Category Archives: hardcore

SALAD DAYS: A DECADE OF PUNK IN WASHINGTON, DC (1980-1990) IN WESTGATE!!

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Hello.

I had taken a little break from writing this blog for a while, but it ended up being a lot longer than I had planned. Partly because of time, mostly though because I had nothing that I felt excited enough to write about. I am trying to get things going again and first up I wanna tell you about something exciting that is happening locally.

It is a great honour to announce that Is this thing on? blog is presenting a screening of the new documentary ‘Salad Days: A decade of punk in Washington, DC’ at the Carlton Cinema in Westgate-on-sea, Kent. The screening will take place on the 7th of July, 2015 and tickets cost £7 plus booking fee and are available via the link below. The screen only holds 54 seats so space is extremely limited and is likely to sell out quick. The film starts at 8pm and is being shown as part of a UK screening tour which has showings throughout the country, so if our screening is nowhere near you don’t despair.

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The film focuses on the infamous hardcore scene in Washington, DC that blossomed throughout the 1980s. In the words of the press release:

Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90) is a documentary film that examines the early DIY punk scene in the Nation’s Capital. It was a decade when seminal bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Government Issue, Scream, Void, Faith, Rites of Spring, Marginal Man, Fugazi, and others released their own records and booked their own shows—without major record label constraints or mainstream media scrutiny. Contextually, it was a cultural watershed that predated the alternative music explosion of the 1990s (and the industry’s subsequent implosion). Thirty years later, DC’s original DIY punk spirit serves as a reminder of the hopefulness of youth, the power of community and the strength of conviction.

The film has had rave reviews and it promises to be a really fun night. Hope you can make it!!

Buy tickets HERE

Go to the Facebook event page for our screening HERE

Go to the Facebook event page for the whole screening tour HERE

Go to the official Salad Days website HERE

And check out the trailer below!

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120 Minutes (Give or take a few)

Back in the autumn of 1991 my Dad climbed up on our roof and installed the satellite dish that came free with the washing machine him and my mum had just recently purchased and in doing so opened our family up to a whole new world of television. One of the many new channels in particular had a major impact on me as an impressionable 11-year-old, MTV. MTV then isn’t like what MTV is now, back then it really was music television. Hours of back to back music videos interspersed with shows about music, none of this reality tv rubbish (except for maybe the Real World, but that was pretty great. Remember Puck??). I would spend, what would seem like, whole days watching, absorbing all that was brilliant about music at this time. My favourite shows were obviously the ones that focused on alternative music, being Headbangers Ball to start with and moving on to Alternative Nation and 120 minutes as my tastes changed.

120 Minutes/Alternative Nation turned me on to so many different bands that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. They played amazing, interesting and exotic videos that covered a broad spectrum of alternative music. And because it was on late at night this seemed to add an extra intrigue and danger to the videos. I would record the shows and watch back on VHS over the following few days, there was something about watching it this way as an early teen that added excitement and intrigue and made the music all the better for it. These were shown past my bedtime, they weren’t for me and yet there I would be lapping them up.

I would fantasise a lot about being in a band as a teenager and one fantasy would be that I would get to present one of these shows and choose the videos. None of the bands I’ve been in got anywhere so I never got to fulfil this ambition, but here’s the next best thing. A selection of videos below that I would’ve chosen if it were up to me, from that time that I remember, ones from back then that I’ve discovered since and some new ones. Hope you enjoy!!

1. Rainer Maria – Catastrophe

I don’t write enough about Rainer Maria and the more I listen to them the more I’m convinced they’re one of the all time great emo bands. This video is of course awesome, I like the silhouette coming to life effect but I can’t really condone standing in a paddling pool with a plugged in toaster, don’t try it at home kids!!

2. Jawbox – Cornflake Girl

It still amazes me that this exists! I really loved Tori Amos as a teenager which was a direct result of ‘Silent all these years’ being repeated every hour on MTV and ‘Cornflake Girl’ is a classic, I came to be a fan of Jawbox later on and was blown away when I discovered that they had done this cover. Although I don’t recall seeing it, this is exactly the kind of video you would see late at night on Alternative Nation etc.. In a tired state, staying u past your bedtime you’d sit thinking ‘Does this really exist? Am I dreaming?’ And it does!!!!!!

3. Sunny Day Real Estate – In Circles (Live on 120 Minutes)

Introduced by who else but Iggy Pop (??), this is Sunny Day performing ‘In Circles’ live in the studio in 1994 and everything about it is brilliant from the massive font MTV used to use to say who was talking to the short interview at the start where William Goldsmith tries to give excuses as to why they might not sound great on TV. Which is crazy, they sound incredible, super loud and proper powerful.

4. Maritime – Paraphernalia

I hope they got all the shots for this video in one take, the band performing in a blizzard looks pretty but it don’t look fun. The director probably convinced them it was a great idea and they probably agreed that, on paper, it sounds cool but in reality they don’t look like they’re enjoying themselves. As I said, it does look good and the song is great so it probably all worked out for the best.

5. Knapsack – Cellophane

This video is so gloriously 90’s it hurts. From seeing the band primarily through a viewmaster, watching the band drive around in a car to seeing them perform in a room usually to small to fit a band in. Combine this with close up shots of their guitars and the amazing song then you’ve got all components for the quintessential 90’s alternative band video.

6. Juliana Hatfield – What A Life

This song reminds me so much of being 15 and standing, completely hung over, in the front row of the main stage at the 1995 Reading Festival. Juliana was one of the early afternoon acts and did a wonderful job of lifting my mood after a night of excess that I instantly regretted. All I remember from the night before was throwing up on my sleeping bag, turning it over then getting in it and passing out. When I emerged from my tent in the morning, loads of people I didn’t recognise were saying hi to me and they weirdly all knew my name, what had happened in the night I dread to think. It was a great festival despite feeling rough for the rest of the weekend.

7. Papayer – Heated

This is probably my favourite song of this year so far, I have been trying to get an interview with these guys but my email is letting me down which is more than a damn shame. This video is genius in its simplicity, a prime example that you don’t need the budget of ‘Thriller’ to make a brilliant video that will last long in your memory. I could watch this all day!!

8. Cancer Bats – Sabotage

I love this video and, in theory, I guess it shouldn’t work. Everyone knows that the original Beastie Boys version and Spike Jonze’s video for it is one of the all time greatest music videos, of all time!! But Cancer Bats, number one, nailed the cover and, number two, found a way to pay homage to the original but give enough of themselves to make it different. Their constantly mistaking people dressed as the Beastie Boys cracks me up. Enjoy!

9. Snowden – Anti Anti

Seeing this on MTV lead me to buying the album as soon as I could find it and although the album didn’t win me over, I still think this song is terrific. The use of the lights as the band members gives it a feel similar to the White Stripes lego video but I prefer this. Probably because the song is a billion times better and the video is really well made.

10. Piebald – Just A Simple Plan

I saw Piebald play live once, when they opened up for the Movielife at the LA2 in London. I missed their last song because they had asked onstage if anyone could put them up for the night. I rushed to the merch stand to offer the floor of my flat, bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for a long time doing the same thing and whilst we were chatting someone got there first. I still tried to get them to stay over but I was competing against 2 girls who were from the same state as them and had a place down the road from the venue, I was never going to win. This song/album took over our lives for a whole summer, it is that bloomin’ catchy.

11. Rollins Band – Liar

This video takes me right back, we were too young for Black Flag so to me and my friends in the early 90’s Henry Rollins was the crazy guy who made video’s like this and popped up in films with Charlie Sheen. There was a countdown of the best alternative music videos on MTV at some point in the 90’s that was hosted by Henry Rollins in which he completely ripped it out of several bands, namely Depeche Mode. We watched this on repeat and would quote him all the time if someone mentioned one the bands he had torn apart with his wry delivery. This video looks just as good now as it did back then.

12. This Beautiful Mess – Don’t Go There

These guys played Margate sometime around 2004 and I became obsessed with this album and especially this song. Annoyingly cut short for the video as opposed to the album version at least this video ticks the box for having a band play moodily in a dark forest. Great use of trumpets too.

13. Built To Spill – In The Morning

When I was at drama school in the early 00’s my friends would always make fun of the music I listened to. One day when I was listening to ‘There’s nothing wrong with love’ on my discman some of them invented a game where they would put my headphones on, press play and watch people hanging out during their lunch hour. The music playing would instantly turn the mundane in to an American high school movie or an episode of Dawson’s Creek and they would take turns in putting the headphones on and then fall about laughing. I guess it was a pretty funny game, they never got what a genius album this was though, the bloody fools.

14. Death Cab For Cutie – The Sound Of Settling

One of the most infectious indie emo songs ever written with a nice video to back it up. What more do you need to say?? It’s only 2 minutes long so not much I guess. Just give it a watch.

15. Sick of it all – Step Down

What a classic! This video taught me all my dance moves, I still do ‘pickin’ up change’ to this day (back pain permitting). You would always see this video on Headbangers Ball or Alternative Nation back in the day, it is a brilliant use of the fake news report style and just people going nuts in a New York basement. They totally nailed us with ’emo style’ too, hilarious that as a young teen, out of all the dance moves they showcase in this video, it’s the one they are taking the piss out of that I would end up doing the most. haha

Thanks for watching.

Get in touch: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto or ittoblog@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NEWSLETTER #3

Hey again. I have a rare morning of not having to do anything or be anywhere so what better way to pass the time then post another of these newsletter things. The theme for this one is ‘SPLITS’.

The idea for bands to release split singles/ep’s/albums has been around for ages but there seems to be a real trend for it at the moment, and why not? as the pickled onion producer Barry Norman would say. Splits are great, who doesn’t like the ‘2 for 1’ deal that you get? No one has yet to better the greatest split of all time, The Promise Ring/Texas is the Reason split 7″ and no one is likely to but some of the recent splits are pretty damn good so lets crack on.

1. PIANOS BECOME THE TEETH/TOUCHE AMORE (Deathwish/Topshelf records)

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If you’ve read this blog a lot then you’ll know my feelings about Pianos Become The Teeth, they are one of my favourite bands of the last 5 years. Their albums still blow me away with every listen, they left me speechless when I saw them play live in Margate and when I bumped into their guitarist in Subway, Tunbridge Wells before seeing them play the forum, he invited me to sit and eat with him, amazing! Their song from this split, ‘Hiding’, doesn’t disappoint one bit, in fact it exceeds all expectations. It’s slower and gentler but powerful. An epic song packed full of emotion, it’s a bit of a cliché for someone who writes a blog predominantly about emo to say they well up when listening to a song but Kyle Durfey’s voice does something to me. My heart literally melts as soon as he starts singing mix this with the post hardcore meets post rock music and you have as near perfect a song as you’re likely to hear all year. This review probably sounds a bit one-sided but nothing should be taken away from Touche Amore. Again they are an incredible band and their song, ‘Gravity, Metaphorically’, matches the PBTT side for brilliance. It’s a bit of a departure for TA, you could also describe this song as an epic as it’s about 4 times longer than any song from their last record. With the same kind of attack Touche Amore bring to their music, this song is allowed to breathe giving them time to play with the dynamics resulting in a rollercoaster ride of a song that leaves you exhausted but also wanting so much more. Cannot wait for their new record which is due to come out in the autumn.

Stream/Download HERE

2. TOUCHE AMORE/TITLE FIGHT (sealegs records)

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Sticking with Touche Amore for the moment, I do love a split where the bands cover each others songs ever since I got the Built To Spill/Marine Research split 7″ all those years ago. And this is exactly what you get here and what great songs they chose. Touche Amore could have chosen any song from ‘Shed’ and I’d have been happy, ‘Crescent-shaped Depression’ is what they plumped for and do it more than justice. It’s a straight up cover but it sounds great with Touche Amore bringing all the energy they normally do to their own material. Title Fight are pretty much a faultless band, their cover of ‘Face Ghost’ from Touche Amore’s last record ‘Parting the sea between brightness and me’ is brilliant. Mainly for the fact that at first glance it’s a straight ahead, loyal cover of a great song but Title Fight subtly bring their melodic hardcore/shoegaze crossover that they’ve been leaning towards on ‘Floral Green’ and it really sets the song alight. Both great bands playing great songs by each other, what the hells not to like?

Listen HERE

3. BRAID/BALANCE AND COMPOSURE (No Sleep Records)

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I finally get to see Braid play this summer and it’s on my birthday which is pretty damn perfect. In the meantime they’ve put out a split with Balance and Composure, a few people were annoyed that they were doing this with a new band but I really like Balance and Composure so can’t see the harm. Plus, Balance and Composure come out of this a bit better judging by the songs on display. Their half of the split doesn’t really cover any new ground for the band but cements their reputation for making really solid and really enjoyable slacker, indie grungemo, I don’t know if this is a reputation they have outside of my head but they should. The Braid half took a while to get in to, at first I wasn’t impressed. Both songs have grown on me more but neither come near to reaching the heights of ‘Frame & Canvas’, the album they’ll be playing in full this summer.

Stream/Download HERE

4. WITS END/HUMAN HANDS (adagio 830, strictly no capital letters, lila himmel, eat a book, and time as a color)

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This is a beautiful, must have split single on many levels. Not only are both tracks superb and also superbly different, but the way it’s packaged and presented reminds me why I love music and this scene so much. The 7″ comes in an individually stamped paper bag with photocopied lyric sheets, it is understated and glorious at the same time. The songs are pure emo joy, Wits End from Norway play brooding and intense emotional hardcore while Human Hands deliver long, repetitive, sparse, lo-fi’mo which builds with heart breaking beauty. Both songs fit perfectly together making an essential split single.

Stream Human Hands HERE Stream Wits End HERE

5. TIGERS JAW/CODE ORANGE KIDS/SELF DEFENSE FAMILY/THE WORLD IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE & I AM NO LONGER AFRAID TO DIE (Topshelf records)

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This split wins the award for the most interesting and intriguing of all the splits mentioned today. The line up had to be admired, 4 totally different bands put together on one record and it all makes sense. Although, this split is tinged with sadness, could this possibly be the last song that Tigers Jaw ever release? I fucking hope not, I was so gutted to hear they had split up and it’s with a heavy heart that I listen to their new song. If they had made it terrible then maybe it would be easier to accept the break-up but Tigers Jaw don’t know how to write bad songs. ‘Fake Death’ shows a band still at the height of their powers, the guitar work, the harmonies, the downbeat pop, it’s all there and it’s all good. Code Orange Kids take you by surprise with ‘VI (Worms fear god // god fears youth), experimental yet captivating. Self Defense Family take you in an altogether different direction with their affecting and repetitive folk anthem ‘Holy Trend’, that leaps at you with the delivery of someone preaching the end of the world on a street corner. The split is finished by The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die who really are an incredible band and not just because writing their name in full on my blog pushes the word count up considerably making me feel like I’ve done more work. Their song, ‘Beverly Wyatt’, is typically beautiful and uplifting and the underlying ethereal melody that plays through the whole song helps paint pictures in your mind. There is a rumour going round that they are going to tour the UK this autumn with Dads, this has to happen!!

Stream/Download HERE

6. DIKEMBE/HIGHTIDE HOTEL/JET SET SAIL/MONUMENT (Count Your Lucky Stars)

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Another 4 way split and another stellar line up. Dikembe can do no wrong, their songs are always instantly likeable and this one is continued proof of that theory. ‘Donuts in a six speed’ wouldn’t have felt out-of-place on ‘Broad Shoulders’ and builds the excitement nicely for their new album which will be out soon. Hightide Hotel announced last year that they are splitting up but not before they release their second record this year. It’s a massive shame because based on ‘Built to last’ they’re a band that could offer so much. The main riff reminds me of the kind of ones i’d try to write for my old band back in the 90s, I was never this good though. Jet Set Sail continue the quality of the split here with their barnstormer ‘Strickland North’, I definitely need to investigate this band more because I listened to this song back to back a good 4 times in a row which always a good sign. Monument bring the split to a close with ‘Sophisticated Liars’. Monument are a criminally underrated band who write consistently great music, their song here is catchy enough to have you singing along by the second chorus (woooaaaoooohhh) and is a good reminder to listen to their music more.

Stream/Download HERE

7. FAKE PROBLEMS/YOU BLEW IT! (Topshelf Records)

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A band I love and a band I’ve not heard before makes for a good split single, which is exactly the case here. Fake Problems play bright, britpop-esque music with massive choruses, they remind me of Gene and maybe a little bit of Suede in a good way. I wasn’t expecting to be reminded of them and it came as a nice surprise, their songs are catchy enough to find yourself humming them to yourself hours later. You Blew It! made one of my favourite records of last year and the 2 songs on offer here keep that quality up, the first of which, ‘Batavia, NY’, is currently my favorite songs of theirs. Saying that, both songs are great. You Blew It! are another band who need to make the trip across the pond and come play for us.

Stream/Download HERE

8. FOOTBALL, ETC./PLAIDS (Strictly No Capital Letters, Count Your Lucky Stars)

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I’ve written so many nice things about Football, etc in the past that I’ve literally run out of superlatives to attribute to them. Although I’ve probably never simply stated that they’re fucking great, which I should’ve because they bloody well are. Their song here, ‘Down The Field’, continues them on the path to become my absolute favourite band, faultless indiemo of the highest quality. Them putting out a split with Plaids is a very exciting prospect. If, like me, you spend far too many hours reading about emo bands on the Internet then you’ll know that Plaids are one of the most exciting bands in the UK at the moment. They just get it, their music plays with time signatures, brilliant angular guitar work and delivered with a blast of incredible energy. Both bands are touring the UK together this summer which will be a tour not to miss.

You can download/stream the songs HERE

Cheers for reading!!

Come and say hi, leave a comment here or on Facebook www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog or on twitter @alex_itto

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INTERVIEW: TOM MULLEN – WASHED UP EMO PODCAST

Last week I got to speak to Tom Mullen who runs Washedupemo.com and does the Washed Up Emo podcast. I love a good podcast and Washed Up Emo is by far my favourite one. I think that if you like the sort of stuff that I write about then you’re going to feel the same way. He also hosts an emo DJ night in New York city every month. I had a few questions prepared but we ended up just chatting away about the podcast/site and all things ‘mo. It’s quite a long one, hope you enjoy!

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IS THIS THING ON? – Hello

TOM MULLEN– What’s up Alex?

ITTO? – Hey!! Give us a brief background about how you got in to music and when emo became a big part of that?

TM – I got into music pretty early on as a kid, I wanted to play guitar after seeing smells like teen spirit on TV. I think I remember telling my dad ‘we’re going to the store right now to get this’. And that was a pretty big influence on me playing music, you know, and he, Kurt, was in to a lot of different bands, indie bands and things. Probably what turned me from grunge was a band called Helmet. I saw their video and was like ‘this is heavy but it is smart’ and then from there I started to learn about more hardcore bands and metal bands. Growing up where I did in Vermont you don’t really get to see the big artists, like I didn’t get to see giant top 40 artists, those guys never came through. So the people that came through were the metal bands and HC bands from Boston and New York. So from hardcore, turned into post hardcore, because that’s kinda what bands did after that and then that turned into emo. I don’t know if it was Get Up Kids or Mineral or one of those bands but it really kicked in freshman year in college, that’s when I started to really get into it and there were so many shows. I went to school in North Carolina and there were shows every day it seemed. And so that was a really fun time.

ITTO? – Did you know that was what it was when you were getting in to it, did you know it was called emo or was that a thing then?

TM – Yes, someone had called it that. And I was like ‘oh ok cool’, I mean I liked the music. There wasn’t a fashion around it, there wasn’t like you needed to look a certain way. I was wearing ridiculously way too big sweatshirts and shirts, I was horrendous. It wasn’t that thing; it was more about the music.

ITTO? – It’s interesting on the podcast that when you ask about how they got into that kind of music it’s usually a HC route.

TM – Yeah, it’s either HC or they came the indie route with Fugazi or they were into Buffalo tom or whatever it was. They went both ways and if you listen to them again after hearing that you totally get it. It’s interesting to hear where they came from and if it’s HC then you’re like ‘ah ok I get it’.

ITTO? – What was the reason for starting the washed up emo website?

The website came first; I was super angry, probably ‘04/’05. Just really upset at what was happening with the name itself and being attached to it and turning it in to sort of a fashion statement vs. something about the music. They were referencing things that didn’t really make sense to me. And that’s since changed but then I was like; ‘no one’s talking about Elliott, no one’s talking about Get Up Kids and at this time, these bands, some of them were still going on, still trying to hang on to the certain fan base that was there but it was dwindling because they weren’t as flashy. You went to Bamboozle, which is this big music festival in New Jersey and Fall Out Boy or whoever it was was playing. And people were losing their minds and gave support to whatever god awful band it was playing and the Get Up Kids would play after them and the bands were psyched but the crowd was like ‘who is this? This is boring’ and it was just this kind of turning point when I was like this word is being ruined on a daily basis and that’s why I started the site in ’07. It was very negative early on, I look back at some of the posts, it was discrediting a lot of things because people were relating cutting to this genre. It was sort of Goth and it was a lot of whack-a-mole with trying to explain it. And through the years it’s slowly kind of, I’ve got less angry.

ITTO? – The tagline of your website says that you wish for the days where you’d type emo into a search engine and nothing would come up, is that because you’d wish it would all go away

TM – Everyone has this same sort of feeling that it was special, for what it was. And because there wasn’t internet or it wasn’t really widespread, you didn’t have it on your phone. You didn’t have a cell phone, you had a beeper. You had these sorts of connections happen where you had to connect, you had to go to the show, and you had to do a little work. And I think every sort of genre past that, it’s sort of that doesn’t happen anymore. It’s so quick and easy so I did like it when I would search for bands and I couldn’t find anything. I couldn’t find anything online for it and that was sort of fun because you did have to work.

ITTO? – It’s weird because if you look at the old records from that time, or the catalogues that used to come with the insert and they’ve all got email addresses and websites and I never married the two together. I wasn’t big into the internet at the end of the 90’s but I guess there must’ve been something there if you looked hard enough.

TM – Yeah they had their email there. It was aol or yahoo or something stupid and the websites were very basic. There wasn’t a lot. If I could go back I would take every programming class I could because I only knew basic html and I actually got connected with a band and a label because I started doing an unofficial website for artists. Because when artists didn’t really have good websites fans did them and I did that for a band and that connected me to a lot of different people as well.

ITTO? – Basic chat rooms are all I can remember using. A couple of message boards like Fracture fanzine had one where you could communicate with people but that was only really at the end of that particular wave of emo that we liked

TM – I think the Victory records message board and the trustkill message board that was definitely a way to find out about shows. And find out what was happening.

ITTO? – After starting the website did you find that there were a lot of likeminded people or is that something that has happened over time?

TM – It’s happened over time. There were some years where it would be a couple of posts a month, a few things happening. And I didn’t really know anybody else that was talking about this and slowly I would get people who would say ‘oh I saw that thing, it was really cool, and I feel the same way’ and I was like ‘Really?’ And it’s ended up being these last couple of years I think that I’ve been finding that there’s a lot of people I’ve met, yourself included, through twitter and Facebook ramping up those parts of it. And really focussing on that and having people interact. And I don’t make any money I just do this because it’s fun and people really enjoy it. And of course it’s turned into the podcast. And the dj night every month.

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ITTO? – When did the idea for a DJ night and then a podcast come about?

TM – It’s interesting that I remember this, I think we were on a train or something and I was emailing friends and I posted I was listening to a camber song on, I think it was, twitter or Facebook and I had tagged it and someone wrote that’s really awesome, you have a ton of records like that and I said well you do too, we should dj somewhere. A friend had a bar and we’re like let’s see if he’ll let us do it on a valentine’s day for an anti-valentine’s day event and ended up going really well. We kind of just put our minds together on who could help dj because I’m not cool enough to have people show up, I can only beg my friends so much so we needed bands and things and we’ve ended up doing, next month will be 2 years. And we’re the bars most successful theme night and we’ve had after parties for Braid who actually dj’d which was really funny because I had to kick them out. Chris did not wanna stop dj-ing it was hilarious; it was 4am on a Thursday I was like ‘dude I gotta get outta here’. The dj thing is really fun and we’ve met so many people that have been in this city and find out about it and come down and hang out. I’ve met some friends that I’ve ended up working with on a work level, they’re people who’ve worked at different labels or companies and I find out that they’re in to this genre. Case in point, a friend from a blog is a graphic designer and was a super big fan and I had her design the logo.

The podcast was a few months in, I realised that I was looking at my rolodex and was like I kinda know a bunch of people and it would be kinda fun. And I had a friend that I did it with for a while and it was tough because he was on the west coast and I was on the east coast and the band was wherever they were and it was hard to connect and he ended up doing his own thing. And I ended up just continuing with the washed up emo podcast

ITTO? – That’s Ray right?

TM – Yes, Ray.

ITTO? – Yeah I was going to ask what happened to Ray.

It was so hard, just a scheduling thing. He has a lot of stuff; he has a kid, his jobs all over the place. He’s got a lot of stuff going on, the 3 hours’ time difference made it hard to connect. And that’s where we splintered off and he does his own ‘100 words or less podcast’.

ITTO? – Yes, I’ve listened to a few. He interviewed Keith from Empire! Empire! / CYLS records which was a really good one

TM – Nice! I actually give him crap for interviewing emo people but that’s just a joke. It’s been fun, it is a ton of work but I’ve been able to connect to a lot of people and a lot of people have helped. Someone helped get me in touch with Jim adkins; another friend helped me get in touch with Chris Simpson from Mineral. They’ve been very very cool, Matt Pryor was awesome, those early ones like with Chuck from Deep Elm, and it was great to talk about deep elm records who were a huge influence. I was on one of their comps with the band I was in. It’s been nice. Blair (Shehan, Knapsack) when I interviewed him his first thing was, my first question and he was like ‘wow, this is going to be fun’. That’s the first thing he said and I think they’ve never been asked these questions before because no one’s really asked about it this way.

ITTO? – It’s becoming an incredible document for that time period

TM – Well that’s exactly the idea with it, I had spoken with a few people before I started and said is there anything out there like this? Am I copying it? Is it something that’s worth? And the only thing I could find was those oral histories from alternative press magazine where they interview 10 or 15 people about the project and they end up discussing things but there wasn’t really an audio history or an audio document of these things. Hopefully if its ten years from now and some person looks back and they’re like ‘I kinda wanna know what’s going on with the guy from deep elm’ then there’s an hour of me nerding out with him (laughs)

ITTO? – I take it you’ve had your dream guests on already?

TM – As of a couple of weeks ago, yes! I’ve been very, very lucky to have; I think, the biggest one left for me at this moment would definitely be Jeremy Enigk from Sunny Day Real Estate that would be a great one. But there’s still plenty, I actually was just looking at the list of people that I’m trying to get and there is still some really, really cool people like I’m trying to get Travis from Piebald which I think is going to happen, Kevin from Topshelf, Ben from Armor For Sleep, the guy that ran Caulfield records. So, yeah, I think there’s still plenty more and I think there’s plenty more stories to tell. As long as I have fun doing it and people are still downloading them, I’ll still do them.

ITTO? – To think you’ve had The Promise Ring/ Braid/ Mineral do it then you think it might be hard to top that but some of the more obscure bands will be interesting because it’s harder to find things out about them.

TM – I think one of the most popular episodes is the Buried Treasure episode with Ray. We talked about obscure bands and songs people may not have heard, that one was really popular and to have Christie Front Drive – Eric do it and Promise Ring its really easy now to get people to do it. Jim (Adkins) had mentioned that he had listened to a bunch of the older ones before, you know so He was even interested in hearing them which blew my mind. ‘You spent time listening to me nerd out??’ I’m now really scared to talk to you’.

ITTO? – It makes sense, they were his friends, and these were times he was involved in. It’s like if you see an old friend you’ve not spoken to in a long time and you reminisce it’s probably a form of that for him.

TM – Yeah, he was mentioning that he was laughing at Eric because Eric made fun of him in the podcast about his long hair so he’s actually looking forward to doing one with him to make fun of him. There are still those memories and things. But just looking back at list at who’s done it, Zach from Mae who was a close friend, Troy from Speedwell which was this really obscure band who I think are amazing, Blair from Jealous Sound who was super cool to do it. The one I can’t wait to edit but its taking forever is Pedro from Jealous Sound and I’ve never laughed more in a podcast. I was crying laughing with him, he’s been super nice. He understood what I was doing, he’s like ‘you’re not just a fan; you’re trying to get the word out about this time period’. When AV Club wrote about the podcast which I had no idea about, they kind of mentioned the same thing. They had said that it was that he’s coming at it as a fan, a knowledgeable fan and you’re kind of talking, you’re not just ‘hey remember in 1992 when this happened’ and that was probably the biggest compliment.

ITTO? – Do you feel that people really are talking about it (emo) now? With the podcast and all the new bands that are about now it does seem so and it also seems a lot now like it did at the end of the 90’s, although in more of a weird internet way but there seems to be that same kind of feeling about now

It does, I think it is 2013 with all the new ways to connect. You can easily find out about a label in 5 seconds and all the releases and listen to everything. I think it is exciting; there are a lot of great bands. That’s probably the next thing, I really want to have more of the newer bands and hear their story and hear what they listen to and why. That’s kind of the new and old which has been really fun to talk about. Even during the DJ night it’s one thing to play all the old school hits but it’s also great to play a new song and have people come up to say ‘what was that?’ And you tell them it’s a new band and they’re like ‘Oh man!’ and I think that’s great to hear that someone’s open enough to listen that and be excited.

ITTO? – Especially now as there’s been bands in the last few years that have made a great impression but split up already, like Snowing or Algernon Cadwallader and I think in a few years’ time we’ll think of them like we did caP’n jazz/Mineral. It’ll be great to hear their version of what happened

TM – Yeah and I think the word itself has been so overused and I think there’s people that come to the dj night and they’re like ‘hey I want you to play Acceptance and then I want you to play Rufio’ and I’m like ‘oh my god I know your age, I know what time period you’re in. I almost can tell where you live’ Just because of the songs that you’re asking for and its fine. I understand, because it’s that time period when they were 15, 16, 17 or whatever and they connected to it or they watched Fuse and they’re relating that and that’s fine, it’s just there’s this little point beforehand that you need to know about. Because all the bands you like they listen to this. And it’s great that the newer bands are skipping that and they’re going back further.

ITTO? – What’s the most requested band at your DJ nights?

TM – I would probably say Brand New, that’s every month. The usual Promise ring, Get up kids, Taking back Sunday. Probably Taking back Sunday and Brand New and that’s probably because it’s the New York area. One of the loudest ones we ever played, which wasn’t really an emo band but it kinda made sense because Get Up Kids toured with them, was Weezer. The guy came over who runs the bar and said ‘We can’t even hear the music’ because people were screaming so loud.

ITTO? – Excellent, it’s been so cool chatting to you Tom, thanks so much.

wuemo

My Top 5 Washed up emo podcast episodes (click on them for the link)

5 – Norman Brannon of Texas is the Reason

4 – Davey Von Bohlen and Dan Didier of The Promise Ring

3 – Eric Richter of Christie Front Drive

2 – Chuck Daley of Deep Elm/Tiny Engines

1 – Chris Simpson of Mineral

Thanks so much for reading.

Come and say hi on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog

or Twitter – @alex_itto

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The Is this thing on? Top 10 Records of 2012

What a year 2012 has turned out to be. So much so that this list has proved to be near impossible to write, choosing the 10 best records of the year and then listing them in order of bestest has given me a headache. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good headache and I ain’t complaining. Last year I posted a top 10 and so I thought i would continue with this. My best friend paul who writes the Wallernotweller blog made the sensible choice of listing 15 records but I’m not that wise. So, 10 it is. Meaning that some bloody good records have ended up missing out on this list. Bands like Suis La Lune, Converge, Joyce Manor, The Cribs, Sport, Ape Up! and Dads have all produced some quality work and have only missed out on my top 10 by the slightest of margins. Annabel too, whose album ‘Youth in youth’ is packed with greatness and if it had come out earlier in the year it might have taken one of the top ten places. These are all very worthy but they can’t all be winners so on with the list..

10. You Blew It! – Grow Up Dude

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This is an album that just keeps on growing on me, I like it more every time I listen. The records perfectly understated production mixed with the heart and melody of the music make it hard not to love this album. The fact that bands are making music like this is the reason why I write this blog, if someone asks you if there really is a 90’s emo revival happening at the moment then play them ‘Grow up dude’ and they will have their answer. I’m sure I saw someone mention on something or other that You Blew It! might be coming to the UK in 2013, this needs to happen. In the meantime I’ll just make do with falling in love with this album some more.

9.  State Faults – Desolate Peaks

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My first listen to ‘Desolate Peaks’ was my first experience of State Faults and by heck it was a good one. I love it when you put something on completely without assumptions and end up being blown away. The record is powerful yet touching. It perfectly fills the void left by Pianos Become the Teeth not releasing an album this year. But of course State Faults are a lot more than just a lazy comparison and they are by far the heaviest, screamiest band on my list this year. Earlier in the year they were kind enough to answer some of my questions, click HERE to have a read.

8. Dowsing – It’s still pretty terrible

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This is a record that is full of charm and beautiful indie pop songs that warm the soul. I said in my review of this album a few months ago and I stick by it, this is the record The Get Up Kids were trying to make with ‘On a wire’ and failed. Dowsing however hit it spot on. Now I know for a fact that they are planning to tour the UK next year, this is one not to miss. These songs in a packed venue with a whole crowd singing along to every word is something I definitely wanna be a part of!!!

7. Basement – Colourmeinkindness

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This is a record that appeals to the teenager in me, the spotty kid in the early 90’s with long greasy hair who was proud to called a ‘grunger’ by every chav in Thanet. There are so many grunge influences on this record that it’s hard to keep up, Basement mix in their straight up melodic hardcore and what you have is an album that’s screaming out to breakthrough. If it does it’ll be too late though as Basement are no more which is more than a damn shame. Great record!

6. Glocca Morra – Just Married

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Glocca Morra are quite possibly my favourite band that I discovered this year. ‘just Married’ got a hefty few plays again and again this summer and listening to it now immediately reminds of that time. This is a perfect summer album because it’s just so much damn fun. If I was in to having house party’s and was wanting to get things happening then i would reach for this record, it would pretty much guarantee everyone a good time. Not only did Glocca Morra give us ‘Just Married’ this year, they followed it up with the equally amazing ‘An obscure moon lighting an obscure world’ EP. I hope they keep this momentum up and maybe next year they can claim my entire top ten!

It has come time to take a short break from this countdown and take a minute to remember the bands that we have lost this year. I mean, what awards show would be complete without a memorial montage and this Top 10 is no exception. So watch the video below and join me in some quiet reflection as we remember those that are gone.

5. Crash Of Rhinos – Distal

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Now, I know what you’re thinking, technically this record didn’t come out this year. It was first released in April of 2011 but it was re-released this year by Big Scary Monsters and this record is too good to be left out on a technicality. Plus who are you to say I can’t have them in my top 10, you’re not my mum! (mum if you’re reading this put the laptop down and back away, they’re in and that’s final). Crash of rhinos are almost too good, beautifully brilliant songs that last forever yet never outstay their welcome. With incredible vocals that seem to come from every member of the band and more bass players than bands that only have one bass player in them. They are touring in January with Raein which has ‘tour of the year’ written all over it already!!!

4. Prawn – Ships

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Shortly before getting this EP I went to see Prawn play live in Folkestone, the show was beset with technical problems so much so that they ended up only being able to play 4 songs. At the time I wasn’t bothered because I’d had a great night and Prawn were still fantastic. But after getting ‘Ships’ a few weeks later I was gutted that they couldn’t play all night. The songs that make up ‘Ships’ are so incredible that hearing them live would surely constitute one of the best gigs you’re likely to ever attend. Perfect emo like a poppier Appleseed Cast, love it!!

3. Title Fight – Floral Green

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Title Fight keep going from strength to strength and ‘Floral Green’ is their best record to date. Only a year after releasing their first studio album ‘Shed’ they released a record that was not only brilliant but also showed they had made great leaps forward in terms of sound and maturity. The dreamy, shoegaze magic of ‘Head in the ceiling fan’ showed a new side to Title Fight and ‘Secret Society’ proved that Title Fight can write catchy, instantly likeable grunge songs as well as anyone. Another essential record.

2. Dikembe – Broad Shoulders

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Dikembe are one of the best bands you’re ever likely to hear, following up the massive potential shown on last years ep ‘Chicago Bowls’ with a near perfect record of beautiful, mid paced emo. My heart melts at the first sound of Steven Gray’s voice and the guitar sound they have only heightens this sensation. I can see this album/band coming to define this current wave of emo tagged music, in a few years we’ll be looking back at it with the same fondness that we look back at, for example, ’30 degrees everywhere’ by the Promise Ring it’s that good. In any normal year it would easily win my album of the year top spot and they were only very narrowly beaten this year by…….

1. Joie De Vivre – We’re all better than this

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This years first prize just has to go to Joie De Vivre with ‘We’re all better than this’ an album which I’ve very rarely not been listening to since it came out in the summer. Having split up it is unfathomable that this record could never have been made and I am so grateful that they gave it another shot. Seeing them play this summer in Brighton is one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, a brilliantly uplifting experience. Which is like what you get every time your hear ‘We’re all better than this’. An album that both boasts the best use of trumpets all year and the amazingly lovely backing vocals from Lindsay Minton (Football, etc) cannot fail to impress. A beautiful, beautiful record, well done, FIRST PRIZE!!!

Well, there you go. 2013 is already shaping up to be another incredible year that is promising new albums from Tigers Jaw, Football etc, Daylight, The Reptilian, Appleseed Cast, Jimmy Eat World and many more. I literally cannot wait. In the meantime thanks for reading and have yourself a very merry christmas xx

I’ve made an Is this thing on? best of 2012 playlist on Spotify if that’s your kind of thing, click the link below x

Is This thing on? best of 2012

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Review: Title Fight – Floral Green

Band – Title Fight

Album – Floral Green

Label – Side One Dummy

Shouldn’t it be impossible to make a fresh sounding punk rock album in 2012? Hasn’t it all been done already? The fact that Green Day are releasing a triple album, having a paddy onstage and judging the Voice (?!?) you’d think that punk was a dead duck having been stripped bare and laid to rest many years ago. But yet, here come Title Fight to get you back in check. Punk rock is alive and well as long as you are looking in the right places.

Having taken forever to release their first full length studio album, ‘Shed’, they are back just one year later with their second, ‘Floral Green’. It’s a big ask to follow-up what was one of my favourite albums of last year but Title Fight are more than up to it. ‘Floral Green’ can even be seen as a huge step forward, Title Fight have taken the energy and excitement of ‘Shed’ and added a maturity to their sound which makes for a more diverse and extraordinary record.

The album blasts in to life with the incredible opener,’Numb, but I still feel it’, which builds up and fires in to 3 minutes of trademark Title Fight punk excellence. The next 2 songs, ‘Leaf’ and ‘Like a ritual’, continue in this vein taking us to ‘Secret Society’ which is definitely a standout track on the first listen of the album. It’s a straightforward and catchy as hell pop hit with its massive, rumbling, overdriven bass and huge chorus. It’s a nice setup for what comes next, ‘Head in the ceiling fan’ is a song that couldn’t be more different but one that has grown to be my favourite on the record. It’s slow, melancholic and utterly gorgeous and presents a shift in the album. This is the moment you realise how much Title Fight have progressed in the short time since ‘Shed’, it adds another element to the band without taking anything away. It kind of makes them seem more grown up without seeming any older, if that makes sense. I hate using this as a description because it can be taken the wrong way but it also introduces a bit of grunge to their emo tinged punk rock, I hope you get what I mean.

After ‘Head in the ceiling fan’ you feel a shift in the record, the song makes you see the rest of the record in a different light. You know now that what you are listening to is a classic record in the making and Title Fight don’t put a foot wrong. ‘Make you cry’ and ‘Sympathy’ hit out at you and make a lasting impression, ‘Calloused’ has a Nirvana-esque chorus which will always get me on side and ‘Frown’ is a certain contender for song of the record/year with the simplest yet best of guitar lines over the intro and chorus. When the album is brought to a close by another 2 really strong songs, ‘Lefty’ and ‘In-between’, you are left gagging for more. Especially because ‘In-between’ finishes with no rock star ending, no big stadium finish, it just ends and makes you shout “Holy shit, I must put this record on again!!!”.

‘Floral Green’ is one of the most completely brilliant albums of the year and one which I seriously cannot fault. Some of the songs may take longer to grow on you than others but given just a few listens you get over this. There is so much to enjoy like the added ‘shoegaze’ moments which were totally unexpected. If Title Fight keep this quality up then, in a few years, I can see them being viewed in the same way Hot Water Music are now. Everyone’s favourite scene heavyweights if you know what I mean. Go and enjoy the record now!!!

Click here to go to the Title Fight website.

Cheers for reading, any feedback is most appreciated.

www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog

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Review Plus Interview!!: State Faults – Desolate Peaks

Band – State Faults

Album – Desolate Peaks

Label – Tiny Engines

I imagine, anyone that writes reviews of music will have a different process by which they work by. Because this blog is quite specific to the type of music it covers, a lot of the music I get to review is something I’m very excited to listen to. Therefore, I like to give each new release about a week of listening and appreciation before I commit pen to paper, not that pens or paper are used in the creation of these blog posts but you get my drift. Sometimes though I need a little bit longer. In the case of State Faults debut record, ‘Desolate Peaks’, I received this just over a month ago and only now do I feel ready to write this.

State Faults hail from Santa Rosa, California, ‘Desolate Peaks’ is their debut full length album following on from their 2010 EP ‘Head in the clouds’ and is being released on the consistent and fantastic label, Tiny Engines. A fair amount of buzz for this band had been noticed by myself on various social media platforms, so it was with eager anticipation that I first played the record. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The record opens with ‘Sleepwalker’ and with it the sound of birdsong, quickly accompanied by a sweet guitar melody lulling you in to it’s warm sound. The, almost choir-like, backing vocals that follow build atmosphere with help from some huge sounding drums. Just when you start to wonder where State Faults are going with this, the piercing screamed vocals slice through like a bolt from the blue and with this you see a showcase of what State Faults will offer on the next 11 tracks. Juxtaposing often tender melody with the heaviness of the sound and extreme desperation of the main vocal. State Faults pack a lot of power into their music, raw energy and emotion which really engage the listener. You do, kind of, feel exhausted together with the band by the end of the 11 songs.

It’s hard to put a label on a band, especially when the use of a term like ‘screamo’ or ’emotional hardcore’ can be frowned upon and off putting to some. State Faults are certainly one of a few bands who are bringing a credibilty back to the term. Playing this type of music as it should be played, where the songs are equally compelling at their quietest as they are at their heaviest, like Funeral Diner did or Pianos Become The Teeth do. ‘Hallways’ is a good example of this, it’s full of hooks and melody backed up by their intense power. Other standout songs include the superb ‘Arrowhead’, ‘Wayfarer’ which starts off as a hardcore blast and finishes in a minimal post rock way and the last song ‘Skeletons’ which is a perfectly emotional end to what is a really great record.

It has taken me this long to write this review because, sometimes, when I review an album and move on to the next one to write about it can fell like i’m letting that album go. It may sound dumb, but I didn’t want to let ‘Desolate Peaks’ go and I still don’t. I’m sure this album will stay with me for a long time, It is definitely one of my favourite records of the year so far.

You can download/stream ‘Desolate Peaks’ at the Tiny Engines bandcamp page, click HERE to go there. I urge you to do so.

State Faults were also kind enough to answer some questions the Is This Thing On? had for them to give some background to the band and the record. Enjoy:

Is this thing on?: Desolate Peaks is coming out on tiny engines, how did working with those guys come about?

State Faults: Will Miller is one of the guys who runs Tiny Engines along with Chuck Daley and Will was the one who hit us up about working with them. He used to run a music blog called Sound As Language and I guess he managed to come across our EP Head In The Clouds and liked it enough to ask us if we were interested in having TE release a record for us. We sent them a bunch of demos of songs we had been writing which they were really into so they decided to make things official. They’re pretty rad dudes! Considering they had never even met us or seen us play before they hit us up is kinda crazy! They really put a lot of faith in us and we’re totally grateful for it. Hopefully this record made them proud.
How long did it take you to write/record the album?
We started writing for the album pretty much right after we put out Head In The Clouds. So from late 2010 through the summer of 11. By the time Will got in contact with us, we had about 4 or 5 songs written and a few skeletons of what would eventually become songs. Once we finished those and officially started recording for the album, the process took about a week. We set up a little recording/drum booth in Chip’s brother’s spare bedroom and had our firepod hooked up to our computer in the living room. We pretty much did everything from there. It was a lot of fun! It was our first legit DIY experiment as a full band. Mixing and mastering took a couple months afterwards
Desolate Peaks is quite a bleak record, does this reflect how you see things at the moment?
I wouldn’t say so. Jonny definitely writes his lyrics from a very personal place but as far as our general outlook on life goes, we’re a really positive bunch. Believe it or not, a good chunk of our material comes from a very positive place as well. I think what’s fun about playing a more bleak and aggressive style of music is being able to channel all of the frustration, sadness or whatever else is bothering us into the songs we write so that when we finish a set, we can let go of that weight and focus on all of the wonderful aspects of life that we sometimes take for granted. A good deal of the lyrics also come from different things we’ve learned about each other as a band. Finding opportunities to work together to reach our individual goals, even when times get tough and when going it alone seems easier. We’re all best friends and being able to experience everything that comes with being in a band really helped give life to the album. So for me it’s a very positive record. Very therapeutic.
You’ve been compared to Thursday and Pianos become the teeth, who do you count as influences on this record?
Pianos and Thursday are two of our favorite bands so even being mentioned in the same sentence with them is very humbling! But we also draw a lot of inspiration from bands like As Cities Burn, Thrice, Trophy Scars, Suis La Lune and even more indie/rock bands like mewithoutYou, Copeland, The New Trust, Radiohead and Not To Reason Why. And of course, Michael is and will forever be a huge Depeche Mode fan and he and Jonny both enjoy a lot of classic rock/metal. We just love listening to all kinds of music and absorbing whatever we can from it. Being new and different as cool, but art wouldn’t exist without other art to inspire it.
What is your local scene like at the moment? Do you feel part of it? Do you think it’s changed much in the last few years?
With bands like The Velvet Teen and Ceremony coming out of our area and making such a big name for themselves internationally, it can definitely make you feel incredibly small. But the local scene is currently going through a major rebirth and it’s very cool to watch! Not To Reason Why, No Sir and Strike To Survive are some awesome bands that are doing great work and it’s inspiring as hell to watch. We just feel incredibly blessed to be such good friends with all of them. Hopefully we can help bring some more attention to the north bay.
What new bands can you recommend to people who love your album?
All of the bands we mentioned before are incredible! Also our best buds in Ruptures from the LA area. They are one of the most hardworking bands we know and they make incredibly powerful music. Check out their song Junebloom. Insane.
Will you be touring the Uk and Europe at any point in the future?
We hope so! Tackling the West Coast is on our agenda right now. The rest of the US is next. Then Europe (fingers crossed)!
Thanks for reading, feel free to share and comment etc.. of come bother me on twitter (@alextb3). More reviews and interviews coming very soon x
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