Thursday, May 31, 2012

In The Spotlight--Take One Car

Take One Car return to the Galaxy Sunday June 3rd
Photo by Jared Bowers

Hailing from Upstate New York, Take One Car is a high energy band that in many ways defies description, other than to say that they're stunningly good.  Mixing elements of Indie Rock, Post Rock, and Post Hardcore, the band absolutely blew us away on their first visit back in March, and when they asked to come back we couldn't say yes fast enough.  They were good enough not only to return to the Galaxy, but to take some time out of their busy schedule to chat with us.

The life of an unsigned band is nothing if not busy.  They probably encapsulate what almost every band deals with in a brief description of what they go through on a regular basis. "Our band is definitely not our main paying job. Some of us have full-time jobs as well. I won't get into the details of those, but we have to pay the bills when we're home. It's incredibly hard to balance being in a band with work and a personal life. I have not even come close to mastering it and I think as a consequence, a lot of the people I love get the short-end of the stick. I know in my case, I work all day, come home quickly, drive 30 minutes to practice, practice for 3 to 4 hours, drive back home, answer emails, update websites, work on new merch designs, eat...and then its 1:30 in the morning, my house is silent and dark, and I have missed out on even spending five minutes with my family. Being in a full-time band can be invasive, but requires that work to stay afloat."

All the practice and time spent working on their craft shows, both in the recorded output and in the live performance.  Getting out on the road to showcase the result of that work however is yet another challenge.  "Putting this tour together was a lot of work. It basically involved Pete and I, networking and emailing hundreds of venues for weeks. Unfortunately, only about 1% of those venues got back to us."  From there the news does get better though, as the band goes on to describe. "That is where the networking really helped. We have a lot of friends on the route we're taking this time. Many of them have really stepped up by putting shows together. That's one of the really amazing things about being in a band. When you're touring it's about so much more than just your band. It's about this silent little community that the rest of the world can't see."

Jared and I have discussed many times recently that we're today hosting the bands that will be big on the national scene tomorrow, and Take One Car is certainly one of those that we can see making that next step. Though as with most of the bands we've spent time with, their definition of "making it" is quite different from what the average music fan might perceive.  "I think our mutual goal in this group is to be a successful band. That does not mean fame or wealth, but rather us being able to continue doing this in a comfortable fashion. I often find myself calling this band my second job, and it's not because I don't love doing it. It's because in order to continue doing it, somethings have to get done, and some of those things aren't a lot of fun."

Self promotion is a necessary evil to open doors, and the ears and wallets of fans, and the group tries to thread the needle with their efforts.  "We really work hard to keep everyone up to date on everything we're doing, but try to do so in the least 'spammy' way possible. I don't want someone cramming their music down my throat, so I make sure to avoid those methods of promotion. Maybe our band won't reach as many fans, or won't wind up on some A&R rep's desk, but I didn't start this band for that reason. I am a lot happier if someone finds our band on their own. A subtle and tactful approach is the way to go."

Once on the road, the band says that, "Shows aren't what they used to be."  They think it reflects something more than just the music scene though.  "I really think it is the state of the scene in general. America is suffering on many fronts and one of them is music.  I'm not sure if over-documentation of bands on the internet spoiled the magic, if everyone went broke, or if the scene became too saturated with awful music. I do know that I've watched too many North-Eastern venues fall into ruins, heard too many bands trying to fit the "success'' formula, and watched too many great bands play to empty rooms. It’s a scary trend and I’m not sure what’s gonna’ fix it."

One thing that we think will move the scene forward is bands like this, and the attitude they bring.  You can almost feel the energy coming at you when listening to Take One Car's songs, and when asked to talk about their influences energy was a focal point of the discussion.  "What our influences are is always a hard question to answer. All of us have pretty different tastes in music. There is some overlap, but it is really tough to pinpoint a single or even several bands that have influenced our band on a whole. I often find myself mentioning bands like At The Drive-In or Bear vs Shark as an influence, but it's more about their energy. Those bands made electric music. Even their most down tempo and subtle songs, were charged. It's very easy to fall under the spell of those songs. They've  really taught me to get lost in the moment, and become whatever your song is about," they said.

They described their own songwriting process as at times "chaotic" and "frightening", but the end result is never anything short of powerful.  "Every time we start writing new material, I get really overwhelmed. A song usually begins with one of us bringing a riff or chord progression we like to practice. If everyone else digs it, we start jamming on it, and from there it either goes someplace or gets scrapped. At times I wish it was a more refined process, but I think it lends to some of the variety in our music. That little bit of chaos has kept us out of a rut so far."

You can experience the power and craftsmanship of  Take One Car Sunday, along with Oh Condor, Riley, and Cowgirl.  Showtime is 7pm, all ages, and it's just $5.00. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In The Spotlight--The Van Allen Belt

Pittsburgh's The Van Allen Belt coming to the Galaxy June 2nd
The Van Allen Belt is at once new and original, while using sounds and styles that would have fit solidly in the late 60's or early 70's.  Blending samples, effects, and harmonies into a swirling, almost cinematic sound, The Van Allen Belt is like few other bands that have come to the Galaxy.

Originally formed as a studio only project by B.K. Ferris and vocalist Tamar Kamin, the group has developed into a regularly touring live force that has played Cincinnati's Mid-Point Music Festival among other events, and often mixes incredible visual art from Ohio State's Peter Luckner into their show.  While the group's sound will certainly evoke a feeling of being fresh but still familiar, they weren't aiming for a certain style.  Ferris said that, "I'd say there are tons of homages to what I enjoy, but I was never out to directly copy a style.  And I find I can't if I try."

He has found other artists, "both audio and visual" inspirational, though his primary influence is "real life".  "In The Van Allen Belt the music is always written before the words, and then I wait for that moment when I have something to say," he told us. "I try not to force it."

The group has been performing live for nearly five years, and Kamin said that, "Our decision to work on touring The Van Allen Belt more is based on where we are as a band right now."  She adds, "performing artists need audience to support their work.  The more places you go the more people you meet. The more good relationships you make the more people will like you, as a band or otherwise."

Working, like the Galaxy, as a totally DIY venture is both a dream, and a struggle for the group.  "Having a business where we can record, produce, publish, license, and perform in the black is realistically what we're working on," says Kamin.  She began to view the band as a second full time job in 2009, "and began seeing it as a business."  Working to break old routines and maintain a positive attitude have been the biggest struggles the group, and most DIY efforts, have faced.  When asked about the group's long term goals, Ferris replied, "I'd say in a word: Europe."

All of the group members have jobs outside the group to varying degrees, from part time office work, to bassist Tom Altes' work as a surgical tech.  Topping off everything else, the group stays active in the community, working for "various charitable organizations", as well as volunteering at festivals and galleries where they can.  Kamin sums it up nicely, telling us, "We don't sleep much."  Which is clearly the ethos of any solid DIY effort.

Being on the road has many challenges, but the band seems to still love it.  "I think it's great to see new cities and to visit ones we've played before," says Kamin.  She cites having a good show and meeting new people who like what they do as the high points, and the general "grumpiness" caused by the lack of food and restrooms as particular challenges.  Ferris points to "promoters out there who are looking to make money off of the entertainment rather than the audience," as a big point of frustration.  He tries to keep his expectations of new venues neutral, "as many of my favorite shows were in the oddest places."

Like many artists we've talked with, the group is generally pleased with the state of the music industry for unsigned indie artists.  "There are great things happening everywhere now.  We're all so in tune with the internet that local scenes have far less influence on music."  He concludes by telling us that "Weird is getting a lot of mainstream attention again," which gives hope to every artist out there creating their own vibrant slice of music.

You can see The Van Allen Belt this Saturday June 2nd along with Zach Starkie from Somebody's Something, and hopefully one more group to be added this week.  Showtime is 7pm, and the event is all ages and just $5.00.  Thanks to the band for taking some time to talk with us, and we'll see you at the show!

Monday, March 26, 2012

In The Spotlight--Somebody's Something

Galaxy faves Somebody's Something
Somebody's Something, like more than a few things in this world, started off in a Starbucks.  Zach Starkie said that he and Chelsy, "met through some people we knew and talked infrequently until we happened to run into each other," at the ubiquitous coffee house.  A conversation led to the formation of the duo that has played the Galaxy numerous times over the last year.  

"I'd been writing and recording songs for a few years and wanted to play out, so I asked Chelsy if she would want to play a set of her songs and we'd put a show together.  She told me she'd rather play songs together, so we started learning my songs and a few covers," says Zach.  Unbeknownst apparently to Zach, it was a perfect fit for Chelsy.  "Here's the thing," she says, "I couldn't write a song to save my life.  In my many years of musical experience, I've written a million 30-second blips, but nothing substantial.  When Zach came along and I realized he writes his own stuff, I was pretty excited about the prospect of being in a band with him."  

While Chelsy has her million short blips, anyone who knows Zach is aware that he has probably as many notebooks, filled with songs he's written over the years.  "When I write a song, it's generally a sort of organic process where lyrics and music happen a the same time, at least the bones of it.  I'll have a progression I like and I might just start singing nonsense, or maybe something coherent and I just let it grow from there.  Lyrics are important, and the music should be a reflection of them.  Even though I would love them to have a popular appeal, in the end they're just stories about me most of the time.  The good ones are anyway."  

Those initial structures serve as the framework for the final songs, which are definitely a collaborative effort.  "The songs were skeletons before, and Chelsy brings a lot of ideas to flesh them out.  They may have had harmonies, but she's really good at finding harmonies that sound natural for her voice.  On "The Distance Never Decreased," I played the chorus for her one time and she had come up with a part to sing with it.  The same thing happens with bass parts and the drum machine.  She's a talented musician who can hear what she wants and then either play it or sing it.  It makes the rehearsal time pretty easy, and it's rare that her ideas don't fit with a particular song."

Zach is right to point out that Chelsy is talented.  She pointed out that, "Another interesting effect that our band has had on my life is that I am now considered a "bassist". That's funny to me because I've played acoustic guitar and drums for 13 years.  Throughout those years, I sporadically picked up a bass guitar here and there, but never learned anything challenging or technically demanding.  Being in this band has greatly improved my bass-playing abilities, for which I'm grateful."

Chelsy cites Regina Spektor, Florence & The Machine, and The XX among her influences, which for what it's worth scores major points with me as I love all three of them!  Zach is clearly a child of the 90's, and follows in a long line of pop songwriters.  "My biggest influences are Elvis Costello and the Smashing Pumpkins.  I take a lot of lyrical inspiration from Elvis, he's got some clever lines that surprise me when I listen, and some playful rhyme schemes that I like.  I dig his straightforward aesthetic as well, especially in the 70s, but I also like how he's not afraid just to let a song be the song it should be.  He's hard to categorize," he says.

"Similarly", he continued, "the Pumpkins do similar things.  Billy Corgan knows how to write a song that appeals to people but seems to carry some real meaning, and I admire that.  It's great that the pumpkins have songs that are all over the map, but they're all connected.  The 90s in general had that.  So many people were writing music that was non-genre specific, so they just called it alternative or modern rock or whatever.  The same thing is going on with indie rock, but some bands kind of corner themselves with a genre, so you can tell the music is all by the same band, but just because it all sounds the same, not because it's all joined by some intangible connective musical tissue.  Sometimes the songs I write are punkish, sometimes they're grungy, sometimes they're folky," he concludes.

Anyone who has seen them can hear those different influences, though the band clearly has a vibe of their own.  They're not imitating their inspiration, they're crafting really great pop songs of their own from the space those pioneering artists help create.  The sets are varied, and include inspired and well done covers that showcase the duo's sound while fitting well within the context of their own writing.  If you didn't know the song you'd easily attribute it to them, a testament to their ability to not only craft songs worthy of being played along side those covers, but to work them seamlessly into the flow of their shows.  

As for their larger goals as a group, Zach says that, "the music thing is mostly based on having fun, but I also don't want to keep my creative output a secret.  The teacher in me would love it if someone were "helped" by one of our songs, like it cheered them up, or pumped them up, or made them not feel so alone or whatever.  I read once about a kid who didn't kill himself because "Everybody Hurts" came on his walkman on his way home from school.  I don't know that I want suicidal fans, but I'd like to think that something I felt and wrote about helped someone else through something similar."

You can catch up with them on facebook, where they're working to cross the 100 "like" threshold in conjunction with a demo they've been working on.  "This demo that's going to be unleashed is a 4 song (maybe 5, fandom depending) collection that we've been working on this year.  We're planning on selling physical copies, but making them special somehow.  We'd like them to come with a button and some sort of agreement that if you buy the demo you're privy to some secret stuff or a discount on the album it leads to.  If you get in at the ground floor, then you get a privilege of some sort.  I'd love to have "special" physical releases in the future like vinyl, but that's a way off.  We recorded in my apartment, despite neighbors who apparently like to go to sleep at 7 pm.  We're pretty amazed at how well it's turned out, considering how little we both know about recording/mixing/mastering."

You can next see Somebody's Something at Galaxy CDS as part of our Record Store Day evening bash on April 21st.  Once you've cleaned out the bins of collectible goodies at area independent record stores, spend your night with us.  We'll be featuring Auto Defiance, the student artists from Options Academy, and art by Christy Conrad.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In The Spotlight--The Rebuilt Machine

The Rebuilt Machine will rock the Galaxy March 24th
The guys in The Rebuilt Machine are an eclectic bunch, in a number of ways.  Musically they cite individual inspirations ranging from We Came As Romans, to Incubus, and Atmosphere.  In the working-to-pay-the-bills world they run the gamut from smoothie maker to government contractor.  But when you mix all this disparate stuff together, you get a cohesive high energy band that knows where they want to go.  "Our core goals are simple.  We want to connect with each other and with fans on an intimate level, and we want to maintain a level of professionalism that will set us apart.  We do this by making sure that our performance and personality at every show are unforgettable.  We aim to make friends everywhere we go," they told us.  

All of the members we spoke with were clear that they'd pursue music full time if it were possible. Nick, the bassist and smoothie shop assistant manager, said that while he appreciates his boss being supportive of his music career, "I wouldn’t say there’s a balance at all.  One is a job, the other is my passion.  If one had to go, I would have no problem picking."  Chase, the keyboard player is a retail inventory specialist, and agrees, saying, "That’s my primary source of income, and balancing that with the band takes a lot of planning and forethought.  It can be hard at times.  My dedication and passion towards the band is what keeps me balanced."  Sam plays guitar and is a lot manager at a Chevy dealer in the 'real world', "doing oil changes and tire rotations and that kind of thing.  I want this band and this lifestyle more than anything else, and my dedication to this artform is what keeps me going."  Government contractor and vocalist Josh says plainly that,  "I see my job now as a means to an end--it pays the bills so I can focus my real passion and creativity on the band."

The current tour with Galaxy repeat offender My Name Is Drew started to take shape after a joint show in January.  "We’ve always talked about touring together.  Zach (from MNID) is a logistics mastermind, and he took the lead in booking the shows.  Lately, the shows have been coming in left and right.  We’ve been using our connections and friendships to get shows, and it’s been much easier than it used to be now that we’ve proven that we can do the work.  We can sell the tickets, we can engage the crowd, and people are starting to notice."  That ability to engage a crowd has served the band well when things have not gone according to plan. 

"We had a house show here in Virginia when MNID was in town last.  It was totally free, and we invited a few of our close friends and fans as a way of saying thanks for all the support we’ve received. One of our favorite local bands, First & Main, played the show with us.  About an hour before our set, our drummer at the time called us to say that his car broke down and he wasn’t coming.  Nick, our bassist, had to learn the drums in a flash!  We’d never played with that lineup and we were missing a lot of gear, so we were sloppy and uncoordinated to say the least.  Still, we sold the performance with our energy and connection with the fans.  The place was packed, everyone was screaming along, and we all had a blast.  That was probably one of the most rewarding shows we’ve ever played, and it had nothing to do with how well (or horribly) we played our instruments."  We're still hoping the whole band shows up for the Galaxy show!

The band mixes their individual influences with some style setting artists that have led the way over the years when writing, and have been lucky enough to get to play recently with one of them.  "All Time Low, Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, The Used, UnderOath, Hawthorne Heights, and all those other timeless bands that defined the genre when we were in high school.  To be a good writer you have to be a good listener.  We take what we love about the stuff we all listen to and try to put our own spin on it—the energy, the emotional connection, the relevance of the music.  The Rebuilt Machine is one of those bands we want you to be able to scream along with in the car.  We actually had the chance to play with Hawthorne Heights in Richmond at The Kingdom this February.  It was an unforgettable show, packed with energy and passion—a dream come true!"

The band says that even out of town shows can "feel like a hometown show if you go into it with a positive attitude."  Give the guys a Hamilton hometown welcome on March 24th, along with Role Models, My Name Is Drew, Wringer, & Memorials, on a show brought to you by our partners at Wings On Brookwood!  Thanks to the guys for chatting with us, and we'll see you at the show!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In The Spotlight--Legend Has It

Legend Has It will rock the Galaxy March 21st
Travelling all the way to our lovely city from Bangor, Maine as part of a spring tour will be pop punk masters Legend Has It.  The tour was set up with their good friends and compatriots in Too Late The Hero, and hits a blistering nine cities in ten days.  Coming together because the groups wanted to "tour together and hang out", the band was able to set up this trek smoothly.  "Shows have been pretty easy to get, a few bumps along the way, but it always comes together, we have a lot of really helpful and awesome friends that help us get things pulled together," said bassist Matt Humphrey.

Visiting a new town is always an unknown adventure, but sometimes leads to memorable nights.  The guys hope for what most bands would desire.  Matt says, "Basically what any band wants when they go to a new city is a well promoted show. Its nice to see flyers hanging up in local stores and stuff, lets you know the promoter cares about you at least a little bit.  One of my favorites was showing up to this shack in Melbourne, Florida, called Jaycee's. We had no idea what to expect, we played 2nd to last I think and throughout the whole show most kids seemed to stay outside, so we thought no one would care when we played, but everyone came in and it was one of the best and most sweatiest times of my life."

The band has a strong home base, where they stay very active, playing a lot of mixed genre shows, as well as community based events.  "Our hometown is rad, they have really been a strong support system for us as a band. They give every band a chance that comes to play," he says. "As a band we have played community events such as a fest called "Skate Against Drugs" It's a skate competition with a bunch of awesome bands playing, tons of kids go. Things like that help keep kids busy and away from doing stupid things."  Despite being that active, and touring, the band still hold down real jobs as well. "We all work jobs while we are at home, music isn't paying many people's bills these days, we do it because its fun and we love it."

While falling loosely under the pop punk heading, the group is hesitant to nail down a label for themselves and their sound.  The members cite diverse influences that work their way into the music. "Each one of us takes from different influences, Jay would tell you his main influence as a drummer are the Deftones, Ryan's favorite bands are prog metal bands like Meshuggah, Anthony loves R&B which I know nothing about but I know he likes Marvin Gaye haha, and my influences come from hardcore bands like No Warning. Basically we aim for playing aggressive and groovy riffs in a positive tonality with a lot of pop punk influence, we try not to limit ourselves."

Staying focused and getting their name out are the primary goals of the band at the moment.  "The more we do this the more we learn, I think setting realistic goals works," Matt concludes.  You should set the goal of seeing the band as they bring the noise along with Too Late The Hero, The Monument, and Vice Versa on a killer Galaxy lineup on March 21st.  As always, thanks to the guys for taking some time to chat with us, and we'll see you at the show!

Friday, March 2, 2012

In The Spotlight--The Kemps

The Kemps bring this rock action to the Galaxy on 3/18

The Kemps, a garage pop band from Fountain Square, Indianapolis will be bringing their trio to the Galaxy as part of a fantastic line-up on March 18th.  Featuring Jared Birden on vocals/guitar, Tyler Bowman on bass/vocals, and Geoff Albertson on drums, the group is focused squarely on getting their name out to the public.  "Jared and I made a decision to switch the line-up to a three-piece, so in a sense we’ve kinda had to rebuild “The Kemps”. All new songs, new gear, etc.  The original lineup restricted us from ever being able to tour longer than a week or two. Other than a few trips northwest and south and a few shows in surrounding states, we’ve never been able to reach as many peeps as we’d like to," says Tyler.

That work begins at home, where they are focused on bringing attention not to just themselves but the Indianapolis area as a whole.  "We work pretty close with our label, GloryHole Records, in efforts to bring attention to Indy, primarily Fountain Square. There’s hot shit going down, we want the whole world to know!"  They indicate that the scene has advanced in tandem with the city.  "Indianapolis has really grown in the last ten years and the music scene along with it. VACATION CLUB, Learner Dancer, Marmoset are just a few great Fountain Square bands on GloryHole records. Our neighborhood also puts on a annual music/art festival called Cataracts in which we turn a bunch of houses on our street into venues for a day."

Check em!

The band told us they, "really just wanna make badass pop songs," and they draw on a wildly diverse range of musical influences to do so, while also using their surroundings for inspiration.  "The Bay City Rollers, Danzig and The Easybeats are a few major influences.  We take in a lot of influence from our surroundings. We are fortunate to live in close contact with some of our favorite local musicians and that has really helped us learn from our peers and find ourselves.  Jared usually has an idea, whether it is a riff, lyrics, etc. The three of us will sit down and write it out. No crazy technique-type approach, we just write parts that make us smile."

The guys also share a job in common, telling us "All three members deliver subs on our bikes in downtown Indianapolis to support our financial needs."  The Kemps will be delivering their delicious brand of rock to the Galaxy along with Take One Car, Army Coach, Frontier Folk Nebraska, and Sam Banta and the Fantastics in what promises to be one killer show.  Thanks to the guys for taking some time out from delivering subs to answer our questions, and we'll see you at the show!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In The Spotlight--Survay Says!

If you want to know how to do it right in the DIY music scene you should probably call Blairstown, New Jersey's Survay Says!  This seven piece ska outfit has, without representation, hit the scene with a vengeance.  They played over 100 shows in 2011 alone, and when they bring their act to the Galaxy on March 13th it will be as part of their first Mid-West tour, a trek that will visit eight states over its 16 shows.  They've also managed to play shows with the likes of legendary acts such as Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, and Bowling For Soup, all of whom they cite as influences, to name just a few.  That's an impressive list of accomplishments by any measure.

The band told us that, "This tour came out of where every one of our other tours came from; our love of being together, playing our music, pleasing crowds and just maybe, moving up in this crazy music world."  Being the first trip to the area was not without it's challenges though.  "It was a little tough finding shows because we didn't really know anyone.  It's completely new territory for us and we plan to keep returning as much as possible," they said, highlighting the work ethic that has served them so well.  

While a month on the road sounds like a blast on paper, it isn't always quite so much fun.  "Every tour has good shows and every tour has a few busts. Sometimes you get to open for your heroes (Reel Big Fish, Big D, etc.) and sometimes you have to sleep in a parking lot or a rest stop on a bench off of the highway."  They also talked about the struggles back home when touring is a big part of your life.  "We each have our own ways of supporting the band and ourselves. A few of us still take classes, a few of us are able keep a job despite all of the touring we do. The balance of band vs. everything else is an everyday struggle. It gets a little easier as the band gets more successful. It's hard to explain to your parents that touring in a ska band is your priority, especially when they learn it doesn't come with decent health benefits!"

Check em out while your reading punks!
Then, when you finally get to your destination, you have another whole level of worries.  "I always hope when we come somewhere new to be greeted kindly and to not write us off the second we arrive.  We realize even within our own ska & punk world we are different. We always treat everyone we meet with respect and kindness and we hope for the same thing in return.  Every scene operates differently and changes constantly. Our home markets change almost semi-annually and we always try to appear in areas further away from home enough to make as big of an impact as any local band would. We've been lucky enough to be accepted in these circles more often than not," they said.

All of this work and effort will hopefully lead the band to the promised land, or at least today's facsimile of a promised land.  "In the short term, our goals are to keep plugging along and survive while trying to be everywhere and anywhere we can. More long term goals include hopefully one day being able to support a tour with a more established band. The pipe dream is to live off of this band one day, be able to attain stability through the band. We're a rag tag bunch who don't come from a lot and were lucky enough to find something we love and are decent at."

The band brings their high energy pop punk influenced ska to the Galaxy as part of a great night of music that will also feature Atomic Potato, Misunderstood, & Ice Cream Socialist Party.  Be sure to give em a listen, and then come to the party on March 13th at 7pm.  It's an all ages $5.00 night of good times.  Thanks to the band for taking some time to answer our questions, and we'll see you at the show!