Reviews

I feel like an oaf for not writing up this interview until now! Work has been busy, yet that is seriously no excuse because this is good stuff and should not have to wait.

On My Honor
About ten days again I had a phone interview with On My Honor’s drummer, Tobias Campbell.  And it was a complete pleasure. Tobias is a genuine, down-to-earth, nice guy – unless he faked it pretty good over the phone, which I highly doubt. When we talked the band was staying the night with a friend in Poughkeepsie, New York while on their way to Canada as part of their tour.

When asked about the start of the band Tobias explained that there were 5 members of the band, all of which were from Knoxville except for him.  Tobias was working in Boise and wanted to get into the music scene.  He saw an ad the band had sent out in search for a drummer. He auditioned and made the cut. It was as simple as some good clean advertising. Does the job.

Here’s how the rest of the interview went:

Q. How does the band come up with it’s music?
A. The music is all collaborative. Drew (lead singer) writes the lyrics. Lucas (lead guitar/back-up) occasionally writes tracks.

Q.Where’s your favorite place to tour? Tell me a little about touring.
A. Personally, I love Philadelphia. We’ve had 3 really good shows now. Far From Proper – played with them in Poughkeepsie, Knoxville, Louisville Kentucky. Thankfully we shower everyday, unlike other bands. We always have people that let us stay at their place. We have a sweet 2007 Ford van and trailer called Mufasa (like in Lion King) that we travel in.

Q. What do you do have fun in the car during tour?
A. Sleeping is really awesome! Another thing we do, we have mad-libs.
Phones. Although, we wont have our phones in Canada. That will be weird. We have 3 different ipods with different bands we have made friends with or listened to growing up.

Q. Who are some of On My Honor’s Idol Bands?
A. New Found Glory, Jimmy Eat World, MovieLife – Early 2000s – Drive-Thru Records

Q. What are some your personal Idol Bands?
A. Fat, NOFX, Vera, Sweller – a reason why I wanted to start music career.

Q. What kind of genre would On My Honor like to be known as?
A. Imagine if Jimmy Eat World was a Pop Punk band.

Q.What do you hope to have people get from your music?
A. Pop punk. This is why I got into this. I started listening to Blink, New Found Glory,… I listened to these bands and shows because I felt like I fit in. I want people to feel like they fit in if they don’t feel like they fit in everywhere.

Q.What is your favorite song to play live?
A. On the new record: Summer, or Rafters. Nature & Nurture, Under Yellow Lights, and Footholds.

Q. Do you have any stage traditions?
A. I like the watch the bands who play before us. During the band right before we play I start stretching out. I had a buddy who died of Cancer this summer. I wrote his name on my snare and I touch it before the show.

Q. What did Property of Zack mean when they said, in January 2013 “The guys in On My Honor adhere to a strict diet of dedication and labor”?
A. When home we practice 2-3 days a week, 2-5 hours a day. We tour a lot and very very heavily.

Q. What is On My Honor’s next goal?
A. A European headliner. Also working extremely, extremely hard to do Warped Tour next summer.

On My Honor has done a great job at gathering a following. They currently have over 18,000 followers on Facebook. Tobias explained that East coast tours were much easier than West coast as the cities are closer together and thus a cheaper tour. I’m hoping we can change that so the band can come play out here in Salt Lake City, Utah.

They have 4 albums/EPs that I know of. The latest is I Never Deserve the Things I Need, which came out in June this year. Check out an acoustic version of their new song, Rafters. It just came out this week.

If you like the honest Boyscout band, “On My Honor,” like them on Facebook, help them be a part of Warped Tour and bring them to the west coast.

Thanks for the interview Tobias. Best of wishes.

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I don’t know if any band has made me want to grow a beard more then Titus Andronicus. Now true, one’s facial hair has very little to do with how good their band is. In fact there is a band actually called “The Beards” and they all have facial hair and honestly I hate listening to them.  However Titus Andronicus simply makes great music, beards or not.

Named after Shakespeare’s tragic play, the now 4-piece band just played in Salt Lake City’s Kilby Court Monday night. Kilby Court, best described as a two-and-a-half car garage, has hosted the New Jersey natives each of the three times they have played in the state of Utah. Despite Rolling Stone naming them one of seven best new bands in 2010 and giving their latest album “Local Business” a 37th placing on their top 50 albums of 2012, they don’t draw much of a crowd.

I talked to lead singer Patrick Stickles before the show who said when they first played Salt Lake City in 2008 there was a 6:5 Titus Andronicus to audience ratio…six band members to the five people in the crowed. However, this didn’t prevent them from rocking out as if there had been tens of thousands of people there and Monday night’s show was no different. Though more then 5 people showed up this time (about 50) they again played with the kind of energy and emotion I see in few bands. It’s almost like they are able to become more intimate because of the small crowd and transfer their energy and emotion directly to the audience.

It was somewhere between debating with him before the show about if the quality of sound when listening to an actual CD out beats the convenience of having all your music digitized, his insistence that the size extra large should actually be what a large is and just seeing him wear sweat pants and a fanny pack talking about how they just got a CD player in their van that I realized he is as honest and sincere as the music he writes.

The song ‘My Eating Disorder’ off their latest album becomes extremely honest about Stikles eating disorder known as selective eating. Never wanting to talk about the issue, Stikles decided to write a song about it as a way to force himself to talk about the issue.

“In art, there should be no secrets, really, so I decided to play out that concept in the most personal way for myself and see what was there, and hopefully in the process maybe empower some of our fans that might be dealing with similar issues.”

Somehow I find myself, along with everyone else around, singing as loud as I can “Spit it out!” along with him almost as an anthem for the thing each of us struggle with in our own lives.

If you have not heard any of Titus Andronicus’ music, I implore you to give it a chance. If you like Neutral Milk Hotel or wish Conor Oberst wrote songs that rocked a little bit more, chances are you’ll get into Titus Andronicus.

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Phoenix Bankrupt coverImagine an archeological dig thousands of years from now. Our civilization has been all but wiped out and the denizens of the future are searching beneath the sands of time for remnants from 2013 A.D. What evidence of sophistication and culture will they unearth? Why is 2013 even worth remembering?

Phoenix’s new album “Bankrupt!” seems to wrestle with similar questions. The album artwork complements the album title–it seems devoid of any real meaning. The art strikes me as a bit Warholian–it could’ve been pulled right off a generic can of peaches. The title, “Bankrupt!” implies that underneath all the trappings of 21st century life, there lies a puzzling emptiness. Lyrically, you’ll find an increased sense of loneliness and isolation. In the midst of the electronic dance music present on nearly every track (things get a bit more synth-heavy this time around), there stands a guy who just wants to leave the party. “I’d rather be alone,” he remarks on opening track “Entertainment”.

“Entertainment” seems to be a farewell ode to previous blockbuster album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” a worldwide hit that turned the indie popsters into rock stars. Standout tracks like “Lisztomania” and “1901” were found in car commercials and on best-of lists for 2009. In “Drakkar Noir”, lead singer Thomas Mars muses about being juggled around the “Jingle Jungle”–the new territory of success that Phoenix has been bushwhacking through ever since.

The third track, “SOS in Bel Air” echoes the album’s rallying cry as Mars repeats “Alone” right before posing the upper-crust quandary: “Crystal or Bamboo?” While there are aspects of fame that the band surely enjoys, there are numerous moments in “Bankrupt!” where they take pot-shots at the jet-set.

In interviews with Pitchfork and Spotify, the band members themselves have said they are now more fascinated by the mundane than they are by the luxurious. Lyrics from the album, written and sung by frontman Mars (and delivered in his trademark, stream-of-consciousness style) reference cultural opposites like “Scandinavian leather” and “Coca Cola”, often in the same breath.

Indeed, the instrumentation of the album follows a similar arc. Thrift-store keyboard sounds and 80’s synth washes are paired with sleek drums and the funky, muted guitar tones that “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” used to great effect.

When I first heard “Wolfgang” in 2009, it seemed like a natural progression for the band as they ably mixed synth pop elements and no-effects guitar riffs from their two previous efforts “Alphabetical” and “It’s Never Been Like That”. “Bankrupt!” continues in that trend, blurring the lines between synth and guitar, drum machine and drum kit. On tracks like “Trying to Be Cool” and “Chloroform”, long-time fans will find welcome echoes of the band’s earlier sound.

The title track is the mid-album instrumental detour, now a staple of any Phoenix release. This one doesn’t come close to matching the musical intensity of “Love Like a Sunset”, and sounds more like a few musical sketches sewn together. However, it is worth it if you make it to the final section where the acoustic guitar finally makes an appearance, underpinning wonderfully sardonic lyrical material “Caledonian, rich and young, self-entitled portrait, forever is for everyone else.”

It took me about 6 listens to get into this album. At first, I was tempted to believe Phoenix had hit their artistic plateau. Now, I’m touting it as their best record to date, both musically and lyrically. The vocal delivery is a little more melodic and unrestrained. The synth lines are never too deliberate–in fact, they are often played with all the confidence of someone crawling around the keyboard trying to find a certain pitch.

While some of the songs can get a little samey (especially “Don’t”), it is best to approach this record as an album-length collection of great hooks. I often found myself humming parts from three different tracks all in a row. They flow together that well. In recent live performances, Phoenix does the same thing, combining elements from different songs into medley form. The deluxe edition of the album includes an hour-long diary of demo material. If it weren’t for the difference in production value, you might not notice a big difference between the two.

While Mars’ lyrics are often too obfuscated to be emotionally resonant, there are a few moments on the album where he opens up. On “Bourgeois”, (a great track that almost didn’t make it onto the album) he sings to a girl stuck working at a cruise ship bar. “We’re destined, wise and we socialize. Bourgeois, why would you care for more?”

We now return to our futuristic archeologists as they uncover a giant neon sign. It says “Enjoy Coca Cola” in three different languages. According to the album’s final track “Oblique City”, it’s “Coca Cola’s Rosetta Stone”. I recommend that you pick up a copy of “Bankrupt!” It’ll be a great record to pull out when your kids ask you what 2013 was like.

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Tom Brinton

Guest Blog Post Thanks to: Tom Brinton.  Tom has been heavily involved in the music scene for years now.  Tom spent two and half years with Classical 89 radio as an announcer and producer.  During his time with the station he spearheaded a show called Friday Favorites.  In his spare time, Tom has helped to create several album art cover designs.  Tom has played in a plethora of different bands and still does.  One of his most recent band successes is with The New Electric Sound, a band originating the Provo, Utah area.  

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