water and sunshine are all components for a romanticized, ideal image of summer, and Family of the Year are professionals at romance. “Carry Me” and “May I Miss You” resemble the softness of the band’s sophomore album, Loma Vista, at least in their introductions. Many tracks on the album intertwine crescendos and decrescendos, constantly fluctuating the tone with pleasant variety from each verse to chorus. They gain momentum and draw back in a tactful manner. “Carry Me” is affirmative and rains gracious words of encouragement. It seems to say, “Keep your head up. Everything is going to be all right.” “We Need Love” is another compassion-filled composition. It’s an ode to giving and accepting love, expressing that it’s something everybody deserves. While Family of the Year are upbeat and cheerful, they are also relaxing. The vocals are like velvet, the lyrics are attentive, and the melodies are serene. Each track serves a multipurpose role, whether the setting is low key or lively. Family of the Year acts as a family should, which is supportive, uplifting and a beacon that can pierce through shadows of negativity. REVIEW: Haley Black
City Soundtrack ALBUM Panic Stations Throughout the years, Motion City Soundtrack has been a band that never fails to please listeners with their synth infused and emotionally gripping pop rock numbers. While the band’s sixth full-length release, Panic Stations, fell a little short of those high expectations, there are several moments that showcase some of their best work. The front half of the album is where Motion City Soundtrack really shines. The album takes off with the musically upbeat and catchy sound that the band has mastered. While songs “Anything At All,” “TKO” and “I Can Feel You” don’t deviate too far from the band’s previous material, the rhythmic single “Lose Control” sets itself apart with a more pop and synth driven sound. Panic Stations’ second half is where it is easy to become a bit disinterested. The songs are still fun and catchy, but it doesn’t feel like anything interesting or new is being explored on these tracks. The exception is with the final two songs, particularly the closing track, “Days Will Run Away.” The song forces you to stop and listen to its haunting, beautiful melancholy. As the song builds, it’s hard not to become swept away. “Days Will Run Away” is probably one of the best Motion City Soundtrack songs to date and proves that the band is far from losing their touch.
RECOMMENDED TRACKS “Lose Control” & “Days Will Run Away” REVIEW Annette Hansen
ARTIST Sparrows ALBUM Dragging
Hell Sparrows’ Dragging Hell is a somber breath of fresh air. The harmonies and passionate vocal runs are emotional and raw alongside strong guitar work to create effortless tempo changes throughout the album. Though Dragging Hell is only a four song EP, it will instantly transport you back to some of the saddest moments of your life but with a new, deeper sense of insight. As the EP progresses, it becomes more evident that Dragging Hell draws inspiration from multiple genres and does not conform to traditional song structures. Most of the tracks on the album are over five minutes long, but the music is so enticing that the concept of time seems to fade away. “References To The Dead” and “Our Father, The Failure” are the two strongest songs on the EP. Both tracks are explosive, and the harmony between each instrumental brings the song’s emotions and lyrics to life. Overall, Dragging Hell is refreshing, but also has a hint of nostalgia. Each track holds the same mood and emotion while remaining strong and unique in its own way. Dragging Hell is a beautiful release from Sparrows, and one can only imagine how this band will continue to grow with a future full-length album.
RECOMMENDED TRACKS “References To The Dead” & “Our Father, The Failure” REVIEW Theresa Pham
Wonder Years ALBUM No Closer to Heaven Do not expect another The Greatest Generation. No Closer To Heaven is a completely new album for The Wonder Years. There are a handful of songs on the album that are classic Wonder Years style. Aside from those few songs, this album feels like a whole new band. Lead singer Dan “Soupy” Campbell’s lyrical prowess has only improved over the course of four full lengths, and the band’s songwriting has improved as well. Every song is a beautiful departure from the normal doubletimed verses and half-timed choruses that the Wonder Years made so popular with The Upsides and Suburbia. No Closer To Heaven concentrates on the band’s collective technical prowess between the drums, guitars and keyboards, highlighting but never overpowering one another. Not to mention, the Wonder Years have started to rely more on their back-up singers—Nick Steinborn, Matt Brasch, Casey Cavaliere, and Josh Martin. The change in vocal stylings throughout the songs brings out different emotions as they take you through the emotional journey that is No Closer To Heaven, a story about love, loss and change. The Wonder Years as a whole have created an album that brings you back time and time again for more. No Closer To Heaven is one of those albums that you will find yourself talking about, and comparing other albums to in just a few short years. It will go down as the album of the year for 2015 and will be a hugely impactful album for this scene much like their previous albums have.
RECOMMENDED TRACKS “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then” & “I Wanted So Badly To Be Brave” REVIEW Trevor Figge
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