Alternative country and folk group American Aquarium has successfully navigated the independent music scene without the help of the “big guys” — and here’s what they have learned from their experiences.
Alternative rockers Kiven are kicking up a storm in their home base of Los Angeles while also getting to know local musicians in various cities on the road. And their self-titled debut album is quickly becoming another flame in the fire of the recent rock revival. Continue reading And the rock revival continues with LA based Kiven
On tour and coming to So Cal is modern motown act Caught a Ghost, and after speaking with frontman Jesse Nolan, I’ve discovered that this act is multifaceted, deep, not afraid to cast Nolan’s great-aunt in their music video, and most importantly, sure to be a meaningful show that you won’t want to miss.
There are a lot of musicians out there who claim to “bring things back” — Justin Timberlake brought sexy back, Daft Punk claimed to be bringing back soul, and Bruno Mars is bringing back…Soul Trains. But rarely, an artist comes along that isn’t just copying an earlier style or mimicking an era, but also making that style into something fresh, exciting and new. Enter Caught a Ghost, “a modern take on blue eyed soul” voiced by Nolan and supported by a slew of talented onstage musicians, all of whom have seamlessly created a project worth listening to. Nolan admits that he feels he’s a “conduit” of his influences, embodying the spirits of the past and channeling them into his own music, while hoping that this channel continues on to the listeners’ ears. (And from this listener’s ears, I have to agree.)
But there is more to be said about his musical influences than a simple appreciation of the throwback. Nolan self-describes his music as being influenced by “bass heavy” tunes with a “groove feel”, and yet he can still find the appreciation in artists such as Nirvana, Dr. Dre and Jimi Hendrix.
If you could mesh all of those artists together, the result might be a crazy musical Frankenstein experiment; however, in Caught a Ghost’s case, it’s a trifecta of sensational sounds. Listeners can either linger on the smooth tone of Nolan’s voice, the upbeat ‘dancability’ of the tracks, or take it all in and relish in the feel good vibes and catchy lyrics.
All of these traits are clear in the single “Sleeping at Night”, a soulful track that urges the listener to dive deeper into the meaning and themes behind the song. (The phrase “caught a ghost sleeping at night lyrics” is a popular Google search term, and I now know why.) The moody and quick-paced intro of the song sets up Nolan’s horn-infused chorus, as he croons the lines: “I hope you make it alright! You can sell dust and steal the daylight for all that I care, just as long as you’re sleeping at night.” Though I don’t believe a literal interpretation is needed here: the lyrics as a whole seem to allude to the pandering nature of society, all set to music you can move to.
The song is a clever work of R&B influenced art, and the music video follows suit. Nolan lets me in on a little background, adding that the original video was a stop-motion animation created via iPhone. After extremely positive fan review, fast forward to the full length version, which features real people who Nolan has interacted with in his life. (One is his great-aunt — which I have to admit, makes her one of the coolest great-aunts. Ever.)
The astute and witty details of Caught a Ghost’s music doesn’t stop with this single. Dive into the full EP, Nightworks for the same caliber of music, song after song after song. Nolan adds that the EP is meant to be an appetizer for the full-length album, which should hopefully be ready for release in early 2014.
We’re waiting. Not very patiently, might I add. But the full length is sure to be worth the wait. In the meantime, Nolan is notorious on the web for singing just as well live as he does on tape, so check out Caught a Ghost during any of their fall tour dates on the west coast. San Diegans can see them at the Griffin on Sept 30th.
The world could use a little more guitar, and pop rock project Viv and the Revival agree. According to the artist’s social media pages, he introduces himself as Viv and labels anyone who enjoys music as “The Revival.” What revival is he referring to exactly? A modern restoration of rock, perhaps? The answers may lie in his latest album The Introduction, out October 8th, which features that trademark sound of riff-inspired music with catchy, poppy melodies and themes. The album definitely offers upbeat, energetic danceability (that better be a word!); and while it leans more on the pop side than any other genre, the heavy influences are still mixed in here and there across the album. And all of this comes from a musician who very humbly accepts and appreciates every one of his fans, which makes me want to say, “rock on, revivalists!”
The Indie writer Toni Rivera spoke with Viv from Viv and the Revival about his upcoming new album and what the current music industry means to a rock artist like himself.
TheIndieSD: What is your favorite song that you have recorded?
My favorite is probably “Criminals” which is on my new album “The Introduction”.
TISD: You have a new album “The Introduction” coming out on October 8th. What should we expect from the album? How will it allow us to get to know you and your music?
It’s a big record with a lot of universal themes in it. Everyone can relate to the lyrics and see themselves in the songs. I poured my heart and soul into this album and the things I talk about are very important to me, so the lyrics will allow everyone to get to know me.
TISD: How was it recording the album?
It was an adventure. I learned so much about music and songwriting throughout this whole process and grew a ton as an artist. I became a different person since the completion of this record.
TISD: If you could create a duet or collaboration with any artist/band, who would it be? Why?
My number one would have been either Michael Jackson or Bob Marley, but from all of the amazing people out now, maybe someone like Adele or 30 Seconds to Mars. They’re just so talented and I really admire the message in their songs.
TISD: What inspires you to create music?
Everything inspires me. Everything about life and the world makes me want to be creative and say the things that are on my mind.
TISD: How do you feel about being a musician in today’s world?
It’s a really special time I think to be a musician. Things have changed but there is so much amazing music at everyone’s fingertips. You can find 50 new bands everyday that you end up loving. I do wish that live shows still had as much importance as they did back in the day. I think that’s where you really get to know and understand an artist or band, when you see them bare their soul live.
TISD: What things do you take from your personal life and put into your music?
I don’t write about personal things, but I write about universal topics that matter to me. Topics that everyone can relate to. I’m sure a lot of personal things end up coming out somehow though on my songs without me even realizing it. It’s like subconscious therapy.
TISD: There are a lot of things going on in the world and some artists are taking on these themes, such as Macklemore with his song about same sex marriage and Boyce Avenue with a song about suicide. How do the things going on in the world affect you and your music?
Everything affects my music. I try to be open and compassionate, and once you let your guard down, you’re vulnerable and can truly write from your heart.
TISD: Do you remember your first concert? How did it affect you?
Well my dad is a professional drummer so I’ve been going to concerts since I was a little kid. The first big concerts that I went to were in high school, seeing Tom Petty, Incubus, The Used, a bunch of bands. Every time the lights went down right before the show started, I would get these chills and goosebumps and I would just say to myself, “you have to do this!”
TISD: How do your fans impact you?
My fans are amazing! They have supported me from the very beginning and have grown and changed along with me. They’re the reason why I do this.
TISD: What’s one thing you would want to say to everyone who’s supported you?
From the bottom of my heart, I can’t even thank you enough for the support! It truly means the world to me, and I don’t know where I would be without all of you, so thank you!
Now with four EP’s under his belt, national television recognition, and a full-length album released soon, Viv and the Revival is set to leave a mark this year. According to his bio, when asked about his Revival, Viv stated:
“I was feeling rundown with music and was searching for something. When I found that passion reignited, it felt like a revival for me – a new start and it was super important for me to get that message out. Every day, you can achieve whatever you want to, be who you want to be, and do what you want. There’s no limit to how good someone can be. This is the Revival. We’re all here to make a big noise. We’re all here to shake things up. We’re all here to change the world. This is your moment, this is your time, this is your world, and this is your Revival.”
TheIndieSD.com: I love the classical influence on the song “Count on This”. How did you come up with this idea?
The idea of blending classical French music with electronic music seemed so perfect at the time. It created a bitter sweet/uplifting feel to it.
TISD: To say that your music defies traditional genre boundaries is very true! Where do you draw influences from when you’re writing or in the studio?
Well in the past it was just Kevin and I emailing back and forth writing parts and singing and mapping out the songs. But now we work with Different Fur Studio owner and producer Patrick Brown on a lot of the newer material. We listen to a lot of different pop music, and then bands like M83, The Drums, Phoenix, Kavinsky, Queen, really all over the place!
TISD: You’ve already had the chance to tour with some amazing acts (Moby, Hot Chip, Justice). Are there any other artists that you’d love to have the opportunity to share the stage with in the future?
We’ve been listening to a lot of bands like The Neighbourhood, Delorean, Phoenix, Two Door Cinema Club, any of those would be awesome! (We’re here and ready wink wink nudge nudge)
TISD: Tell me about some of the amazing shows you’ve had recently. Any really memorable moments on stage so far?
One really awesome show we played recently was in our hometown of San Francisco at The Great American Music Hall. We have always wanted to play there but never really had the opportunity pop up until a couple months ago. That place is legendary and we were able to play with some amazing friends: Doe Eye, Tremor Low, and of course our very good friends Parallels (We were on a mini tour with them at the time). It was definitely a highlight!
TISD: The Firefly EP is magical, in my opinion. Your sound is definitely unique and inspiring. What can your fans expect from your future full length release, LoveDeathLegend? Will you be expanding on and exploring even more upbeat genres and themes?
Well we have really pushed forward with our musical style in regards to LoveDeathLegend. I think it touches on some of the older material while really pushing us a bit further in the pop genre. LoveDeathLegend has a lot more live instrumentation and everything sound a lot bigger than the older records. Expect a fun record that pushes our music to a place it hadn’t really been before.
TISD: Which song is the very first song you wrote for The Frail?
It’s a toss up between “Who Am I” and “Count On This”, both on the Count On This EP on Tricycle Records :)!
TISD: Being that you found each other on Craigslist, how was the band dynamic when you first started to create music? How quickly did you fall into your groove when you started writing with each other?
Kevin and I have a weird way of knowing what each other are thinking musically. It was really basic at first. Kevin had written a few tracks and we adjusted the structure of those songs together to make them fit vocals. From there we really started songs, we were both writing back and forth and it kind of fell into place. Being that we are a full band it’s a bit more challenging but definitely produces a well rounded sound at this point. It’s always a work in progress though and we are always looking to improve our songwriting or reach new heights.
TISD: Your latest video “Back to Me” had a very successful Kickstarter campaign backing it up. How does it feel to have such steady fans and heavy support for your music?
We feel extremely lucky that we’ve had supporters on both Kickstarter & Indiegogo! We really couldn’t have done any of this without them, so needless to say without them we wouldn’t be anywhere. So they are the ones that control this band and we are so grateful to have them be apart of this.
TISD: And the end product is amazing, by the way. There seem to be a lot of deeper themes covered in the video. How did you go about making this video? What stories did you want to depict in this video?
Well the song is about a time in my life when I was actually dating someone in San Diego and practically living on a friend’s couch in Bankers Hill. It was a leap of faith kind of thing and definitely eye opening. The video took the pieces of the song that reflect that. Wanting to be somewhere else and just going for it while trying to escape what you called home before. We really really love San Diego by the way. (Shout out to Marshall)
TISD: What do you hope to achieve in 2014? How do you hope fans will react to LoveDeathLegend?
Well we hope to have released LoveDeathLegend by then and to be on the road non stop. We are actually headed back into the studio in November to work on new material with Patrick at Different Fur. So you might even see an EP before the full length. We’re just having fun playing shows and writing music. As far as the reception to LoveDeathLegend goes, we hope people like it. It’s pretty different from all our other material and touches a lot of different genres so we think there’s a little something for everyone in it!
There are some really amazing albums coming out next week, and one of them is by indie pop darling Mandolyn Mae. She exudes a delicate, honest approach to music that makes her tunes both heartfelt and hauntingly emotional. Not only is she capable of tackling her favorite hardcore songs and giving them a completely different approach, but also, Mandolyn Mae is dedicated and inspiring, two traits that resonate beautifully through her work. Below, she discusses exactly what inspires her the most, her intense love for Beyonce, and what we can expect from this budding musician, as she gets ready for her full length album, Once, to arrive next week.
TheIndieSD: How did you go about choosing the cover songs for your EP Cover2Cover?
Mandolyn Mae: People wouldn’t peg me as a hardcore music listener, but I’ve been listening to heavy music since I was 12. So when we were trying to decide which songs to do I thought I’d pick from songs that I love. There is also a very large diversity in the songs I chose so we could reach people that were in different age ranges. Like the guys that grew up on Further Seems Forever and the guys like me who grew up on Underoath.
TISD: Why did you decide to start off with a cover album? Was it a project that you always wanted to do?
MM: I actually didn’t start out with a cover album! My very first step into the music world was an EP of all originals called “The Thief”. It’s not online or anything, you can only get it at my shows [so] not many people know about it. But why I chose to do this cover album was because my dad was a hardcore music producer and my very first concert was at a hardcore show with the full on moshing and everything! That was when I was 13. Anyway, when we sat down to think about what my next music step would be it seemed fitting that we would do something out of the box but also something really close to my heart. It was REALLY fun recreating these songs!
Mae’s rendition of Of Mice & Men’s “Second & Sebring” is the perfect example of how to recreate a song.
TISD: What musical experience did you have before Cover2Cover. When did you first start performing and songwriting, and what was that like?
MM: Well my first tour that I went on was with Alive In Standby and Trees Above Mandalay and that was SO much fun. They’re all such fun, sweet and professional guys. It was definitely a great first tour for me to be on. Then after that I was on a little bit of a tour with Sparks the Rescue, Rookie of the Year, Jimmie Deghan and my friend Tidewater and that was awesome as well. I loved being on the road with all of those guys. Those were both before Cover2Cover.
TISD: What inspires your songwriting process the most?
MM: My faith is a huge deal to me, so I’d say that that’s a big part of my inspiration. God has held my hand through every moment in my life, both good and bad, and why would I NOT want to share that, you know? Love also inspires. Being loved is something that every person desires so I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t inspire me.
TISD: Your single “Hurricane” is particularly uplifting! Are you inspired by your religion when you write songs?
MM: Yes I very much am. Like I said in the previous question, I love sharing the story of how I’ve done none of this on my own; I’ve been lead. God shows up in the most inconvenient times sometimes, but it changed you forever.
TISD: Are there any artists that you really want to collaborate with or plan to collaborate with in the near future?
MM: Well I don’t know of any future collaborations, but my DREAM collaboration would be with Dallas Green of City and Colour. He’s such a musical inspiration to me, plus he’s a fellow Canadian, so that’s a plus. His writing is ridiculously incredible. I’ve always said that he can break my heart and put it back together all in one song. If you can do that to somebody, you’re doing music right.
TISD: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
MM: Ah! So many! Dallas Green is a huge one. Mat Kearney, Ellie Goulding and Jeff Buckley. Oh, and can I just say I also have an intense love for Beyonce? She’s like my ideal self. If I were a diva and were married to Jay-Z. Like I don’t want to be her in the creepy/stalker way, I want to be like her in the sweet, loving and kind way. You know what I’m talking about!
TISD: I know you play the ukulele on stage quite often. Are there any other instruments you play and incorporate into your music or your live performances?
MM: Well, kind of. I dabble in the world of keys but I wouldn’t classify myself as a “keys player” quite yet. I do have a wonderful fella that plays beside me at almost every show and we double up on ukuleles and that’s always so much fun!
TISD: You had the chance to perform at SXSW as a part of their acoustic series. Tell me about that experience! What kind of reception did you see for your music?
MM: SXSW was so much fun!! I didn’t really get to see much of it because we drove down, then drove back home and that’s like a 13 hours drive both ways, but what I did see was amazing. So many people that loved every kind of music. It was incredible. What was really fun for me was the night before I played, City and Colour played across the street. I wanted to kiss the ground. Such a fun experience and people seemed to like what I was doing as well. It’s an incredible memory that I’m going to be holding onto for a long time.
TISD: I believe Warped Tour is up next for you. Are you excited about the tour? Will you be speaking with and meeting your fans while you are there?
MM: Yes! I will be playing in Kansas City July 23 and then St. Louis the 24. I’m insanely excited!! I would absolutely love to meet people while I’m there. That’ll be the best part!
TISD: What do you have planned after Warped Tour?
MM: As of now everything is kind of up in the air, but hopefully something soon!
Mandolyn Mae’s next release, Once, will be out next week via Easy Killer Records. In the meantime, preview the album by listening to the beautiful track “The Only Person Alive” at GuitarWorld.com.
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