Exclusive Q and A: Vanna Talks Family, Friends, and Monsoons

It’s time to get out of this town. It’s haunting, this presence. If the verse lyrics from post-hardcore band Vanna‘s Safe To Say ever referred to their hometown of Boston, Mass., we’d never guess it now. After kicking off 2012 with tours through Europe and the U.S. from February to April, then almost immediately turning around and jumping on the Warped Tour, Vanna front man Davey Muise and guitarist Joel Pastuszak told us about how great it was to be home at the Warped Tour stop in Mansfield, Mass. Apart from touring, in the last six months Vanna have picked up new members Pastuszak and Erik Gross, and have begun working on a fourth LP after releasing their third full-length album, And They Came Baring Bones in 2011. Muise and Pastuszak talked to us about friends, family, and tour craziness over the last few months.

OS: You guys are playing back in your hometown, that’s got to be great. What’s it like to be back?

DM: It’s awesome to be back, all of our families are here and you know, we’re just looking forward to our New England date to prove to the rest of the tour that we are a ˜worth it’ band [laughs].

OS: You haven’t played with Four Year Strong in a long time, how does it feel to be touring with some hometown friends again?

DM: It’s cool, it’s cool ˜cause like Four Year [Strong], Transit, A Loss For Words, Man Overboard, Make Do, and Mend (even though they’re kind of from Jersey), it’s a lot of New England bands on this tour and it just feels really really good to tour with bands from New England; slash I apologize to everyone who’s not from New England on this tour because we can get pretty rowdy and obnoxious. It’s cool; it’s definitely cool to have everybody out. Four Year’s killing it, A Loss For Words is killing it, all the New England bands are doing so well, I’m just proud of my friends.

JP: We pretty much just took over the whole tour.


Exclusive Q and A: The Hives Build a Solid Comeback

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsFans can be forgiven if they thought the Swedish garage rockers The Hives had faded away. In truth, the band’s five-year absence was spent making their 5th studio album Lex Hives that was just released in the U.S. and immediately caught the ears of critics throughout the world including those at Rolling Stone magazine. The album’s first single Go Right Ahead, is full of bold riffs, blunt hooks, [and] snappy beats wrote a critic for the Stone reflecting the general critical consensus of the entire album.

But the recorded music is only part of the story for the Swedish band. Always known as a take-no-prisoners unit, the group left critics and fans breathless with their high-energy shows at the recent Coachella festival. No small feat when you consider Coachella held the exact sameevent ”down to the same set lists from the same bands at the same times” “ on two consecutive weekends. [Pelle] Almqvist is still one of rock’s most engaging front men”bringing to mind a young Mick Jagger with the way he struts around the stage with his hands on his hips before suddenly leaping in the air with a scissor kick, wrote a critic for the Los Angeles Times after the festival.

Just before The Hives kicked off the band’s U.S. tour with a sold-out show in Washington, D.C. on June 19, the high-flying front man Almqvist took time to talk to OurStage about Coachella, Lex Hives, and more.

OS: We heard you killed both weekends at Coachella. How was it for you?

PA: Coachella was fun. It was unorthodox to say the least. I’m really glad Coachella booked us when we didn’t have a record done. We knew that if you put us in front of a crowd, it would work. It was great.

OS: Did you have any concerns about replicating your show?

PA: No, it wasn’t weird for us. My feeling was sort of, Isn’t it weird for fans going into the second weekend if they know about the Tupac hologram? If you know it will be there, isn’t that weird?” To me, that would have been kind of a bummer but hey, it went well. It was pretty great both weekends.


Exclusive Q and A: The Used Get 'Vulnerable'

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsTen years ago, The Used exploded onto the modern alternative rock scene with their edgy and emotionally-charged debut album, The Used. Led by versatile frontman Bert McCracken”a vocalist who’s sweet and smooth pop voice can be easily turned into an ear-shattering scream” the group made a name for themselves with singles like “Taste of Ink” and “Box Full of Sharp Objects.” The Used saw further mainstream success with their subsequent records, In Love & Death and Lies For The Liars, as their shows became bigger and bolder than ever before. In 2010, they released Artwork, a strongly negative and dark album on which the band had struggled for creative control.

Never ones to quit when the going gets tough, The Used decided to take matters into their own hands and go DIY for their upcoming release, Vulnerable. Both McCracken and guitarist Quinn Allman took the time to meet up with us at SXSW in Austin, TX, to discuss the new album and how the band has grown, musically and personally, since they first began.

OS: You just returned from Soundwave in Australia. What was that experience like? How did the fans respond to the new single?

BM: It was amazing. It was the biggest, craziest festival. I mean, there’s like, one million bands on it, I think? 1,200,000 bands? [laughs] A lot of metal bands, so for a band like us¦we kind of had to watch where we walk and not get beat up by all the metalheads. But it was so fun. We’re just doing I Come Alive right now from the new record, since it’s not out yet¦but the feedback we got was amazing. Australian fans are fucking crazy.

OS: I hear that from a lot of people, that fans overseas are so much more excited¦

BM: It’s weird…England and Europe and Australia are really crazy.

OS: You’re about to put out your brand new record, Vulnerable, and you’ve taken a DIY approach to this release. Can you talk about the advantages and disadvantages of releasing your own record?

BM: I guess the only disadvantage is we have to do pretty much all of the work ourselves. We teamed up with Hopeless to handle the distribution of the record, which is really cool. They’re really on it. I’d say the advantages are¦everything else in the whole world. We get to do whatever we want with our own music, we get to create the type of things we want to create, no one can tell us what to do or how to do it, we get to make our own music video the way we want to make it¦I mean, just 100% creative freedom. It’s incredible.


National Q&A: Aaron Lewis

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsAaron Lewis’ iconic career with Staind made him an alt rock idol but he’s proven he’s the “Country Boy” behind the hit song. Town Line, Lewis’ five-song country debut, is slated for release this spring. Lewis has been on an acoustic tour during which he plays several of his country tunes such as “Forever” and “Grand Daddy’s Son,” plus some of his Staind hits including “Outside” and “It’s Been Awhile.” As Lewis and Staind start the countdown to the band’s massive tour, which begins next month, and look ahead to a new album release this summer, Lewis took time to talk to OurStage about his career, his music, and just what he see ahead.

OS:  What do you plan to play on your next solo dates?

AL: I’m just going to play my normal set that includes the five songs on my country release. The whole rest of the evening is the [Staind music]. We’ll see how that goes and we’ll see what the [audience] enjoys. There will likely be a lot of Staind fans.

OS: What song from the new album do you most remember writing?

AL: “The Story Never Ends”” the first song off the record. It came to me in a beer stand in Paducah, Kentucky [when I was on a hunting trip]. I looked up at my [friend] and asked him if he had a pen and paper. I got back to the camp and sat down with the guitar and went to the studio that day and was bouncing back and forth between the hunting camp and recording.

OS: How did it come together?

AL: I kind of played a cord progression and half figured it out. The rest of the guys were sitting there and I was just thinking about what we were doing. Within an hour, I had it recorded.

OS: That’s amazing that it came together so quickly.

AL: The problem is that I don’t have any control over it! It can happen that easily or not at all!

OS: A lot of fans are surprised that you have recorded a country album. What brought you to that?

AL: I grew up with country. I spent a lot of time with [my] grandfather, especially a lot in the summertime. He lived twenty-five minutes from our house. I stayed there all summer [when I was young] and he was a country music fanatic. It was always on, always, always, always.

[Not long ago when] I heard Kid Rock playing old country music, it  brought back all sort of memories. It kind of is the soundtrack of my childhood and I haven’t really been able to escape it since. Now I’m always listening to country. I love “Willie’s Place” [on satellite radio].

OS: So what was the first country song you wrote?

AL: “Country Boy” was my first attempt at writing a country song. It’s heavily laden with stereotypical country lines about whiskey and granddad, don’t tread on me. A lot of that was very cliche, but a lot of it was [written in a] very tongue-in-cheek manner. I was trying to write a country song that when it was finished and people started hearing it, they could [relate]. It really got me to thinking about country [music] more. It’s really in my brain now.

OS: What has the reaction been from your band mates and fans who enjoy your rock?

AL: Everybody is very supportive of me doing this. It has affected things a little bit [for Staind] especially in the recording process. I wanted to record a Staind album when my solo was released. This was the first time in my career that I ever had a deadline [as I did to finish the Staind album for a release this summer]. I never had this kind of stress where it had to be finished by this date or we will be severely financially punished. That caused some inner turmoil.

OS: What does your country debut mean for Staind?

AL: By contract I will tour behind the new record I put out and at the end of that I probably will have found time within the touring schedule go back into the studio in Nashville. When we are done with [tours for] Staind, I will take time off and be with the family and start into the solo cycle and a new record and tour.

I have never been opposed to making music with Staind but as I get older and life goes on, I am missing things”I never can rewind and get them back. There will come a point that I never want to do it like this anymore.

Find out more about Aaron Lewis’ music and tours on his Web site.

Don’t miss Lewis’ “Country Boy” video below that includes Charlie Daniels, Chris Young and George Jones.

Exclusive Q&A: Rodney Atkins Scores Success with 'Take a Back Road'

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsRodney Atkins may be on more music fans’ personal play lists now that the title track of his fourth studio album “Take a Back Road,” has become his sixth No. 1 hit, but don’t think of him as anything like an overnight success.

The East Tennessee native signed with Curb Records in 1997 but didn’t really catch listeners’ ears until his 2006 album If You’re Going Through Hell. Atkins said what helped him turn the musical corner was taking a long look at his beliefs and defining exactly what songs he could write and sing from the heart.

Wonder if that worked? Consider that the album’s title track and the song “Watching You” both zoomed to the top of the charts. As he prepares for the October 4 release of his album and a supporting tour, Atkins took time to talk with OurStage about the title track, the album and just what he hopes his fans take away from his music.

OS: Congratulations on your new single “Take a Back Road” hitting No. 1! You must be so thrilled.

RA: To be honest, you get so caught up in the grind and the business and then suddenly it just hits you and you’re on your knees, so humble. I’m so humbled that I’m here and have a chance to do this. I’m just so very grateful. I don’t know why I’m doing this interview because I’m honestly speechless. Thank you for wanting to talk to me!

OS: When you approached writing and recording this album, what did you hope to achieve?

RA: When we started working on the If You’re Going Through Hell album [that was released in 2006], I lived about 100 miles from Music Row so I was constantly going back and forth. So I wouldn’t have to do the commute, I got [basic recording equipment] on eBay and set it up in the pantry, a little closet at our house.

I was working one day and my wife [Tammy Jo Atkins] and some of her friends were out on the front porch¦and I had them come in and sing [a background vocal] “It is what I love about the south, about the south, about the south.” It was recording those songs in that way that got me and really affected me and lifted me. They actually say more than you realize.

So my answer is that when we made the If You’re Going Through Hell album, we were not trying to fit in and follow a trend. We were basically following our hearts. That’s what made me want to go back to that place, to sing songs and write songs that really, really touch people. [I wanted] songs that would stick with you and lift people up.”