• Death Grips is a primal force of nature that seems built to subvert. Entering the world of this Sacramento-based experimental Hip Hop trio — frontman Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett, keyboardist/programming guru Andy “Flatlander” Morin and drummer Zach Hill — is akin to being trapped in a demented, all-immersive video game designed and conceived by Harmony Korine and Charles Manson. Strap in for a wild, sensory-altering ride.
Death Grips' full-length debut, The Money Store — somewhat improbably released by the bigwigs at Epic Records in April of last year — is a dense, claustrophobic head-trip marked by Burnett’s rapid-fire raps, most of which are hard to discern amid the clanging sonic assault that surrounds him.
The Bomb Squad’s Public Enemy heyday is an obvious touchstone, as is any number of far lesser known art-damaged outfits. A glance at the lyric sheet confirms the workings of a paranoid mind. Try this from “The Fever (Aye Aye)”: “Blade cut me/Sewer drain grated/Bubonic plague/Spreaded faceless/Lurking in the deadest spaces.”
The Money Store is challenging, fully-realized stuff, which makes the details of its follow-up, No Love Deep Web, released six months later, another fascinating wrinkle in the ongoing Death Grips narrative. The trio dropped the sonically spare (for these guys) album as a free download after Epic balked at releasing it so soon after The Money Store. The label supposedly hadn’t even heard the finished “product.” Then there’s the fact that the cover art features a photo of Hill’s erect penis with the album’s title written on it in black magic marker.
And now for the only obvious development in Death Grips’ creative trajectory to date: They have since parted ways with Epic. (Preview by Jason Gargano)
Death Grips performs tonight downtown at the Ballroom at the Taft Theatre. Ratking opens at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door.
Here's a video clip for Death Grips' "I've Seen Footage," from The Money Store.
• Josh Tillman is a funny, hyper-articulate guy with an absurdist streak that makes itself readily apparent in interviews and between-song live-show banter. Yet you wouldn’t know it by listening to the seven solo albums he put out as J. Tillman from 2004 to 2010, all of which were pretty serious-minded, sonically straightforward affairs in the mold of the folkies he once supported as an open act: Damien Jurado and Richard Buckner.
“When I was 21 I wanted to be (seen as) a 40-year-old alcoholic trucker,” Tillman said of his early, vanity-driven persona in a recent interview with KEXP.
Enter Father John Misty, a moniker/conceptual shift that seems to have unlocked the 32-year-old singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist’s playful side. FJM performs tonight at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley. Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $17 at the door.
The new outfit’s 2012 debut for Sub Pop, Fear Fun, is a musically diverse gem, moving from the lilting Folk of “Funtimes in Babylon” to the lush Pop gold of “Nancy From Now On” to the atmospheric rocker “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” with seamless grace.
The affecting album-closer “Everyman Needs a Companion” brings to mind a meld of the criminally underappreciated Grant Lee Buffalo and the kinda over-praised Fleet Foxes (for whom, curiously, Tillman was the drummer from 2008 to 2011). Best of all is the rollicking, twang-infested ditty “I’m Writing a Novel,” which features some of Tillman’s most inspired word play and impassioned singing.
Then there’s Tillman’s “performance” as Misty, which takes on a whole new dimension in a live setting. With his lanky frame, handsome, bearded face and slithery-hipped dancing, he conjures Jim Morrison as lounge singer — which, believe it or not, is a good thing. (Preview by Jason Gargano)
Here is the video for "Funtimes in Babylon."
Opening the show is Pure Bathing Culture. The upstart two-piece (and, when live, four-piece) — led by old friends, romantic partners and Vetiver members Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman — filled the genre box on its Facebook page with “New Age/Slow Dance/Adult Contemporary/Spiritual.” Though it could be a joke on the band's part, the connection makes sense.
“Pendulum” — a track off PBC's debut full-length Moon Tides — has the pretty reverb and general je ne sais quoi of an Indie Pop song, but its soothing lyrics about swinging like a pendulum and downbeat, sunset-on-a-beach vibe also reflect the band potentially using New Age as a legit influence.
By the time of Moon Tides’ release in late August, when the band leaders are doing the press rounds, hopefully someone will think to ask about this link and close the case for good. (Preview by Reyan Ali)
Here is PBC's video for "Pendulum."
The first day of summer isn't for three more weeks, but MidPoint Indie Summer begins this evening.
The free, every-Friday concert event — sponsored by CityBeat's MidPoint Music Festival (which recently announced another stack of performers for this September's fest) — is part of Fountain Square's PNC Summer Music Series, which kicked off earlier this week. Shows start every Friday at 8 p.m., preceded by the 4EG Happy Hour (5-8 p.m.), which includes a special guest DJ each week (today it's DJ Ice Cold Tony) and lots of drink specials.
MidPoint Indie Summer shows feature primarily local acts, but also a few national touring performers. Click here for the full lineup so far.
Tonight's MPIS headliners are using the event to launch into a new phase of their career. It's officially the last show by 7-year-old, nationally-acclaimed Indie Pop band Pomegranates … but also the first show for the band under its new name, Healing Power. Pomegranates/Healing Power will be playing song from all five Pomegranates albums, "some we haven't done in years," the band writes on its Facebook page. Healing Power already has some solid bookings this summer, including dates with Cold War Kids, Ra Ra Riot and former Miracle Legion frontman March Mulcahy.
R.I.P. Pomegranates, and welcome to the world, Healing Power. Here's an oldie but goodie, from 2009's Lujo Records release, Everybody Come Outside! (The band has confirmed this one's in tonight's set!) Pomegrantes/Healing Power performs at 10 p.m.
At 9 p.m., great Covington quartet The Yugos perform, celebrating the release of their brand-new Life is Awesome and Then You Live Forever LP, a stellar exhibition of the band's twinkly/trippy, melodic Dream Pop. The album was posted today on The Yugos' Bandcamp page. Check out the fantastic first single from the album, "Dream Away" (a free download), below and grab your album download here to get even more pumped for the show tonight.
Kicking off the show in style at 8 p.m. is Cincy Indie Rock threesome The Never Setting Suns. The band has independently released a pair of strong albums so far, including last year's Time & Eternity. Download that album's "Meet Me There" for free here.
The second round of announcements for this year's MidPoint Music Festival lineup was featured in this week's issue of CityBeat, on streets now. For those outside of Greater Cincinnati (or you lazy folks who don't want to walk to pick up a newspaper), here's the official press release:
For Immediate Release
Artist Announcement “Round 2” for MPMF.13
Original Pioneer Shuggie Otis to headline Washington ParkOpening Night
Cincinnati, Ohio, May 29, 2013 —Last month, after almost 40 years, Shuggie Otis, released a new album.
In September, MidPoint Music Festival (MPMF.13) will present Otis, one of the most mysterious figures in pop music history, as this year’s original pioneer. He will headline in Washington Park opening night with Cody ChesnuTT.
According to the New York Times (NYT), Otis’s album, “Wings of Love” (Epic/Legacy), which includes 14 previously unreleased tracks, is being packaged a alongside a reissue of his previous and most celebrated recording, “Inspiration Information,” from 1974.
“MPMF has always been known for the pioneering music we showcase, but I am especially excited and proud to present Shuggie Otis,” said Dan McCabe, artistic director of MPMF.13. “Unlike other original pioneers presented at past MPMFs like Ralph Stanley, Booker T. and Van Dyke Parks, Shuggie’s impact is only just now coming to light. Shuggie Otis speaks directly to the MPMF artist who often sacrifices success and notoriety for their art.”
On May 3, the first 13 artists were announced for the twelfth edition of the downtown Cincinnati festival happening September 26-28, 2013. Today, 14 additional artists are being released:
SHUGGIE OTIS/KURT VILE/ YOUTH LAGOON/
ON AN ON/ BATHS/ MURDER BY DEATH/ BLEACHED/ SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME/ SAN FERMIN/ SECRET COLOURS/ NAT BALDWIN/ WILD CUB/
THE SHILOHS/BIRDS OF CHICAGO
SHUGGIE OTIS: “He’s the unsung hero of blues and funk. His music is so potent that it only blossomed 30 years after it was first released.” - Questlove
“…a missing link between Sly, Jimi, Stevie, Prince and Frank Ocean." -Rolling Stone
KURT VILE: One of Coachella 2013’s 10 Must See Acts – Rolling Stone
“Wakin on a Pretty Daze” is a SPIN essential and a real testament to putting a great deal of effort into making something feel effortless.” - SPIN
YOUTH LAGOON: “8.7 / BEST NEW MUSIC. Wondrous Bughouse looks inward and discovers the endless possibilities of imagination and introspection.” -Pitchfork
ON AN ON: Broke new ground on their latest recording with accomplished producer Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene, Super Furry Animals, Los Campesinos!)
BATHS: Just yesterday (May 28, 2013) second album Obsidian named “Best New Music” by Pitchfork. Debut album Cerulean, blurs the line between post-modern pop and the LA beat scene and earned “Best Of” recognition from Pitchfork & The Onion’s A.V. Club.
MURDER BY DEATH: "They've cultivated a cult-like fan base via their unique sound, which mingles elements of country, indie rock and alternative music into collections of songs that are the sonic equivalent of 'No Country For Old Men.'"— PureVolume
BLEACHED: “…originally found cult status with their punk band Mika Miko. It's the ole "they've cleaned up, but are still same degenerates you know and love" trick. . – The Village Voice
SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME: The jubilant fun of Motown and Northern soul with a decidedly indie approach.
SAN FERMIN: A pastiche of post-rock, chamber-pop and contemporary classical composition.
SECRET COLOURS: Revel in being the bastard seed of the '60s psychedelia and '90s Britpop bloodlines.
NAT BALDWIN: Double bassist/singer-songwriter Nat Baldwin's spent years as the Dirty Projectors bassist and former disciple of free jazz legend Anthony Braxton.
WILD CUB: “…[Wild Cub’s] brand of darkly-tinged new wave recalls elements of the youthful abandon of John Hughes soundtracks, the baleful allure of Greg Dulli, and the clockwork electronics of New Order’s middle period.” – KEXP
THE SHILOHS: The Vancouver foursome released full-length debut, So Wild earlier this year.
BIRDS OF CHICAGO: “They project organic gospel, hillbilly, folk and soul elements that bridge traditional and modern approaches." – Chicago Tribune
To view the whole list of artists for MPMF.13 to date, visit MPMF.com.
MidPoint Music Festival continues its 12-year tradition as the region’s frontline of music exploration, featuring an impressive and diverse lineup. Music fans everywhere flock to Cincinnati in September to be a part of this long running music event that started in Over-the-Rhine (OTR), the Cincinnati neighborhood that’s as cutting edge as the festival itself.
OTR remains a pivotal location, home to a number of MPMF.13 stages. OTR is on the National Register of Historic Places and was voted best Cincinnati Neighborhood in CityBeat’s Best of Cincinnati publication in 2011 and 2012. Since 2004 more than $255 million has been invested in the revitalization of OTR, including the $48 million renovation of Washington Park, which includes an outdoor music stage that serves as one of MPMF’s main stages.
Advance tickets are on sale now at www.mpmf.cincyticket.com. All-access passes are $69 and VIP passes are $169
Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival has developed a reputation as the place to find your new favorite band. MidPoint's embrace of emerging artists reflects the same pioneering ethic of Cincinnati's celebrated music history and its present day music-makers. The MPMF storyline continues to be diverse, dynamic and adventurous. Stay up to date at MPMF.com, like its official Facebook page, or by following the festival on Twitter.
MPMF.13 is made possible thanks to the generous support of its sponsors, including Dewey’s Pizza and Biore.
• The annual food/music fest Taste of Cincinnati — Cincy’s unofficial “start of the summer” — doesn’t begin until tomorrow, but tonight you can get an outdoor music fix that couldn’t be more “summery.” Reggae Culture Splash 2013 goes down 7-10:30 p.m. tonight at Washington Park (1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine).
The event features a stellar lineup of contemporary Jamaican Reggae stars, headed up by singer/songwriter Luciano, who is credited for helping keep socially/religiously inspired Roots Reggae music thriving in the face of an increasingly electro-dependent Dancehall craze.
Speaking of Dancehall, fellow Culture Splash performer Sister Nancy is credited as being the first female DJ in the genre and is also a fantastic vocalist. Also scheduled to appear are producer/artist Milton Blake, local collective Black Youth Faith and more, including DJing from I Vibez, Queen City Imperial Sound System and Frankie D.
Unlike most Washington Park concerts,
Culture Splash is not a free event. Tickets for Reggae Culture Splash
are $25 at the gates. The tickets will be available starting at 5 p.m.
An after-party will be held at Grammer’s
(1440 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine) at 10 p.m.; admission is $10 before
midnight and $20 after.
• For some more local Reggae flavor tonight, you can check out Cincinnati Reggae greats The Cliftones celebrate the release of their latest single, the fourth to be issued this year, with a show at Southgate House Revival in Newport. The 9 p.m. event also features performances by Magic Jackson and The Almighty Get Down.
In January, just before winning the 2013 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for “Reggae/World Music,” the group released “Hard Ground,” which was mixed by noted producer Jim Fox (who has worked with Black Uhuru, Barrington Levy, Culture and other Reggae superstars and legends).
The ’Tones latest, “Gone (Warn Mi),” is another Prophesy/Scientist collaboration, as is the "limited release" track the group dropped on Soundcloud recently, "Run Come Down." Check both out below:
Be sure to show up early to tonight's release show; free download cards for the new single will be given to the first 100 people through the door. The group will unveil another single in late June and are planning on issuing a 12-inch vinyl EP in August. The Cliftones are gradually moving toward a full-length release; it’s tentatively scheduled to drop in October. For more on the group, visit thecliftones.com.
The music for this weekend's Taste of Cincinnati event — running Saturday-Monday — is heavier on local cover bands than it's been in a while, with only a small handful of acts that perform primarily original music. In years past, The Enquirer's weekly paper offshoot had presented some high-quality original artists (i.e. those who write all of their songs) in front of the P&G boob towers, but with the run of those weekly papers ending (for now) with the corporate shuttering of Metromix, perhaps the fest is in need of some booking guidance. (Too bad there isn't another weekly in town that has been covering original local music for the past nearly 20 years … cough, cough … that might be able to help.)
Still, there are some great local artists at Taste this year, performing everything from R&B, Jazz, Bluegrass, Salsa and Blues to the predominant styles of Rock, Country and Pop throughout the event.
Here's a handy schedule for this weekend's tasty sounds. Taste of Cincinnati takes place noon-midnight on Saturday and Sunday and 12-9 p.m. on Monday. Find food, music and other fun stuff along the Taste path (six blocks of Fifth Street downtown, between Race and Broadway streets).
Saturday: Rattlesnakin' Daddies (noon, Kentucky Ale Beer Garden Stage); Naked Karate Girls (noon, Christian Moerlein Beer Garden Stage); Stonehouse Trail (3 p.m., Yuengling Beer Garden Stage); Final Order (4 p.m., Christian Moerlein Beer Garden Stage); Jamison Road (4 p.m., Kentucky Ale stage); Hott Stuff (6 p.m., Yuengling stage); 4th Day Echo (7 p.m., Christian Moerlein stage); Arlo McKinley and The Lonesome Sound (7 p.m., Food Truck Alley); Eugene Goss & Triage (7 p.m., Taste Experience); Pistol Holler (8 p.m., Kentucky Ale stage),
Sunday: Ricky Nye (noon, Yuengling stage); Kentucky Myle (noon, Kentucky Ale stage); Robin Lacy & DeZydeco (12:30 p.m., Christian Moerlein stage); Azucar Tumbao (3 p.m., Yuengling stage); 3 Day Rule (4 p.m., Christian Moerlein stage); The G. Burton Story (4 p.m., Food Truck Alley); Danny Frazier Band (4 p.m. Kentucky Ale stage); Perfect Sequel (6 p.m., Yuengling stage); Eugene Goss & Triage (7 p.m., Taste Experience); DV8 (8 p.m., Christian Moerlein stage); The Cincy Brass (8 p.m., Food Truck Alley); Dan Varner Band (8 p.m., Kentucky Ale stage).
Monday: The Turkeys (noon, Yuengling stage); The Sonny Moorman Band (12:30 p.m., Christian Moerlein stage); The Tracy Walker Band (1 p.m., Food Truck Alley); Kelly Thomas & the Fabulous Pickups (2 p.m., Kentucky Ale stage); Pete Dressman & S.U.N. with Kevin Finkelmeier (3 p.m., Yuengling stage); Leroy Ellington & the E-Funk Band (3:30 p.m., Christian Moerlein stage); Ralph & the Rhythm Hounds (5 p.m., Food Truck Alley); Kentucky Timbre with the Boone County Caterwaulers (6 p.m., Kentucky Ale stage); The DVB Trio (6 p.m., Yuengling stage); Stays In Vegas (6:30 p.m., Christian Moerlein stage).
Find everything you need to know about this year's Taste at tasteofcincinnati.com. Here's a map of the site with the various stages and food vendors marked:
Trouble Will Find Me, the new album from Cincinnati natives (now New York-based) Indie Rock crew The National, was released today in the U.S. on the 4AD label (it came out overseas yesterday). The band has already been busy with pre-promotion (profiles and reviews can be found from just about every major music press outlet), but now that the album's out, the real work starts.
The National kicked off what is certain to be several national television appearances in honor of the new release. Last night, the band played Late Night with David Letterman on CBS. Dave (who notoriously has pretty good taste in music) seemed to really dig the performance.
The National has already performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Those with Sirius Satellite Radio can check out "The National: The Radio Show," on all this week from 5-6 p.m. (with replays at 11 p.m.); a live session will also be aired on Sirius all week, as well as The National's June 5, 9 p.m. appearance at the Brooklyn Nets' arena, the Barclays Center.
The National also kick off an international tour this weekend; besides Turkey, Croatia and Luxembourg, the group is playing several major music fests in the States, including Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Cincinnati's own Bunbury Music Festival (July 14; get tickets here). The band is also playing Columbus, Ohio, in a few weeks — June 15 at LC Pavilion.
Tomorrow (Saturday) is the seventh annual OTR (that's "Over-the-Rhine," if you don't get the hip lingo) 5K Run and Summer Celebration, featuring a fine art show, food, drink and other vendors, the 5K Run and a strong lineup of local, original music in OTR's Washington Park.
The festivities kick off with the 10 a.m. OTR 5K, which begins and ends at Washington Park this year. Here are the artists — including several Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nominees and winners — you can check out (on the park's Bandstand and Main Event Lawn Stage) this year. (Click each name for more info on the performer.)
• The Cincy Brass (Event Lawn Stage 10:15am-11:30am)
• Baoku & the Image Afro-Beat Band (Event Lawn Stage 12:00pm-12:45pm)
• DAAP Girls (Event Lawn Stage 1:15pm-2:00pm)
• Decker, the solo guise of Histoire singer Jane Smith. (Event Lawn Stage 2:30pm-3:15pm)
• The Tillers (Bandstand 11:30am-12:15pm)
• Mia Carruthers (Bandstand 12:45pm-1:30pm)
There will also be the following "special appearances":
Young Professionals Choral Collective (Bandstand 10:45am-11:15am)
Cincinnati Opera (Bandstand 2:00pm-2:20pm)
Queen City Brass Band (Bandstand 2:45pm-3:30pm)
Rockers Papa Roach hit the scene in 2000 with their most successful studio album, Infest. Six albums later, they are still headlining tours and festivals across the country including this weekend’s Rock on the Range in Columbus.
I was able to catch up with the man behind the music, Jacoby Shaddix, the lead vocalist. The two discussed the hard times and redemption that led to Papa Roach's most recent album, The Connection, released late last year.
Papa Roach plays Rock on the Range's Main Stage Saturday
afternoon, getting the night ready for Three Days Grace, Stone Sour and
The Smashing Pumpkins. Find full Rock on the Range details here.
CityBeat: What is your favorite Rock on the Range memory?
Jacoby Shaddix: Shit man, coming in headlining the second stage and utterly fucking demolishing it and being the only band asked back the next year to play the Main Stage and crushing it again.
CB: If you could trade places with anybody for one month who would it be?
JS: My wife.
JS: I just want both of us to live our lives in each other’s shoes for a month. I think we both would learn a lot. I know that it is not the super mega-kick ass Rock star answer, but that is some real shit.
CB: I know you wrote the last album through some of the toughest times of your life. Are any of the songs hard to play for you personally?
JS: No, they are just really good reminders. It is like I had to re-calibrate my life and re-focus myself on what my priorities were in my life and what was important to me and where I wanted to put myself five years from now and 10 years from now. All the decisions I made in the process of making this record I believe are some of the most important decisions that I’ll make in my lifetime. I think the songs are real good reminders of that desperate place that I once was.
CB: Well my favorite song on the album when it came out was “Where Did the Angels Go”…
JS: We had a No. 1 Rock track with that song, which was fucking awesome.
CB: Can you tell me the story behind the song?
JS: As we were making the record, me and my wife had split up at that time and I was strung out again. It is no secret that I have substance abuse issues and I was caught up again and I finally decided that enough is enough. I had to stop and that just utter desperation of hanging on to life by a thread and just feeling completely alone and so broken and not really knowing if I was going to be OK. I just finally realized how much my demons ate me alive and it was time to get myself back and that is where that song came from, utter desperation.
CB: Is it hard to be on the road and stay sober?
JS: Not this time around. It used to be really hard. I have a network of sober musicians I stay really close with and I have a support group through that.
It is finally clear to me in my life I can’t fucking drink, I can’t do drugs, because it eats me alive. I am finally on the road enjoying my life. I faced a lot of demons in the process of getting sober again and I finally put a lot of stuff to rest. I am trying to work on being in the moment, like some of that Buddhist-type culture philosophy — if I am not here now then what is the point? If I am not feeling the moment, then what is the point of my life. Just focusing on that, my spirituality makes all this other stuff that goes on out here on the road way more tolerable and way more fun.
CB: Have you ever had an experience that led you to believe in angels?
JS: I don’t necessarily have a grasp on the idea of angels. I have an understanding of people that have come like saviors in a sense, people that have been sent to me by my higher power to show me and guide me out of the darkness. I had to be broken down to realize I needed help.
CB: People have shown up at the right time?
CB: If you could ask one question to a psychic about your future what would you ask?
JS: I wouldn’t ask anything. I wouldn’t want to know. What do you want to know? Are you going to live different or some shit? I’d rather let it be. Let the future be what it is going to be.
CB: What does your perfect day look like?
JS: Perfect day — wake up next to my wife, sex right off the bat. Then go downstairs and cook breakfast for my kids, take them to school, go for a run, dance with my wife, go fishing with my brother-in-law in the bayou swamp, stretch out and warm up, play a Rock & Roll show, then fall asleep next to my wife. That sounds pretty fucking kick ass.
CB: I know your songs that you write are very autobiographical. Have you considered writing a book or a memoir in the future?
JS: Oh definitely, that is something I am going to definitely do in my life. 100 percent.
CB: No immediate plans?
JS: No immediate plans, but I have put pen to paper. It is something that I can craft as I go along.
CB: What can the fans expect this weekend at Rock on the Range?
JS: A fan that is on fucking fire. We have been doing these festivals, May is a big festival month, and we have been fucking annihilating audiences. We just devastated Carolina Rebellion, just ripped that shit up, we had a great show. Fort Rock in Florida, Rockville down in Florida. Memphis in May was awesome at the Beale Street Festival. That was rippin’. I just feel like we are tuned up and primed for these big festivals. I have to say, all these other bands, bring your fucking A-game because P Roach is coming to town and we have come to rip it.
CB: Memphis was awesome. I saw most of the set. It was awesome. It was great as always. I look forward to shooting you guys again. Smile for the camera on Saturday.
JS: Fuck yeah. Cool. We will see you Saturday.
Dynamic, Maryland-based Rock band Clutch has been grinding across the world for over 20 years. In that time, the band has seen great success across 10 studio albums and has had songs featured across different forms of media, from television to movies to video games.
Clutch is performing at Columbus, Ohio's Rock on the Range fest as the final act on the Jagermeister Stage this Saturday at 5:45 p.m. CityBeat was able to get some time with Dan Maines, the band’s bass player, to preview the show and talk about the longevity and progression of an independent Rock band. Click here for full info on this weekend's Rock on the Range.
CityBeat: What has been the highlight or best touring moment of the last year?
Dan Maines: Highlight? We had a really good show in London last European run. We did a good show at the Coco. London is one of those cities for us that has grown quite a bit. Just within the last year the clubs we have played have doubled in size. The last show we had there was probably around 1,500 people, but that was by far the biggest headlining London show that we have had. We are getting ready to go back there next month and we are going to be playing a different club that has a capacity of about 2,300 people and it looks like that show may sell out. We have been having some really good luck and some great shows all over the place. It has been a really, really good year for us touring.
CB: Do you feel the Rock scene is bigger in Europe than it is here in the U.S.? Do you feel like the fans are more engaged with Rock music today?
DM: I do feel like just your straight-ahead Rock & Roll band is doing better nowadays than 10 years ago. I don’t really have an explanation for it. We have been doing this for 20 years now and we really haven’t changed the formula much, but, for whatever reason, the past few years things have picked up for us and I think people are tired of going to see a band they have heard on the radio and they like a song and then they go to a show and the band never delivers. People are tired of that mentality. They want to see good music. They want to see a band that can pull off on stage what they put down on tape in a studio.
CB: It’s tough when you show up and it doesn’t sound the same. It is fantastic when bands deliver live and I think that is what really grows the audience over time.
CB: Your band has been together with same lineup for over 20 years. It is like a marriage. What is the secret to keeping the band together?
DM: I think we all have the same personalities.
There is not an ego with any band members and we all have similar goals (for) what this band is all about. We are not one of these bands that is
ever going to cater to other people’s expectations. We just do what we
want to do. We just write songs we want to write. We are a band that
really enjoys playing shows. We really enjoy going on the road and
touring. That is one thing that breaks down a lot of bands for the most
Touring is not an easy thing to do. You have to go for it. I have seen a lot of good bands who just couldn’t stick together because of the stresses of touring, which are overwhelming for one person or another. We have always been eager to play as many shows as we can. Without that mentality, we probably wouldn’t have lasted as long as we have. We aren’t the kind of band that is surviving on a particular song we wrote that gets played on the radio. We are a traveling band. I don’t really have a secret recipe for keeping the band together. We are just very fortunate to have been able to do it and we will continue to do what we do.
CB: Is it still fun for you to be on the road?
DM: It is still fun. Playing shows is easily more enjoyable to us than being in a studio. Even when we are at home and writing the material, that is always a good time, but you are eager to play the material for an audience and that is what we exist to do.
CB: What makes you laugh the hardest when you are on the road?
DM: I don’t know, maybe seeing people who might be seeing us for the first time and get caught up in the moment and try to sing along with Neil without actually knowing the words. Sometimes it can be as simple as what snacks our road manager decides to get for the dressing room.
CB: Where do you think you will be in 15 more years?
DM: Hopefully doing the same thing and not really paying attention to how many years have passed. Doing what we are doing but on a larger scale and going to places we haven’t gone yet.
CB: Who knows where you will be going by then, maybe outer space.
DM: Hopefully it will be something more local, like South America.
CB: What is the name of the first band you were in?
DM: Oh, that’s embarrassing.
CB: Oh, I want to hear.
DM: I guess the first band was called Moral Minority and that was myself with a couple other members of what became Clutch, but that was the high school incarnation of my first band and it was probably six or eight months later when Clutch was formed.
CB: Were your parents supportive?
DM: Always. They never really gave me a hard time about it. They never really laid down a lot of expectations to whether they wanted me to go in one direction or another, and they have always been very supportive of the band. Obviously now, but even way back in the beginning when we were traveling in a van getting stranded in cities on the other side of the country and figuring out ways to get back home. They never once said, “Maybe you should consider doing something else,” and I really appreciated that.
CB: What bands are currently influencing you?
DM: I have been listening to a lot of Galactic lately. You know what I have been listening to, I don’t know how recent it is, but Public Enemy still makes records and it came as a surprise to me that they are still doing it. What is more surprising is they are still making great records.
CB: I photographed Public Enemy last Sunday. Flavor Flav still jumped six feet in the air across the stage. It was unbelievable. Not only are they making records, they are touring and killing it. It was crazy. That is what everybody should aspire to do. You guys have your own record label. What are the challenges of releasing your own music?
DM: We have tried to keep the challenges down to a
minimum from the very beginning and just try to make it strictly an
outlet for Clutch music. Nowadays, it is not that difficult to take this
DIY approach to putting out music. Recording costs have come down a lot
and the overall costs of promoting and marketing a record have gone down
a lot because you have tools like the internet, where you can do so many
things for such a low amount of money that the actual costs of
producing a record, manufacturing and distributing it is not that high.
It is just being in a position that we are luckily in where we have relationships with people who kind of help fill in the blanks in areas where we are not experts. It has worked out well for us over the last five years, putting out a couple live CDs and two studio CDs. Who knows what could happen in the future? It could come to a point where it goes beyond the scope of Clutch. Right now it is just putting out Clutch related material. We have also put out side projects for various members of the band. We have John-Paul, who has been working with a band from Sweden called King Hobo, and hopefully those guys will have something that we can put out on the label. We have tried not to get overambitious with the releases and taking it very slowly.
CB: What can the fans expect at Rock on the Range next weekend?
DM: Four bearded men playing Rock music. We will be playing a lot of material off The Earth Rocker. I think on this tour we have been playing, on average, six songs out of 16 off the new record. We probably won’t be playing 16 songs at Rock on the Range. We will probably have a shorter set, so it is harder to predict what we will be playing. We are definitely going to be playing. It will be a heavily Earth Rocker loaded set for sure, and some of the classics thrown in as well.
CB: You guys change your set list every show, right?
DM: We try to. We have this system. We actually take turns writing the set list. Last night was Neil’s night, so tonight would be Tim’s night. It is something we can do that keeps things less monotonous and kind of keeps us on our toes and makes the sets more enjoyable for us, which is going to be more enjoyable for everybody else watching.
CB: If you could trade places with anybody for a month who would it be and why?
DM: That’s a tough one. Maybe George Porter Jr., the bass player (from New Orleans Funk legends, The Meters). He is a huge influence on me and just definitely a hero. It would be nice to spend some time in his brain and steal something.
CB: Do you play any other instruments?
DM: No, I barely play bass.
Halestorm shows everybody out there that a female can rock with the guys. Lzzy Hale, Revolver Magazine’s reining “Hottest Chick in Hard Rock,” along with her brother Arejay, started the band back in 1999 and they have been on an upward trajectory ever since. This past February, the band received its first Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for the song “Love Bites… (And So Do I),” which made history as the first song by a female-fronted group to top the Active Rock radio airplay chart.
Halestorm has been headlining shows across the country in support of The Strange Case Of…, the band's second studio album. The group will be performing at this weekend’s Rock on the Range in Columbus on Saturday, playing the Main Stage alongside Papa Roach, Bullet For My Valentine, Three Days Grace, Stone Sour and The Smashing Pumpkins. Click here for full Rock on the Range info.
CityBeat: A lot has happened since I saw you guys in the fall. My first question is … where are you keeping your Grammy?
Lzzy Hale: You know what is funny — we actually don’t have them yet. It’s not quite real. We have been on the road so they have not been delivered yet. We have to sign a contract to make sure we aren’t going to do anything stupid with it. I have no idea where I am going to put it. My mom thinks it should be at her house. I’m like, “No, Mom, it comes with me.”
CB: You could put in your bunk (on the bus). That’s where you live anyway.
LH: Yeah. Very true.
CB: I know you just collaborated with David Draiman (of Disturbed) on the classic Ozzy and Lita song “Close Your Eyes.” What was the best part of doing that for you?
LH: It is such a cool thing. David Draiman has been such a champion of our band for the last couple years. He has been holding the Halestorm flag high. What a nice dude and always there for advice. He has sort of become this pseudo-big brother of mine the last couple years.
It is kind of surreal, a little bit, because I know this guy, but after singing with him and doing this duet, I find myself talking to my little brother and saying, “Remember when The Sickness came out and we went out and got that record, and we knew every word on that record.” We were huge Disturbed fans when we were kids. We still are, I should say. It is such an amazing honor to be asked to do that and what an incredible lineup on the entire record. Being the new kid on the block as far as the guest vocals are concerned is quite humbling, honestly.
CB: Were you nervous about re-recording that song?
LH: A little bit. There is always something in the back of your mind when you are recording a classic like that. You don’t want to ruin it. I am such fan for Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne and that whole era of music is really close to my heart. I was only hoping that we could do it justice. It was really David who put my mind at ease with that because as soon as I heard what he was doing with (it), I realized it was special, really special.
It is so weird, but when we were listening to the final mix of it, both David and I got goosebumps in the exact same spot of the song. We were like “Whoa! There is something about this song. We did something right.” I am happy we did it. I just sang it live with him for the first time at Carolina Rebellion. We are going to be doing it together again live. It’s truly magical. Not to sound cheesy, but it does hold a special place in my heart.
CB: Can we look forward to that at Rock on the Range?
LH: Oh, yes. Hell yes.
CB: I have seen you guys many times at ROTR over the years. What is your favorite Rock on the Range moment?
LH: Oh my God. The people that put that on are such nice people. We have been asked back for many years. The first time we were ever playing at Rock on the Range we were at the Jager Stage, then we were on the second stage, then last year we were first or second on the main stage.
I am telling you this, to be a part of this event, I am speaking for myself and all of my peers, we look forward to this festival. Not only is it a hell of a lot fun to play, but we get to see each other. I get to see all of my friends perform that I never get to see because we are all out on the road. It is this huge family reunion and this party from like 9 a.m. to whenever people decide to go home. It’s so wonderful and it keeps getting better every year, like last year was the best ever for me, but then the year before that was the best. I look forward to this time because maybe it will top last year. It is such a well-run event and the highlight of festival season.
CB: Are you going to be able to keep track of Arejay during the event?
LH: Nobody can ever keep track of Arejay. Are you kidding me? The phrase “Where’s Arejay?” is the phrase of the millennium. It’s awesome. He is the most incredible human being because he will be standing next you and you will be talking to him, you (turn) around and you’re talking to somebody else and you turn back to where Arejay was once standing and, poof, he is gone. He is a little Houdini. I love him. He is legendary. I am sure there will be many stories about Arejay at Rock on the Range.
CB: I saw recently you did an interview for a Playboy series online. Would you ever consider posing for the magazine if they asked you?
LH: I haven’t really been asked that a lot. I was thinking about it the other day. I guess I would have to cross that bridge when I come to it. It depends what it is and what it is for and how tasteful it would be. I am not going to say no, but I would have to cross that bridge when I came to it.
CB: I know you guys are recording a second Covers EP. Why did you guys decide to record a second covers record?
LH: We just recorded a few months ago and are starting to get mixes back now. We love doing that stuff, just being able to re-create your favorite songs, break them down and build them up as your own. Regardless of how fun it is, you learn a lot as a musician, about how you work and you’re learning your favorite songs and how to rebuild them from the ground up in your own way and try to find a new way to approach the songs which is kind of a challenge. We had a lot of fun doing it.
I don’t know when it is going to be released yet. It is probably going to be a couple months. When you see the final list of what we chose for this one, there will be probably some that you could predict and there are a few tracks you are going to look at the title of the song and the artist it’s by and you are going to go, “What? Why did they choose that song?” Then you can judge for yourself whether you like what we did. Either way it is going to be fun to see what everybody thinks about it.
CB: Are there any habits you would like to break?
LH: Yes, daily. My procrastination; I should practice more; I shouldn’t have had that cake at Josh’s birthday. I’m one of those people that does not care what everybody else thinks, but I do care a lot about how I feel about myself. I go through phases where I will have tunnel-vision and be determined and then I will be in the middle of tour and be like, “Screw it, I am going to finish this bottle of wine.” I think this time in my life I am starting to get my shit together and have more control over my vices. I am starting to exercise more and starting to be a little more responsible in my life, which is a battle, because I think I am perpetually 14 years old inside. I’m trying to be a grown up but still hold onto that fire.
CB: I love the story you have behind the “Rock Show” song and how you got inspired by it. Could you talk about that a little bit?
LH: Of course. To start that off, we got a lot of physical letters from fans, not the tweets and Facebook posts but a lot of handwritten letters — who does that anymore? — with a pencil. We get a lot of letters every day and it has increased in the past couple years. They are so incredibly inspiring. You get to see how you affect these people. You get to see and hear their stories. It is really, really humbling and really exciting for me because those stories start seeping their way into my subconscious.
A lot of the new songs I have written have been for a specific fan or another because it is interesting to see what these people go through in daily life and relate it to your own. It makes me feel less alone to be a part of their lives and they have welcomed us with open arms into their private life. I respect the hell out of that because it takes a lot of guts to do that.
Specifically for “Rock Show,” we received this letter. I don’t know how this little girl got the address to our studio, but she did. She wrote me this beautiful letter about her first Rock show, which happened to be Halestorm, and it was because of that show she picked up guitar and, long story short, she really shreds. She can play Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption.” It is really cool to see. She was like 13 years old at the time. It is beautiful, almost like that show was a religious experience. It changed the course of her life and she finally knows what she wants to do and is starting a band.
I remember taking this letter into the studio and telling the guys we have to write a song for her. The title was called “Rock Show,” and we literally built this song around this letter we received and then we ended up thanking her in the notes as the next surprise so she will forever be in the artwork of our record because of that. It is wonderful to do that for those people, to give back, because it is a give and take. We wouldn’t be able to do what we love without these little girls and little boys and everybody that comes to our show. It is wonderful to be able to do small things like write a song for them or thank them.
CB: What are the characteristics that make a great Halestorm song?
LH: Lately, it has been more about honesty. What I never thought I would accomplish in this band, we kind of have in the last couple years. Halestorm is becoming the identity for some of these kids. It is something to stand for. It is something to look up to. I’ve been much more free to let more people into my life and trying to be a good example and be that shining beacon of empowerment for some of these people. I needed that when I was a kid. I looked up to a lot of my parent’s music because it was tough not to find anybody that wasn’t singing about death or “I hate my parents” when I was a kid. I remember needing that. I needed somebody that I could say, “I am going to be like that. If they can do it, so can I.”
I think there definitely always has to be an element of empowerment in what we do, in the music we write, but then you have to pair that with the honesty that you are human and that we are all the same. You are encouraging people to take the risk and to carve out their own path and be themselves. It is all we have learned about diving right into this business. We have learned so much about ourselves and how to be comfortable in our own skin. If we can pass that along, that’s something we strive for.