Archive for June, 2013

THE BLACK CLOUDS

By: Caitlin Hoffman
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

Days like these it’s easy to stop believing. At first glance the scene seems stale; at first glance you wanna pack it in.

Lucky for me there are always new acts, shining as beacons of excellence amongst the industry rubble. The Black Clouds hold fast onto rock philosophies most have eschewed for boring, predictable formulas.

Not to say their music is without influence- from every track you can grip shadows of The Vines, Audioslave or the more visceral feedback of The Pixies. They take what they’ve learned to rip it down and start again. That kind of innovation will always kick-start my motor, and often hold my attention.

Of New Jersey stock, these creative-chaos connoisseurs have taken to the road and the studio by way of do-it-yourself ambition. All their tours have been self-funded and self-booked, just as their LPs have all been self-produced.

Better Days, their 2013 release, is busting with low-tempo mojo. Mixed by John Agnello (known for his work with Sonic Youth and The Hold Steady), the album hosts some dozen songs, most if not all of which are notable. No Reason is an anthem of suburban angst (a common lyrical theme in punk melodies), grinding against a prog-rock backdrop. Fray keeps the angst but moves it into a poignant sensibility, evoking images of walking in the rain with your collar up. Rid of Me is a keen cut of helpless and aggressive, Defective Mind an ode to misfits. All in all you’ll be emotionally stoned, sweat-swathed in hard, decisive rock.

The Black Clouds are so ready for the radio. Are you ready for them?

The Black Clouds – No Reason (Audio)

MIKKY EKKO

By: Rob Brayl
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

Rising star Mikky Ekko, the American singer-songwriter who exploded onto the scene with his beautiful duet with Rihanna, is currently preparing the release of his first major-label studio album. With the prepping comes the just-released Kids, the official lead single. Produced by Benny Blanco + John Hill, Kids is a lovable pop song that fuses strings with bittersweet synths, mixing contemporary electronic elements with Mikky‘s folk edge.

I love this guy!

[Related Post: Adam Lambert Takes On Rihanna]

ROBYN DROPS GENDER-REVERSING VIDEO FOR ‘U SHOULD KNOW BETTER’

By: Rob Brayl
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

The random return of Robyn!

Although it’s been three years since the release of her kick ass Body Talk, Robyn has decided to release a conceptual video for U Should Know Better, her collaboration on the album with the one and only Snoop Dogg.
Not only is the video cool and original (something Robyn’s become a poster child for), the video breaks into the topic of gender, as Robyn and Snoop are replaced in the clip by youthful, cross-gender versions of themselves. Robyn is played by a young platinum blonde boy, while Snoop appears as a lanky teen girl with braids.

The video was conceptualized by Robyn and Decida, her longtime stylist and choreographer (who was also responsible for the moves seen in Dancing On My Own).

Decida wrote a press release to accompany the release, saying:

Hopefully the U Should Know Better video sparks some laughs, but also thoughts on what identity really is. Would you be the same person in another context? Does society have certain expectations of a person based on class, gender, colour, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and cultural background? How much do these expectations then affect your so-called self? I kind of like the idea that we grow up in a transnational pop cultural mosh pit were you can choose who you want to be instead. All of this is what our 2FACED1 project is about, to know identity is dependent on context and therefore is something fluid.

Robyn never disappoints! Love it!

Video + behind-the-scenes clip following.

FRIDA SUNDEMO

By: Rob Brayl
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

Frida Sundemo is an artist on the rise, creating finely-tuned synth pop that could easily be filed next to Robyn, Lykke Li or Lights. Her new single, A Million Years, is creating buzz with its elegant vibe and smooth undertones.

Frida is currently at work recording the follow-up to her debut, The Indigo EP, which is set to drop later this year.

Listen to the soothing + melancholic A Million Years below.

Pretty!

NEW ALEX AIONO!

By: Rob Brayl
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

A few months ago, I placed the spotlight on emerging artist Alex Aiono and his infectious splash of bubblegum pop. I was fascinated with the fact that he’s just a baby (at only 16!) and already working with industry giants. His new track for Young & Foolish was co-written by John Legend for crying out loud.

Alex has just released the lyric video for the tune and it’s, well, adorable.

Fun fact: Alex held a contest across his social media platforms and the winner’s name (Elisabeth D.) can be seen written on the dress of Alex’s love interest in the clip.

Having co-written jams with Babyface and recently signing a deal with BMG Publishing, this kid’s resume is already admirable.

Lyric video for Young and Foolish below!

[Related Post: One To Watch: Alex Aiono]

THE MAINE

By: Rob Brayl
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

The Maine have released their brand new music video for These Four Words on VEVO. The track, taken from the Arizona pop/rocker’s long-awaited new album Forever Halloween, is nakedly heartfelt.

The bare-bones/black and white clip features Margeaux Brooke from The Face. On her personal blog, Margeaux wrote of the experience: “This beautifully done, single-shot video was directed by my good friend Daniel James Gomes. I just want to thank him for giving me the opportunity to push myself and my acting ability for this very sad, raw and relatable scene.”

Forever Halloween is available on iTunes now.

The Maine is currently headlining the “8123” Tour along with A Rocket To The Moon, This Century and Brighten.

Watch the emotional These Four Words clip below.

LEANN RIMES BECOMES HUMAN ON NEW ‘SPITFIRE’ RELEASE

By: Rob Brayl
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

“Someone said to me yesterday that this album is like taking a knife and stabbing myself in public. And it’s true — I’m letting everyone watch while I rip my guts out. There was not an ounce of me left to put on this record. It was the most fearless I’ve ever been, in anything that I’ve ever done.

“After people have written my life for me for the last four and a half years — and it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, it’s what sells the most magazines that week — this was the first time I could dig into my emotions and write from this perspective, and not have to apologize for being human. A lot of people don’t see me as that, and haven’t for a long time.”

-LeAnn Rimes
On new album Spitfire

This is the most honest record I’ve heard in years. LeAnn Rimes has taken the pain of tabloid fodder and created an album that solidifies her place as one of the greatest female performers in country music. Her voice is crystal clear and her nails are sharp. Not many women could have handled the sexist double standard in this situation the way that she has. She is no longer a child prodigy but a female pioneer, tearing down the celebrity walls and revealing a vulnerable human being underneath.

Two of my favorite tracks from Spitfire below: Who We Are (tear-felt live performance) + the incredible Where I Stood following.

Painfully gorgeous!

[Related Post: Rimes Releases Stunning Ballad To Ex-Husband]

JOHAN RODRIGUES

By: Caitlin Hoffman
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

Johan Rodrigues is a sweet liquid in which to soak your tympanic membranes. Since falling in love with an acoustic guitar at fifteen, he has trekked against this wide open valley we call musical creation. Combing mellow alt rock with radio-friendly pop, his five-track EP Um is a pure, glowing sound-stream.

Johan played in different bands with friends throughout his youth, all the while recording more personal, intimate compositions on a tape recorder. He kept these “secret” songs to himself so that they’d be safe for use in future projects. Um is the first time he has revealed such pieces for public consumption.

He calls this EP the beginning of an adventure, as well as his own individual interpretation of pop music. If this is so, I prefer his interpretation to the more mainstream definitions. This EP is indicative of an evolution within a long-standing genre, and that’s exciting to see!

What do you think?
 

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW W/ JERSEY’S BEST-KEPT SECRET: ONLY LIVING BOY

By: Maria Ciezak
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

MARIA CIEZAK: You guys are one of my/New Jersey’s best-kept secrets. For future fans, can you provide us with a brief background story? How did you all come together?

TREVOR NEWCOMB of ONLY LIVING BOY: First off, thanks for doing this interview with us. We really don’t want to be a secret, so we appreciate it. The first time we played on stage together was probably in the 6th grade. We kept playing and learning together and we went on to graduate high school together. In 2006, we formed Rabid Roy with the intension of “making it.” Rabid Roy became OLB after a couple of tough years and one bad record contract. Since the formation of OLB, we’ve independently toured most of the country, put out a few full-lengths and several singles and EPs… You know, trucking.

MC: Now I am assuming the band is named after the Paul Simon song? Are you guys mega fans?

OLB: We all love us some Paul Simon but the name is just a coincidence. We needed a name for the band and after several months of tossing around terrible ideas, Paul Simon’s Only Living Boy in New York came on the radio while we were on our way to a jam. The rest is history.

MC: You just released a new EP entitled Cool Collected Headcase, and it’s been getting a ton of buzz. I know you worked with Paul Ritchie from The Parlor Mob in the past. Where was this recording done?

OLB: We plan on working with Paul again; he’s the shit. This time around, we got the opportunity to work with Billy Perez at SST Studio in Weehawken. SST isn’t on a lot of people’s radar, but I suppose that’s purposeful. To put is plainly, SST is the most incredible studio we’ve sat foot in. Throughout the years, as some of the big analog studios in NYC closed, SST acquired their gear. So it’s packed with incredible recording equipment and a ton of history. It’s in an amazing space – huge rooms, huge ceilings etc. They’ve hosted some ultra big acts. Everyone from the Crows to Nirvana to Sabbath has done something there. It’s crazy.

MC: Who does most of the writing? Is it a group effort?

OLB: Joe is the core writer, but once the rest of us get involved with his ideas you never know where the song is going to go.

MC: What comes first? The music or the lyrics?

OLB: One thing’s for sure, Joe writes 99% of the lyrics. He has books/journals of lyrics and ideas. I think some of his lyrics are done first and then it hangs around until the right song comes together, but most of the time it’s music, then lyrics.

MC: How do you keep yourselves so original in such a mainstream day and age? Do you even think about it?

OLB: Oh, certainly it’s best not to think of it. We just do us. We just try to maintain some sort of edginess and rawness. And of course, we try to record and perform with energy and power. And I suppose if there’s one benefit of being a trio, it’s the fact that there isn’t a lot of them out there and there’s way fewer that sound anything like us. I know lately we’ve been getting a lot of QOTSA comparisons and that’s cool, but I can tell you, with all honesty, we got that 5-6 years ago before we ever even knew of them. We are sponges. We absorb influences all the time. Everything we hear. It’s true.

MC: Your live set is something that everyone must experience. How do you determine a set list for each show? Does it require much catering to certain venues?

OLB: Thanks. We usually write out a set and then do some improving once we get going. And we don’t mind taking risks. We’ll play new songs or old songs that may or may not be ready for the stage. I think risk-taking is something that is important with rock. We aren’t afraid to push the envelope. We aren’t afraid to fuck up. When I see other bands perform with that attitude, and they pull it off, I think it’s exciting. Like watching a stuntman almost wreck.

We really try not to cater sets for anything, but inevitably we tend to play louder and harder at bigger places. Also, sometimes we play acoustic; we can do more than rock at 115db.

MC: Any tours coming up in the near future?

OLB: Hell yeah. As Lemmy from Motörhead says: “You’re not a real band if you don’t tour.” We’re heading out in July for a couple weeks, working our way out to the Roots Rock & Deep Blues Festival in Minneapolis, where we will join our good buds in Poverty Hash (their lead man, Joe Roberto plays harmonica on our track Spread Your Butter). Also, we’ll have to hit some college circuits in the fall. Lately, we’re looking for some good bands to hit the road with. It’s always more productive and fun that way.

MC: If you could place yourself on tour with any artist, who would it be and why?

OLB: We’d love to go out on the road with any band that rocks and can help us get in front of more people. Top pick: Queens of the Stone Age. Or any Dave Grohl or Josh Homme project. Those guys are the top dogs in rock, as far as I’m concerned.

MC: How much material is there in the Only Living Boy vault? Are there a lot that don’t make the record?

OLB: So much material. Between his solo stuff and the OLB stuff, that Joe Cirotti is a writing machine. Currently, we’re working on songs for the record that’s coming out after our next record. So we’re like three albums ahead already. We constantly write and record demos. Many of them don’t make it to the albums or haven’t yet. Many of them we still play live.

MC: What is the ultimate goal for Only Living Boy? The music business is so different these days. Is getting a record deal somewhat of a priority?

OLB: Good question…

Every time I feel like I have a grip on the biz, I realize I have only the benefits of my own successes/mistakes to reflect on; otherwise, I’m half guessing just like everybody else who is short on investors.

Having a career is our ultimate goal. I would be satisfied being a lower-middle class full-time musician. However, we’re not looking to sell ourselves short. I think another equally important goal is to share our music with as many people as possible. So some combination of that: a career and maximum exposure. That’s my pragmatist stance.

Now, a record deal? That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And it doesn’t always involve the combination of exposure AND career that we are looking for. That being said, we will be looking for some sort of “deal” over the next few months, however, in the mean time, we won’t stop outing our music by ourselves.

MC: Now that you guys have made quite the name for yourselves in the Tri-state area, if you could have done anything differently, would you?

OLB: I spent most of my twenties traveling the country playing honest music with my two best friends – I’m pretty lucky. So I don’t have too many regrets.

One thing though, if you’re in a band and you’re thinking about signing to a label or some other business arrangement, consider who it is that represents you and what they have to gain/loose from the process. Sometimes it seems like someone is fighting for you when, really, they’re only worried about themselves or they may be too short-sighted to give two shits about how your career goes in the long term.

MC: What advice do you have for bands just starting out?

OLB: When pursuing your art, patience is the key and so is being yourself. That is, unless you’re ok with being a tool.

MC: Five words why people should listen to Only Living Boy.

OLB: Real rock and roll lives on…

LOREEN DIRECTS STRIKING VIDEO FOR ‘WE GOT THE POWER’

By: Rob Brayl
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

Swedish singer/songwriter and Eurovision 2012 winner, Loreen, has really caught my attention with the new video for We Got The Power. Written by Ester Dean and produced by Patrik Berger and Easter Berger (Icona Pop/Rihanna/Robyn), the video (directed by Loreen herself) is captivating and striking.

Says Loreen, when speaking on her direction: “I always have a clear picture of what I want to convey in my artistry and feel a great responsibility for the things I release. Moving images, for me, creates an extra dimension to the music. In addition, we need more female directors in the industry. More women who dare to take place, just like the video for ‘We Got The Power’ is doing.”

Girl power!

Watch the visual feast unfold below.

ABBY

By: Rob Brayl
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com


Band to watch!

Check out Berlin-based Abby, a 4-piece indie rock band that’s creating some serious chill vibes with their new song Evelyn. There’s something familiar + nostalgic about this track that I’m totally into. It also helps that it comes backed with a video treatment that presents the group as cool/fun-loving dudes.

It’s mellow music that’s perfect for a convertible drop top or headphones on the train/plane… The kind of jam that’s perfect for a little daydreaming contemplation.

Watch the just-released video for Evelyn below!

SUMMER SET DEBUT ‘BOOMERANG’ VIDEO

By: Rob Brayl
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

The Summer Set have debuted their new music video for Boomerang on VEVO, and I’m instantly hooked! The addictive track is off the band’s latest release, Legendary, which is available now via Fearless Records.

Besides releasing fun summer jams, the band also recently won the 2nd annual Macy*s/iHeartRadio Rising Star competition, which gives them the opportunity to perform alongside music’s biggest stars at this year’s 2-day iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 20th & 21st.

Make sure to catch The Summer Set live this summer, performing on all dates of the Vans Warped Tour!

Video for Boomerang below.

[Related Post: On Heavy Rotation: The Summer Set]

NEW QUEEN B!

By: Rob Brayl
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

Beyoncé is ruling soundtracks lately. First came the smooth cover of Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black for the Great Gatsby soundtrack, and now Queen B has contributed the inspirational track Rise Up for the animated film Epic! Not only is she providing material for the soundtrack, she also voices the role of Queen Tara in the film.

(I’ve seen the film and it’s awesome. Aziz Ansari made the movie for me.)

Written by Sia and featuring production from Hit-Boy and Chase N. Cashe, the beautiful song features blissful harmonies backed with touching lyrics: “Some people try to drag you down/ Take it from me, stand and be proud/ You’re a warrior/ You’re my warrior/ Be who you are.”

Listen to Bey’s Rise Up below.

EVE REMAINS HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION – ‘NEVER GONE’

By: Rob Brayl
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

I’ve always thought the best artists are the most hurt. And if that’s the case, Eve remains Queen. Eve bares her battle scars like a heavyweight champion. The new album isn’t about taking back any title, because she’s never truly been dethroned. Her lyrics are undeniable, high class, honest, raw, potent, deep. There’s not a single female rapper in the game that keeps it as genuine and piercing as E.V.E.

This track is an instant classic.

Listen to the incredible Never Gone (feat. Chrisette Michele) below.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Complete and total inspiration!

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH KID FELIX

By: Maria Ciezak
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

MARIA CIEZAK: For those who are unfamiliar with Kid Felix, how would you describe your sound?

KID FELIX: It’s a mix of grunge and modern alternative, with some indie grooves.

MC: You guys are about to hit your two year anniversary as a band. You have done more in that short time than many do in their whole career. How has the ride been?

KF: It has definitely been challenging, but it’s also been really fun. We’ve gotten to meet people and do things that we never expected to do in such a short time. We’ve even got to play with some artist that we’ve always been fans of.

MC: You just recently got to play with some pretty incredible bands including Alice In Chains and Soundgarden. How did this all come about?

KF: Jaxon from 93.3 WMMR happened to see us at a show in Philly and made us one of his Artists of the Month. As we kept on working, more and more of the DJ’s at WMMR started getting behind us. Through them we got a few shows, all growing in size, until one day we got the call asking us to open up their MMRBQ with Device, Buckcherry, Cheap Trick, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden. We, of course, said yes!

MC: Kid Felix is really dominating the New Jersey music scene. Do you feel like you’re starting to branch out into different areas more and more?

KF: Slowly. We haven’t really toured yet, but through the bigger shows that we have played, we’ve gained fans from different areas.

MC: I know you are getting consistent radio play for your single Class Action Satisfaction. If you had to pick another single for on-air, what would it be?

KF: We’ve always seen Alone Now and 100 Years On from our newest EP as singles. We’ve also been writing a lot recently though, and are really excited about some of the new stuff that we haven’t had a chance to record yet.

MC: You’ve done Warped Tour, you’ve done Bamboozle… What’s the next big festival you are aiming for?

KF: Made in America. It would be awesome to play a major festival in the city that we got our start in.

MC: Any plans for a tour in the near future?

KF: We are working on it. We’re pretty much doing everything independently, so booking tours in new markets is tough, but we’re sticking with it.

MC: Kid Felix picks some sick covers. I’ve seen everything from Florence and the Machine to Muse. Do you guys fool around with other artists material at practice a lot? Or is this a once in a while type of thing?

KF: Usually it’s only a once in a while type of thing. We really try to focus on constantly writing new music, but there have been some instances where we had to learn a cover. When we have to though, we like to try to mix it up with our picks.

MC: You guys have seen it firsthand how important it is for bands to network. Is social media the best way to get in touch with you all?

KF: Definitely. We run all of our social media, and always try to answer everyone that contacts us. You can find us at: www.facebook.com/kidfelix / Twitter: @THEkidfelix / Instagram: @THEkidfelix.

MC: Rumor has it you are going to try to release a full length in the near future. How is the writing process going?

KF: It’s going good. We all write our songs together, so the writing process can be a little bit more tedious. We have a lot of half songs that we have to go back on and finish up.

MC: What usually comes first? The music or the lyrics?

KF: It’s a little of both. Like I said, everyone writes their own parts, so sometimes Jake will come to the band with some lyrics ready to go, and other times a band member will have something musically first.

MC: If you could give yourselves some advice when you were first starting out, what would it be?

KF: Work hard and be patient. You don’t always see the return on what you’ve been working for right away.

MC: Any advice to bands just starting out who don’t think they have a chance to make it?

KF: You’re not gonna make it with that attitude!

MC: Tell BiggerthanBeyonce readers why they should check out Kid Felix.

KF: We have a really energetic live show, unique music, and we’re all incredibly handsome.

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