Eastern Conference Champions are a Philadelphia-based Indie band that has been gaining steam through soundtrack appearances, gaining most fame from The Twilight Saga: Eclipse album with the song “A Million Miles an Hour.” They have also gained attention through songs appearing on the small screen in Friday Night Lights and Gossip Girl. The band is touring its second album, Speak-AHH, and playing Bogart’s tonight (Thursday, May 26) with Neon Trees.
CityBeat spoke with founding member Josh Ostrander about their new album and life on the road.
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.
The lineup for this summer's MidPoint Indie Summer series — every-Friday free concerts on Fountain Square — features another strong mix of solid national headliners (many are MidPoint Music Festival alumni) from as far away as Australia and Timbuktu and local favorites. Stay tuned for additions and updates.
Friday, June 1: The Bright Light Social Hour (Austin Tex.); Buffalo Killers; The Kickaways
Friday, June 8: The Dynamites (Nashville); Khaira Arby and her Band (Timbuktu, Mali, Africa); The Pinstripes
Friday, June 15: The Seedy Seeds; Wymond Miles (of The Fresh & Onlys, San Francisco); Belle Histoire
Friday, June 22: Art vs Science (Australia); You You're Awesome; Shadowraptr
Friday, June 29: psychodots (openers TBA)
Friday, July 6: Lydia Loveless (Columbus); Patrick Sweany (Nashville); The Ready Stance
Friday, July 13: Seabird; The Harlequins; Jon Drake and The Shakes (Chicago)
Friday, July 20: Ha Ha Tonka (Springfield, Mo.); Izzy and the Catastrophics (New York); The Ridges (Athens, Ohio)
Friday, July 27: Orgone (Los Angeles); The Cliftones; Eclipse
Friday, Aug. 3: Bear Hands (Brooklyn); Lightning Love (Ann Arbor, Mich.); Fort Lean (Brooklyn)
Friday, Aug. 10: Budos Band (New York); Kansas City Bible Company (Nashville); Sidewalk Chalk (Chicago)
Friday, Aug. 17: Class Actress (Brooklyn)
Friday Aug. 31: Wussy; R.Ring
The MidPoint Indie Summer concerts start at 7 p.m. each Friday this summer. Music lovers of all ages are welcome to attend.
For the 2015 edition of CityBeat's Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (to be held in late January), the public now has a chance to be involved in the process of choosing the nominations from Greater Cincinnati’s amazing music scene. Previously, nominations came directly from the nominating committee, which consists of a variety of local music aficionados (writers, bloggers, club owners, etc.). The nominating committee members still have final say in who gets nominated, but for the first time ever they will be presented with your feedback before making their final decisions.
The ballot will close on Dec. 5. Here are some basic guidelines from the nominations ballot:
For the first time ever, fans will have input into the nomination process for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. For each genre category, please enter the name of the performer you feel is deserved of a CEA for their work in 2014. Recordings released publicly between November 2013 and November 2014 are eligible for Album of the Year nominations. The New Artist of the Year category is for artists who have emerged in that same time span (they don’t have to have formed in that date range, just broken through for the first time).
Nominations are reserved for artists from Greater Cincinnati making original music. Please, no straight-up cover bands. You may only fill out one ballot per email address; additional ballots will be discarded.
A list of the top vote getters in each category will be presented to the nominating committee members. The members will not be restricted to voting only for artists nominated by the public, because some deserved acts may not actively campaign for nominations and the CEAs honor output and accomplishments and not just who has the biggest Facebook friends list or the most followers on Twitter. But the “long list” compiled from public votes will get more artists’ names in front of the nominating committee and help their chances for making the final “short list” of nominees.
Once the nominations are compiled, the final ballot will be placed online for public voting.
Be fair. Be nice. And happy voting!
Now in it tenth year, one of Cincinnati’s most celebrated bands, Wussy (led by former Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver and his equally skilled songwriting partner/co-frontperson Lisa Walker), has amassed an amazing discography so far. Beginning with 2005’s Funeral Dress, the group quickly developed a reputation for the “ragged glory” of its performances, both live and on record. That sense of recklessness worked impossibly well with the band’s fractured, soul-burrowing love songs and the unbridled tense, passionate energy between its co-leaders. Early on, Wussy often sounded on the verge of falling apart, but there was always something magical about the group that assured you that, even if by Scotch tape and rubber bands, the band would hold it together.
But with each successive release, Wussy’s edge-of-cliff nature gradually dissipated. By the time of the rockers’ third album, an eponymous affair in 2009, Wussy had become a more confident, cohesive unit. But not in the way, say, Paul Westerberg went from alcoholic Punk poet to “mature” singer/songwriter. As the band’s fourth full-length, Strawberry, shows, Wussy isn’t getting boring. They’re just getting better. Which, considering how powerful albums like 2007’s Left for Dead were, is almost scary.
Tonight, the Venue Formerly Known As The Southgate House hosts its first big show. The Thompson House — as it's now called after a family dispute went to court and resulted in the longtime operators getting the boot and the owners of faux-strip club the Brass Ass taking over — opens its doors tonight to the public for a 7 p.m. concert headlined by modern Ska/Reggae revivalists The Aggrolites.
A recent Enquirer story about the "new" venue drew an avalanche of comments, the vast majority of which suggested that those who were fans of the Southgate House despise the look and direction of the Thompson House, with its purple decor and Rock star murals. Check out this pic from the Thompson House's website:
But the new venue's origins and the relative abruptness of the closing of the Southgate House is angering people more than the color scheme. The wall colors are just purple icing on the cake, so to speak.
The Thompson House has been developing a schedule that seems to be attempting to mimic the eclectic nature of the old Southgate House — a little Jazz, some open mic stuff, a Hard Rock band, some Metal, some Country. Often, the Southgate House's eclectic nature harvested a following whose tastes crossed over. And as diverse as the bookings were, rarely were there shows at the old club that made you go, "Why would they bring THAT show to the Southgate." For much of its run, whoever was booking the Southgate House seemed to have good and, more importantly, consistent taste in a wide-range of music. They wouldn't just book a random Country band; they'd book an interesting, great or unusual one.
The Thompson House bookings so far seem like they will be able to attract a varied audience. But can the people who, say, go to the Blue Wisp Jazz Club every couple of weeks and will probably enjoy the local Jazz lineup at the venue feel at home going to the same club as the younger music lovers who used to hang out at The Mad Hatter (or its current occupier, Bangarang's of Covington) to watch Hardcore and Death Metal bands? We'll see.
I have clubs that I like to go to more than others, but I have never gone to a concert because of where it was being held. And I've never not gone to see a concert at a venue I don't feel as comfortable. But I would be less inclined to frequent a venue if I have a bad experience and I'd be less likely to just roll the dice and take a chance on a show at a venue in which I don't feel comfortable.
I understand the passion of the Southgate lovers who insist they'll never set foot in the Thompson House, but if a band comes to town that you'd like to see, or your favorite local artist is performing in the "Rock Star Lounge" some night, you'll be hurting those artists as much as the new owners. Over the years, I've had club owners or promoters be dicks to me and occasionally have reached the point of anger where I momentarily think, "Screw them, I'll never write about one of their shows again." But it passes quickly. I've never "blacklisted" a club or promoter, no matter how big of an a-hole their employees are, because I've always felt that it would be unfair to both the musicians that work with them and the music fans who would like to know about the concerts they're promoting.
Like I said, I can totally understand the urge to boycott — I haven't stepped inside Clifton movie theater The Esquire since they "banned" CityBeat and its film critic from the theater after we reported how the operators had censored a raunchy part of a film without permission and without informing the audience of the edit. It's just one of those "principled" stands we all take and whether they are "rational" or not is relative and personal. (I'll admit that not going to the Party Source for several years after a manager was a jerk to me there was a little silly … but it made me feel a little better.)
Perhaps the hope is that if all these people who say they'll never go to the Thompson House actually don't, the club won't survive. But, from the bookings so far, a big chunk of the Southgate House's old clientele would never have been interested in the Thompson House bookings anyway. And if the Thompson House fails, someone might just come in and turn it into a Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill.
Me? I'm leaving the door open. I won't be there tonight, though I am a fan of The Aggrolites (and local openers The Ohms and The Newport Secret 6 are excellent, as well). I just have other plans. But, out of sheer curiosity alone, I will step foot in the Thompson House. And when there's music there I want to check out, I'll step foot it in it again and again. I miss the old Southgate House as much as anyone and I really appreciate the efforts of the previous owners, but I'm not going to deprive myself of a good concert experience. I mean, I never stopped going to Bogart's, even when it was the source of some of the worst concert experiences I've ever had.
Although when the Thompson House starts hosting the "Thompson House-produced country (music) revue show, 'Through the Years,' " as the Enquirer reported, I'll probably pass. I'm loyal to Kings Island when it comes to cheesy musical revue numbers.
Tickets for tonight's show are $13. You can buy them here and pick them up at Will Call (or buy them at the door). Click here to see who else is performing at the Thompson House, as well as some of the specialty nights.
We've written a bit in the past about the new film-meets-music "One Shot Music Video" series, beautifully shot, black-and-white short films of various local musical acts shot at the historic Emery Theatre (which is back in action as a functional venue this weekend). Shot by world renowned photographer Michael Wilson with audio help from the musical duo Pop Empire, the clips are filmed in one continuous take (thus the name).
The project has started to take shape and is on a roll now. Pop Empire's Cameron Cochran reports that the series is now named for the venue — "The Emery Sessions" — and will be comprised of footage from 10 artists, all shot at the theater. It's a great way to not only spotlight local music, but also show off the theater in a great light.
Wilson and Pop Empire have completed a couple of videos for Daniel Martin Moore for the first of the series. The second in the series is Over the Rhine (longtime compadres of Wilson's, who has shot OTR album covers and promo shots — including the one above — since the band's very beginning). OTR is familiar with the surroundings; the band played the "preview party" hosted by The Requiem Project which re-introduced the 100-year-old theater to locals late last year.
Here's a clip of Over the Rhine's Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist performing "The Laugh of Recognition" from the twosome's latest album, The Long Surrender. (Click over to local blog Each Note Secure to check out another clip from the project.)
Cochran also runs the all-free, all-digital "record label" The Recording Label, which has issued stellar recordings by The Kickaways, Vacation, Sacred Spirits and Pop Empire. He says working on "The Emery Sessions" inspired him to give the label a more local-specific name. The Recording Label is now called Cincinnati Recording Service. Click here for the new site.
And here are a few words from Cochran on the Sessions and the label:
If we are consuming light then sound is accompanied by sight. Many musical performers understand this concept and will incorporate a visual component to their audio performance. The idea behind the "One Shot Music Video" is to approach music from the opposite direction. The audience approaches the music from a visual perspective first because whether they know it or not the first performance they see is the photographer's. It is the photographer's eye that navigates them through the musical performance. The hidden live performance is the one done with the camera.
The Emery Theatre was the perfect place to begin our exploration of this relationship between listening and watching live musical performances. Each musician we have recorded and that we are going to record have a love for this amazing space and understands what the Emery Theatre means to our great city of Cincinnati. It is perhaps our own experiences working in this theatre and the pride that has developed for our hometown of Cincinnati that inspired us to change the name of The Recording Label to Cincinnati Recording Service. This name change is also a tip of the hat to another person who loved his city as well as the power that American music has to bring people together, Memphis' very own Sam Philips.
Icon Rock & Roll band Guns N’ Roses has been selling out arenas since their debut album Appetite for Destruction went to No. 1 in 1987. Though Axl Rose and Co. have not released an album since Chinese Democracy in 2008, they've continued to rock out across the with large-production shows, entertaining audiences not only searching for a taste of nostalgia but also value great music and a sound you cannot find anywhere else. CityBeat caught up with rhythm guitar player Richard Fortus this week and discussed his personal music path and what fans can expect from the show. Guns N’ Roses comes to Cincinnati Friday (with guests D-Generation) for a concert at US Bank Arena and it sounds like fans can expect a really long night of music. (Read our interview with current GNR/former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson here.)
Music Tonight: Tonight’s the last time you’ll be able to catch Cincinnati-based trio The Rubber Knife Gang in town for a while. But it’s not for any kind of hiatus — no rehab or plastic surgery or whatever it is bands do on such breaks. Quite the opposite. It’s because the band is jumping on a plane in a few weeks and heading overseas to spread RKG’s soulful Americana/Roots/Bluegrass sound. Tonight, the Gang joins Nashville’s Grace Adele and the Grand Band for a free, 10 p.m. show at MOTR Pub. The two acts reteam for a Columbus show this weekend, then RKG hops on a plane for Belgium, where the threesome will play two weeks’ worth of dates through mid-September (with a few shows in Germany and the Netherlands sprinkled in).
Area label Sol Records is taking pre-orders now for the Dallas Moore Band’s next release, Hank To Thank, culled from the locally-based Country crew’s sessions one year ago with longtime Willie Nelson guitarist Jody Payne at the site of Cincinnati’s Herzog studios where Hank Williams laid down some of his early, big hits.