All Posts By Angela Mastrogiacomo



Mohawk Bends and Lee Penn Sky couldn’t be more different—and yet, their passion for music brings them together. In this brand new Bands Interviewing Bands the two chat about their dream lineups, inspiration, and collaboration. Check it out!

Mohawk Bends: When writing and creating songs where do you typically draw inspiration from?

Lee Penn Sky: If you look at all the music I have produced, you will find some themes.  My songs are filled with landscapes… water, mountains, desert vistas etc.  I also use lots of biblical references which I find odd as I am in no way religious. I would say that increasingly I am inspired to write songs that essentially protest songs.  I am often inspired to write about people that I meet that tug at my imagination.

Lee Penn Sky: What’s the story behind your killer band name? 

Mohawk Bends: The Mohawk Bend is actually a bar/restaurant Chris used to hang out at in Echo Park when he was living in LA. He suggested it when we were trying to agree upon a name and it was one that stuck the most!

Mohawk Bends: Is there a musical event in your past that you credit with inspiring you to create and perform your own music? 

Lee Penn Sky: I would say there are three performances when I was fairly young which have always stuck with me.  The first was seeing Yo-Yo Ma perform, just him and his cello.  The way he played was so moving and powerful but also gentle and delicate. Another was seeing the great Maceo Parker perform with his band. Man, that was the funkiest, ass shaking-iest concert I have ever had the privilege to attend. It was in a 2000+ capacity theater and not one person sat the whole night.  They must have played for 4 hours. Finally, I was lucky enough to be at the first Lollapalooza Festival.  When Jane’s Addiction hit the stage the place figuratively and literally caught on fire. Again, I was amazed at the power of music. Whereas my music is not similar to these artists they have inspired me to create and perform art that is evocative. 

Lee Penn Sky: Being a solo act myself, I don’t often write collaboratively with others.  Can you talk about your writing process? 

Mohawk Bends: Our writing process is largely fueled by jamming with each other. We typically get in a room and just see what happens. Colin also writes a lot of riffs on his own and will send them to us in our little group chat. He has some great production skills, so he’s typically able to record a pretty solid demo to get his vibe and idea across for the whole song. It’s usually on Chris to do the words for most of the songs, but Colin also wrote some lyrics for our first record! Fortunately, we all tend to know the direction we want to take a new idea, so it’s rare that we disagree with the direction a song should go in!

Mohawk Bends: Have you performed with a band in the past? If not, do you ever think that having people to share songwriting responsibilities with would be enjoyable, or do you prefer having full creative control?

Lee Penn Sky: I started as a bass player and one of the primary songwriters in the band Mr. Picassohead out of Ann Arbor.  After moving to Idaho, I played for a number of years as a solo act. About 8 years ago I formed the band The Oliphants, a jam band which I write the material for.  We tour regionally and have a great time.  That band is often whom I turn to when I need a band for my solo material. Playing solo and being responsible for the entire show is both intense and very intimate.  Whether you are performing at a house concert or a large festival you are solely responsible for the audience feeling connected to you and to what you’re doing lyrically and musically.  I feel less freedom in that as the music is very directed as opposed to when I play with The Oliphants.  That band is all about the joy of the musical moment, we enjoy playing with each other so much that on stage we tend to turn in and face each other more than we turn out and face the audience.  The audience seems to connect with that energy and the band’s delight in each other. I couldn’t say which I enjoy more, my solo act or my band as they fulfill different artistic needs and couldn’t imagine one without the other.  

Lee Penn Sky: Has your writing process changed since your first single Plaster Cast to your latest See What You Do to Me?

Mohawk Bends: See What You Do to Me was definitely a more collaborative writing process. I think at this point, we’ve just become more comfortable with each other and know each other’s capabilities better, so we can take that into consideration when writing new songs.

Mohawk Bends: If you could create your dream line up for a touring band, who would you pick to back you up?

Lee Penn Sky: My current band is pretty choice! I play with some heavy lifters right now (David Gluck-drums, Troy” Rosie” Ferguson -bass, and Dan Costello-electric guitar/electric mandolin). But if you are asking me to choose a fantasy band, I would have to go with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section or the famed LA Wrecking Crew with the addition of the Tower of Power horn section for good measure!

Lee Penn Sky: What bands have influenced your sound the most?

Mohawk Bends: Queens of the Stone Age, Cage the Elephant, Foals and Last Shadow Puppets.

Mohawk Bends: If you could choose one record to take to a desert island what would you take with you?  

Lee Penn Sky: I think it would be a toss-up between Steve Earle’s Just an American Boy and The Band’s The Last Waltz.  Both of these are live albums from artists that I never tire of listening to and always inspire me to be creative.

Mohawk Bends: What’s next for you now that the record has released? Any plans to tour? 

Lee Penn Sky: I’m going to start working towards my next release. I’ve been writing metaphorical songs relating to our current domestic political conflicts. 

I have a few festivals lined up for the summer and will be doing some regional touring. Likely I’ll find myself in California for a loop and also back home to Michigan.


Mohawk Bends:

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Bands Interviewing Bands:Lee Penn Sky (top) Photo Credit: Silly the Kid. Mohawk Bends (bottom) photo credit: Rachel Hunter



This week we’re chatting with California reggae-rock artist Sunny State and Austin’s synth-babes Moonray, for an insightful interview on the songwriting process, touring, and their personal heroes and inspiration (among tons of other things like their favorite food and albums!) 

Sunny State: Please explain your songwriting process. Does one of you bring the other an idea fully or partially formed? Do you compose music/chord progressions first or Lyrics or Melody? What instrument(s) do you usually write on?

Moonray: We have many ways we come up with songs. Sometimes a melody will pop into our head and has a snowball effect into completion quite quickly. Other times, we will come up with a beat we like on a specific drum machine and work on it over time. Other times we let our instruments guide us. We may take a travel-size setup while traveling or camping and the destination may inspire us. We typically start with a drum machine and a synthesizer. 

Moonray : Is there a certain state, city, country that inspires your music more than others? 

Sunny State: When writing new songs, my biggest inspiration has always come from traveling to new places. There is something liberating and freeing about being in a new place. Inspired by different surroundings, sounds, smells, tastes, cultures.  

Sunny State is based out of  San Jose, CA A.K.A. The Silicon Valley. Here in the Bay Area, we are surrounded by various cultures and ways of life, but the majority of people here also have a lot in common. There’s an energy here since the cost of living is so high that you can’t work hard enough and there is always something more you can do. I think, in Sunny State, we try to combat that heavy energy radiating with positive laid back vibes. As a way to remind people to stop and smell the roses. “Relax, it’s all going to be ok and it’s ok to feel good and be happy.” So, in one way or another, our environment certainly inspires what we create. 

Sunny State: What is your favorite thing about being in a musical project as a couple?

Moonray: We challenge each other and we eat, breathe and sleep it! It’s nice being able to keep each other accountable for not just the music aspect but our health and our lifestyle. We try to take care of our vessels so we can travel through the stars. Our musical project would not be where it is if we hadn’t both committed to our health first. It’s great when you have a partner that you can rely on during the tough times and we love being able to make music together. 

Moonray: If there is one thing in the world you could change what would it be? 

Sunny State: Just one thing? Hmm… That’s a really tough question. 

As I sit here debating what the ONE thing would be, looking at environmental, ethical, sociological, political. 

Any way I look at it, there is no ONE RIGHT ANSWER… 


If I, truly,  had the power to change ONE thing, I don’t think I could, in good conscious, change a thing. In my humble opinion, everything, ultimately, works out for the best, despite how long it may take to get there or the horrific sacrifices made. The turmoil is what helps us all to grow and makes us stronger. It is what determines and molds us into who we are. 


Sunny State: What do you look forward to most before one of your shows?

Moonray: The thrill of getting to connect with our fans and share our music. 

Moonray: Who are your top five heroes? 

Sunny State:

  1. My Brother Frane
  2. My Wife
  3. AOC
  4. My Mother
  5. The spider living in our room—ya never know where he’ll end up

Sunny State: Describe what your perfect, most fantastic day, would look like. 

Moonray: It’s such a hard question to answer but I think every day is perfect in its own way, living in the moment is what keeps us going. But if there is no limit to this perfect day, we’d both be super heroes flying over the world saving those from danger and curing diseases. 

Moonray: If you could take one CD or Album on a deserted island which one would it be and why? 

Sunny State: WHAT!?! One!?! Another JUST ONE question!?! Hahahahah Just kidding… But seriously, how could you choose just one? Ok, ok… I would probably take one of the Buddha Bar Albums because they’re so epic. That way, I would never get tired of someone’s voice or lyrics and could continuously reimagine the song for the rest of my life on this deserted island. 

Sunny State: Tell us about your favorite performance ever.

Moonray: Our favorite performance has been opening for Alice Merton on her first No Roots tour at Stubbs in Austin, TX.

Moonray: What is your favorite part about creating music ? 

Sunny State:  Watching a song go from the seed of the idea and evolve through the studio and, eventually on stage, is a powerful process for me. It takes so much time and passion that it is a wonder songs get finished hahaha. That is a very satisfying process. 

The other side is that music is food for my soul. 

I recently took a step back from music and didn’t even realize until I had stepped back into it, how much my soul was longing for the outlet of writing lyrics and melody and singing at the top of my lungs. Talk about liberating! Creating music makes me feel like I am flying from mountain top to mountain top, stopping for little picnics along the way with my favorite people and family, only to leap off the next peak and do it all again. 

Moonray: What’s your favorite thing to put on toast ? 

Sunny State:  Ummm, Duh! Avocado with Everything-but-the-bagel seasoning. 

Sunny State: What is one thing you often feel others would understand you better if they knew?

Moonray: We both come from a past history of dealing with drug and alcohol abuse and have overcome a lot of obstacles to create our music and our business and stay on a healthier path of light. 

Sunny State captures a fresh modern reggae vibe through their energetic and positive songs of love and empowerment. With powerful vocals, ukulele and guitar, Sunny State brings island vibes to each and every gig. Their diverse line up of songs tantalizes the ears in English, French, Spanish and even Croatian, using the island heritage of their frontman “Cristo”, Chris Reed, whose family originates from an island in the Adriatic Sea.


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Influenced by the genius of legends including Prince, Madonna, Jimi Hendrix, and more, Moonray’s music glimmers and shines with the brilliance of ‘80s synths, dynamic electric guitar, free-spirited ‘70s vibes, and lots of positive energy.

In addition to forming a working partnership, the duo is also a real-life couple and draws on their individual experiences and strengths to speak to their listeners in an uplifting, relatable way. Jonray, a fifth generation Texan and multi-instrumentalist, and Barbara, a business-savvy lover of theater who grew up between Mexico and Austin, create freely and without limits, using their worldly melodies and lyrics to shine a restorative, hopeful light for those who need it.


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Bands Interviewing Bands: Sunny State (top) Photo Credit: Arabella Espinoza. Moonray (bottom) photo credit:Taylor Prinsen Photography

Bands Interviewing Bands: The Retinas and Dog Drive Mantis


The Retinas: Your music has an eclectic style to it, who would you say your influences are? Do you have shared influences or does everyone in the band bring a different background element in that regard?

Dog Drive Mantis: We all share a little bit of common ground in terms of influences but overall, we come from very different places. Neil (Drums) and Derek (Jazz) have their roots in jazz and music theory, whereas Carmen (bass) and I (Mike, Guitar) generally started out interested in Alternative rock and learning/writing songs by ear. A few bands that come to mind would be Tool, Broken Social Scene, Streetlight Manifesto, Toe.


Dog Drive Mantis: I like the deep bass synth at the beginning of ‘Fix That Up’. What is it exactly, and do you plan to use more synths in the future?

The Retinas: That’s a synth bass we have. And yes, we definitely are looking to expand and
broaden our instrument footprint on future recordings. Part of the fun for us is finding new
sounds and experimenting with something completely new.


The Retinas: A lot of the songs feel like you’re building a landscape to me, how has your hometown Mississauga influenced your writing?

Dog Drive Mantis: Mississauga itself actually hasn’t been a huge driver in our sound, but the beauty of living here is that we’re right in the middle of various music scenes that we can participate in. Toronto, Guelph, Hamilton, Kitchener, etc. Our “landscape building” likely comes from our writing process (more detail on that below, stay tuned)

Dog Drive Mantis: How long have you all been writing and performing together?

The Retinas: Anthony (drums) and I (Thomas – vox, guitar) have been playing together for about 8 years. But as this unit with Andy (bass) we’ve been playing for about 3 years.

The Retinas: What does the writing process look like for Dog Drive Mantis? Does one person have an idea that everyone comes together on? Do you all sit down to write at the same time? Is it improv or more hard writing?

Dog Drive Mantis: Most of our songs start from the first few minutes of our practice sessions where we’d improvise a jam (usually initiated by Carmen) and one of us would be wise enough to pull out the phone to record the audio. A lot of those improvisation jams end up in an endless archive of cacophonic eternity, but a few of them have snuck through the cracks and turned out to be songs we decided to keep. From the recorded audio of improvisation, we pick pieces that we like and then build on them from there. Constantly refining our structure and nuances, it can often take months to complete a song.

Dog Drive Mantis: Favourite venue to play in Philly? Why?

The Retinas: Ortliebs. We love Ortliebs, because they’re the best venue for the actual scene of Philadelphia. They book all different types of acts, support local and touring artists in every way they can and I’ve seen some of the coolest shows I’ve been too there.

The Retinas: If you could play with any musician/band from any time period, who would it be and why?

Dog Drive Mantis: I’ll tell you mine and then I’ll give you my best-educated guess of the other guys:

● Mike: Toe around the time of “For Long Tomorrow”; I’m always in awe watching their live videos. As a group, their live performance is a beautiful display of synergy and passion.
It inspires me.
● Carmen: The Beatles, Revolver
● Derek: Chris Potter, now
● Neil: Tool, now

Dog Drive Mantis: Which artist would you tour with if you could pick anyone in any time period?

The Retinas: The Replacements. We all share a love for them, and from what I’ve read they
were crazy to tour with and always having a blast. They didn’t take themselves to seriously and genuinely put everything they have into what they were playing.

The Retinas: If you could’ve written any song by any musician/band, what would it be
and why?
Dog Drive Mantis: The entire album “Sketches of Brunswick East” by King Gizzard and the
Lizard Wizard ft. Mild High Club is really just one long song split up into multiple tracks, and each one is so unique and hard to classify. I’ve always wondered how they were able to connect them in such a creative fashion.

Dog Drive Mantis: Explain your songwriting process.

The Retinas: Typically I’ll have an idea that I’ll bring to the band. We’ll start to expand on it and work on it as a unit and everyone develops their part. We have our own studio so we’ll demo it a million times to hear back what it sounds like before we finally record it.


The Retinas: What’s on the horizon for Dog Drive Mantis?

Dog Drive Mantis: We’re back to the writing phase, holding off for shows for the time being while we being full-length album #2. It will take some time, but we’re excited for how the final product will turn out.

Dog Drive Mantis: What is different about your upcoming self titled release vs. your older tunes? 

The Retinas: The older tunes we’re a lot of piled up songs from over the years that we re-
recorded to get a clearer sound for release. We love those songs, and we’ve had them for
years. The album is an almost completely new set of songs, written together on tour and
in-between. We specifically tried to get out of writing patterns and styles and put something completely out of our element that still had the trace signature style of us. We also wanted every song to be completely different from the rest which I think we accomplished.

The Retinas

Inspired by iconic artists such as The Pixies, The Strokes, and The Replacements, the Philly power trio of Thomas McHugh (vocals/guitar), Anthony Fulginitti (drums), and Andy Silverman (bass), who are best known as The Retinas, effortlessly couple nostalgia with the thrills and pains of being alive. 


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Dog Drive Mantis

Dog Drive Mantis is the Toronto (Mississauga)-based sonic brew of Derek Serbin, Mike Papaloni, Carmen Haines and Neilroy Miranda. Since their formation in October of 2015, the band has blended progressive indie post-rock with jazz fusion, always exploring new ways to add to the experiential mix that is their music.






Bands Interviewing Bands: The Retinas (top) photo credit: Ashley Cordoba. Dog Drive Mantis (bottom) photo credit:  Zarrar Salik

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Bands Interviewing Bands: Output 1:1:1 & Portes


I have to be honest—this is one of my favorite editions of Bands Interviewing Bands, and it’s because it touches on so many important aspects of our lives, including one that’s incredibly dear to me, climate change. Throughout the interview, both our artists, Output 1:1:1 and Portes show true introspection and curiosity for not only each other’s music, but the message behind it. It makes for an incredible and compelling interview, and I can’t wait for you to read it!

PORTES: What was the inspiration for “Issue at Track Level”?

Output 1:1:1 : The most immediate inspiration for the song came from a series of panic attacks that occurred relatively close together. For a long time I was suppressing feelings of overwhelming dread. Allowing myself to live in my head for so long, I would, and occasionally still do, catastrophize and find difficulty trusting others. Living in a state like that, it was easy to grasp onto toxic thought about myself and those around me. Becoming aware of that element of my mind, it became a challenge to trust myself and to know that I wasn’t the sum of these anxieties, but rather a part of me. I think writing about it in an abstract sense was therapeutic for me – it felt like a more honest expression of what I have been dealing with. I wanted to let the music convey as much as it could the confusion and discomfort that were associated with those feelings.


Output 1:1:1: Hey PORTES, I was interested by your inclusion of your 8 year-old son on Human. Was this your first time bringing family into the recording process? Could you talk a little about the experience of doing so? 

PORTES: Yes actually, this was the first time I included my son on a track. It just seemed very fitting for him to be the future of the song. He loves to sing and dance and he does it all the time. I wanted the word, “Human” to be sung, but I knew it was going to be a harmony, rather than me sing them, I worked with him on the vocals at home before we went into The Spot Studios to record. He loves to perform, but I had to coach him in the vocal booth and mouth the words with him. He got it though and I was very proud of him, of course.

PORTES: Can you describe how the visual arts inform your music?

Output 1:1:1: I took painting over the last two years, after the EP was recorded/mixed. My therapist suggested I engage in “ludica” – the concept of play. We discussed the feeling of needing a product to come out of a period of creation – You and I are musicians, we make music, and when we are taking time to be creative we must have a song at the end of it. I think that sense of commodity is why you have a great deal of creatives who are opposed to ideals associated with branding and corporate sales. Removing that demand of productivity from my creative time is a serious challenge and painting was an easy way to do it. I’m not a painter, and if you dig into my instagram, you’ll see a number of scratched out pieces. I guess visual arts reminds me create freely, to explore ideas and commit to them – it’s a lot harder to erase paint.

Output 1:1:1: Human directly confronts one of the biggest catastrophes of our time, and I can imagine that parenthood, and concern for your child plays a strong part of how you approach it. Recently, a 16-year-old has impressed the ramifications of climate inaction upon world leaders in a way no one felt they could do until they saw her act. Greta Thunberg’s “How dare you” has rung throughout the world with incredible urgency, surprising many who have said to themselves “What can I do about it?”

Do you relate to your younger self through your music, and in this song particularly?

PORTES: I remember in seventh grade writing a paper about overpopulation, in seventh grade! I think I was cognizant of these social and ecological issues then, but maybe not as actively engaged in repairing harm to our environment. It’s difficult to have that maturity sometimes. I wish I had been more active in recycling or nature back then, but I had other interests. Thunberg is certainly an inspiration for a lot of people, including me. When I started writing music in high school I was writing about war, as I aged, I had more maturity and clarity.


PORTES:  Besides your music collaborators, who else is really supportive of your music?

Output 1:1:1: My partner has been incredibly supportive, especially when it takes from our time together. She wants to make sure that no internal difficulties get in the way of this project. She’s also incredible at helping me through a panic attack.

My family is also very supportive, they’re happy I’m doing it. I haven’t shown much of the new material to my father yet. He’s a worrier, and when he hears it I’m afraid he’ll blame himself for what I went through in order to make the music – which isn’t the case at all. 

Output 1:1:1: How has working through these frustrations in Human helped you? Has it helped you discover new methods of fighting, or perhaps reengaged the fight within you?

PORTES: It has helped me in so many ways to express my true feelings. In that way, especially with having my son sing on the track, it’s my legacy to him. I’m telling him that I do care and I’m willing to fight for what is right and good.

PORTES: How have you moved through your own self-discovery creating Retroactive Rock Record?

Output 1:1:1: When I started, I only had assumptions of what was I felt was wrong. I was fortunate and had access to therapy, which was covered through Ontario’s Healthcare plan. When I found that out and went, my therapist and I worked through a lot of the things I wrote about for the EP. For one thing, I’ve learned that it’s never the case that when I write about an issue and it’s cured – that’s a bit naive. I may write about the same thing in one hundred ways, but it will still be a part of me. And that’s not necessarily a terminal diagnosis. I can live with that part of me knowing it doesn’t make the whole of who I am. 

PORTES: What do you hope the listeners learn hearing this record?

Output 1:1:1: I hope people can connect in some way with a moment expressed in the EP. It doesn’t need to be a 1:1 experience or “I’ve been through that exact thing” but just a connection. I didn’t make this thinking “I’m making THE depression record” like it was an after school special or a great moment for humanity. I only know my own experiences with it, and I hope listeners can relate in their own ways.

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Bands Interviewing Bands: Output 1:1:1 (top) Photo Credit: Emma Letki. Portes (bottom) photo credit: Sierra Voss Photography




For the Bands Interviewing Bands series, we have Owen-Glass (RIYL: Tom Petty, Dave Matthews Band and Sufjan Stevens) and Saint Spicer (RIYL: Erykah Bau, India.Arie, Sade).

From the Piney Woods of East Texas, singer-songwriter Kelly Wayne Conley and his trusty sidekick, guitar prodigy Cole Humphrey, are having fun and making a splash with their indie folk rock project Owen-Glass. In a highly saturated indie rock market, Owen-Glass stands out not only with its smart lyrics and tight harmonies, but also with its textured soundscapes and crazy multi-instrumental solos. Wild rock violin, big alto saxophone, ’70s-style keys and electric mandolin are held together with a master rhythm section comprising Conley, David Beck and Dees Stribling. The debut album The Rope & The Rabbit defies the conventions of genre and maintains an alarming degree of stylistic cohesiveness and high levels of broad-audience listenability.

Also based in Texas and influenced by the artistry of innovative female industry icons like Nina Simone, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga, Saint Spicer combines funk and soul with silky vocals and fiercely honest lyrics to convey the realities of life—however brutal they may be—with elegance, dignity, and sincerity.

Both being from Texas, check out what they talk to each other about in the interview below.

Owen-Glass: So where does the artist name “Saint” Spicer come from? Is there a story behind that?

Saint Spicer: That’s a great question. Saint is just a name I chose. I chose it for many reasons; it’s a relatively gender neutral name and I like the religious connotations, but most of all it’s pulled from some of Kanye West’s work. Kanye West was one of my musical inspiration when I was getting started in performance.

Saint Spicer: I really enjoy the cover art you have for your upcoming album. Can you speak a bit about the stylistic inspiration as well as some of the symbolism behind that?

Owen-Glass: Thank you, we’re very happy with it. My friend Tyler Orsak did an incredible job on the illustration. We wanted something hand painted so the folky DIY aspect of our music would shine through. The Rope & The Rabbit allegorizes the theme of our album, and the painting really adds another layer of mystery and intrigue I think our fans will be drawn to.


Owen-Glass: Tell us about your songwriting process—do you write lyrics to your music, or the other way around? More free-flowing? Structured?

Saint Spicer: My songwriting process depends on the collaborator! In general though, I write lyrics to the first verse, and then I work with the producer to flex the music, add elements, swap things out, etc. The goal is to let people’s best talents shine through while still honoring the song. Sometimes that means I need to step back, other times, I take a larger role, but I write all my songs from start to finish.

Saint Spicer: I may be a bit biased, but “Saint” is my favorite song so far off your upcoming album, The Rope & The Rabbit. Lyrically and content-wise, how would you say this song fits into the album as a whole?

Owen-Glass: Yeah I guess you would be biased! Saint is a real turning point in the record where the character accepts his uniqueness and resolves to push ahead regardless of the consequences. We took that idea and applied it to the arrangement as well, giving every lead instrument a solo spot to bring out the style and character of each instrumentalist. I think its one of the most important, and best-sounding songs on the record.

Owen-Glass: In your mind, what does it mean to “make it” in the music industry of today?

Saint Spicer: For me, I have very specific goals. I know I want to be a full-time artist. I set expectations of what that looks like for me, how much I need to be making each week, and what my activities would look like. So I personally have a very specific idea of what my success in the industry looks like. But for artists at large, I would say “making it” means having a career goal set and then working to reach it. “Making it” is a journey and each person must choose their destination.


Saint Spicer: What does “making it” in the music industry mean to you?

Owen-Glass: That’s definitely a term that has evolved with the industry. I mean, ultimately, profitability defines your level of success in any marketplace. For me, I would be extremely happy just to have a self-sustaining independent music business. Just have a group of dedicated fans who will spend money with us and help us finance the next record time after time. That’s the goal, really.

Owen-Glass: You’ve talked about having a broad taste in music growing up. Is there a particular song that connects you with a specific moment in your life?

Saint Spencer: Asido by Purity Ring is my most played song on Apple Music. I’ve played it hundreds of times, mostly because I simply leave it on Repeat when I need to veg out and let my emotions wish over me.


Saint Spicer: Most artists have a “favorite part” about being a musician. What is your favorite part?

Owen-Glass: Mine is definitely the collaboration aspect. Both in pre-production and in the studio. I love piecing together the shell of a song and then hearing the guys feel it out and make it special. I work with some seriously talented people, and they make the art what it is. It’s all about having fun with friends, creating something you’re proud of.  

Owen-Glass: If you could share the stage with any artist in the world, who would it be?

Saint Spicer: That’s a tough question, I’ve never thought about this before! I’d like to get back onstage with my friends, EagleBabel, MZZZA, and Eli Arbor. I miss performing together, and I can’t wait to collaborate more on upcoming projects.

Saint Spicer: If you could work with one artist alive today, who would it be?

Owen-Glass: Oh man, that’s tough! There are so many I’d love to work with… it’s a really tough choice between Thom Yorke, Glenn Kotche and Andrew Bird. Can you imagine those three together on the same record? You know what, I can’t choose. Gotta say all three.

Saint Spicer: What is one piece of advice you’d give anyone looking to start out in the music industry?

Owen-Glass: If you’re not passionate about your art, and you’re just looking to get famous, don’t bother. If you’re passionate, and you feel like you have no choice but to make a record, then do your homework, save your money

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Bands Interviewing Bands. Left photo: Owen Glass. photo credit: Lakeon Conley Right photo: Saint Spicer Photo credit: Matt Araquistain

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BANDS INTERVIEWING BANDS: The Inoculated Canaries + Host Bodies


Today we’re bringing together New York’s The Inoculated Canaries, an eclectic, boundary-defying foursome who never lack in sarcastic remarks with San Francisco creatives James and Nick of live electronic duo, Host Bodies. Check it out.

Host Bodies: What’s the one interview question that no one ever asks but you wish they would?

The Inoculated Canaries: If we could have people ask us any question, it would probably have to be “who is your least favorite member of the band?”  Why? The answer’s simple, we all have the same answer. All of us – including James – would immediately respond with James!

The Inoculated Canaries: How did you meet and decide to form the band?

Host Bodies: (James:) There was this kid with a mohawk in the hall in middle school. I didn’t like the looks of him or maybe I was just intimidated by the mohawk. Next thing I know he’s playing Zeppelin in my garage. A decade passes and he starts ripping guitar solos over the trip-hop beats I was making. Then he shows up in San Francisco and keeps playing shows with me. Weird, huh?

(Nick:)  When I was 13 there was this punk with a drum kit who kept saying “Let’s jam! Let’s jam! The neighbor girls will come over!” He later cornered me in college and said “You’ve never smoked weed? Dude I’m getting you high.” When I moved to San Francisco and he had the room upstairs, I was like, ugh, this guy again. Luckily he still lets me plug in and press record.

HOST BODIES: Describe your music in a word cloud (no complete sentences please).

The Inoculated Canaries:

The Inoculated Canaries: How did you get your nickname “swoop”?

Host Bodies: (James): Owls. Something about the idea of owls swooping through darkness, silent and wise and precise. That’s the serious answer. The other answer is, in high school, I got my driver’s license early and started picking up my friends. “Yo, come swoop me.”

Host Bodies: Who do you want to listen to your music?

The Inoculated Canaries: Our music sounds nostalgic to people who want to listen to rock n roll played by real instruments. In truth I want to say that we want people who love music to listen to our songs. I think our lyrics, melodies and moods have something for everyone.

HOST BODIES: Where would you play your next show if you could play anywhere?

The Inoculated Canaries: It’s a toss-up between Lollapalooza and MSG in New York – we can’t decide, and the staring contest didn’t help.

The Inoculated Canaries: If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Host Bodies: (James:) Toss up between the gorgeous ambient record by Riceboy Sleeps or Rage Against The Machine’s eponymous album.

(Nick): Stadium Arcadium by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Or Black Sands by Bonobo.

Host Bodies: How does your band make decisions as a group?

The Inoculated Canaries: Very easily – staring contests and/or brute force.

The Inoculated Canaries: What’s the craziest gig you’ve played?

Host Bodies: James: We played an underground speakeasy in San Francisco once. They gave us a huge comp tab and by the time we were performing, we were completely sauced. The basement space was really tight. The crowd was inches from our mixer. I was having a blast, completely in my own world. I played drums on the wrong song, then mixed up my rap verses. (laughs) Nick was in the zone too. He played bass on the guitar tracks and guitar on the bass tracks. We met a lot of new fans that night.

Host Bodies: What’s the biggest challenge facing your band?

The Inoculated Canaries: We’re in a constant battle between writing music commercial enough to attract new fans, without totally selling out and losing the sounds that make us who we are.

The Inoculated Canaries: What’s one piece of advice you received that you didn’t follow?

Host Bodies: (Nick): Buying expensive amps and guitar pedals when you’re just starting and learning. I’m glad I honed my craft for many years before investing in gear. Practice, technique, and finding your style should always come before equipment.

(James): Learn to read sheet music. Practice more rudiments. Go to music school. Write happier songs. Spend more time on social media. Focus on one genre.

Host Bodies: When do you have the most fun playing together?

The Inoculated Canaries: Our favorite place to play is our rehearsals.  There is no thrill like playing on stage for a live audience, but in rehearsal, we can get creative, fun and dumb – not necessarily everything we can do in a live show.  We can dive in to new ideas (even if they’re totally insane).

Host Bodies: If The Inoculated Canaries existed in a fictional world, would it be fantasy or sci-fi? Why?

The Inoculated Canaries:

We would without a doubt be Sci-Fi!  We are all such gear heads, always playing with new toys to get the best and weirdest sounds possible.

From the creative collaboration of MC/producer James Collector (aka Swoop) and multi-instrumentalist Nick Hess comes the live electronic duo Host Bodies.

The San Francisco-based creatives go beyond telling stories. They are sonic painters who design vividly colorful scenes with their riveting masterful use of live instruments, electronic elements, and field recordings that capture the familiar sounds of nature and bustling cities. Syncopated polyrhythms, gritty blues riffs, and underground hip-hop psychedelia find the perfect complement in narrative song structure, allowing Host Bodies’ melodies to hop off the symbolic canvas and into the hearts of listeners.

Beginning their creative journey together in 2006, the duo has brought their vibrant energy to stages ever since, and, in 2019, they released their latest EP, Diamondfruit, a dreamy electronic EP that finds calm and clarity amid hectic times.

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Eclectic, boundary-defying, and never lacking in sarcastic remarks, The Inoculated Canaries are a rock and roll force to be reckoned with. Hailing from New York, the “four guys who can’t dance” are striving to leave their musical legacy; inspired by artists such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Nirvana, The Inoculated Canaries are constantly pushing themselves to explore new, innovative sounds while making their presence known. The unforgettable quartet is composed of Michael Rubin (guitar, vocals), James Terranova (drums), Dylan Gross (bass), and Brian Sweeney (keyboard).

The rockers are immensely passionate about the music they share and the experience they create for fans. The band had the opportunity to open for The Mowglis in 2017 , COIN in 2019 and played ‘Cult of Personality’ live with Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbish of Living Colour.   They released their single “Who Are You” in February 2019, and will release a slew of new content throughout the year.


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Bands Interviewing Bands: The Inoculated Canaries (top) photo credit: Iris View Photography. Host Bodies (bottom) photo credit: Mark Sandhoff

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Bands Interviewing Bands: Sam Hale & Rändi Fay


Today we bring together Nashville psych-rock artist Sam Hale and Wisconsin singer-songwriter Rändi Fay for our latest Bands Interviewing Bands.

After years of sharing his music in Los Angeles, Sam Hale decided to continue his journey in Nashville where he’s just released his latest EP, Somewhere Between Love and War. The new EP holds nothing back, as Hale gives listeners a deep glimpse into his personal struggles. “In the past year, I have made a lot of sacrifices and shifted my energy quite a bit and this EP shows my process through it all,” he explains. “I told myself, I could either be the safe version of myself, or the boldest. I chose the latter.”

Rändi Fay has been nominated for Jazz Artist of the Year for Wisconsin 4 years in a row (2015-2018) by the Wisconsin Area Music Industry, and while she’s currently working on a new album, she’s just released a brand new video titled “Supernatural.” Her music is ethereal and intimate, and she works to reach her listeners through her hashtag #connectingworlds.

Rändi Fay:  I love that we both have recently released songs entitled “Supernatural,” and in both cases, have applied that term to a woman (in mine to both a woman and a man). It is a really cool and respectful way to view the power that we have to uplift each other. I am curious if the title came first, or if it was a result of your creating the lyric of the magnificent story of your mother’s strength and courage?

Sam Hale: That’s a great question. I started writing “Supernatural” when I was reminiscing with my mom about the past. She shared a few stories with me, and I began asking her about a more detailed account of how we came to the states. After writing a few songs about my childhood, the idea of writing a song about my mom and her relentless pursuit to get us here began to surface. The title “Supernatural” came a little later as I started writing over the guitar melody in the verse.

RF: Is your mom still with us, and how does she like the song? (It would make me cry!!)

SH: She’s doing well! She loved the song and I believe it did make her cry. Oops! At least it was a good cry 🙂

SH: Your song, “Supernatural” is more centralized on the idea of a powerful, kinetic connection equally shared by both partners. Did you write the lyrics based on your own personal experience?

RF:  I would say not as specifically autobiographical as yours. But when I really think about it, maybe. The lyric has subtexts that are based on many different experiences of my own. For instance, I am a “soft/strong feminist” and wanted the protagonist to be the same- willing to be vulnerable, but also not allowing herself to be a victim in any way. I have had a few of those #metoo experiences -I am sorry to say that growing up in the 70’s and in the 80’s venturing into a then-male dominated profession, I was clearly not alone! I will never allow that to happen again. I wanted to model that in this song. You don’t need to be a victim to have true love. The vulnerability represented in the song comes from trust, not fear. Finding the right partner who appreciates you for your strength rather than being threatened by it can be “supernatural” in itself, as is moving beyond the memories of the past!

RF: I can see you have a very sincere heart, and are very socially conscious. Can you share with me three of your top causes?

SH: Thank you! I am quite passionate about immigration and human rights. I have put together a couple benefit concerts and plan to explore that more in the future. I feel like music isn’t enough these days. We have to give back any way we can, and music is a great platform from which one can do great things.

SH: I can tell you are very much inspired by nature through your photographs. Where is the most inspiring, surreal location you’ve been able to write music, poetry, etc?

Oh yes indeed! That location would be in the San Juan mountains (Southwestern Colorado) around the Telluride area. The magic and majesty of the mountain vistas, and the exhilaration of the physical challenges totally loosens up my creative process. I also love the Door County area of Wisconsin. I have had inspiration while on runs, while mowing my lawn, while looking out my window into the forest. You are absolutely right that nature plays a huge role in my music!

RF: Do you remember life in Iran? Have you gone back at all to visit?

SH: I have distinct memories, but I left when I was seven so I don’t remember a lot. I haven’t gone back, but I want to at some point. Part of me is afraid to go back, because I don’t want to get stuck even though I am a US Citizen.

RF: You have an amazing facility with English as expressed in your lyrics. Have you always spoken English, or did you learn it as a second language later in life?  I have found that my friends who speak English as a second language have some of the most unusually beautiful ways of saying things-  almost bridging the two languages.

SH: I learned English when I was seven and I picked it up pretty quick. Growing up my parents would speak Farsi to my sister and I, but over time my English has taken over. I still speak some Farsi with my parents, but I don’t practice enough so I’ve become a bit rusty at it.

RF: How has your transition to Nashville gone? It’s a different city from LA!

SH: Nashville is great. I have been fortunate enough to meet some great people. It’s definitely a different city than LA in so many ways. I feel like if you take Fresno, where I grew up, and put it in a blender with Los Angeles then you get Nashville. It’s simple and less crowded here, but we still have a city vibe.

RF: Do you do all of your own writing, arranging and production, or do you have a collaborator/producer?

SH: I usually produce my own music, but on this last EP I did work with a producer who helped with arrangements and production. I generally write the songs at home, and then develop them in Logic. Once I get a rough vision of how I want the song to sound, I take it into the studio and we develop it and add session players.

SH: What is your general process for writing? Do you start with lyrics first or the music?

RF: I sometimes start with a pretty strong concept of what I want to write about, but sometimes the inspiration is completely random. Whatever the source, in general my songs begin with a pretty full formed hook- usually a really melodic lyrical phrase with the rudiments of groove. The lyric content and more fully formed groove pretty quickly evolve. There is no doubt that my melodies develop secondary to the lyric. And I have found that I sometimes have very trite melodies stuck in my head. That is when I call on a co-writer to shake things up and come up with something completely different. I really love the collaborative process for just this reason!

SH: What inspired the contemporary dance choreography in your music video for Supernatural?

RF: The dancer, Azure Hall, basically did her own improvisational dance inspired by the track. Isn’t she fantastic?  The producer, Jocelyne Berumen, had the idea for a dancer to be a physical manifestation of the seductive vibe in my head, and she found the perfect woman to fill the role.

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Bands Interviewing Bands: Sam Hale (left) photo credit: Kirsten Balani. Rändi Fay (right) photo credit CyclopsGirl 

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Catch Sam Hale on tour with Jon Pattie this Fall. 

The Importance of Mental Health in 2018


Talking about mental health issues is not easy. It’s difficult to understand for people who are lucky to have never dealt with it, it’s equally hard for those who are affected. It’s very personal, and it makes both parties very uncomfortable to have an open dialog like that. No one likes “uncomfortable”. Let’s look at the way our society has been traditionally communicating for ages. Say, you casually meet up with a friend. What’s the first thing you say? “Hey, what’s up? How’ve you been?” – something along those lines, right? How often do you hear: “Hey man, I’ve been really struggling lately, it seems like nothing makes sense, I’m kind of lost, I don’t know what to do, I need to talk to someone”. I bet you’ve just raised your eyebrows, like, “Well, why the hell would they say something like that?”. It’s because we are EXPECTED to just brainlessly spit out “Fine, and you?”. We are expected to be fine. We’re told it’s not “normal” not to be. It builds up from a young age, when some children will refer to others as “crazy” or “weird”, when they just don’t feel good emotionally, and these terms are used even throughout adulthood as well. So we’re just embarrassed to talk about it, or even frightened, just like gays were once embarrassed to speak about their sexual preferences, and women were once not allowed to vote or to have a job. Our perception of this problem is archaic. And we pay the price.

Suicides have become a #10 cause of death in the United States (Health United States, 2016 Table 19). 18.1% of Americans ages 18 and older experience a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year (SAMHSA 2014: Behavioral Health Trends in the United States, p.28). We’re talking about depression, post-traumatic stress, panic attacks, anxiety, etc. And think about it, those are only people who actually got diagnosed, which means they went to the doctor or asked for help. But, unfortunately, most of the time it doesn’t happen. There are many reasons behind that, but the most important one is the lack of knowledge about this matter. People who deal with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, they often don’t realize something is wrong with them, for them this state of mind is their norm. Or when it reaches a critical point, they don’t realize that it could be treated, and get stuck in fear, that pushes them to end their lives. On the other hand, people who surround those affected, need to be aware of the symptoms and possible signs of decreasing mental health. They need to be there to offer a solution in time or call for help. It’s especially important when we talk about vulnerable, sensitive groups of people. Like people of arts, for example. In the modern world art became very underappreciated and undervalued. People take everything for granted: music, movies, photography, fine art… everything is available at the click of a button. And artists have a very strong emotional connection with their art, so when some people crushing those waves of pointless criticism and hate speeches, usually hiding behind the screen, it’s irritating, and it hurts. Since 2011, more people died of suicide in the United States than in motor vehicle crashes! The numbers are telling us to seriously educate ourselves to treat people with respect, to recognize the signs of emotional suffering in ourselves and in others, and to change the culture of mental health for better. We work hard to make our cars safer, right?! So why not making our society a safer place? Starting with ourselves.

(Written by Andrey Borzykin of Major Moment)

Combining captivating original sounds of alternative rock with their international roots, Major Moment knows how to create new worlds within their music. Inspired by acts like Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails, 30 Seconds To Mars and more, the band is on a mission to inspire others, encourage them to follow their dreams, and learn to appreciate life. 

This September, Major Moment brings you One Small StEP, a record of various strong topics, including relationship, perspective, and loss. What makes the record even more special, is its dedication to Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, one of the band’s biggest inspirations. One Small StEP features a #makechesterproud tagline.

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Photo credit: Kevin Donnelly.

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Influential Inspirations: Time, Environment and Nostalgia


All art comes from somewhere. For me, it’s from the sounds, sights and cultures that surround me. I first started to really notice the surrounding music world when I was around 12 years old. I was entering seventh grade, and it was the beginning of Bar/Bat Mitzvah season in my town. Almost every weekend, someone I knew was having one. Naturally, each party would have a hired band or D.J. Most of my schoolmates had similar tastes in music: basically whatever was popular at the time. Then, the biggest artists were Rihanna, Nelly Furtado, Timbaland, Gwen Stefani and Justin Timberlake. Their songs would be played at each party on heavy rotation.

At that time, however, I was not into pop music. I cared more for music made way before my time. I would choose to listen to what we would now classify as “Dad-rock” bands. My radio station of choice in adolescence was Q104.3, the classic rock station in New York City. Whenever I’d be riding in the car, that station would be on. There were too many bands and songs to keep track of, but the bands that stood out to me were ones that weren’t afraid to experiment and take musical risks; to be driven by both guitars and synths; to write about unconventional topics. Think classic groups and artists like Led Zeppelin, The Who, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Elton John, and more eclectic new-wavy progressive acts like The Police, Rush, Talking Heads, Phil Collins and Dire Straits. My favorite band then, and still to this day, is Queen, mostly because of their tendency to branch out into many different styles, while remaining easily identifiable.

What inspires me the most are bands and artists that are unapologetic about making a musical statement, and not sounding like anyone else. I’m influenced by bands that don’t just write about relationships or heartbreak (not that there’s anything wrong with that), unless those relationships are about us and the world we live in. I have a deep fascination with the concept of passing time. This is reflected in my latest music video for my song “Wasted Time,” the final single off my debut album, Signals Internalized.


In my middle school years, my other classmates found me weird for not sharing their love for Soulja Boy and T-Pain, and instead favor the music of my parents’ generation. In college, however, I found a deeper appreciation for their musical tastes. From time to time, I would frequently daydream and reflect on the days before I entered my young adult years, and I would start to reminisce about the popular music that would play when I was a teenager. That’s when nostalgia took over. How on earth was I not into these songs at the time? They weren’t played at these parties for no reason. They’re bangers! As soon as I start hearing the opening beat to Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” I can’t help but instantly get in a good mood. Sometimes you may not realize the value of something until it has passed. My love for older pop and rock music certainly hasn’t diminished either. It has expanded my tastes.

Now, I’d like to present two playlists. The first playlist consists of my favorite songs in the realms of classic rock, progressive rock and new wave that have inspired and shaped the original music I make today. The second playlist features my favorite pop songs that have grown on me over the years, and I have now have a deeper appreciation for, mainly due to the nostalgia factor of living life pre-adulthood. Enjoy!

RockyProggyWavy Inspiration:


Nostalgic Pop Jams:

Written by Andrew Feyer.

Andrew Feyer, known by most as just Feyer, is a singer, songwriter, composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist with diverse musical experience spanning many genres and styles. Feyer constructs his unique sound by combining personal yet theatrical lyrics with a classically influenced melodic and instrumental style, coupled with electronic-rock production. 

Feyer’s debut full-length album, ‘Signals Internalized’, released in 2017, is now out on all download and streaming platforms.

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(Photo credit: Melissa Anderson)

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Bands Interviewing Bands: Forts Like Vana and Major Moment


For this installment of Bands Interviewing Bands we’ve brought together Nashville’s Forts Like Vana (RIYL: The 1975, Jon Bellion ) and Boston’s Major Moment (RIYL: 30 Seconds To Mars, Linkin Park, and Muse).

When a brand new band’s debut song amasses over 35,000 Spotify streams in under four months, you know something special is happening. Such is the case with Nashville pop/rock starlets Forts Like Vana. New to the scene, they’re already making serious waves locally and beyond with their infectiously catchy new EP, This + This = That, and its explosive first single “Love You Right”.

On the East Coast, Major Moment is making waves of their own as they gear up to release their September 7th release, One Small stEP,  a record of various strong topics, including relationship, perspective, and loss. With acclaimed producer Kevin Billingslea and six-time Grammy Winner Adam Ayan on board, the band considers the record to be their greatest accomplishment yet. What makes the record even more special, is its dedication to Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, one of the band’s biggest inspirations. One Small StEP features a #makechesterproud tagline, and it shows that Major Moment is the genuine and caring group of people that they hope to be remembered as.

Check out the bands interviewing one another below.

Forts Like Vana: How did you guys come together?

Sasha: It was a process… many people didn’t survive, some joined unexpectedly, it was a fun ride. We actually go over those personal “little steps” that got us together in our upcoming EP, so you’re in for something really special!

Major Moment: What’s the inspiration behind your This + This = That EP’s artwork and title?

FLV: The title was something that just randomly came out of one of our mouths one day. I don’t think there’s really any story behind it. Seems like everyone justifies their band names or album names with some deep underlying message. We just thought it sounded fitting!

The artwork was inspired by the sound. The concept came up one day and we all started running with it. We took the idea to one of our favorite artists and she absolutely crushed it.

Forts Like Vana: Your easiest song to write/record?

Andrey (MM): “What It’s Like”.

Adam: For sure. “Before It’s Too Late” came together very quickly as well. It was a total joy putting those two together.

Andrey: … says a man who DIDN’T have to spend 3.5 hours in the vocal booth trying to mimic an American accent.

Sasha & Gabriel: “Before It’s Too Late”.


Major Moment: Do you write songs more from spontaneous emotions or from theory standpoint?

Logan (FLV): We always write when the moment hits us. Sometimes that means an entire song pops out of our heads and other times we might just get a riff or a melody idea and we run with it. But if it feels like we are forcing something that isn’t naturally happening then we walk away from it until it comes back. If it’s meant to be then it’s meant to be you know?

Forts Like Vana: What has been your favorite city and/or venue to play in so far? 

Andrey (MM): We have a limited touring history thus far, but it doesn’t mean it’s not interesting! We are playing in Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge, MA on July 6th. It’s been one of my favorite venues to see gigs at. So many great memories. So we’re definitely looking forward to playing this show.

Also worth mentioning that there was a gig in Moscow, in the studio of one of the biggest and oldest newspapers in Russia «Вечерняя Москва» (“Nighttime Moscow”), that was filmed and broadcasted live. Unfortunately it was offered on such short notice that due to visa restrictions, only I was able to go and perform, with the help of session musicians. However, it was such a surreal and interesting experience, that it will definitely make the cut as one of the most memorable gigs.

Major Moment: What is your dream gig / venue?

FLV (Logan): Madison Square Garden is such an iconic venue. I’ve wanted to play there since I was like 8.

Diego: Times Square on New Year’s Eve would be insane.

Forts Like Vana: Do you have a “band favorite” song to play live? 

Major Moment: “What It’s Like”!

Major Moment: You recently released a music video for “Love You Right”. Tell us more about that right way of loving someone, your ultimate definition of love.

FLV (Logan): If you follow exactly what we say in the song then you will be able to love someone the FLV way. But at the end of the day it’s your life and you need to love someone right the way you think is right.


You can only bring 1 backpack on tour. What do you pack in it?

MM (Sasha): I guess I have to answer this question, since I’m the one to pack all the stuff every time we go somewhere. And we are yet to pack for our first tour, so it’s not an easy question. Wait, 1 backpack?! I hope we’re going to Cali or something, because otherwise we’re screwed! Okay, laptop, some clothes, sunglasses, my cosmetic bag (it’s not big), headphones… that’s it. We don’t have any mascots (maybe yet?). And we don’t need much to have a blast!

Major Moment: Name the albums you’d take with you on a desert island.

FLV (Diego): Good News For People Who Love Bad News (Modest Mouse) and Easy Skanking in Boston ‘78 (Bob Marley & The Wailers).

Logan: Definitely have to go with Appetite for Destruction (Guns N’ Roses), Songs About Jane (Maroon 5), Take This to Your Grave (Fall Out Boy), and A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (Panic! At the Disco).

Nito: Hybrid Theory (Linkin Park), Candy Shop, and Starboy (The Weeknd).

Derek: Let It Bleed (The Rolling Stones), Toys in the Attic (Aerosmith), War & Leisure (Miguel), and Dark Sky Paradise (Big Sean).

Forts Like Vana: When and where can we find Major Moment’s music? 

Major Moment: We’re getting ready to unleash our music to the world…. soon. Our debut EP will be publicly available on 09/07/18, and there will be two singles and a very special song released prior to that. Please follow us on social media to hear about all the exciting news!

Major Moment: Do you have songs written for your next release already, or when do you think will be a good time to write them?

FLV (Logan): Oh yes! We have a ton of new tunes that we’re excited about and we are going to play some of them on our July tour to see how they go. We’re really pumped about that!

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Bands Interviewing Bands: Forts Like Vana (top) photo credit:Daniela Dominguez. Major Moment (bottom) photo credit: Kevin Donnelly.

Bands Interviewing Bands: Amanda Rose Riley & Lyra Star


Amanda Riley has a special way of cutting through the noise of everyday life with her music. Guided by a career-defining persistence, determination, and an appetite for making her dreams her reality, the New Jersey-born-and-bred artist has spent the last few years showing the world what she has to offer, creating eclectic acoustic songs and playing numerous shows throughout NJ and NYC. Comforting, calming, and, at times, even cathartic, her upcoming album release, Secrets I Told To A Soundhole, is an insightful collection that draws on the experiences she has lived on her musical journey so far, a journey that has taken her on the seas two years in a row aboard the Flogging Molly Cruise, to the stage at Asbury Park’s famed Stone Pony, and that has allowed her to perform with one of her biggest artistic inspirations, Frank Turner.

We introduced Amanda to Lesley Greer, AKA Lyra Star, an independent yoga-loving dreamer, currently based in San Francisco. As a solo artist, Lyra’s imagination and creativity truly shine through her work while her pure, ethereal vocals and profound lyrics reveal a highly aware, genuinely creative soul that never lets go of the importance of following her dreams. One of those dreams is coming to fruition this March, as she releases her debut album, aptly titled A Thousand Dreams. 

The two artists got to know each other through our latest Bands Interviewing Bands. Check it out below.

Amanda Rose Riley: We are both releasing our debut studio albums after writing and performing for about four years. Mine is very much about my journey up to this point. How would you describe the path you’ve taken to get where you are and what the experience has been like for you?

Lyra Star: About four years ago, when I was living in Santa Rosa, I woke up one day and just realized I wanted to start songwriting and composing music again.  I had dabbled in it when I was in high school and college, but it had been kind of absent from my life for a little while.  My friend told me to go play at an open mic, and I was terrified.  I vividly remember that first open mic and how nervous I was.  Something inside of me told me I needed to keep doing this.  I continued to play and eventually book gigs, but it was always a side thing.  My main job has been working in education at Montessori schools, but I have slowly realized over the past few years that music is my true passion.  It makes me so happy to play and write and be creative, and this album is the result of me finally feeling ready to put myself out there in the world as an artist.  I still get nervous when I play, but there is also something exhilarating and wonderful about being onstage.

Lyra Star: Do you consider promoting your songs and playing music to be your main job or do you have another job or jobs that you do?  I am getting ready to quit my main job in order to pursue my songwriting, and it is scary because I’m not sure how I’m going to make money if this is my main focus.  What has been your experience with this aspect of the music industry? 

Amanda Rose Riley: I try to think of it as my main job as a mental hack! I stopped working full-time about a year ago, and luckily I have supportive family that I get along with helping to keep a roof over my head. I currently still make the majority of money off my part-time non-music admin work, though I do seem to spend much more time on music. I try to take it one step at a time, at least laying the groundwork for as many different musical income streams as I can and keeping the faith. You never know if it will work out, but the more positive I am, the better I will be at making music and building essential relationships!

Lyra Star: I can definitely hear the influence of punk rock in your songs. I’m curious as to what made you choose to have a gentler sound by using the acoustic guitar rather than electric?  Do you usually perform with an acoustic guitar or do you sometimes use an electric guitar?  Have you ever dabbled in playing other instruments?

Amanda Rose Riley: I always preferred electric guitar when I was a teenager, I wrote punk songs (though I didn’t perform publicly at the time), and my dream was to front a punk band. I still love punk music, but at a certain point I just fell in love with acoustic guitar music and that’s what I’ve been interested in playing ever since. I see the acoustic guitar as a much more interesting and versatile instrument in many ways. I do enjoy playing piano/keyboard from time to time to get out of a creative rut, but I’ve never had enough motivation to master it!

Amanda Rose Riley: In listening to your new song, “Devils Game,” I can hear a wide variety of musical influences. What do you consider to be your main ones? And do you have any big non-musical influences, such as visual artists, literary writers, etc.?

Lyra Star: Tori Amos really inspired me to start playing the piano again, and her album, Little Earthquakes, was pretty life changing for me as far as music goes.  I listened to it over and over and over when I was in 8th grade.  In high school, I really started to listen to a wide variety of music, and I have favorite artists across all genres.  Radiohead is definitely one of my favorite bands because I think what they do with music is amazing… each album is so unique, and they have really pushed the boundaries with their more recent work.  I also listened to a lot of jazz when I was in college, and I really love singers like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.  I could go on and on about all of the different music I listen to, and I’m so grateful for the variety of music that I exposed myself to before I started creating my own.  As far as visual artists, I always liked the whimsy and magic of Marc Chagall’s paintings, the haunting, ethereal photography of Sally Mann, and the nature art of Andy Goldsworthy.  For literary work, I always loved the poetry of Mary Oliver, and my favorite book is The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.   

Lyra Star: What are some of your main musical influences?  Are there certain albums or artists that inspired you to start creating your own music? 

Amanda Rose Riley: Well, everyone who knows me knows that my primary influence is Frank Turner, of course – I do have an impulse tattoo that says, “WWFTD?” after all. Frank is on a British label called Xtra Mile Recordings, and they release more than their share of music that inspires and influences me. I have eclectic influences though, from punk – The Bouncing Souls have probably had the biggest impact on me in that genre – to some nostalgic ’90s pop and country (I grew up listening to a lot of country), to contemporary folk and indie music that I like to explore when I have the time. In general, live music is a big inspiration for me, whether it’s one of my favorites or a local artist I’m hearing of for the first time. One of my biggest inspirations in the world is seeing a talented artist absolutely rock a show when only a handful of people are watching.

Lyra Star: Your website looks very professional.  Did you create it yourself or did you hire someone to help with website design?  How important do you think it is to have a really nice looking website for marketing yourself and your music?

Amanda Rose Riley: Even though people probably spend more time with artists’ social media posts than with their websites now, it’s still really important to have your own space online that looks and behaves exactly how you want. No ads, no competing messages trying to steal the visitor’s attention away. For me, it’s a great place to blog about my news, let people easily access music and videos, see where and when I’m performing, and buy music and merchandise. It is actually a website I recently made myself using a hosted, I like that, being on a budget, because you can play around with so many free themes and plug-ins to get nearly limitless customization with a relatively small amount of effort, and the only cost is the web hosting.

Amanda Rose Riley: Following your dreams and never giving up is a big theme of your album – it’s even in the title, A Thousand Dreams – and indeed, it’s a big theme of mine, too. What would you say to someone who is starting to lose hope in their dream after years of struggle and obstacles?

Lyra Star: I would say keep going and breathe…it can be hard, especially when pursuing creative endeavors, but life is short, and following your passion is so important.  Life will throw obstacles at you no matter what you are doing, but I think it’s so important to do what makes you truly happy.

Follow Amanda Rose Riley 

For fans of: Allison Weiss, Michelle Branch, Frank Turner

Official Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram I YouTube

Follow Lyra Star:

For fans of : Imogen Heap, Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell

Website I Facebook I Instagram

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Bands Interviewing Bands: Amanda Rose Riley (left) photo credit: Shared Tokens Photography. Lyra Star (right) photo credit: Olivia Browning


Bands Interviewing Bands: Shadow of Whales & Vaeda Black


With a passion for creating music and spreading hope through friendships comes Austin five-piece, Shadow of Whales. They are all songwriters, they all love music, and more importantly, they all love people. The band made their debut appearance at the Austin Convention Center in front of thousands of people for DellWorld; this act brought them to appear on TV only weeks later on KTBC – FOX 7. Less than a year later, SoW released their debut self-titled EP and saw an explosion of support from their quickly growing fan base and the web. The debut EP charted on CMJ’s Top 200 and has seen regular rotation at Starbucks Coffee and Hollister stores across the United States and Canada.


We decided to pair up these experienced bandmates with emerging alt-pop artist, Vaeda Black, who has just released her debut single, “Face Down.” Just 16-years-old, this native New Yorker has a powerful stirring voice, reminiscent of early soul, with comparisons to Lorde and Lana Del Rey, with lyrics that are profound and poignant beyond her years. The best songs are a mirror image allowing the listeners to reveal themselves in the music. Her music accomplishes this and much more. Vaeda Black’s songwriting and delivery is the wizardry that conjures the soul.

Check out the interview below.

Shadow of Whales: I imagine being surrounded by thousands of talented and ambitious people in New York would be a surreal experience for any young musician. Do you think living in New York has done more to hinder or foster your creativity?

Vaeda Black: Though New York is so big, and can be even overwhelming at times, I feel like it’s inspired me musically. New York is filled with opportunities to get out there and share your art.

Vaeda Black: What is your writing process?

Shadow of Whales: Very collaborative. None of our songs are made by just one person. Even if someone has a major hand in a large portion of the song, every one of the band members usually has their take and revisions that may or may not get made. One of our favorite things we do every year is rent out a cabin on AirBnB (or find a friend with property) for a weekend where we go through all the demos and partially written songs that each of us has made and just start writing and collaborating together.

Shadow of Whales: What inspired you to make your music the way it is? And where do you see yourself going from here as a musician?

Vaeda Black: My music is something that has been, and always will be, a part of who I am. Music is a feeling and that’s what’s driven me to make my music honest and a reflection of myself. So I guess you could say the experiences I’ve had, the music I listen to, and everything in between has inspired my music. As a musician, I know I’m going to be constantly growing, and since I’ve begun writing, I’ve already seen growth in myself and growth in the passion behind everything I do. I just see my music evolving into something beautiful and relatable.

Vaeda Black: For each of you, what is your favorite song you’ve created?

Shadow of Whales:

Josh: “Forever” off of our first EP because of the rhythm line and verse progression. I was proud of our use of standard tuning for that song. [Laughs] Lyrically, my favorite song we’ve created would be “Pretenders.” Collaboratively, I’d pick “Runaway.”

Jeremy: Musically, “Roots” is the most fun for me to play as the bass player, but lyrically, “Runaway” for sure. It’s hard to not be affected by the emotions put in and expressed by that song.

JD: “Runaway.” I remember driving up to the rehearsal space two years ago and hearing the seeds of that song for the first time. I rushed in and knew it was something special. It’s one of those songs where the personal meaning continues to evolve and grow with the band as we grow.

Shadow of Whales: We’re told you have a background in Musical Theater. How do you feel this affects your performance on stage?

Vaeda Black: It’s definitely helped me with my stage presence and performance. It helps me get my message across more clearly. Through acting, I’m able to bring myself to the emotional place I was in when I was writing the song, which I can channel into the performance. Musical theater has taught me a lot about the ins and outs of putting on a show and how to connect with an audience. I’m not always conscious of it, but I think it has helped me in that way.

Vaeda Black: I listened to the song “Animals” and I really liked it. What was the inspiration for that song?

Shadow of Whales: That’s a tough one to explain. [Laughs] The concept I think is simple enough though and could help bridge the gap. Essentially, we are of the belief that everyone has a dream, or at least what one would consider the best version of themselves. The world and society often has a lot of rules and regulations that state how each person should be. While those rules fit for some people, others lie outside the box that they are forced to fit into.

Much in the same way that animals have a basic instinct and personality that is inside them regardless of their training, humans have dreams, aspirations and livelihoods that reside within them. These dreams and personalities can sometimes be suppressed by the box that society tries to fit everyone into. “Animals” is a call to action to be the animal that lives inside of them and no longer allow themselves to be chained to the wall of society.

In other words, follow your dreams and live your best life. It might not fit inside society’s box and that’s not always a bad thing. The inspiration came from talking to our fans every day and reading about their dreams and who they want to be but also how they felt they would never be able to do that; be it because other people in their lives told them they couldn’t or because they had more complicated issues beyond that holding them back. So short story long, our fans inspired that song.

Shadow of Whales: What’s your take on the recent news that iTunes Music Downloads might be going away in 2019? What’s your thoughts on a potential ‘stream-only’ world?

Vaeda Black: It’s making me sad. What ever happened to downloading music or burning a CD? It almost seems like a joke now. But in all seriousness, I think a streaming is great for the listener, but a con for the artist. It makes it harder for new artists to get their music noticed. I’ve always preferred buying music because I know that there’s someone out there working their butt off to make a career out of their passion and I want to support them! But of course, the stream-only world is inevitable so we have to roll with the punches.

Vaeda Black: What has been the most memorable moment between the band and why?

Shadow of Whales: Warped Tour, definitely. Growing up listening to all the bands on Warped Tour and then actually being able to play on the Ernie Ball stage in San Antonio a year or so ago was a dream come true. South by So What is close to that. Being told that our music is streaming inside Hollister is also definitely a big one for us.

Shadow of Whales: “Face Down” is ‘hands down’ an amazing track! Could you peel the layers and explain the meaning behind the line “I’ll call for your submission and you’ll pay the price with your face down”?

Vaeda Black: Everyone wants something they know they shouldn’t or can’t have, even if they’re struggling to admit it. The message I was trying to send with “Face Down” is that it’s okay to have deep dark desires because you’re simply not alone in them. So in that particular line, it’s almost like the line of acceptance. You may hang your head lowly not wanting to admit that you want this thing, but by submitting to your desires you’re freeing yourself. When I use the word “I,” I’m not  so much referring to Vaeda Black, but to the mind and inner thoughts of the listener. “Paying the price” may be different for everyone, but it’s about admitting the desires you have to yourself.

Follow Shadow of Whales:
Website | Facebook | Twitter Youtube | Instagram

Follow Vaeda Black
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud | Instagram

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Bands Interviewing Bands: Shadow of Whales (top) photo credit: Fox & Florals Media. Vaeda Black (bottom) photo credit: Tracey Spero