amazing icon

Harmony: Indie Rock Finds Its Voice(s)

Ask a music fan in their late 30s or 40s “ preferably one stuck in their formidable years, and not an old hipster “ to define indie rock as a sound, and you’ll unquestionably hear some semblance of these words: Loud. Abrasive. Anti-Authority. Forward-thinking. Think about indie-rock forebears, and some may even call them unlistenable: Sonic Youth reveled in noise; Lou Reed couldn’t sing to save his life; Michael Stipe’s lyrics made no sense. And yet, in the past few years, an unmistakable trend’s emerged that’s made indie rock something entirely different “ in a word, beautiful.

That trend is harmony, the melding of vocals singing different notes to create a full, hopefully gorgeous chord. Admittedly, harmony has been a trait of indie rock since the early years (Kim Deal and Frank Black dabbled, as did Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl) but only recently has it become an indie-rock trademark, rather than a side note. Blame (or thank) The Shins, whose New Slang made Natalie Portman swoon and Zach Braff famous six years ago, opened the door to indie-rock sensitivity in a way it’d never been opened before.

Only in the last couple of years has harmony become zeitgeist-y, though. First came the Fleet Foxes, the ultra-hyped, superbly bearded Seattle band whose atmospheric, folksy Sun Giant was the toast of 2008, thanks to singer Robert Pecknold’s harmonizing with all of his band mates to create glorious, seemingly impossible vocal collosi that are at once overwhelming and majestic. Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear broke out last year with Veckatimest, which took the Fleet Foxes lushness and weirded it up, the group-sings so striking, they won the band the top spot on the Wall Street Journal’s list of the best records of 2009. And now, Angelenos Local Natives take the trend a step further, with the foursome bringing the fuzz of electric guitars (and the jumpy rhythms of bands like the Talking Heads) to the party, busting out three-and-sometimes-four part harmonies that’re both electrifying and soothing, occasionally simultaneously. Listening to them “ or any of their predecessors “ may not be an anti-authority statement the way, say, listening to Iggy was in 1972, but so what: who needs attitude when you can have lusciousness, instead?

-Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller is the LA editor of and has been writing about music professionally for over a decade for publications including the Los Angeles Times, Relix, and

Behind the Mic: How a Cover Song Can Boost Your Career

Many bands start off their first practice by learning a cover song, but even seasoned acts can benefit from playing someone else’s music.

A cover song can be a great career booster, and an easy way to reach a wider audience. People love to hear new takes on old favorites, as proven by the popularity of cover compilations like Fearless Records’ Punk Goes… collection.

The "Punk Goes" Collection

It may seem strange to use someone else’s music for your own benefit, but a cover can actually be a powerful promotional tool. Once you have a solid recording, upload it into a movie-making program, like iMovie, so that it can be posted on YouTube. While you can make the video a still shot with your band’s name and URL on it, shooting a music video for the cover song will show off your creativity and personality as a band. Best of all, it doesn’t need to cost a penny.

Case in point: The Fold. The band were previously signed to Tooth & Nail Records, but decided to cut ties in 2008 and have remained unsigned ever since. This past December, they released a parody version of Miley Cyrus’ hit “Party in the U.S.A,” this time titled “Every Band in the U.S.A.” The song’s lyrics were re-written to poke fun at the pop-punk scene, specifically how playing a Miley Cyrus cover can instantly win over an unenthusiastic crowd.

The laugh-out-loud video, which was shot completely on an iPhone, quickly gained national attention and has racked up over 345,000 views on YouTube. It was even promoted by Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz and Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low (a band that was name-dropped in the video as refusing to tour with The Fold) on Twitter. The Fold also made the song available for free download on their Web site (remember-charging money for a cover song without permission is illegal!) and even got an endorsement from Glamour Kills clothing for a t-shirt after mentioning their lack of sponsorship in the song.

One more thing: before you unleash your video to the world, make sure that it is tagged appropriately with the song name, the original artist’s name and your name. This will ensure that anyone who searches YouTube for the original song, or for covers of it, will be able to see your video as well. Once the video is up, get to work promoting it on all of the social media accounts you have!

As The Fold’s drummer Mark Rhoades commented, YouTube is the new MTV, and you don’t need big marketing money to reach new fans.

It's Serious

Girl In A Coma

Girl In A Coma came together in high school over a mutual love of the Smiths (thus the name), but it was arguably Joan Jett, not Morrissey, who sealed their fate by introducing them to their first real wave of success. The San Antonio group was signed by Jett to her label, Blackheart Records, after catching a show at The Knitting Factory. Now with two records and national tours with Cyndi Lauper, Tegan and Sara, and (OMG!) Morrissey under their belt, these three grrrls are just hitting a full gallop. Here’s what the fuss is about: stylized rock with punk underpinnings, big distortion and the feline yowl of singer Nina Diaz. Static Mind is your slap-in-the-face introduction. Guitars chug and send up a wall of fuzz, drums keep a relentless rock steady beat, and Diaz chews off her lyrics and spits them out at you”making each word sound exotic. Their Cell is more of a twisted, unchained melody¦ unpredictable, sexy and dangerous. It’s a far cry from the asexual, sardonic musings of Morrissey, but that might be why you’ll like it.

GuacaMusic: Mojito Cubano

If you’ve had Cuban food, you know nothing beats pairing your Ropa Vieja (shredded flank steak in a tomato sauce base) with frijoles (beans), plantains, and of course a Mojito”that exquisite mixture of lime juice, sugar and crushed mint leaves that creates a fiesta in your mouth every time you take a sip. You know this sweet and sour mixture that typifies Cuban cuisine tastes great but did you know this mix also exists in Cuban music?

Sugary as in Boleros, acid as in Cha-cha-chá, the blend of rhythms in la musica cubana isn’t coincidental. The culture of Cuba is in itself a complex combination of different, often contrasting, factors and influences.

Can’t wait to listen?

Here on OurStage, we have some great artists that incorporate Cuban rhythms into their musical creations. One good example is Sugarcane Rush, a group that combines Cuban rhythms with funk and rock. Play their song In My Island (Back to Cuba) and enjoy pure Cuban sugarcane. For a more localized sabor cubano, listen to their song Cape Florida (Farito), a jazzy, funky laid-back story about relaxing on the beach in Key Biscayne, Florida, an area with a significant Cuban population.

If you are looking to explore the more typical sounds of La Habana, listen to Tony Succar‘s song Cuba de Celia Cruz, a poem to the late great pillar of Cuban music Celia Cruz. Succar is the director of his band Tony Succar y el Grupo Mixtura whose dream is to perform around the world.

Are you interested? Want to try this at home? Follow these tips for incorporating elements of Cuba into your music:

  • Mix Spain with Africa. Try combining some of the sounds of Spanish music (such as the acoustic guitar) with a few African rhythms. A good number of Cuban musical creations are creolized fusions of these two sources.
  • Get yourself some bongos. Learn how to play this Cuban musical instrument and you will spice up your pieces. Bongos are two small drums, of different sizes, held together by a strap or a piece of wood or metal.
  • Learn a few bailes cubanos. There is no real fiesta without some dancing. Play some music and get moving with some Rumba, Mambo or Cha cha chá.
  • Become a Maraca master. After getting your bongos, pick up a pair of maracas. Often called rumba shakers, maracas are simple percussion instruments that are often made of a dried calabash or coconut shell and filled with seeds or dried beans.
  • Learn from the best”Getting the real Cuban music experience without visiting Cuba is difficult, but not impossible. Let the experts teach you by listening to the worldwide hit Buena Vista Social Club (1997), a recording of veteran Cuban musicians such as Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González and Compay Segundo.

Still looking for inspiration? Visit our Latin Channel for a great collection of sabores cubanos. You will be mastering the art of mixing sweet with sour in no time.


Meet The Winners For The Shout It Out With HANSON Competition In July

In support of their new album Shout it Out, the boys from HANSON have partnered with OurStage to give up-and-coming artists the opportunity to open for them on their summer tour. By entering the “Shout it Out With HANSON” Competition on OurStage, 23 winning acts from around the country have already had the opportunity to open for the pop trio. In July, artists in 12 cities across the US were given their shot at opening for the band by entering their songs in region-based channels.

Over 1,200 acts submitted their material in hopes of securing an opening spot in their hometown, but only 12 are walking away with the grand prize. In addition to performing at their hometown tour stop, each grand prize winner will receive free tickets to the show so their friends and family can be there to watch them rock out. Each act was hand-picked by HANSON and their people out of the Top 20 artists of every regional channel. You can check out the winners for Mesa, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco below. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Spokane, Boise, Salt Lake City and Boulder!

Mesa Winner
You Hang Up
View Profile | Listen to You Hang Up | See All Entrants
Anaheim Winner
View Profile | Listen to Sparrow | See All Entrants
Los Angeles Winner
View Profile | Listen to Karmina | See All Entrants
San Diego Winner
The Patchwork Quilt Fallacy
View Profile | Listen to The Patchwork Quilt Fallacy | See All Entrants
San Francisco Winner #1
Red Light Circuit
View Profile | Listen to Red Light Circuit | See All Entrants
San Francisco Winner #2
Motel Drive
View Profile | Listen to Motel Drive | See All Entrants

Holiday In The Sun: All Aboard The Bruise Cruise

A funny thing happened on the way to the dive bar. Yes, the Black Lips, Vivian Girls, DJ Jonathan Toubin and others will be performing on the first-ever “Bruise Cruise Festival,” a luxury line headed from Miami to the Bahamas from February 25-28, 2011. With rockers/patrons paying $615 for an interior cabin and $665 for one with an ocean-view, the cruise is a fascinating study in indie music marketing. No doubt digital realities have lent freedom to artists seeking new channels of distribution, but they have also somewhat paradoxically devalued their creative output. Generating less income through recordings, it has become all the more important for them to monetize live performances and the Bruise Cruise can easily be understood in this context.

Organized by Michelle Cable of Panache Booking and Jonas Stein of Nashville band, Turbo Fruits, the concept is hardly revolutionary: There is a “Opry Country Classics Cruise” on Royal Caribbean, a “Gospel Music, Mexican Riviera Celebration” on Holland America, so garage rock on the Carnival Line is not a gigantic leap. Yet, unlike other musical genres, garage hasn’t historically occupied a cultural space one would readily associate with ice sculptures and elaborate floral arrangements and so the cruise suggests that the line between the alternative and mainstream is

Black Lips

growing increasingly blurry.

The 400 rockers who book tickets, as the Bruise Cruise website states, will share the ship with about 2000 regular passengers, which means that out-of-shape, Middle Americans in their fat pants will be piling fajitas and pasta salad onto their plates at the all-you-can-eat buffet next to the rockers in skinny jeans. The fest promoters seem aware of the cultural tension. On the site, next to a photo of the ship’s resort-style swimming pool they urge potential fest-goers to “Think Boogie Nights” and next to a photo of a miniature golf course to “Think Caddyshack meets Weekend At Bernie’s.” In these awkward attempts at spin, the promoters seem to be worried whether this indie experiment at sea will work out.  But is there really reason for concern?

As Rachael Maddux announced in her much-discussed cover story for Paste Magazine earlier this year, “Indie” as an artistic ideal that implied a willful operation outside the mainstream, has virtually lost all meaning. And perhaps, it could be argued, so has the idea of “mainstream.” In September, Iggy and the Stooges will be performing Raw Power at Kutsher”s Country Club in the Catskills. In October, indie institution Matador Records will celebrate its 21st anniversary with a three-day event in the mecca of kitch, Las Vegas. Hell, Arcade Fire just released an album called Suburbs about lawns, malls and the desire to settle down and have children. The world is ready for the Bruise Cruise. So, grab your PBR and head to the starboard deck. The shuffleboard tournament is about to begin.

Josh Neuman

Joshua Neuman used to be the editor-in-chief of Heeb Magazine. He has written for Slate, eMusic and ESPN. His first book, The Big Book of Jewish Conspiracies, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2005.

Q&A With Bouncing Souls

It’s impossible to enter the realm of current fast-paced, punk rock music without mentioning Bouncing Souls. The name itself implies upbeat, intense music. These Jersey skate punk legends have been on the scene since 1987, working the simplicity of a “one guitar, bass and drums” lineup that is often overlooked and  typically quite difficult to pull off. But, with the unique lead vocals of Greg Attonito and a touch of optimism, The Souls fulfill even the most stubborn of punk rock fan’s needs.

Despite releasing an abundance of EP’s and singles as well as almost 10 studio full-lengths, the band have really stayed true to their sound and aesthetic. Their most recent release Ghosts on the Boardwalk is already being received with critical acclaim. OurStage got in touch with Attonito backstage at this year’s Vans Warped Tour where the band emerged as a veteran act. Check out his  thoughts on Warped, his take on the band’s music and even his recent acoustic tour with his wife.

OS: How often do you guys do Warped Tour?

GA: We do it in different cities. We did a couple weeks last year, a couple weeks the year before, and so on. We’ve been on Warped Tour every summer, and this is our 9th one.

OS: Yeah, so you guys are kind of Warped veterans.  What have you come to expect when hopping on the tour?

GA: It’s always an adventure, and this year has been that, completely. We had some vehicle troubles, our vehicle overheated. We got our U-haul trailer stolen, and then recovered, and everything was in it. Which is crazy. We had some great, great shows. It’s been a wild adventure, and that’s what the Warped Tour always is.

OS: All the bands sort of agree that Warped Tour is a real community experience. Some have called it a giant tailgate party. Having been on the tour so much, how has that been for the Bouncing Souls?

GA: We were doing the interview for the Warped Tour documentary earlier, and they were kind of talking about the same thing. For all the people who complain about the Warped Tour being not punk, in that sense that we’re all throwing all this random stuff in a pile and just seeing what happens”that’s the punk spirit of the tour. That’s what those early shows I went to were like. There wasn’t all this talk about different types of genres, and it wasn’t as big of a deal as it is now. Which, it is on the Warped Tour, but just the fact that all the genres are just thrown in together gives it that spirit. You don’t know what you’re going to find here. Lots of people are into one thing, so they’re going to be exposed to other stuff. So, I would say that that’s the essence of the Warped Tour. That’s what makes it so interesting.

OS: The band seems to have a strong charitable goal in a lot of your shows/releases. Why have you decided to move in that direction?

GA: I guess it just comes from who we are, and what we know makes sense as people and as a band. We care about the music. We care about ourselves and each other as friends. We care about the audience, and it all becomes one thing. It’s like a family”friends and family. That is the type of people we are, but as we put it into a band it becomes like a band thing. That’s what people see as more of a public thing.  We’re a group of people that want to live a certain way, and our band reflects that.

OS: Yeah, and a few years back, your wife released a children’s book, and you did a tour with her playing acoustic songs for kids at bookstores, right?

GA: Yeah, that was a ton of fun. Also, my wife and I just came up here to Boston. We did the Middle East. We did a really fun little experimental tour. We got Vespa to sponsor us and we rode from every show on our Vespa scooters” my wife and I. We started in Philly, did 8 or 9 shows, and we ended up here in Boston and played at the Middle East. It was just a couple months ago. It was totally fun. We documented it. Every day we had to drive maybe 50-60 miles.

OS: The Bouncing Souls, in general, kind of embody the Jersey punk sound, and you aren’t shy about mentioning it. Do you feel it’s important to get this into your sound?

GA: I think it jut happens. If we thought about it, it probably wouldn’t be quite right. I think it’s part of who we are and what we love. It’s just part of us. I think that’s why people enjoy it, because it’s real. You know what I mean? We love it, so we play it.

OS: On The Gold Record, there’s a song called Letters From Iraq. Someone else wrote the lyrics for it. Can you tell us a little about that process?

GA: It was in the heat of that time when the soldiers were there. We were writing the record and we were like We want to address this. We’ve never been real overtly political, and choosing political parties and writing music about that never made sense to us. So it didn’t seem real. There you are watching CNN, but you’re really disconnected. It’s hard to write about it if you’re just watching it on TV. We literally had that conversation one day. We’re like War sucks! War sucks! But what are you going to do? It’s not real to us. That night. The night of that conversation, our friend Garrett who had served over there, had written a bunch of poetry while he was over there,tons of it. He wrote Brian an email and said Hey, I’ve got all this poetry if you guys want to check it out. I don’t remember, but he might have suggested we put it in a song. He was getting it together. He was back, and he was kind of amped on it. Brian came back, and we were like Holy Shit. We all went to the computer and started reading it. We’re like Here is the song. There were like ten songs there. He had a ton of it. We printed it out, and reworked it. We definitely changed things around so it would work with the song. That was it.

What I was stoked about was that when you read the lyrics, it was so not the same vibe of watching the news. It was so real. There’s something about the way CNN does the visuals and the way they present it. It’s almost romanticized. The way you see it on TV, it’s so disconnected that it’s not real. People dying, suffering and blood. You don’t feel it. That’s kind of the problem I have with the way the military is presented on the news: being like a solider, serving your country and stuff. In a sense, that can be real and genuine, but also, there’s so much reality that’s not there. I was happy to put that into the song. Hopefully, we achieved it, and I feel like we did, because a lot of the soldiers appreciated the genuineness in it.

OS: The new album, similarly to some of your other releases, seems to deal with optimism and rising above negativity. Why is it important for you guys to portray that and how do you think it fits in with all the negative lyrics common with other bands in the punk genre?

GA: Again, it’s how we want to live. The energy you project into life is what you will be living in. You create your world. You have the power. Everyone does. So, I guess we’re just aware of that. We want to live in a positive energy. We’re aware that if we put that into our lives, then we’re going to be living in it. It’s that simple. We can be negative, but we want to overcome those moments, and that’s why a lot of the songs are about that. It’s about overcoming negativity within ourselves, and when other people are projecting it at you.

Also, it’s the way of the world. It’s always going to be that way. You can’t have positive without negative. I’m talking about science and nature now, you know what I mean? There can’t be one without the other. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any drama going on. In other words, it is what it is. It’s everyone being negative or positive at the right times in their lives, and having those experiences at the times that they need to have them, because they’re experiencing all of it.

Bouncing Souls are performing at the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, WA on Sept 5th. Catch them on their Australian tour later this year with Hot Water Music.

9/5- Bumbershoot Festival 2010, Seattle, WA

9/6- The Alley, Reno, NV

9/11- The Black Car, Washington, DC

9/12- The Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY

9/13- Concert Cruise on The Temptress, New York, NY

10/8- Riot Fest 2010, Chicago, IL

Rock 'n' Roll Call: Something Corporate Reunion Tour Review

Although they’ve spent half  of the past decade on hiatus, Something Corporate clearly still have a special place in the hearts of their fans. During the band’s peak in the early 2000s, the vast majority of their fans were teenagers who now fondly associate the band’s discography with nostalgic memories of high school. Though frontman and pianist Andrew McMahon has kept himself busy over the years with successful side project Jack’s Mannequin, SoCo enthusiasts shoped that the band would one day return to the stage. This year, their wish came true.

L to R: guitarist Josh Partington, drummer Brian Ireland and bassist Kevin "Clutch" Page

The Something Corporate Reunion Tour began on August 2nd in Minneapolis and will continue until the last show on August 28th in Los Angeles. The tour follows the band’s first reunited performances together at all three Bamboozle dates and the release of Played in Space: The Best of Something Corporate in April.

The ninth tour stop hit  Boston’s House of Blues, which stands in the shadows of the famed Fenway Park. As Something Corporate took the stage, they were greeted with thunderous cheers and applause from the sold-out crowd. Kicking off their  twenty-song set with the energetic “I Woke Up In a Car,” smiles were plastered on all five members’ faces. SoCo continued to please the crowd with driving pop-punk tunes like “Hurricane,” “Space” and “Punk Rock Princess,” but they also made time for acoustic ballad “Wait” and “Watch the Sky,” a track exlcusively released on the Japanese version of their third album, North.

Andrew McMahon working the crowd

In between songs, Andrew had nostalgic moments himself, as he recalled the inspiration behind even the oldest tracks, as well as when the band played to ten people in the original House of Blues in Cambridge back in the late 90’s. But perhaps the most nostalgic moment of the night occurred when Andrew returned to the stage for an encore and launched into the nine-minute fan favorite, “Konstantine.”  The band ended the night on a high note with rock anthem “If U C Jordan,” which culminated in Andrew stomping on his piano keys and bowing to the crowd.

Throughout the two-hour performance, the band proved that five years apart had no effect on their stage presence or chemistry. As Andrew sings in “Cavanaugh Park,” Something Corporate’s reunion show proved that- even as the years fly by “some things never do change.”

Hip Hop Habit: Yung Bizzy

A few months ago this column featured Tru Quality, a laid back hip hop act from Portland, OR. This week’s act, Yung Bizzy, is another laid back hip hop act from Portland, where weed flows like wine. The Beaver State’ illicit reputation is audible in both acts’ sound, not that either group necessarily promotes drugs. Relaxed, peaceful, and inviting, Yung Bizzy’s rhythms and rhymes are likely to lull you into a meditative state only life on the Pacific can create.

Aside from the aggravating watermark, Problems is a pretty strong piece, and at the upper capacity of Bizzy’s energetic output. Other than the recurring crystalline piano/guitar unison riff, the beat is skeletal at best and certainly nothing special, in turn giving rise to Bizzy’s long-winded wisdom. For a mere 18 years of age, the kid is much wiser than that baby face will lead you to believe. In Problems, he assumes the role of a wallflower and mediator, both observing the problematic issues around him: she wanna live life cruisin’ in the fast lane/ wind up with a nigga dealin’ mad ˜caine/ on his arm at the mall spending mad change/ not known that she givin’ herself a bad name and suggesting remedies he knows won’t go down easily: I know what your problem is/ all that misplaced faith where the dollar is/ all that misplaced hate just model this/ and every one of your problems will not exist. Along with his sagacity, Bizzy uses the opportunity granted by overflowing verbiage to show off his technical skills as well, often rapping in quadruple time for measures on end.

Yung BizzyMine returns the tempo back to hazy northwestern normalcy, and with its hollow percussion and dinky guitar riff, it is very similar to Problems. Lyrically, it’s Bizzy’s modern version of Mo Money Mo Problems. Of course, at this point in his career, this is all imaginary, but it once again goes to show the incredibly mature foresight he’s capable of. Told from the voice of a future Bizzy, he regrets asking for what he received, claiming that all the baggage that inevitably comes with fame and fortune wasn’t what he meant when he vowed to get his: lost my friends to the fans in the stands/ my family to the popular demand of me. For every rap song dedicated to the cash and women that are ostensibly part of the fame and fortune package, how many tout it as something to avoid? If Bizzy sticks to his guns, his career in the rap game will last a lot longer than most.

Whether the moniker Yung Bizzy was born out of the fact this 18-year-old is always busy I’m not sure, but according to his bio, that would make sense. A full time rapper, Bizzy also co-founded his own production company Young Threat Productions and is currently involved with Turf Noize ENT. Having been accepted to St. Francis College in Brooklyn, he plans to enroll this fall and take his dream as far as it will let him on the east coast. It probably won’t be long before he’s performing locally, so if you’re from BK keep updatedwith his performance schedule!

Meet The Winners Of The John Mayer Side Stage Warfare Competition In July

Winning artists from the June John Mayer “Side Stage Warfare” Competition recently rocked out arena-sized crowds at venues in Scranton, Boston, Cleveland and Indianapolis. In July, we offered artists the chance at nabbing a side-stage slot on John Mayer’s “Battle Studies” tour in Phoenix, Atlanta, Houston and West Palm Beach. Over 1,000 artists submitted their music in July for a shot at the stage and the battling was fierce throughout the month.

The dust has settled since then, and now 4 acts are on their way to playing in front of thousands of screaming fans. Hand-picked from the Top 20 of each channel by John Mayer and his team, these artists have won not only a chance to play on the summer “Battle Studies” tour, but also free tickets to the show so their friends and family can be there to cheer them on. Check out the winners and their OurStage profiles below:

Atlanta Winner
The Kicks
View Profile | Listen to The Kicks | See All Entrants
Houston Winner
View Profile | Listen to SleeperStar | See All Entrants
Phoenix Winner
Jesse Thomas
View Profile | Listen to Jesse Thomas | See All Entrants
West Palm Beach Winner
View Profile | Listen to RIA | See All Entrants