A chat with…Garrett of The Maine

interview, music

I’ve always been a huge believer in supporting bands who are good people and good musicians. In fact, the older I get, I hold this sentiment to be even more true. That’s why when Arizona pop-rock/emo act The Maine announced their new album and a special NYC album release show, I jumped at the chance to see them again.

If you don’t know this band, or haven’t listened, you are missing out. “You Are Ok” is their seventh studio album, and for me is THE  album that I needed at this very moment in my life. I don’t use these words lightly, but this album is a work of art lyrically.

The Maine

The Maine at the YouTube Space in Chelsea Market NYC on the “You Are Ok” release day. From L-R: The Gunz Show, John O’ Callaghan, Garrett Nickelsen, Pat Kirch, Kennedy Brock and Jared Monaco.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Garrett Nickelsen, who serves as the bassist for The Maine about the new album, the upcoming Sad Summer Fest, and the possibility of taking their festival 8123 on the road.

First off, congratulations on “You Are Ok.” It’s your 7th studio album, and it feels like one of the more personal albums. Let’s talk about the writing process and how the concepts and ideas came about or started coming about. Did you find the writing process to get easier over time? Why or why not?
Don’t Be Subtle. Those were the first words we wrote down when we started writing the album. We wanted everything in your face and you know it. Sometimes we can get so caught up in these little things on songs and no one will ever notice them. Hell, after the record is done, WE probably don’t even notice them. We didn’t want any of that, everything that is on the song you know is on the song. It was by far the MOST difficult record to make. It took months to figure out even what we wanted it to sound like. So much of banging our heads on the wall until we finished “Slip the Noose” and that kinda was the marker of where we wanted to take things. Everything had to beat, or at least be as good as that song to us.

 

What’s your favorite track off the new record and why?
I think I’m gonna have to go with “Slip the Noose.” We had this song sitting around for a few years but couldn’t get the chorus just right. When we first started talking about writing, we knew this was going to be one we were gonna tackle again. Once we went for it, and that took a while, it came together pretty quick and became the first song we finished for the album. We just wanted to make the craziest first track we could and also showcase what the whole album has.

 

The Maine has essentially been an independent band since 2013. Do you think in today’s constantly changing musical landscape that artists should stay independent in order to fully interact with their fans on a deeper level and to maintain full creative control?
I think it really just depends on what kind of band you want to become. For some people, labels are great and can really help a lot. I mean when we started it helped a lot to be on a label just for funding and what not, but we’ve always been so hands-on with everything I think we always knew as soon as we’d have the opportunity to be independent, we would try that out. It’s so easy now to interact with people and it always been such a huge part of our band, even if we were on a label I don’t think that would be any different label or not.

 

What advice would you give to up and coming artists on remaining an independent artist and not signing to an indie, or major label?
It’s all about the people who care about what you’re doing. Think about what they (the fans) would love to see and be a part of and give them those things. It is so easy to get caught up in the “too cool for school crowd” – not meeting people and not interacting with them – but if you want them to love your band for a long time, then you need to make it only about them. We’ve always gone by the “we’d rather have 1,000 die-hard fans over 100,000 passive fans” rule. Just take the time to show you care about those people who really give a shit, it’s all you can really do.
Let’s talk about the announcement of Sad Summer Fest. Tickets went on sale recently, and you are co-headlining with State Champs, Mayday Parade and The Wonder Years. How did you all decide to get together to do this festival? Are there any sneak peaks or bread crumbs you can give us?
Actually, this is something we’ve talked about for years! With Warped Tour being gone, it finally seemed like something we could make happen. People love summer festivals, this just seemed like a perfect show for the people who really love this scene. We toured with Mayday more times than I can count, and we’ve been friends with the State Champs guys for a few years now. Once those two bands agreed, everything else kinda just fell into place. Its been very difficult to figure out all the details, but I think it will end up being an amazing day for everyone who comes out.

 

And lastly, 8123 is a festival that you all started in your hometown. Are there any plans in the future to take 8123 on the road? And if so, how soon can we expect it to hit the road?
As of now, we think it’s awesome to keep it in Phoenix. We’ve talked of having it in our cities but I think part of the fun is having people come to our hometown and getting to check out where we grew, and see the city the made us who we are. Also, Phoenix might be one of the few cities on earth that can have an outdoor festival in January and not freeze your butt off.

 

The Maine just finished their tour with Taking Back Sunday, and will be touring with Grayscale this month! Come July, the Sad Summer festival kicks off July 5th in Dallas, TX, and comes to NYC on July 16th!  Make sure you follow The Maine on Instagram here to keep up to date!

BabyGotBacktalk drop new single “Back To Before”

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I always love bands who take chances lyrically and who are unapologetic about who they are, and what they stand for.

New York’s own BabyGotBacktalk is one of those bands flipping the super white pop-punk script and bringing something refreshingly new to the scene. While some pop-punk seems to be about breakups, mental health/depression and sometimes a combination of the two, BGBT is a politically charged, honest and darkly upbeat band of people writing about what is EXTREMELY wrong in the world.

Their new single “Back to Before” is an upbeat battle cry about things needing to be different going forward in the country. It’s one of the songs that if the GOP heard, they would probably be scared shitless.

Because bet.

With the bridge, America, You’re so scared of us, it is a lyrically perfect direct slap in the face to the extremely white, often evangelical establishment that has been in power for so long in this country, and that feels threatened when any speck of color comes their way.

Listen to “Back to Before” here:

Part of the chorus is the sentiment we are all feeling as well…And I’m not one to say that what we had/Ran its course/But I know we can’t go back to before.

BGBT

The faces behind New York’s BabyGotBackTalk. Photo courtesy of the band’s Facebook page.

And if we are being honest, WE REALLY CANT go back to what this country has let go for so long. It is dangerous and unfair to those trying to steer things for the greater good.

That being said, I am thankful this song is being released when it is.

To keep up with BGBT, make sure you follow them on IG here

 

AM0RA drop new single “Girls’ Night”

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If you were looking for a new melodic post-hardcore song to get obsessed with in #quarantinelife,” then Philly 5 piece AM0RA has just the single for you to add to your playlists.

Their new single “Girls Night” is an impressive track produced by Matt Brasch of the Wonder Years and Cold Climb It. The song is a perfect mix of satisfying the most pop-punk listener as well as the newbie core kid.

Listen to “Girls’ Night” here: https://am0rapa.bandcamp.com/track/girls-night

AM0RA

The fellas of AM0RA. Photo by Katya Ivanovski.

Lyrically, the song seems to be about the fight to be okay when you aren’t, and the realization that in order to be okay mentally. we sometimes have to let things go that no longer serve us. With the powerful chorus “You’ve got to go/ No glance back no second chance/ I’m letting this go/ Commit this to memory this time,” its self explanatory that when its time to drop something, its time.

And honestly, its one of the most refreshing truths you will ever come to terms with as you grow up.

Overall this song is surely one to have in your playlist aresenal, and while you are at it, make sure to follow AM0RA on IG here to keep up to date with more releases and tours.

 

King Neptune drops “Alright, Whatever” EP

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Long Island’s own King Neptune have blessed us with a new EP called “Alright, Whatever” which is a great collection of 4 unreleased demos that you can and SHOULD add to your “quarantine playlist.”

The EP opens with “Backbone” which has the pop-punk/alternative rock sound we all love from King Neptune, but never once lacks in tongue-in-cheek lyrics about not having a backbone to stand up for yourself. Musically, think of it as that friend who can deliver bad/tough news with a smile.

KN

King Neptune playing a show at Mercury Lounge in January 2020.

Listen to the new EP here: https://m.soundcloud.com/king-neptune-band/backbone-demo?in=king-neptune-band/sets/alright-whatever-ep/s-rcgfWys07oh

“I Don’t Care” is that song for when you just have to handle your shit and you can’t be bothered with anything else. While “No, That’s Never Gonna Change” hits you with pure summer vibes with its garage rock sound, yet lyrically reminds you of the pains of growing up.

“Made Me Sick” is that song that is an anomaly on the EP. On one hand, the song could be an ode to toxic loneliness, and on the other its realizing that person is toxic and needing to rid yourself of them. And lets be real, in this current climate of quarantine, this is a song that we should all listen to, and take inventory of some people in our lives who aren’t adding value.

Overall, I really appreciate this EP coming when it did. It’ll get you dancing, get you thinking in a good way, and honestly will bring some joy in these wild times.

Make sure you keep up to date with King Neptune on IG here

 

The Return of CMJ

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When we entered this year, many of us were buzzing over the news that the College Music Journal, also known as CMJ was making a comeback 5 years after its mysterious, and abrupt closeout in 2015.

Under the new leadership of Amazing America CEO Andy Zicklin, Amazing America chairman Bill Hein, and Amazing Radio UK founder Paul Campbell, the new CMJ is joining forces with new British Radio Station, Amazing Radio. With this new merger, the goal is to help emerging artists now more then ever, especially in light of so many tours and venues being postponed and temporarily closed thanks to the CoVID-19 outbreak.

From L-R: Paul Campbell, Bill Hein, and Andy Zicklin are the team behind the CMJ/Amazing Radio merger.

According to Campbell when asked how easy it would be for DIY artists to get their music played, he said “Even easier. Amazing Radio is and always has been 100% about helping the little guy, the emerging bands, the independent artists, and the people at the start of their careers.”

The merger was originally set to launch this fall with not only CMJ coming back, but also the introduction of Amazing Radio America. However, with everything being somewhat up in the air thanks to fighting a global pandemic, the merger is starting earlier then expected with digital concerts and online streams to help artists most hard hit by the shutdown. Musicians can upload their music to amazingradio.us, get featured online, and the most popular artists will get air play on Amazing Radio worldwide.

Even cooler, the fans of these artists can rate those tracks, and donate money to these artists and 100 percent of the proceeds will go directly to those artists. And with times like these, this is a great way to keep artists afloat.

In terms of CMJ itself as a PHYSICAL festival, the goal is the same as it always was. “What happens for the ‘real, live’ CMJ Music Marathon depends on what happens with the epidemic, but we expect it to be very similar to what everyone knows and loves in terms of performances: and if there are showcases, which we think there will, they will be more about and for independent artists. We’re more into the music than the talking,” according to Campbell.

And of course, CMJ will take place this fall in late October pending the current situation. However, there is a plan to have a virtual marathon this summer to get help to artists quicker. And of course everything will be cross promoted on the radio. Once artists upload to Amazing Radio once, they will be able to not only get airplay on both US and UK airplays, but be considered to play CMJ in the fall.

With times being so scary right now, it is amazing to have something to look forward to virtually and in-person again. Make sure you keep up with CMJ on CMJ.com.

 

 

Monsterboy drops new music video for “Closer to You”

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I don’t know about y’all, but I really appreciate music videos that are not only melancholic, but also semi-monochromatic as well. For me personally, it adds to the appeal visually.

And if you haven’t seen such an amazing work as yet, you need to see the newest music video from Little Rock, Arkansas alt-pop-rock/EDM band Monsterboy.

Their new music video for “Closer To You” is a moody, passionate soulful tune about  caring about a lover who may not feel the same, yet being so drawn to the person you can’t let go, and the anxiety that can come with that.

You can watch the new music video here:

Make sure you keep up to date with Monsterboy by following them on Instagram here

Musicians Corner: Is Rock Dying?

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Welcome to this months installment of the “Musicians Corner,” where each month a different musician from the NYC DIY landscape sounds off on an important topic in the music scene. This month, the reigns were given to Nick Sumner, front man of Nick Sumner and the Assistance on the complicated subject on if rock music is dying.

I was asked recently whether I thought rock was dying. It took me a full quarter of a second to say “no.”

To lay down the bedrock of this conversation, Merriam-Webster describes Rock and Roll as: popular music usually played on electronically amplified instruments and characterized by a persistent heavily accented beat, repetition of simple phrases, and often country, folk, and blues elements.

Usually played
Rock music is a feeling. A wave. A message. A meaning. Forget sub-genres for a moment (rock, grunge, alternative, pop rock, pop punk, folk rock, industrial, shoegaze, post industrial new age… whatever) – looking to the above definition, rock centers around loud instruments and a persistent, accented beat.

Elvis took country and the blues and made it rock, and MJ took rock and made it pop. But Elton played the piano like a maniac (with his feet) and that was still rock. Pink Floyd’s Richard Wright was a sonic painter on keyboard and synth – and they had a record in the rock charts for over 900 weeks. I think the point is that it doesn’t have to be electric guitar alone that makes music rock; it’s as much the song, performer, message, and delivery of it that makes it rock.

But I just mentioned four musicians by name, three of whom are dead, and one who is literally on his retirement tour. This must mean that rock is dead or dying… there’s no one to carry the torch… no one to bring the thunder to the pit…

Shut up. 

Popular music
Everything moves in stages. Everything cycles. In the early 50’s it was crooners and country, until a pretty boy shook his pelvis on the Ed Sullivan Show and later became the King. The 60’s brought Beatlemania and the British Invasion. The influence of American country was gone from the music, but the American blues were deep in the roots. The 60’s ended with Led Zeppelin screaming onto the scene, but in the 70’s, Disco killed rock with a case of Saturday Night Fever.

With a dose of more cowbell, Disco Fever was cured and by the mid- to late 70’s, punk and new wave were coming out of the same club. Blondie, Talking Heads, The Ramones – all came out of CBGB’s in New York.

NSANTANick Sumner and the Assistance playing the Way Station in July of 2019

Sadly, I think America, the country that birthed Rock and Roll, has turned its back on the genre. We have become so consumed by the instantaneousness of modern life, that no one has time for a well-crafted song. Bite-sized inanity being promoted by a member of the mega-conglomerate of the “Big 4” labels (Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and EMI Group) is what makes it to mainstream. And beyond the label, it’s hard to go out and support local music – the small venues all seem to be dwindling and conforming to a method of playing that does not support the musician.

DIY
And yet, with the DIY method, the power is in our fingertips. To use Jason Isbell as an example, he and his wife (songwriter and poet Amanda Shires) started their own record label that handles all aspects of their music business. Granted, their success allows them to move more units, to use an old music biz term, but the concept of DIY is in the veins of their music and business model.

Rather than looking to the major labels – or any label – who in their heyday brought us Allman Brothers, Guns n Roses, Nirvana, and Foo Fighters, why not look to the artists who answer to no one when releasing the music in their souls. What I mean is, artists on a label answer to corporate heads, marketing managers, and the needs and wants of current trends. New artists that aren’t beholden to anyone but themselves and their fans. Those same fans who know to expect the band to be themselves. It’s  sort of inspiring to think about this freedom allows us as artists.

You can look to artists like Gary Clark Jr., Catfish and the Bottlemen, Rival Sons, Khruangbin, The Bros. Landreth, or Biffy Clyro to carry the torch. They’re simply a slice of the rock world (remember, sub genres don’t matter here), but their power is obvious and their impact will be felt for years. And, of course, look to the local scene! Dollars to donuts, some of the best, most inspired, and heartfelt music will come from the band that rehearses down the street.

Remember, everything moves in cycles. Rock is not dead. It will evolve, but it will never die.

Make sure you follow Nick Sumner and the Assistance on Instagram here!

Trash-Vis drops “Songs 4 Quarantine” EP

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I would be out of line if I didn’t take the proper time to admit that these are unusually scary times we are living in currently.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic that has currently halted almost everything-from the NBA, to live concerts, Broadway, etc. There is fear, anxiety, anger, grief, worry, and a sense of gloom. Being apart of the NYC DIY scene, as well as a freelancer myself, we were hit hard. A lot of us are out of work for the foreseeable future, and are worried about what’s next.

However, one of the most amazing things about this scene is the ability to continuously create fantastic art in times of stress and uncertainty.

Travis Yablon, front man of Brooklyn punk-outfit Fat Heaven, put out a new ep called “Songs 4 Quarantine” under the name Trash-Vis, and its the EP we NEED in these times. And did I mention it was recorded in 3-4 days? Impressed? You should be.

Travis

Fat Heaven front man Travis Yablon playing Hanks Saloon during the “Scenes From The Underground” Pre-Warped Tour showcase in 2018.

You can stream/buy the EP here

The EP opens with “No Control” a track that talks about the toll of these crazy times on mental health. “Hell on Earth” comes to terms with the fact that things are a total shit show, and we are possibly at the end.

“Apocalypse” is the acceptance that things may not be ok, and in a strange way, being ok with not being ok.

However, a personal favorite track off the EP is “Contagious Armageddon” which could honestly be the theme song going forward for every contagion film, as well a PSA about social distancing. Delivering one of my favorite lyrics, “And for the public health/why don’t you fuck yourself/so keep your distance cause it helps” Honestly, these will probably be THE words to live by once we get past this crisis.

Overall, “Songs 4 Quarantine” is an 8 track, dark commentary on whats happening currently, as well as being all the things that people are feeling, thinking, and saying.

You can follow Trash-Vis on IG here

And follow Fat Heaven on IG here as well.

Stay safe everyone!

Chenoa drops debut single “Cold”

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I always appreciate music that comes from the soul.

Something that stirs you, moves you and has some pain involved, but pain in the sense that the person singing has dealt with it, and came back swinging in full force of strength.

The debut single “Cold”  from Cali native, turned New Yorker Chenoa is just that.

The song is a resilient R and B laden track about dealing with dark times and recovering from those things.

“This song is about my struggle with anxiety and depression,” Chenoa says on her FB page.

chenoa

Chenoa dropped her debut single “Cold” a few weeks ago. Photo taken from her FB page

You can stream “Cold” here

“I’m so absolutely grateful for all the horrible things that have gone wrong the past 3 years because without them I wouldn’t be where I’m at,” she continues.

Make sure you follow Chenoa on Instagram to keep up with her here

Musician’s Corner: Bands and Re-branding

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In this series on “Scenes From the Underground,” each month the reigns are turned over to an artist or musician in our music scene who gets to sound off on an important topic. This month, we hear from Arthur Wernham, bassist of the Westchester alt-rock band For Lack of A Term on bands and the tricky dance of properly re-branding

I definitely think re-branding helps in very specific situations.

I’ve personally never been extremely fond of the idea. However, I do get why some bands may do it. In certain situations, where a project has been around for an extended period of time, specifically a few years with no traction, members moving on, and the music goes in a different direction I do understand it.

FLOATArthur, (far left), playing with For Lack of a Term  back in December 2019 at Cobra Club.

It’s an attempt to re-introduce your selves, the music, and a fresh start in a sense. It’s almost like pushing the restart button in my opinion. Which in turn, goes to your following, a lot of music today is online. That being said, wiping the slate clean and starting fresh means literally that: going back and rebuilding. Building from the ground up is super necessary, and a great experience, but a lot of work.

Which begs the question “How can I do what I did before?” And not only quicker, but better to bring in a bigger following?  I think that is the question every musician struggles with. We’ve all got solid ideas, and it’s a constant game of trial and error.

I don’t think any of us know really; we just do it because this is our passion, and what drives us.

Make sure you follow For Lack Of A Term here!

Op-Ed: Disconnection in the scene

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Sometimes I feel like there is an odd disconnect in the music scene. And it’s not just among the adult emo kids and EDM peeps. But rather among the kids like me who grew up with a more varied musical background and who support different music scenes.

Growing up, I listened to hip hop, gospel, screamo, and pop-punk with some bands considered to be “emo” and currently listen to a lot of bands from the NYC DIY landscape. I still attend larger concerts, as well as smaller shows and show my support by often recommending smaller/local bands to friends constantly, writing about what’s happening in my music scene, and even doing what I can to get smaller bands opening for larger ones.

Yet, I can at times feel like an odd woman out among some of my circles, and it’s not always the smaller scene either. You see I often squeal in joy when friends release new music, or when a favorite larger band announces a tour, and going to a smaller punk show feels like a family reunion with a bunch of cooler cousins and siblings. However, trying to merge those worlds can get weird. The older pop-punk and emo kids are almost oblivious to what’s happening locally in some ways; while the DIY folks may not care about whose popular or even newer bands in the larger scenes.

Tetchy

Brooklyn band Tetchy played a Bernie Sanders benefit show at Cafe Beit recently.

And I honestly don’t know how we got to this point. It’s great we live in a world where there is always new music coming, and now thanks to social media and Soundcloud, almost anyone can release or put out music as independent artists.

On the contrary, just because ANYONE can put out music, doesn’t necessarily mean it is always good. And I’m sorry to say, a lot of it isn’t great. In some ways, some of the newer stuff takes away from the artistry of those who work really hard and hone their craft.

And it’s not a snobby thing to say, however with there being so much music out there, maybe that’s one of the causes of the musical disconnect. There is A LOT out to weed thorough, and it can become exhausting.

I will end with this, finding music isn’t hard. Finding good music can be more tedious, and supporting whatever you music scene is should come second nature. After all, your favorite bands were once DIY artists, and your DIY bands maybe your next favorite larger band.