The Crazy Wonderful Hijinks of the 131ers

THE 131ers; press photo

THE 131ers; press photo

The 131ers have been creating quite the stir lately. Known for mixing genres and distilling it into their own unique sound, the origin of their name comes from an unlikely source as well. The name itself is an obscure reference to early MP3 tagging technology.

But why reference this to begin with? According to vocalist/guitarist Kaleb Davies, “Actually, I came up with the name when I was like…. eleven years old, because I decided I wanted to be in a band called the 131ers someday.”

“And that day came sooner than he thought!” adds bassist Chris Graue.

“And then I started making music with that name a long time ago,” Davies explains. “And it just stuck throughout every form of the band, until this one which is kind of now the real form. So, I guess the weirdest thing about that is that it’s very old. The name has been around for ten years.

THE 131ers; press photo

THE 131ers; press photo

“Ryan (Dawson, drums) and I met in high school and started making music then. We were the original two members of the 131ers; and we decided… there was some weird college stuff, dropping out stuff….it was decided we were going to do this band as a duo cuz it was easiest at the time. And Chris got involved by making the music videos. And then he started filling in on some shows, and then kind of just told us he was in the band.”

“I kind of shoehorned my way in,” Graue admitted. “To be fair, they just kept making me play gigs, and then eventually I just said, ‘I am either in this band or…no, I am just in this band cuz you keep calling me’.”

Davies further describes how the drummer came to be in the band as well, “We met Greg (Wilmot, guitar) through a YouTube show that he used to host, and we hit it off. I think the story there is we saw him at a show months later in Anaheim where he lives. I was really, really drunk and he said something like, ‘Are you going to let me play guitar for you?’ and I responded like, ‘Yea, of course!!!’ and now he is our guitar player.”

“Pretty much if you want to be in the 131ers, just show up and tell people you are in the 131ers,” jokes Graue.

What influences a band is often quite diverse, and often rather unexpected.

“I listen to a lot of ska and punk, so I don’t know how much that comes through,” points out Graue. “It probably doesn’t. Especially as a bass player, I’ve always just listened to so much ska growing up. I’m basically just playing ska basslines at different rhythms, no matter what I’m doing.”

THE 131ers; press photo

THE 131ers; press photo

When it comes to playing live shows, Graue remarks, “I like the drink tickets. Those are pretty cool. I like the people that come to them, like the people at the shows, and like hanging out with them afterwards. I like a lot of tension, so I want everyone to look at me for thirty minutes, and then talk to me afterwards personally.”

Davies gives his take on the live experience as well, “I like playing live shows. We were doing another interview and they asked, ‘Why do you play music, what inspires you?’ And my response has always been being able to play live. It feels like the most important thing and I feel creatively I get the best buzz off of that. I don’t think I can pinpoint why but think it just has something to do with the mutual, one-on-one thing you get with somebody when they are liking your band, or you’re watching a band and know what they are going through. Yea, there’s nothing like it.”

The 131ers also love the studio environment, albeit for much different reasons.

“I like it a lot,” Dawson said. “I feel that it’s cool because you learn a lot about the song you’re recording while recording it. You think you might know the song cuz you have played it so many times live, but once you get it down on paper so to speak, there are so many things you can manipulate and do with it. On the other hand, it might change the song completely.”

“You can be way more ambitious too,” adds Graue. “When you’re playing it live, you have to sort of play it the simplest way that you can, to make sure you don’t screw it up.”

“Every show I have ever played, I started playing shows when I was fifteen or whatever, I always have a red bandana tied around my microphone stand,” Davies recalls. “I don’t know why, sometimes I wipe my face with it, but usually I don’t even touch it. But if I don’t have it, I like flip out. We have even had people buy one and bring it to the show.”

“We tried playing without it once and it was like the worst show ever, so he swore he wouldn’t ever do it again,” Dawson chimes in.

Catch the wild antics and intense tension of the 131ers via their upcoming album Nothing’s As It Should Be and catch them live at Los Angeles Ale Works Jun 15 and Pop Obscure Records Jun 16.

Breaking Down Chinatown

Full Flower Moon Band-Chinatown Movie

Full Flower Moon Band-Chinatown Movie

Welcome to the bewilderingly artful experience of Full Flower Moon Band’s audio-visual concept album, Chinatown. And if you aren’t familiar with the indie rock scene in Australia, you might not know that this band, and its ambitious debut project, is the brainchild of a person who goes by the name Babyshakes (but who is actually named Kate Dillon).

Babyshakes, as a part of Gabriella Cohen’s band, opened for Foxygen’s touring production of “Hang” last year at the Fonda Theater. And although Cohen may have also helped Babyshakes record Chinatown, make no mistake, Full Flower Moon Band (FFMB) is very much its own entity.

Full Flower Moon Band

Full Flower Moon Band

Whereas Cohen makes hazy, laid back, catchy garage rock, the music of FFMB is melancholic, dreamy, gothic, and raw. Quite unsurprisingly, her movie flows into similar territory, with extra doses of quasi-esoteric abstractionism.

It is not necessarily that the film is totally incomprehensible, in that it feels like repeated viewings could very well yield answers to many questions. The movie is simply packed with expression, operating on multiple levels at once, and requiring that you be fully engaged. There is the sense of real, deeply deliberated meaning at play.

Eager to discover more about that meaning, Concert Guide Live sought out Babyshakes for a conversation about her passion project, to which she graciously agreed.

Full Flower Moon Band-Chinatown Movie

Full Flower Moon Band-Chinatown Movie

You can watch the film HERE before reading why it feels like there’s something more going on, what authentic art means to Babyshakes, and how Chinatown represents her journey both as a person and as an artist.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: I definitely picked up on a lot of the thematic stuff in the movie, such as the questioning of authenticity and art, what is real, etc. But I also feel like I just have more questions than answers. Was the point to confuse us?
BABYSHAKES DILLON: Yeah well at the end of the day, the [movie] is supposed to sort of leave you with this feeling that you didn’t see the whole film. And the reason for that is because I based the movie in the future where you have to have a certain amount of artistic credit in order to view it.

And I sort of knew I didn’t have the budget to make the blockbuster film that was in my head, so I just made all the pieces that I could make and alluded to this larger picture that you could never understand. And the moral of the story is that you can only have your lived experience. So, I guess I want people to be left with the feeling of like, ‘You gotta live it instead of watching it.’ Because that’s the only way to really experience life.”

CGL: So, basically there is no real truth to art? Only what you get out of it?
BD: Yeah, exactly. I’m glad you got that.

CGL: Then what makes art authentic? Is there such a thing? Or is it all lost in translation?
BD: I’ve always strived as the artist to be authentic, but the more I create, the more I realize, ‘It’s still Hollywood, baby’. It’s still smoke and mirrors. So, I guess you have to strive for authenticity in your process? Which is another reason why Chinatown is a documentary about the movie that you’ll never see because I’m trying to say the journey is more important than the destination.

CGL: I’d like to touch on that structure for a second. I feel like there’s a lot of self-referential writing these days, to the point where it kind of feels inauthentic and overplayed. Not that I’m saying yours did, but I am curious what your thoughts are on “meta” art?
BD: It makes it really hard for artists to find an authentic voice because you can constantly break that wall and be like, ‘Hey, I know what we’re all doing here’. I did break that wall a lot of times, but I did try to keep it contained within the movie dialogue. As opposed to it actually completely breaking down so that I hope I never broke it down to the point of irony. I hope I kept it within its own art.

I think my next work will not be as “meta.” But I think I had to work through that in order to realize that my art is valid as a product. I also just didn’t really have the money to make Chinatown the movie and so I had to make a film within a film.

CGL: There were moments where that got really crazy though. That interview scene felt like it was obviously acting. But it was also supposed to be real life. So, it was like art imitating life imitating art. And my mind was just blown away.
BD: Okay, so, I really had clear visions for this film that didn’t get realized (laughs). So, what I ended up with is like, triple the intensity of what I probably would have wanted to make, simply because it’s my first film. So, when I’m doing an interview and I want it to look real, it still looks fake. But that’s probably a blessing in a way because it’s authentic in the way it reflects where I’m at as an artist. You’re seeing what I tried to do, and the journey that I wanted to show, but you’re kind of seeing the journey of me doing that.

CGL: A journey within a journey. I like it. How do you think that plays out for your audience though? Did you write it with them in mind? Or do you have to forsake audience to make authentic art?
BD: I feel like you really do have to forget about your audience. Because they might not always be there.

CGL: Right. And if you only make art for other people, then you kind of get trapped in this box of identity. Because now you’re having to live up to this idea of you as a certain type of artist instead of you living up to who you already are.
BD: Okay, I think I know what’s going on. So clearly there are two phases of creativity, the zone where you’re making the art and you’re creating a vision that you want to make for the world. And then, when that project or that idea is completed and you’re happy to sign off on it.

Then there’s the promotion and the marketing campaign. Don’t get the two confused. I mean, there’s no point thinking about how it’s gonna be received and what your press shot is gonna be or what blog is gonna premier it if it’s not made yet. And I think I really had to “go into the mountains” and make it.

Then there was this clear distinction to me when I stopped making the art and started making the brand. They’re two different things. There’s a lot of people who have a brand but don’t have any art.

Meet London’s Dirty Thrills

DIRTY THRILLS

DIRTY THRILLS press photo

Raunchy, bluesy London band Dirty Thrills may not have hit this side of the pond, yet, but don’t wait to check out their music. Featuring strong, signature vocals ala the Small Faces Steve Marriott or any other old-school rocker, the songs are catchy, full of swagger and high-energy.

Since forming in 2013, the charismatic and fun-loving quartet have released several EP’s, and a couple of albums including 2017’s Heavy Living not to mention over 100 shows including both headline tours and arena support tours.

Concert Guide Live reached out to the band who shared tales of getting banned from venues and hotels, their latest album and so much more.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: Your band name is quite evocative, how was it chosen?
DIRTY THRILLS: After many names were thrown about, we had a long list of names many of which were song titles from particular artists. We couldn’t find any common ground so after a long debate, Louis (James/vocals) suddenly came out with Dirty Thrills.

CGL: When/where was the first Dirty Thrills concert? How did it go?
DT: Well, amazingly our first ever show was at the world famous 100 Club in London. We were real excited about this and it was a dream come true to play there. It went better than ever, and we won over many fans that night, and realized we had a good thing going here. We did however have a dispute with the venue which went onto us apparently being banned from playing there again. Not sure if that still stands ha! If so then 100 club… water under the bridge guys, we love ya.

CGL: What do you like to do right before you go onstage?
DT: We are quite the energetic bunch of lads on stage, that takes a bit of preparation beforehand. A lot of mental preparation, we each warm up our instrument (wink). 😉 Then maybe a beer or whiskey to wet the whistle. We leave everything out there on that stage so no matter how much we prepare, we rarely come off alive. Ha!

CGL: Tell us about an interesting/unexpected/funny or surprising situation that has occurred on the road.
DT: While touring with Europe, which was real exciting for us and it was our first taste of a big tour in several countries and staying in various hotels. We got a little too sassy on the last night of the tour, didn’t end up doing the cliché ‘trash the hotel room’, don’t worry. But Louis did end up very drunk walking around the lobby in search of his and his girls room, totally naked with a kettle full of whiskey in hand. He must have knocked on about 20 different rooms that night, greeted with shocked customers at every door. Haha. Needless to say, we aren’t allowed back there anymore.

CGL: How long did you work on the latest album Heavy Living from writing to recording the songs?
DT: About seven months, give or take. We had a couple songs already that we wanted to add to the album as we felt they needed to be on it. As far as the rest, they kinda wrote themselves really. We recorded it at the famous Monnow Valley which was amazing! And we did the entire thing pretty quick actually. All in all, it took about a year to write, book studio time and pre-production to finally cutting the record.

CGL: Which song was the most challenging and why? Did any of the songs seem to write itself?
DT: Ha! As said before, many songs wrote themselves. Once in the flow, we seem to get shit done pretty quickly. There were no real challenges as such, some songs are harder to perform due to their lyrical content and meaning, but apart from that, we are a well-oiled machine.

CGL: Is there a primary songwriter or does everyone contribute?
DT: Lyrics and melody are usually Louis and Jack (Fawdry/guitar), as with riffs, then we go into the studio and put all our heads together, work on the arrangements and tweak any parts we feel need a little TLC.

CGL: What inspires your songwriting?
DT: Anything really. Can be a drunk jam, to hearing a song you dig, even from hearing a tv advert jingle. A lot of the time I (Louis) will just hum or whistle a tune and something will come out of it. There’s never really any regular process.

CGL: How did the four of you meet and was there a specific moment when you realized you wanted to do music?
DT: Louis, Steve (Corrigan/drums) and Jack all met at uni [university]. Louis dropped out and immediately wanted to form a rock band. He called up Steve, who was up for it. Steve then contacted Jack and that was that. Aaron (Plows/bass) came along about a year later after our original bassist had other plans. DT was complete after that.

CGL: Do you all have similar tastes in music? What’s the last “record” anyone bought?
DT: We do, and we don’t. I can’t stand some of the stuff the guys dig, as I’m sure the same goes for them. We have a love of rock and whether that be metal, hard or classic, it’ll find its way, and the eclectic mix bodes well for us when writing interesting tunes. The last Record I (Louis) bought, was Rival Sons Great Western Valkyrie.

CGL: What is on the horizon? Are there plans to tour the U.S.?
DT: The Horizon is forever changing, we can never know, but we are constantly heading toward it, at great speed. We are excited about the future and we can’t fucking wait to tour across the Pond! We love you guys and I’m sure you will dig us too!

CGL: Is there anything you’d like to add?
DT: Check out our album Heavy Living – OUT NOW – if ya dig that classic rock vibe with a modern bite!

Travelin Jack: Representatives Of Rock In The 21st Century

TRAVELIN JACK

TRAVELIN JACK; photo Martin Becker

Though it’s currently impossible to return to the 1970’s to experience the golden age of rock-n-roll, bands of the present and surviving groups from that era still try to perfectly replicate that period of history through their music.

One of the latest and most noteworthy attempts to accomplish this comes in the form of Travelin Jack. First formed in Berlin in 2013, this relatively new group aims to be the ultimate homage to 70’s rock-n-roll.

Not only does Travelin Jack near-perfectly capture the trademark sound of 70’s rock through its performances, they go further though in applying the unique gimmicks and trademarks of the era to their group. Practically everything is used from outrageous makeup, extravagant costumes and even unique stage names.

But it’s their live shows that truly reflect they have gone all out to make it feel like a 70s concert for audiences of the 21st century. Steve Burner, the band’s bass player, guarantees concert goers can expect great shows.

“We’ve got permission to give the audience the whole package,” Burner claimed. “We want to make sure they get a good show. That’s what we promise to give to the audience. There’s a lot of action, a lot of glitter and we try to give them some special effects with the budget we’ve got.”

Burner is able to partake in such shows due to his friendship with the group’s lead guitarist Flo ‘The Fly’ Kraemer. Kraemer was still writing the band’s first songs with lead vocalist and guitarist Alia Spaceface before approaching Burner with the terrific opportunity to help out.

“I’ve known Flo for about 15 years but we never played together in a band,” Burner says. “He told me, ‘We’re forming a band to play some 70s rock-n-roll. Do you want to join?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ I came from Cologne to Berlin to start it.”

Another friend of Burner’s, Montgomery Shell, joined soon after as the group’s drummer. With the band formed and dubbing itself Travelin Jack after a central character from the Stephen King novel “The Talisman”, the four quickly went to work in entertaining audiences throughout Europe.

Europe has been the exclusive stomping ground for the group since 2013. Past shows have taken place largely in Germany with some side stops in places like Sweden, Italy, Denmark, Austria and Holland. If you’re wondering why they’ve yet to entertain live audiences in the United States, it’s due to the group’s lack of money and, of course, restrictive geopolitics.

“The problem for European bands to go to America is visas. It’s really expensive to play there,” Burner explains. “But we really would like to play in the U.S.”

This handicap has made the group rely on their albums to gain them international exposure. New World, their first album, was released both in Europe and overseas in 2015. Their follow-up and current album, Commencing Countdown, shall be given the same treatment once released on Sep. 8. Those wanting to enjoy an early taste of the album can view the official music video for the song “Keep on Running” online and buy it as a digital single.

TRAVELIN JACK

TRAVELIN JACK “Commencing Countdown” album cover

Burner isn’t ashamed to admit that the band’s second album sounds much better due to all band members working together on it.

“I think it’s more catchy and groovy than the first one,” Burner said. “Maybe the reason is we wrote together. The first one was made before we started writing stuff together as a band. We work better together and we grow.”

Yet while their albums are the only way Travelin Jack is currently able to share its 70s style rock outside Europe, Burner and his bandmates have tried to make the best of their situation. This has been made easier thanks to an armada of European rock-n-roll fans.
For example, Burner cites the final location of the band’s current tour.

“At the end of this December we are on tour with Kadaver, who are from Berlin, too, and will play in Siegen at the Vortex. It’s a small village near the village I came from so a lot of fans will be there. But there’s also a really cool rock-n-roll scene. There’s a great festival called “Freak Valley Festival”. I played there with my first band years ago and it’s always a big party there.”

Until that final destination is reached and their work is completed on promoting their upcoming CD, Burner says he and his bandmates don’t intend to wrack their brains on the future but on the present. He and the other players of Travelin Jack have one primary goal they wish to focus on.

“Our main plan is to play rock-n-roll and have a good time.”

August Burns Red Celebrates Messengers in SoCal

AUGUST BURNS RED

AUGUST BURNS RED plays Belasco Theater Jan. 24, Observatory Jan. 25, Soma Jan. 27; press photo

Can heavy metal be an uplifting experience? Metalcore band August Burns Red constantly seeks to answer “yes” to that through their music and live performances. The group makes multiple stops in SoCal as part of their ongoing tour celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their second album Messengers – The Belasco Theater Jan. 24, the Observatory/Santa Ana Jan. 25 and Soma Jan. 27.

August Burns Red formed in 2003 in Lancaster, PA. The group became popular in the Lancaster music scene before acquiring their first label, CI Records, who released their first EP, Looks Fragile After All, in 2004. Their first album, Thrill Seeker, was released a year later followed by Messengers in 2007.

The success of these albums and the band’s power-packed performances helped cement the presence of the group in the music scene. The group has toured worldwide, earned critical acclaim and has played alongside other high-profile metal groups such as Avenged Sevenfold and Lamb of God.

The music of August Burns is, as you might expect, very loud while being played passionately and with tremendous gusto. Likewise, Jake Luhrs, the lead vocalist, provides the trademark guttural vocal style that has defined metalcore groups like August Runs Red. This is where the clichés end and where August Burns Red begins to defy convention.

The songs of August Burns Red tackle difficult subjects, namely broken societies and death, but deals with them optimistically. Songs like their recent Grammy nominated song “Identity,” urges others to stand up for themselves and not surrender themselves to people who would undermine their potential.

Songs like these are played in a uniquely upbeat and dynamic manner to match their underlying optimism. From the passionate guitar playing of guitarists JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler to the fast, coordinated poundings of drummer Matt Greiner, August Burns Red consistently strives to deliver high volume musical experiences imparting a sense of hope to people trapped in a broken world.

If you’re looking for a generous dosage of inspiration to complement a good head banging session too, be sure to go and see August Burns Red at one of their SoCal shows.

Buzz Band: SoCal Musician Lauren Lusardi Aka Plasmic

Lauren Lusardi aka Plasmic

Lauren Lusardi aka Plasmic

Lauren Lusardi is a native Californian techno musician. Playing under the name Plasmic, Lusardi is unique not just for her quirky music and style but a textbook example of how hard work does pay off.

For her, that payoff is a record label from the independent run Devour Records.

“I met Devour Records by playing shows at [Timewarp Music] in Venice,” Lusardi relates. “They [the label owners] both worked there and told me they were starting a label and asked me to be part of it. They’re now my best friends and I’ve become not only an artist but a partner to the label.”

Lusardi has accomplished much with their help with her most recent success having filmed her first professionally made music video directed by local photographer Jenna Mason-Brase.

Part of that filming took Lusardi away from her Mission Viejo home to Corona Del Mar just outside of the B Candy Store. Its huge, outdoor décor featuring sculptures of various sweets and candies caught the eye of Lusardi immediately.

“I saw the candy store and I thought it was really cool for my song that was coming out,” Lusardi said. “The song is called ‘Revenge’ but in the lyrics we say ‘revenge is so sweet’. So [the] candy store kind of worked out perfectly.”

The song itself is in large part based on Lusardi’s upbringing: something that wasn’t so sweet. Born in Beverly Hills, she isn’t ashamed to admit that her childhood was a struggle.

“Growing up I struggled a lot with anxiety [and] ADHD,” Lusardi admitted. “I kind of struggled with that and went through a lot of therapy and a lot of my songs are about that. They stem a lot from what I’ve been through and those situations have kind of like shaped the person I am.”

Lauren Lusardi aka Plasmic

Lauren Lusardi aka Plasmic

Lusardi found solace in music: something she discovered she had an immense talent for creating.

“I always played piano as a kid,” Lusardi recalled. “Then I started making music digitally and then I got into electronic music and then it stemmed from there.“

Lusardi began investing in music at the age of 16. Until being signed by Devour Records, she shared her music both online and playing at local venues while also attending an audio engineering course at Saddleback College.

“My dad’s really been my biggest inspiration in music. [He] kind of taught me how to play everything and then it just stemmed from that.”

She notes how various rock and new wave bands of the 80s influenced her. One group she cites specifically is Devo along with its founder, Mark Mothersbaugh.

“I watch interviews and just really connect with him and how he creates his music and how innovative he is and how he goes against like everything that is punk rock and I feel like I do that a lot with my music. He’s really inspirational to any musician [and] any genre.”

Like Devo, Lusardi isn’t afraid to experiment and try new things. This has resulted in her music being something of a shapeshifting amalgamation.

“It’s like a mixture of like synth pop but also experimental. That’s pretty much the best way to describe it. It’s always changing and it’s always changing for the better I think.”

This helps lend to both the nostalgic and progressive tones in songs like “Revenge” and “Tears Are Routine.” Mixed with lyrics usually inspired by her life experiences, the effect they produce puts them in what Lusardi considers to be a unique genre.

“I did a show one time in Whittier and someone came up to me and told me that my genre should be ‘music to burn Barbies to.’ So I’ve kind of adopted that.”

Her performances however, have been sporadic and usually confined to small venues, recently playing her music at the All-Star Lanes Bowling Center in Los Angeles. Still, despite their rarity, she is amazed to see the effect her music has on others.

“I see people that they go from like standing next to the wall to, like, dancing, like, crazy. Even if they don’t know how to dance they dance and it’s really cool.”

These performances often see Lusardi wearing vivid pink outfits that compliment her playful stage behavior such as tossing balloons out into the audience.

“The reason I wear pink all the time is because I’m taking back femininity and making it powerful and I feel like wearing a tutu is powerful and I learned the hard way feminine power is real.”

Jacob Whitesides Gets Lovesick In California

JACOB WHITESIDES

JACOB WHITESIDES plays the Troubadour Jun. 18; press photo

Singer-songwriter Jacob Whitesides has evolved from a YouTube phenomenon, to the live performance you don’t want to miss. Selling out shows in the U.S. and Europe, he will be at the Troubadour June 18 and House of Blues San Diego on June 21.

As an up-and-coming artist, he didn’t reach for the first deal thrown his way, but rather began to build his own empire, becoming the CEO of Double U Records (in partnership with BMG). This not only gave him a different perspective in the music industry, but also gave him the confidence to build his own style instead of blending into the ideals of another record label.

“It’s really given me time to find my sound,” Whitesides explained. “That was really scary because I know a lot of us YouTubers that are doing covers sign a deal automatically without finding their sound first, and then they get kind of crafted into something they don’t want to be.”

With such a massive following on YouTube that later grew on social media, Whitesides saw the different offers and opportunities available, but stayed motivated in finding his own way in the industry.

“It’s very hard in this day and age with social media,” Whitesides said. “Early on even when I didn’t have a massive following, when I started getting some of a following online, I had deals presented to me that looked really glamorous and just seeing what other people were doing and just thinking, ‘I have to be a part of that’. But thankfully I had people who kept me patient.”

Aside from being able to mold his own musical aspirations, being CEO has given him the ability to be the decision maker in most situations where an artist often has no voice.

“Those big decisions have always been so important to me and I knew early on, even when I didn’t know much about the music industry in general, I just knew I wanted to be able to have control over those kind of things, and it’s been highly beneficial in my life,” Whitesides said. “Whether it’s how much tickets are, when we go on sale, or how many meet and greets we do, it’s those small little things that most artists don’t get to decide.”

In addition to playing on YouTube, Whitesides has released 3 EPs. 2014’s 3 Am features all cover songs, while A Piece of Me and Faces on Film features original material. His debut album Lovesick is due later this year.

With the release of the single “Lovesick” from the upcoming album, it’s easy to see that Whitesides is transitioning from his cover song days to building his own sound as an acoustic, indie musician, but as a more Maroon 5-style pop rock artist.

“My early stuff was very acoustic based,” Whitesides noted. “I grew up listening to a lot of Jack Johnson, John Mayer, James Taylor, so definitely more of the bluesy/folky singer-songwriter stuff. This new record was really taking the bones of that stuff I grew up with and adding some pop influence.”

Considering Whitesides has only been recording for about a year-and-a-half, the writing and recording for this new album contains lyrics about his recent tour experiences, as well as his relationships and how they’ve developed.

“This is the first time I’ve had a good chunk of time,” Whitesides said. “With the first two EPs I only had a couple weeks to write them, and they turned out great. But with this one (Lovesick) there was a lot more time and I’d experienced a lot more. Most of the inspiration with this new record was just the relationship I was in, being far from home all the time, and kind of the feelings directly related to that.”

Whitesides has been playing new songs from Lovesick during his live performances, giving fans a taste of what to expect, but his favorite song on the new album has yet to be played live.

“There’s a song on the record called ‘You Told Me So’ that I haven’t played live yet,” Whitesides said. “It’s really self-reflective. I was in Europe for a while and I spent a lot of time alone there and kind of just did a lot of self-reflecting on me as a person, and me in a relationship, and me in everyday life and wrote a song about it. It was really emotional.”

Although being far away and traveling seriously for the first time, Whitesides was ecstatic to share his music with fans he hadn’t been able to reach outside of the computer screen.

“Being able to go over there and with the language barrier, having them sing the songs word-for-word was just phenomenal for me,” Whitesides said. “That’s like the first time I’ve ever really traveled, you know? Before, I had barely left Tennessee much. Then going on the U.S. tour, then traveling to Europe into all these different cultures, it was really insane. Being able to meet those fans that have been really supportive for so long, I really got a taste of how difficult it is to be a fan over there with the distance and the time difference, and they’re still there every day tweeting me.”

Whitesides, being labeled as the “next Bieber” by many because of his start, is proving to become his own icon, building a fanbase of Whitesiders across the globe.

LA Band The Knitts Are Ones To Follow

THE KNITTS

THE KNITTS play The Hi Hat Feb. 15 photo: Hadas

The Knitts are a tightly-woven band of three brothers and two of their childhood buds. Their music, oscillating between genres like garage-rock and post-punk, with influences from Blur to Sabbath and beyond, is less close-knit, but just as wonderful. Catch them at The Hi Hat in Los Angeles on Feb. 15.

With a new EP, Simple Folk due out this week, and a full album later in the year, The Knitts are in the midst of a magical time for any band, a metastasis where excitement and exuberant innocence are still mostly intact. This was frontman Justin Volkens’ first phone-interview, not apparent in his thoughtful answers, but in his easy laugh, palpable passion for all things music, and a doting love for his band. It’s this essence The Knitts wanted to capture on record before they lose it.

“The album is mostly songs we wrote about four or five years ago. We have at least enough material to fill four records, but this is the one we really want out. I think you have to maintain an adolescence. That learning curve. Writing music without it being a job yet. There’s an innocence to it from when nobody else was involved.

“We didn’t want any songs to fall under the radar because we know they’re good and people do enjoy them. Even though we’re sick of playing them live already [laughs], we always try and remember that when we first wrote it, how good did we think that song was? And the album speaks to that. I mean, you have someone like Lorde who wrote an album where she’s talking about not knowing what a diamond looks like, and now she has to write a follow up record? What the hell is that going to be about?!”

Do they fit neatly in a genre-descriptive box? No. Have people asked them to change their name (which, across the Atlantic means head-lice)? Yes. At any point in the near future are they willing to kowtow to the big bad music suits? Definitely not.

“The more attention you get, the more people are invested and feel sort of entitled to the process. When someone comes in with three years of us already working the circuit and tries to get us to change things, it’s like, ‘No. This is the identity.’

“I’ve seen a lot of bands change their name. All of a sudden, the venues they want to play don’t remember who they are. Our name is fitting for us. My brother Charlie worked at The Knitting Factory for years before it closed down. We were the kids who hung out there, so The Knitts, it sort of stuck. Not everybody can start off as Mookie Blaylock and still get to turn into Pearl Jam.”

The band intrinsically has the mentality of the San Fernando Valley that bred them. Fittingly, The Knitts have created a place in the LA music scene as unique as their homebase. Their mercurial music says, “this is who we are, this is what we do, if the rest of you guys don’t like it, we’re here anyways.”

“We all grew up listening to ska and punk, you know that San Fernando Valley scene, but we also each come from different genres of rock music. There’s metal fans between Charlie and Brandon, Victor is really old-school 70’s rock like Zeppelin, Sabbath, so it’s a vast array where each of us sort of found our footing and we all bring different styles to the band.

“We try to approach each song in a different format or structure. It’s frowned upon by most record execs. We don’t do the typical verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. It has to come organically. You try and allow the song to write itself, and if it doesn’t repeat that way, then so be it.”

This diversity keeps their music fresh, and is a testament to their studiousness. The Brit-rock slink of “Knives” sounds like it’s coming from a totally different band than the sunny fun of “Vamanos Mexico.”

“We’re music fans, we’re not just rock fans per se. I’ll listen to a hip-hop track and be like, ‘Ooh I like that structure,’ and I’ll try and incorporate that into what we’re doing. I just started listening to Os Mutantes, the Brazilian garage-rock band, and it’s like, ‘Oh dang! This is fantastic.’ We sort of study music as well as write it. We like to learn from it.”

This musical mixed bag can make live shows an interesting dilemma, but again, Volkens looks to the greats.

“The trickiest part for us about not really nailing down a genre is developing the set. Every now and then I like to watch Ziggy Stardust and Spiders From Mars, just to see how he (David Bowie) turns it into a performance instead of just a show. He can breakdown in the middle of the set and play “My Death” and then do like, a rock ’n roll instrumental next, so I’m looking to see, how is that so easily transitioned? We look at each show as a journey, and who wants to come along with it?”

As far as “making it” Volkens remains charmingly optimistic, citing LA as a land of competition, but also vast opportunity.

“There’s the negative part where there’s so many bands and it’s hard to get booked a certain night because there’s just no openings. But there’s also no shortage of people you could meet. You could meet anybody at any venue.

“We play The Sugar Mill in Reseda all the time. That’s like a Dave Grohl hotspot and Tenacious D warms up their set over there before they go out on tour.

“We always made sure to take any offer, even if that meant upsetting other venues. I still don’t think we’re allowed at The Troubadour because I think we owe them $800. They’re like, ‘Hey, sell these presale tickets’. So, we took ‘em and gave them all out for free [laughs].”

How very rock-n-roll.

The Knitts’ sophomore EP, Simple Folk arrives on store shelves on February 12 via Knitting Factory Records.

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Buzz Band: Phantoms Amongst The Ruin

PHANTOMS AMONGST THE RUIN

PHANTOMS AMONGST THE RUIN play Clash City Station Jan. 7 and Bridgetown DIY Feb. 3

Phantoms Amongst the Ruin is a local Orange County band that prides itself in being macabre. Their scare-filled gimmick and horror-based music can be experienced at the Clash City Station in Riverside Jan. 7 followed by an appearance at the Bridgetown DIY in La Palma Feb. 3.

The six-piece group prefers to be known by their stage names: Dimitri “Demon” Phantom (Guitarist/ Backing Vocals), Kreepy Phantom (Lead Vocals), Phantom Zero (Co Vocalist), Blitz Phantom (Lead Guitarist), Crimson Panic (Drums) and Phantom Panic (Bass).

“My most recent project was a band called Exordiom and things ended with them really badly,” Dimitri explained.” So, I decided to take some time off and write a good chunk of material.”

It was during this time that Dimitri produced nearly an album’s worth of material and decided to form Phantoms Amongst the Ruin: a name derived from the band’s love of graphic novels.

“Demon pulled it from one of our favorite comic books, ‘The Umbrella Academy’,” Kreepy Phantom acknowledged. “We were fans of the comic separately years before we started working together in the band. It felt like destiny.”

The group’s love of horror films and grim artwork such as that produced by H.R. Giger are credited for both the band’s gimmick along with their music. Musically they credit performers which include other horror-themed bands such as Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and the Misfits.

Dimitri also credits bands in the local scene too for helping shape his group.

“I continued to be inspired by my friends in the local scene. Bands like Our Frankenstein, The Culling, AKASHA, and In Urgency, to name a few.”

But each band member is allowed to bring whatever influences they feel to improve their group.

“We all bring our own artistic influences to the table. I personally pull a lot of inspiration from Slipknot,” says Phantom Zero. “This caters towards the mask I wear, and my stage name.”

Musically the band plays what it calls “gothic horror core” and is a unique amalgamation innovated by Dmitri but whom the other band members have helped contribute to.

“My initial vision was to take dead genres that I feel were underappreciated like horror punk and modernize them by mixing them with more relevant genres like hard core, death core, a little goth influence as well as a metal attitude.”

The band places a tremendous amount of devotion in ensuring all of their live shows are entertaining to concertgoers.

“We always do our best to keep things energetic and creepy. I want nothing more than to see people feel the music, move, forget about your real life, become the monster you have inside and have the time of your life.”

This effort sometimes pays off in memorable moments according to Phantom Zero.

“During this show, Phantoms Amongst the Ruin played as a two-piece (Dimitri and Kreepy). They played their cover of “I Kissed a Girl” and got the entire crowd to sing along. I must say, that was a pretty memorable experience.”

Their popularity is evidenced by the notable venues they’ve played such as Chain Reaction in Anaheim that Dimitri notes has marked two memorable performances for them.

“We have had our best show and our worst show there. The people, as well as the venue, are too kind and they really go out there and appreciate us and for that I love the place.”

Live performances have been the main focus of the band. However the band has yet to acquire a recording label and isn’t shy in admitting they have very few recordings released.

“We have some live tracks, some instrumental tracks, an acoustic session, a practice session, as well as a teaser spread over the platforms Facebook, YouTube, and Soundcloud,” says Kreepy.

But with the band’s reformation has come a new determination to make up for lost time in releasing new material following their upcoming Feb. 3 performance.

“We plan on recording our first EP, filming a music video, and much more,” says Phantom Zero.

Beyond that, Kreepy says that the band intends to continue improving and entertaining concertgoers.

“We are planning on getting better, for us, and most importantly for our Fan-toms. We love nothing more than seeing the sweat drenched and smiling faces at the end of our shows.”

Year of the Dragon Brings Their Full Force Sound To Hi-Fi Rockfest

YEAR OF THE DRAGON

YEAR OF THE DRAGON play Hi-Fi Rockfest Sep. 26

Hitting the stage for the first Hi-Fi Rockfest in Long Beach is Year of the Dragon. The festival will take place at the Queen Mary Sep. 26.

“We’re most excited to be alive and kicking!” lead singer Dirty Walt said. “We are really excited to check out the great lineup with acts like the Dead Kennedys, Naked Raygun, Suicidal Tendencies and of course, Richie Ramone.”

Year of the Dragon made their appearance in the music scene in 2012, which also happened to be a Year of the Dragon. Coincidentally enough, they established their name due to two of the members also being born in a Dragon year.

“We try to keep our music as powerful and aggressive as we can, as a dragon would,” Walt said. “We also want to burn someone’s face off with our music.”

Since starting the band, Year of the Dragon has overcome their fair share of obstacles.

“The biggest obstacle with this band is that we all live in different places so getting together to practice is always a challenge,” Walt explained. “But, we get musically better everyday. We also have really good chemistry, and we have done quite a bit of writing together, so we always look forward to making more music together.”

Being in the music industry isn’t exactly the easiest, but Year of the Dragon has managed to find the motivation to keep them going.

“Seeing the guys in the room, I can feel the talent, inspiration and influence,” drummer Kerim Imes said. “Now is our chance to let all of that out. I’m excited when Walt comes up with something and as a band we do something special with it.”

According to the band, we can expect a lot of energy from their live show. Walt describes the band in three words as “red hot fire” and Kerim as “blunt force karma”. This is exactly what they want you to feel from their performance.

“It’s the legacy of the rock-n-roll business that keeps me going,” Walt said.