NKD N A K E D M A G A Z I N E
RENEE OLSTEAD FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE RYAN BEATTY
N A K E D M A G A Z I N E
PUBLISHERS Ariella Mastroianni Catherine Powell
EDITOR Nicola Pring
PHOTOGRAPHY Catherine Powell
WRITERS Katie Amey Isaac Bate Vincent Broazzi Eden Jezierski Olga Khvan Stacy Magallon Nicole Mazza Catherine Powell Tanya Traner Kiki Van Son
DESIGNER Ariella Mastroianni
COURTESY OF Âť Ambassadors
Dance For The Dying
Bright Light Bright Light
Florida Georgia Line
Good Old War
The Jane Doze
CMJ Music Marathon
The Ugly Club
Tell All Your Friends PR Barcelona
Another Reybee Production Atlantic Records Southern Hospitality PR Big Picture Media 2
Big Picture Media Big Picture Media Sweet Talk PR
Stunt Company Media The Jane Doze
Pearl Group Entertainment
Big Picture Media Press Here Publicity Patent Pending NMA-LA
Big Picture Media
ALSO FEATURING 4-7
FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE
CMJ MUSIC MARATHON
GOOD OLD WAR
BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT
RENEE OLSTEAD 3
PAPER RO 4
WORDS: OLGA KHVAN PHOTOS: CATHERINE POWELL NKDMAG.COM
These days, most artists’ success is ephemeral. Major record labels are scrambling to keep up with the latest thing, without any regard for the actual art of music. That’s the way the guys of Paper Route see it, at least.
ajor labels can be good for some people, but I feel the way that system is set up right now, they aren’t done destroying things enough and I think they’ll honestly kill a lot more art and then they’ll have to completely reset,” says lead singer and sampler J.T. Daly. “I don’t think we’ve seen the worst yet.” “They have a few more years of monopolizing. They’re scrambling, for sure,” says Chad Howat, bassist, keyboardist and sampler. “I heard someone say it’s like rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic. It’s a sinking ship.” Paper Route did give major record labels a shot — they released their debut album, Absence, under Universal Motown in 2009. But when the label shut down in 2011, the band was transferred to Universal Records — right in the midst of work on their second album. The transition from one label to another was not a smooth one. “They had about 400 acts that they needed to figure out how to pay the bills with,” drummer Gavin McDonald says. “And we were just three kids from Nashville.” “Everyone was so busy that they didn’t even know we existed, which is what made us so unhappy,” Chad adds. Sitting on the stage at Mercury Lounge, where they’ll play a headlining show later tonight, the guys — all three wearing a combination of dark jeans and light denim button-downs — recalled the long and “arduous” process of writing and releasing their second album, The Peace of Wild Things. Feeling dissatisfied and neglected by their label, the “kids” from Nashville — whose paths originally converged at Greenville College in Greenville, Ill. — decided to take matters into their own hands. After leaving Universal Records, the band decided to start their
own label and release their second record themselves. But the transition from working with a major record label to being completely autonomous wasn’t a smooth one either. “It was a very disheartening time because we just had this record that we really loved and wanted to put out, but just had no outlet for it,” Chad says. In addition to leaving their label, the band experienced another major change — the departure of Andy Smith, a founding member. “As soon as we had finished touring for about two years straight, we all kind of needed to reevaluate what we were doing,” Gavin says. “We tried to make it work, but we also would never force anybody to stay in this band and if it’s not working, it’s not working. We value personal lives and family and things outside of the band as much as we possibly can, so when those things were suffering, we found it very important to make sure that that was taken care of over pursuing music.” The guys found it especially challenging to keep up with their personal lives while on the road. “Life just moves on and you aren’t a part of it,” J.T. says. “You come back and all of your friends that weren’t in love are in love and most of your friends that were in love aren’t in love anymore or they have a kid. Those are pretty much the only options. Life goes on.” Andy’s departure and the band’s newfound independence from a major record label allowed them to step back, reevaluate and figure things out anew. “We had to adapt and evolve and try to figure out what the three of us could bring to the table and play to our strengths and we wrote a lot of songs and just finished the ones that we all connected with
» the most, essentially,” Chad says. David Bowie or Tom Waits, these “There’s no such thing as artist development anyThe long process of reevalupeople that have withstood the more. There used to be this period of time during ation was made easier by Paper test of time, they didn’t blow up Route’s fans, whose patience right away. Now you basically just which you didn’t have to come out of the gates with only motivated the band to keep have pop icons and that’s it. That’s this smashing, in-the-moment song in order to keep going. all that there is going to be and “I guess we just have really diethey’ll just disappear as fast as making music.” hard fans. They’re a small bunch, they appeared.” but people that love Paper Route The guys aren’t opposed to »CHAD HOWAT« love us,” Chad says. “They just kept working with a label in the future doing things to let us know that — but not just any label. they weren’t going anywhere. “If there’s a label out there that We just love to make records and sees the future of music, ‘Music play, so we weren’t going to let Business 2.0,’ and is interested anything deter that. It didn’t come in working in a way that is not out as fast as we wanted it to, but traditional at all, I think we’d be the time it took to make it was probably worth it.” open to it,” Chad says. “But it’s really got to come down to someone Releasing music may take longer without the support of a label, catching our vision and wanting to get on board with where we’re but the guys don’t seem to regret their decision to stay independent. already going and what we’re already doing. I think we’d be open to it, “There’s no such thing as artist development anymore. There used but it’d have to be a forward-looking label that’s passionate.” to be this period of time during which you didn’t have to come out of the gates with this smashing, in-the-moment song in order to keep For now, the guys are content to keep working on their own. making music. You could be like David Bowie and put out three or four records until you find your stride. No one is even at a label long “We’re just basically giving ourselves permission to take that enough to see that through,” Chad says. path,” Chad says. “We’re our own label and we can just keep making “That’s the huge reason why rock stars, I guess, in the truest whatever music we want and put it out however we want. No one’s sense of the word, are almost extinct,” J.T. says. “The icons that we all going to pull the plug on us except for ourselves.” reference or the people that we just love, bands like Radiohead or
WORDS: STACY MAGALLON | PHOTOS: CATHERINE POWELL
hen I think about Ryan Beatty, there are two things that come to mind. One, I met him in a cheese shop. Two, he never knew what he wanted to do with his life, or at least that’s what he tells me. There is an unexpected drizzle outside, and Ryan and I find a place to sit in a secluded corner of a little gelato shop in the brick maze that is Chelsea Market. Dressed in a simple brown polo shirt, dark-wash jeans and a thin windbreaker, Ryan easily blends in with all the other New Yorkers trying to make it through the day. As he begins to tell me about his budding career in music, I observe that Ryan is as borderline “normal” as any 17-year-old boy in this city — until you search his name on YouTube. “I never really took singing seriously,” Ryan says. But with 250,000 loyal fans subscribed to his YouTube channel, “TheRyanBeatty,” and over 30 million views of his musical covers and original work, almost anyone, myself included, could call his bluff. The funny thing is, he’s not lying.
Two years ago, Ryan, a Clovis, Calif. native, was just another teenager going through the motions of high school. At the time, the three central priorities in Ryan’s life were sports, music and surviving his sophomore year. His future was something he was completely uncertain of. However, singing was a hobby Ryan stuck with for years. Now, today, a rainy, bleak Tuesday afternoon in downtown Manhattan, there’s one thing Ryan, now a senior, can’t keep quiet about, and it’s the one thing he supposedly never took seriously. Ryan’s interest in music started when he was in seventh grade. His older sister created a YouTube channel and asked Ryan to cover a song with her on a whim. The video didn’t get much attention — it may have only reached a maximum amount of 200 views over the course of five months. But for the fun of it, Ryan and his sister continued to cover more songs, record more videos and upload them online. “She always wanted me to make my own channel, but I never did,” Ryan says. After more persistent pestering, his sister finally got to him. At the beginning of February, 2011, Ryan posted his very first video
‘I DON’T REALLY LOOK BACK AND WISH THINGS WERE DIFFERENT. I CHOSE TO DO THIS AND I’M STICKING TO IT.” » RYAN BEATTY «
“I DON’T REALLY HAVE TO WATCH MYSELF OR FORCE MYSELF TO BE A GOOD KID. I HAVE GOOD MORALS AND GOOD VALUES AND I STICK BY THEM.” » RYAN BEATTY «
5 THINGS RYAN BEATTY WANTS TO DO BEFORE HE DIES
5 THINGS RYAN BEATTY DOES NOT WANT TO DO BEFORE HE DIES
1. WRITE A SONG WITH JOHN MAYER 2. SEE JOHN MAYER PLAY LIVE 3. WRITE AN ENTIRE ALBUM ON HIS OWN 4. WIN A GRAMMY 5. SKYDIVE
1. BE A BAD INFLUENCE ON HIS FANS 2. LOSE HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS SUPPORTERS 3. LOSE HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS FAMILY 4. COMPROMISE HIS INTEGRITY AS A MUSICIAN 5. LIVE WITH REGRETS
RYAN BEATTY on YouTube. Within a week, the video received over 10,000 views. “I was so shocked,” Ryan says, smiling from ear to ear. “I don’t know what could have happened, but maybe I just got lucky.” Sheer luck doesn’t cut it — especially after his second upload to the site was viewed over 20,000 times. Ryan continued to post videos and soon developed a fan base, later labeled “Team Beatty.” “My sister was like, ‘I told you so! I knew you should’ve done it!’” he says. In June of that year, the pieces of Ryan Beatty’s future began to find come together. “I met up with a bunch of producers, headed to a studio and started writing some songs,” Ryan says. His first recorded single, “Every Little Thing” was released in November of 2011 and received an overall positive reaction from his fans. “I was working on an album but I decided I wanted to put something smaller out there first, so I released a six-song EP instead.” His first EP, Because Of You, hit #1 on iTunes’ Pop Charts. The EP successfully captured the essence of Ryan’s signature soulful voice inspired by his favorite musical idols, Gavin DeGraw, Jason Mraz, John Mayer and Michael Bublé. This brings us to present day. With Ryan’s viral success in the music business, his schedule is no longer that of a typical high school senior. Now, Ryan is taking high school courses online as opposed to studying at Clovis High School back in California. “I do miss the social aspect of being in an actual high school, but I definitely don’t regret anything I’ve ever done,” Ryan says. “I don’t really look back and wish things were different. I chose to do this, and I’m sticking by it.” Sticking by his passion is something Ryan continues to do, and the young, driven musician has a dedicated flock of followers to show for it. “The support I get on a day-to-day basis is overwhelming, but in a good way,” he says. “I get so many tweets and I wish I could get back to all of them, but realistically, I can’t. I’m so grateful for all of them.” The amount of followers on his Twitter account is on the
verge of hitting the 300,000 mark — way beyond the initial support of Ryan’s family and friends. However, the people who stuck by Ryan from the very beginning are still the people who stick by him today. “My friends and family keep me very down to earth about everything,” Ryan says. Though his friends often joke around about hanging out with “the Ryan Beatty,” Ryan knows they’re only being playful. “They don’t treat me any differently. When I’m around them, I’m not the Ryan Beatty. I’m just Ryan,” he says. Although Ryan is 17, his audience is much younger. He isn’t concerned about being any sort of negative influence toward his supporters, though. For one thing, Ryan has never been tempted to do anything that would change the way he presented himself. For another, he would never want his actions to be a poor reflection of his character. “I don’t really have to watch myself or force myself to be a good kid,” Ryan says. “I have good morals and good values and I stick by them.” Ryan’s baby steps toward fame were all because of YouTube, there’s no getting around that. But Ryan’s career in music is moving forward, and he’s ready to let go of his original Internet fame. “It got me a great start, but I definitely would love to not have that YouTube sensation name forever,” Ryan says with a tone of certainty. “In recent interviews, I’ve been mentioned as an upcoming singer and songwriter, and it’s nice to be known as not just another kid from YouTube,” he says. We walk into the madness in Chelsea Market and attempt to take as many photos as possible without attracting too much attention. I fall into the background as Ryan poses for the camera, and from my peripheral view, I watch a businessman in a tailored suit take a photo of Ryan from afar. Though that man may have just snapped the picture out of sheer curiosity without any knowledge of who Ryan Beatty is, I giggle to myself. He’ll know soon enough.
EMII WORDS: KIKI VAN SON | PHOTOS: CATHERINE POWELL
TWO MAIN COMPONENTS CONSTITUTE EMII’S WORLD AS A MUSICIAN: HER MUSICAL HEROES AND SUPERHEROES.
er fascination with Marvel Comics since she was young is as fundamental to her artistic identity as her love of music, and it’s refreshing to see how she’s brought them together to form her act. Emii released her first EP, Magic, in 2010, followed by Mr. Romeo in 2011. In her video for the mystical arctic sphere of the title song off Mr. Romeo, Emii is found dancing among panthers and purple lights, displaying the contralto vocal range of Chrissie Hynde and Marvel Girl’s get up. Having worked with Snoop Dogg on the song, she commented on his recent transmutation. “It would have been really awesome if he was Snoop Lion during ‘Mr. Romeo’ because we could have worked that in there,” she said. Emii can assimilate trends in the mainstream as easily as she can assimilate unlikely characters in unlikely situations. When she was a child, she “would go up on random stages that weren’t [hers] and burst into song until [her] parents dragged [her] off.” She describes growing from that little girl into a singer-songwriter as “a natural progression.” Now she claims her own stage with thigh high spiked stilettos and a knowledge of X-Men to back them up. Though Emii’s provocative appearance is wonderfully juxtaposed with her lax demeanor, because while she’s an edgy pop sensation cloaked in glittery gothic attire, she still spends the majority of her interview musing about comics and idly laughing. Emii reveals that her double-i alias became a permanent fourth grade nickname after she created a music platform on MySpace in 2002. Born Emily Morrison, Emii was branded by social media. Though she’s lost touch with her original MySpace, she is active on other platforms like Twitter and Facebook. But she notes MySpace’s suitability for artists, and would prefer it’s apolitical stature as opposed to Facebook’s dependance on ‘likes’ to get material out there.
Growing up Emii tapped into every genre of music with the exception of “screamo and angry rap,” clarifying that she even listens to some country, but only the songs that aren’t “whiny and pity-party.” “Which does take out a lot of songs,” she says, smirking. When she reached high school her life was all about community theatre and working with local bands and producers. In Ohio, where she’s originally from, she was writing constantly until she was “barely legal,” at which point she left for New York. “Took a bus,” she says, nonchalantly, of her move. She established her music career in New York and after five years she relocated out to L.A. where her record label is stationed. She plans to move back to New York eventually, but for now, between shows she’s been in the studio putting the finishing touches on her latest album, which will be released later this year. “Damn, I miss it here so much,” she says, sighing and gazing outside onto a New York street. “I love this place.” But before any feelings of melancholy can settle, we jump to the most telling and also entertaining question of all. However hackneyed, the “Which five people, either living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party” question always elicits a cast of characters that’s very telling. The first four usually lay down the fundamentals. Emii automatically lists her major musical influences: Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders (“she’s funny”), Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and Elvis (“definitely Elvis, holy crap”). The last spot goes to the zinger that throws off the rest, and for Emii it’s Jack Black. “That would really fuck everything up,” she says, laughing. “I’ve had his song ‘Wonderboy’ stuck in my head all day, it’s ridiculous...Yeah, definitely Jack Black at the end of that.” It’s not surprising that Emii would insert a character of comic relief among a string of serious musicians. A girl with a voice and an imagination, Emii incorporates the stunts and theatrics of her favorite music and super heroes with an added twist of her own. She’s a zinger of a pop star and one to keep an eye on.
FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE WORDS & PHOTOS: CATHERINE POWELL
NEW YORK CITY DOES NOT HAVE A COUNTRY MUSIC RADIO STATION, AND HASN’T SINCE WYNY ABANDONED THE GENRE IN 2002.
ut when country band Florida Georgia Line played their hit single “Cruise” to a sold out audience at the Best Buy Theatre in Times Square that fact disappeared from my mind. Everyone in the crowd knew the words. That may have something to do with the certified gold single being # 13 on the iTunes Top 200 Chart. But it’s not just the single these country music fans know — it’s all their songs, with the exception of a few unreleased tracks. It’s been a long journey for Florida Georgia Line (comprised of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard) and it wasn’t always this awesome. I meet up with the band at the Rodeo Bar in New York City a day before they kick off their tour supporting country singer Jake Owen. Tyler, Brian and their team are seated around a table having an intense debate over the album art for their debut full-length, Here’s to the Good Times, which will be released on Dec. 4. “It’s the debut so I just think we should show people us,” Tyler says, before noticing my presence, “I’m sorry, you caught us right in the middle of this. I’m Tyler,” he says, extending his hand. I sit down and the duo tells me how their ride got started. Both Brian and Tyler grew up playing music in church in their
respective towns, Ormond Beach, Fla. and Monroe, Ga. before eventually meeting at Bellmont University in Nashville, Tenn. where Tyler was studying the entertainment industry and Brian was pursuing music business. Though the two agree their degrees help them a little bit here and there, nothing beats the first-hand experience they’ve had in the last year. “Going through it and seeing your friends go through it…there’s nothing like it,” Tyler says. “But Bellmont was definitely beneficial.” “Especially the networking,” Brian adds, noting that a lot of their classmates are now working various jobs in the music industry. After graduating in 2009, the band began to tour full time — sort of. “I guess you could say we were touring full time, but we were also working other jobs to afford to tour,” Brian says. Eventually it paid off and they were able to quit their side jobs a year and a half ago and have made music their only careers. Currently, the guys are prepping for the release of Here’s to the Good Times, which is a repackaging of their May release It’z Just What We Do, with an additional six songs, as well as two live tracks and two bonus tracks. “I think people will be bobbing their heads to it and getting a feel for our personalities,” Brian says of the album.
“[CRUISE] WAS SOMETHING WE LOVED AND KNEW WE COULD SING FOR THE REST OF OUR CAREERS, WHICH I THINK IS IMPORTANT.”
“WE CAN BE CREATIVE AND CHANGE THE GAME A LITTLE BIT. WE’RE IN A COOL POSITION WHERE MUSIC IS EVOLVING, AND COUNTRY MUSIC IS EVOLVING AND WE’RE AT THE BEGINNING OF IT.”
» BRIAN KELLEY « » TYLER HUBBARD «
he first five songs (released on the EP) are upbeat, party songs, whereas the new six show a mellower side to Florida Georgia Line, though they’re still feel-good tunes. Having already achieved radio success with “Cruise,” Brian and Tyler both agree their main goal with the new record is to get more people singing along at shows. “I think we knew we had something special,” Brian says of the writing process for “Cruise.” The band’s main excitement over the song came from the urge to play it live, as opposed to thinking they’d make money off of it. “It was something we loved and knew we could sing for the rest of our careers, which I think is important,” Brian says. Writing songs they know they won’t get bored of is a key component in Florida Georgia Line’s process. “Every now and then we’ll write a really cool song and be like ‘yeah that’s good,’ but we’ll just move forward tomorrow,’” Tyler says. “That’s what makes you a better writer.” Prior Florida Georgia Line’s success, Brian and Tyler signed a publishing deal, which they both consider a career defining moment. “For a while [my parents] thought this was kind of a hobby, but after that they definitely saw that it wasn’t,” Brian says. When writing, the duo can easily figure out if a song they wrote would work for them or would be better off going to someone else. “I don’t think we’ve ever tried to write a song for someone else, it just sometimes happens that way. We just love writing songs,” Tyler says.
Recently, the band co-wrote a song called “Summer Jam” with Jake Owen for his newest EP, Endless Summer, which duo both lend their voices to. “We’ve known [Owen] for a little less than a year and he’s a good buddy of ours,” Brian says. “We love working with him.” They’ll be opening for the country star throughout the fall. In a genre dominated mostly by older artists, Florida Georgia Line find being the young guys exciting. “I think it’s an opportunity to bring something fresh to the table,” Tyler says. “We can be creative and change the game a little bit. We’re in a cool position where music is evolving, and country music is evolving, and we’re at the beginning of it.” The two cite Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Tim McGraw as three main influences, but Tyler’s personal goal is to collaborate with Lil Wayne. “It’s definitely possible,” he jokes. With “Cruise” consistently climbing the country charts, getting a #1 single is something the two are crossing their fingers for. “This year has been a surreal year, and I think that would make it even more surreal,” Tyler says. At press time, the single has reached #3 on the U.S. Country Charts. The band have high hopes for their own headlining tour within the next two years. As our conversation winds down I ask what the most rewarding part of being musicians is. Brian smiles. “I got a text from my dad the other day. It was a picture message of ‘Get Your Shine On’ playing on the radio with a message that said ‘This never gets old,” he says. “It doesn’t.” NKD
MUSIC MARATHON Every year, hundreds of emerging artists travel to New York City for the CMJ Music Marathon looking to get discovered. This year, over 1,300 singers, rappers, musicians, journalists and industry professionals played shows, went to panels and discussions and hung out at New York’s downtown venues during the all-out, music-fueled party. PHOTOS: CATHERINE POWELL
For fans of: VAMPIRE WEEKEND, NEW VILLAGER, SLEIGH BELLS phrase “indie band from Brooklyn” brings so many names to mind that it could arguably be considered its own genre. But classification into just one genre doesn’t work for Ambassadors, one of the most recent musical acts to come out of the borough. “Unconsolable,” the first single from the band’s debut album Litost — whose twisted music video features Zosia Mamet of Girls and Mad Men fame — brings together a variety of elements that can be found separately in the music of fellow Brooklynites. It has pitchy falsettos comparable to Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, synth-pop sounds à la Sleigh Bells and a persistent percussion groove that brings to mind NewVillager’s “Rich Doors.” Not every song features synths and falsettos, but solid percussion is consistent throughout the album. It’s so predominant, in fact, that upon introducing himself, lead singer Sam Harris points out that he plays a floor tom before mentioning his vocal contributions. “It’s very rhythmic. It’s sort of this dark, tribal, semi-electronic, semi-classic rock,” Sam says of the record. Ambassadors may be a new, but they’re moving at a quick pace. Sam, his brother Casey, who plays the keyboards, and guitarist Noah Feldshuh grew up in Ithaca, N.Y. Eventually they moved to New York City, where Sam and Noah enrolled at The New School, while Casey worked as a piano tuner. At The New School, Sam and Noah met drummer Adam Levin. Right after graduation — which was only a couple of years ago — the four guys came together to turn their ongoing jam sessions into a full-time occupation.
“WE DON’T GO INTO IT THINKING WE’RE GOING TO GET SIGNED THE MONDAY AFTER CMJ.” CASEY HARRIS, AMBASSADORS “We decided to just hit the ground running and we made a record that took us about a year to put together, write, record and everything,” Sam says. Since the record’s release in January, the band has toured with Canadian singer Lights and Chicago-based rock band Local H. “It’s very important for us to be out on the road as much as possible,” Casey says. But this month, the band found a reason to stay at home, given the opportunity to play at CMJ Music Marathon. CMJ is not only a music festival, but also an industry showcase. But Ambassadors, who
aren’t signed to a record label — and at the moment aren’t looking to get signed either — were there purely for the music. “We don’t go into it thinking we’re going to get signed the Monday after CMJ,” Casey says. “Maybe we did that three years ago, but now we know what it’s about. It’s just a great way for music to get heard.” “It’s easy to just sort of wait around and cross your fingers and hope that some big producer’s going to come along,” Sam says. Ambassadors, on the other hand, like to keep things moving, even if it means doing it on their own. “We’ve been taking a lot of this into our own hands and quite frankly, I think we’re doing a decent job of it,” Sam says. “We’re not in a position of waiting for something to happen.”
WORDS: OLGA KHVAN
DANCE FOR THE dying For fans of: THE KILLERS, METRIC, THE CURE
CAM MEEKINS For fans of: SAMMY ADAMS, HOODIE ALLEN, LOGIC more a music first person, and if people want to brand me that’s fine but I just care about writing music for myself really,” Cam Meekins says. He’s commenting on a modern trend — a perceived “lack of genuine artists” with greater emphasis on commercial presentation. Cam takes his image seriously too, but it’s an image centered on organic artistry. Cam has been involved with music from the beginning. As a child, listening was habitual and practicing was made easy in a household of musicians and instruments. He’s a self-taught rapper, drummer, pianist and guitarist, as well as a writer. His raps are the raw ramblings that “just come from living normal life,” he says, noting that his writing is more effective when he’s away from the studio. Often, he’ll jot down full verses in random places at random times before he has a beat. Sometimes he’ll sit down with a piano melody then create a chorus instead. Regardless, he abides by one strict rules as far as writing goes: “the song has to write itself to 80 percent of what it is within the first 30 minutes, otherwise it’s probably not going to be a good song,” he says. He doesn’t force it if it doesn’t come naturally. Cam began producing when he realized anyone could do it with the aid of GarageBand. He graduated to using real equipment by the time he reached high school. He spent those years recording, putting out songs and building a fan base. Cam considers himself a producer as much as an artist, and is now keen on self-establishment. Still
word of mouth, the persistence of lead singer M.C. Wolfe and the help of a diligent manager, electro band Dance For The Dying were granted an opportunity they couldn’t refuse. Playing at the CMJ Festival in New York this year gave the Washington, D.C. based band the exposure they crave and skills any aspiring artist would be eager to attain. Drummer Chris Link spent much of his free time over the past three years trying to compile the missing parts of his musical endeavor. Using Craiglist’s to find band members along with the help of his friends, Dance For The Dying was born. The band has honed their craft in songwriting, which stands out in their music. “If you’re interested in lyrical content and the way poetic people word things… people will gravitate to that, those who really care about content,” Chris says. M.C. considered the band to be “joyfully melancholy” and if anyone is having trouble understanding why this band is so catchy, just take it directly from them. According to M.C., they’re “…Blondie and The Cure holding hands on laser skate night at the roller rink.” With powerful vocals, poetic content and radical synth music, Dance
striving to get his name out there, he wants to reach people “who might not necessarily hear [his music]” otherwise, which brings him to New York City. This month Cam played at Tammany Hall for CMJ, a festival that is less congested and more scattered around the city, and therefore easier for beginner artists to navigate through new crowds and meet others in the business, including Joey Bada$$, another rapper in his infancy whose style Cam echoes. In his first two singles, “Cut Me Off” and “The Receipt,” Cam strings together smooth, languid lines that show expertise beyond his years. Cut with hip pop melodies, and layered with jazzy, chorus backdrops similar to Mos Def’s, the young Massachusetts rapper is peddling toward the release of his first full album, which is expected to drop in January. Cam hopes to tour this spring. He’s anxious to “spread the movement [he’s] trying to create.” His ultimate goal is to make a career out of music on his own terms. “I don’t care about being on the radio,” he says. “I just want people to know and respect me for the artist that I am.”
WORDS: KIKI VAN SON
“We are blessed to come across the people who have been helping us out.” CHRIS LINK, dance for the dying For They Dying present a killer mixture. Everything they preach is more than evident in the song “Ordinary Objects” off their album Puzzles For The Traveler. CMJ has granted the band a learning experience and positive growth in their career. Lead singer M.C. Wolfe considered the discussions and artist panels happening at the festival “awesome and valuable.” With a future tour in the works, both Chris and M.C. say they’ll take what they learned about creative touring with them on the road. CMJ has also guided the band in making connections. “Exposure to a broader audience is really the next step for us,” Chris says. “We are blessed to come across the people who have been helping us out. WORDS: EDEN JEZIERSKI
THE JANE DOZE
Schlissel of The Jane Doze has no memory of the first time she met bandmate Jen Mozenter. The two supposedly met at Highline Ballroom in New York City two summers ago, but Claire is certain that didn’t happen. Their proper meeting three weeks later, however, is more important. Claire, an employee at a music management company, happened to help manage a band Jen worked for at a major label. The two crossed paths as that band was recording their first album. As the two strangers began chatting about their lives, they realized they had one thing in common: a love for experimenting with music. Little did they know their brief meeting would lead to a future of infectious mash-ups, remixes and a new lifestyle as the NYC-based DJ duo, The Jane Doze. Their interest in making mash-ups blossomed during college, but it wasn’t more than a hobby at the time. After they met, Claire and Jen chose to team up and create one mash-up making force. “We wanted to put music online just to share with our friends,” Jen says of their beginnings. “I don’t think we ever had the intentions of it being a ‘thing.’” There was just one piece missing — a name under which they could release their sound. “Jen and I wanted to play off the idea of anonymity,” Claire says. The pair brainstormed a few names, but none of them really stuck and no one was excited about them. Their saving grace was a friend who suggested “Jane Doe.” “I remember thinking it was amazing,” Claire says. “It was perfect, it was anonymous, but specific at the same time.” To make their music moniker plural, the girls chose ‘Doze’ as opposed to adding an ‘s’ to prevent confusion with the word ‘does.’ Following their catchy name came their trendy symbol — antlers — which are now a major trademark for Claire and Jen’s work. Once The Jane Doze finally assembled, name and all, their musical production began taking on a life of its own. For a while, their presence was mostly based online, where they received positive feedback from supportive bloggers, tweeters and YouTube spectators. But after the release of their first mixtape, Girls Talk, the field on which The Jane Doze were playing changed forever. “We started playing live shows which was definitely not in the plan book,” Jen says, highlighting their DJ performances
For fans of: DJ EARWORM, NOTEGEEK, jake marra WORDS: STACY MAGALLON
including music festivals including South by Southwest (SXSW), Lollapalooza and the kick-off party for the 2012 Grammy Awards. “It’s been quite a year.” With full-time jobs in the music industry and many hours in the studio and on airplanes, Claire and Jen don’t sleep. Or rather, they sleep less. For The Jane Doze, there simply are not enough hours in the day. “That’s become the most challenging part,” Claire says about spending their time wisely. Jen agrees. “It’s taking us a little bit longer to put out our follow-up mixtape because of our schedules,” she says. “Claire will work on a mash-up project, I’ll work on a project, then we’ll bounce it back and forth between each other to get feedback. After a full day at work, we’ll meet up and hit the studio until midnight or even later.” But on a positive note, Claire and Jen have more than enough experience to know how to properly play this game. Since their day jobs are in the music business, the girls have advantages. “We’ve been able to use our connections from our day jobs to help propel our side hustling,” Claire says, laughing. Then again, their connections see the duo in an employee-like context as opposed to performers. “Having them take it seriously is totally different than someone who discovers us online and only knows us as musicians,” Claire says. Though males typically dominate the DJ world, Claire and Jen are two mistresses of the music industry who have definitely proven they’re more than capable of doing what guys can. If anything, they’ve got the upper hand. “We know both sides of the coin so we know how to see through a lot of the bullshit in the industry,” Jen says. “I know I put that kind of bluntly, but that’s the truth.” For now, the ladies of The Jane Doze are focused on building a bigger audience and playing more shows. “We’ve definitely been on the grind in terms of getting our name out there,” Jen says. “It’s all about reaching out to people we already know, getting to the people they know, and so on.” Claire and Jen hope their futures will one day be dedicated to The Jane Doze — original music, tour life and everything else that comes along with being a full time artist. One of these days, it will. Until then, put your antlers up.
THE UGLY CLUB their self-deprecating name, there’s nothing ugly about this group of five New Jersey natives — Ryan Egan, Ryan Mcnulty, Taylor Mandel, Rick Sue-Poi and Joseph Stasio — who together form the psychedelic-rock quintet, The Ugly Club. The band are showcasing their skills at CMJ and spending their free time ducking into panels like “Breaking Media,” which explores how bands can use Facebook and Twitter to expose their sound to the world. It’s a panel they could be speaking on at this point, having truly mastered the power of harnessing social media to reach fans. After raising an impressive $6500 on KickStarter, a project-funding website, earlier this year, The Ugly Club released their fan-funded debut LP, You Belong To The Minutes, in July. But lead singer and guitarist Ryan Egan explains that the band’s remarkable online following and polished sound were actually a long time coming. “Taylor [Mandel] and I were in a band together three or four years ago, which ended. And we didn’t want to stop making music, though at the time, we were just recording locally for fun,” he says. “It took a year and a half to get this lineup together and for us to start taking it really seriously.” Eventually they did, and with it came a slow but steady invested fan following and solid praise for their unique instrumentation (think trumpets and choir-like harmonies) from MTV Buzzworthy and Entourage’s Adrian Grenier. Grenier, the founder of Wreckroom Records, a Brooklyn-based recording studio set up in his basement, first took note of The Ugly Club after their friend and publicist entered them in Wreckroom’s call-out for local talent — and forgot to tell them she’d done it. “One morning, she texted me and was like, ‘I need to call you!’” Ryan remembers. “She told us that she had just gotten an email saying that we were hand-picked to be one of the five bands to compete for studio time at Adrian Grenier’s new studio. We were in the middle of our album launch campaign, so it was an awesome time for it to happen.” Although The Ugly Club ultimately did not win the challenge, they did leave a lasting impression in the minds of the Wreckroom bigwigs, who invited them to come back and film a video anyway. “They’re all awesome and we’ve kept in touch since and collaborated,
For fans of: THE STROKES, THE WALKMEN, WILCO WORDS: KATIE AMEY so hopefully that will be a relationship that lasts,” Ryan says. Grenier isn’t the only musician The Ugly Club is looking to for inspiration. In fact, one of the biggest appeals for the band of doing a festival like Austin, Texas’ South by Southwest (SXSW) or CMJ is the opportunity to learn from and network with their peers. “We soak up every second,” Ryan says. “I’ve met a lot of cool people, checked out a lot of panels. I’ve just been learning. Any opportunity to be surrounded by our industry, we try to make the most of and make relationships and friendships to benefit everyone involved.”
“Any opportunity to be surrounded by our industry, we try to make the most of and make relationships and friendships to benefit everyone involved.” RYAN EGAN, UGLY CLUB To keep these newfound bonds strong, the band will rely on their old standby — social media. “It’s been everything for us,” Ryan says of reaching out to fans and industry professionals on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “These are the relationships that are going to come in handy for us over the next year. If we leave the country, or venture further than the East Coast, it will keep fans connected. It tightens the bond between the people who have been coming out to the local bar shows in New Jersey for the last year and exposes us to new people. It makes people more invested in what we’re doing.” But first thing’s first — the guys are still looking to track down something to haul their equipment back and forth across the country in. “If anyone wants to sell us a cheap van and trailer…” Ryan begins with a laugh. “We should post a ‘Wanted’ sign,” Taylor says in agreement. “We’re just broke kids who really want to tour.”
BARCELONA For fans of: COPELAND, THIS PROVIDENCE, SNOW PATROL BY: TANYA TRANER
How does a band remain relevant after not touring on the East Coast for four years? Or becoming DIY again after cutting ties with a major label? Or having a three year gap between record releases? Barcelona can answer all three. Singer Brian Fennell and drummer Rhett Stonelake met in college. Brian was working on a solo project before the two decided to form the band in 2005. After releasing their first record completely DIY in 2007, the band spent time touring. They signed to Universal Motown records soon after. The partnership was fairly short lived, which the guys say was a blessing in disguise. “Personally, the whole ‘biz’ side kind of bums me out,” Brian says. “We aren’t a band who needs a lot of ‘biz’ attention and we got really wrapped up in that for a while.” The guys say the transition back to DIY wasn’t easy for them. Currently they are both managing the band themselves. Producing music, writing, touring, social media — you name it, these guys are doing it on their own. For Barcelona, being DIY again is about rebuilding. “There’s a lot that’s awesome about DIY, but you really have to build that team up again,” Brian says. “I think today’s artists have to be so multi-talented, you have to be your own hype man and manage your own social networks on top of everything else,” Rhett says. The guys have had their share of road blocks upon their DIY return. They began writing their latest record, Not Quite Yours, in 2010 but it took them over a year to record and release it. “It took so long to do the record that these songs are like three and four years old to us,” Brian says. “And people are just hearing them now.” Needless to say, the band is ready and excited for their new music, but they have a positive outlook on the supposed mistakes they made leading to the record’s late release. “I don’t think it’s possible to call those mistakes,” Brian says. “Because you didn’t know. You learn, you grow and you continue to make the music that you love.” In a culture of over saturation and a constant need for updates and new music, taking two years to write and record an album could possibly end a musician’s career. Barcelona don’t see their hiatus this way. Brian says they maintain their social networking sites personally, by providing videos and updates to fans. The guys say their past touring habits have helped as well, considering their CMJ show is their first on the East Coast in about four years. “I think we toured so much after our first record that all that effort that we put out still lasts from the first record,” Brian says. “The fans have been very patient with us.” Now, the guys are already getting busy writing and demoing their new record, and this time, they boast a new sound. They describe it as slightly more minimalistic and melodic. “It’s sexier.” Rhett says, laughing. They’ll be recording come January, and their ultimate goal is to get this music to the public a lot faster and continue to continue tour. So why, of all the hundreds of CMJ artists should you stop and listen to Barcelona? For starters, these guys began at this festival. Brian says it was one of their first shows. “It’s kind of funny being back in New York at the same festival where we were in the beginning, it feels the same,” he says. Despite difficulties, the guys are proud of their work as a DIY band. Barcelona’s latest record was recorded mostly with a live, full band. It’s not polished. It’s not perfect. It’s real. You can’t get much better than that. “We are who we are,” Rhett says. “And at the end of the day, I think that means something.”
CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES For fans of: REGINA SPEKTOR, MEIKO, MISSY HIGGINS BY: NICOLE MAZZA
From age 3 to 16, Jessica Charlotte Poland, the face behind Charlotte Sometimes, was a ballerina. Not what you would expect from the brassy, blunt 24-year-old musician from New Jersey (who blames Jersey for her no-nonsense attitude). She had no trouble admitting she decided she liked food too much to sacrifice for a dance career, and turned to playing music. She recorded her first demo at 16. When Sony heard it and asked her to do her first showcase, she had no idea what to expect. “I had braces and a jaw disease so I wouldn’t say I looked like Britney Spears,” she says. “I looked like a hot mess.” That must have been the look Sony was going for — Jessica was soon signed by Crush management. After a two-year break while she had surgery on her jaw, she was signed by Geffen Records and went on tour for the first time. More changes were around the corner when she fired her management and began writing songs for Sony. “I just kept doing that and then I kind of was over the whole artist thing for a while,” she says. “I’ve been doing it since I was 14. I was tired and just [sick of ] all the drama that comes with the music industry sometimes.” It was reality television that got her back on the right track when she was featured on NBC’s The Voice in this past spring. “I was like ‘maybe this is what I need. Maybe it’ll make me fall in love in what I’m doing again,’ and it did.” Though she was eliminated from Blake Shelton’s team after the first live round, it pushed her in the direction to release her new EP, Circus Head, on Oct. 30. Though she’s toured with bands like We The Kings and The Cab, it’s the pop world she’s most comfortable in. “I never felt comfortable in that cliquey scene. I don’t think I was ever really accepted in that scene,” she says of her time spent on the road with the poppunk bands, though she admits it taught her how to survive touring and how to “keep up with the boys”. “I think at one time I was on a bus with 11 guys and me, and then I was on a tour with about 30 guys and just me,” she says. “I always found my touring was better
when I was touring with Pat Monahan from Train and Gavin Degraw and that’s where I did best.” Charlotte Sometimes’ new EP shows just how much Jessica has grown up through the years — it sounds less angsty and more adult. “The last two EPs were more organic and now this one’s kind of a mix of organic and dancey and fun,” she says. “I’m not like ‘you broke my heart!’ It’s more like ‘you broke my heart. That’s okay. That sucks.’ It’s not like, ‘I kill you now’, like the first one. Now I’ve kind of seen a lot, done a lot, done a lot of people… so now I have a lot more experience.” Though she once preferred to write alone, feeling as if co-writing could cheapen the song and make it less personally valuable, she’s taken a liking to collaborating. “I find it more compelling for me and more artistically fulfilling when I work with other people sometimes now because it brings out things in my personality that I maybe wouldn’t have written about,” she says. “When you write alone and when you just play music for yourself it’s like masturbating and it’s just way more fun to have sex with someone.” From her favorite song “Paint The Sky” to her latest single, “Brilliant, Beautiful, and Broke”, it seems almost anyone can identify with Jessica’s relatable lyrics and themes. “Paint The Sky” is an encouraging track about being in love while “Brilliant, Beautiful, and Broke” is all about this generation of young adults struggling to find their place in the world. “I feel like our generation, especially just like everyone from 18 to 33 these days, maybe a little older, we all are overeducated,” she says. “We’re all smart, we all have done things and should be further along but somehow we’re all stuck in this adolescent place where we can’t afford to take care of ourselves. Like when do we get to cut the umbilical cord? The wine is free, the rent is cheap so it’s kind of like ‘it’s all good man cause I guess we’ll figure it out eventually.’”
“I had braces and a jaw disease so I wouldn’t say I looked like Britney Spears. I looked like a hot mess.” JESSICA CHARLOTTE POLAND
“When you write alone and when you just play music for yourself it’s like masturbating and it’s just way more fun to have sex with someone.” JESSICA CHARLOTTE POLAND
We can pull our stuff together and create something that’s way different than we would normally do on a record but somehow it’s still us.” SAMMY DENT, MERCIES 30
MERCIES For fans of: GRIZZLY BEAR, ATLAS SOUND, FLEET FOXES BY: VINCENT RAOZZI ballet score, a film score and a 7-inch vinyl. These are the most recent additions to indie folk rock band Mercies diverse music portfolio. The up-and-coming group, founded by former Deerhunter members Sammy Dent and Josh Rheault, have joined as a trio with bassist Jordan Flower. Tonight the New England-based band play a CMJ showcase at Sullivan Room’s. This is Mercies’ second year performing at the same showcase where they transition their woodsy acoustic recordings into a live electric performance. This year Josh says they hope to reach a new audience. “It’s kind of a weird group of bands playing tonight so I think there’s some rollover fan potential,” he says. Mercies’ fan base and musical endeavors have grown since the band’s formation in 2010. Josh and Sam share an early history as former members of Deerhunter. “We always talked about doing a project together back in 2006,” Josh says. “We kind of both left [Deerhunter], went on to do other things and always kept in contact. I think it wasn’t until 2009 that I started sending Sam a bunch of demos and we finally ended up in the same location which is New England.” There the band recorded songs in a restored barn and released their first full-length album, Three Thousand Days. The album breathes airy simplistic tracks with occasional experimental elements. Since the album’s release Mercies have committed to their goal of writing, recording and keeping busy. They produced
WE CAN DO A HUNDRED 7-INCHES JUST FOR FUN, DEFINITELY NOT TO MAKE MONEY.”
JOSH RHEAULT, MERCIES
a recording for an Atlanta-based folk artist, released an EP and are currently finishing a two-song 7-inch vinyl. The vinyl is a unique project fueled by personal enjoyment. “Like most of the things we do it’s for the experience, it’s to try something different, something fun,” Sam says. Josh admits vinyl is expensive for an indie band but says, “We can do a hundred 7-inches just for fun, definitely not to make money.” Josh and Sam’s musical exploration coupled with their eclectic background open a range of possibilities for the artists, and a foundation to support their collaborative potential. They have already composed a ballet score commissioned by a dance company and are possibly writing a film score this winter. The guys say these varietal compositions are exciting and refreshing. “There are no lyrics for one, no boundaries, it’s just music,” Josh says. “We all come from lots of different areas of music,” Sam adds. “We can pull our stuff together and create something that’s way different than we would normally do on a record but somehow it’s still us.” For Mercies, the future could entail similar projects, and the guys seem open-minded in their pursuits. They hint at possible collaboration with fellow artists on future songs as well. One thing is for sure, Mercies are a versatile and experienced group equipped to take on whatever opportunity comes their way.
GOOD old WAR WORDS: VINCENT ROAZZI | PHOTOS: CATHERINE POWELL
“DO YOU MIND IF I TAKE A PICTURE?” AN OLDER WOMAN ASKS ME AND FOLK-POP TRIO GOOD OLD WAR.
am standing in the lobby of Radio City Music Hall in New York City with band members Keith Goodwin (vocals/ guitar/keyboard), Tim Arnold (vocals/drums/accordion) and Dan Schwartz (vocals/guitar) who are playing a show here tonight. But it’s not a photo of the band the woman wants — she’s pointing to the poster of TV host Craig Ferguson behind us. She’s not the only one who doesn’t recognize the band. When I arrived at the venue earlier, security had strict questions for the guys and refused to allow me beyond the lobby with them. Keith, Tim and Dan — whose last names piece together their band name — stand with me in a circle on the black rubber floor against a wall of A-list celebrity posters. I pick up a six-pack of Yuengling at my feet, which I brought as a gift for the band. “These are post-show beers,” I say, handing them the Yuengling. “I don’t want to be responsible for messing up the show.” Tim smiles. “This isn’t that big of [a show], we play Radio City all the time,” he says, joking. We all laugh, and I immediately sense their collective modesty and humor. Good Old War may not be mainstream enough to be recognized at Radio City, but the Philadelphia-based band is experiencing rapid growth in success since their formation in 2008. Keith, Tim and Dan have previously toured with Counting Crows, Guster and Xavier Rudd, and have recently appeared as musical guests on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Conan. Their new album, Come Back As Rain, was featured on iTunes’ “Best of 2012…So Far” list. And tonight, they’re opening a sold-out show for indie-rock veterans Dispatch at Radio City Music Hall. Currently, they are building their visibility through Dispatch’s “Circles Around the Sun” tour, which has them traveling the U.S. and Canada playing 10 shows in two weeks. Tim says the long hauls are a minor hardship. “We’re used to it, ya know, we’re road dogs, we got this,” he says, laughing. “There’s a payoff because you get to the venue and it’s Radio City Music Hall,” Dan says. Tim agrees. “Yeah, it’s like, ‘I’ll drive 14 hours to get to that place,’” he says. Keith assures me it’s not too bad, but the toughest leg will be performing in Toronto then traveling to play 10 hours later in Philadelphia. “But at the end of that one it’s a total payoff because we get to see our families,” Tim says. “And sleep in our beds that night,” Keith adds. Good Old War’s early achievements haven’t earned them a tour manager yet, so Keith and Dan plan every detail of the tour themselves. They make sure no one person is overburdened with responsibilities in their DIY-efforts. “There’s a lot that goes into it,” Keith says. Figuring out where the band should stay, organizing merchandise sales and dealing with venues and promoters are all up to Keith and Dan. “There’s all these different things that you’ve got to do and we split the responsibility up,” Keith says. He adds that
they rely on their smart phones to help keep everyone in check. Despite all the hard work that goes into the tour, the guys are having fun. They tell me Dispatch’s fans are a party crowd looking to enjoy themselves. “It’s an inspiring thing to see a crowd that just completely loses themselves every night whenever [Dispatch] play,” Dan says. Dispatch’s fans are receiving Good Old War well. “I just want people to come to the shows and have a good time,” Keith says. “I want them to listen to the music if they want to, if they like it, and just enjoy themselves. For the most part, it’s kind of like throwing a party, you want everyone to have a good time. It’s just fun that way.” Their music’s positive vibes are irresistible, radiating through three-part, pitch-perfect vocal harmonies, hooking guitar melodies and sing-along choruses. The guys are proudly indecisive regarding performance favorites. Tim says it changes a lot and mentions the songs “Better Weather” and “Not Quite Happiness” as some of his favorites. “They’re all kind of fun because they’re all new,” he says. Dan jokingly tallies each song on the new album to their roster of favorites, and Keith concludes, “We’ve purposefully made these songs fun to play.” The guys agree the new album’s first single “Calling Me Names” was the most unique song during the writing process for Come Back As Rain. “We started that one with just a beat, and we recorded the baseline piano part over it and then we started coming up with melodies,” Tim says. “It never really starts from just a beat. So that one was kind of built from the groove aspect of it.” While we chat tourists continue to shuffle in and out of Radio City, and the guys tell me their craziest experience so far.
“I JUST WANT PEOPLE TO COME TO THE SHOWS AND HAVE A GOOD TIME.” KEITH GOODWIN
“This is fucking crazy, playing at this place, this is blowing my mind,” Tim says. “Keith and I have been doing this for 10 years and we got all of that shit out of our system…so now we’re like, “Let’s just do this right.’” Keith nods, acknowledges the surroundings of Radio City Music Hall and says, “This is the craziest thing.” Good Old War have truly hit a major milestone in a career built on their own independent efforts. Their recognition is steadily building through nationally televised appearances, tours with world-renowned acts and the consistent releasing of infectious folk-pop albums. The indie band with mainstream success isn’t being stopped on the street for a photograph today, but at the pace they’re growing, that all could change soon. NKD
GOOD OLD WAR
WORDS & PHOTOS: CATHERINE POWELL
I COULD START BY SAYING KRIS ALLEN WON THE EIGHTH SEASON OF AMERICAN IDOL. BUT YOU PROBABLY ALREADY KNEW THAT. I
nstead, I’ll start by saying that Kris is extremely humble considering how successful his career has been so far. He was signed to RCA Records up until last month, his first single, “Live Like We’re Dying,” went platinum and a few weeks ago he performed with Bruce Springsteen at a charity event. But as he shakes my hand and smiles brightly, I can tell he’s still a down-toearth guy from Conway, Ark. I sit down with Kris in a booth at Joe’s Pub in New York City where he’ll be performing in a few hours. Outside, people are going about their busy Saturdays, but inside it’s just me and Kris. He’s currently in the middle of an intimate club tour to promote his May release, Thank You Camellia. Despite the tour, this is the most relaxed Kris’ career has ever been. Kris’ interest in music began early on. His father loved music and was always singing and playing guitar in the house, and around age eight Kris joined his school’s orchestra program and learned to play the viola. At 13 he picked up the guitar and taught himself to play in his bedroom. Throughout high school, Kris participated in sports and did well in his classes, but music was always his thing. In July of 2008 Kris went to audition for American Idol with a friend and his brother Daniel. “Daniel had auditioned the year before and didn’t make it, so he wanted to try again and wanted me to go with him,” Kris says. “I think he secretly wanted me to make it far.” Kris made it past the first
round, and then went through three more auditions before getting the green light to go to Hollywood. He flew to California in November with plans to go back to college at the University of Central Arkansas for his school’s winter term. “I wasn’t banking on any of it,” he says. Despite his original self-doubt, Kris made it all the way to the finale and walked away a winner. Everything after that, up until he went into the studio to record his latest album, was pretty much a blur. “I barely even remember it,” Kris says. About a month ago Kris announced that he had parted ways with his label, RCA Records. The decision was fairly mutual and according to Kris, he is on good terms
what he calls “weird” music. He likes pop music, and his favorite part of performing is hearing his songs sung back to him. For Kris, being independent means getting his ideas out there without having to go through the typical record label hierarchy, which in turn allows him to release things faster. He’ll be releasing a Christmas album later this year, just because he can. After that, he hopes to spend December and January in the studio recording songs that didn’t make Thank You Camellia. He plans to release those songs in the spring. On his website Kris describes the writing and recording process for Thank You Camellia with six words: challenging, exciting,
“i HAVE A LOT OF REALLY HORRIBLE IDEAS.” KRIS ALLEN with the label. “Some people from RCA are even coming to the show tonight,” he says. The label realized they did not have the manpower or money to do what Kris needed for his career, and he’s now enjoying life as an independent musician. “Not that I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to before, but now there’s this idea of freedom,” he says. He can do whatever he wants, but he has no plans to get carried away and make
stressful, joyful, crazy and rewarding. I ask him to elaborate and he laughs, forgetting which words he had chosen. But he accepts the challenge wholeheartedly. “It was challenging because in my head I was trying to make a record one hundred times better than the last one, so I challenged myself on that,” he says. His first single, “Live Like We’re Dying,” off his 2009 self-titled album sold over 1.7 million copies,
“I WOULD LOVE FOR A SONG I WRITE TO BE SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE GRAB ON TO.” KRIS ALLEN
and it’s no secret that expectations were high for Kris’ follow-up. But no expectations were higher than his own. “I just wanted every aspect to be better,” he says. “This was the first time that I made a record that wasn’t rushed,” Kris says of Thank You Camellia. After Idol, Kris’ career was put on a fast track to success and he barely had time to breathe. After years of non-stop touring, Kris was finally able to sit down and work with producers to create an album he is proud of, and for him that’s the most exciting part. Kris thinks making a record will always be stressful, especially when working with a major label. “You’re trying to compromise with them, but you’re also trying to be like ‘this is me, this is who I am,’” he says. The recording process took about a year on and off. “The craziest part of it was that I was sleeping on my friend’s couch in L.A. during the whole thing,” Kris says, laughing. Kris found joy in simply making music he likes and putting it out for the world to hear. “To me, there’s really not greater joy,” he says. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
co-write I ever did,” he says. “I had no idea what I was doing so I just kept quiet, which was a terrible idea.” Over the last few years he’s learned how to co-write effectively and be open in a session. Kris originally intended for one of the songs on the record, “She Loves Me Not,” to be angry song, but after working with some other writers it turned into a fun, cute song. He hopes to co-write with other artists in the future. Considering how much Kris has written, one would think he has a favorite song of his. But in Kris’ his mind, he hasn’t written his best song yet. “I’m always trying to one-up myself, but I also think that I’m capable of writing a great, great song and I just don’t know if I’ve done it yet,” he says. I put him on the spot and ask him what the song he’s trying to beat is. He leans back against the cushion of the booth, taken aback. “Wow,” he says. He ponders for a few more seconds. “When I listen to this last record, I think of something like ‘Better With You’ came out so easy and we were just like ‘Well, this is it,’ but it’s kind of fun too.” He pauses again to think more. “But then there’s a song like ‘Leave You
“MUSIC WAS THE REASON FOR ME TO GO TO SCHOOL.” KRIS ALLEN All of this came together to create one of the most rewarding experiences Kris has ever had. He was able to play a lot of the instruments featured on this record, which he wasn’t able to do on the first record. He was also able to come in and really work with the producers, as opposed to just walking into the studio and singing the song. “It was almost validation,” he says. “I’d be like, ‘What if we try this?’ and the producer would be like ‘Yeah that could be cool let’s do it,’ and then it works and it’s awesome.” He pauses for a second. “Let me clarify that doesn’t always happen,” he adds, laughing. “I have a lot of really horrible ideas.” For Thank You Camellia, Kris teamed up with co-writers for every song. He wrote almost the entire first record by himself, but working with other writers was a different experience he’s grown to enjoy — but it took some time. “I remember the first
Alone’ which was very cerebral and I really thought about it a ton and tried to make it really good,” he says. “But then there’s a song like ‘Monster’ which I just think is really cool.” He agrees on a three-way tie, but admits that “Leave You Alone” is the song he’s most passionate about because it’s “been around for a while” so he’s had time to really fall in love with it. Aside from his own songs, Kris is extremely passionate about music programs in schools. He partnered up with Andy Davis, the founder of the Music Empowers Foundation, to help communities without music education programs. The charity donates funds to various nonprofit organizations that bring music instruction to these communities. “The thing that pisses me off most is that because of the economy, music in schools is deteriorating,” Kris says. Music was important to him when he was in
school. “It was the thing that I was good at, and I knew it,” he says. “And there were a lot of kids that were really good at music. It was the one thing I knew I could take away from school. Music was the reason for me to go to school.” Despite his talent and passion for music, Kris still felt lost in high school. There weren’t many music opportunities in Arkansas, so there wasn’t much motivation to pursue it seriously. He didn’t know if he could do it, so he went to college. Then he started becoming friends with musicians in the area and decided he could pursue music. Kris wrote songs, made a record and put a band together. Eventually he ended up on American Idol and still has a year left of credits to take if he wants his degree in business. “I could finish, I’ve just been so busy” Kris says. “But I feel like if I have kids I want to tell them I have my degree.” Family is important to Kris. He’s been married for a few years now and says that his wife makes marriage easy. “She is just amazing,” he says, smiling from ear to ear. “She’s not sitting at home waiting for me to come home. She works as a drama teacher and loves her job.” The two talk as much as possible when Kris is on the road, and she flies out to see him whenever she can. She will be in the audience at his show tonight. “It’s easier now than it ever has been,” he says. “Leading up to American Idol and during the show was really crazy, but she’s a trooper.” Kids are definitely on the horizon for Kris and his wife, he just doesn’t know when yet. He hopes they will be interested in music in the same way he is, and he says he will do everything he can to make sure they can pursue it, just like his parents did for him. “I owe everything to my parents,” he says. “I can’t wait until the day my kids figure out what they want to do.” He hopes it’s music, but accepts the fact that they’ll “probably hate music” just because he’s doing it. Despite all Kris has accomplished so far, he knows there is still a long way to go. He had a hit song, but he didn’t write it. “I would love for a song I write to be something that people grab onto,” he says. Also on his list is to make a record with one producer instead of multiple, which is something he hasn’t been able to do yet. “I’m always growing, whether it be instrumentally, vocally or just in songwriting,” he says. “I don’t know what else I want to do, but I’ll figure it out.” NKD
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Bright Light 2012
has been the year of the Brits taking over the pop airwaves in America. Welsh-born musician Rod Thomas is looking to make another imprint in the States with his moniker Bright Light Bright Light. Singer, writer, producer and DJ, Rod does it all. An only child, he grew up next to a coal mine in Wales listening to the radio and playing instruments in school. He learned to play the guitar when he was 13. “I had a lot of time growing up as an only child in the middle of nowhere so I put in the hours and got gradually better and started playing open mic nights and that sort of thing. So it was partly boredom. It’s starting to sound like I had a terrible childhood but I didn’t,” Rod says, laughing. “Just wanted to see what I could do.” When he later relocated to London, Rod spent time working at a record label. The experience pushed him to create, rather than manufacture, music. He quit his job and began singing underground in the city for two years before he decided to set up a record label of his own and began releasing 7-inch vinyls and touring. He regards his time at the label as an important milestone in his career. “I think it was really good to know how the industry works from the inside. Not just how it worked but to see that people really cared,” he says. “I met a lot of people who are so passionately into helping artists and helping music that they really believed in.” Deciding it was time to hash out his sound, Rod shifted his musical direction away from “folk stuff with fake beats” and began to experiment with dance. “I had to sit down and really think of what I wanted it to sound like, how I wanted to be on stage, what kind of shows I wanted to do,” he says. “I really liked late ’80s early ’90s dance music so I thought about the sound and making it more dance oriented.” Now, Rod, a scruffy brunette with an intoxicating accent, enjoys collaborating with other artists. “It sparks different ideas that you wouldn’t normally have,” Rod says. One of his favorite collaborations he’s done so far was with Jon Shave, who has worked with pop-singers Jessie J and Rita Ora. “We wrote three tracks on my record together and he was so much fun,” Rod says. “We have all the same musical milestones and we basically just turned the studio into a club one day and dimmed the lights and put the music really loud and danced around until it felt good.” Rod describes U.K. crossover artists like Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora, Cher Lloyd and even pop-boy band One Direction as “a little bit weirder” than the constructed pop sound in the U.S. “Ellie Goulding or Florence + the Machine, for example, it’s not so much straight studio shined pop it’s like more organic instruments like a harp or a piano so it’s like a slightly different twist on what the U.S. solo artists are doing,” he says, before joking, “Maybe it’s just the accents…I don’t know! There’s always something exciting when someone comes to
WORDS:NICOLE MAZZA PHOTOS: CATHERINE POWELL
your country from aboard. It’s a bit more special than just another band from Brooklyn.” Though he’s found great success overseas, it’s the U.S. he’s got his sights on next, where he played at the Mercury Lounge—one of his favorite venues—this past October. “I love coming to New York and the shows have been really fun. They’ve been really well attended and the crowds have been exciting and excited and it’s felt really brilliant to be here.” Though he’s aware his success won’t be overnight, he’s up for the challenge. “I think it will definitely be a long time before anything mainstream happens in the U.S. because it’s just so much bigger,” he says. “When you’re in the U.K. you’ve got no concept about how vast this continent is. It’s huge. So it’s going to take a lot more work and a lot more strategizing but I’m really happy.” While he works on visuals and videos for the next record, he also releases remixes to give away to his fans. “I’m just trying to put as much of my personality into my music as I can so people feel like it’s something real and not something constructed just to make money. That’s not really my goal at all,” Rod says. “I just make music because I really enjoy it. The best thing for me is meeting people and connecting with people so I tried to work on as many ways as I can to do that.” He’s an artist who isn’t in this for the money or the fame. While he could brag about the radio play his songs have gained or the tours he’s been on, the thing that matters the most is the respect his music has hgained, especially from his favorite band, Scissor Sisters, who he had the honor of touring with this past October. “Getting wide spread acclaim is most people’s goal but I think for me having people that I respect giving my music time is the most amazing thing,” he says. “I didn’t really think growing up next to a coal mine that anybody would ever hear my music and some of my favorite people have heard it. For me that’s a sign that I’ve done something right.” NKD
PENDING WORDS: STACY MAGALLON | PHOTOS: CATHERINE POWELL
not happy with the shit you’ve been writing about us on the Internet,” Joe Ragosta, lead singer of Patent Pending says to me as he arrives 20 minutes late to our interview. He looks intimidating as he walks toward me — he’s not blinking. I slowly step backward in reaction to his unexpected words. I’ve never met this guy before. I’ve never said anything offensive about him or his music. What is going on? As he paces forward, I notice a trend in his outfit choice – red. Red shoes. Red vest. Red hair. He looks a little out of place, but he doesn’t seem mind. Joe is now hovering over me, staring at me intensely. “I’m just kidding,” he says, finally letting out his choked back laughter. “How are you? I’m Joe.” It took Patent Pending about 11 years to properly learn how to play their instruments. The band and I laugh over that fact as we enjoy the warm, autumn weather at Dewitt Clinton Park in midtown Manhattan. On this October afternoon, Patent Pending are happy to announce that they have finally learned how to play their music properly, but the members of the pop-punk group weren’t exactly the best musicians in 2001. “I used to play a lot of hockey up when I was younger. When I broke my ankle, I started going crazy with boredom until I decided to learn how to play guitar,” Joe says. The first song he learned how to play was Blink-182’s “Dammit” with the help of his older brother, Robert. That was the only song Joe knew how to play for a while. “It was too difficult to learn other people’s songs because I didn’t know how to do it, so I started writing my own songs. No one has asked me
to stop yet,” he says. Drummer Anthony Mingoia was the first to join Joe’s band, but he was not Joe’s first option. Joe was driven to start a band, but the only drummer he knew turned him down. “The only drummer in town left was Anthony,” Joe says. “[When I met him] he was wearing a Blink-182 shirt. Once I saw his shirt, I knew that it was in the fucking bag. Anthony had been in bands prior to this, and I had absolutely no talent at all.” The rest of the current band members, guitarist Rob Felicetti, guitarist Marc Cantor and bassist Corey DeVincenzo joined soon after. Joe compares their formation as a band to a day in kindergarten. “You meet once and you’re friends for life,” he says, laughing. Patent Pending stand strong today because of their kindergarten-like friendship. And after the obstacles they’ve encountered over the years, their friendship was one of the main things the guys knew they could count on. “We were just the worst band on the planet for so many years,” Joe says about their first chapter in music. From the very start, the New York locals were a bunch of misfits hoping to make a name for themselves. The band was not competitive at all, and they were fighting for a spot in one of the most cutthroat music markets in the world. Clubs never invited them to perform and other bands never asked them to go on tour. There was even a point in time where four audience members sat on stage during one of their performances to protest how bad they thought their music was. Those three major points in Patent Pending’s history may be due to the fact that they really were as
awful as Joe says they were. “We were so terrible, but living in New York prepared us for the rest of the world,” he says. “We had to learn how to put on a spectacle to survive in this jungle of a music industry. Nowadays, I think our live shows are a force to be reckoned with.” Patent Pending are currently headed to the U.K. and Ireland for their first overseas tour, where they will be playing alongside Bowling for Soup and The Dollyrots. The scheduled shows will be, as of this moment, the biggest shows Patent Pending have played in their career. “To say we’re excited is an extreme understatement,” Joe says, grinning. Additionally, Patent Pending’s split CD recorded with Bowling for Soup and The Dollyrots titled, One Big Happy, has just been released. The album includes songs by each of the three bands, covered by the others. Patent Pending’s personal goals are silly but nonetheless achievable — throwing drumsticks at one another on stage, dating Elisha Cuthbert, putting Katy Perry on a guestlist and having her actually show up and affording their cell phone bills, but their overall ambition is simple. “We want to achieve global domination,” Joe says with the same intense stare he gave me when he introduced himself. “I know it sounds like we’re joking, but we’re not.” If the human race falls into the grasp of Patent Pending, the world will be in good hands. It took them 11 years to learn how to properly play their instruments so I’ll give them the same amount of time to achieve their quest for global domination. I’m sure it won’t take them that long. NKD
“WE WERE JUST THE WORST BAND ON THE PLANET FOR SO MANY YEARS.” » JOE RAGOSTA «
WORDS: ISAAC BATE | PHOTOS: CATHERINE POWELL
IF YOU ASK RENEE OLSTEAD A QUESTION, YOU’RE UNLIKELY TO BE DISAPPOINTED WITH THE SIZE OF THE RESPONSE.
Which is a nice way of saying that, when prompted, she talks quite a lot. So when she says something with profound implications, in a tone that implies no special controversy or significance, in the middle of an interview that started with TV and music but strayed fast onto our responsibilities to give back, it’s hard to know what to make of it. “I don’t think that there’s any lasting impression ever really made by an artist, or made by an actor,” she tells me. “I think that what can be done, however, is to draw attention to bigger things than yourself, and to leave your mark that way.” A traffic-stoppingly gorgeous blonde, wrapped in a faux-fur coat, is talking easily about the value of art, all against the backdrop of the Philippe Starck-designed Hudson hotel lobby – is this real? Superficially, you might think that there isn’t much surprising about Renee. Perhaps you know her as the stunning young actress who plays Madison Cooperstein on ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Despite the show’s topic – teen pregnancy – it’s not exactly controversial stuff. But maybe you’ve heard Renee sing. Her last two albums showcase an utterly spectacular voice, made even more impressive by the fact that she was a teenager when she recorded them. This isn’t any old generic teenage actor/singer crossover pop, either. She sings a kind of beautiful jazz, evocative of smoky basement bars and a time, a glorious, glorious time, before the ears of the world were ever made cynical by singles from Paris
Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. I wouldn’t necessarily want to guarantee that anybody who could sing jazz so convincingly before they were even 21 has to be fascinating, but it’s a good sign nonetheless. Take what Renee said about the lasting impact of art, for instance. It’s pretty stark, out of context. I’m pretty sure there was a little rhetorical embellishment involved there. But it’s indicative of the lack of self-involvement that characterizes Renee. She is obviously passionate and hard-working when it comes to her crafts, as you need to be to get as far as she has in her line of work. But she’s just as dedicated to helping those less fortunate than her. “I care about people. I love music, and I love acting but at the end of the day I think you really make your mark in the way you help people,” she says. Renee is in New York to perform at the inaugural gala of a charity called Not For Sale, an organization dedicated to helping stop human trafficking. “There are a lot of charities that I care about, [but] there are mainly two causes that I am involved with,” she explains. “Human trafficking… is probably the most alarming.” As Renee observes, nobody can do everything at once. “There’s so much in the world that I wish we could change, and I have to concentrate and pick a cause if I want to feel like I’m making a difference, because a lot of times you spread yourself too thin.” Sometimes she is in danger of doing just that. The day after the Gala she will fly back to her home in Los Angeles to wrap up the filming of the fifth and final
“I CARE ABOUT PEOPLE. I LOVE MUSIC AND I LOVE ACTING BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY I THINK YOU REALLY MAKE YOUR MARK IN THE WAY YOU HELP PEOPLE.” RENEE OLSTEAD
“WHEN WE ASSUME THAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE PERFECT WE FIND FAULT WITH OURSELVES.” RENEE OLSTEAD
season of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Immediately after that, she jumps on tour with trumpeter and composer Chris Botti, with no vacation in sight. “I haven’t been getting much sleep lately,” she says laughing and rubbing her eyes. “I think in the last four days I’ve got a total of 10 hours.” Renee’s other main charitable interest is animal rights. “I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12,” she says. “I came to the realization that what was on my plate used to be alive, and had a mom… suddenly I couldn’t eat it anymore.” She describes herself as “erring on the side of vegan,” the leeway being for those moments on tour where being a fully-fledged ‘no eggs, no dairy’ vegan becomes impractical. “It get’s a little more difficult when you are in the Midwest,” she says. If you believe in animal rights, as Renee does, you can refuse to eat meat – but if human trafficking shocks and appalls you, what exactly do you do? “It’s hard to see any change or make any real contribution,” Renee says. “I remember when I first finished Somaly Mam’s book [The Road of Lost Innocence] I just remember this overwhelming feeling of guilt. Guilt that I didn’t know about this, guilt that I was living in a house and wearing comfortable clothes and allowed to come and go as I please. I knew, after that, I couldn’t forget it.” The Somaly Mam Foundation, which Renee is now involved with, was founded by the author of The Road of Lost Innocence, a survivor of the Cambodian sex trade, to help other children who have been rescued from child prostitution. “When you really start learning the statistics, and hearing the stories of the people who have been involved with this, you can’t forget it. It’s not something that goes away,” Renee says. It’s understanding that feeling that makes her so eager to help raise awareness. “I think that one of the things that was so surprising to me was the fact that this isn’t headline news every night,” she says. “The more people know the more that they are going to feel compelled to help.” One of the platforms Renee has used to help raise awareness is the Huffington Post. The idea to write there came about when one of her college professors suggested she do something with her writing. Renee, who’s somehow managed to nearly complete an undergraduate degree in psychology, took the advice. “I submitted some stuff to my publicist and she was able to get the Huffington
Post to pick them up,” she says. Though the majority of her writing is about the causes she supports, one post is a lot more personal. It details her own struggle with her body image, and the world of pro-anorexia websites, made worse by the always snide, often vicious, appearance-related comments that follow women in any kind of public role. Though all the charitable causes that she writes about are important, this post might make more impact than the rest. While there are many public figures willing to support a cause, there are few who can be honest and personal about mental health and eating disorders. Breaking that silence is invaluable. “I think that a lot of the time, when we look at other people in the media we assume that they are perfect,” Renee says. “When we assume that other people are perfect we find fault with ourselves, and that’s one reason why I wanted to talk about it.” She knows how debilitating and unsettling that constant fault finding can be. “It’s still one of those things that sometimes rears its head a little bit when I get stressed out. I’m healthy now, I love myself, and I just want girls out there who may be struggling with the same thing, to know that they are not alone, they aren’t the only person who feels this way.” In a world driven by media where it’s normal for impossibly thin celebrities to claim a diet of burgers and milkshakes, in which Marilyn Monroe would not even be considered for plus-size modeling, I’m not sure Renee even realizes how important her own voice is. With Secret Life wrapping up, a part of Renee’s life is coming to a close. “It’s very sad, I love my Secret Life family,” she says. “We have people who are married now, and have kids. It’s so interesting to see everyone grow up and evolve. It’s such an interesting time in our lives.” What Renee will ultimately do is an open question. The end of filming means she can tour again, which she seems thrilled to do. “Now that I don’t have any commitments during the week I would really like to have a chance to share my music with other people,” she says. She also recently filmed her first starring role in a movie, The Midnight Game, perhaps signaling the beginning of a move from TV into feature films. She’s also — I’m not kidding — looking at doctoral programs in psychology. She’s thinking of University of California. None of this is going to let her get any sleep, but then, that hasn’t stopped her so far. NKD
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Published on Oct 31, 2012
Featuring: Kris Allen, Paper Route, Ryan Beatty, Emii, Florida Georgia Line, Ambassarods, Cam Meekins, Dance for the Dying, The Jane Doze, U...