Happy New Year’s Eve, music lovers! As a special treat for fans, Artist Vs Poet have released a new single called “Close To You,” which you can take a listen to below. The band will be touring Japan this February with William Beckett for shows in Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo, in support of their latest release, Keep Your Secrets.
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We’ve been hearing a lot lately about companies and governments cracking down on illegal downloading with excessive fines and what not, but Japan has taken this a step further. According to NME.com, the Japanese government has determined that “fans found guilty of illegally downloading could now face up to two years in prison or a £15,900 fine after a change in the law.” It is the most extreme punishment for the crime that we’ve seen thus far. Next to the United States, Japan is the second largest music market in the world, but “illegal downloads outnumber legal ones by 10 to one. Of course, this has caused many protests by Japanese activists who believe “the focus should be on stopping users making illegal material available, rather than putting harsh sentences on downloaders.” Technically, a Japanese citizen could be imprisoned just for one illegal download. One cannot help but wonder what sort of actions other countries will be taking as this world-wide crackdown continues.
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Me First and the Gimme Gimmes is a band that really extends itself into places most bands aren’t willing to go, both literally and musically. Drawing its members from various punk bands like NOFX to Swingin’ Utters, the supergroup also specializes in covers from a variety of wildly different artists ranging from Elton John to Boyz 2 Men. In preparation for their third tour in Japan, the Gimmes Gimmes released the album Sing In Japanese where the band covers a multitude of classics in the realm of Japanese punk bands. Vocalist Spike Slawson sat down with OurStage to explain what makes a good cover, the difficulties a band faces when touring abroad and his thoughts on the Japanese punk scene as a whole.
OS: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes have always been characterized as a punk supergroup. When you first started, was it difficult to manage all the different elements that each member brought from their respective groups?
SS: Initially, it gelled right away, because I think a lot of people weren’t necessarily convinced they were right yet.
SS: Fidelity to the original, but with a new group of people in the room where it sounds like a different take to it. Carbon footprint, I don’t know.
OS: Has the band ever attempted to play original songs or has it been only covers?
SS: Only covers, only ever covers.
OS: Was there a specific reason for that?
SS: Well, I don’t know. It’s sort of like a process of elimination. There’s too many options in music, at least in my mind, where we would have no idea where to go. Making it only covers or making it only a certain style of music, it narrows the range a little bit. It just makes it simpler. Often the best song on a lot of these pop punk bands’ records was the cover, you know. Or like the only good song. So why not do a band of that? And several of us wanted to play out in a band that was less serious and the quickest way to get a live set together to play out was covers. (more…)
The Ernie Ball Competition on OurStage has awarded free strings to some of the hottest artists on the site, giving them that extra little push they need to keep the music coming for a whole year longer. With their ethereal vocals, driving rhythms and soaring choruses, west coast hard rockers Lucid Fly are no exception. The California quartet climbed all the way to the top of the Hard Rock Channel in March with their song Blind, and landed themselves a year’s supply of free strings and accessories from Ernie Ball. We recently caught up with guitarist Doug Mecca to get a little insight into their musical world, their influences and to find out what’s on the horizon for this up-and-coming act. Check out our exclusive interview below, and for more information and tunes, hit up Lucid Fly’s OurStage profile. Don’t forget that artists in the Indie Pop Channel are currently battling for the Ernie Ball grand prize, so if indie pop is your bag, go show them some love in the judging department!
OS: You guys relocated to Los Angeles from Florida a few years back, how has that change affected your fan base? Any major differences between east coast and west coast followers?
DM: Since we moved we’ve had to connect virtually (mostly online) with our fans back east while building a name as a new band in LA. We’re in a much bigger city now and the diversity and numbers out here are amazing. We were attracted to that more of everything that LA exemplifies and we’ve been loving that”both as artists and as music fans ourselves!! If anything we realize more the similarities”word-of-mouth is still the greatest way to find new music and to be found. We all enjoy sharing things that move us. Every week we find new music and fans not just from the east and west coasts but also Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Japan, Australia¦ with the technology of the web and social networks, Internet radio, podcasts and of course sites like OurStage.com that give independent bands a platform to be discovered!!
OS: You mention in your bio that as a band, you are constantly evolving. What are the next steps for Lucid Fly?
DM: We’ve been writing our next CD so we can’t wait to start recording that and then get out there to tour and perform these new songs for everyone. The new music seems to be evolving in a more dramatic way and naturally lends itself to something more visual both onstage and in video.
OS: Who are you listening to right now? Is there any band or artist in particular that’s had a noticeable impact on your writing style?
DM: We’ve been really into some amazing bands from Australia like Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus, Birds of Tokyo¦ there’s something going on there and we can’t get enough of whatever that is! Also bands like Katatonia and Baxter are still getting serious rotation in our playlist lately, both from Sweden incidentally. Music from there seems to have this dark and mellow quality even when it’s heavy. Maybe it’s the cold weather and dark winter thing but we like it. Haha.
OS: How do you utilize online tools to reach new fans? What do you think are some of the most important things for bands to do to reach new audiences online?
DM: We jump on any new social network that helps us find like-minded people”especially the ones that will filter people based on their music interest. Sites like OurStage.com, Last.fm and Jango.com play songs mixed in where there’s a good chance of overlapping tastes and we get lots of activity from those as well. The first thing we do when someone mentions an artist that we don’t know is typically go straight to one of the big social sites because we want to hear the music! The easier it is to find and hear, the better so we try also to make our songs easy to find. We feel that just connecting with like-minded people in general, online or off, is key. Music is meant to be shared so we believe in genuinely interacting with people because it’s rewarding, not for any motive. The more tools that make that easier, the better!
OS: What was your reaction when you found out you’d won the Grand Prize? Are there any shout-outs you’d like to make or people you’d like to thank?
DM: Woohoo! It feels fantastic to be recognized and to know that people out there enjoy listening to our music as much as we do making it. To be supported by Ernie Ball and OurStage is huge for us and other independent bands to be able to do this. Everyone knows that it costs money to tour and record so a year’s worth of strings and accessories was a very welcome and appreciated surprise! A lot of people have helped us get here and continue to create and we appreciate you all!! For sure everyone who’s ever listened, downloaded or shared our music with their friends¦ you make this happen for us and we can’t thank you enough. Big love to OurStage and Ernie Ball for hooking up unsigned bands like us get heard!
Lucid Fly currently plans to get back into the studio some time this year so if you like what you hear, be on the lookout for more music coming soon.
School is in session and it’s time to break out the textbooks. As more people continue to jump on the vinyl bandwagon, they will look for reputable sources to help discover, uncover and rediscover all the incredible music that exists for their collections. It’s a dizzying amount of material to digest so where does one turn for this highly specific information? Look no further than the magazine racks for a copy of the highly-acclaimed Wax Poetics. Rather than focusing on the contemporary music flooding the market, Wax Poetics backtracks over the past six decades and spotlights the crí¨me de la crí¨me of artists and platters that are essential to anyone’s collection. They chop off the fat and serve up the meat via a bi-monthly journal that looks feels and reads like an academic publication catered to diggers. OurStage had the opportunity to catch up with Editor-in-Chief Andre Torres to talk about the magazine and its impact on the vinyl digging culture.
We arrive at Camp Fuji after a 3 hour bus ride from Tokyo (2 of those 3 hours are spent driving side by side the world’s largest city). Clarias and I are very excited to go to the military base that borders one of the most beautiful and most climbed mountains in the world.
To say that Mt. Fuji majestically soars above the US Marines training camp is almost an understatement. But, scenery aside, we quickly realize just how depressed (and how young) the soldiers stationed at the camp are. In fact, all of their military-produced television programming is filled with PSA’s on topics such as PTSD, suicide prevention, depression, the need to prepare a will, etc. We know that the 650 men and 2 women stationed here need a friendly reminder of home.
As the band loads into Roadhouse, the base’s entertainment venue, we discuss a game plan for the evening. I overhear soldiers talking about the show and basically anticipating that the band is going to suck. With all the testosterone flowing, I know it is going to be a really tough audience to win over. My recommendation to the band is to place a drum solo at the front of the set as well as a guitar solo towards the end. I also suggest that the band back off from performing ballads and keep the set list adrenaline-heavy.
Luckily, these suggestions pay off. Jordan’s drum solo (complete with a military drum roll) receives hoots and hollers and earns the band masculine cred. Paul also gets props for his guitar solo which helps secure the band a captive audience of about 75 soldiers (although about 150 catch glimpses of their set). When the set is over, the members of Clarias get off the stage and take my cue to go up to the soldiers as opposed to waiting for the soldiers to approach them. What ensues is the ultimate bro down. The servicemen are extremely appreciative of the band’s American made rock ‘n’ roll. Overall, the night is a success (of course there is always room for improvement).
Back at the billet we debrief. The band admits they were all initially intimidated by their audience, which explains the weak attempts to connect with the soldiers while on stage. My advice on how to overcome audience intimidation is three-pronged: 1. Display confidence even when you don’t feel it”this will earn you immediate unspoken respect. 2. Show your audience how to engage with you and how to praise you. (Stepping up to the front of the stage during soloing, making eye contact, leading hand claps, etc. are all ways to engage). 3. Above all else, have fun. Fun is contagious and no one will ever fault you when they see your enjoyment on stage.
Next stop Yokota, where we’ll see if the feedback pays off.
By the time you read this, I will be on my way to Guam with a pop rock band from Boston called Clarias. In my past music industry life I was the Director of both the Boston Music Awards and NEMO Music Festival, and as such I would run into the band from time to time. The band fell off my radar for a spell but they got my attention when they ranked number one in the “MTV Best Breakout Artist“Boston” music channel on OurStage (although Gentlemen Hall ultimately took home the MTV win).
The track that they entered into the contest””Wonder/Wander””is hooky as hell with the polish of seasoned talent. Some of the track’s secret ingredients come courtesy of the experienced production skills of Matthew Ellard, who produced and engineered Clarias’ third studio release, The Days Of The Getaway. Matthew and I have been friends ever since he produced recordings for a couple of bands I managed several years ago. I got in touch with Matthew to compliment him on the track and share the news of the band’s success on OurStage. It was at this time that he asked”well maybe pleaded”that I meet up with the band and give them some advice on what to do with their new recording, a project that he was very proud of. I immediately agreed to do it.
When I met with the band, it didn’t take long to realized that Clarias”like many others in their position”needed direction. Years of hard work resulted in nothing more than spinning wheels and career plateaus following spikes of success. During our conversation I couldn’t help think about how many times I’ve had this same conversation with an emerging artist, and how I wish I could sit down every new band and spell a few things out for them.
A lot of artists seem to get overwhelmed with the business side of their art even though some things are common sense. I think many bands would greatly benefit from some frank industry discussions, tough love as well as encouragement. As I left my initial meeting with Clarias I said to myself, “I’m going to offer to mentor this band and I’m going to film all our meetings so I can share the insights with other bands in their position.” So that’s exactly what I am doing. Don’t know when or in what format the footage will air but the cameras are rolling.
Clarias and I have been getting together on a weekly basis for the past six weeks or so. As time went on, I was able to pinpoint a few reasons why the band had yet to reach the next level. While we are on tour, we are going to work on some of their “weaknesses” such as the live SHOW (they are great performers but that is not enough”people want to see showmanship) and the ability to make fans. These are key components in any artist’s success but many musicians take these two aspects of their artistry for granted. So while Clairas is on tour they will be in rock ‘n’ roll boot camp, and I will be the drill sergeant (minus the motivational screaming).
It’s getting late and I have an early morning flight. If you want to read a little more on the behind-the-scenes antics, go HERE. Otherwise I hope to blog post performance at Anderson Air Base.
And remember, the ultimate goal is that by mentoring one band I can virtually mentor others. Will share the things I’ve learned along the way.