Page 1

issue 47






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) haley black, jennifer boylen, geoff burns, haley buske, colleen casey, rebecca del castillo, ally fisher, trevor figge, marissa galupi, annette hansen, jessica klinner, zoe marquedant, bridjet mendyuk, theresa pham, alyssa schmidt, alex shimalla, catie suliga, nick yacovazzi and bailey zeigler digital marketing team geoff burns and tim mcgovern news posters laura arthurs, kristen torres, samia mirza, sarah akomanyi, brad laplante and megan young _________________________ website twitter @highlightzine facebook instagram @highlightzine _________________________ thank you thank you state champs, james goodson, talia miller, brixton agency, universal music group, earshot media, mta artist management, the catalyst publicity group, big picture media, glassnote records, high road publicity, bb gun press, and all of the staff for pulling this issue together over the holidays! happy new year! _________________________ 06 state champs casey lee

07 magic giant courtney coles

børns sam polonsky

alxndr jonathan cox

stories untold dylan dulberg

ed sheeran cara bahniuk

january 08 clothing highlight 11 label highlight 12 venue highlight 14 industry highlight 18 highlighted artists 19 film highlight 20 stories untold 22 alxndr 24 magic giant 28 børns 32 state champs 42 tour round up lights the maine ed sheeran 46 reviews


PA G E 3 2

“…we’re never

going to regret

making the

decisions we do.”













Arnar Clothing (now Arnar Limited) was started much differently than most other companies (that I have heard of). I’ve wanted to launch a brand ever since I fell in love with art in junior high. The name “Arnar” (pronounced R an R) comes from an art project from my favorite course that I took in college: Typography. I was playing around with text during a project for class and the double R logo was created and I fell in love with it. The logo was created before we settled on Arnar as the name, which fell into place shortly thereafter. The two R’s in our logo stand for everything ‘Redefine Reality’ to help us define who we are as a brand. Up until this point, I knew that I wanted to create a brand, but like many other entrepreneurs, I was skeptical to start another clothing line in an industry where it seemed that there were thousands of ‘brands’ being created and dying every single day. In late 2010, my roommate was in a band, which was direct support for a tour package with Like Moths to Flames and Ice Nine Kills. It was my first show that I had attended since I saw Backstreet boys in 4th grade (I’m not ashamed). I fell in love with the scene. The amount of community, passion and persistence that these touring musicians had was the air that I needed to breathe life into Arnar. WHAT DO YOU FEEL YOUR BRAND REPRESENTS? We are more than just a clothing line that promotes positivity in our generation. We are a lifestyle brand that enables, empowers and encourages us to change this broken world that we live in. It doesn’t matter where you come from, or where you are at today—you are exactly where you are supposed to be at this very moment. We are going to create a spark to help our generation start a movement and we need your help. Rise above hate. Be good to those around you. Reach out to those less fortunate than you and lift up those who are down and need a helping hand. At the end of the day, we are all a part of the same community— and as a community we are stronger when we stand as one. In 2014, we spent over 40 days on tour over the summer (including 11 stops on Vans Warped Tour) where we launched our Give Hope Project. This project donates 100% of sales directly to entrepreneurs/communities in third world countries who need startup capital. These entrepreneurs use funds to help promote self-sustainability. In 2016, a portion of every single shirt sale will be given to this project. WHAT ARE YOUR THREE PERSONAL FAVORITE DESIGNS AND WHY? Fearless I’m not sure which I like more about this design, the text itself or the typography. I believe that much of our generation struggles with fear— fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough. When I sat down to design this shirt, I wanted to address the issue of fear. Fear in and of itself is not real. It is imagined. You cannot see fear, it can only be created if your mind allows it. The cutthroat nature of society plays a huge part in instilling fear in many of our youth that follows us through our teenage

years. This shirt was created in a hope to instill confidence in whoever reads the design/sees the artwork. Instead of living our lives in fear, we must understand that we as individuals are the ONLY people who are capable of controlling fear—fear cannot control us. Our goal is to create a movement of people who live life fearlessly—this shirt is our spark. Alive I remember going through the motions in high school and college: wake up, go to class, study, go to baseball, do homework, sleep, repeat. Every single day, year after year, I felt like I was a robot that was created to wake up, produce something, go to sleep, and do it all over again. I truly believe that contentment leads to complacency and complacency leads to an unhappy, unfulfilling life. I spent 7 years in college because I felt like I had to be there. I didn’t want to be there at all. I walked away from it all to follow my dreams of living life on the road in hopes to impact, empower, and inspire those who are uninspired. Nobody should live their lives feeling like they are trapped. We do not have enough time on this earth to waste our time being a slave to the system. If you feel trapped, walk away. Do more of what makes you feel alive. Rise Above Hate Hoodie This is my favorite design that we have for a number of reasons. I believe that hate and fear are very similar in a sense that hate does not create itself; we create hate. When hate presents itself, we have two choices: allow it to affect us, or we can rise above it. Right now, we live in a country of class, moral, and social segregation. We are constantly creating new things that pull apart groups of people every single day based on religious beliefs, political views, and skin color, to name a few. We are force-fed how we should feel, react and think to every single situation/social group. Sadly, we are fed hate, not love. It is our responsibility to shine a light in a world surrounded by darkness. When hate presents itself, rise above it. WHY PEOPLE SHOULD CHECK OUT YOUR BRAND? We are not just another clothing line traveling the country trying to make a quick buck. We are family of passionate, positive individuals who are working together to shine our light in a world of darkness. When you purchase a shirt, you are purchasing a handmade good that was created specifically for you, that was created here in the United States. You are not putting money into a CEO’s bank account so they can afford another mansion in South Beach. You are giving it to a group of people who are using it to create positivity in the local music scene. Funds generated are used to help give hope to those in need (domestically and overseas), to help create self-sustainability to those who are unable to help themselves. We cannot Redefine Reality on our own; we need your help. We’ve started the movement, now help us change the world. #GiveHopeProject2016

t @arnarclothing f /arnarclothing HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 9

[ formerly backslashes and bad ideas ] [ now with even better ideas ] [ new music coming soon ] 10 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET

YOU MAY WANT TO LISTEN TO...ASIAN MAN RECORDS Asian Man Records began in historically the most attributed punk location—a garage. Even before it was dubbed Asian Man Records (originally Dill Records), Mike Park used his parent’s garage as an outlet for his ska-punk band, Skankin’ Pickle, to self release their music. After departing from the band in 1996, the Monte Soreno, California, garage now boasts the responsibility of releasing cheap music for peace and unity-loving punk bands. Park’s business model is simple: Music should be affordable for everyone. He sells CDs for $8 and keeps the operation small. Really small. The whole label is run by Park, his parents, a computer and a phone. Bands are signed to a one record deal and can leave whenever they want. It’s typical to hear people in the music industry say that they’re in it for the music, but Park lives it. For 20 years, he’s kept the label tiny so he can focus on growing the artists, not his bank account.

PET SYMMETRY One of the many projects of emo mayor, Evan Weiss, Pet Symmetry released Pets Hounds through Asian Man. Pets Hounds begins to break free of the dreaded emo label that follows Weiss on everything he touches. Although the band— Also made up of members of Dowsing and Kittyhawk— originally formed several years ago, Pets Hounds became their grand debut. The scene expected another emo-esque feel from Weiss, but he and his bandmates flexed a few different muscles. Filled with puns (specifically the play on the Beach Boys’ famous album, Pet Sounds), the emo kids enter into a new phase of summertime, lighthearted power pop. It almost sounds like Into It. Over It.’s Proper with poppier hooks. The icing on top of this spectacular record is the addition of Fake Problems’ frontman, Chris Farren, looking like a Miami business man in a white suit while holding two very large hound dogs. It seems only fitting as Farren did give Pet Symmetry their name.

L I S T E N T O “A Detailed And Poetic Physical Threat To The Person Who Intentionally Vandalized My 1994 Dodge Intrepid Behind Kate’s Apartment”

SPRAYNARD The Northeastern punk trio of Spraynard seemed to spring up and disappear just as the scene was getting to know them. Born out of a friendship in a suburban Pennsylvania high school, Spraynard gained attention in their local community by simply boasting about loving it. While other punk and emo bands lamented in being stuck in their hometowns, Spraynard praised their comfortable confines. They released their debut record, Funtitled, on Asian Man, showing just how far outside of the community they reached, all the way to Cali. Tours were booked and another album released. But just as they began to find their footing, friction between members heightened and they announced a hiatus. From that hiatus bore their latest release, Mable (not on Asian Man). The title and cover pays homage not only to their lost companion (13 year old golden retriever of the same name), but a new chapter in their friendship and a change in tone. While once they sang lyrics of life not going as planned and rolling with the punches, now they take a look a bit at the darker side of thing—all while at their favorite suburban hangout, the Applebee’s bar.

L I S T E N T O “Applebee’s Bar”

WORDS: Alyssa Schmidt


VENUE HIGHLIGHT BOULDER THEATER - BOULDER, CO HISTORY The Boulder Theater has been presenting entertainment for the city of Boulder, Colorado, since 1906 when it was opened as the Curran Opera House. James Curran, a billboard sign owner, used his wealth to open the theater, which produced operas, musicals and silent films. The first talking film played in the theater 20 years after the opening. The theater was a relaxing home for leisurely activities during the Great Depression. In 1935, the building was bought out and remodeled by a Kansas City man by the name of Robert Boller, owner of a neighboring venue, the Fox Theater. As of 2009, the two venues are both owned and operated by Z2 Entertainment. The Boulder Theater has undergone many transformations to become what it is today, which is a concert hall that presents nearly 250 events annually. Today, the Boulder Theater is deemed as a Colorado Historic Landmark.

WHY PLAY HERE? Located in Colorado’s number one college town, the Boulder Theater is a great venue to play at because of its youthful atmosphere. The University of Colorado is home to over 30 thousand students. Only a half block from the venue is the historic Pearl Street Mall. The short walk is the perfect place for musicians and their crew to hang out before a show and they are guaranteed to see street performers playing music or conducting magic tricks. This multipurpose theater also provides entertainment for more than just concerts. The venue’s events include charity events and concert benefits, showcases, film festivals and, of course, rock shows.









Los Lobos Disconnected




REVIEW: Haley Black

‘stepping off the porch’


industry highlight 14 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET N A M E Maysa


L O C AT I O N West Palm Beach, FL

J O B Photographer

THE 1975






WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL STORY/WHY DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE INDUSTRY? When I was younger, I grew up around music whether it was my brother blasting it for hours in his room or my mom would drag me with her to shows. When I was about 14 or 15 years old, I really got into photography and thought, “I love music and photography, so why not be involved with both?” So that’s exactly what I did. I saved up for a Canon Rebel XT and a simple prime lens (50mm 1.4) and just took photos every single day until I learned the ins and outs of a camera and different lighting situations (studio lighting, show lighting, natural lighting, etc.). After I graduated high school, I got involved with photographing shows for my town’s newspaper and it eventually led me to work with a popular music news site at the time called PropertyOfZack. I currently work for idobiRadio ( and at a film studio down South and continue to do freelance work with artists everyday.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE DIFFICULTIES YOU FACE AS A MUSIC PHOTOGRAPHER THAT YOU’VE OVERCOME OR ARE WORK ING TO OVERCOME? One issue I deal with at almost every show I shoot is how I’m a young female music photographer. I’m no stranger to comments that are said to me in the photo pit from male photographers asking if I’m 15 years old and still using my first DSLR. It’s difficult to hear things like that, but my work will speak for itself at the end of the day. I just keep in mind that no matter what my age is and the fact that I’m a girl working in a more male dominated industry should not stop me from continuing doing something I love and work hard for.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO KEEP TAKING PHOTOS? I stick to people who share the same passion as me. If I surround myself around negative, lazy people who do absolutely nothing, that would probably influence me to do the same. So I keep myself close to my good group of hard working and positive photo/film friends who inspire me to keep snapping away.

HOW DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR STYLE? It took me years to find a style and stick with it. I knew I found my style the day I took my watermark off my photos. After I did that, I would get comments on Tumblr or Instagram or mentioned by people who would point out, “This was taken by Maysa Askar!” It’s awesome to see a photo of mine be recognized without my name being printed on it — it just shows it’s a memorable photo or the style can just be depicted as mine.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING MUSIC PHOTOGRAPHERS? Practice, practice, practice. I get a massive amount of questions in my inbox asking, “Hey, I just got this new camera. What settings do I put on if I’m at a show/outside/indoors/etc.” Practice! Take pictures of everything and just mess around with your camera; it’s the best way to learn. Don’t rely on someone to give you a straight answer right off the bat, work for it. And one more piece of advice: network! Networking is the best thing you can do to get more involved in the industry and get your name out there. Make business cards to pass around or even just talk — word of mouth is a great networking technique! You never know who you’ll bump into. They may just land you a great gig or help you out in the future.

WHAT ARE THREE OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE CAREER MOMENTS? Seeing my photos printed in my favorite music magazine (Alternative Press), being recognized by one of my favorite artists because of my work, and working for companies that I never thought I’d have the chance to work with.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH? I’d love to hop on a world tour and/or own my own studio one day. Fingers crossed I will hopefully cross one off my list. And maybe have a photo shoot with Drake. Yeah, definitely need to accomplish that for sure…

maysaaskar.c om

t @mamamay s a

i @mamamay s a

INTERVIEW: Jessica Klinner PHOTO: Skylar Mann


ARTISTS KINDLER L O C AT I O N Asheville, NC C U R R E N T S I N G L E “Shifting Ground” M E M B E R S Cameron Fitzpatrick – Bass Guitar, Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Stephen Wiley – Drums, Percussion, Vocals & Nick Wiley – Guitar, Vocals

Post rock outfit Kindler are going back to their roots. The alternative group based out of Asheville, North Carolina, embraces aggressive mid 2000s riffing while overlaying aggressive clean vocals for a provocative and highly intriguing sound.

SWEET ASCENT L O C AT I O N Lawrence, KS C U R R E N T S I N G L E “My Wishing Well” M E M B E R S Jordan Rebman – Vocals, Bobby Louden – Guitar & Jake Dorn – Drums

Embracing a throwback style of pop punk, Kansas rockers Sweet Ascent bring high energy to their music. With a mid-2000s instrumentation and post-hardcore vocals, the young three piece is a must listen on your radar for rising 2016 artists.

SWEETTALKER L O C AT I O N Nashville, TN M E M B E R S David Brown – Vocals, Ryan Pattengale – Guitar & Hayden Pattengale – Guitar

Move over Maylene, because Nashville’s own Sweettalker is about to redefine southern rock. Embracing the essence of Music City, Sweettalker goes back to the roots of their sound, creating aggressive rock riffs mixed with a hard-headed and relentless emotion. Highly entertaining and energetic, Sweettalker will stir a swell in your soul and leave you wanting more.


WORDS: Nick Yacovazzi



L o n g Wa y H o m e :

On the Road with Jukebox the Ghost

2015 was a big and busy year for Jukebox the Ghost. The band released their self-titled album, recorded a cover of “Walk Like an Egyptian,” toured with Ingrid Michaelson, headlined their own shows, played a slew of festivals including SXSW, played Conan and signed with Cherrytree Records. In addition, the band’s guitarist/vocalist Tommy Siegel released “Van Doodles,” a book of cartoons he’s drawn on tour while bored in the back of the van. From doodles to Dubsmash duets, it has been a well-documented experience. No strangers to their social media accounts, Jukebox kept their fans informed with every change. They even noted the reboot of their long forgotten Tumblr account, Gumblr, on which the band once reviewed their favorite flavors of gum while on tour. The latter was brought about thanks to a little help from Mamba Gum. The patronage illustrates the sudden influx of attention and sort of sponsorship that the band saw in 2015. Jukebox the Ghost brought the band to back to late night TV and the mainstream. With each record Jukebox has achieved a similar, yet brief amount of recognition. In 2010, the band played “Schizophrenia” on The Late Show with David Letterman. In 2014, Jukebox performed songs off of Safe Travels for NPR’s World Cafe. With each release, the band returns to the same limelight, only this time they seem determined to stay. They’re also determined to stay themselves. It’s clear from all the video commentary, behind-the-scenes clips, live shots and, of course, music videos that the band is still the same brotherhood that it’s always been. Further cementing this theory is the band’s most recent mini-documentary, Long Way Home: On The Road With Jukebox the Ghost. The documentary follows the band across the country from New York’s Irving Plaza to Los Angeles’ El Rey Theatre, with band members and friends chiming in along the way on Jukebox’s progress and place in music. Pianist/vocalist Ben Thornewill opens the mini film by talking about “living your dream” and the realities of being in a band. He points out the differences between playing shows in Des Moines or Peoria verses New York City, as the film cuts to the band opening their show in Manhattan with a performance of “Postcard.” The venue is packed and the audience is as excited and engaged as ever. Long Way Home finds the band at the highest point in their career. The climb to their current standing as the princes of piano pop wasn’t easy. Thornewill admits that, “It’s been this slow growth. This unbelievably slow growth.” The band formed over a decade ago. Thornewill, Seigel and the band’s drummer Jesse Kristin met in 2004 while attending college in Washington, D.C. According to Siegel, the three wrote a lot of music at the time, but “didn’t take it very seriously.” Eventually, their efforts culminated in the band’s debut, Let Live and Let Ghosts, which they recorded their senior year of college. Ten years later, Jukebox has grown far beyond those first dorm room jams and yet still “the same three guys.” That expanse of time might seem like forever, especially in the music industry. Seth Kallen, the band’s manager, points out how people, “think ‘Oh [Jukebox the Ghost] are veterans now. They’ve been a band forever.” While a decade is a long time, Kallen says, “From our perspective, it feels like it’s only the beginning.” So how did this band of college buddies endure long enough to see their efforts recognized? Kallen says, “They’ve learnt to set aside egos.” The ability to coexist physically and creatively has been Jukebox’s strength. “It’s hard when you’re three really smart, really creative guys in a band. That can sometimes tear people apart. Everyone wants to be the frontman. Everyone wants to be the creative force.” Kristin reiterates the difficulty, saying, “You’re going to hate your bandmates. That’s just a part of the game” but he also adds “You’re friends. That’s a given.” Beyond finding a balance as bandmates, Thornwell comments that there’s also “this weird balance that you need to have of appreciating what you have and feeling successful and not letting yourself ever feel like that’s enough.” This combination of comradery, ambition and quality music has resulted in Jukebox the Ghost, a record for which Thornwell says the band, “distilled who [they] are. We figured out what we wanted to do and made the pop record that we’d always danced around.” That album, along with their initiative, will continue to carry them in the new year. 2016 is sure to be a bountiful time for the band, with them immediately embarking on a lengthy headlining tour in January. There seems to be no stopping Jukebox. They’re ready to continue to chase their dreams, and it seems everyone is finally stopping to listen. To echo a line from one of the singles off of their self-titled: “The time is now.” Their time is now. REVIEWS: Zoe Marquedant


H O M E St. Clair, Michigan N O W J A M M I N G “Skies Skill Falling” C U R R E N T LY Working on new music


strikes with such a hard-hitting lead single. It’s often rare that a band delivers a near perfect combination of post-hardcore and pop punk. It’s often rare that Stories Untold doesn’t strike you as the next big thing. After recording some new music and releasing a music video, Stories Untold are finally ready for 2016 to be their year. Catchy lyrics and swift guitar chords aren’t all this band is known for. I sat down with them at a local Wendy’s to talk about their new music, upcoming shows and more. They were the most fun group of guys I have met and are incredibly down-to-earth, exciting, and really easy to talk to.

H i g h l i g h t M a g a z i n e : Hello, I am here with Stories Untold. How are you guys doing? 20 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET

S t o r i e s U n t o l d : We’re doing good. H M : Describe your musical style. S U : Our musical style is really diverse. We all bring

something different to the table. Like, for example, I’m really into Linkin Park, Brennen is into Hail the Sun and some more technical [music]. I know Kevin has more heavy influences. Tim’s into bands like Silverstein, the Amity Affliction. We just bring it all together and what ends up happening is, you get what we make.

H M : Who are your biggest influences? S U : Definitely Taking Back Sunday, the Used, and bands like that. We make something that sounds familiar, but it also has our little twist on it, which [we] think is really cool.

H M : What separates your live shows from other bands? S U : There was a band we saw way back when… The

band we watched, their live show was just incredible; they were all over the place. They were swinging their guitars around. After seeing that, we just said, ‘We need to [improve] our live stuff.’ So now, we go nuts. You can literally feel the energy from us. Another thing, [we] think, is interacting with fans, especially at local shows. A lot of people come out alone and a lot of the time, it’s the same people almost every night so you just gotta make sure you hang out with them.

H M : Do you guys have any shows coming up? S U : Our next show is with Fusion Shows. It’s a headliner at the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac, MI on February 13 with the Scenery, Shapes & Colors, Rumours, and a lot of other bands. It’s going to be awesome.

H M : Are you guys making anything right now? S U : The next big thing that we’re working on is a music

video that’s coming out sometime in [January]. We’re really, really excited for that. We’ve been working with a cinematographer by the name of Nick Frollo on that. He does excellent work. The other big thing we’re doing is “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet. We did a cover of that. We kind of re-envisioned it, added our own twist. Like [we] said, we do a lot of vocal layering. We are really excited for that [too], as it was recorded with Kevin Sharpe and Max Klein at Metro 37 Studios. We actually played it live for the first time a couple nights ago and it went over really well. PHOTO: Dylan Dulberg INTERVIEW & STORY: Brad LaPlante



H O M E Newcastle, England N O W J A M M I N G “Four A.M.” C U R R E N T LY Preparing for their UK headliner in April


and positive, England’s best kept secret ALXNDR are a three-piece band on a mission to have fun. Taking the DIY route, the group are enjoying the ride and racking up thousands of hits off their five song EP, RWND, in the process. “We discovered that for us the songs felt perfect how they were recorded by us, so we had our own vision for how we wanted everything to sound,” frontman Anth Snowdon said. “As we were writing the tracks, we had a lot of production ideas, so it was nice to be able to explore those in the studio.” Taking notes from the 1975, the Neighbourhood and Two Door Cinema Club, the band are well on their way to becoming the alternative pop/indie rock band of the future. Snowdon said the band are influenced by a ‘90s aesthetic like the movies they grew up watching. Connecting as friends, the band are able to bounce their ideas off of each other with ease. While their EP might be a small milestone, Snowdon said the band are “all very open-minded people and love working with other creatives” and wouldn’t mind taking a stab at working with others for their debut album, whenever that may be. RWND takes more influences from sounds they grew up with like Robbie Williams’ “Millennium” and Heart FM (think ’00s British pop). “It’s been a very natural process for us,” Snowdon said. “In the past couple of years, we’ve revisited a lot of nostalgic sound tracks.” Being a part of the upcoming U.K. indie rock/pop scene is something ALXNDR are excited about, stating that bands like Jaws and Fickle Friends are “class.” The trio are equally as excited about their own endeavors in the northeast part of England. Snowdon said the group are “bringing something creative” to the area. The band aren’t without hardships though, even this early into their career. The fourth member of the band departed earlier this year as an artistic decision.

“Being a three piece was a difficult decision to come to…To be honest, in our minds we made it out to be a struggle, but once it actually happened, we were really surprised with how comfortable we feel now,” Snowdon said. “We needed to be a three piece because Jamie wasn’t ready for where we want to be in music. But, now we just feel stronger than we ever have really. Lots of love there, mind it was just something we needed to do.” Venturing out on a headlining tour in April across the U.K., ALXNDR are one of few bands that have been able to headline a show (let alone a whole tour) with just an EP release. Calling it “nuts,” Snowdon said their first headlining tour was in October having just released only two singles. Staying humble and relaxed, Snowdon calls the feat “mental,” but it isn’t without hard work. “We can’t imagine what April will be like,” Snowdon said. “We work with some really cool people on our tour schedules so we get to be creative there also, which brings a lot to our live shows which we love. We enjoy being involved in every aspect so we can push forward what we’re all about.” Whimsical, youthful and melodic, the group’s EP sounds like the perfect soundtrack for anyone who enjoys alternative indie pop. ALXNDR might be young, but they’re on the path most bands in their respect found well after their first EP. As for 2016, the group are excited to tour, stating it’s “the highlight every year, all year [round].” “We hope people understand the very essence and honesty of us,” Snowdon explained. “Hopefully people will understand our dynamic influence and stick with us through an experimental ride.” PHOTO: Jonathan Cox INTERVIEW: Jessica Klinner STORY: Bridjet Mendyuk


H O M E Los Angeles, California N O W J A M M I N G “Set On Fire” C U R R E N T LY Working on a sophomore EP


themselves to Silver Lake, California, where they have transformed a bomb shelter in the back yard of Li’s house into their very own rehearsal space and recording studio. While Zaghi has lived in L.A. his whole life, Bis and Li both made the pilgrimage to the city of angels, and it’s been the perfect setting to become Magic Giant.

Frontman, Austin Bis is no stranger to music. He had previously written with artists like Steve Aoki, David Guetta and others before pursuing a melting pot of folk instruments like banjo and fiddle, with a dance style to create what Magic Giant like to call folk revival. Bis recalls that he was never around that type of music much growing up, but it was a sound he had always been drawn to.

“There’s just so much music here and it’s really a collaborative place,” Bis shares. “There’s just a feeling that you can do whatever you want to do and just make great content and the great stuff will surface to the top. It’s a really freeing notion and place to live where you feel anything is possible.”

New Year’s resolution every year; however, many don’t usually follow through with the goals they set for themselves each January. In 2012, when two musicians unknowingly made the same resolution, to start a band, they came together and what is now known as Magic Giant was born.

“We’re a reflection of our time and our different influences,” he says. “We’re just really drawn to rootsy, folky instruments and we really like to dance so we just mashed them together.” When Bis set out to start a band, he had no idea what Magic Giant would entail, but he was persistent in finding it. After talking with, being introduced to and playing music with about a hundred different musicians, Bis and Zambricki Li crossed paths. While Bis was writing pop music and Li was writing for movies, they started writing music together. Immediately, something clicked. “It ended up just being naturally fell into,” Bis admits. “We were both doing our own things, and for some reason, when we wrote, something clicked, maybe that I was drawn to the southern folk elements or just his incredible lyrics. For whatever reason, we had this really good synergy writing initially.” While on the hunt for another addition to the band, Bis saw Brian Zaghi playing bass very unassumingly at a friend’s show. While he got his contact info just in case, Bis knew Zaghi had to be the newest member after finding YouTube videos of the bass player salsa dancing. “Not just okay salsa dancing but so charismatic just a ball of energy on the dance floor with everyone’s eyes on him,” Bis recalls. They knew that they wanted to bring that kind of energy to Magic Giant, but Bis never expected what else Zaghi would bring to the table. With the inclusion of a third member, the band began to take the shape of a great friendship. In Zaghi’s previous band, all the members were best friends who decided to create a band because they hung out all the time, and he carried that mentality on to Magic Giant. “I wasn’t from L.A. I didn’t have that and I needed to create it,” Austin shares. “I really longed for a band and I didn’t know about the friendship part. That has been the most pleasant surprise because they’re my best friends now.” The band began in Venice but has since transplanted

In that bomb shelter studio, Magic Giant created many songs and their self-titled EP, which included five tracks. The opener, “Let It Burn” brought the band together with trumpet players Spencer Ludwig (of Capital Cities) and Rashawn Ross (of the Dave Matthews Band). In between working with artists like Usher and Eminem, Ross was very excited to work with both Magic Giant and Ludwig, and it proved to be a great collaboration. In the future, Bis says there are lots of other artists he would like to work and tour with from producers like Markus Dravs and Rick Rubin to artists like Mumford and Sons and Edward Sharpe, who had a very big impact on the Magic Giant style. “He really had a big impact on me personally,” Bis says. “At Lollapalooza like 5 and half years ago whenever that was when they played there for the first time, that was actually the catalyst for me personally of being drawn to all of these instruments and that type of music and this culture. It really changed my life.” That may have been a catalyst for Biis personally, but an entirely different festival was the extra push Magic Giant needed to give the project all they had. After working on a bit of a predecessor for Magic Giant, other endeavors pulled both Bis and Li in other directions. That is until they got the call to play Sweetlife Music festival in Washington D.C., and it was a no brainer to keep going. Since their first show as Magic Giant in March of 2014, they have been on a roll, playing several other festivals and touring. They love playing venues that mean something to them, like places where they’ve seen great shows, as well as some unconventional places like forests and yoga classes. Last year, they played 80 shows in about 30 cities and hope to cover about double that this year. “Those are the touching moments for bands when you get to go back and play in those places you’ve aspired to play in,” Bis shares. “We wanted to tour our whole lives. It’s really fun playing for people who know you and it’s really fun playing for people who have never seen you. Both of them are fun in different ways.” PHOTOS: Courtney Coles | INTERVIEW & STORY: Jennifer Boylen




H O M E Los Angeles, California N O W J A M M I N G “Electric Love” from Dopamine C U R R E N T LY Touring through Europe 30 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET

LIFE AND CAREERS CERTAINLY don’t always go as planned. While BØRNS mastermind Garrett Borns studied and pursued visual arts and film making as a teenager, music is where he ultimately found his place. Currently promoting his debut full-length album, Dopamine, and touring around the country and other parts of the world, his musical ambitions have taken him on a crazy, new journey.

“Music was always kind of present in my life, but it wasn’t until I graduated high school that I started actually traveling and writing and working on my album and figuring out exactly what kind of sound I wanted to pursue,” Borns explains. While Borns is passionate about expressing himself artistically—in more ways than one—he says music offers something that other art forms can’t. “Music is a very special way of expressing because it’s one of the only artistic mediums that’s very ephemeral, that’s in the moment… It affects you vibrationally and you can’t touch it,” he says. In order to move forward in his new musical career, Borns took the jump and moved from his home in Michigan to sunny Los Angeles. He found himself inspired by his new environment and let these vibes affect the new material he was creating, particularly on his 2014 EP, Candy, and his latest concoction, Dopamine. “I think I was writing differently,” Borns describes. “There’s a lot more open space and I feel like I need that for my headspace. In all my music, I feel like I’m picturing a large open space to fill. I always feel like I want to write music that feels like it’s ascending and sort of echoing and floating, so you kind of need a lot of open space for that.” Between 2014 and 2015, Borns put out both an EP and a full length album, signed with major label Interscope Records, and caught a lot of good buzz for himself. While Borns has been at the music game for a while, the last year has been monumental. “The past year has been pretty crazy, lots of milestones that I’ve always wanted to make in music… I’ve learned a lot about myself as a performer and a writer,” he expresses. “There’s been a lot of times when it’s like I’m working with deadlines that I’ve never had to work with before, so I can’t really overthink a lot of things, it’s kind of just going with your gut instinct.”

In the last year as well, Borns has taken to the road with his new music, touring all over for months on end. Being on the road this year has been both a rewarding and eye opening experience for the upand-coming artist, especially now that he’s able to take new material from Dopamine for a test drive. “It’s nice to play new songs and see how people are responding to that in the live environment because you never really know what people are going to feel at the live show, but it seems like everyone’s really enjoying the new stuff,” Borns says. Aside from that, Borns expresses that touring has proven to be a growing experience for him as a professional. “You don’t really realize what’s going on behind the scenes until you’re actually in it,” he says. “We’re not just waltzing into a club and playing a show and having a bunch of beers and just chilling; we’re working. It’s a really intense schedule.” But in the last year, Borns was definitely not alone along the way. From his friendship with producer Tommy English, who worked with Borns on both Candy and Dopamine, to the band and crew that have worked alongside him on the road, Borns is appreciative of his support system. “I feel like I have a team that I really believe in and it’s like a mutual belief,” he describes. “I just feel really fortunate as a new artist to have such a great team to be on the road with… and to have a very tight-knit crew.” He changed his plans and took a chance on music, creating the dreamy and catchy music of BØRNS. It seems that music has offered him more than a job; it’s taken him to some pretty incredible places and opened the doors to some pretty amazing moments. “I think it always kind of hits me that I’m on stage every night. I’m covering a lot of new territory whether it’s in Europe or here,” Borns explains. “Just to see people coming out to see a show that are really connected to the music, that’s a great feeling. Just something as simple as someone singing your words back to you, that’s definitely a moment.” PHOTOS: Sam Polonsky INTERVIEW & STORY: Annette Hansen




“I feel like it opens us up, it doesn’t limit us, you know? We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves,” DiScanio remarks. “We want to open ourselves up to as many people as we can, as many audiences as we can. We don’t want to be afraid to do things like [tour with artists of different genres].” During their first round on the Vans Warped Tour back in 2014, State Champs established friendships with bands of all genres—pop, metal, acoustic soloacts and punk to disclose a few—rooting in the band a desire to have an open mind when it comes to touring.


outside of Albany, New York, Derek DiScanio is finally able to unwind and spend time with family and friends after putting a whirlwind year of touring, writing and promoting with his band, State Champs, behind him—all right before diving back in headfirst and kicking off the new year with a massive world tour co-headliner with U.K. rockers, Neck Deep. If one word could sum up 2015 for State Champs, it’d be insanity. The guys started the year recording their new album Around the World and Back in Los Angeles, which was followed by touring all of spring alongside All Time Low on the Future Hearts tour and then spending a month in Australia in support of teen heartthrobs and fellow rockers 5 Seconds of Summer in what DiScanio claims as “one of the most controversial announcements we’ve ever made.” Upon their return to the U.S., the band set out on their first headlining tour only to jet off to the U.K. and Europe with Knuckle Puck as soon as it was over. In October, the band’s homecoming was welcomed with the release of their newest album as well as a tour with the Wonder Years, which brought an end to the craziest year of State Champs’s career. Since the start of the band in 2010, the guys of State Champs have toured consistently as support acts to scene veterans such as New Found Glory, Motion City Soundtrack and All Time Low. More recently, the guys have toured with newcomers like Knuckle Puck and 5 Seconds of Summer, giving themselves exposure to a wide spectrum of fans, but most importantly experience.


“It made us feel like, ‘Why wouldn’t we open ourselves up to different fan bases like that and do whatever we want with touring with bands like that.’ We just don’t want to limit ourselves, that’s the biggest thing,” DiScanio says. As the summer of 2015 came around, the band made the announcement that they would act as support to the worldwide phenomenon and genrecontroversial band 5 Seconds of Summer on the Australian leg of their Rock Out with Your Socks Out tour. The announcement caused a stir amongst fans— some praising the band for taking on the incredible opportunity whereas others ridiculed and ended their relationship with the band over their affiliation with the highly successful teen heartthrobs. “We knew what we were getting into with that. But we weren’t really scared with it,” says DiScanio as he recalls the announcement and when they met the four Aussies. “We met those guys in April when we were out [in LA] recording our album, Around the World and Back, and they happened to be there as well, recording their new album. We hit it off. They’re the same kind of guys as us. They’re just four band dudes who like hanging out, being normal,

We we want to open ourselves up to as many people as we can, as many audiences as we can”

H O M E Albany, New York N O W J A M M I N G Around the World and Back C U R R E N T LY Embarking on a world tour with Neck Deep





being young and having a good time. So when they asked us to do the tour, we didn’t think too much about it.” However, a major concern was soon brought to the forefront—all of the existing 5 Seconds of Summer shows were sold out, leaving core Australian fans discouraged and hopeless on having a chance to see one of their favorite bands. But State Champs remedied the issue by announcing their own string of headlining sideshows that would take place during their time in the land down under. The tour with 5 Seconds of Summer allotted exponential growth for the band, allowing them to play large arenas with an audience of roughly 15,000 people each night, a significant difference to the couple hundred that made up the band’s headlining sideshows. The tour also allowed the band to showcase a raw, pop-punk sound to 5 Seconds of Summer’s younger fan base. “We got the best of both worlds, really,” DiScanio emphasizes. “We would do the 5 Seconds of Summer show and have to win over all the younger fans there and then the next night we would get the comfort of playing our own headline show to all of our core fans and bounce back and forth from what we’re used to, to kind of being outside of the box, testing ourselves and having to be the band that needs to prove themselves and introduce themselves to people. It really helped us as a band. It pushed us to the limit. It’s something we’re never going to forget and we’re never going to regret making the decisions we do.” While the band loved their time performing on a huge arena stage, the intimacy of a couple-hundred-person club show is where their heart truly lies. Commenting on the success of bands such as Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory and Yellowcard, DiScanio expresses the significance that lies within the hot, sweaty and crowded club show. “They’re so intimate and [playing club shows] is what they’re used to doing and you can tell that they have been there and that’s where they come from,” DiScanio states. “It’s a really special moment. That’s something we’ll never stop doing and it’s something that’s really important to us.” Encompassing the majority of 2015, the band’s endless touring schedule was given a slight break as they released and promoted their highly successful sophomore album, Around the World and Back. Even though the album has been exceedingly well received by fans and critics alike, skepticism and anxiety was high amongst the members as they entered the recording studio back in April. As an established band with fans and a successful debut album under their belts, the pressure to put out an even better album was budding. However, the band pushed the fear aside and let their creativity and experimentation take over. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing, especially in the very beginning. The recording of Around the World and Back

was the band’s first exposure to living in Los Angeles and working with producer/engineer Kyle Black, who has credits working with 5 Seconds of Summer’s Sounds Good Feels Good as well as All Time Low’s Future Hearts. Through fits of laughter, DiScanio recalls the rocky beginning of the record and working with Black. “We knew nothing about him besides the fact that our label and our booking agent had pushed him on us and highly recommended him. We got there and started messing around with pre-production, met him, and started demoing songs in the early recording process and we hated him. We didn’t like him at all,” DiScanio laughs. “We’ve never told anyone that before, but it was a horrible beginning start to the record. I ended up calling our label and saying, ‘We’re done here, we got to get out of here. This isn’t working out. We hate this guy. We’re not getting a vibe together. We’re going to have to nix this and go with somebody else.’ But the label said, ‘Just take it slow. We’re not going to pull the plug on this; you guys just got out there. Take a couple days. You should still move forward with your record and do what you can.’” Laughing, DiScanio continues, “Basically what the label said was, ‘If the record sucks, we won’t put it out and we’ll record another one.’ It was a very weird time.” Days came and went, and the band had blocked out everything trying to write the album they wanted, all while still letting a new team of producers and engineers in on their concept of how they wanted to record the album. “I feel like we’re picky and very to ourselves. We know what we want; I guess we’re a little bit stubborn. It took a little bit to get a vibe with everyone in the studio. But sure enough, a week went by and we started really getting close and songs started coming together and as we started to track things like the drums and get out our hands dirty, picking apart little things, we really did start to like them,” DiScanio recalls. “I was a little bit skeptical of letting these new, random people into our recording process and recording cycle,” he continues. “That made me learn a lot more. These people are here to help you and here to benefit you and you have to let them in and experiment and live a little. Just go for it. That’s what we did and it turned out a lot better [than expected].” After the recording of State Champs’s first LP, The Finer Things, DiScanio learned a lot about himself and how he wanted to represent the band as a whole through their lyrics, which he brought to the production of Around the World and Back. DiScanio, instead of putting all of the lyrical proponents on himself, got the other band members involved, asking for feedback on song ideas and suggestions on choruses and verses, pulling out dictionaries and thesauruses as needed. HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET - 39

“I would take something to Tyler [Szalkowski] or Ryan [Scott Graham] and say, ‘What do you think of this?’ Ryan would also come to me and help me out towards the end stages of finishing a song and a lot of the time he would be like, ‘You write all these happy songs and they always have happy endings, why don’t you get a little emotional and write a heartbreak song for once,’” DiScanio reminisces, laughing. “I didn’t know if I wanted to or even if I had that deeper emotion. It almost came down to writing, not fictional stories, but telling a story that could be relatable to people.” On Around the World and Back, songs such as “Losing Myself” (one of DiScanio’s favorites) embraces the triumphant and overcoming feeling one gets, while the slower, ballad-esque song “All or Nothing” tells a different story. “I originally wrote that song up until the end as a very happy song,” DiScanio admits. “It was going to turn out with everything working out and everything is okay and they got back together and she said ‘all or nothing,’ but Ryan said, ‘That’s not fun, dude! People wanna cry at the end of this song, give it to them!’ [Laughs.] So we took it from the bridge of the song into the last chorus— this needed to be the heartbreak song. You don’t get back with this girl after the struggle you went through. It was cool to experiment with that and get feedback from the guys. [It] really brought out different sides of me. We really dug into it and wanted to tell the stories that we wanted to tell, whether they’re super personal to us or outside of the box, we knew people would still relate.” With the success and hype that has been consistently surrounding Around the World and Back, State Champs will finally be able to perform the album in all its emotional and triumphant glory on their co-headlining world tour with Neck Deep that starts this month. The tour is currently confirmed in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom as well as the United States and will last into the spring. “It was bound to happen,” says DiScanio of touring with Neck Deep. “I feel like we had to do it at some point. Everyone was asking for it, and they’re some of our best friends. 40 - HIGHLIGHTMAGAZINE.NET

We met them on Warped Tour [in 2014]. It was our first year and it was also their first year, and we hit it off. We knew we had to do more tours so we ended up going to Australia with them. Everyone was mad we never actually did a proper U.S. tour so we were like, ‘Why don’t we just do a whole world tour so nobody can be mad at us for not coming to their country.’” But with a world tour comes a long and extensive schedule. “I guess when you think about it in the grand spectrum, coming up in January, it looks like we’re going to be gone pretty much all year,” he laughs. “Not a lot of people know that yet either because we haven’t announced everything we have going on this year, but in reality, that’s what we signed up for and that’s what we wanted to do.” Like a majority of the bands out there, touring is tough, exhausting and emotional. But for a band like State Champs, this is all they have ever wanted to do, and with their recent rise to success, they’re able to fly out family members and loved ones to shows if they ever become too homesick. For State Champs, their career has been a series of lineup changes and touring, with the release of a debut album in the mix, but 2015 brought with it more than they could have ever hoped for. The guys were rewarded with a widely successful sophomore album, even with it’s bumpy start, and tours were accomplished alongside bands that range from Knuckle Puck to All Time Low to 5 Seconds of Summer, showcasing the bands open mindedness when it comes to tour mates. Finally, a rapidly growing fanbase is to show for all the hard work they have put in not only in this past year, but also since the very beginning., “The most exciting thing is being able to say that these answers will change in about a year,” DiScanio says, “and that’s what matters.” PHOTOS: Casey Lee INTERVIEW & STORY: Ally Fisher







PHOTO: Savana Ogburn



reviews ARTIST

Panic! At The Disco ALBUM

Death of a Bachelor

SOUNDS LIKE Fall Out Boy Paramore All Time Low RECOMMENDED TRACKS “Death of a Bachelor” “Impossible Year” “Victorious”




Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time




Emperor’s New Clothes


Death of a Bachelor




LA Devotee


Golden Days


The Good, The Bad and The Dirty


House of Memories


Impossible Year

BUY IT ON January 15th, 2015



Panic! At The Disco’s fifth studio album, Death of a Bachelor, is all a fan could ask for—it delivers the unexpected and is an explosion of sound. Reminiscent of their 2011 release, Vices & Virtues, their new album focuses on the iconic baroque, high-energy sound they do so well. The album also has the same level of theatrics and bounce as one would expect from any Panic! At The Disco album. The album opens with “Victorious,” a light and multifaceted song that builds mystique as to what to expect in the coming tracks. The song is an aggressive rock anthem that is dangerously contagious. Interestingly, the lyrics tell a much grimmer and darker story. The album then moves to singles “Hallelujah” and “Death of a Bachelor.” “Hallelujah” begins with a cacophony of messy sounds that builds and immediately grabs the audience while “Death of a Bachelor” steals the show from the first note. Brendon Urie’s vocal talents truly shine and are fully explored throughout the Frank Sinatra inspired track. The song has a sophistication and ease about it— the epitome of an electric modern take on old school 1950s crooners. “Death Of A Bachelor” then ends with regal trumpets that add even more finesse and groove to the song. This ode to the legendary Sinatra is absolutely compelling and swoon worthy. The album ends with “Impossible Year,” a disheartening, slow lull compared to the rest of the album. The simple piano ballad is lonely and brooding. The lyrics such as, “Only black days and sky days and clouds full of fear…all the guests at the party are all insincere” begin to tell of the sad reality check that the bachelor finally experiences. The emotion and raw vulnerability in Urie’s voice will tear your heart out and make you empathize with his surprise. The true beauty of Death Of A Bachelor is its variety of uninhibited musical mashups of genres within each song and the different stories told throughout the lyrics. Panic! At The Disco have always been ingenious word wizards with their lyrics, and this album just solidifies their cleverness. The vivid and lively descriptions of the bachelor’s life make you feel as though you are there partying and crashing with the bachelor. The album does not disappoint and highlights what we all already knew: Panic! At the Disco are an unstoppable force of musical genius.

REVIEW: Theresa Pham

A r t i s t Daughter A l b u m Not To Disappear “New Ways” is a haunting introduction that sets up the tone of Daughter’s sophomore fulllength album, Not To Disappear. Melancholic melodies are a consistent trait of Daughter’s style, and this album is overflowing with them. The music is wistful and relaxing but also very glum. In many tracks, Elena Tonra’s enchanting vocals sound like a cry for help. “Alone/With You” is a heartbreaking track that begins with the words, “I hate sleeping alone” with eerie chimes in the background that transition into the opposing lyrics, “I hate sleeping with you.” The contradicting message presents an individual tormented by not wanting to be alone, but feeling alone in a relationship. Daughter’s lyrics are unfortunately relatable and present an opportunity for self-reflection. While keeping up with their calming sound, they have been able to incorporate smooth rock to make the album a little more audibly intriguing despite the gloominess that sometimes seems to loom overhead. Although there are not any standout tracks like “Youth” or “Smother” from 2013’s If You Leave, the album as a whole is polished and satisfactory. r e c o m m e n d e d t r a c k s “Numbers” & “Doing the Right Thing” r e v i e w Haley Black

A r t i s t Harriet A l b u m American Appetite Harriet is one of those bands that cannot be categorized into one specific genre. The definition of their style is a heavy combination of glam rock, indie rock, electronic and jazz. The title and opening track, “American Appetite” begins with a jazzy feel and transitions into an upbeat disarray of indie rock. Harriet bears a similar nature to Dutch Uncles, another eccentric indie rock band, as well as a mash-up of the Shins and Elton John. Each track has subtle yet intricate stylistic differences, but the album does not have any extraordinary tracks or singles that stand alone. Provocative lyrics, particularly in “Burbank,” also make an appearance on American Appetite. Harriet incorporates excellent bass lines, finger picking and an uncanny falsetto from frontman Alex Casnoff, who is also a member of Dawes and PAPA. This project is easily distinguished in comparison to his other musical contributions. Listeners who enjoy a little bit of everything as well as unorthodox lyrical content will appreciate the merging of genres that Casnoff and his bandmates have created in Harriet’s debut album. r e c o m m e n d e d t r a c k s “American Appetite” & “This Time I Was Right” r e v i e w Haley Black

A r t i s t It Lies Within A l b u m Paramount It Lies Within’s Paramount fuses metalcore and electric dance vibes—an uncommon combination in the alternative scene. Pairing chugging, heavy rhythm with melodic lead guitar and synth-like sounds establishes a compelling uniqueness. Add growling vocals in two octaves and a modest, mid-range singer to the mix, and Paramount stands out as an album trying to own its namesake. Early single “Ecdysis” features layered vocals (screamed and sung) and a staccato breakdown. “Reap What You Sow” highlights melodic elements in a slower song that echoes a theme of accepting consequences and contains one of the album’s best lines: “You treated me like an option, so I left you like a choice.” These songs attract first-time listeners because they sound so similar and meet genre expectations. However, Paramount breaks cookie cutter patterns and clichés in later offerings such as “Light the Way” and “Broken Streets.” Paramount is a solid sophomore album that helps It Lies Within leave an indelible impression in a growing scene. r e c o m m e n d e d t r a c k s “Reap What You Sow” & “Light the Way” r e v i e w Marissa Galupi


Issue #47  

Issue #47: Ft. State Champs, BØRNS, Magic Giant, ALXNDR, Stories Untold, + much more!

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