Tomorrow I am interviewing Slick Shoes at Chain Reaction for their reunion/comeback show. I am pretty stoked! I have been able to do some awesome things for IVM with my friend John like talk to bands that have had an impact on my life and influence my playing stylistically. And talk to some great up and coming bands that are striving to be those big bands.
Singer / Songwriter Dave Barnes releases his fifth full-length album titled Stories To Tell on Razor & Tie Records. This is Dave’s fourth release on Razor & Tie, his last album What We Want, What We Get was a critical success. Not only did his single “God Gave Me You” get him a spot acting (as himself) on All My Children, but country music star (and TV’s The Voice personality) Blake Shelton picked up the song and recorded his version of it, getting Barnes a Grammy nomination for Best Country Song. All of this apparently prompted Barnes to pick up from his hometown of Nashville and head out to Los Angeles for the first time to record his latest album, Stories To Tell.
The typical formula for a Dave Barnes album consists of whimsical, danceable tracks like “Little Lies” (What We Want, What We Get) and “Brothers and Sisters” (Me + You + The World) to more heartfelt, warm tracks like “God Gave Me You” (What We Want…) and “Until You” (Me + You…). Stories To Tell follows that layout, opening with the first single “White Lies”, an almost too poppy starter to the album. It’s obvious that Barnes added more gimmicks and pop influences to his music this go-around which might appeal to new fans, but longtime fans might be missing the simplicity of the past. What remains constant though is Dave’s tendency to write songs that just make people wanna dance and have fun, tracks like the soulful “Heaven Help Us” with it’s bluesy piano, and “Missing You” – the stuff made for those carefree summer drives.
While the exterior may have changed somewhat, Dave Barnes’ optimistic, humble message remains strong. From the excellent storytelling on “Love Will Be Enough For Us” where Dave paints a picture of a relationship anyone would long for “You and me baby in the daffodils, kids growing up in the rolling hills, and love will be enough for us.”. One of the standout tracks, “Seventeen”, is really unforgettable. From the driving beat to the excellent melody line that will be the line that sticks with you long after you’ve listened to Stories to Tell. Lyrically the song is just great, speaking of a rough relationship back in the teenage years. Musically Dave gets his chance to once again feature his subtle R&B/dance songwriting skills that seem to show up on every album.
Dave sings about issues relevant to his life, from preparing to be a father on “One Of Us” to learning from mistakes and having the maturity to accept responsibility and apologize on “White Flag”. But what Dave Barnes has done so successfully throughout his career is weave his faith into his songs on a subtle, but effective level. From his humble beginnings as a leader at YoungLife camps singing songs like “Sticks and Stones” to his latest grounded track “Mine to Love” where he sings “Every time that my heart was broken, every time that I lost my way – I forget when I look into your face. You’re mine to love, we have all been waiting on you. You’re mine to love, come into these open arms.”
OVERALL Stories To Tell is another solid release from Dave Barnes. While the songs have a few more beeps and gimmicks, at the core is the same excellent songwriter that fans have grown to love, crafting songs from real life and staying true to the morals that are found in his Christian faith. Stories To Tell might not be Dave’s best work, but it is certainly worth picking up.
Artist: Declaration AD
Release: I Can’t Ignore
Release Date: February 2012
Reviewed By: BMer
Declaration AD is an intense hardcore outfit hailing from New Zealand. The band’s debut full-length I Can’t Ignore is a 20-minute onslaught of powerful, convicting faith-based hardcore. The band takes the call from Elisabeth Nouelle-Neumann straight to heart when she said “Those who refuse to speak up on behalf of their beliefs are abstaining their way into marginalization”.
I Can’t Ignore opens with lyrics that will set the foundation for the 9-track album “Look out into the world, do you see what I see?” Songs touch on the darker side of humanity and the daily struggles with sin “Trying so hard for transparency but I’m hiding my sin, my shame.” (Hot Coals). Other tracks, like “Vengeful Generation” speak about sexual promiscuity and the ensuing fallout, but more importantly a call to grace “We’re finding grace in the midst of the lost, we’re finding forgiveness that comes with no cost.”
Declaration AD’s sound is heavy, simple and effective in the vein of Strongarm and Advent. The pace is pretty quick and the drumming is a little rigid, absent of any modern punk influence. Most tracks feature a few gang vocals and breakdowns. Track 8 “Foolish Things” offers to most contrasting sound on I Can’t Ignore with its heavy rock/grunge influence and rapid vocals, really solid feel. The standout track on the album is “HRT” which is based off of a chapter from CS Lewis’s “Miracles” titled “Horrid Red Things”. Lyrically you can see that Declaration AD is not spitting out cliche hardcore lines but actually presenting challenging viewpoints and clearly identifying where they stand as a band. “HRT” talks about getting caught up in the wrong details about, in this case, Christianity “But that is the center of nothing and you’re dodging the issue completely. An exercise in futility to critique based solely on imagery.”
OVERALL Declaration AD have put together quite a little punch to the face with I Can’t Ignore. If you’re looking for a hardcore record that doesn’t hide behind vague ideals you will need to add this to your collection.
Honest Abe is a two-piece group from Southern California. Lead singer Jesse Avila handles the song-writing and the guitar playing, and is accompanied by cellist Rosemary Danelski. The 6-track EP Someone Punch Abel was recorded live in studio and is packed with folk-ish somber tunes that showcase a level of creativity and quality not often found in music today.
Each listen to Someone Punch Abel draws you in further. Overall you get the feeling of a cabin in the snowy mountains, Jesse’s vocal delivery is gruff and strong sounding. Each song features serious lyrics, coming-of-age stories and creative interpretations on biblical stories (“You Were Hiding, I Fell Asleep”). All of the songs are beautifully written “Like a flower I’ll be, something that sprouts up from a seed…” (If I Know Patmos) and challenge the listener to go back and re-listen to find deeper meaning.
Musically Honest Abe really bring something fresh to the table. While the core of each song is acoustic guitar paired with cello, there are still multiple tracks and a few auxiliary instruments thrown in. “Upon Which God’s Ear” really is the high-point for the cello work, with at least 2-tracks of cello, one featuring some intricate plucking of the strings while the other track is the longer, drawn out bow-work. Rosemary sometimes plays along the melody line with the cello, and sometimes adds another layer of support to fill the space. Each song feels complete showing that Honest Abe can do more with less. The cello’s low tones gives Someone Punch Abel a somber and serious feel throughout, starting strong with the opener “If Abel Had No Heels” and on through the entire EP.
OVERALL Honest Abe have put together a collection of powerful sounding tunes on Someone Punch Abel. This collection of intimate yet challenging tracks will set Honest Abe apart from the DIY singer/songwriters of today. Clever, insightful writing combined with a classic folk sound present a very mature and intelligent EP, be sure and check these guys out.
Blood And Ink Records have recently signed Virginia’s 3-piece post-hardcore group Comrades. Blood & Ink have released a compilation of Comrades songs from between 2010-2011 titled “Collections: 2010-2011″ that you can check out here.
I recently completed an email interview with the band, so take a second and get to know Comrades:
First tell us a little background on the band, who you guys are, where
are you based out of, what style of music do you guys play?We are based out of Richmond, VA, and all of us currently live either in, or close to the city. Our music is a blend of post-hardcore and instrumental music, with few, but some lyrics. We are all between the ages of 22 and 24, and Laura and myself are recently married.Congrats! How does having 2 of your 3 band members being married affect the dynamic of the band?Thank you! It definitely does, but we have been doing the band together for so long that I think we are all pretty used to it. Our band dynamic is definitely much different then most bands. If anything being married in a band is definitely easier then being in a relationship in a band!How did you guys end up on Blood & Ink Records?Over three years ago, one of them attended some of our shows that we played with B&I bands, and we were introduced to the label then, but we were a very young band at that point. They kept up with us throughout our member changes, and this past year, it worked out for us to work with them as a label.Have you met and/or played with the other bands on the B&I roster?We have played with many of the current B&I bands, just through tours crossing paths, and they are an incredible group of people. Its great to be part of a label that has so many community minded bands.You guys are, for the most part, an instrumental band. Tell us about
the decision to go that route. Do you plan on adding a vocalist in the
future? who handles the few vocals you do have (like on songs “Lend Me
-if you do add a vocalist, will you go back and vocals to older songs,
or just start with fresh, new songs?Being primarily an instrumental band kind of just happened. We had some shows lined up, and we didn’t have vocals done for our new songs, and it just sort of worked out. We decided to play a few of them instrumentally, and the response was very good. From that point on, we realized that not every band has to have lyrics to say what they want to say. None of us are really “instrumental music kids” or whatever, we all listen to more music that has words then music that doesn’t, it just seemed to be the right path for Comrades to take.Our drummer, Connor, handles the shouting vocals, and Laura does some singing here and there. I don’t see a vocalist in our future, but its not an impossibility.What is the live show like when you guys play? How does the crowd
respond to an instrumental band?Usually we play with heavier bands, and so the show has that sort of a vibe, but we have seen everything from crowd surfing to hardcore dancing to the entire audience sitting indian style and staring at us. We like to play on the floor, at the same level with people, so people watching can be part of the music, rather then just watching us up on stage.Do you guys have a message or statement you’re trying to convey with
your music?Absolutely! We are all Christians, and understand that we could not do any of this apart from God or without His purpose. We want our music to “minister” to people. I put “minister” in quotation marks because its different for different people. We aren’t a band band that preaches from stage, because we aren’t that way as individuals. We have all seen in our lives that God communicates through music, showing us who He is and what He does. He is much bigger than our words can convey, and that’s one of the unforeseen blessings we have found in being instrumental. It is a different thing entirely to simply leave the floor open for God to do what He does: communicate who He is through His creation. Our greatest hope is that, maybe, our music can help people understand God better, or simply think about Truth in life. I cannot express to you the wonder when someone tells us that our music conveys to them the very same thoughts and feelings we ourselves have when playing it. We can only attribute it to the fact that this is part of something much larger than three musicians with a van. Sometimes we may use the stage as a place to raise awareness for social issues, or from time to time share something about our beliefs, but all of that is what we consider ministry. Most of the places we play aren’t decidedly “Christian” places, and we don’t always tour with “Christian” bands, but I think most people know what we are about.Tell us a little about the song writing process for you guys, how do
the songs come about?Its different every time, but recently we have just all set up in our dining room and started playing music, and when something cool happened, we would run with it. Then we would sit down, take it apart, see what we wanted to say with the music, and put structure to it, and develop it from there into a full song that has the meaning we want it to have.What other bands do you guys look to for inspiration? What bands have
influenced your sound?“Son I Loved You At Your Darkest” by As Cities Burn is probably one of the biggest influences for all of us, and we also learned a lot from Beloved in our younger years. The older My Epic releases influenced my writing style personally in a great way.What type of bands do you usually play shows with? Will you guys be
hitting the Festivales in the summer?More often then not we play hardcore shows, or heavy shows in some shape or form, but we have really had the priveledge to play many different types of shows. We will probably play some smaller festivals, but we don’t currently have plans for the big ones, but we are open to them if the opportunity arises.Are you guys planning on touring full-time in 2012? Is this a
full-time gig for you guys?This year we won’t be full-time, but it has been pretty much full-time in the past. We will probably do three major tours this summer, but our drummer is getting married this fall. This band is definitely a priority we work between work, school, and weddings, and we’re really stoked that we get to tour with it when a lot of bands can’t.Laura, your bass player, is the scene lady-friendly? I’ve heard some
pretty gross stories about dudes on tour not washing their pants,
clothes… etc. Do the ladies in the scene get a chance to clean up more
often? Does that impact how much you can tour? Do you guys make an extra
effort to find a home to stay in each night as opposed to sleeping in the
van and whatnot?It is very true, boys have a hard time washing pants…but that isn’t a strictly tour related circumstance. All the guys I have been privileged to tour with have been disgusting at one point or another, so I’ve accepted it to some extent. Being on tour assures that you will have thoroughly repulsive moments. It’s taught me a lot about people and dirt in the spiritual sense, as well as made me extremely grateful for the miracle of indoor plumbing.Girls on tour have to learn to adapt, I will definitely say that. The art of navigating truck stop bathrooms and learning what is necessary in your routine is invaluable. Touring is like camping in that sense, you only carry (or do) what you need to after a while. We may clean up more than others, but I think it’s a gender thing.As for how much that impacts tour, I would say we’ve never stayed home on account of me. We have a really comfortable van set up, and I knew that if I was going to be a part of a band, I would have to accept certain things. Like sleeping in the van with no a.c. at night in Floridian July. I have noticed that we are offered places to stay often, out of the goodness of people’s hearts. We don’t necessarily put in more effort than any other band to find homes, because we have everything we need and sometimes prefer our van, but there are other times when its freezing or scorching that we love a little respite and a load of laundry washed. I do think that because there is a girl in the band, people are more aware of our situation and prone to consider our housing needs. And if we do stay with a family, it’s always great to get the first shower. That’s something I will not be shy to assert my ladyhood for.Can you tell us a little about the full-length planned for 2012?Yes! It is in the final stages of being written at this point. It covers a more broad spectrum of emotion then our older material, and though parts of it are dark and ambient, there is much more “joyful” or “encouraging” music. It gets pretty heavy in a few places as well.Tell us a little-bit about this compilation you released on Blood &
Ink in 2011, were these songs previously released?It’s basically the best songs off or our past 3 releases. The label did a great job of putting together an e-book for it with pictures from our tours, and I think it did a great job introducing the B&I fanbase to our band.Did you guys play in other bands before Comrades?Yes, our drummer Connor played in quite a few bands, to name a few, a hardcore band called Second Guess, an instrumental band called Letters and Memoirs, and a Ska band called The Skatterbrains. I played in a screamo/hardcore band called Ready The Way for a few years before Comrades, and Laura still plays her acoustic music here an there.What could the readers at Indie Vision do to help you guys out? Prayer
needs/requests? Specific items for touring (like socks?)? Places to stay
in certain cities?Our beloved bright orange van is approaching 300,000 miles, and needs some serious rejuvination, so prayer for that would be great, as we are starting touring again soon. Socks would be great! I always seem to lose those on tour! But in all seriousness, prayer would be the biggest thing, as most everyone reading this knows, touring bands don’t make much money, and we want to continue doing this for the forseeable future, while paying rent, insurance, etc, all those adult things that seem to creep up on us all! Also, we do all of our booking for tour ourselves, so any help we can get finding places to play is always appreciated. Maybe there are some people reading this who book shows, and if you would ever like us to play, send us an email(firstname.lastname@example.org), we would love to play anywhere and everywhere. Giving us the oppertunity to share our music with you is the most we could ever ask for!
The Kings Kids - Set Sail and Seek
New album from the Kings Kids and the packaging is pretty cool! Good work Thumper Punk Records
Kingdom of Hope
Hall of Mirrors
Whatever your previous impression was of Red Cord Records band From The Eyes of Servants you should disregard them and check out their latest self-titled EP. The six-track EP is twenty minutes worth of passionate melodic hardcore, in the vein of Close Your Eyes and Take It Back. The straight-forward faith-based lyrics are simple yet inspiring and the energy throughout the EP is undeniable.
In an age of auto-tune and rolling double-bass it is almost refreshing to hear a band just lay it out there. Lead singer Patrick Scholz’s vocals are unique sounding, which at first takes a little to get used to, they sound like a mix of Close Your Eyes and Means / Continuance. But after listening through the EP you can’t deny the genuine strain in the vocals, as opposed to those fake growls in metalcore. Plowing through songs like “The Psalmist” (featured in IVM’sPunk Never Dies comp.) and “Kingdom of Hope” you can really feel the emotion poured out as they sing “I sing for joy, because you protect me. And You love me. You will never leave me.” I found myself singing the choruses to the songs long after I stopped listening.
There is definitely a hardcore punk vide to the songs, more punk drumming than metal, gang vocals, breakdowns, and best-of-all – vocals that are yelled, but still clear enough to hear the entire message. The recording was obviously done on a budget which might explain some of the vocals being off-key but it does not take away from the whole package, in-fact, the choruses are what help From The Eyes Of Servants stand out from the crowd. Just give the EP two minutes and you’ll be yelling along to “Extication” “I’ve been searching for MY WHOLE LIFE…”
OVERALL: This is a great release for Red Cord Records, From the Eyes of Servants are bringing an authentic sound to the melodic hardcore scene, attempting to fill the gap left by bands like Take It Back / Call to Preserve / Continuance. Give this God-glorifying EP a spin and I am sure you’ll be pumping your fist along with these motivating anthems.
Get the album here: Amazon
my review for Indie Vision Music
Lawless is the greatest thing to come out of Wyoming since, well, uh maybe its the first thing! Righteous Vendetta release their follow-up to The Dawning through Red Cord Records and it’s going to take people by surprise. A solid metalcore feel with fast hardcore drumming, metal riffs, and lyrics that are bold and leave no doubt as to where the band put their faith.
On Lawless you get eight fully-intense tracks and a closer “The Psalmist” to tie things up. The first track “Inheritance” gets the party started with some blood-pumping drums. The lyrical style is much like For Today, a call-to-arms in the name of Christ “Don’t think I’ve come to bring to bring peace… I have come to bring you a sword!” This style of writing works especially well when the sing-along parts are actually meaningful like on “Reason” where the lines “We must rise above the world… We Are Victorious!” are sung in unison. There is a clear urgency about the entire record that can be summed up with a line from “Prelude to Destruction” – “Fear is not an option when the fight of our lives is the fight for our souls.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking Lawless is full of cliche Christian lyrics, Righteous Vendetta show their artistic creativity in their writing like on “Lawless” where the writer reveals “I hear a voice softly calling my name… From the fog I arise a new creation.” The second-to-last track “For The Skeptic” is a beautiful cry out to the Lord that will hopefully reach the ears of non-believers. Reading through the lyrics you might envision a scene of acoustic guitars around a campfire at your favorite summer-camp “I lay my life down at the foot of the cross, as humble as I know how to be. Take this life and make a new creation out of me.”
Lyrically it is obvious that Righteous Vendetta have a clear purpose and mission about their work. Musically they’ve built an impressive foundation to support their message. The tracks on Lawless tend to stick to the basic format of a repeating chorus featuring clean vocals, while the verses offer deep growls and some more sinister vocals that are reminiscent of Called To Arms. On “John, the Revelator” the vocal delivery is very quick, almost with a rap-like feel while “The Chosen Ones” offers a more metal approach, heavy and low growls. It all comes together on “Prelude to Destruction”, an epic breakdown makes this track one of the standout tracks on Lawless. Righteous Vendetta show off their technical abilities as well, with excellent guitar-work like the solo on “Inheritance” that would make Stryper proud, the time-changes on “Signs” and the creative riffing on “Reason” and “For The Skeptic”. The band never sticks to repetitive, open-chord strumming that some heavy bands rely on today, Righteous Vendetta bring interesting, driving music that keeps each song unique and heavy on it’s own.
OVERALL Righteous Vendetta have produced a relevant, impacting album in Lawless that will be a mainstay for fans of the modern metallic hardcore trend. Fans of The Ghost Inside, Altars, Gideon will love Lawless for it’s creative songwriting and driving foundation. After an impressive debut, Lawless sounds like a veteran album with quality clear production and a band that clearly knows their mission.