Senior Writer Jesse Richman had the chance to catch up with Set It Off at SXSW this past March for a fantastic interview. Jesse and the band discussed recent big touring opportunities, the reception to their debut record, growth as a band, Warped Tour, future plans, and more. Check it all out below!
Let me get your names and what you do in the band.
Maxx: My name’s Maxx Danziger and I play drums.
Zach: I’m Zach [DeWall] and I play guitar.
Dan: I’m Dan [Clermont] and I play guitar and sing backups.
Alright, so the LP has been out for about six months now. How has the reception been so far?
Maxx: It’s been great. The record before our EP Horrible Kids started going in a new direction with the sound. The people really liked it – the fans and all that. So we decided to go head first and dive into that sound. I feel like it’s – we kind of found ourselves. I think the people really like it, so it’s good.
Horrible Kids was kind of a concept EP. A rough concept at least. Whereas the new one feels a little bit more like just a bunch of awesome songs. Is the concept thing something that you’re interested in, or did you just set out to write the best songs that you could this time without worrying about how they fit together.
Dan: I think that with Horrible Kids, it just kind of happened, you know? It was not a plan. We definitely have discussed ideas of concept records, but I think with this LP, with Cinematics, we just wanted to – it’s our first time coming out to the public eye – we just wanted to write a collection of songs that people from all spectrums could relate to.
Maxx: I think with the theatrical sound, it opens the door for a concept album.
POZ: Yeah, I think that’s really why I was asking. You guys get a lot of comparisons to bands like My Chemical Romance, with that kind of theatricality.
Maxx: I think we were focusing on writing the best songs that we could. Later on down the road, we’ll see if we can get a bit crazy with it.
Dan: It could definitely happen.
Maxx: Yeah. Who knows?
Do you think the direction that you’ve been going is working for your fans?
Maxx: Yeah. It’s a little darker and a lot more – there’s that orchestral sound to it. We were nervous at first, but they loved it. So we’re very happy.
You guys do something that maybe six or seven years ago was kind of a really dominant sound in the scene. Now you’re kind of one of the only bands doing that sort of thing. Do you feel out of place or do you feel like you’ve made a niche for yourselves?
Zack: I don’t feel like we’re out of place. This is the music that we want to write. This is the music that we want to play. We’re not really here to write music to cater to a certain fan base. This is the music that we feel like is what we want to communicate to our fans and to the people that listen to us.
Dan: Nobody wants to play something they don’t’ enjoy. I think we’re still – granted that we love that time period and we love that music, we still grew up in this scene. I still think there’s those niches where we can sound like a pop-punk band at some points or we can sound like a pop band in another spectrum. I think there’s enough of both of that in there.
Maxx: I think it just happens naturally. We have a song on it that’s essentially a swing song, there’s a whole horn solo and things like that. So whatever happens at the time, we kind of just put it down; if it sounds good then we put it on the record.
Are you guys at the point where you’re thinking about new songs? Do you write while you’re on the road?
Zach: We’re actually – we’re headed up to Canada and then we’re going to do some co-writes soon after that. We’re always thinking ahead. We’re always thinking, “What’s the next step?”
Do you have any timeframe for when you’d want to get back and start recording a new one?
Dan: It’s off in the horizon because our tours are starting to pick up supporting Cinematics so we don’t want to do anything to interrupt that – as soon as we’re gaining momentum we don’t want to stop and record another record. But you never know.
Maxx: I’d say a goal, hopefully next year. But who knows. Depending on what our schedule is. That’s the cool thing about the music industry is that you never know what you’re doing. Two months from now we could be in space, you never know.
You guys just did a European tour with Yellowcard. How did that go?
Zach: It went amazingly.
POZ: How receptive was their audience to you guys?
It went really well. Germany was crazy, those kids – it reminded me of being fifteen years old and going to concerts. How they reacted, the kids, is something that the states doesn’t have. I feel like, no offense to anybody, but I feel like they’re [the States] a little bit spoiled where their favorite bands come into town every three months, where in Germany they get it maybe once a year. So they really appreciate it when a band like Yellowcard comes over, that they can’t see every other month like in the States.
Senior Writer Jesse Richman had the chance to catch up with Kurt Travis at SXSW this past March for a fantastic interview. Jesse and Kurt discussed his new solo EP, touring with Jonny Craig, A Lot Like Birds, Equal Vision Records, touring, and much more. Check it all out below!
So the solo EP just came out.
Tell me a little bit about it.
Well, it’s kind of a concept record. I was reading the The Silmarillion and just became inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s creating of Middle Earth. Apparently he wrote all of the languages before he created the story, so all the words, they mean something. He uses different words like, “Ilúvatar” means father of all. “Ilúvatar” was just there. Then he thought up these children of Ainur and they started playing a song, and the song created Middle Earth. That’s pretty much what it’s about.
So I take it you are a big Tolkien fan?
What did you think of The Hobbit? Or, Part 1 of The Hobbit.
It was good… You know, everybody’s a critic. I think Peter Jackson is fucking amazing. I don’t think anybody could have done a better job. How about that?
I know a lot of people aren’t thrilled that he stretched such a short story into four hours worth of movie.
Right. Right. Right. It’s never going to compare to the movie in your head, but he does a great job.
So were you planning on writing a solo EP, or were you just reading Tolkien and decided to start writing?
I heard about this tour with Jonny Craig, Hail The Sun, and The Seeking about two months before it happened. I was like, “Shit. I’ve got to get another record!” Because I feel like going on tour without a record is kind of pointless. And as a musician, you should be continually creating. So…
How has touring with Jonny been so far?
It’s been great! Jonny and I go way back. I play a song with him; we share our backup band Hail The Sun, which is an amazing band.
So they’re opening and then they’re backing you guys as well?
How do you separate between a solo song, an A Lot Like Birds song… where do you draw those lines in your head?
My solo stuff is more for me, you know what I mean? It’s something that I can’t do in A Lot Like Birds. So that’s why it happened.
[Kris Crummett walks by and joins us for a minute]
KT: Shoutout to Kris Crummett at Interlace [Audio] Studios.
KC: We’re making a record together!
KT: We’re making the new A Lot Like Birds record in Portland like it’s supposed to be.
KC: It’s gonna be fuckin’ badass.
Have you started working on that at all?
KT: The band has five or six songs in the works; they just keep sending them to me, and I keep listening to them over and over.
KC: It’s gonna be amazing, they’re so insane!
KT: [to KC] Have they sent you some of the songs?
KC: Yeah, I’ve got some of the demos! “Balcony”, and…
KT: “Balcony” and “Joe’s Room”…
KC: Yep, really good stuff!
KT: These are all tentative titles!
What direction is it headed so far?
KT: Dude, OK. So we’re basically capitalizing on our crazy chaotic Blood Brothers, Mars Volta kind of shit, and then our more ambient, melodic shit; we’re getting even trippier and outer space. So… very pretty, very dirty and spooky and crazy, so we’re just capitalizing on those two elements. Then kind of fusing them together.
KC: It’s gonna be great. Sorry to interrupt. That show [which Travis had just played] was beautiful! It was so good!
[Kris Crummett leaves]
KT: Sorry about that. That’s my producer. Two Dance Gavin Dance records and now two A Lot Like Birds records. He’s a good dude.
Senior Writer Jesse Richman had the chance to catch up with HRVRD at SXSW this past March for a fantastic interview. Jesse, Jason, Garrett, and Lee discussed SXSW, touring with letlive., their new album, working with producer Brian McTernan, future touring, and much more. Check it all out below!
Can I get your names and what you do in the band?
Jason: I’m Jason; I play guitar.
Garrett: I’m Garret I play bass.
Lee: Lee; I play guitar.
So when did you guys get down here?
Jason: 4:30 AM.
Lee: Last night.
Jason: Last night, middle of the night.
And you haven’t played yet, so are you looking forward to your first SXSW showcase of the year?
Garrett: Very much so. Starting out with the Equal Vision one, so that should be really awesome.
Lee: Stoked about it. Running on no sleep and ready to go.
Jason: No sleep, no coffee…
How long are you guys in town for?
Jason: A couple days.
Got any bands you are going to try to check out while you are here?
Lee: A lot of them have played already that I know of. I’m going to try my best to find out. We won’t have any time today, but hopefully tomorrow. And after we play tomorrow, the day after, like Saturday, we’ll hopefully get to see some bands. We’ll see if we have a pass this year.
Jason: We’re just so ridiculously busy. We have three showcases today and one tomorrow and we just did acoustic live video things. So we’re super busy.
Does it feel good to be busy?
Garrett: Oh yeah.
Lee: I’d rather be busy than not busy.
You guys just got off a tour with letlive. not too long ago. How did it go?
Garrett: It was amazing. The tour was amazing. Every band… They put together an amazing lineup for that tour. Everybody was super cool and everybody got along.
POZ: How were the crowds?
Garrett: Really good, yeah.
Were the kids at the shows familiar with you? Or was it a lot of people seeing you for the first time, do you think?
Garrett: A little bit of both.
Lee: I think they were familiar with us, but I met a lot of kids that were like, “Oh. I’ve never heard of you before, but you definitely turned me into your music.”
Jason: There were definitely kids singing our songs every night too, which is pretty cool.
So letlive. have a particularly incredible live show.
Jason: Yeah, they do.
POZ: Does it force you to step your game up a little bit? Knowing that you’re playing with them?
Jason: Probably in a different way than I think people would think. We don’t try to, like, match them physically or in their craziness, I don’t think.
Lee: Our show is intense in its own way, you know?
Jason: We try to be a little shocking. Every night, the first leg, This Is Hell would play before us, and on the second leg Night Verses would play before us. Both heavy bands. So we tried to start every set either with piano or something really light, just so that people would be like, “What the hell’s going on?”
The Dear Hunter’s new album, Migrant, simply takes your breath away.
The album sets itself apart from The Dear Hunter’s previous three full-lengths all in sound, technique, and concept. No song in particular stands out, as they are all impressive by their own means. Setting that aside, everything about Migrant—from the instrumentation to the song writing—is subtle, but impactful. The songs are theatrical, enticing movement in an emotional and physical sense.
Every song on Migrant sounds different, but all of the tracks work in sync together. There’s pop, rock, and a pinch of folk to keep all types of listeners tuned in. At first, “Bring You Down” sounds like a sinister medley from a Hitchcock film, but then transitions into something much more comforting. The call-and-response between the chimes and the piano are mesmerizing. Add in Casey Crescenzo’s compelling voice, and the musical magic plays on.
“Shame” has the unsettling factor again, but feels like an elegant tango between quarrelling lovers. But then “An Escape” follows, which literally feels like an escape to another musical realm with gorgeous melodies dripping from every word. (For some reason, the arrangement of “oohs” midway through reminds me of the enchanting snow scene from “Edward Scissorhands.”) This is a song to blast in the car with the windows down as you speed down the highway en route to a spontaneous adventure.
Senior Writer Jesse Richman had the chance to catch up with I The Mighty at SXSW this past March for a fantastic interview. Jesse and Brent from the band discussed the writing, recording, and overall process for their new album, Equal Vision Records, moving past their last EP, and much more. Check it all out below!
Can I get your name and what you do in the band?
Brent Walsh; sing and play guitar.
Was this your first set at SXSW, and the showcase today?
No. We played last year at the EVR [Equal Vision Records] Showcase. This year we had the Pantheon Showcase yesterday, and then at 1:00 am last night we had the Sony Showcase. And then we had this guy today.
So that’s three in 24 hours.
How does that feel?
Well we had like five shows in a row before that, too. So my voice is starting to get a little… a little torn up. I’ll just scream this whole set. [Laughs] The next few sets will probably be a little rough, but we’ll get through it.
That’s a good way to deal with it. Are you guys out on tour right now?
Yeah. We’re doing a little run with Hands Like Houses. Then we’re going to do a little self-booked run up to the east coast, hang out at EVR for a little bit, shoot a music video in North Carolina, and then we’re doing a US/Canada tour with Set It Off through EVR. And then hopefully a package with someone else at the end of that; to do a little mid-west run, so… if everything goes according to plan, we won’t be home for a couple of months.
Does EVR feel like a family like that?
Oh, EVR is a family. It’s a giant family. They have a knack for signing not only good bands, but extremely nice, kind people. Every band we’ve ever met from this label has just been awesome.
It seems like their roster has gotten very diverse as of late, in terms of the different kinds of sounds.
Yeah. They’ve kind of branched out, I think. They’re starting to sign some lighter music too.
Yeah, I was talking with Ed Tullett earlier, that’s very different from most of what they do.
Yeah, I mean, they started doing that a little while ago. Like with Eisley, and Dear And The Headlights.
POZ: I loved that band…
Yeah, me too. But yeah, I think they’ve branched out a bit.
How do you feel like you fit in to all of it?
I feel like we sit right in the middle of everything they’re signing. We’re the middle ground between the heavy and the light side of EVR.
Is Karma Never Sleeps the newest thing right now?
The newest thing that’s out. We recorded a full length with Erik Ron, the same guy that did KNS, he’s a great producer. That should be coming out… We don’t have a release date yet, we’re trying… We literally should have one in, like, the next week or so.
POZ: Do you have a guess of about when it would come out?
I can say most likely June. I probably shouldn’t have said that. But yeah. Sometime in late spring or early summer.
POZ: Is there a name?
Not in definite yet. There’s a probable name that I probably shouldn’t say.
Well what can you tell me about what you’ve got down? Is it all mixed and mastered at this point?
We actually just got the masters back yesterday. I think we might have it remastered… Basically, it’s done. It’s 13 tracks. It’s kind of along the same lines as Karma Never Sleeps. I think we all stepped our game up a little bit. Everyone pushed themselves as hard as they possibly could. We wrote a bunch of stuff that’s extremely hard for us to sing and play, that we’re kind of learning now. Everyone pushed themselves really hard and everyone put everything they possibly had into this record. I think it shows when you listen to it.
Senior Writer Jesse Richman had the chance to catch up with Casey from The Dear Hunter at SXSW for an in-depth interview. Jesse and Casey discussed SXSW, Equal Vision Records, getting away from concept records, tours, and much more. Check it all out below!
So Casey, how are you doing?
Doing good, how are you doing?
I’m doing alright! When did you get into town [for SXSW]?
We got in around 11:30 today.
You’re doing a showcase this afternoon. What else are your plans while you’re here?
We’re doing a Showcase and then at like midnight or 12:30 I have an acoustic show somewhere. Then tomorrow we’re playing on the roof of a Whole Foods, I guess. That’s about it.
Do you think you’ll have time to see other bands while you’re down here?
I’m sure I will have time, but I think I will be so overwhelmed that…
POZ: Was going to say, was there anyone you were trying to get to?
I don’t even know who’s here. I don’t know who’s here.
Alright. So let’s talk Equal Vision [Records]. You signed with them and then you formed your own imprint [Cave & Canary Goods]. How did that all come about?
Well. When the contract was fulfilled with Triple Crown Records and then they found out that we were going to do The Color Spectrum…
POZ: Yeah that’s tough to get a label to sign off on, doing that many EP’s.
Yeah. Definitely. So after that, we had in mind the perfect scenario and we set out to look for it. We talked to a few different labels.
POZ: So you approached the labels with, “We want an imprint.” ?
Yeah. So we spoke with EVR, and they liked the idea and liked the idea of branding it that way. So after meeting with them, talking with them, explaining what the music was going to be like, it was a perfect match.
So are the plans with the imprint bigger than just The Dear Hunter? Are you going to be signing other bands to it?
I hope to. But I don’t want to, just because it’s there now, go overboard. I would like to take time and let it happen naturally. But that is the goal.
POZ: Do you have an idea of what you want the imprint to be?
POZ: Yeah. Obviously if you were going out looking for it, you must have some concept…
I think I want it geared more towards people… It’s hard to explain… I really love vinyl and packaging and that whole world of things and I know that the fan base for that type of product is smaller. So I would like to approach it as more of a boutique label which also brings with it a slightly more focused musical spectrum. It wouldn’t be sensible to do Metal because that doesn’t really fall into place with the aesthetic of it. But, there’s band I’m on tour with right now. We brought out Naïve Thieves. They will probably be the first actual release. And they’re like a 60s throwback, vibe-y, somewhere in between The Clash and… I can’t remember the name but 60s garage rock. But they’re a great band. And I think they’ll be the first non-Dear Hunter release.
In terms of The Dear Hunter, you guys just did The Color Spectrum DVD. You’ve done a lot of The Color Spectrum. How did the DVD idea come out of it? Was it always a part of the plan?
No. Early on in the touring cycle, I had mentioned that I had wanted to do a start-to-finish The Color Spectrum show. The initial reaction from the people that run the business was that it doesn’t make sense, it would be too much, and that’s asking a lot for people to sit through, and I agree. But then as it picked up steam and people liked the record and they liked different parts of it all, not just one thing or the other, the idea seemed a little bit better and we re-approached it. It was like, “If we’re going to do this, we can’t not film it. If we’re going to do just one show of this, ever…” So it kind of just fell into place and then eventually it was like, well I guess we should just release this. So now it’s this three-hour-long DVD.
The Dear Hunter Fans, they’re obviously a specific breed. They’re the kind of people that would be into a three-hour full DVD. Do you think you see yourself doing anything that ambitious again anytime soon?
Not soon. Just because I think what made that project really special for me was that when I initially thought of doing it and to the time I was actually able to do it, was a span of about five years of waiting to jump in and actually make that happen. So I think that in maybe another five years from now, I might do something that extensive, but I’m enjoying doing things like the record we just finished.
Formed in 2004 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Hrvrd has been straddling the dark genre line ever since the release of their first full length, 2009’s The Inevitable and I. Falling somewhere in the blurry mess that is post-insert-your-favorite-genre-here, one can best illustrate HRVRD as an even blend of The Dear Hunter’s theatricality, Circa Survive’s alterna-rock sensibility, and the eerie overtones of Brand New’s later work. From The Bird’s Cage is not a quick study, nor is it suitable for background music; with an attentive listen, one can appreciate the elevated focus HRVRD has brought to this release as compared to their last. However, the ten-track, 41-minute record isn’t all concentrated. In fact, it often feels like a foggy walk through a forest- at times coming into great moments of clarity, others with confusion and lack of direction, but generally consistent and overall with a beautiful craft.
The record opens with an airy, echoed track (“Black Crème”) encouraging their listeners, or perhaps themselves, that “This is bigger than you / this is better.” A gradual escalation of ambient guitar notes whirring passively in the background leads into the strong “Timid Scripts,” a pulsing, mid-tempo song with a thick rhythm section which clearly has control throughout the entire thing. The floaty, background guitar riffs are a tactic used both to the band’s benefit and detriment as the album plays through. While the escalation coils like a boa constrictor on the cold, haunting “New Information,” songs like “We Never Shut Up About You” feel like you’re chasing down a tangible melody or climactic moment that you never actually catch. Easily enjoyable and traditional rock ‘n roll song conventions are present in “Futurist,” while “Flaming Creatures” sounds like a fleshier version of Brand New’s “Millstone.”
Employing some unexpected musical elements against such a homogenous design, Hrvrd installs some stylistically refreshing moments during the record’s course. “Kids With Fake Guns” is punctuated with a sad-brass-and-piano outro, and album standout “Cardboard Homes” commences with a folky rhythm to then, with a start, pair up with the most powerful, melodically entrancing chorus of the entire record. The refrain of “Cardboard Homes” is a moment of clarity buried in a record that is heavily overlapped with well-written parts to some points of obscurity, and to hear vocalist Jesse Clasen declare “Call for the blood of your leader! / Cardboard homes for your people!” causes one to stop dead in their tracks.
SXSW seems to grow larger each year. What began as a small get-together of industry insiders and aspiring bands angling for a break has turned into an unwieldy, bloated clusterfuck of corporate sponsorship, headlined by arena-packing artists hoping to glom a little secondhand cool. But beneath all that surface bullshit, the heart of the little-festival-that-was is still beating.
Look — we love Green Day and Paramore as much as the next guys and gals, but are they really hurting in the promotional department? Instead, we’ve decided to highlight a handful of smaller artists performing on each day that you might find simpatico. Of course, with over 2,000 bands performing throughout the week, we’re undoubtedly missing out on some great acts too. Reblog and let us know who we need to see while we’re in Austin this week!
Driver Friendly (Red 7 Patio, 9:00PM)
Austin’s own eclectic pop-punk-with-horns band Driver Friendly — you might remember them as Driver F — signed with Hopeless Records last fall, but other than a few local shows (including one opening for The Front Bottoms) things have seemed quiet in their camp as of late. Turns out, they’ve been in the studio — fingers crossed we’ll get a sneak preview of the results this week.
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band (Bungalow, 10:00PM)
These Warped Tour vets’ stock in trade is raucous country blues, played on vintage guitars, washboards and plastic buckets. We can’t think of any better way to get into the Austin mood on the first night of the festival than hootin’ and hollerin’ with The Reverend.
MC Lars (Flamingo Cantina, 1:10AM)
Nerd-rapper MC Lars might feel like a throwback to 2005, but if popular attention has drifted over the last few years, it hasn’t slowed Lars down — he’s continued to steadily release new material, including an Edgar Allan Poe-themed EP last year. Here’s a chance to see what he’s been up to while you weren’t looking.
Other acts we’re looking forward to seeing on Tuesday: Jenny Owen Youngs; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis; Tegan & Sara.
Laura Stevenson And The Cans (Holy Mountain Backyard, 9:00PM; Barbarella Patio, 12:30AM)
One-time Bomb The Music Industry! keyboardist Laura Stevenson might be a small lady, but she’s got a humongous voice, and isn’t afraid to show it off in concert. Her third LP, Wheel, is due out next month; the recently released advance track, “L-DOPA”, might be the best we’ve heard from her yet.
Twin Falls (Central Presbyterian Church, 8:30PM)
OK, so Chris Carrabba isn’t exactly a small fry. But we’d be lying if we said we weren’t super stoked for the debut of his new band, featuring Suzie Zeldin of The Narrative and Ben Homola of Bad Books and Shone (if you could major in “playing drums in side projects”, Homola would have his Ph.D. by now). We’ve only heard one song so far, titled “Scraping Up The Pieces”, but its mixture of bouncy, folky Americana and Carrabba’s soaring vocals sure has us intrigued.
June Divided (Burnside’s Tavern, 10:00PM)
Straightforward rock music might not be in vogue right now, but June Divided are proof that there will always be room for rock done right. Their live set earned them a stint on Warped Tour, and slots as a local opener for bands like Further Seems Forever and The Almost.
White Lung (Holy Mountain, 1:20AM)
Canadian quartet White Lung marry modern punk and hardcore with personal politics and a fearlessness that recall the riot grrrl 90’s. Vocalist Mish Way sports a ferocious roar, but it’s backed with intelligence and empathy, as she proved on our 100 Words Or Less Podcast a few weeks ago.
Other acts we’re looking forward to seeing on Wednesday: A Life Once Lost; Barcelona; Paramore; Skinny Lister; So Many Dynamos; The Specials; Twenty One Pilots; Vacationer; Waxahatchee.
Topshelf Records / Count Your Lucky Stars Showcase Day 1 (Pearl Street Co-Op: 2:00PM)
Empire! Empire!. Joie de Vivre. Caravels. Weatherbox. Kind Of Like Spitting. Look Mexico. Pentimento. Candy Hearts. And that’s just half the acts performing at day one of what might be SXSW’s strongest showcase event. You could be excused for spending your entire day there; I know I’ll be tempted to.