Exclusive Q and A: Free Energy Talk Irony, Romance, Rebellion

Philly-based indie rock outfit Free Energy have been bringing classic rock riffs back since the mid 2000s, when three-fifths of their members were part of Minnesota hometown heroes Hockey Night. With Love Sign, the band’s follow-up to their 2010 release Stuck on Nothing, Free Energy is channeling a whole new decade to expand on their ’70s sound. We talked to lead singer Paul Sprangers about the ’80s influences on the new album, his affinity for certain recurring phrases in his lyrics, and what makes the idea of rebellion so appealing.

OS:  How did the band approach writing the new material compared to Stuck on Nothing?

Paul Sprangers: Scott and I demoed songs together, like the last record, but this time we were able to bring the songs to the band, work on arrangements, then re-demo, sometimes repeating and refining the process many times. Then the songs would undergo more arranging with John Agnello so we were able to spend more time refining the songs and letting them ferment. We also had a clearer vision of the production aesthetic going in, partly because of our experience working with James, and also because we had been listening to so much mid-80s music in the last 5 years. INXS, Def Leppard, Peter Gabriel, AC/DC, The Bangles, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Ocean. John Agnello worked on the first Outfield record, and a Cyndi Lauper record, so those were two huge sonic reference points. (more…)

Exclusive Q and A: Classified Talks Beats, Rhymes, And Life

Nobody can talk about grassroots success like Canadian hip-hop artist Classified, who has been blazing his own independent trail since 1995. The emcee and producer has toured with the likes of Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, and Busta Rhymes, and has sold over 100,000 albums in Canada alone. Oh, and that awesome song in Madden ’12, “That Ain’t Classy?” Yeah, that was him. We sat down with one of the biggest names in Canadian hip-hop to chat about the Nova Scotian scene, his production styles, and his love/hate relationship with Kanye.

OS: What’s the Nova Scotian hip-hop scene like?

Classified: The scene is very Nova Scotian [laughs]. If you’re down here and you’re involved in the scene, you know what’s going on. You can go to the shows and check it out. But besides me and maybe two other guys, there aren’t many guys getting past just Nova Scotia to even the rest of Canada. We’re very secluded. We don’t get as many shows as they draw in Montreal or Vancouver. But it’s a dope scene. There’s been great artists coming out of here since ’95, when I started. People putting out albums, putting out their viral videos and stuff. It just still seems like a lot of people in the rest of the world haven’t been exposed to it because a lot of the artists aren’t pushing their stuff that hard. But really dope scene, great DJs, breakers, graff writers, emcees. (more…)

Exclusive Q and A: Kenny Vasoli Talks Vacationer, Lomography, And The Starting Line Reunion Tour

In the early 2000’s, pop-punk was in its golden age, and Drive-Thru Records was the hub of all the big activity. Home to bands like New Found Glory, Something Corporate and The Early November, Drive-Thru found further success when it released The Starting Line‘s debut album, Say It Like You Mean It. The Starting Line became poster children for the Warped Tour scene and were even able to accomplish the difficult task of avoiding the sophomore slump and going on to write an even stronger third record.

In 2008, the band went on hiatus, as frontman Kenny Vasoli and keyboardist Brian Schmutz pursued their experimental side project, Person L. The band released two LPs before going silent for a few years, but Vasoli hasn’t stopped making music. Joined by members of Brooklyn-based Body Language, he now fronts the dreamy indie pop band Vacationer. We had the pleasure of chatting with Vasoli about his newest project, their creative process, and why he’s looking forward to The Starting Line’s upcoming 10th anniversary tour for Say It Like You Mean It.

OS: Give us the backstory behind Vacationer and how you met the members of the band.

KV: I started making Vacationer music in the summer of 2010. For awhile, I’d been wanting to get into an electronic project. Something I could set up more simply than a full, live rock band. I also wanted to do something that wasn’t so heavy on the volume. I reached out to my friend and former bandmate Matt Watts and asked if he knew of anyone up in Brooklyn that might want to try collaborating with me on something in the electronic realm. He sent me some links, and on that list was a band called Body Language. He said that there were two guys, Matt and Grant, that produced electro stuff, they’d worked with Passion Pit before. He set up like a blind date kind of session for us. I came up there and played them a few things that were inspiring me at the time, and we managed to come up with a loop and a beat that first session. Eventually that song became “Great Love,” which made it on to the record.

OS: This project has such a unique sound to it; there’s a lot of cool noises and loops going on. What is the songwriting process like for you guys?

KV: Usually those guys will have a short idea, anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute long. They’ll send me a skeleton idea for me to work off of. I’ll go through a few ideas that I have, cut up their stuff a little and rearrange it, and then send it back to them. They’ll send me notes on it and then we set up a session. It’s a pretty quick process, how the songwriting goes. We just bounce it back and forth to each other and then lay it down.


Exclusive Q and A: DeVotchKa Talk Symphonic Stylings

Not many bands can say they got their start playing at burlesque shows. Of course, not many bands are like Denver, Colorado’s DeVotchKa. The band’s unique blend of Gypsy folk, indie rock, and punk served them well on the burlesque stage, but soon led to even bigger opportunities. In 2006, they scored acclaimed indie flick Little Miss Sunshine and were nominated for the Best Compilation Soundtrack Grammy. Several years and albums later, DeVotchKa have expanded their sonic palette once again, recording a live album with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. We chatted with frontman Nick Urata about the unique challenges of writing for, and rehearsing with an orchestra.

OS: How did the opportunity to work with the Colorado Symphony come up?

Nick Urata: It was a long time in the works. We have close ties with principle violinist Claude Sim. He and several other CSO players appeared on our last two albums and have done many concerts with us. The CSO was looking to expand into this area and we said why not us?

OS: How did you choose which songs you were going to perform with the orchestra?  Were there some that worked better with an orchestral arrangement?

NU: I wish we could have done more, but these were the most interesting of the bunch we had complete by showtime.

OS: What kind of challenges did you encounter when rehearsing for the show with the orchestra?  Was it harder than rehearsing just as a band?

NU: Yes and no. Sometimes, things that look good on paper don’t work when you put them in front of muscians, but that is obvious. Luckily, we had a very talented group and a great conductor to keep things moving along. Also, with a band, you can take as much time as you want, but with a symphony, we were up against union overtime fees, so we had to be very disciplined to get it ready by performnce time.

OS: Did you tailor the dramatic flair of your regular stage performance to fit this particular show at all?

NU: Well, we had to tone it down a little. There was already so much going on up on the stage, so it was very visual and the music is pretty melodramatic to begin with [laughs].

OS: Was there a kind of symbolic importance of doing a show this big with the CSO in DeVotchKa’s musical hometown?

NU: For us it was very meaningful to play with the best muscians in town at a classic theatre considering we used to have to beg to play at complete shit holes. It was a beautiful thing. The Governor  John Hickenlooper, who is a big music fan and supporter of the band, came out and gave a beautiful intro. I am constantly defending Denver’s cultural relevance in the press; this felt like the perfect example of what is possible and what already exists in what I think is a great and very unique city.

OS: If an up-and-coming band were considering moving to a big hub like L.A./New York or putting in more time in a smaller scene like Denver, which would you suggest they do?

NU: I can only offer my experience and those of my friends. I have done both, and they both can totally suck for an unknown band, but these are great days we live in and geography is not as important as it used to be. I always tell people who ask my advice that the best thing you can do is surround yourself with people you love to be with and put all your energy into getting your songs on tape; if you make a great record, they will find you!

Pick up DeVotchKa Live with the Colorado Symphony now!

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Exclusive Q and A: Her Bright Skies Talk 'Rivals,' Setbacks, Swedish Rock

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsPrepare yourself, America. Swedish rockers Her Bright Skies are bringing their potent blend of post-hardcore, punk, and modern rock to the rest of the world with their most recent album, Rivals. Inheriting the mantle of fine Swedish rock exports from the past, the band’s songs brim with unstoppable power and energy. We caught up with guitarist Petter Nilsson to chat about Swedish musical history, breaking out stateside, and the message behind the new album.


Exclusive Q and A: Into It. Over It. Talks Full-Band Tour, Songwriting, Growing Up

After several years of crafting his punk-influenced solo acoustic songs to perfection, Evan Weiss finally took his Into It. Over It. project on the road with a full band this fall. The result was a raw, fully-imagined version of the electric songs off of PROPER, his last full-length album. We caught up with Evan to chat about his experience playing his songs with a full band, writing about the people around him, and his 52 Weeks project of writing a song a week for a year.

OS: What was the experience like to finally play your songs with a full band in front of an audience for the first time?

Evan Weiss: It was something else. The very first show was in Cleveland. The room had to be 780 degrees. It was rough. The stage lights kept cutting out. It seemed like everything was going wrong, but it didn’t matter. Everyone was just so happy that it was happening. After the first show, all of the jitters and technical problems were gone and the rest of the tour went off without a hitch. There was something really special about that first one though.

OS: In the mini“documentary for the full band tour announcement, all of the other band members have jobs. How did you make the tour work around their other commitments?

EW: They were all able to take off two weeks. None of them had really used any of their vacation time. Tour became their vacation. Going on a two week trip wasn’t a burden. They all had a blast. I think going back to work afterwards was kinda tough for all of them. (more…)