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BANDS INTERVIEWING BANDS: Audrey DuBois Harris & Lyia Meta


Singer-Songwriter and visual artist Lyia Meta, and vocalist Audrey DuBois Harris get together to discuss their influences, creative processes and overcoming obstacles. 

LM:  What a beautiful voice you have.  I’m absolutely blown away by your range!!! Your passion appears to be grounded in songs of faith and inclusion, especially your recent release LIFT EVERY VOICE.  

ADH: Thank you so very much Lyia! I am intentional about creating positive, uplifting, loving and spirit-filled music that speaks to all people. LIFT EVERY VOICE is a project that was created with that intention in mind. I wanted to offer a collection of songs of unity and hope for the future.

ADH:  What a rich and soulful voice you have! It has been a while since I’ve heard such a deep, beautiful, and smooth voice.  

LM:  I am humbled by your comments as I’ve always strived at improving my craft.

LM:  What would you say is the most difficult part of being a vocalist?  How do you keep your vocals well-tuned?  

ADH: As a vocalist, my main priority is to maintain the health and vitality of my voice. That means staying on top of my physical health, getting proper rest, staying well hydrated, limited use of my speaking voice when I’m not singing, and dedicating time for vocal warmups. 

ADH:  Growing up in Malaysia, who were your biggest musical influences?

LM:  My biggest musical influence was my father! He was a civil servant and the lead singer in a band.  It sounds crazy now but back in those days, most government departments used to have an in-house band and my dad would perform.  I was used to having musicians coming and going since I was knee-high!  As I grew older, we listened to what was popular on the radio, but my favourite was rock and blues.

LM:  We both have performed internationally and are always trying to increase that footprint.  How does it feel to have to re-introduce yourself to a new audience?  What has been your most rewarding, and most challenging, performance so far?

ADH: As a LIVE performer, I introduce myself all the time to new audiences. I also enjoy meeting new people and appreciate hearing how my music has moved and/or inspired them. One vivid memory is singing for President Obama in NYC. There was a hush in the room while I was singing, then the standing room only crowd erupted in cheers and applause. I don’t give much focus to challenges beyond trying to find a way to overcome them. 

ADH:  Your music stretches across several different genres.  How do you define your personal sound and style?

LM:  Like every singer, I’m in the moment and my favorite genre or style is whatever song I’m feeling.  I find that doing only one single genre can be very limiting, I’m grateful that a variety of songwriters and producers have approached me to collaborate.  I find that different genres help convey different emotions and nuances, but I always have to make each song my own.  

LM:  How did you manage during COVID?  With schedule changes, cancellations and constant uncertainty, how did you keep your body, mind and voice in shape?  

ADH: To me, the pandemic reaffirmed that we are all connected. What happens to one person on the other side of the world affects each one of us just the same. I, like so many others, had great career plans mapped out for 2020. Although it was a time of great uncertainty and grief for us all, I made a conscious effort to remain positive, creative, and productive. My full project LIFT EVERY VOICE and the first single from that project We Shall Overcome was both recorded and released during that time.

ADH:  What is your writing process like?  Where do you find your greatest inspiration for new song material?

LM:  My greatest inspiration comes from the world around me and how it affects me physically and emotionally—body and spirit.  Spontaneity and inspiration work hand-in-hand for all of my pieces.  The creativity road leads me to wonderfully strange outcomes and there’s a feeling of self-accomplishment once I’ve exorcised my demons!  When a personal calm sets in, the song (or piece of art) just feels complete.  

LM:  I saw that you grew up dreaming of becoming the new Mariah Carey but your mother and voice teacher rightfully exposed and steered you to classical music and opera. Do you have any desire to try other genres, either live or recording?

ADH: Actually, that is a misunderstanding. The short version of the story is that when I was a little girl, my mother overheard me singing. She was very surprised by my voice and said that she would find me a voice teacher. To my 8 or 9 year old understanding, I was going to instantly become an overnight Pop star!!  My mother encouraged and inspired me the most to move in the direction of opera. It became the foundation of my technique and preparation. My music now is definitely a fusion of differing genres.  I’ve always believed that what I bring to the table is uniquely special.

ADH:  During the pandemic and global shutdown, what were some of your favorite things to do to remain positive, productive and creative?  Do you look forward to returning back to the stage for LIVE performances?

LM:  I turned to my visual art to keep me sane.  During the pandemic I drew almost a hundred commissioned portraits, two children’s album covers; designed the cover of my Metal single, painted art-glass surfaces; and wrote a few more songs that are now being demoed.  I also participated in several online digital fundraisers,created my own home “studio” that I never needed before!  I opened my own kitchen and cooked and delivered lunch boxes, pastries and cakes.  In the course of this stopgap measure I was named a Eurasian Food Culture Heritage Food Ambassador by Eurasians International.  Staying occupied in every way possible helped keep my creative side well-oiled.  I am a live performer first.  The stage and engaging with an audience will always be my first love.

LM:  We’ve both strayed from our music comfort zones to try something new.  What will you draw on for inspiration next and how will that affect your song choices?  Where would you like to experiment in terms of musical “stretch” goals? 

ADH: I draw my inspiration from different sources: culture, art, film, fashion, conversation and life experiences. As an artist, I need to constantly stretch and evolve. In terms of “stretch goals”, I think the next step for me is creating a lot more visual content/music videos for my music. 

ADH:  In addition to being a singer/songwriter, you’re also a visual artist.  Do you consider your paintings and music as one continued form of expression?  Or do you view them as separate aspects and forms of your artistry?  Is your artwork available to the public for purchase?

LM:   I don’t think I will ever be able to not express myself through art.  It has become such an integral part of me.  What I cannot express through lyrics, I express with my brushes.  I dream in colour and I am always humming to new melodies and disjointed lyrics.  In addition to my own art, I am a full-time commissioned portraitist.

Audrey DuBois Harris

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

Lyia Meta

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Spotify / Twitter

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Photo credit: Audrey DuBois Harris (top) Will L. Lewis lV Photography. Lyia Meta (bottom) Khahin Meta

BANDS INTERVIEWING BANDS: Love District & Ricky Mendoza


Alex from the rock group Love District and singer-songwriter Ricky Mendoza got together to chat about musical influences, how the pandemic affected their music, and what is coming up next for them.  

Ricky: I really love your music! I love the way the bass protrudes and how the synths vibe out a feeling of the music that I used to listen to when I first fell in love with music. And y’all do all this with a sound that feels new, yet retaining a retro spirit. 

Love District: Thank you so much for the kind words!  We’ve been working hard through the years and we’re glad that our vision is coming across as intended.  We wanted our sound to have a nostalgic feel, but also refreshing and unique at the same time. 


Love District: Tell us about your new single, “I Just Died.”  I really enjoy the rawness of your vocals and the instruments.  

Ricky: Thank you so much for the kind words. It is part of the new album called “The New Hurt” and it’s about a new love in my life. Here I was, inspired by love but the twist is that whenever there is a new love, there’s also a new source of pain.  If anything happens to them it’s gonna hurt like hell. 

Ricky: I’m really curious about the process of an artist/band and how the music actually gets made, so what comes first, the lyrics or the music? And how do the songs come together?

LD: It really depends on each song.  We’ve written songs inspired by a melody, chord progression, a riff, or a phrase/idea. We usually start with a chord progression or a guitar/bass riff that the rest of the instruments would follow and build along to.

LD: Are there any current artists or bands that have recently influenced your music for this new phase of your career?

Ricky: Neutral Milk Hotel and Against Me! have been my north star for a while now. I love how NMH makes their folk songs sound other-worldly and magical, while Laura Jane Grace and Against Me bring brutally honest lyrics and an in-your-face punk rock; it’s inspiring. 

Ricky: Can you walk me through the creation of “Feels Like Home”? Specifically, how it came together. 

LD: Chris came up with the progression and the melody and brought it to the band.  We jammed together for a while and worked out the format and different parts of the song before going into the studio to record.  In the studio during the pandemic we were really able to take our time and dive deep into the song and really get the sound we wanted.

LD: As this will be your third album release, how do you continue to evolve your sound and progress from your old releases?  Is there a concept to your album or do you view it as a collection of songs?

Ricky: All three albums are about phases in my life. The first one was about hitting my rock bottom and what it felt to be there. The second one is all about getting my shit together and trying to really discover myself and that is aptly named “No One Has Their Shit Together – especially Ricky Mendoza”. And shortly after the album came out, I fell in love and I felt like I was in complete control of my life. I spent five years living and making what is now, “The New Hurt”. 

Ricky:Is there a principal songwriter? Do several handle songwriting duties? And do y’all modify the lyrics to fit the music after the lyrics are written?

LD:  Chris and myself are the main songwriters in the band.  Either he or I will bring an idea or demo to the table and then we would work out the ideas together.  We would get the rough draft of the song and then bring it to the band.  In the studio, the songs naturally evolve.  The rule that I follow is the “best idea wins” and “is it making the song better?” 

LD: How has this past year during the pandemic and quarantine affected your ideas on music and being a musician?  

Ricky: In terms of being a musician it was great to have time to actually sit and record at my home studio. I’ve recorded all my albums by myself but this one was particularly challenging because I wanted to go deeper as a musician and add different instruments that I had never played (accordions, theremins, trumpets, etc). 

Ricky: As with any relationship, it gets tough to decide on certain artistic elements, career choices, lunch, etc. How do y’all make it happen as a band of four? 

LD: That is something that we all are continually trying to get better at hahaha.   We have been a band for a while now, and have developed a musical trust with each other that can only develop from experiences and failures.  We are at a point where we can have honest and open communication as a team. 

LD: With live shows being taken away, how were you able to adapt and still move forward as a musician?

Ricky:Live shows are a small part of my musicianship, so not having them wasn’t that huge of a blow. However, I really needed to take the time to record the new album.

Ricky: What habits do y’all attribute to your progress/success as artists?

LD: Keeping an open mind when it comes to creating a product as a band.  We all are seasoned vets when it comes to playing music and have opinions or ideas that may differ from one another.  It is important to listen and try new things or ideas and evolve.   

LD: Talk to us about your band.  Have you been playing with the same musicians for a while or do you like to switch things up?  

Ricky: For the recording of my album, I did not have a band. Since this was a very personal project, I decided to record all the instruments myself. However, for live shows, we do have a band together and we’re all based in Austin.

Ricky: I see that y’all teach young children about music and its importance and I’m very curious to hear about your perspective on why music is important to our world?

LD: Music has played such an important role in all our lives and we have learned so many life lessons throughout our musical careers.  We feel it is important to pay it forward when it comes to the next generation of musicians.  We want to show our students that we are playing in bands and making music for the right reasons.  There is no better feeling when we see our students start their own bands and create their own music.  

LD: Are there any activities or hobbies not music-related that inspires you?  Any other sources of creativity that could influence your music?

Ricky: Absolutely! I’m a total nerd when it comes to the science of storytelling, of how we all are connected by stories and the best possible ways to tell stories. Most of my songs are story driven, I want people to see themselves in the songs and relate at a deep level to them. After all, it’s about our human journey and how we fit in this weird, beautiful thing we call life. 


Love District

Website / Instagram / Facebook / Spotify / YouTube / SoundCloud / Twitter

Ricky Mendoza

Website / Instagram / Facebook / Spotify / YouTube

Photo credit: Ricky Mendoza (top) credit Laura Zamorano. Love District (bottom) Mad Harmony Photography; Ricky: Laura Zamorano

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Rebellious Rockers, Bruvvy, Spice Up Rock ‘n’ Roll in “U Think This Song Is About U” Video


Allow us to introduce you to your new favorite female-fronted powerhouses – Bruvvy. The band is reimagining rock ‘n’ roll with a fresh millennial perspective. They are reinvigorating the classic, raunchy, over-the-top energy that comes to mind in association with bands fueled by guitar riffs and rebellion.

As a trailblazing first impression of their “Little Heat” EP, available August 2021, Bruvvy is throwing us head-first into their universe with their single “U Think This Song Is About U.” They are spicing up the South Florida rock ‘n’ roll scene (literally) in their unruly restaurant takeover for the music video. 

The video tells the story of vocalist Liz Varum’s emotionally destructive stint in the service industry. The setting is more than just a backdrop; it is the exact muse that inspired this punchy track. The storyline follows Varum’s  humble beginnings in the kitchen to the full circle moment of filming a music video in her previous employer’s eventful dining room. 

“The lyrics were written throughout the longest, shittiest work day of my entire life. I was covered in sweat and kitchen grease (which was airborne, and slowly making me breakout), getting emotionally abused by my boss, and the only tips that were ending up in my pocket were coming from a guy that wanted nothing more than for me to get on his motorcycle with him,” explained lead vocalist Liz Varum. 

Behind the powerhouse vocals and groovy guitar melodies is a universal message of greed tarnishing work ethics. 

I wondered for a second if anyone would notice if I took a handful of cash from the tip jar. I learned that day that when the sole motivation behind work is money, everyone is, at some point, reduced to a thief,” said Varum.

Since their first show in 2019, Bruvvy introduced the South Florida music scene to their powerful stage presence, their “anything goes” performance style, their raw realness, and most importantly, the friendship that keeps them glued to their listeners and to one another. This is not a rock n’ roll revival; it’s a rediscovery of the very spirit that possesses us to jump, scream, sweat, and connect.

Stay tuned for more news on Bruvvy’s upcoming EP at https://bruvvyband.com.

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Photo credit: @photodystopia

GG Magree Fuses Heartfelt Lyrics with Rock and Trap Influences on New Single “Loving You Kills Me.” Out Now on Dim Mak


Following her stunning 2020’s debut on Dim Mak with “Nervous Habits,” featuring Joey FlemingGG Magree returns to Steve Aoki‘s label with her new single “Loving You Kills Me,” an emotive gem that fuses rock and trap influences. Opening with moody guitar chords, Magree‘s heartfelt vocals immediately shine through as she belts out lyrics that paint a picture of loving someone so much that it hurts. The track’s bass-heavy, electric drop adds a dark and gritty edge to the otherwise romantic context, letting the world know that GG Magree is much more than just another pretty voice. The Australian powerhouse formerly made a name for herself through the raucous “Frontlines” with Zeds Dead & NGHTMRE, “Ghost” with Jauz or “Save My Grave” with Zeds Dead & DNMO. Read more about GG‘s inspiration behind “Loving You Kills Me” below:

I’m such an intense lover. I think I buried myself somewhere when I wrote ‘Loving You Kills Me.’ You know that feeling ‘I want to be with you till I die’ or ‘I love you so much I want to eat you alive.’ That’s how I love and why I gave birth to ‘Loving You Kills Me.’” – GG Magree

GG Magree‘s indisputable talent as a DJ, producer, and singer/songwriter has made her a triple threat in the electronic music industry. She first made waves in 2016 with her vocal debut “Frontlines,” in collaboration with Zeds Dead & NGHTMRE, which has amassed over 31M streams on Spotify alone. GG is also well known for her replay-worthy remix of Billie Eilish‘s “Wish You Were Gay,” in addition to releases such as “Flatline” alongside Sullivan King, “You Don’t Know Me,” and “Bodies.” In her native Australia and beyond, Magree has become a highly sought after artist known for bringing electric energy to audiences worldwide; by far the best way to experience GG Magree is at a live show. She has graced the stage with the likes of PharrellDJ SnakeWu-Tang ClanZeds DeadVirtual SelfIggy AzaleaNGHTMRE, and many more.

More info on GG Magree / Dim Mak:

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Images provided by Vince Rossi

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. 


Instagram I Facebook I Bandcamp  

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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‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’: How Courtney Barnett Bears It All & ‘Turns It Into Art’


Although comparing artists to each other commonly brings up complaints among artists and critics alike (there will never be a new Beatles!) there are certain situations where this side-by-side is unavoidable. Like when Patti Smith invited Australian punk-folk-rocker Courtney Barnett up on stage last April at Melbourne’s Festival Hall. Whether it’s the hair, the fact that Smith is one of Barnett’s favorite artists, or the way both women write with such a sharp wit (one that recognizes its shortcomings, and doesn’t take itself too seriously,) there’s something strikingly similar about these two voices–especially on Barnett’s most recent release, Tell Me How You Really Feel.  

There’s an underlying kinetic energy present on this album–one that drives the tracks through the storm, that relishes in the emotional swells instead of trying to avoid them. In the first verse of the first track, entitled “Hopelessness,” Barnett sets up expectations for the emotional work that this album is going to do: “No one is born to hate / We learn it somewhere along the way / Take your broken heart / Turn it into art / Can’t take it with you.” This track begins with an eerie slow burn, the powerful guitar licks picking up speed before they explode in a beautifully screeching finale—a pattern that can describe the album as a whole. Barnett has become known for strumming with her fingers rather than a pick, a technique she first developed on the acoustic guitar and later translated to her (lefty) electric guitar. Not only does this not hold her back, it seems to actually give her a sort of edge.

“No one is born to hate / We learn it somewhere along the way / Take your broken heart / Turn it into art / Can’t take it with you.”

Lead single “Nameless, Faceless” acts like scar tissue—showing Barnett dissecting her own theme and feeling the full extent of the pain before letting it go. The interaction between the verses (which all end in the repetition of “I’m real sorry / ‘Bout whatever happened to you,”) and the no-holds-barred chorus (“I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Men are scared that women will laugh at them / I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Women are scared that men will kill them”) is a negotiation of her reaction to this learned hate. This moment comes across as particularly Patti-esque, the deadpan critique of gender-power relations evoking memories of Smith’s poetry (think “seventh heaven.”)

After this, the soon-to-be-punk-anthem “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” snaps into place. It may not even be necessary to discuss how this song relates to Smith, who has been given the title “godmother of punk.”

Courtney Barnett is not a carbon copy of Patti Smith, but she is doing the same legwork. She’s unabashedly intelligent, unafraid of addressing herself and her shortcomings, and fully prepared to go against the conventions that usually relegate singer-songwriters to Adult Top 40 stations and movie soundtracks. Through her lyricism and performances, she is embarking on an important project: carrying Smith’s energy forward to a new generation of listeners, who are eager to listen and learn. At the very least, they are kindred spirits–something I, as a young woman, can’t help but be very thankful for.


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‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’: How Courtney Barnett Bears It All & ‘Turns It Into Art’: Featured image courtesy of Courtney Barnett

Dolores O’Riordan, A Legacy That Lingers


On January 15th, news that The Cranberries frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan was found dead in a London hotel room shocked the world. While the cause of death is still unknown‒and likely will be until April, says a London coroner‒it is being described as sudden, but unsuspicious. The singer had been dealing with multiple health issues, including bipolar personality disorder and chronic back pain so intense that it led to the cancellation of the band’s 2017 reunion tour. Her death has left a silence in its wake‒one that lingers‒as fans, friends, and family alike struggle to find proper words to describe her monumental impact on alternative rock.

A feminist, fashion icon of the 1990s, O’Riordan’s influence is undeniable. When her Irish lilt first began cracking over the U.S. radio waves in the form of hit singles “Dreams” and “Linger,” it became clear that the zipper of popular culture had snagged on something unusual, but big. When they embarked on their first U.S. tour in 1993, O’Riordan was a 22-year-old firecracker with a pixie cut standing alongside her three ‘Cranboys,’ who L.A. Times called “unfailingly polite” at the time. Her life had not been easy up until that point‒with a younger brother who had died at birth, alleged sexual abuse, and strict rules that discouraged participation in an all-male rock band.

Yet, it was a classic adolescent heartbreak that inspired the band’s first big hit, “Linger,” the airy pop ballad that can still leave goosebumps on your arm over a decade after its initial release. This was the beauty of Dolores O’Riordan, especially in her earlier years. She was not afraid of honesty, even when it required putting her own emotions on the line. Even when other Irish acts were attempting to mask the accents in their voices (think Bono during the 80s.) The frontwoman, who bandmates described as initially shy, knew how important using her frenzied and fantastic voice was.

This is exactly what she did on “Zombie,” the croony and complicated breakout track that solidified The Cranberries in the alternative rock canon. The single, which came from sophomore album No Need To Argue, describes a terrorist attack that resulted in the death of multiple children in her native country. Perhaps one of the most groundbreaking moments of her career, the visceral tone that she takes in the chorus as she belts out the repetition of the word “zombie” is still being remembered and praised today; it was only recently that Eminem sampled the track on his newest album Revival.

Although the peak of The Cranberries’ commercial and critical success came to them early in their career, they recorded three more studio albums together before taking a break in 2003. While some of her more politically-charged lyrics failed to wow in the same way that “Zombie” did, her voice never wavered. She recorded two solo albums during the band’s break‒Are You Listening? and No Baggage, released in 2007 and 2009, respectively‒and had a brief stint as a judge on Ireland’s The Voice. She never stopped being the harsh, harrowing beauty queen that showed women they could be feminine and fatal in the same glance. Delicate and dangerous, in one breath. Throughout her career, O’Riordan fought for a woman’s right to express her anger‒at her government, at her partners, at herself.

When the band reunited in 2009, they tried to capture the same bolt of lightning that had ignited their career in 1993. O’Riordan’s vocals were still striking; this fact was inarguable, but life was still proving to not be so “lovey-dovey” for her. In 2014, she ended her 20 year marriage to former Duran Duran tour manager Don Burton. A year later, she was charged with “air rage,” for which she later apologized. It was only this year that she began publicly discussing her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which she said she had been diagnosed with two years prior.

According to her bandmate and lifelong friend Noel Hogan, she was disappointed about canceling the reunion tour and was looking to record new music. He told Rolling Stone that when he had spoken to her the Friday before her death, she seemed “great” and excited about the future. That Sunday, she had emailed him new tracks she had been working on. Hogan wrote, “Dolores’ legacy will be her music. She was so passionate about it.” Anyone who has heard her sing even just a few bars would agree; her’s is the type of legacy the lingers in the air for long after she’s gone.

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Dolores O’Riordan, A Legacy That Lingers: Featured image courtesy of Carolyn Cole/LA Times

Bands Interviewing Bands: Jeff Michaels & Ten Two


Whether his music is being played during some of television’s most popular reality shows or inspiring people in the aftermath of Boston’s worst terrorist attack, singer-songwriter and pianist Jeff Michaels has been entertaining fans with thought-provoking lyrics examining today’s biggest social and political issues while infusing them with his unique brand of humor. Jeff’s dedication to the independent music scene has been a lifelong cause and several of his songs have been licensed to over a dozen television shows, appearing in episodes of The Real World and Teen Moms (MTV) and the T.O. Show (VH1). Jeff was also a member of pop band Luce, whose music appeared on major motion picture soundtracks for How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days (Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey) and 13 Going on 30 (Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Andy Serkis)!


I introduced him to California native and Florida resident Ten Two, former frontman of the alt-rock band Still the Sky’s Limit, who is now embarking on his debut solo journey. With so much in common, and yet so incredibly different, these two artists got to talking for our latest installment of Bands Interviewing Bands.

Jeff Michaels: I always like finding similarities with other artists who, at first glance, might seem completely different. The first thing that struck me was that a large part of your bio talks about your name, Ten Two. I love that you came up with a cool way of using your initials from Johnny B, as being the tenth and second letters in the alphabet. How long did it take you to come up this, and did know you it was going to be your new name the moment you did?

Ten Two: You know, I can’t remember the exact moment I came up with the moniker Ten Two, but what I do remember thinking is that I want this project to be as personal as possible, and I also didn’t want a long band name. I knew it was going to only be me and my acoustic guitar (at least to begin with). When it did hit me, I knew it was the name I was going to go with. My previous band, Still The Sky’s Limit, had actually begun as a solo project as well, but I expected that to grow into a full band, so it was a bit of a different mindset going in.

Ten Two: I’m very intrigued by how the relationship with your songwriting partner, Chris Teffner, came about. Being that you two are almost completely across the country from one another, how did that collaborative effort begin?

Jeff Michaels: Completely across country, and nearly complete opposites in musical styles when we first met, it truly is a wonder! Chris is a native of Vermont and we met when I was looking for a guitarist for my band in Boston. He grew up on heavy metal cover bands and I had my doubts he would like my mild piano rock, but he stepped into rehearsal and the moment we met him, we knew he was something special. I was bummed when he moved away, but we’ve actually done more working back and forth than we managed to accomplish when he lived nearby!

Jeff Michaels: Similar to myself, you’ve moved from California to the East Coast. Have you been in the music scene down in Florida long enough to say how it compares to the scene in Orange County, CA?

Ten Two: For me, growing up in Orange County, California, there was absolutely zero music scene in terms of my style of music. I grew up adoring the sounds of New Jersey and New York for the most part, centered really in the feel of bands like Taking Back Sunday and The Early November. Sprinkle in Dashboard Confessional and that about sums up my adolescent music enlightenment.

Orange County is (or at least was) extremely centered in the Hardcore scene; which just isn’t my go-to style of music. We’d have to drive to San Diego, which is about an hour and a half south from where we grew up, to find a scene somewhat conducive to our tastes. But what happened is we were given the opportunity to tour across the country, and when we arrived in Orlando we found that there were quite a few bands similar in style to us, and a ton of producers that specialized in the very same. So, when I was offered the opportunity to move to Orlando, my immediate thought was it would be a perfect location to finally have a true shot at jumping into a music scene that is what I’ve grown up enjoying. Definitely two drastically different focuses in Orlando, Florida and Orange County, California.

Ten Two: You make a new holiday single every year. Was that a conscious effort, did you know you would continue releasing one each subsequent year from the start, or did it just happen organically and built upon itself?

Jeff Michaels: Not at all. This was actually an idea my dad had years ago, and I struggled for many years to write a holiday song. They aren’t easy, if you’ve ever tried! There is so much clichéd holiday music, and I wanted to try and write something really cool, like “Father Christmas” by the Kinks. The first holiday song I released was “Too Cold for Santa,” in 2012, which I thought was great, yet my wife told me was far too depressing for the holidays. I managed to write a new one each of the last few years, and think I’ve finally gotten the one I wanted in this year’s release, “It’s Been a Long Time, Christmas.”

Jeff Michaels: In deciding to start your new project, Ten Two, you mention the decision involved an “end of days in the realm of performing music.” Why is this? Did you not think you would ever front a band with your new project?

Ten Two: The decision was really to either put music behind me or continue moving forward. I had played a very long time in bands that never had any sort of traction, granted Still The Sky’s Limit was by far the best and closest to gaining traction. The decision to continue on was a very easy choice to make, because I just love writing, performing, recording, sharing, and experiencing everything there is within the realm of music and creative expression. I just knew it would once again be a great challenge, but I also knew I was more than ready for it.

Ten Two: I can see the Dave Matthews influence in your former pop band Luce. What was the catalyst that saw you branch off from the band?

Jeff Michaels: Man, that’s a great question for many reasons! Luce was my first professional gig as a keyboardist, and I always thought they could’ve gone into even more of a DMB sound. They ended up replacing me after our very first cross-country tour with a trumpet player who also played keyboards, so it was really an economy of scale. I was also working on my own material at the time, so it was a natural progression which lead to forming my own band.

Jeff Michaels: Your new album Forth is coming out January 5th. Can we expect a tour and more from Ten Two in 2018?

Ten Two: There will be at least four different music videos to accompany the album. One is ready so far, just waiting for a proper release of it, and the three others will be filmed at the end of December. I would love to tour; it’s my favorite thing to do in the world. I just have to figure out the logistics of it, but definitely will be playing shows locally until I can figure out the touring.

Ten Two: it’s been a great pleasure learning about your musical journey, Jeff. I’m definitely going to be keeping up with all that comes from your neck of the woods going forward! What’s next for you?

Jeff Michaels: I’ve written a new album that I am just starting production on shortly that will hopefully be out next spring. As mentioned, I’m getting away from my band sound and really peeling back the layers to see what I can accomplish with songwriting when it’s naked and raw and right there in front of you. I’m hoping this album leads to some new performing opportunities. I’d love to tour Europe and play house concerts, so if anyone is reading this and interested, hit us up!

Follow Jeff Michaels:

Twitter | Website | FacebookYouTube | “It’s Been a Long Time, Christmas” on iTUNES

 Follow Ten Two

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Read more Music News on ClicheMag.com

Bands Interviewing Bands: Jeff Michaels (left) photo credit: Julie Young. Ten Two (right) photo credit: Ramses Ochoa

Bands Interviewing Bands: Trace Repeat & Septacy


One of my personal favorite features is back—Bands Interviewing Bands! In this unique feature, we take two bands and have them interview each other about everything and anything having to do with the recording process, industry insight, touring, getting fans out to show, and other questions that only other artists would know to ask. Catch our latest interview with Septacy and Trace Repeat—two Bay Area bands with two very different sounds, and follow them and get to know their music at the links below.


Trace Repeat: Your Bandcamp says you guys recorded your last record Bookends at “Dirt Room Studios in El Cerrito, A Cabin In The Woods, and Wherever The Hell Else We Could Find.” How did you pull that off?
Septacy: The biggest logistical challenge was recording vocals. None of us live in the quietest of places, so vocal isolation was a huge hurdle to clear. Luckily, my parents were amazing and let us use their cabin in the Sierras to track demos and eventually vocals for the final record. It was really freeing being able to track vocals into the wee hours of the night with no one around. It was also great being able to get out of the Bay and away from day-to-day life for a few days at a time to focus on the record and having fun hanging out with each other. You can see the lighter side of these trips in our video for “Polaris” that we shot during one of these trips up to the cabin.

All in all, it was an incredibly lengthy process, but it allowed us a lot of room to experiment than we would have had in a traditional studio. I would also be remiss to not mention the magical work that Jon Devoto did in mastering the album.

Septacy: What’s the strangest show/venue Trace Repeat has found themselves at? In my experience, the best show stories, if not always the best shows, start with something being weird about the gig.
Trace Repeat: I think my favorite “unusual” venue that we have done is our Funky Friday residency out in Oakland at Independent Brewing. It’s the kind of spot where you see the stage and think “there’s absolutely no way a seven-piece band is gonna fit here.” We do some serious human Tetris shuffling to make it work, though (hah)! We’ve been doing the residency every last Friday for about a year and a half now, and it’s been a big exercise in restraint, really. It takes a lot of self-control to fit a seven-piece band into a really tiny room and NOT drive everyone out the door, covering their ears.

Trace Repeat:  I know you mixed the Septacy record yourself (I did a lot of the editing on our record, too), and I know it’s pretty difficult to separate the musicality from the mixing process. What did you do to keep the mixing process separate from the musicianship?
Septacy: I’ve been self-recording and releasing my own solo material for almost a decade now. I can’t say specifically that I have a process in place to put on my engineer hat. Any engineer who has ever worked on their own material, especially in a band situation, will tell you that the biggest pitfall when mixing yourself is that you will always be tempted to turn your own parts up too high in the mix. If you’re the singer or drummer, that’s not the worst problem in the world, but when you’re the bass player, that can be dangerous.

With Bookends, it helped that we had such a long production cycle (three years from demoing to finished product). This allowed me to work on mixing individual songs as we finished tracking them. Usually, I wouldn’t start working on mixing a song until months after I had tracked my parts, so it was easier to put my ego in a different room and focus in on making the songs sound right. With as varied a record as Bookends, having the time to focus on songs individually was an invaluable luxury.

Septacy: The production on every song I’ve heard from Oaktown Sound is phenomenal.  It really captures a live club feel. Other than just being fantastic players, which you guys absolutely are, was there anything special you guys did in the studio to maintain the organic, “live” feel that the songs have?
Trace Repeat: Yes! Catching the “live” feel was definitely one of the biggest challenges we had when we recorded the record. Since so much of our show is involved in the visual experience, recording the album was really about figuring out how to capture that visual experience in a 30-minute record. Zach’s epic bass faces, the sweat pouring off of my face, the acrobatic jumps David manages while playing a trombone. They were all things we aimed to capture on the record.

Trace Repeat: The drummer on Bookends is absolutely shredding it up. Same with the whole rhythm section, really. What was your process for capturing that animal energy in the studio?
D’awww. You’re making me blush. Also, how did you know that Jason was a muppet? The secret is out!

Funnily enough, “animal energy” is far from how I would describe our drummer, Jason. He’s one of the kindest, least intense people all of us have ever known. He sure does know how to hit a drum, though. I think there were three things that really helped us capture a more intense feel in the rhythm section. First off, our co-producer and tracking engineer Justin Alquist did a great job mic-ing, tracking and editing everything together.

I think there were three things that really helped us capture a more intense feel in the rhythm section. First off, our co-producer and tracking engineer Justin Alquist did a great job mic-ing, tracking, and editing everything together.

Secondly, we were able to track drums, bass, and piano live in the same room together, so we were able to communicate non-verbally with each other while tracking and actually play together instead of just playing parts to click individually.

The third thing was a lesson that Jason and I learned while recording an album for another band we’re in, Sin Silver and the Avenue, a few years ago. During pre-production, the producer of the album gave us one big note that has helped us immensely in the studio ever since. When tracking drums, the best approach is to over-emphasize your dynamics compared to playing live. If you really want a part to sound big on tape, play it even bigger in the studio and let the tracking/mixing engineers reign in the dynamics.

Septacy: What have your observations been when playing outside of the Bay as compared to the Bay Area, especially when you guys hit SxSW? Which things were better? Worse?
Trace Repeat: Austin is a whole different world out there, especially during SxSW. There’s live music on every corner and in every bar. Basically everywhere you go, there’s a freaking PHENOMENAL band playing. It’s sort of a vibe that I think we can create here in Oakland too, the way there’s this really great appreciation for live music everywhere you go. I feel like if we (Trace Repeat) just strive to put some dope funk in every bar we play at, we’ll just become “that funk band that’s in every brewery in Oakland.”

Trace Repeat: What has your experience been like as a Bay Area band based in Oakland? Do you get a lot of San Franciscans that don’t come out to Oakland cause it’s “too far” (cause we definitely do!)?
Septacy: The Bay Area is challenging as a whole because there is so much to do, and so much amazing art to explore that on any given night; you end up competing with a lot of other acts that probably deserve just as much attention as whatever you are doing. While this does make it harder to convince people to cross a bridge and come watch you play music instead of, say, binging Friends on Netflix, it also presents a unique opportunity to branch out and meet other artists who share your sensibilities and understand how important it is to give back to your scene. Some of our most avid listeners are fellow musicians we met either while sharing the stage, or showing up and introducing ourselves. One of the most important lessons we have learned as a self-promoting artist is that if you actively give to your scene, it will give back to you in ways you would never expect.

Septacy is a 5-piece progressive rock band hailing from Oakland, California that, much like fellow Bay Area natives Green Day and Metallica before them, aim to carve their own unique path through the larger music scene. Their sound can be described as both melodious and chaotic, a dichotomy they fully embrace in their songwriting and on the stage. They just released their brand new music video for “The Clouds Above The Giving Tree,” of their newly released Bookends.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Septacy/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/septacy
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/septacy/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxcnsVse2BKhVumNCK1TD4w

Trace Repeat is a 6-piece Oakland based funk and soul band (think: Bruno Mars) who are not only bringing you music that’ll get you up and moving (it is seriously catchy), but that brings attention to a much larger issue—Asian American stereotypes. It’s a cause that has gained them attention on NBC News, The Huffington Post, and Mother Jones, and led to the funding (and then some) of their IndieGoGo campaign within the first week of launching, resulting in their campaign being featured on IndieGoGo’s trending page. Their new album, The Oaktown Sound, sees them reviving the aesthetics of their Motown forefathers: Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the tempting Temptations, to create a throwback album packed with James Brown references, Al Green harmonies, and Prince vocal runs. It’s also an album that pays homage to their roots—Oakland. Grab The Oaktown Sound when it drops on September 22.

Website: http://TraceRepeat.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/TraceRepeat
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TraceRepeat
Instagram: http://instagram.com/TraceRepeat
Youtube: http://youtube.com/TraceRepeat
Indiegogo: http://igg.me/at/TraceRepeat

Read more Music News on ClicheMag.com

Bands Interviewing Bands: Trace Repeat (top) photo credit: Nathan Lu. Septacy (bottom) photo credit: Ricky Marasigan

Bands Interviewing Bands: Autopilot and Frank Moyo


It’s not often we get to put together two artists from outside the US, but today’s artists are both Canadian, and both just unveiled incredible releases. Saskatoon natives, Autopilot (RIYL: War on Drugs, Broken Social Scene) just released two new singles “Hurricane” and “Crooked Lines” and are currently on a major US tour through late November. Meanwhile, Toronto singer-songwriter Frank Moyo (RIYL: John Mayer, Coldplay), just dropped his debut EP Waves. The two got together for a chat about the art of songwriting, the perils of food poisoning right before a gig, and more.

Frank Moyo: What was the first song you ever wrote, and what was it about? 
Autopilot: The first song I wrote I think I was 12. I had an amp with a lot of reverb and an old analog 4 track recorder. I’m not sure what the topic was, but I know I still have the tape in a box somewhere.  This was just the start of a lot of songs I’ve written in the past.
Frank Moyo: What was the latest song you wrote, and what was that about? Has your songwriting drastically changed since your first song?
Autopilot: The latest songs we have been working on have been a lot different than most of the early songs. From tones to the vocals and lyrics, I think writing is a process that you change and progress at.

Autopilot: What’s your writing process like? What influences you besides music, and how do you think that affects the outcome of your songs? 
Frank Moyo: My writing process usually starts with a lick on the guitar or piano and then lyrics will follow. My lyrics are sometimes already written and I will try to incorporate them into the notes I am playing, but sometimes the music actually commands the lyrics that I write, therefor forcing me to write lyrics that make sense with the music being played. I find a lot of influence for my writing in books and movies that I watch. I read frequently and love to draw influences from my books. I love Italian cinema as well, and as of recently, I have used many films by Fellini, Antonini, De Sica, and other neorealist directors as influences on my writing.
Frank Moyo: What are the major reasons why you began to pursue music? What influenced you most to pursue it as a career? 
Autopilot:  A big influence was when I read a book called On A Cold Road.  I was playing music already, but after reading this book, I knew that music full time was what I was going to do. Written by Dave Bidini of the Rheostatics, the book is full of stories about bands on the road and crazy tours. It’s definitely a great read and made me think of music as something I could do out in the world and not just in my basement.
Autopilot: What’s your biggest musical influence that’s not immediately obvious when listening to your music?
Frank Moyo: I would say Daft Punk and Phoenix. I love their music, but a majority of my music is down tempo with an acoustic jazz twist. Daft Punk have always been a great influence, just because of their song structure and how well it can play with my emotions. Phoenix has always been a band that I aspired to be like, but my music seems to be going in a direction a bit outside of the Phoenix alternative synth pop/rock genre.

Frank Moyo: Before a show, or before a practice, do you have any rituals or things you do to zone in and concentrate on your music?
Autopilot:  When on tour, the best part of any down time we get before a show is checking out the city, as we’ve had the opportunity to play in a lot of interesting places.  When it comes down to right before a show, we pretty much just dive right in.  It’s pretty natural when we start to play,; we just forget about everything and get lost in the songs.
Autopilot: What’s the craziest experience you have had on the road or before a show? 
Frank Moyo: The craziest experience I had before a show was when my band was performing at the Opera House. We were backstage and another band we were playing with had brought cheesecake for everyone to enjoy. Apparently, the cheesecake was expired and we ended up having to play the show with a mild case of food poisoning, which was not very fun.
Frank Moyo: Explain what would be considered a dream show for yourself. Where would it be? And what band would you dream to open for?
Autopilot: We would like to play with a lot of bands, but I think a dream tour would be with a band like War on Drugs, Modest Mouse, or Grouplove. Doing a few months on the road with one of our favorite bands would be awesome.

Autopilot: What is your favorite venue/show you have played? 
Frank Moyo: Toronto is full of great venues, some big and some tiny. The biggest venue played was most likely the Opera House and Lula Lounge. Some of the more intimate shows at smaller venues were some of the most memorable. Places like the El Mocambo and The Painted Lady were the more emotional and fun to play.
Frank Moyo: Lastly, what does music as a whole mean to you? Are there any specific reasons why you chose to pursue it? Does music represent a different side of you?
Autopilot:  To me, music is an outlet to express everything from what I think to how I feel. I live and breathe music, so I guess you could say that’s what it means to me.  Without music, I’m not sure what I would do all day – I think I’d be lost.  I don’t think that it represents a different side of me, it’s just who I am.

Follow Autopilot:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Bandcamp
Follow Frank Moyo:
FacebookTwitter | Instagram | YouTube
Read more Music News on ClicheMag.com
Bands Interviewing Bands: Autopilot and Frank Moyo. Photo credit: Autopilot (top) by Nicole Romanoff and Frank Moyo (bottom) by Takahiro Sakamoto 

Bands Interviewing Bands: Hydrogen Skyline and Jess Chizuk


One is the keyboardist in an electro-rock trio, and the other is a solo indie-folk songstress. One resides in Colorado Springs, and the other hails from Buffalo. Hydrogen Skyline‘s Norman Hittle and singer-songwriter Jess Chizuk may be on different ends of the genre spectrum, but as this latest edition of Bands Interviewing Bands shows, all it takes to strike up an enthralling conversation is a shared love and passion for the music. Norman and Jess discuss their starts in the industry, the recording process for their respective new albums and much more.

Hydrogen Skyline: Have you always been a solo singer/songwriter? And how did you get your start in music?
Jess Chizuk: For the most part, yep! I started writing lyrics when I was very young, maybe about age 11, and took guitar and singing lessons shortly after to turn them into real songs. I started performing as a solo artist quite literally only a few months after learning to play guitar. Since then, I’ve been in a few bands and other projects, but I always come back to playing solo whenever I can.
Jess Chizuk: How did Hydrogen Skyline get together? And did you know you wanted the Indie/Pop/Rock sound right away?
Hydrogen Skyline: We got together simply by happenstance. Asher [vocalist] and I are married, and I was having band practice pretty frequently in our downstairs studio, and one day she basically said she’d like to try out–which as you can imagine was awesome! Getting Mark [Young, guitarist] into the band was a bit more difficult. We had to be really cutthroat and sort of lure him into being interested, leaving his former band(s) to join up with us.
As far as intended genre, we didn’t really start out aiming for indie-pop/rock. In the early part of this millennium, I desired to play in a progressive rock/metal band. Something between Opeth, Type O Negative, and TOOL. What ended up happening is I got guys together that wanted to play more melodic styles of progressive music (i.e. the Mars Volta and Porcupine Tree). Anyway, each year we continued to be more “mainstream” in our style of music, and eventually we just accepted we wanted to make music we all liked and that ended up being more what we have going on today. Though, I secretly still want to have my progressive rock side band!
Hydrogen Skyline: Why did you pick Lehigh Valley Line as the title track over something like “Eyes on the Horizon” (which is my favorite track)? Is there some sort of special meaning or theme that song has that relates to the rest of the album?
Jess: There’s a number of reasons, really. Initially, both “Eyes on the Horizon” and “The Distance” were top album name contenders, but it turns out those names have been used over and over again by tons of other artists, which I didn’t like. It’s already hard enough to gain traction as a new artist without people confusing your album with someone else’s. Lehigh Valley Line is actually based on a true story; the Lehigh Valley Railroad used to run through Buffalo, NY (which is where I’m from) and had a pretty big impact on the area when trains were commonplace. A lot of the tracks have subtle references to the area in them, but this one is pretty much centered around this cool piece of history. I thought it would be neat to pay homage to the city that the album was created in, while simultaneously being able to give it an entirely unique name that had never been used before.
Jess: I think “Seize the Day” is my favorite track off Photovoltaic, but a lot of the tracks have really interesting themes and lyrics. How many band members are involved in the songwriting process, and what’s that process like?
Hydrogen Skyline: Our writing process involves all three of us. The long answer is: we typically start by sitting down with our instruments and working on some ideas or chords one or more of us have an interest in. Then we start formatting a rough structure for the progressions (usually v-ch-v-ch-b-ch). At this point, we try to make some unique adjustments in rhythm and really iron out the ranges of the instruments. When we have a solid idea for the music, I take it and work on some vocal melodies. Then Asher and I hash out those ideas and make adjustments. When the melodies are ideal, I go from there to writing some rough lyrics, usually about a concept Asher and I agreed on. After that, another round of modification, and when we feel the vocals and lyrics seem to work together to convey the emotion we want, we pull all the instruments out and rebuild the song around the vocals. And in pre-production, we do that whole process all over again!
Hydrogen Skyline: On your website’s biography, it states that you have won several awards in your area! Congratulations! What would you say is the award you were most honored to receive and why was it important to you?
Jess: Thank you! Every one of them has been a significant honor in one way or another. It’s really hard to put any of them above any other one, but I think the first one was probably the biggest deal for me. About two years ago, I sent in one of my tracks “China Plates” to a small, local songwriting competition. I honestly didn’t expect a response from it, but I ended up winning, and as a result got to record that song in one of the best studios in Buffalo with several Buffalo Music Hall of Fame musicians, which was an incredibly big deal for me at the time. I think getting that first really positive response spurred me on to work towards everything else I’ve achieved so far. I’m not sure I would be where I am today had I not won that first award!

Stealing The Spotlight: An Interview with The Stolen


I’ll have to admit: when I first discovered the up-and-coming band The Stolen, I found myself blasting their eclectic sound at max in my car. The pop-punk Jersey boys have a sound that perfectly combines Cliché faves The Maine and The 1975 with a twist of ‘90s rock and modern pop, all mixed into four incredibly talented musicians. The Stolen dropped their latest EP I’m So Dead in April along with a aesthetically pleasing music video for one of the five songs off the EP,  “Can’t Get Enough.” Here, frontman Dom Cuce filled us in on who The Stolen is, their spring tour, and songwriting.

Cliché: For those who haven’t heard you guys yet, can you give us a rundown on who The Stolen is and what your band is about?
Dom Cuce: We are a four-piece band from Old Bridge, NJ. We originally formed in 2005 playing cover songs of our favorite bands at the time. After years of playing together, we started writing our own songs and touring year round.  
What was it like to record your latest EP, I’m So Dead?
The recording process for this record was a little different than what we have done in the past since we recorded a large portion of it ourselves. We tracked guitars with a guy named Mike Oettinger up in Union City, NJ, and then we tracked drums and vocals ourselves at a studio in Red Bank, NJ. Our guitarist Rob mixed the entire record and then we had it mastered by Robin Schmidt. Again, it was a lot different than the recording process in the past. We have never self-produced a record, so doing it was an amazing experience and we are extremely happy with how it came out.
How has the response been from fans since you put out the EP?
We’ve gotten an amazing response from our fans! Whether it’s through social media or them coming out to a show and singing along, the response to the new music has been great. We can’t thank them enough.
Who writes the songs in your band? Is it a task for one specific person, or do you all jot down lyrics as a collective?
When writing music, our process is a little different. Rob (guitar) will come to us with some lyrics and some chords on guitar, and if we are all vibing it, we go to work on the song, all making it our own. In my opinion, it’s a good way to create music because now we have four people throwing their ideas in and it allows us to create something we all love.
We love how your sound has an alternative rock/R&B feel, especially in your single “Can’t Get Enough.” Who or what influences your sound?
We take influence from so many bands and artists. I think it shows in the music we consume. In the van, we will listen to literally everything, and when I say everything I mean it. [Laughs] You’ll catch us listening to so many different artists from so many different eras and they all have an influence on the music that we create.
You guys just wrapped up a spring tour. What was that experience like for you?
The tour was amazing! It’s always a good time for us and we always look forward to going out on the road and seeing our fans.
Speaking of touring, when can we catch you on the road again?
Most likely this summer!
What are some goals you guys have for the future of The Stolen?
I would say to tour as much as we can and keep making music that is true to ourselves.
How can we keep up to date with all that you’re doing?
We are on every form of social media, so everyone could follow us there to stay up date.
Read more Music Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Stealing The Spotlight: An Interview with The Stolen: Photographed by Kenny Lewis