Profile: Steven Whitaker

Edge of Oblivion-Cover-1400x1400pxl

Steven Whitaker has been writing songs almost since the first day he picked up a guitar. He played in a rock cover band for years, but continued to write original songs on the side and recorded rough drafts of his song ideas in his home studio.

But he never released an album.

The working schedule of a UPS delivery driver doesn’t exactly provide much room or leftover energy for extensive writing and recording sessions so the years went by as Whitaker’s recording computer got the best of his talents as the pile of song ideas piled up. He kept telling himself, someday I’ll dust off some of these ideas and record an album.

Until this year.

Whitaker dropped his first album Edge of Oblivion – a complete full package commercially released album consisting of great chord progressions, catchy rhythms and serious melody that competes with anything on radio today. It’s got hard rock, modern rock and a few ballads that take the edge off but keep you hooked.

Whitaker used a rather unconventional method to getting the album recorded. In fact, he’s never met the contributing drummer and bassist. He started with an extensive category of songs he’d already written, picked 13 he thought would not only be fun but resonate with today’s popular music and, with a vision in mind, he sought out some session players and worked with them via the world wide web to get his freshman effort down.

And this is just the beginning. He’s already started writing his second album and promises an even stronger effort. Plus, thanks to some critical feedback, he’s dropping his solo artist stature and embracing a band name, Echo-1 for his next studio album.

In between writing, recording and of course delivering packages, I got to talk to Whitaker about his recent album, how it all started and what’s next.

 

Steven Whitaker in Studio

Age: 46

Hometown: Tigard, OR

Influences: Elton John, Queensryche, Rush, Van Halen, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Journey, The Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Nine Inch Nails, Goo Goo Dolls, Chevelle and Sixx AM.

Instruments played: Guitar and piano

Discography: Edge of Oblivion

Website: www.stevenwhitaker.rocks

Steven Whitaker with Guitar

  1. How did you get started playing music?

My mom started me in piano lessons in 4th grade. I stuck with that for about a year then played trombone for four years in elementary and junior high school band. By my 16th birthday, I was into hard rock and heavy metal so I asked for an electric guitar for my birthday. I’m sure my mom probably couldn’t afford it, but she got me one anyway. I just wanted a black one with a whammy bar. That’s all I cared about. Little did I know then, but cheap guitars with whammy bars have horrible tuning problems so I probably spent more time tuning that guitar than playing it. From the very beginning, I have always gravitated more towards songwriting than just playing guitar. The guitar, to me, is just a vehicle to deliver a song. As soon as I could afford one, I had a little 4-track cassette tape recorder and was trying to put together full songs.

“Tom Sawyer” by Rush was the first time I heard a song that really caught my attention and curiosity. They are an amazing band and I love much of what they’ve done, but that’s never really been my sound musically. My musical influences are all over the board as I’ve always been drawn to great songs rather than just die hard band following.

 

  1. It took you a while to finally record an album. Were you waiting on the technology or was it a now or never type decision?

I’ve been telling myself I was going to do an album for years, but just kept putting it off or getting sidetracked on other things. I played in a cover band for years playing anything from the Beatles to Metallica and even though I was writing original songs the whole time, the band’s focus was primarily on cover songs and gigging so we never spent much time on my original stuff.

After the cover band days, I spent a few years helping a friend who wrote a couple horror movie scripts and was getting some pretty solid interest from Hollywood. I wrote three songs for two movies as well as scored and edited a movie trailer for his second film “Brutal” which is still in the can, but has no distribution deal as of yet. Two of the three songs were fully produced and recorded. My song “This Thing That I’ve Become” was written for the movie “Brutal” 2012 and my song “Scream” was written for the movie “The Haunted Caves” but he blew that deal and the movie was never shot.

I’m not exactly sure what got into me, but about a year and a half ago, I reached a point where I felt a sense of urgency to finally stop talking about it and as the saying goes “just do it.” Call it my mid-life crisis little red sports car or whatever. I got sick of listening to my own excuses for why I hadn’t made an album yet. The technology of today certainly made it a much more affordable process than it would have been10 years ago.

 

  1. Some bands start with an EP but you dropped a 13 song full-fledged album. Was this by design?

I simply have a huge library of songs I’ve written over the years and wanted to get as many as I could on this first album. I have enough songs for probably four albums so I tried to pick ones that were more on the rocking end of the spectrum. I wanted my first album to rock. The last song on the album “State of the union” is really an odd pick for the album, but the subject matter of the song and the video I made for it is very important to me and I wanted it to be on there. I also thought it had a lot of relevance with an election year coming up.

Steven Whitaker session

  1. How the album came together is interesting. Tell us about it.

I didn’t want my first album to sound semi-pro. I decided that if I was going to do it, I was going to do everything I could, within reason and within my means, to make the album compete with major label albums. All the drums were done by a drummer named Matt Dean, who lives in the UK. I sent him rough drum examples of what I wanted and he did his best to give me what I was after. It took a lot of back and forth but most songs came out pretty close to what I wanted. All bass guitars were done by session players in a Nashville studio called Nashtraxx. I would send them rough bass guitar examples to lay down the basic groove and they would send me back finished bass tracks.

I recorded all the guitars, vocals, synths, sound design elements and did all the editing at my home studio in Tualatin, OR. The album was mixed by James Lugo in North Carolina and he streamed to me live during the mix so I could make comments in real time. Technology certainly gave me the ability to produce an album that I can feel good about at a price that is a fraction of what is spent on major label albums. Producing this album cost me about $10,000.

 

  1. How did you find the right musicians?

Honestly, just a bunch of Google searches, listening to example tracks, reading bios and of course, price. I had to find guys who could work within my budget and lucky for me, there are a lot of talented people out there who will do quality work without charging an arm and a leg. If things went well on the first song or two, it was full steam ahead. I used the same drummer and bass players for the whole album.

  1. OK, it’s not like you guys are in one room hashing out melodies so did you send them sheet music or samples of what you wanted?

I sent rough mixes of my songs with drum and bass tracks that I played to get them in the ball park. Then, they would take my rough draft examples and run with them. Sometimes they sent me back something different than I expected, but it was great and sometimes I had to play another example and send them back to the drawing board. I found that playing producer requires great patience and immaculate communication.

  1. This sounds like an unconventional means to writing and recording. But is it?

It is certainly not the classic room full of guys jamming around on a song and working out parts until everything gels. I think it’s probably very typical for people like me, who don’t have time to put together a band and deal with all of the headaches that come with trying to get a room full of creative people to gel on a song idea. I’m sure that with the right group of guys, my songs could have been even better than they are, but dealing with the democracy of a band, I may have had to fight tooth and nail to see my vision for each song come to life in the end. I usually have a pretty clear idea of where I want a song to go. I just need the right people to let me play producer and get them to where I need them. It’s also nice to be able to work on my songs at a mellow level and to not have to deal with standing next to a drummer beating the hell out of his cymbals in my ears like in my cover band days.

  1. The album is absolutely solid. How did you approach the writing process?

Most of the songs were written years ago, but I only recorded rough drafts of a few of them so most were just lyrics on paper and everything else was in my head for years. One of the most challenging parts of making this album was the guitar solos. I really hadn’t practiced or done any lead guitar playing for many years just mostly strumming on my acoustic guitar and even that was rare. It took a good chunk of time to get my fingers working at least semi-proficiently. I’ve never been much of a lead guitar player so as simple as the guitar solos on this album are, some were very challenging for me and there was a lot of swearing during the recording process.

Overall, my philosophy on songwriting is that the song is king and everything I do should make the song better or the part should go. Sometimes I’d have a second guitar part I would think is awesome and really grooving with the song, but then listen to it the next day and ask myself, “What the hell was I thinking?” From a lyrical standpoint, my motto is “Say something worth hearing” meaning if you’re going to write a song , write one that tells a great story, has a great message or has a deep meaning within the lyrics. I want people to read my lyrics and really think about what I’m saying because there is usually more going on than just some music and some words thrown in there thoughtlessly.

One thing I did on my web site to try and give people a little more insight into my songs is under the “Lyrics” section, there is a paragraph talking about how I came up with the song idea and what the song is about. This is something I wish all bands would do because there are so many songs I love, but have no idea what inspired them. I want people to tap their foot, bang their head a little, but I also want them to think about what I’m saying and ponder the deeper meaning of the lyrics. Maybe I’m having way too high of expectations for the average listener, but I hope my songs will connect with at least a few people out there.

 

  1. You told me you’re a small fish in a big sea. You’re clearly an example of how technology has worked in your favor but it seems anyone with a guitar can now record songs. How do you become a bigger fish or do you even want to be a bigger fish?

Yes, pretty much anyone can record their own songs these days. I think that’s great because now people across the whole financial spectrum can record at least decent sounding songs without having to spend a fortune going into a professional studio. The downside, of course, is there are countless bands and artists scattered across the internet all fighting for that big break at a time when streaming and piracy has made most of those “big breaks” a lot less profitable than they used to be for the most part.

To become a bigger fish and to really get noticed, I think it takes a lot of hard work and determination, but more than anything, I believe it takes a great song. A great song will knock people on their asses because it makes them feel, it makes them move and it pulls them into the emotion of the song. The internet has made it possible for a great song written by an indie artist to be heard by millions without having to get signed by a major label. Video is more important than ever though I believe. I great song with a catchy video can make a star out of a band in little time if people dig it and start sharing it.

Do I want to become a bigger fish? Yes and no. I don’t want to be a rock star. With mass piracy and insanely low payouts for streaming royalties, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for anyone other than the major label megastars to really earn a serious living from sales. Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” has been streamed over 175 million times and the guy who wrote the song has received about $5,600 from streaming royalties so that gives you a good idea of what an indie artist like me is up against. Because I don’t have time or the ability to tour with my job at UPS, my only hopes of ever earning a living at this is going to come from album sales and sync licensing. A lot of people don’t realize how much piracy hurts us little fish.

Just finishing this album was a huge triumph so anything else is icing on the cake. I do this because I love it and want people to connect with it, but I must admit, it would be awesome to be able to sell enough albums to pay for the next album.

 

Steven Whitaker Profile

  1. Any thoughts about touring or playing local gigs?

Again, it’s a time thing. My girlfriend endured a mad scientist of a boyfriend for over a year while I worked on this album and I think trying to put a band together and play steady gigs might just be a little more than I could ask her to tolerate. If I achieved a high level of success to where I could quit my day job, I would absolutely put a band together and play live. It would be an awesome feeling playing my songs live and having an actual audience to play to instead of a computer monitor. But, it’s just not realistic for me in my life at this point.

  1. What’s next? You have material for a second album?  

A lot! I have some animators working on a video for “Of Fleas and Men” which is coming together pretty awesome. It should be done in November. I’m also brainstorming on ideas for another music video for one of the songs on the album.

I’m already writing material for my next album which will definitely lean more towards the modern rock end of the spectrum. I will be doing a lot more of blending guitars with electronic and even some dub step elements so my next project should have a very modern sound to it. What I’m working on so far sounds like Trent Reznor and Sixx AM thrown in a blender. It will be, without a doubt, rock, but there will be more going on than just guitars, drums and bass etc. The song arrangement and production will be on a higher level than this album also. I learned a lot about production this past year and it will help me to make my next one even better. I’m also doing some serious training on learning mix engineering so I will be mixing my next album.

My next album will be released under the band name Echo-1. I used a company called Audiokite to get random, unbiased reviews of my songs and a lot of people didn’t like my name for a band or artist name. I have to admit, I agree with them. It’s just a dude’s name and it’s not

that unique sounding. I had a number of songs that rated highly, but they lost points due to my name. I missed out on some radio play opportunities just because of this one factor so lesson learned. It will still be me writing and producing using studio musicians for drums and bass, but will sound more like a band than a 46 year old dude in his home studio.

Written By: AndrewT

Profile: Light Club

Light Club
All Photos: Ashton McKenzie

With a little inspiration from his grandfather, Gabe Mouer picked up a guitar in his early teens which helped pave the way to joining the moderately successful band The Welcome Home founded in Olympia, WA.

His first band now broken up, Mouer combined those experiences with the added maturity that comes with age and started Light Club. The style of music and the song writing is much less controversial than where the name came from – the coffee shop in Huntington Beach, CA where 70’s cult leader David Berg and his followers often met. Mouer said the name stuck after reading a book about Berg.

Light Club is a one-man band with Mouer at the helm for the vocals and all the instrumentation except for some help on the drums. He recently released the first single, “What We Found,” 0ff his forthcoming EP Youth is Fading out October 14th.

Self-described as Indie-pop, Light Club’s music is well-produced, comes across fresh and relatively mainstream. Incorporating some very hip drum beats, bright melodies with well-placed synths, and defining vocals it’s not too far a stretch to believe in an illuminating future for Light Club but as Mouer admits, the album is out, now the hard work is just beginning.

Founders: Gabe Mouer

Year Founded: 2014

Hometown: Portland, OR

Influences: Peter Gabriel, The Cure, The 1975, Hellogoodbye

Current line-up: Gabe Mouer

Discography: Youth is Fading EP

Website: www.soundcloud.com/lightclub

Light Club Youth is Fading

  1. What’s your background in making music and what made you decide to record an album?

I’ve been interested in playing music since I can remember, I sang in the city choir as a kid and always daydreamed of being in a band. In middle school I discovered Saves the Day’s Stay What You Are and decided that I wanted to be a songwriter. Thanks to some advice from my grandfather as he quipped, “You’re just gonna stand on stage and sing? You’re gonna look like a jackass up there with nothing else to do.”

I picked up the guitar and started learning every song I could. That summer I joined my first band. At one point, as cliche as it may be, writing songs stopped being something I did for fun and became more akin to a compulsion, and it only seemed logical to record them and try to make a living doing so. I guess that pretty much brings us up to date.

  1. Why did The Welcome Home break up?

Without getting too much into it, things had run their course. Being in a band is like being in a terribly involved relationship and, like any relationship, when things stop progressing sometimes it’s time to call it a day. We started in our late-teens when responsibilities were relatively low and as we grew into ourselves interests changed and priorities reoriented themselves.

Once I decided it would be best to disband, I found myself with so many possibilities of reinventing myself as an artist, all of that uncertainty led to a couple of years worth of writing and discarding dozens of songs before I arrived at the Light Club sound early last spring.

  1. Is the Light Club’s music going to be different then your previous band or similar indie pop style?

In some regards it’s the logical extension of the work I did for The Welcome Home, but certainly more current and thoughtful. For this project, I really began to examine contemporary artists and thought about my place in the industry. What makes a good pop song? What’s the best way to implement hooks without becoming incessant? Most importantly I’m constantly learning how to edit myself – do people really want to listen to a two minute musical intro? Does this song overstay its welcome? This sort of self-reflection has, at least I hope, resulted in tracks that are more accessible and modern sounding than my previous efforts, while maintaining a certain sense of spontaneity and authenticity.

  1. Though the album format is widely believed to be dead or dying, start-ups like Light Club seem to be embracing the traditional route to making music – what do you see as a benefit in making a full album?

The paradigm shift from the album back to the single format of early recorded music has its pros and cons that I struggle with. On the one hand, dealing in singles challenges you to be consistent in delivering your highest quality work and only most accessible work. On the other, the listener gets a fairly narrow perspective of what a particular artist has to say or contribute. The album as a cohesive body of work showcases the peaks and valleys of an artist’s particular voice. It gives you the opportunity to explore themes and tones that don’t necessarily lend themselves to the single format.

That’s what I find so troubling about the trend exemplified by megastars like Katy Perry or bands like Imagine Dragons, where their records are really just a compilation of attempted singles. Every track is a desperate attempt at latching onto radio stardom, nothing has room to breathe. That being said, I treated this EP as an opportunity to showcase my ability to write a decent pop song, I haven’t yet begun to really stretch my legs, so to speak.

Light Club bw

  1. How does a band with little track record like Light Club book a show? Is it as simple as calling a venue, asking for an open date, booking it, paying the fees and showing up?

Since the project is nearly brand new, just announced at the very end of September, I’ve only just begun to think about booking shows. I’ve recently been approached to open for a band I very much respect, so some opportunities come to you. Otherwise, I will contact promoters who work with touring bands in a similar vain to the project and showcase my work for them, slowly wearing them down until they put me on the bill. It really just depends.

  1. Is there a theme to your forthcoming album and can you tell us a bit about what to expect musically?

Lyrically, I strive to make the songs relatable only in as much as they reflect my experiences and viewpoint. I’m not 19 anymore and am no longer dealing with struggling relationships and girl troubles, I don’t really go to dance clubs – a typical pop-song staple – those things don’t speak to anything that feels meaningful to my life.

I’m in a place where the future feels wildly uncertain, and I want the songs to capture that precariousness. Musically, I wanted to make the most interesting and engaging pop songs I could. I set out to write songs that maintain a sense of depth and complexity in arrangement but would be just as strong when played barebones.

  1. Portland feels like a hub for small indie bands like Light Club, is there a family aspect where you all sort of look out for each other or is it a pretty competitive atmosphere?

When I first moved to Portland six years ago, I felt at the time like I had found a fairly sound community of like-minded artists that would support one another. Over the years those groups have mostly dissipated and I haven’t experienced anything that feels like a cohesive scene. As far as I can tell, bands in Portland mainly function wholly independent from one another, but as something of a hermit that doesn’t really bother me anymore.

  1. What’s your process to writing lyrics and creating music?

Oh gosh, it really depends. Sometimes I will sit down and decide “Today, I will write a song,” and I’ll play either guitar or piano until I arrive at something that piques my interest. I might start with a drum part cycling through my head that I’ll run and bang out in Logic, or I’ll hear something spontaneously and I’ll sing it into my Voice Notes app. I have dozens and dozens of voice notes at any given time. Lyrics always take the longest, to match a specific notion to a melody, and in my mind melody always takes precedence, is almost always initially a challenge.

I try to write about things I would relate to hearing. If you’ve seen the movie “Frank” (with Michael Fassbender), the opening scene where the lead character is trying to compose a song is probably the most accurate depiction of songwriting I’ve seen portrayed on film. It’s brilliant!

  1. OK, then how do you remember all the chords, rhythms and riffs? Is it just an exercise in repetition or is there a “musician’s brain” so to speak where the recall comes effortlessly?

I’m arguably the most forgetful individual I know so I’ve learned over the years not to leave anything to chance. If I have an idea it’s always a rush to record it before it’s gone. Once you play an idea through enough times to where it begins to take on a life of its own it becomes much easier to imprint on your memory. By the time you’re playing the songs live, after recording and/or practicing, it’s pretty much muscle memory.

10.  Once the album is released is the hard-work done or is it just beginning?

There is always a sense of accomplishment when a project like a record is done. In the month or so leading to entering the studio most of my life revolved around finalizing arrangements, lyrics, etc. For a moment after the record was finished I got to take a breath and revel in my achievement, but that feeling is fleeting – the work has only just begun! I think the most difficult part of being an independent artist is amassing a fan base and maintaining an audience, that’s where the majority of the work lies.

Light Club alt

11. Creating music has never been easier in the digital age but I’d imagine with so many other acts out there getting recognized is harder than ever. What’s the key to Light Club’s success?

As the project is still in its infancy, I haven’t experienced anything that resembles success with Light Club quite yet. There are a million great artists out there but success often seems to come as a result of an amalgam of dumb luck, hard work, and a delusional level of ego-driven determination. I’m not going to be, and don’t really want to be, a savant that stumbles accidentally into it. The hope is to work for it, be smart about it, and we’ll see what happens.

12. You’re currently a one-man band, more or less, with some help on the drums – is that your intention going forward or do you want a full-fledged band?

I’m invigorated by the freedom involved in not having to answer to anyone except myself, so until I feel like I can’t go any further with my abilities I plan to keep it that way. I love playing with a band and giving taciturn input when it comes to someone else’s ideas, but I’ve become too much of a control freak to hand these songs over to group input. However, I do plan to have a full band back me up for live shows.

13. Do you see this band utilizing fill-in musicians as needed or do you want to find and retain a “classic” lineup for Light Club?

I’m lucky to know some really great musicians, all who have their own projects, that are gracious enough to lend a hand when it comes to crafting a live show. It would be nice to have a dedicated live band simply for the fact that having to teach new players the parts on a regular basis will become tiresome, but at this point I’m flexible. Once touring becomes more of a necessity I may have to adapt my view a little, I’ll let future-Gabe worry about that.

Written By: AndrewT

Profile: Altadore

Altadore Feature Photo

Portland Indie-rock band Altadore feels like one of those bands you better catch quick before they hit it big if you want to say “I say them when…” Their debut album, Golden Hills, might be just six songs long but oozes rich vocals, catchy guitar licks and overt sentiment.

Indeed, founder David Katz, who named the band after the district in Canada where his father grew up, took vocal lessons for six months when he was 18. Now 23, Katz’s efforts behind the mic and guitar lead his band which began as a solo effort but now consists as a quartet. That first album produced a single, “Moments,” which got picked up by a local radio station.

Today, the band is working on a yet to be titled second album which Katz says consists of five songs with an expected release date of sometime this fall. The new album is more rock oriented and reflects the band’s interest in the British music scene especially from the 1960s. No large scale tour is planned, instead expect Altadore to schedule gigs locally and in Seattle.

Listen to Altadore’s music via Spotify, Bandcamp or purchase a CD through their website.

Founders: David Katz

Year Founded: 2011

Hometown: Portland, OR

Influences: 1960s Britain, Motown, Alt-Country

Current line-up:

  • David Katz (vocals, guitar)
  • Matthew Hall (Bass)
  • Gabe Mouer (Guitar)
  • Zachary Wilder (Drums)

Discography: Golden Hills (2012)

Website: altadoremusic.com

Altadore in the Studio

  1. How did Altadore get started?

Altadore started at the demise of an old band I was involved with. I played in bands throughout high school but it was hard to find success and let’s face it, the songwriting was sh– for a long while, which shouldn’t be surprising for confused teenagers writing and expressing their feelings through song. Pretty damn hilarious if you ask me.

  1. Altadore started with David Katz as a solo project – why did you decide to start a full band?

I finally found a great group of guys who I really respected as musicians and who I could put my complete trust in to deliver as musicians, songwriters, and friends. It was a pretty easy decision to make Altadore a full band after that, especially when our chemistry was so strong.

  1. Do you remain in creative control or is it a true collaboration of four musicians?

It usually works like this, I’ll write the bare bones of a song, guitar and vocals; enough to where I could perform it by myself. I’ll then bring it to the band and I might tell them what I envision for the tune, and then we dive in. Everyone writes their own parts and we usually come out in the other end with a complete song.

  1. Was it difficult for you to bring in other musicians and in a sense give up your identity as Altadore?

It was a little daunting and scary at first. Definitely a vulnerable place to put myself in and letting my guard down especially when songwriting is the one thing that I hold most close. But I started to realize that I could only take my songwriting to a certain level, which wasn’t giving each song the love that it needed. I never want to hinder the potential of my art simply to remain the only active creative contributor. It’s unfair to me, what I’m attempting to convey, and what people hear in the end. It was the best decision, and I think subsequent records will ring true because of this.

Altadore studio

  1. The indie rock scene feels practically mainstream – does this help or hurt your push into music?

Neither, really. I see where you’re coming from though. But for me right now, I just want to continue to write the songs that I do and hope that people connect with them so they see the transparency I’m trying to embrace. It’s as simple as that. Good music will always find a way to be appreciated, and at that, it has all of the potential to find success, whether it be popularity or monetary.

  1. Portland seems almost like a hub for alternative and indie rock bands – how do you stand out from the rest?

I honestly haven’t pushed Altadore enough to see any sort of substantial result within Portland’s music scene, but I do feel that Altadore has some sort of polished pop sensibility that can be lost within the garagey, lo-fi, $3 beer-induced slacker indie-rock found in most clubs any Portland night.

  1. Now with four members what’s Altadore’s process to recording music and how does if differ from the solo days?

For the record we’re about to put out, we tracked everything live except vocals. In the past, when Altadore was still solo, I would have Zach track drums and then I would track the remaining instruments one by one. Tracking live has been a great experience and gives the songs a nice vibe.

  1. With today’s technology do you guys even bother with a traditional recording studio?

We do. We started to track for this new record by ourselves, but eventually found ourselves in a traditional studio. It was just easier, at least for right now. In the future, it would be really cool to track  everything ourselves.

  1. You received some airplay on local station KNRK 94.7 – what was it like to hear your music played on radio?

It was incredible. It was shortly after the first single from Golden Hills, “Moments”, was released and I was still in my honeymoon phase with the record, so I was ecstatic. It felt like everything was falling into place. And knowing that tons of people were potentially hearing the song for the first time was an amazing feeling.

       10. You’ve got a new album coming out! What can fans expect and how does it measure up to your first release, Golden Hills?

It’s a bit of a side step from Golden Hills, but I definitely think it’s more accessible than that first release. My British influence comes out more in the new songs and they cut to the chase faster than previous tracks.

       11. How does booking a tour work for a band starting out – do you have a manager making arrangements or are you guys working the phones and booking wherever you can get in?

We’re completely DIY when it comes to booking shows and all press related things. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if we pass those duties off to someone in the near future.

12. Is Altadore a full-time project for the band members or is that more the goal?

It’s more of a goal. We all work day jobs. The plan is to simply keep putting out records that we’re proud of and work toward Altadore becoming more of a full-time career.

Interview with David Katz

Written By: AndrewT

Profile: Klaus Marten – A One Man Band

If hazy bedroom music is what you’re in the mood for then look no further than Klaus Marten. Hazy bedroom music?

Yes, that’s exactly what this one-man band from Brooklyn, NY composes using little more than guitars, keyboards, a shaker and a tambourine. Mr. Marten records all the music himself and downloads his albums using Soundcloud.com an online platform that allows artists like Marten to share music.

No slouch, Marten has five albums and one EP since he started recording music four years ago. Mostly instrumental, he boasts a number of original collections as well as his take on several more popular bands like U2, Smokey Robinson, the Beatles and the Smashing Pumpkins.

Year started: 2010

Hometown: Cleveland, OH (now in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY)

Influences: Smashing Pumpkins, Animal Collective, My Bloody Valentine, Brian Wilson, The Ventures, The Beatles, Japancakes, Deerhunter, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Van Halen, Hendrix, Sonny Sharrock, and more.

Instruments played: Acoustic and electric guitars, keyboard, shaker, tambourine

Discography:

  • In A Dream (June 2014),
  • Master Tape (January 2014)
  • Take Me With You (September 2013)
  • Satiety (January 2013),
  • September (July 2012),
  • EP (July 2012)

Website: http://klausmarten.bandcamp.com, http://soundcloud.com/klaus-marten

Twitter: twitter.com/klausityklaus
Klaus Marten

  1. Do you play all the instruments or do you have help?

It’s all me!

  1. What’s your process to recording and laying down tracks?

Usually when I record, I will start with like a main rhythm guitar or keyboard part as it may be, but I may also start with percussion if any exists, and if it is essential or appears consistently in the song. From there I will lay down any other rhythm or lead tracks, then usually percussion if I haven’t already, and if there is any bass at all, usually it is last (I am focusing more and more lately on bass and creating decent lines, but it’s not necessarily key to my music as I see it).  Apart from acoustic instruments, everything is recorded line-in, straight into the sound card.

  1. Is being a one-man band your niche or is your ideal goal to get a band started?

I think for a long time I used to really want to be in a band, and I still think it would be a lot of fun, but I feel like at this point I’ve developed such my own sound and my own way of playing and recording and producing that I’m just fine continuing what I do on my own.

In a lot of ways, I think that I work best alone. I appreciate all feedback I get on my music, but I love being able to see my vision through and shape it without compromise.

  1. Right now you’re much like That 1 Guy, who records and tours as a one-man band. Is that a possibility for you?

I honestly don’t know. So much of my music is either a weird collision of leftover and abandoned stems from old projects, or more organic instrumental stuff that is layered over with tons of effects after recording that I feel it would be really difficult to perform. I would have to rethink a lot of what I do to make it work in a live setting.

For that I would probably need more equipment and a lot of help. Or maybe if I played out alone, I would only play the tracks I feel I could most comfortably/feasibly play in a live setting. But I really don’t know; it would be probably a fun challenge, but nerve-wracking as well. I’m very used to the slow and patient process of one-man home recording.

  1. Is playing live in local clubs or even touring with another band something you’re looking into?

It isn’t something I have really looked into. I have a few people in various places who know who I am musically, but I haven’t really established much just here in New York. Plus I can’t even begin to imagine how to translate what I do to a stage setting. I probably could if I spent time on it, but it’s something that has hardly crossed my mind. That said, if someone offered me a live gig, I’d probably be kicking myself if I turned it down, so I would hopefully try to figure it out. But I guess it’s not something I’m actively pursuing at this point.

  1. Hazy bedroom music is about as an original description as you can find – did you go into recording with this in mind or did you “hear” it on playback?

Well I feel like it’s the most succinct way to accurately describe what I do. I guess it’s something I came up with after having recorded a lot of stuff. It describes the shoegazey-atmospheric-reverby-kind of distorted quality my stuff generally has, while also clueing you in that it’s just one guy with a cheap setup doing it all.

  1. You have an interesting sound, an almost soundtrack feel to your music, is composing music for other mediums an option or is the idea of being an artist, producing albums and touring more to your taste?

Thank you! I guess I would like to keep doing what I’m doing now, recording and putting out stuff as I do, and if any opportunities for soundtrack work came along I would be very open to that. Trying to create something for a specific mood, a scene that has already been created, would definitely be something new for me, but a new kind of challenge that I think would excite me.

I’m reminded of Maston, an artist who makes very lush, hauntingly gorgeous, kind of Brian Wilson-esque music (playing everything himself), and who is one of my very favorite contemporary artists. I read in an interview that he only wants to release albums for like a few more years then just work on film scores. It’s fascinating that he obviously works so hard and long to compose and play every instrument on this beautiful music he makes, and pretty much sees it as a means to an end. If I had his gifts, I don’t know if I would ever stop making albums, but I get it.

  1. The internet is obviously a big tool to sharing music, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve found in getting noticed?

I would have to say the biggest challenge is the competition – both the quantity and the quality of other artists out there. I upload a lot of music to Soundcloud and listen to many other artists on there as well, and there are so many artists – thousands that I alone have listened to – spanning any and all genres that would absolutely blow up, or at least achieve a cult following, if they had the means to get their music out there in a bigger way. Some of the music that people are producing just out of their apartments on a laptop is unreal, and that is my most direct competition, for lack of a better word.

  1. You provide some vocals but your music so far is primary instrumental – do you plan on incorporating more vocals or only when you feel it necessitates it?

I starting recording weird little songs on my parents’ computer when I was 14 or 15, and at the time, I wished I could sing. A lot of the stuff I made then was stuff that sounded like backing tracks missing vocals. Out of necessity, over the years I developed as an instrumentalist into making music that stands alone, so at this point I’m pretty comfortable doing what I’m doing.

I may not be the world’s most God-awful singer (not at all to toot my own horn) but I get anxious enough putting my own music out there, let alone adding any sort of vocals. Honestly with the few tracks where you even hear scant traces of any kind of vocal, I get pretty anxious when someone even brings it up.

10. Fill in the blank – In five years you’re _________

Hopefully able to being to really sell some music…if not as a full-time thing, at least as a nice supplement to another job. Some soundtrack work under my belt would be nice too.

Written By: AndrewT

Profile: Vows

Vows is music unlike anything on radio today.

The New Jersey based quartet founded by Jeff Pupa and James Hencken has slowly garnered a loyal following since the band’s debut album Winter’s Grave in 2012. A constant presence in clubs in their home state, as well as New York and Pennsylvania, Vows is widely known as a fans’ band, doing all recording, producing and show scheduling themselves.

Day jobs aside, Vows is a working band juggling the tour circuit while cutting two full length albums and a couple of EPs. Their most recent release in May consisted of two covers, one of which was Marissa Nadler’s “Silvia” which elicited a positive response in the form of Tweet of approval from Ms. Nadler. Just this month, Vows was nominated for artist of the month by Deli’s Magazine.

Don’t expect ripping guitar chords or thumping beats, Vows is meant to be absorbed while transfixed at the view from a high rise or watching the leaves fall on lazy Autumn day. The dreamy, almost soul searching side to alternative rock, Vows makes no apologies for their style – and not just musically.

Vows Band Profile 2

Founders: James Hencken, Jeff Pupa

Year Founded: 2012

Hometown: Neshanic Station, NJ

Influences: Endless Waves, White-outs, False Positives

Current line-up: Jeff Pupa (Vocal, Guitar, Bass), James Hencken (Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals) Sabeel Azam (Guitar, Vocals). Additional touring musicians: Jon Kovacs (Percussion), Scott Soffer (Bass)

Discography:

  • May 2014 – “Silvia / Pictures Of Matchstick Men” – single and B-side (covers)
  • March 2014 – vows, EP
  • March 2014 – 0, EP
  • February 2014 – “Ride This Out / Dream Beat”, single and B-side
  • January 2014 – “Come Over My Way / Be You Again”, single and B-side
  • May 2013 – Stranger Things, full-length
  • April 2012 – Winter’s Grave, full-length

Website: Vowsmusic.com

Vows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

1. How did Vows get started and where did you come up with the name?

Jeff:  Vows started as an experiment for James and myself to stray away from playing the more folk / acoustic sound we had been doing for a while.  We just wanted a challenge to push ourselves to create a collection of songs that was synth and electric guitar-based, a bit more lucid.

2. Vows is described as indie, dreamy and a little bit of everything in between, was this intentional or did you gravitate towards this more drowsy genre?

James: It was certainly intentional to write more open ended songs that were still strictly structured. We wanted to open up the kind of instruments and sounds and noises and stuff we could fill songs with to reach a new emotional dimension kind of…but we’ve always been really into melody and song-writing. So its usually mostly about trying to write a well crafted song, and then whatever kind of sonic shape it takes on just sort of presents itself.

3. I hear what could be an almost modern approach to music of the 1940s – a nostalgic feel  like for example “Born a Wolf” a bit in style but also sound. First am I wrong, second if I’m right, is this the recording or do you guys have an affinity for older music?

James: Definitely, although it’s probably subconscious. I live in a house that was built in the 40s and I actually have a decades app that I always have on 40s music. Its definitely safe to say that we all have an affinity for older music, but we love tons of new stuff too. I just make what I want to hear, so the kind of stuff we love has definitely manifested itself in the whole process I’m sure.

4. I hear Vows in the next David Lynch project – are movies or TV shows something the band is open to?

Jeff:  This would be awesome, and thanks for that vision.  I’d love to see our music spread to more types of media, whether it be film or art or whatever.  I think it’s the type of sound that you can close your eyes to and hopefully it acts like a portal to bring your mind somewhere else.  I think film would only enhance that effect.

Sabeel: I’ve always liked the idea of doing a score for a movie, especially since it can have a major influence on the overall impact without people even realizing how much the music is affecting them. Of course, it would be cool to have one of our actual songs featured in a show or movie, but the idea of writing a piece solely to accompany the visuals is interesting to me.

Sabeel Azam Press

5. How does the band approach the writing process?

Jeff:  We’ve always taken a separatist approach to our writing.  We all like the comfort / efficiency of writing in our own home studios.  That said, we exchange the majority of our recording ideas back and forth online.  We live in different states right now, and Sabeel, James, and myself are constantly writing and sharing recordings to add up and build on.

Sabeel: I think we would prefer to be able to spend more time writing in person, and it’s something that we’re striving for moving forward, but at the end of the day we’ll always end up writing on our own too. The convenience of digital recording lets you jot down an idea as soon as it hits you. Coupled with file sharing you can have a song fully arranged really quickly with everyone recording at their own convenience– whether it’s early morning or the middle of the night.

6. For a small band like Vows, do you find audiences prefer and appreciate original material even though it might not be familiar or is there a need to mix in well-known covers?

Jeff:  We did a cover of Marissa Nadler’s “Silvia”, which she actually approved and commented on on Twitter – that was a huge highlight for us.  We also did Status Quo’s “Pictures Of Matchstick Men”.  The two are paired as our latest release, and we really only tossed the idea of covers around before that halfheartedly.

Covers are hard to do, in my mind, because from a writing standpoint, I feel like you have to be adding something to it to really make it worthwhile. I think audiences can appreciate the covers a band does if they can hear those influences in their original sound.  There’s no need to attempt something you can’t do well in the hopes it gains some attention.  I’m not against covers, I am just more intrigued when bands stick to their guns and put their own material out first.

Sabeel: I’ve never really considered the thought of doing covers live as Vows mainly because we’ve always been so critical of getting our originals sounding good as a full band that devoting time to rehearsing anything else seems impossible right now. At the shows we’re used to playing I don’t think people expect to hear covers and honestly if a band plays a cover that’s a total outlier from their own set it almost seems like a cheap move to me. If it’s a well known song it’s more interesting to me to integrate your own sonic elements to make the song your own, while keeping the melody/lyrics in tact. But that’s just me…

Vows Band photo

7. You describe yourselves as a Do-It-Yourself type of band, do you still hire a producer do be a second ear and help provide direction?

Jeff:  At the moment, we are pretty die-hard with the way we record.  We’ve never had a producer or a second ear really – the most help we had was on our second album, Stranger Things, where we tracked drums and bass in a friend’s studio.  I personally don’t welcome the idea of a producer with open arms, and I also think that James, Sabs, and myself may be the only 3 people in the universe who can put up with each other when it comes to writing – just because we are so used to it.  It would just have to be a really good fit is all.

Sabeel: I think there’s a certain amount of trust that’s required between an artist and a producer for it to be fruitful. The same way two musicians need to have good chemistry– it’s the same with a producer. They’re just as integral to a great record as the musicians. For that reason, an album could gain interest in my mind solely because it’s done by a producer that I really respect (of which there are plenty).

But for Vows specifically we would only feel comfortable working with someone who understands what we’re going for, and there are plenty of producers who could grasp that just from listening to our albums. So when that opportunity arises I know it can benefit us hugely, but for now we’ll keep refining our own production techniques, which will ultimately help us convey our ideas better to a real producer.

8. Tomorrow a major label calls, do you negotiate terms or would you just be happy with a record contract and dump the DIY approach?  

Jeff:  If a major label called tomorrow that allowed a good amount of freedom in the creative process and input from our end, then yea, I’d definitely sign up.  I think that concept is important to retaining what we’ve become throughout the years, but it’s also what we’ve been working / hoping for.  In other words, I wouldn’t want to sign to a label and just become something else because of that.  We already have some solid releases under our belt, and I wouldn’t want to let that disappear.  Captured Tracks, Sub Pop, Carpark records – something like that would be awesome.

9. You mentioned a desire to tour with a major band. What band would you most like to tour with?

Sabeel: Probably someone like the Flaming Lips, because they seem to have maintained the enthusiasm and creative spark that’s waned for a lot of bands that have been around as long.

James: Definitely the Flaming Lips yeah – I think we always shoot for putting on these big, epic shows, we’ve just been so limited by like equipment and venues. But our dream goal is probably to one day put on a huge, but heart-felt show the way the Lips do. So yeah playing with them would be amazing.

Vows Drummer

10. Now how does that work? Is it relentless calling from you to a major band’s label or would you get a call from a manager asking if you wanted to embark as an opening act for a major tour or something else entirely different?

James: No idea honestly. I’ve been at huge concerts where the tour openers were no-bodies and not very good.. Then others where the openers blew me away. I think you have to know someone or something. That’s one kind of thing I’d like a label for – to be taken more seriously as a capable show rather than a bunch of unorganized dudes that bigger promoters don’t know if they can count on. Or because if it does take relentless calling, we’re just not doing that, you know?

11. Finally, you juggle day jobs what’s it going to take for Vows to become full-time?

Jeff:  I mean, the day job thing is just part of our reality.  I don’t know if we are the type of band that just throws everything aside and jumps into a vehicle and tours.  As much as that’d be amazing, it takes quite a bit of sacrifice in other spectrums.  We’re definitely the most calculated project that I personally know, but that shows in our writing as well.  I think we’re more focused on setting this whole thing up for the long-haul, in the hopes it becomes the day job.

Sabeel: Ultimately, it’s going to require us being able to support ourselves with our music. The archetypal band model seems to be that you scrape by for years, paying your dues before you reach that point of living comfortably as a musician, while having to sacrifice a lot for it initially.

These days, while bands seem to be making less money through record sales, their popularity can escalate so much quicker than it would have in the past, to the point where they’re doing international tours after releasing one record. I’m not saying that’s what we’re expecting but at the moment we’re just building momentum and growing this project until it seems realistic to completely shift gears in our lives.

Written By: AndrewT

Profile: Ayn Rand – Rush Tribute Band

Rush boasts one of the most dedicated fans in music today. The trio from Toronto, Canada celebrates their 40th anniversary this year and is arguably as popular, if not more popular, than their heyday.

Along with such a dedicated and passionate fan base comes a number of tribute and cover bands from the very fans who make up the strong cult following that helps keep the band chugging along after so many years. Rush has fans all over the world and the same can be said about the tribute bands of three, four, five or however many it takes to play the music that Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart seem to perform so flawlessly.

One such band is Ayn Rand from Japan. Ayn Rand is comprised of a quartet in a tribute to Rush. Though Ayn Rand plays songs from other bands, they primarily play Rush. This despite that fact, the real Rush hasn’t toured Japan in 30 years. A three decade absence from Asia hasn’t seemed to hinder the popularity of Rush’s music as Ayn Rand can certainly attests.

Ayn Rand Band

Ayn Rand – Rush tribute band from Japan

Founders: Masao “Madmarkz” Seko

Year Founded: August 2007

Hometown: Kobe, Japan

Current Lineup:

  • Masao “Madmarkz” Seko – Vocals and Synthesizers
  • Takasi “Mokuson” Kimura – Bass and Synthesizers
  • Mr. Shorts – Guitar
  • Eiji “Carbonara” Matsuura – Drums and Percussion

Influences (other than Rush):

Masao: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), David Coverdale (White snake)
Mr. Shorts: Shinji Wajima and Susumu Hirasawa
Takasi: Too many artists to write down
Eiji: Queen, Led Zeppelin, Bay City Rollers

Favorite Rush Song(s) to play:

Masao: Hemispheres
Mr. Shorts: Anything in Hemispheres
Takasi: Freewill
Eiji: Pretty much everything, but especially Tom Sawyer

Hardest Rush song learned:

Masao: A Farewell To Kings
Mr. Shorts: Distant Early Warning
Takasi: Hemispheres
Eiji: Pretty much everything. All albums after Test for Echo are very difficult.

Easiest Rush song learned:

Masao: At first, all songs sound simple and easy to play, but once we start practicing, they’re all difficult.
Mr. Shorts: The Spirit of Radio
Takasi: Nothing is easy
Eiji: Nothing is easy

Website: http://aynrand.web.fc2.com/

Ayn Rand Band 2

Ayn Rand

1. How did Ayn Rand get started and why did you choose Ayn Rand for the name?

Masao: When Eiji, who was the last member to join, started playing in our band, we were brain storming the name for the band. At that time, my girlfriend suggested “Ayn Rand” because the song lyrics for Rush were influenced by Ayn Rand. There was no disagreement in the band to adopt this name.

2. What do you like about Rush’s music?

Masao: Using a variety of rhythms and melodies, it makes their music hard to cover.

Takasi: The music itself.

Mr. Shorts: Their music sounds really simple, but at the same time they sound complicated as well. After Signals, it’s vice versa. Their music sounds really complicated, but at the same time they sound simple.

Masao Ayn Rand

Masao “Madmarkz” Seko – Vocals and Synthesizers

3. Do you understand the lyrics or do you mostly appreciate the medley between the vocals and music?

Masao: The lyrics of Rush music often includes unfamiliar words, and words with double and triple meanings. It makes it too hard for Japanese people to understand.

Eiji: I can’t understand the lyrics. But I enjoy the harmony of the vocals and melody in unison.

Mr. Shorts: I am Japanese, so I mostly appreciate the medley between the vocals and music.

4. Does Ayn Rand play songs from other bands or are you strictly a Rush tribute band?

Masao: Honestly, if we played only Rush covers, it would be too much for our audience in Japan so we expand our variety. Whatever artists we want to cover, we challenge ourselves to cover.

Eiji: It’s about 90 percent Rush and 10 percent others.

Mr. Shorts: Yes, we do play other artists’ songs.

5. Do you or would you consider writing your own songs?

Masao: I’m not interested in writing our own songs. It is more fun to cover my favorite Rush songs.

Eiji: I’m not interested, because we love Rush.

Mr. Shorts: I’m not interested, at least with Ayn Rand.

Mr Shorts Ayn Rand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


6. Rush hasn’t played in Japan since the mid-1980s do they still retain a strong following in your country?

Masao: I think there are many strong fans that are waiting for another Rush Japan tour. Of course, I’m also one of them.

Eiji: Yes. As well as fans in other countries, we also want Rush to tour Japan again.

7. Rush indicated their experience in Japan was unique in how polite the audience was – has that changed over the years or do bands still need to adjust to the formal audience reaction compared to the boisterous shows in the United States?

Masao: Even right now, Japanese audience may seem very polite at first, but once the music starts, we can become boisterous. The Japanese audience looks polite because it may be the audience trying to observe artists playing instruments or trying not to miss their words. I don’t think American bands have to change their style of play.

Eiji: The Japanese audience may be polite, but Rush should perform as they are, because we want to experience the real Rush.

Mr. Shorts: It’s all up to the musician’s preference. If Rush plays in Japan, they may think we’re polite audience. I think each band can decide what they want to do. Our culture or our opinions should not influence how each band plays.

8. What’s Ayn Rand’s process to learning Rush songs?

Masao: I don’t look at music tablature. I listen to the music and then copy it. Then I repeat practicing.

Eiji: We just keep practicing as a band until we get it.

Mr. Shorts: We practice each part on our own then we practice as a band at the studio.

Takasi Ayn Rand

Takasi “Mokuson” Kimura – Bass and Synthesizers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Do you incorporate any of Rush’s live show into Ayn Rand concerts?

Masao: We haven’t but we’d love to try sometime.

10. Give us a glimpse into popular music in Japan – is it more rock like Rush, pop or does Japan enjoy their own genre of music?

Masao: I’m not interested in Japanese music at all. I do not listen to them at all, so I don’t know what’s popular right now.

Eiji: Sorry, but I don’t know much about popular songs in Japan. Rock music is not popular in Japan. “J-POP” is the mainstream in Japanese music scene right now. Please take a look on You Tube to search “J-POP”.

Mr. Shorts: I don’t know what’s really popular in Japan, but if you want to listen to Japanese Rock, I suggest “Ningen Isu”.

Eiji Ayn Rand

Eiji “Carbonara” Matsuura – Drums and Percussion

11. Have any members of Ayn Rand seen Rush live?

Masao: I’m the only one who has seen Rush live. I saw them in November 1984 in Osaka.

To see more videos of Ayn Rand performing Rush songs, click here.

Written By: AndrewT

Profile: The Slants

The Slants made national headlines earlier this year with their lawsuit against the United States Trademark and Patent Office. The government denied the band’s trademark registration because the Trademark Office considered the term “slant” to be a disparaging term for Asian. But for those who live in Portland, OR this all-Asian American band is nothing new.

In fact, the band, which is heavily influenced by music from the 1980s, boasts a strong core following and produces a live show that is “not to be missed.” The five members describe their sound as “Chinatown Dance Rock” and they’ve toured with Girl Talk, Men Without Hats, Vampire Weekend and local favorites The Decemberists. Considered the world’s first and only all-Asian American dance rock band, The Slants have three studio albums and one album of remixes – the most recent being 2012’s The Yellow Album.

Check their Events page for tour dates.

Founders: Simon Young

Year Founded: 2006

Hometown: Portland, OR

Influences: Depeche Mode, The Cure, Duran Duran, The Cult, Joy Division

Current line-up:

  • Aron Moxley – Lead Vocals
  • Simon Young – Bass
  • Will Moore – Lead Guitar
  • Thai Dao – Keyboards & Guitar
  • Tyler Chen – Drums

1. How did The Slants get started and where did you come up with the name?

Simon: I usually tell people that the idea for the band began on April 13, 2004. That was the day that the Tarintino film “Kill Bill” was released on DVD. While watching it, I distinctly remember thinking about the lack of strong Asian American representation in the entertainment industry, especially in rock n’ roll. At the time, I was really connecting back to my 80’s roots so I wanted to start something that reflected the two.

Fast forward a few years: I began auditioning people for the band and was thinking about band names. While talking to someone, I asked, “What’s something that people think all Asians have in common?” When they mentioned ‘slanted eyes,’ I thought it was interesting because the word ‘slant’ could mean many different things. For us, it was a reference to our ‘slant’ our perspective on life as people of color. It was also a reference to the kind of guitar cabinets often used in rock music (slant cabs). Plus, it sounded like a cool 80’s new wave band.

2. You describe your music as “Chinatown Dance Rock” – what does this mean?

Tyler: A “Chinatown” in North America, is an area of a city where a concentration of immigrants from different countries around Asia have established themselves.  To the surrounding culture, all of these people are lumped together as being “Asian”, regardless of if they may have been enemies in their countries of origin.  Thus, a community is formed due to their commonalities.  Our band is very similar to a Chinatown.  We each come from very different racial and cultural backgrounds, but we are joined by our commonalities and strengthened by our differences.  “Dance Rock” is exactly what it sounds like – rock music that you can dance to!

3. Are you guys looking to start a new genre of music?

Thai: No, our goal is to make music that we like to write and perform.  If a new genre comes about, then great!  But that’s not the goal of this band.  At our core, we’re a rock band.

Simon: I think it depends on what you think of when it comes to a genre. We definitely have artists that you can compare us to, some common roots and sound, but I think we’re also doing something different and special as well. But it just depends on how poeple like to think of genres in general.

4. I hear a lot of straight-up rock in your songs not only in the vocals but some serious guitar work – do my ears deceive me?

Thai:  Nope!  Our guitar work is quite serious!

Will: You think that’s something?  You should see the live show.

Tyler:  Your ears are not deceived.  In the progression of our albums, the first album was heavily on the electronica/dance side of the spectrum, our second album leaned towards rock, and our third found the balance that we were looking for.  Some of the flashier guitar solos on our albums were actually not performed by Johny, the band’s lead guitarist at the time.  Gabe Kniffin, who plays in the bands Redshift and Silversafe with me played the blazing solo on “Astoria,” and I played the solo on songs such as Lucky Strike, Who Shot the Radio, Fight for Future and Sew Hearts.

Simon: Many of our songs, even the ones from our first album, begin on the guitar so it’s no surprise that it’s a big part of what we do. Whether it’s an actual guitar solo or harmonies riffs that help drive the song, it’s certainly an instrument that we use to help bring out some of those melodies in the music.

5. OK, so what’s with your bombastic live show – why is it not to be missed?

Thai:  You’re going to have to come to the show to find out.  All I can say is that it is fun fun fun.

Will:  Many bands stare at their feet when they perform.  Music is supposed to be an expression and extension of one’s self.  It’s really obvious that’s what’s happen at a Slants show.

Tyler:  When we play dive bars in the middle of nowhere to small audiences, we put on the same show that you see when we play at convention centers for thousands of fans.  Our live shows are packed with intense energy and fun, but you really need to experience it for yourself to understand!

6. You made headlines with your lawsuit against the United States Patent and Trademark Office – what’s the latest?

Simon: Right now, the case is pending before a Federal appeals court. We’ve submitted the paperwork, are getting some community organizations as allies, and are just waiting. That’s the thing with the law – long periods of time of waiting for something to happen.

7. You’re pretty involved with social issues – do you see this activism as more on a personal level or an extension of The Slants music?

Thai:  A lot of it is personal, but so is The Slants music itself, so you can say it’s both.

Tyler: Our activism is more than personal and an extension of our music, the band itself has grown to be a symbol of our group battle for social justice, and it has developed exponentially as we have realized the positive impact that we can actually make in the world.  I honestly never anticipated reaching this level of activism with the band, but now I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Simon: I think the band is really just an extension of our personalities and our passions. It’s ingrained in our music, which just happens to be our creative outlet to express these things. So whether we’re writing songs about social issues or we’re directly participating in the conversation around them, it’s something that definitely reflects something very personal.

8. Describe how the band approaches the writing process.

Tyler: Our process is quite a bit different than a majority of the bands out there in that, at the completion of an album, through the songwriting and recording processes, we have had very little face to face interaction.  In the songwriting stage, we each record ideas and demos at our home recording studios, share them with each other online, and then we all contribute by adding on to those original ideas and demos.  Upon completion of an album, we then have to “learn to play” the songs together for the first time!

Thai:  Because we live in different parts of town, we do a lot of the writing individually, and then send them to the rest of the band for critiques and fleshing out.  Most of The Yellow Album was put together by e-mail.

Will:  I look at myself as the person who refines the ideas. The Portlanders (3) share ideas with we Seattlies (2) via dropbox and we refine the ideas.

Simon: On a band level, it’s definitely different since we do so much of it remotely. We tend to fall into seasons where we spend more time songwriting than others (usually in between tours). Sometimes, it’s also when inspiration strikes. For example, the songs “Lucky Strike” and “How the Wicked Live” were both written in the parking lots of different Asian restaurants.

9. “Astoria” is a great track off of Pageantry – is it tongue-in-cheek or is there a real love affair with the city?

Thai:  Our singer, Aron was raised in Astoria, OR.  It’s very much a love letter to his hometown.

Simon: Most of the lyrics in the song about working fishing nets were reflections of the odd jobs and experiences Aron had growing up there.

10. The Slants have three solid albums yet it still feels like an uphill battle for you guys – what’s it take to get recognized in today’s music industry?

Will:  We have to figure out how to twerk. I’m working on it but I’ve sprained my ankle twice in the process.  I think I’m untwerkable.

Thai:  Talent, determination, luck, and having a strong fan base.

Simon: Even for established artists, it’s a battle. I’m quite proud of what we’ve done over the years though. To me, it’s less about getting recognition than about getting a support network to support our art. We’ve received plenty of press over the years, we just need to continue to find ways to sustain making music.

11. Where do you see the band heading in the future?

Thai:  We’re looking to continue to play bigger shows in more cities to more people, with our hardcore fans along for the ride.

Simon: More tours, music, videos…and hopefully, a trademark registration.
Written By: AndrewT