Today’s Feature, December 29th-30th: The Black Summer Crush

December 30, 2007 at 12:10 pm (Today's Feature)

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There have been some revolutionary movements in the history of music – From jazz and swing to the current dominance of hip-hop and pop. But has any movement had a bigger impact or more influence than the past emergence of good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll? The worlds top selling artists of all time come from such a pedigree; artists like The Beatles and Elvis. And we can’t easily forget other legendary acts such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones. So what happens when the bands of today try to harness the clout these groups had? Self-implosion? Insanity? Spontaneous combustion?

In the case of The Black Summer Crush, the result is triumph. At its foundation, The Black Summer Crush is “Rock & Roll embroiled in transcendent energy.” Guitarist Scott Holiday puts it best, “my aim has always been true and sure…the “Royalty Of Rock & Roll” wrote the book for me. Zep, Beatles, Hendrix, Stones, Floyd, etc…These groups just tattooed my musical consciousness.” Lead singer Thomas Flowers, bassist Robin Everhart and drummer Michael Miley couldn’t agree more.

But just because BSC remains loyal to the roots of Rock, doesn’t mean they can’t add a little extra style to their sound. While the band started out sporting the retro mustache, beard and flared pants combination, they have twisted new melodies with a “wide-ranging mix of blues-infused hardrock, celebrating elements of pop, garage, R&B, and Middle Eastern textures.” Their upcoming self-titled album is full of these elements, “a fuzz-laden, psychedelic swirl that mingles with a smooth, harmonically charged landscape of tightly constructed songs bursting with breakneck crunch and sizzle.”

Expect “bombastic, raw, unadulterated rock & roll delivered with an honest expression” at the next BSC show you head off to. The vibe simply cannot be beat at one of their performances – it’s obvious that the band trusts one another musically, which makes their act sound like a “stronger tighter, rock n’ roll machine.” Look out for the new album and get into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: The Black Summer Crush – Scott and Thomas

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did The Black Summer Crush first form as a band?

Scott: I and Thomas have been working together for a few years… it took us a while to find the other fellas…about a year and a half (or so) of (very) painstaking auditions. So the actual full formation of the group was about a year and a half ago.

PEV: Growing up who were you listening to?

Scott: I have been predominantly raised on rock. I raided my folks’ tape (yes…cassettes!) collections, and discovered many of the bands of the 60’s and 70’s at a very young age. Almost like I was transported to that era and it was fresh and new. As I got older, I listened to all the new music coming out as well…80’s glam stuff…then Guns & Roses. Then the whole Seattle scene that took hold…it was very influential. Always stayed diverse though, listening to rap, pop, whatever…but really, my aim has always been true and sure. The “Royalty Of Rock & Roll” wrote the book for me…Zep, Beatles, Hendrix, Stones, Floyd, etc…these groups just tattooed my musical consciousness.
Thomas: In all honesty, I grew up listening to AM Radio Motown, Soultrain , and jazz classics like Miles Davis and Thenious Monk, and John Coltrain. And of course artists like Joni Mitchell and Cat Stevens.

PEV: Tell us about The Black Summer Crush’s first live performance together. What was going through your heads?

Scott: Our first show was at the Viper Room, here in Hollywood, CA. It’s a classic venue; great sounding place too. Honestly, first gigs are probably really similar for a lot of bands: you’re thinking of playing the songs well, and wondering if everyone is digging it. When it was obvious that people were enjoying it, we were just really enjoying ourselves and deciding where to really open the set up and deliver a more badass rock & roll show at every moment.

PEV: How have you changed from the first year together to where you are today?

Scott: Well, most importantly we’ve made a record that is full of new songs, only a couple made the record that were in the original set. And there’s really been a full evolution of the group image and sound – which I’m very happy about. Change is good! It promotes growth! When we started, there was an almost “Stillwater” vibe to the group, you know…mustaches, beards, flared pants etc…and the music was a bit more 70’s guitar rock-meets some more current sonics. Which is awesome to us still, and is still there in the band to a certain extent. We made a conscious effort to play with some other sounds and forms, though, and to change the look and feel of the band, as we were changing as people. A natural evolution.
Thomas: As individuals and as a collective, we are most definitely more mature and more focused than the early days. We’ve come to grips with the ever changing environment around us and have found ways to adapt to them while retaining the essence of the rock & roll band that we are. How could we not? Time is the great revelator.

PEV: Describe to us the first time The Black Summer Crush stepped into a recording studio.

Scott: I have a home studio and record and produce myself…so we were always in the studio in one way or another. And I had been demo’ing all the songs without a band (before the actual band even existed) or with buddies guesting for a song or whatever, so, for me, it was really an exciting and energizing feeling to finally get these songs recorded with the actual guys who would be performing them. Needless to say, everyone in the group has really honed their craft, so getting good takes was not an issue….

PEV: Tell us about your self titled debut “The Black Summer Crush,” due out next year. What can people expect?

Scott: We made this record the way rock records used to be made: we got in a room together, all at the same time, and hit record. Half of the tracks were penned on the spot. We crafted things on the spot..or around parts I brought in. Very minimal over dubbing. I wanted to keep the sound of this record very immediate and urgent. Dave Cobb helped to produce the record…and did a wonderful job of getting us in this mind set. If you’re sick of the overproduced, whiney, over-formulaic, wimpy, rock records coming out today….you’ll probably really enjoy our record. It’s raw, unadulterated, inspired, and real. That is what people can expect.

PEV: How is the debut album different than any other music out today?

Scott: See my above answer I guess.
Thomas: It’s a snapshot of something honest and sincere in it’s reflection of us as a whole. It depicts who we are, what we think, and how we feel. It’s as unique as we are as individuals and in that sense, it is different from other music out today.

PEV: What does it mean to the band to be able to successfully harness the sound and influence of legendary bands like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles?

Scott: Well thanks for the vote of confidence in mentioning the “successfully harnessing” bit! But we really just did our best to make a record that was true to us and the songs and sounds we all love…and had a good time doing it! It’s immeasurably difficult to live up to the records or songs or anything these bands created…let alone the careers and longevity they all experienced. we are just staying true…and playing our arses off while doing it!

PEV: What is your take on the current scene of rock music?

Scott: There are great bands out there…unfortunately, most of them are obscured by a very typical, inoffensive, formulaic, …very vanilla type of music. Most of it doesn’t even seem like rock to me. More like pop disguising itself as rock. I might mention here that Daughtry won the “contemporary music” award this year on the AMA’s- nuff said. So, it’s tough to say. The stuff I see winning awards and selling the most records, or putting people in seats isn’t what I love…and it is slowly consuming itself…the way every homogenized, mediocre scene has. Under this crust lies some very, very creative exciting music….and that scene I love.
Thomas: It’s all good. It’s all things to all people. There are a lot of fantastic rock bands out there who are obviously making an impact. We’re just looking for our place in the mix. it’s not a competition, it’s art.

PEV: It’s more and more difficult to find bands that still recognize the roots of rock. The Black Summer Crush respects the roots of rock n’ roll while still creating a whole new sound. What does that mean to you?

Scott: I think it’s a healthy thing to recognize where we came from, and what was (or is) great about it…and at the same time embrace certain new technologies and methods. A wise man once said-“good musicians borrow, great ones steal!” … kind of funny..but kind of true. In taking from these influences we create a new original sound… Again, to me the key is to stay true in your expression. Since we live in an entirely different time with different experiences, the end result of what we create will have it’s own life and sound.

PEV: Each member of the band brings a different aspect of experience to the table – how has that affected your sound?

Scott: You’re only as strong as your weakest link. This is why it took me and Thomas so long to find the right guys to join in. We understood this point and I spent a considerable amount of time looking for Thomas because of this. There was always a blueprint in my mind for each member of this band, so I met with A LOT of folks. And I’m pleased to say that the guys in this group have filled their spots perfectly. And everybody in the group knows it. That being said, we trust each other musically, and that comes across in the music in a subliminal way. It just make the band sound like a stronger, tighter, rock & roll machine.

PEV: What do all your friends and family think about your success?

Scott: Well, they are quite happy, of course…but would hope it takes us much further.
Thomas: They respect it, and they bless it with their love and support.

PEV: Is there one artist that you have not had a chance to collaborate with that you would like to?

Scott: Yes, of course….one…or…50 or so! Who wouldn’t want to create with their heroes!? A chance to work with any of our obvious influences would be amazing. As far as current fellas- I’d love to work with Jack White…he has an amazingly cool “sense of song”…and he’s an exciting guitar player to boot!
Thomas: I’m working with my heroes!! I have the perfect band.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the guys of The Black Summer Crush?

Scott: We have a mutual appreciation for the hits of Hall & Oats.
Thomas: We’re fond of tolsi beads. . .

PEV: When you guys get some downtime what can we find you doing?

Scott: Break-dancing contests, pencil fighting championships…things like that.
Thomas: Veggie hot dog eating contests. Kobiashi is bitch punk!

PEV: What can people expect from a live Black Summer Crush show?

Scott: Bombastic, raw, unadulterated rock & roll delivered with an honest expression. Fun rock & roll you can actually move your body to (just like the good ol’days!). Thomas: Full frontal nudity and absolute crowd participation. Fog machines and yellow streamers…

PEV: What is the best part about playing live?

Scott: Playing live is were you get that immediate reaction, and satisfaction. If it goes how it’s supposed to, we get the great feeling of making a bunch of people at once to feel good. Or just FEEL something. For most groups, I think this is where it’s at, definitely for me. The kind of music we record is created to be performed live. We also are into a certain amount of spontaneity within’ each song and that keeps the juices flowin’.
Thomas: My f***ing band! For the first time in my career, I get off every night watching my band. It’s great for the horn!!

PEV: Is there an “up and coming” artist that you think we should all be paying attention to?

Scott: We all probably have a different one in mind, but for me, it’s Dungen, from Sweden. Thomas recently turned me on to them. Totally brilliant stuff they’re doing. I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re “up and coming”, being as they might be a little too far out and they sing in Swedish…but…it’s GREAT and new…and definitely thinking out of the box.
Thomas: The Madams pretty much turn me out these days.

PEV: In one word, what best describes The Black Summer Crush?

Scott: Uuhh….supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Sorry.
Thomas: Weeniegagaphobia!!

PEV: So, what is next for The Black Summer Crush?

Scott: Putting the record out. Touring it. Selling it. Licensing it. Turning folks on…. then doing it all over again.

For more information on The Black Summer Crush, check out www.myspace.com/theblacksummercrush

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Today’s Feature, December 27th-28th: Cinder Road

December 28, 2007 at 6:19 pm (Today's Feature)

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Thank the rock Gods for bands like Cinder Road – groups who recall what it is to be more than a band – what it is to be a true group of entertainers. To put it simply, Cinder Road wants to resurrect the days of “pyro, big light shows, huge stages, ramps, swings, and all that crazy stuff.” I say more power to them!

Like most 20-somethings, I find myself doing what I can on a weekly basis at the bars and clubs downtown, listening to a mix dominated by pop and techno sounds. Am I alone, or is the best part of the night when that growl of “Living on a Prayer” comes booming over across the subwoofer? Instantly, visions of old school Bon Jovi shoot into my head along with other great 80’s stage acts like Van Halen. If you remember images such as these, then you probably agree – the world could use some rock bands performing concerts that are “a good time all the way around.”

While Cinder Road will agree that “different bands have different ways of expressing their songs on stage,” they also realize “how to push the right buttons and tug on the heartstrings to win over the masses.” They do so by looking to acts like Jovi and Van Halen, merging “old school rock sensibility with a modern, pop metal approach – underscored by a unique flavor of attitude and presence reminiscent of the 80’s arena rock era.”

You can learn about his new sound on the band’s latest album “Superhuman.” Working with veteran producer Marti Frederiksen, a man who has worked with the likes of Aerosmith, Def Leppard and Ozzy Ozbourne, Cinder Road has created a collection of “high-octane rockers and heartfelt ballads.” You’ve probably already heard a few of their latest singles. If not, keep your ear out for both “Should’ve Known Better” as well as Get In Get Out,” both representative of the Cinder Road philosophy. The band will be on the road for most of 2008, so catch a show after you dive into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Cinder Road (Mike)

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did Cinder Road first form as a band?

Mike: Most of us started in a band called “Plunge” in 1995 in Baltimore where we grew up. Pat and Nat we met in the local music scene and eventually asked them to join the band which became Cinder Road.

PEV: Growing up who were listening to?

. M: A lot of 80’s and arena rock bands. Def Leppard, Bon jovi, Aerosmith.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you performed live as Cinder Road. Did you think, then that you would be where you are now?

M: Our first show as CR was the very first night of the Daughtry Tour. We stepped foot on stage for the first time as a group in front of a sold-out crowd and numerous label, management and industry people. Quite the trial by fire! All went well though and we are very happy to be where we are.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Cinder Road performance?

M: We pride ourselves on our live show. We are a very visual band and we try to make the shows as energetic and entertaining as possible.

PEV: Was there a certain time in your life when you decided that music was going to be a career for you?

M: The moment I stepped on stage for the first time.

PEV: Tell us about the early days for the band when you were first starting out.

M: We began playing talent shows, small clubs and parties. We initially did a ton of cover shows to make money as we began writing our own music. Eventually we made the change to an original band.

PEV: What can fans expect from “Superhuman”?

M: I think “SuperHuman” is a very well rounded rock album that most fans of old fashioned rock and roll would enjoy. We are very proud of the record, hopefully others enjoy it as well.

PEV: How is “Superhuman” different from other albums out today?

M: I try not to compare our band or album to others. I like the fans to make there own opinions up.

PEV: What’s your take on today’s current music scene?

M: The music scene is in a tough spot. Records aren’t selling and labels are in trouble but the saving grace is that people will always want new, fresh music, because of this bands will always have work.

PEV: Who are you currently listening to?

M: 12 Stones, Candelbox, Aerosmith, Lep.

PEV: What up and coming artist do you think we should all be listening to now?

M: Cinder Road!

PEV: In all your travels, which city do you think offers the best appreciation for music?

M: Each city has a different personality but we like the mid-west and the south.

PEV: How is life on the road been for you? Best and worst parts?

M: I really love to tour, so aside from missing my family and friends I am pretty content on the bus.

PEV: When you are not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

M: Catching up with friends and making sure the band stays busy!

PEV: What’s one thing, people would be surprised to hear about the guys of Cinder Road?

M: I am not really sure. I think we are a pretty accessible band, send me some strange questions!

PEV: When you sit down two write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

M: Whatever environment I am in at the moment I feel moved to write. It could be a hotel room, my house or in the studio.

PEV: In one word, describe Cinder Road?

M: Rock!

PEV: You said, “The days of pyro, big light shows, huge stages, ramps, swings, and all that crazy stuff?

M: We want to bring that back.” With that, why do you think so many other artists are more content with not putting on a “good show” for the fans? Different bands have different ways of expressing their songs on stage. We want our concerts to be a good time all the way around. We want a light hearted, fun atmosphere. I dislike when bands take themselves too serious.

PEV: How have all your friends and family back home reacted to your success?

M: I will always be my parents son, my friends buddy from years ago so I think everyone is happy for us but we are not getting any special treatment.

PEV: So, what is next for Cinder Road?

M: Releasing “Should’ve Known Better” as our 2nd single in Jan and Touring all of 08! For more info please visit our website.

For more information on Cinder Road, check out www.CinderRoadMusic.com

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Today’s Feature, December 25th-26th: Brandon Walker

December 25, 2007 at 11:44 pm (Today's Feature)

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Music has always been an essential part of Brandon Walker’s life. Since taking piano lessons as a child, to the band he played with at James Madison University (Midnight Spaghetti and the Chocolate G-Strings – best band name ever), to his current occupation as a school music director, Walker has constantly had a melody jogging through his head. It shows more than ever today as he makes plans to produce a song a month, every month.

A song a month sounds like a tough task (especially to me) but when you have a background like Walker, it really isn’t that hard to believe. Playing live with a band, acoustically, or solo, Walker has gotten a taste for just about every musical setting. Each site has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, “I love playing in bands, because I love the live interaction that goes on between musicians. If they’re good musicians, then they’re all listening to each other and building off of each other, and every show is going to be different. The benefit of playing solo is that everyone can hear me, and I can hear myself. It’s pure.”

Walker is probably best known for his 2006 YouTube hit, “Chinese Food On Christmas” about what it is like for a member of the Jewish community on Christmas, as well the song’s 2007 video version (it’s classic). His students have certainly caught word of the tune; “A lot of them will sing some of my lyrics to me when I pass them in the halls or while they’re in my class. I act like it bothers me, especially when they’re singing lyrics that may be inappropriate for school, but I secretly love it.”

If you can catch Brandon Walker live, take advantage of it. After all, the best part of a live show for him is “making people happy. When the crowd is happy, I’m happy.” Sign up at the web site to hear his new song each month and get into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Brandon Walker

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get involved with music?

Brandon Walker (BW):I had a great uncle who left an old upright piano to us after he died. My parents figured if we had a piano we might as well use it, so they invested in piano lessons for me.

PEV: Growing up in Owings Mills, MD (suburb of Baltimore), what kind of music where you listening to?

BW: One of my first cassette tapes was Green Day’s Dookie, a total classic. I was listening to a lot of Green Day, Offspring, and even Weird Al in my earlier years.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you played live on stage? What was going through your head?

BW: My first time on stage was at a restaurant called Harvey’s, where I played solo piano for a dinner crowd. I was probably around twelve and although I’m sure I was nervous (I always get nervous in front of crowds), I don’t really remember too much else about that night.

PEV: Was music something you always aspired to do or was it just something you liked to do as a hobby?

BW: Music was always a hobby. I’ve always worked to better myself as a musician, but it’s only recently that I realized that its conceivable to make a career out of music. As a school music director, I’m technically already making a career out of music, but I’m getting the itch to really take a leap. Like maybe move to LA and go for it. It’s an idea in the very early stages.

PEV: You were in a band in college (JMU), called Midnight Spaghetti and the Chocolate G-Strings. First, please tell us about that name. And second, what where those earlier shows like?

BW: The name comes from the band’s front man, who is an unbelievably intelligent and quirky guy. His lyrics are as mysterious and creative as the band’s name. I joined MS because they were the ultimate party band. They get everybody off of their feet and their live show is full of plenty of surprises. I loved playing with them in front of crowds of dancing people.

PEV: Do you prefer to play in the band atmosphere or solo? Why?

BW: That’s a tough one. I love playing in bands, because I love the live interaction that goes on between musicians. If they’re good musicians, then they’re all listening to each other and building off of each other, and every show is going to be different. The problem with a band atmosphere is the sound has to be just right. It’s so easy for a keyboard player like myself to get drowned out by a guitar or a drummer if the sound isn’t perfect. The benefit of playing solo is that everyone can hear me, and I can hear myself. It’s pure. The problem with playing solo is that I get nervous in the spotlight! I think my favorite setup is an acoustic show with a band.

PEV: Who are you currently listening to right now?

BW: Lately I’ve been putting Sarah Bareilles’ album on repeat. I also like to listen to country these days. So many country songs have such clever lyrics, and they’re so accessible and from the heart. It’s not like a lot of the crap on the pop charts these days that just talk about glamorous things like money and cars.

PEV: What up and coming artist or band do you think everyone should be listening to?

BW: Midnight Spaghetti. I’m not even saying that because I played with them; I’m saying it because they are so unique and talented and I just think that if they really put themselves out there people will get into them in masses.

PEV: In 2006, you wrote, sang and performed, via YouTube your hit song, “Chinese Food On Christmas” about what it is like for a Jewish person on Christmas. What inspired you to write that song and did you ever expect to get such great feedback from it as well?

BW: I wrote it in 2004 for a songwriting class at James Madison University. We were instructed to write a Christmas song, and so I decided to write about my experience as a Jew on Christmas. I never expected to get the kind of response I got last year. It was truly awesome! I was spending hours a day answering fan mail from all over the world.

PEV: Tell us about the 2007 VIDEO version of “Chinese Food On Christmas”.

BW: I wanted to ride on the coat tails of last year’s success (the beauty of a Christmas song), so I worked with a local film company called Stratatek Studios to bring the lyrics of the song to life. I just put the new video out and I’m getting some great feedback!

PEV: When you aren’t performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

BW: In my spare time, I’m usually playing soccer or hanging out with my friends and my girlfriend, Andrea. Weekend nights usually consist of bar-hopping or just staying in and watching a movie. I’m also a big traveler. I’ve got the wanderlust, so I indulge myself by taking one or two big trips each year.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?

BW: How about that I’ve eaten Guinea pig. It was alright.

PEV: Which city, in your opinion, International or US, do you think offers the best environment for music?

BW: I can’t say which one I think is the best, because there are a couple I haven’t seen yet, but just took a trip to Nashville and loved it! It truly is music city–the concentration of talent in that city is just mind-blowing!

PEV: How have all your students reacted to your musical career?

BW: A lot of them will sing some of my lyrics to me when I pass them in the halls or while they’re in my class. I act like it bothers me, especially when they’re singing lyrics that may be inappropriate for school, but I secretly love it.

PEV: What do you think about the fact that most public schools are cutting funding for the arts?

BW: It’s a terrible thing. I just can’t imagine someone living a life where they aren’t exposed to music. Music is a very powerful thing. Music has been invaluable to my life, and I am infinitely grateful for the influence music has had on me. Everyone should have the opportunity to be exposed to music, especially in school.

PEV: What one word best describes Brandon Walker?

BW: How about, nice. I’m a pretty nice guy.

PEV: What do all your friends and family think about your music?

BW: They support me. If I want to move to LA and go for it, they’re behind me. I even got my entourage lined up, Marky Mark style.

PEV: What is the best part about playing live on stage?

BW: Making people happy. When the crowd is happy, I’m happy. I especially love when the crowd sings along.

PEV: What kind of venue to you prefer to play and why?

BW: I like intimate settings, where the music is clear and the audience is attentive. I’m sure I’d love to play a stadium, but I haven’t had that luxury yet.

PEV: So, what is next for Brandon Walker?

BW: A song a month. I’m committing to putting out one new song every month. So stop by my website and sign up. I’ll let you know when each new song comes out!

For more information on Brandon Walker, check out www.BrandonWalkerMusic.com

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Today’s Feature, December 23rd-24th: Tyler Hilton

December 24, 2007 at 2:31 pm (Today's Feature)

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You’ve gotten to know part of Tyler Hilton. You’ve watched at least one episode of “One Tree Hill” where the sunny faced Hilton has starred as Chris Keller across three seasons. Or maybe you saw him on the big screen as the king of rock n’ roll, Elvis Presley in the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line.” But what about Tyler Hilton the singer/songwriter? Do you know him?

Either way, you will soon. The guy is marvelous. He’s been writing songs since he was 14 years old, testing out his melodies across the open mic nights of Palm Springs, CA. He released “The Tracks of Tyler Hilton” back in 2004 at the tender age of 21, “an appealing slice of strummy pop Americana that included the breakout track ‘When It Comes.'” However it’s the future the holds true excitement. Hilton has since set up shop in Nashville to work on his second album, one that will ransack the billboard charts early next year under the Warner Brothers Record Label.

His sound is soothing, inviting and peaceful, something you can throw in on a ride down any crowded thoroughfare, or while enjoying the stillness of a warm Sunday afternoon. The bar has been set high since being compared to the likes of Elton John and Howie Day, but his talent makes the references less than intimidating. Sound unlikely? Give “Kiss On” a few minutes of your time. Enough said.

While the album will be out soon, you can also catch Hilton starring alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Hope Davis in the February release of the major motion picture, “Charlie Bartlett.” Reserve a Tyler Hilton section on both your DVD and CD rack, and jump into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Tyler Hilton

Pen’s Eye View: Where did I catch you right now?

Tyler Hilton: I’m just here at home in Nashville.

PEV: What’s it like living in Nashville?

TH: It’s a lot slower here. It’s a lot more homey. Doesn’t totally feel like you’re in the music business or anything. It’s really great. It feels like one big retreat or something, from L.A. and New York.

PEV: Where did you grow up?

TH: In Palm Springs, California.

PEV: So it’s definitely a little bit of a change of scenery.

TH: Yeah. I was in LA the last 4 or 5 years . I started coming here a lot and there were a lot of places you think are great but you don’t think you can live there. But there are so many people getting so many things done in this town. And it’s a cheaper cost of living so you can just so much more for you money. It’s just like “Wow”. All around it’s the coolest vibe.

PEV: Growing up on the West Coast, what kind of music were you listening to?

TH: A lot of blues. I listened to a ton of old blues. I can’t remember why or how, but I really liked the oldies station in Palm Springs and I got really into Frank Sinatra and Elvis and then I think from Elvis I just started listening to a lot of blues and then I just was pretty into only blues like BB King and then Muddy Waters and then went backwards into Robert Johnson and I just really liked all that blues stuff a lot.

PEV: You actually got a chance to play Elvis in a role, didn’t you?

TH: Yeah, yeah. That was pretty amazing. It was like a dream coming true. I was like, “What the hell?”. It was like out of a Disney movie or something.

PEV: A lot of people got to see you a lot when you were on One Tree Hill and you did a lot of other acting. Was acting something that you always aspired to do along with music?

TH: Yeah I did. I always thought it was going to be more of a hobby. I didn’t think it would be something that people would know me for. I remember when I first got signed to William Morris for touring. I signed a record deal and put out my first 2 records before I started acting or anything. I remember when I first got signed I asked them, I really liked doing acting in high school and if there’s a chance that at maybe some point I would love to take a break from my music and maybe do some theatre or do some kind of like, off Broadway stuff, or some kind of acting. Nothing too crazy. And they were like, “Yeah, if you want to do that, for sure”. They knew I was interested in it as a hobby, just as another way of being an artist and then when Walk the Line came out they were just looking for people to be extras. And so they were like, “if you would like to get some film experience and would like to be on the set, go on and try out to be an extra and so I went and hey were like “Elvis, and blah, blah, blah,” and the next thing you know I was in the move, acting. That’s how I got One Tree Hill and how I got the next movie I was doing.

PEV: How did you first get involved in music?

TH: My family is all musicians so I played with them a lot, whenever I could, and their shows. I have a huge family and once a year we have an extended family trip and there is a lot of playing there and I would always play on the stages there, just kind of sitting background or whatever. When I was about 14 or 15 I actually started doing some open mikes with my own songs and then with some blues songs that I really like. I just did that a lot until I got my own show at the coffee house and then really I was kind of up and running because as far as I was concerned once you got your own show you could take that to other restaurants and coffee houses and they’d let you play because you already have a show and then it just goes from there. It’s all about getting in front of people and if you have people letting you get up in front of people then you’re set. You’re off and running. All of the other things I might have had were significant but not as significant as someone saying “I’ll let you play on my stage for more than 2 songs”. I didn’t really get paid anything but I was able to make tips and able to put out a mailing list and it was off and running, Once you have an audience, once you have a stage, you’re set to go.

PEV: What were those earlier days like? Do you remember your first performance at the coffee house?

TH: The very first one I was just so excited. I couldn’t believe it. It felt like the biggest break ever. I was acting like Tommy Mottola from Sony had called me and asked me to single-handedly be the reason Sony still appears or something. I was so excited. My dad helped me. We printed up these cards. We printed up these cards advertising the show and the other people that came were friends from my high school and my family, and it ended up being a pretty big group. You know, a lot of my family came down from LA, ’cause it was in the desert in Palm Springs, and a lot of my friends from school came and I don’t know why they all thought it was such a big deal. I might have talked it up. It ended up becoming a big thing. I was really excited. A lot of people were there. I had my uncle and some friends back me up and it wasn’t a real realistic show. It was kind of like all of us all celebrating that I even had a show. After that was mostly whoever was in the coffee house at the time and whatever friends of mine could come down and see the show. But you know, once you’re in front of people it just goes. The local newspaper wants to do an article about you because you like blues and you’re young and then more people come and it just kind of snowballs. Now I’m 24 and that was almost 10 years ago and it’s still kind of snowballing, just slowly. I really like it.

PEV: Your family seems very supportive. I talked to your Dad, obviously.

TH: My family is very supportive. They were all trying to do the same thing when they were my age and they have a very realistic outlook on music and they love it now, it wasn’t just for the fame or for the money. I’m sure that it crossed their minds when they were signed, but they all still love to play and they all play all the time. Still, they go through their phases of their favorite artist, and they are just active music fans. It’s just nice.

PEV: What was it like in high school, when you were getting a lot of attention and you were playing music constantly, with your friends in high school as well? Was it a little bit hard for them to relate to? How did they react to it?

TH: It wasn’t like more success, than say…well, it was a bit of success. I was a rare solo artist I think and most of the time in high school you’re in a band or something and you’re playing battles of the bands and stuff. It wasn’t any bigger than that really. It was just kind of like “Oh that’s cool”. There were always a few bands in the high school and I was just one of them. I think people really started being like “Whoa, man, You’re really doing well” when maybe the local paper would write up something or a few times I got on the radio, things like that, and then people would be like, “That’s pretty cool”. It was really cool. And the teachers would come out and see me play sometimes, too, so I’m sure that always helped.

PEV: You get to tour around a lot. What has been your favorite place to play so far?

TH: My favorite place to play is probably, crowd-wise, Chicago. I don’t know why but people in Chicago are just always so receptive. We always get big receptions in Chicago. That city is so big for us. I don’t why. They are just always very receptive there. And I really like New York City just because I like that feeling. When you’re on tour, especially with a band, New York always feels like an oasis of fun. You’re always like, 2 days from New York or 3 days from New York. I can’t wait to get to New York. Everyone is just excited to get New York. I love playing in the city.

PEV: What is road life like for you?

TH: It’s a lot of reading. There’s travel in vans. A lot of….life is very simple on the road. Your whole life is in a little duffle bag and in a suitcase and so you don’t pack much, you don’t have much around you. I don’t have much around me. Whatever the hotel’s got and I feel like everything else is in my suitcase. It’s just a very simple life. I like it. I really do. Things are very simple and easy. A lot of things are black and white on the road which I like. It’s nice. Well, I can’t say it’s black and white. The weird thing about being on the road is so many things are so predictable. The way the hotel runs. What you’re traveling in. Your suitcase. Everything is just really compact. But then at the same time it’s one of the most adventurous times of a career because, who you’re going to meet. You don’t know what the town’s going to b e like. Even if you’ve been there several times you don’t know how it’s going to be this time. There so much adventure involved. Adventures happen after show and places you go, places you eat. It’s always fun. I love it.

PEV: I’m on your site right now and I see Charlie Bartlett. Tell us a little bit more about that.

TH: That’s the movie that I really liked. I read scripts every once in a while when I’m on the road and a lot of them I like and a lot of them I try out for and don’t always get the part. Most of the movies are terrible but it’s like music if there’s music that you like. But that one in particular I really liked and I was going to start recording my record and I ended up getting a part in that movie and I remember really, really wanting it. My agent loved the film, too. So when I got that chance to be in there, it’s kind of like music where you even write the song on your own time. I’ve only been in 2 movies ever and that was Walk the Line and this one. So at the time I was thinking, I’m glad I didn’t pass up Walk the Line. That’s something that I’ll always remember and this is another movie it was worth pushing recording the album for a couple months to do this movie. At the time also, I had shaved my head into a Mohawk because I didn’t think I’d be seeing anyone for awhile because I was going to be recording a record and they cast me in this movie with the Mohawk. They wanted me to have the Mohawk in the movie. It was really weird. There were all these things coming together and so I thought, “This will be the only time in my life I’ll end up on screen in a Mohawk and he’s like, this sadistic dude who loves to beat up people and sell drugs”. It was such a different part so I thought this would be really fun. And Robert Downey, Jr. was doing it and he’s a musician and he’s got a great vibe and a lot of people involved are very artsy people. It was killer. I loved it.

PEV: You mentioned the record. Tell us about the upcoming record.

TH: I filmed that movie last summer and so the record has kind of been developing since then. It was something that I haven’t been willing to just rush and get out and then get back out on the road as soon as I can. It’s weird that one side of me wants to rush it and the other side wants to take forever making it. And right now the side that wants to take forever making it is winning. But I think that it’s really been good. The record I would have put out right away wouldn’t have been half as good as this one. You know, the version I’m now at. And I’m really glad that I’m working on it in Tennessee, too. It’s slower down here and I’m able to be influenced by a lot things. I’m able to rebel against different things. The music’s coming out a little different than it would have if I was in LA. In a good way. I wanted to make something that sounds like a new live. It sounds like a band on record. I’m really attracted to those kind of records. Nothing with a wall of guitars with the fen guitar part doubled a million times. It’s just really stripped down. And I wanted a lot of rootsy elements because I love that kind of music. There’s this producer that I hooked up with down here that I really dug named Dan Huff and he’s done a lot of country records in the past and had a lot of success recently with that. He’s a rock guy. He kind of tough. His time out in LA he was in this rock bank called Giant for a while. He’s just got a rock heart and he’s had some success in country. The more he was jamming with my band and I, I was like, if I could hire another band member to come out on the road this guy would be it. He just kind of like gets the vibe of what I want to do. And so it seemed like the perfect match to have him produce the record. And it’s been going really good. I think we’re going to be finishing up about February. I’m just trying to record as many new songs as I can with them, probably 11 or so on the record and the rest of them I can put on soundtracks or whatever else. I just want to soak up this time down here and with him and record as much as I can because this is a really nice time right now to capture.

PEV: When you sit down to write music is there a certain kind of environment you surround yourself in? An atmosphere?

TH: I can’t really create too much hoopla for writing a song. It’s like trying to think about your dream when you wake up or like trying like trying to think about what you’re going to dream about. It’s just kind of happens and there’s not a lot I can do. I can try to do some things like try to make sure I have some time, try to make sure there’s an instrument in my hand as often as I can or try to make sure that I’m really paying attention to songs so when I get a vibe and it comes out I’m ready to write. But other than that I can’t do much. What I have been doing out here is I’ve been co-writing with a lot of people. All these songs for the record have been just things that I’ve been kind of writing on the road for the last 3 years. But when I came down to Nashville I started wanting to branch out, kind of as another finger in another pie, and co-write for people, for other country acts and other people and try to see if I could write some songs for other people. It’s spawned a lot of songs that I really like on my record as well. And so it’s just kind of a huge collection of songs I didn’t have before I moved to Nashville to where I thought I was ready to record a year ago I realized most of the record is these brand new songs that I just love. So, about all I can do to setup song writing is get together with other people and be like “hey, you wanna come over and jam?” and just see what happens.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your free time? When you’re not performing and you’re not traveling?

TH: There’s always something. Respond to e-mails, there’s some kind of business calls. I try to do as many self-indulgent things as I can. Like I just got back from taking this tour of an old mansion and I just got home right now. I try to do things like that that expand my horizons as often as I can, but unfortunately a lot of it is just business stuff; returning calls, e-mails. Then uninteresting side. I’ve always thought it would be interesting to own a restaurant or a bar and people are like “Oh man, that’s so much paperwork” and I’m like “Really?” Same thing as being an artist. You think you’re gong to be a musician and rock star, traveling, and you’re like “God, there’s so many damn phone calls to return!”

PEV: Is there an up and coming band right now that you think everybody should be looking out for? An artist you’ve run across?

TH: An up and coming band? Well, no. I’m sure I’ll think of one as soon as I get off the phone. I know what I’ve been liking recently is, I love this, I’d not really owned a Radiohead album before but I love this new Radiohead album so much. I can’t stop listening to it. And I love the new RKFIRE record, I like that album a lot, too. I can’t think of an up and coming band really. There is a guy down her who’s a great songwriter and he’s not signed yet. He’s a really cool guy and his name is Sean McConnell. He’s real hip guy and writes the most haunting songs. They’re like writing movie scripts, every one of his songs. When he gets signed and puts out a record I think everyone should check that out.

PEV: What’s next for Tyler Hilton?

TH: I’ve got to concentrate on getting this record out. It’s really important I get it out. I’ve got to finish something and it’s got to be set next year, early next year. This record is going to come out and all the trimmings, photo shoots, and this and that, and promoting as much as I can. So I’m really just trying to hunker down and get ready for touring and promoting this, what I’ve been working on so long. And, Charlie Bartlett comes out February 3rd. I feel like this last year has been a really important year for staying quiet, relatively, as far as touring and publicity goes. It’s been really important for creativity and making something. Next year is going to be a lot of promotions of what I’ve been doing this last year. So I’m really just getting excited for that.

For more information on Tyler Hilton, check out www.TylerFans.com/

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Today’s Feature, December 21st-22nd: Ransack

December 21, 2007 at 10:15 pm (Today's Feature)

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If you’re in a band, you gotta have chemistry. Individual talent is essential, but if you share the stage with two or three other guys, you better be able to bring it all together. When you think about it, being part of any band means to take on some aspect of selflessness. Everyone has to do their part, regardless of who stands out. Perhaps that’s why Ransack is able to stand out in a crowd of so many – being best friends since childhood, the group knows they can rely on each other on the way to musical triumph.

The band echoes the fact they can stick out on the scene, “There is a lot of mainstream crap out today to say the least; I think we stand out from the rest. Our formula is simple, pop, catchy melodies with some edge.” They also second the idea that their background strengthens their musical performance, “Amazingly, the chemistry was what made the show exciting. We are all best friends who grew up together, putting our experiences, emotions, and souls out to people for the first time.”

Right now, the band is heading into the studio to pull something together that accurately represents what they stand for – Heavy yet catchy tunes, with a fair share of “cricking and crackling,” as they put it. If you happen to catch a live show, you’ll bear witness to “Ransucking,” again, in their own words. Jump into their XXQ’s.

XXQs: Ransack

Pen’s Eye View (PEV): How and when did you first get involved in music?

Damon: We were all kids who grew up together who wanted to emulate Nirvana. With our boredom, we decided to pick up some instruments and play in a band. I think at the very early stages Jordan (the drummer) wanted to play bass, Brandon (our old singer) wanted to play drums, or something like that. Matt and I were undecided because we were so wrapped up in playing baseball. Eventually Jordan went to play drums, with the worst looking crap kit in the world, I picked up guitar so I could catch up with everyone else, and matt picked up bass (although he wouldn’t play until the next few years, basically until we kicked out the other bassist.) The band had many different revolving members through the years, but the heart always remained.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you told yourself that music was going to be a career rather than a hobby?

Damon: Wow, ok, when we were kids and teenagers, we had this us against the world attitude, that we wanted to be the biggest band in the world. Many others would laugh at us (high school was awesome!) all the time, so it was never taken seriously by us. It was just fun and a way to escape everything. After we took the hiatus a few years ago, I started reflecting and thinking constantly upon starting the band again. We all just started not caring. Why not us? Why can’t we live our lives to the fullest? Fuck, these jobs we have now are only temporary. Positive thinking.

Jordan: When life started to suck with crappy jobs.

PEV: Growing up, what kind of music were you listening to? Do you remember the first album you ever purchased and concert you attended?

Damon: Growing up we all listed to an eclectic variety of stuff. Of course, we became inspired by bands such as Green Day, Offspring, Nirvana, silverchair, Weezer, the Bealtes, blah blah blah. We were all in 6th grade so this music just spoke to us. The first album I purchased was Weezer’s first album. We also listened to horror movie music, soundtracks, oldies, classic rock, transitioning later to heavier stuff. First concert, Boston.

Jordan: Boston

Matt: Embarrassingly Creed, Fuel, Jimmy’s Chicken Shack.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you performed live. What was going through your heads?

Damon: The First time we played live was at a community picnic in the neighborhood I think, but we never consider that one. Everyone just yelled at us to turn it down. Ughh. So we like to say our first “real” show was at a friends party in 9 th grade. We played mostly Nirvana songs and were more focused on breaking things and talking to girls. But it was fucking exciting.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Ransack performance?

Damon: Fun, sing-alongs, contemplation. It’s just a fun show with rocking songs that you can sing along to as well. I encourage moshing.

Jordan: Ransucking.

PEV: You plan to go back into the studio to record. What will fans get from that performance?

Damon: With what many we have, we hope to make a quality 3-4 song demo that will represent us to the fullest. Heavy songs with catchy melodies. Heavy pop, cricking and crackling.

Jordan: A badass demo with wailing drums.

Matt: Jams for the new millennium.

PEV: How is the sound of Ransack different than other music out today?

Damon: Good Question. There is a lot of mainstream crap out today to say the least; I think we stand out from the rest. Our formula is simple, pop, catchy melodies with some edge, what not. I really don’t care, I think we do sound like some other stuff out there, who doesn’t. Yet when people ask us whom we sound like, we can’t think of anyone. Maybe you can help us out with that.

PEV: Who is currently in your CD player right now?

Damon: Him, the Fray, Incubus, Robert Johnson, 69 eyes, Law of Attraction, Johnny Cash, As I Lay Dying.

Jordan: Coldplay, Slipknot, eighties classics, dying fetus.

Matt: Pete Yorn, Turbonegro, Gorgoroth, Phil Collins, Halloween theme.

PEV: What up and coming artist do you think we should all be listening to now?

Damon: I’m just concerned with some local bands. Oddzar, Werewolves, our friends in American Diary, The Captains (awesome band from Tokyo), Trash Camp.

Jordan: Am. Diary.

Matt: Turbonegro.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist, who would it be? Why?

Damon: HIM, Incubus because they mean a lot to me and my sanity. Can this be dead or alive? Because if it was someone dead it would have to be Kurt Cobain, or Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson.

Jordan: Dave Grohl.

Matt: Nightwish.

PEV: What was it like the first time you performed together live?

Damon: Amazingly, the chemistry was what made it exciting. We are all best friends who grew up together, putting our experiences, emotions, and souls out to people for the first time. Fuck yeah it was incredible.

PEV: Finish this sentence, “The most embarrassing time for the band was when…” Damon: The most embarrassing time for the band was when we played an all night hoola-hoop churcy show back in the day. All I can say is that if you put crap on a white expensive carpet, that’s what it was. We were so out of place. We just have to talk about this one. We had to endure a weird time slot, at like 2 in the morning, while also promised we could play as long as we want. We were 15 and we were going to play a full awesome set. When we got there, we walked in to the room and all the kids were hoola-hooping and dancing to Backstreet Boys. They just stared. Some woman took one look at us, found out what type of band we were, and secretly called our parents to pick us up early. We had no idea that this was the intention. When we played, the tools just laughed, threw shit at us and made fun of us. I think save for the one cool girl who watched us, no one gave one lick. Eventually we were fed up as they kept telling us to stop, so we broke our equipment and their floors. Cops came, kicked us out, and our parents were outside waiting for us laughing. No one tells us anything. Our former friend Danny set us up with the show. He’s awesome.

PEV: In all your travels, which city do you think offers the best appreciation for music?

Damon: Difficult to answer because we haven’t played too far from the realms of Maryland because of circumstances. This will soon all change. But for music appreciation, really depends on the area. Maryland kind of sucks. Annapolis likes its cover bands. Baltimore has a real loyal hardcore scene, which is cool. There are definitely much better areas for music than around here.

PEV: What’s been your favorite place to play so far and which venue do you want to play that you haven’t?

Damon: Our favorite places to play were the ones we set up ourselves with other bands. Places such as the Knights of Columbus were awesome because we could rent it out, invite gazillions of people who cared about us, played for as long as we wanted and didn’t have supervision. That’s when everything usually would get damaged, but it was cool.

Jordan: I really want to play reading festival in England

Matt: Redrock

Damon: Anywhere, Europe.

PEV: When you are not performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time? Damon: Working (to live), dreaming, kayaking, surfing, exploring, writing, drinking, sleazing.

Jordan: working, drumming, drinking.

Matt: Masturbating, drinking.

PEV: What’s one thing, people would be surprised to hear about the guys of Ransack?

Damon: We are so weird nothing surprises anyone. Two members completed college. We are die-hard horror movie fans. Not sure.

PEV: When you sit down two write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

Damon: Really Depends, most of the songs so far are ones I have written on my own, inspired by my moods and feelings which come out almost randomly, like they were imprinted in my mind. The ocean inspires me most. Then I take my stuff and play it for the band and we jam on them for a while, adding their own flair to them. We surround ourselves with that goose bump feeling, chills of excitement, hope, passion…

PEV: What one word, best describes Ransack?

Damon: Hmmm, Ransack. Nah, Matt said friendship, so we’ll stick with that. It really is the basis for all this.

PEV: Where do you hope to be in 20 years?

Damon: I hope, no, I will be living quietly on an awesome beach, right by the water, celebrating life, our many multi-platinum albums, and cherishing life. Having friends, health, family, financial freedom. I dream a lot

Matt: I hope to be in a happy place… masturbating

Jordan: Mostly I would like to be living on a beach as well, living an exciting and thrilling life.

PEV: So, what is next for Ransack?

Damon: Record, play, market, conquer.

For more information on Ransack, check out www.MySpace.com/RansackRock

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Today’s Feature, December 19th-20th: Gypsy Dave and The Stumpjumpers

December 20, 2007 at 9:37 pm (Today's Feature)

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“If career means that it defines your life, then it’s true, music is my career.” Whether you call it a job or life’s purpose, Gypsy Dave is enthralled by his music. It is after all, the most powerful thing in his life. These songs are who he is. Gypsy Dave himself will tell you that “they are what I stand for, and what I believe in.” The enthusiasm doesn’t get much more intense than that.

Then come the Stumpjumpers, a group of players who have helped breathe life into these melodies on the new release, “As the Stars Gather Light.” The album brings “music back to its roots, at its core it celebrates both the simple and the complex.” It’s hard to classify the genre behind the sound, whether it’s folk, bluegrass, classical or punk. But that suits Gypsy Dave and the Stumpjumpers’ just fine – “we don’t really classify our music in any way. We just write what we write, and that makes it flexible and allows us to grow.” Either way, you are going to hear songs about “growing, living, laughing, crying, but most of all… honest emotion.”

Above all, “As the Stars Gather Light” is a “statement of belief.” The group knows if they continue doing what they love, that the wheels will keep on turning. You can see this passion in a live Gypsy Dave performance, where you’ll witness all of the “energy and emotion that went into creating the song in the first place.” You can learn more by reading their XXQ’s.

XXQs: Gypsy Dave and The Stumpjumpers

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did the band first form?

Dave: We formed in the spring of 2006, but we’ve been together in a more serious way since January of this year. Kristel and I had been playing together for a couple of months back when she was still playing a viola and I had asked our mutual friend, Phil, a jazz bassist by trade to come over and make music with Kristel and myself. A good friend of mine introduced us to Jared, our washboard player at a show we had done in town. Late last fall Phil was recruited to play in a Nashville bound country band, and I convinced my good friend Ryan Nageotte to spend all his money on an upright bass. His learning curve has been tremendous, and the chemistry that the three of us have formed has become ‘Gypsy Dave and The Stumpjumpers’.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you told yourself that music was going to be a career?

Dave: I’ve never thought of music as a “career” (although maybe now is a good time to think about that again). I’ve always thought of music as being the most powerful thing in my life, and I’ve known since I got a guitar in high school that pursuing music is what I wanted to do. If career means that it defines your life, then it’s true, music is my career.

PEV: Growing up, what kind of music were you listening to? Do you remember the first album you ever purchased?

Dave: I do remember the first album I ever purchased, it was a cassette tape of Metallica’s Black Album with ‘Enter Sandman’ as the first track. I remember sitting on the floor next to the speaker getting all into it. The first CD I ever bought was White Zombie’s “AstroCreep 2000”, that was in 6th grade. I didn’t discover classic rock until high school, and from there, I discovered Dylan. And that opened me up to a whole world of music that had such power. I also listened to a lot of Beck, Cake, Nirvana, and The Verve. Me and every other teenager. Though I have to say, I still listen to a lot of that music. Nirvana unplugged in NY is the most powerful live album I’ve ever heard. You can hear so much emotion in that show, it’s unreal.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you performed live. Did you think, then that you would be where you are now?

Dave: The first time I performed live was in a coffee shop at school called ‘Grounds For Change’. It’s a great place to start out because it attracts good people. I remember I played ‘A hard rain’s a gonna fall’. That’s the first song I ever played live, all 5 or 6 minutes of it. I was really, really nervous. I guess if you had told someone then that this is what I’d still be doing they’d probably laugh. But I believed it then too as much as now…

PEV:What is the best part about performing live?

Dave: The best part of performing live for me is to summon all of the energy and emotion that went into creating the song in the first place, and bringing that out of ourselves again so that other people can feel it, digest it, and add to it in their own way. It’s the only way in this life, to relive something that’s gone by. Those emotions never go away.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Gypsy Dave and The Stumpjumpers performance?

Dave: They can expect to hear songs that come from a deep place inside us, and they can expect to have an opportunity to be a part of those songs and that place. There are a lot of universal themes in life, and we bring our experiences with us everywhere we go, so it’s important to us that audience members become part of the experience, so that they can take it away with them as well.

PEV: You describe your sound as your own blend of “folk, bluegrass, classical, and punk”. How did you decide to work with those genres and decide to fuse them together?

Dave: That’s kinda funny because although those elements make up a large part of who we are, we just kinda picked those four. We could have listed any number of genres. But I guess the point for us was that we don’t really classify our music in any way. People always want to put labels on things, but we don’t label our music. Because we write our own music we don’t see it fitting anywhere in particular. And for us that’s good because it takes off some of the expectations that come with certain genres. We just write what we write, and that makes it flexible and allows us to grow.

PEV: Tell us about “As the Stars Gather Light”. What can fans expect?

Dave: ‘As the Stars Gather Light’ is our first full-length release together as a band. All the songs on the album are our own except track 4 (Rag Mama), a traditional song that we often include in the live show. For us, it’s a big step forward as a band. For the first time in our “careers” we had the chance to really work our songs and record them how we wanted to. And the end result is an album of songs that we believe in very much. People can expect to hear songs about growing, living, laughing, crying, but most of all they can expect to hear honest emotion.

PEV: How is “As the Stars Gather Light” different than your previous works as well as different from other music out today?

Dave: We had the opportunity to release a live EP last summer and I also had a chance to record and release a solo LP last year. But Atsgl is different because like I said earlier, for the first time we really had a chance to put things down exactly how we wanted them. And not only that, but each member of the band was able to really express themselves musically and work to get the sound how they wanted it to be. It really brought us close together as a working band, and that’s very important. As far as it being different from other albums out there today, it’s definitely very different from mainstream pop records. It’s a little bit less refined, but in it’s way that rawness makes it real.

PEV: Who is currently in your CD player or on your iPod right now?

Dave: I just drove to Buffalo, NY from PA for the holidays. I listened to Bruce Springsteen’s album ‘Nebraska’ three times while the gray clouds turned into night. I still think it’s the most powerful album I’ve ever heard.

PEV: What up and coming artist do you think we should all be listening to now?

Dave: That’s a tough question because we still feel like we’re young and up and coming! But there are really a lot of great bands out there touring right now in the Americana world. The Avett Brothers and The Everybodyfields on Ramseur Records are both fantastic. And I’ve been getting really into the John Butler Trio and The Wood brothers lately, though they’re already pretty well established.

PEV: In all your travels, which city do you think offers the best appreciation for music?

Dave: We’ve been to a lot of cities, lots of small towns too, we’ve played loud smoky bars, and dirty clubs, and we’ve also played beautiful quiet listening rooms. But I guess I’d have to say Buffalo (my hometown) so far. We played with The Avett Brothers there and the crowd was just amazing. So many people from both Pennsylvania and New York, just a room full of really great folks. You can’t beat that.

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Best and worst parts?

Dave: I really enjoy life on the road. It feels like things are right, like that’s exactly what I should be doing at this point in my life. The best part is for sure meeting so many great people and seeing so many awesome places. 9 or 10-hour drives can be hard sometimes, but that’s the life we’re committed to. I’d say for sure though, that meeting wonderful people is the best part of being on the road. We’ve met a lot of great friends that way.

PEV: When you are not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

Dave: Running usually. I competed in cross-country and track in high school and college. We also have really great small town bars in PA, so you might find me playing shuffleboard out on a dirt road.

PEV: What’s one thing, people would be surprised to hear about the band?

Dave: People are always surprised when we tell them that Ryan has only been playing bass for a year. And also people are usually surprised when we tell them that the scruff on my face took two weeks to grow.

PEV: When you sit down two write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?

Dave: I’ve written in a lot of different environments. I’ve written songs in the car, at home, with Ryan, with Kristel, and with both Ryan and Kristel together. When they come, they come. I just hope to be around my guitar when they do.

PEV: What is your take on today’s current “mainstream” music scene?

Dave: I have a pretty hard time getting into main steam pop music. Although I used to watch CMT videos in the morning during the summer because they’re just so overtop. There’s a lot of money that goes into pop music, and not enough heart and soul. I think that’s why it doesn’t resonate much with me.

PEV: Is there one artist that you have not had a chance to collaborate with yet, that you would like to?

Dave: I’d love to write a song with Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers. Sometimes I feel like we see the world in a similar way.

PEV: What one word, best describes Gypsy Dave and The Stumpjumpers?

Dave: Honest

PEV: So, what is next for Gypsy Dave and The Stumpjumpers?

Dave: We’re just going to keep doing what we love. We try to put one foot forward every day and hope that the wheels keep turning. All I know for sure is that we feel the need to create, and that drive keeps us pushing pretty hard.

For more information on Gypsy Dave and The Stumpjumpers, check out www.TheGypsyDave.com

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Today’s Feature: December 17th-18th, Scott Selsor

December 17, 2007 at 11:29 pm (Today's Feature)

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Like most 20 something males today, I have a horrible case of ADD. Sure, it makes it easy to multi-task, but the chances of me sitting down and reading a book are slim to none. Skimming, summary and headline are all terms I identify with when it comes to reading anything.

I do make an exception however, once every week. The Sunday funnies: the weekly color cartoons that jump out of my weekend newspaper. Thanks goodness for these people… the cartoonists! Thanks goodness for past writers like Schultz, and future writers coming on strong today Ð writers like Scott Selsor. He is the man behind “Zero,” the next big thing on Sunday morning. The strip is currently taking over college newspapers around the country before eventually landing on the national circuit. Zero is “the story of a group of young adults on the brink of adulthood. They’re in college and are composed of a range of characters: Christian is a goodhearted slacker, Camp is his “every guy” roommate (modeled a little after myself), Meredyth is the beauty everyone loves, and Lilith is a hip girl who feels “alone” and misunderstood. Then, of course, there’s Merlin, a conservative fish. He’s sort of the cranky voice of reason to counterbalance the mindset of the rest of the gang.”

The cartoon is currently running in seven college papers, including University of Alaska, Cal State, University of North Carolina and Chattanooga State. And what’s best about this strip is the fact it’s reader-driven. Selsor encourages his audience to visit zerostrip.com, sign up for ‘Zmail’ and send him stories, jokes, situations they might like to see.” Chances are you’ll see your idea incorporated into a cartoon. Keep an eye out as the comic spreads, and get into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Scott Selsor

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did you first get interested in drawing and deciding to be a cartoonist?

Scott Selsor: Drawing always came naturally for me. I’ve never had a lesson or taken classes, but always had an inclination for it. I remember sketching in all my schoolbooks whenever I was bored in class. I wish I could get my hands on those books today!

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you told yourself that art was going to be a career?

SS: I knew I wanted to work in a creative field. And I loved reading comics as I grew up. I opted to go into advertising writing and illustrating after college, just because it was a more stable career choice. But I did my comic strip on the side because it was my first love.

PEV: Growing up, what kind of cartoons or comic strips were you interested in? Who was your all time favorite?

SS: I loved Peanuts, of course. I’m a huge Schultz fan. But my all time favorite and probably my biggest influence was Bloom County (and now Opus) by Berke Breathed.

PEV: If you could sit down with one cartoonist and pick their brain, who would it be and why?

SS: I’d love to sit down and talk with Breathed, but would’ve killed to have met Schultz while he was alive. His work was so simple, yet so universal and inspiring.

PEV: Tell us about “Zero”. What can fans expect?

SS: Zero is the story of a group of young adults on the brink of adulthood. They’re in college and are composed of a range of characters: Christian is a goodhearted slacker, Camp is his “every guy” roommate (modeled a little after myself), Meredyth is the beauty everyone loves, and Lilith is a hip girl who feels “alone” and misunderstood. Then, of course, there’s Merlin, a conservative fish. He’s sort of the cranky voice of reason to counterbalance the mindset of the rest of the gang.

PEV: What brought on the idea for this comic strip?

SS: One day I just sat down and started drawing them, and they sort of took on a life of their own. I decided I’d try my hand at creating a strip and “Bohemia” was born. I did that strip in the south (running in up to 15 papers in the 90s)…before I set it aside and moved to L.A. This year, I decided to relaunch a strip called Zero, updating the same characters for today’s young adults. It’s now running in seven college papers, including University of Alaska, Cal State, University of North Carolina, Chattanooga State and others. Hopefully it will continue to grow!

PEV: What were the earlier days for your comic strip at The University of Georgia? What was it like to see people read and enjoy your work?

SS: I actually created the characters while at UGA, but didn’t start running the first strip “Bohemia” until after I graduated and moved to Atlanta. The first papers to publish it where The Emory Wheel and the GA State paper, along with University Reporter.

PEV: Did you ever over hear anyone talking about the strip and just kind of eaves drop on the conversation a little?

SS: I’ve had people approach me and say they like the strip. And I’ve had people even today, tell me they remember the first strip back in the day.

PEV: How is “Zero” different than your previous works as well as different from other strips out today?

SS: I really want Zero to stand out and be a reader-driven comic. By that, I encourage people to visit my site zerostrip.com, sign up for “Zmail” and send me stories, jokes, situations they might like to see, etc. I hope to incorporate that into the strip. How’s Zero different? It’s very similar to Bohemia, but it is a little “softer”…where as my previous work was a little more edgy and political, Zero tends to focus more on humor than politics. Although I still incorporate commentary about current events, etc.

PEV: What was it like when you completed the first ever Zero comic?

SS: The first time I saw it in print, I was thrilled. Once, I did the cover of University Reporter magazine, and I remember my grandmother framed it and put it on the wall.

PEV: What kind of music do you listen to right now?

SS: I’m a little all over the place. I grew up on country music and still love it, but of course being in Athens, REM and the B-52’s totally influenced my tastes. I currently have a lot of Linkin Park and the Killers in my iPod.

PEV: What up and coming cartoonist do you think we should be looking into now?

SS: I think the syndicated strip “Pearls before Swine” by Stephan Pastis is absolutely hysterical.

PEV: In all your travels, which city do you think offers the best appreciation for art in general?

SS: New York and San Francisco of course. But I really like Austin and Boulder for smaller cities. And I hear Madison is great.

PEV: Tell us what it is like for an aspiring comic strip writer/illustrator?

SS: It’s a hard nut to crack. With papers shrinking in size, there’s not a lot of real estate for new strips. I look at it as something I love doing. I love these characters who’ve been such a part of my life for so long, and I believe if I follow my passion it will soon take off.

PEV: When you are not working on Zero, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

SS: I spend a lot of time with my dog. I hike, do yoga, and hang out with friends. I have small, very tight group of friends that I made when I moved to L.A. We do a lot of BBQs and dinners. I also see a lot of movies, and of course I still work in advertising as well.

PEV: What’s one thing people would be surprised to hear about you?

SS: I’m a farm boy. Grew up on a small cattle farm in the middle of nowhere in GA.

PEV: When you sit down to create a strip, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?

SS: Ideas come to me in spurts, and I jot them down. Then I’ll usually take my notepad to a coffee shop and start sketching them out there.

PEV: What is your take on current strips that populate today’s magazines and newspapers?

SS: I don’t enjoy a majority of them. But I do still read Opus, Pearls before Swine, Zits, Mutts and a few others.

PEV: What one word, best describes Scott Selsor?

SS: Geeky probably fits the bill.

PEV: So, what is next for Scott Selsor?

SS: I plan on giving Zero a big promotional push to college papers with postcards and emails and seeing how far I can grow it before approaching the National Syndicates. Would love for it to get a big enough audience that the Syndicates would take notice.

For more information on Scott Selsor and Zero, check out www.ZeroStrip.com

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Today’s Feature, December 15th-16th: The Vesties

December 16, 2007 at 4:38 pm (Today's Feature)

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There really aren’t enough female bands out there. Hell, we here at PensEyeView feature a new artist once every two days, and I can probably count on one hand the amount of all female groups we’ve had on here. But I’ll be honest – it’s not always easy to find an all female crew on the indy scenes of New York and LA – after all, rock and roll isn’t the most feminine subject.

So when a womanly band steps up, it generally means it’s something impressive, something fresh, something new. And that brings me to our latest feature: The Vesties. Based right out of NYC – Willow, Mary Jane and Julie “fuse eclectic regional influences and an energetic urban edge to form a power trio that is all-girl, with a sound that’s all their own.”

For the past two years, the three have been showcasing just how heavy they can bring it with a “raw mix of rock, pop, metal, and even a tinge of country, reflecting a background as diverse as the city they call their second home.” And it makes sense! Sure, they have the looks that will stick out in your memory like a 50-story view, but they don’t necessarily need them (though I’m glad they’re there). They have the determination to take it as far as they desire. They’ve recently finished recording an 11-song CD that is available now on cdbaby.com. And this is just the beginning – the Vesties have all the ingredients to make it last. So check out one of the many New York clubs that the band is filling night in and night out… See why they have one of the most loyal followings in the big apple. I had a chance to sit down at one of The Vesties’s favorite bars to hear their story. Learn more in their XXQ’s.

XXQs: The Vesties

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first form as a band?

Willow (W): Well, Mary Jane (MJ) and I worked at a restaurant and then Julie started there and we just started talking about playing music. Julie wanted to form a band and we decided we needed a drummer, we were just using her iPod. MJ said that she used to play drums in middle school. We tried to convince her forever to join the band. It took her forever…

Mary Jane (MJ): I was in grad school. I’m like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m in grad school. I have a career ahead of me’… but then I wised up (laughs).

Julie (J): I just kept bugging her, ‘Please-please-please-please… Come on, please!’

PEV: What was the first live show like?

All: Horrible!

MJ: Terrifying!

J: I think that was our best flyer though.

W: We had only been playing for like, what, a few weeks?

J: Well, I told Willow, let’s play a show with this iPod and she was really upset with me. And the next show MJ only knew one song… no, three songs.

W: It was awesomely horrible (laughs).

PEV: You know, I usually ask what one word best describes you but if you want I can use ‘awesomely horrible’.

J: Well the first show, yeah!

PEV: Growing up, what kind of music where you listening to?

MJ: I listened to a lot of classic rock, a lot of what my dad listened to. And then Madonna.

J: I listened to a lot of 70’s and 80’s punk, like street-gutter-punk. I then crossed over to rap, I really liked rap. More of the freestyle. I am from Miami, so make of that what you will.

W: I listed to classic rock, my parent’s collection. I was also classically trained as a vocalist so I think that has a lot of inspiration in what we do. A lot of Broadway, a lot of musical stuff.

PEV: What can people expect from your album, self titled, The Vesties?

J: Fun. I would say the Vesties is like getting a big punch of like cake. It’s like a cake getting thrown in your face! (MJ and W laughs). It’s like so feminine but aggressive.

W: I feel like it is like pump you up kind of music. Like getting ready to go out, put on The Vesties and dance around your apartment.

MJ: In your underwear…

PEV: Ok, so dance around in your underwear… just wanted to make sure I got that right.

J: Don’t even wear underwear!

MJ: Yes, dancing naked to The Vesties.

PEV: What was it like when you got together to make the album?

J: First Willow and I started to going over songs that we had already liked and then started writing our own. And then when MJ joined I remember when like Willow would get up MJ and I would just start jamming and getting a groove. It was almost a session of jamming and Willow and I sitting in her tiny apartment and writing the songs.

W: I don’t think we like going to the practice space and saying ‘let’s go write a song’. I mean sometimes it came about with Julie and MJ. But most of the time we’ll all come to each other and be like ‘I like that, I hate that’ and go from there.

PEV: How is this album different than others out today?

J: Well first off… there is a lot of indie rock going on or art rock and I think we are return to the simplicity of the AB/AB. I think people will find the fulfillment in the end of a song with us.

W: They’re to the point. Concise.

J: They are songs that wake you up. Like a little adrenalin for you.

PEV: It’s not often you see a band of just three women. What do you say about the people that may not be used to your style?

W: Oh, that’s the point you know. I mean if one of us left the band we would not replace her with a guy. It’s three women’s minds. Our issues…

J: We listen to music too and this is all a take on what we like. Growing up, we all listened to Madonna. We all agreed on Madonna. It was a feminine f – – k you! We like that but we are all really musicians.

W: I think a lot of that motivation was to start the band. I kept going to shows and saying ‘if I see one more all boy band, I am going to kill myself’.

J: Where are all the girls?

W: It was like one girl. Like the cliche girl bassist.

MJ: I wouldn’t have joined if there was a guy (laughs).

PEV: What is your take on the current New York music scene?

J: First of all Manhattan sucks. Unless they are from somewhere else and then came here but not anyone that forms in Manhattan… I feel like it is no good. It is already done. It’s been done, it’s over. Get over being blazer wearing and moody.

W: Brooklyn is good though.

J: Yeah there is a lot of the afro-fusion thing going on.

MJ: We’ve started to play a lot more shows in Brooklyn now.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Vesties show? J: Surprise. W: Entertainment. I think that if you come to our shows you’d be surprised to find three girls actually playing their music and have songs with depth. Yeah, like we can actually rock! PEV: Do a lot of girls come up to you at the shows?

W: Younger girls.

J: We just played a sweet sixteen for a little Whitford. Brad Whitford from Aerosmith, we played his son’s party and these sixteen-year-old girls were coming up to us. It was great. I mean, I wish I had seen something like this when I was growing up. Women contending with men’s music. At that point, I was like flattered.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band right now that we should all be listening to?

MJ: Little Red Land, out of San Francisco.

J: They’re really good friends of ours. We play with them a lot.

W: We hope to go on tour with them. I think we are really compatible. The two of us can tour and take over the nation! (Laughs)

PEV: Any pre-show rituals?

W: Practice. We always practice before a show.

J: We get ready together. Put on make up. That part is really fun.

W: We pick out outfits, ‘What are you wearing?’

PEV: What is the meaning behind the name the Vesties?

W: When we all worked together we had to wear these awful vests, like old work vests. MJ: And we all just started calling each other ‘vests’.

J: It was like, ‘hey vest!’ Instead of ‘bitch’ it was like ‘you’re a vest!’ (Laughs). ‘Is that a red vest you have there? How festive!’

PEV: You said that Brooklyn has a good scene but what city has the best scene for music?

W: I used to live in Portland, Oregon for five years and we just played through there and it was awesome. Seattle and Portland has a great community. Everyone knows each other; everyone is playing in like four or five bands with each other. You can go to a show to see all three or four bands. You don’t find that here. You go to a show and see an opening act and your just like… I think that has to do with booking here.

J: People don’t know how to book here! They just pull a metal band, a rap group and like us and you just have people that sit there.

MJ: It’s all about money. If you can pull some people in, that’s all they care about.

J: Not really supporting it here in Manhattan.

PEV: When you are not performing, what can we find you doing?

MJ: Working…drinking.

J/W: Yeah, drinking (laughs)!

W: Or working then drinking.

PEV: Ok, so a consensus on drinking and working… What is the best part about traveling around?

J: Hotels.

MJ: Meeting people.

W: Yeah, meeting people and just getting to know more about each other.

J: Yeah, we went to Bop Street Records in Seattle and we just met random people. MJ’s father new someone there.

MJ: Yeah Bop Street Records is a well-known place.

J: It was like a Mecca of a million records.

PEV: What do your friends and family think about your careers?

J: I think our mothers were a little skeptical. They were like what you are going to be like gypsies? At this point they’ve accepted what we are doing. It is more than just playing music it is about doing something in the feminine community and it exists still. There are girl bands out there. It is not just the Supremes.

W: We just want to give The Donnas a run for their money.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprise to hear about the band?

J: I was a sorority girl (laughs).

MJ: Yeah she was a cheerleader and TriDelt.

J: I was not a cheerleader! My sister was. But I was a TriDelt.

PEV: Where?

J: Florida State University.

W: I think you’d be surprised to hear that we all come from good backgrounds. We are all educated. Good morals.

J: Tell them what your profession was (to MJ).

MJ: Yeah, I was in grad school to be a librarian (laughs).

PEV: Nice.

MJ: Yeah… PEV: That was an easy transition. So, what one word best describes The Vesties? I have your answer from before but I figured I would ask again.

W: I think that The Vesties are like YEAH!

All: Yeah!

MJ: Wait, what was the question again (laughs)?

PEV: What one word best describes The Vesties?

J: 1-2-3 Yeah!

All: (laugh).

W: Cake. I think we all embody cake.

MJ: Yeah, cake.

J: Cake.

PEV: So, what is next for The Vesties?

W: Tour. We are going to record more. Do an EP. Send some stuff out.

J: South By Southwest. Haven’t confirmed yet but we’ll see. I don’t need an invite. I’m always party crashing.

PEV: Any last words?

J: Check out our video on our MySpace page and let us know if you want us in your town.

PEV: Alright, well, thanks guys – Oops, I mean girls.

All: (laugh)

For more information on The Vesties, check out www.TheVesties.com

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Today’s Feature: December 13th-14th, Hunter McLeod

December 14, 2007 at 11:21 pm (Today's Feature)

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I wish I got the kind of attention Hunter McLeod garners each and every day. Beautiful women calling every hour, begging for consideration… begging for just a few minutes in the styling chair with McLeod. This is a reality for Hunter. He arrived in New York this year from Vancouver to marry his wife as well as transform the ladies of NYC with his uncanny styling ability. What he’s able to do with the tools of his profession is certainly beyond me.

Currently climbing the ranks of Arrojo Studio, Hunter’s “fully tattooed style might intimidate at first, but he’s never had a client not come back.” He is dedicated to his craft, wowing clients throughout North America with a fashion all his own. He is “always drawing styles,” first as head stylist at The Axis in Vancouver, then on the road traveling with Wella, Romeo Gigli and Versache. He was also the lead stylist for 2006 “Fashion Rocks” Charity Fall Fashion Show.

You can catch him in the big apple, where he generally sees around 11-15 costumers a day. That may sound like a lot, but trust me… it may take a few tries to finally sit in Hunter’s chair. The result however, is unquestionably worth the wait. We had a chance to sit down with him at his office – Arrojo Studio, in SoHo. Get into his XXQ’s.

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Hey Hunter, thanks for meeting with us today. So, how and when did you first get started in hair styling?

Hunter McLeod (HM): I first got started doing hair when I quit art University. I was actually traveling Europe for two years, doing the young people thing; traveling around. I kept meeting all these amazing people all over Europe that didn’t have that worn-out travel look to them and they’re always at the coolest events and galleries. Well wouldn’t you know, they were stylists (laughs). So, I pretty much into it after that. I went back to Vancouver and started my apprenticeship there.

PEV: Is a lot of hair styling based around being an apprentice?

HM: Yeah. Even if you go to school you will still have to be an apprentice afterwards.

PEV: Did you start off at a smaller place or a much larger place like here at Arrojo?

HM: In Canada or Western Canada it was quite known, so that is why I went there to do my apprenticeship.

PEV: How is the Vancouver fashion, styling, and art scene different than it is here in the US?

HM: There are similarities and there are many differences. Beauty wise or more general, you’re looking at a lot of “Pamela Anderson” or “west coast” type beauty. A lot of silicon, plastic surgery, everyone wants to be blonde. But Vancouver is a special little weird place because it is 85% Asian. So you are dealing with a lot of Tokyo tastes, Hong Kong tastes. More modern but also that mixture of wanting to look very west coast too.

There is a bit of a cross breed in New York. You are dealing with the crazy cool kids worldwide and then you are dealing with Playmates and models (laughs).

PEV: I hear a lot of war stories with stylists. Have you ever had any war stories?

HM: There have been stories but at the same time every time I am asked that question, it is kind of like a doctor; I can’t answer that question. Any time you are blending two people’s styles, points of views, personalities, whether it is art, sculpture, hair, whenever you are blending those two you are going to have sometimes that is just won’t work. Usually it is communication.

PEV: How has it been working here at Arrojo so far?

HM: It’s been great! Loving it. I was lucky enough to meet Nick (Arrojo) about five years ago, and when I moved to New York, I knew I only wanted to work at one place.

PEV: We’ve seen the TV show, “What Not Wear”. Is any of that shot here?

HM: Um, never do it in house. They always do it in studio. But we do a lot of makeover work here, a lot of makeovers. But that is only a part of what we are here at Arrojo.

PEV: You have traveled around a lot, Europe, doing the fashion shows. What has that been like?

HM: Great, really great. Trunk shows are another animal (laughs). Um, it is pretty much like guerilla warfare kind of attack. You show up with the models, the clothes, and you just basically recreate what was on the runway or change it up for what they want to do in that particular city.

PEV: That just seems so chaotic – backstage with the models. I mean literally the clothes are just flying and people are running around everywhere.

HM: That is really with runways and trunk shows and I love it. You have your main idea when you get there but that always changes to whatever substance you are doing it on.

PEV: Do you like the more in house, studio work like here, or the crazy runways?

HM: Right now I am really in house and adapting to that culture but I really want to get back out there and do that.

PEV: Recently coming to New York, what has been your favorite part?

HM: The people. I actually find everyone here absolutely lovely. Which is not something you hear too often (laughs). I haven’t had one problem here. Really, it’s been wonderful. I come from a very chill amazing place being the west coast and I really don’t find it all that different here. Maybe it’s what I put out, I don’t know (laughs).

PEV: What do you miss the most about Vancouver?

HM: Organic… Ocean, mountain, sun, sky.

PEV: Is there something here that you can’t find back west?

HM: A lot. Lots of progression. The lifestyle, very fast paced, which I like. You can’t find that back there.

PEV: How many clients do you usually see in a day?

HM: 11-12. I’m still building so it varies.

PEV: What are currently the style people are wearing nowadays?

HM: Right now you are dealing with a lot of short, modern, slightly deconstructed shapes, which is very much our thing. I think our culture has helped with that. I think that a lot of people are taking a lot more risks and that is great. A lot of asymmetry as well.

PEV: When you’re not in the studio, what can we find you doing?

HM: You can find me at my favorite wine bar, kicking around business ideas, from PR, to marketing, to things like this. Going to galleries and shows. I like going to a lot of galleries.

PEV: What designer today do you think has the best feel for what is going on in today’s pop culture?

HM: I’m going to have to tell you… two that are affecting pop culture and the trickle down syndrome; Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld. For me, they do have their ear to street and keep a style of their own. But Galliano especially, has a very whimsical and fantasy which affects popular culture.

I think the most important people you want to watch; Yoshi Amamoto. He will always be on top, he will always be a classic but also bending what he does.

PEV: In your opinion, what is the worst hairstyle of all time? Please say the mullet.

HM: (Laughs) I’ll say the mullet but it’s got to be that small town, trucker mullet. It can’t be that cooler mullet that you see on the Eastern Berlin kids. You gotta say that old school mullet; guy walks out, pants down, ass showing, super short on top and way too long in the back (laughs). That is it!

PEV: What do you think is the biggest trend in New York, regarding fashion?

HM: Individuality. I would have to say individuality. Trying to customize yourself. Everyone wants to reflect who they are, no matter what it takes. I think you see some mistakes that way but then sometimes it works. When you are dealing with below 30th (street), you are dealing with personality.

PEV: So, what’s next for you?

HM: Next for me is getting used to my new pace. Once I’ve mastered the new pace in my life then I’ll be able to see the next progression. But I want to start blending hair and exploring the business side for me personally. I have a great mentor that has done really well at that. I just need to find my own voice, my own thing. Whenever you move somewhere new, you have to adjust first, and then move on (laughs). It’s pretty much where it’s at. I just want to do more conceptual things with people in different industries as well as mine. I think there is no longer the day of “me-me-me”. I think we are moving towards collaboration and collaboration is where it’s at.

For more information on Hunter McLeod, check out www.ArrojoStudio.com

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Today’s Feature: December 11th-12th, Doug Does Decaydance

December 12, 2007 at 10:12 pm (Today's Feature)

dougfeat.jpg

Certainly not your typical megastar stage name, eh? But then again, Doug didn’t arrive on the music scene in any typical fashion either. He actually started out as your representative average Joe (or Doug), working for Crush Management, a firm based out of New York that manages acts such as Fall Out Boy, Charlotte Sometimes, Butch Walker and Panic! At the Disco.

But working for the company wasn’t the only thing that Doug had in mind… after all he had the tools to become a star, graduating from the Berklee College of Music just before landing the job. At the office, Doug constantly showcased his talents with impromptu performances for his boss, Bob McLynn. Grabbing his guitar “between e-mails,” Doug was nearly fired until Bob gave him this ultimatum: “record an album free of profit or lose your job.” 12 songs later, Doug had created a collection paying homage to the artists of the record label Decaydance, home of bands like Gym Class Heroes and Cobra Starship.

The album titled, “Does Decaydance,” (Doug Does Decaydance – get it?) is full of “jazz arrangements of songs from each of the label’s artists complete with drums, bass, piano, horns and Doug’s own guitar and vocals.” Songs such as the Fall Out Boy hit “Dance Dance” are covered on the album, this time with a more classical approach, upbeat and definitely swinging. Doug is out now on select dates of the “Really Really Ridiculously Good Looking Tour” with Cobra Starship, Metro Station, We the Kings and The Cab. Get out to the show and check out the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Doug Does Decaydance

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did you first get involved in music?

Doug: I was about 11 years old when I started picking up the guitar and it was because pretty much my brother, who is older than me, was jamming out every night in the room next to mine so when I was trying to fall asleep he was playing, trying to play, some metal. I was like, “I don’t want to be like my big brother” so that’s when I picked up the guitar but mine was an acoustic.

PEV: Was there a certain point when you knew you wanted music to be your career rather than just a hobby?

Doug: Actually yeah. One of my good friends was signed, this was about when I was in high school, and I saw him go through the whole process of putting out a record and he actually wound up getting screwed and the album never came out, and that’s actually when I decided, hey, I want to get into music in whatever capacity possible and it seemed I was very interested in the business end. So I went to Berkley College of Music and studied music business management, which is my day gig, and we recently put together this album which is covering all the Decaydance bands that I work with and it’s just jazz renditions of all the songs. It’s kind of like I wear two different hats. I’m general manager of Crush Management by day and then by night I’m Doug Does Decaydance, you know.

PEV: What were those days like back at Berkley?

Doug: It was really cool. That’s where I learned jazz. That’s where I learned all the jazz chords and my brother took me to see Frank Sinatra when I was 15 and from that moment on I was big jazz standards fan so Berkley was the perfect place for me to get into that culture musically and performance-wise. I took some vocal classes, and you have to take a certain amount of guitar courses, and it really just threw me in it. I learned everything I needed to know, pretty much.

PEV: You talk about working with Crush Management and I read on your site how you talk a lot about how you were just sitting there in the beginning and you’d pop out your guitar between e-mails and at work and stuff.

Doug: Yeah. I’m always singing, whether people like it or not around me, in the office. I’ll just bust into a song and sing and not even really realize it. I’ll just be going along doing my thing on the computer and one day I had a guitar and I was just playing some music and Bob, one of the artists, was like “You know what get in the back. Let’s record” because I was fooling around with dance bands and I turned it a little jazzier. So we went in the back and I just recorded it acoustically and we put it up onto MySpace and it got a reaction.

PEV: What was that like when you first recorded the music that would become the album?

Doug: That was a little later than that initial recording but that was an amazing experience. I went out to a studio in Brooklyn the producer owns. His name is Joel Hamburger, and it was a really neat experience. I had been studios with our other bands of course, but never on the other side of the glass. I went in for 4 days and the first few were just getting drums and bass down but I was playing along so they could get a feel for all the songs and then the following 2 days I laid down all the guitars and all the vocals and there was another extra day thrown in there for horns and other parts like organ. But it was quite the experience. It was a lot of fun. I was nervous at first, for the minute, and then everything else was just a joy.

PEV: What was it like the first time you ever played live?

Doug: Well, that was a long time ago. That was probably when I was 14 or 15. I played at a coffee shop in New Jersey and it was a thrill. I had a lot of family out and it was a really exciting event for me. There’s nothing like playing and getting applause. And getting paid for it too. It’s a pretty neat deal. Then flip that to my experience this past week. I joined the Young Wild Things Tour with Fallout Boy, headlining tour. I’ve done 4 out of 9 thus far and the last 9 are LA until the end of the tour so it’s basically West Coast dates and I stepped out there. The first show was in Tsongas Arena up in Lowell, Massachusetts, and there must have been at that point, because I played early on, close to 3000 people, and I had a dry mouth going walking up to the stage. A little bit of nerves, well actually, I was fairly nervous but as soon as I got up to the microphone everyone just kind of erupted in applause and I had tingles all over my body and just chills everywhere and right at that point I knew everything was going to be fun.

PEV: What can people expect from a live performance now?

Doug: Right now I’m doing all the songs on the album which is fun for a lot of the kids on the tour because they know all the Decaydance bands. The know of course, Fall Out Boy and Gym Class Heroes are on the tour. And also Panic at the Disco, The Academy, Hush Sound, and Cobra Starship. So everyone recognizes songs and they really get into it. Now when I play a tour, it’s just me solo, just me, the guitar, my voice and my renditions of the songs. It’s a neat twist to it. It’s funny ’cause I get a lot of parents coming up to me in the arena and a lot of kids, and they both are into it. It’s kind of like one of those things where younger kids and adults can enjoy it and actually listen to the same CD in the car and not hate it!

PEV: How is Doug Does Decaydance different than other albums out today?

Doug: Well, the concept alone is pretty different. Taking a pop song and arranging it for jazz is not anything new, but doing it all from one label’s artists, Decaydance primarily, and so many relevant bands out today, they’re all the people I work with and it’s kind of a unique situation that we have going. Everyone’s really into it. Everyone supports it so much. Everyone would have been on it if we had more time. People are scattered and that’s just how it was. Maybe for the next one. It’s a pretty solid album as far as the musicians that we had and the studio. They were amazing. They are great local musicians who have played on many albums. It’s just a solid piece of art, I guess.

PEV: What do you like about touring right now?

Doug: The best part about touring is definitely is just getting up on the stage and hearing everyone erupt in applause. That’s what you’re out there for and it’s just so satisfying. Even walking off the stage after you killed it, you know, or after people really enjoyed what you did up there. That’s what you do it for. It’s been a really interesting experience, getting back there on the road. The catering sucks, whatever, you eat crappy food. But lying in the tour bus, just sleeping, waking up in another city. It’s amazing.

PEV: Who are you currently listening to? Who’s in your CD player or on your iPod?

Doug: I’ve been listening to a lot of Ray Lamontagne recently, and Nick Drake, because to me it’s kind of fall, early winter music and The Format as an album I can’t stop listening to. I’ve been listening to that for a while. Of course all the bands I work with. I still can’t get off the new Fall Out Boy album and Gym Class album, everyone. There’s so much good stuff out there right now. The new Radiohead.

PEV: Is there an upcoming band right now you think we should all be looking into?

Doug: Yeah, there are a few. The Hush Sound is going to be putting out another album soon. Cobra Starship, their new album is pretty amazing.

PEV: We’ve had them on PensEyeView. They’re awesome. Doug: Yeah. The Academy Is, as well. I’m really into that album, too. But if you haven’t checked out The Format, I would say get that album. That’s pretty amazing.

PEV: When you’re not traveling, and you’re not working, and you’re not performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

Doug: I live in New York City so I hang out at, we own a bar called Angels & Kings, and usually any given weekend that I’m in New York. Any given night on that weekend at some point I’m in that bar, hanging out. I actually joined a soccer league, which is a charity league. I have fun doing that. I check out museum’s a lot. My girlfriend’s an artist so we go to a lot of art shows and stuff, which is a lot of fun.

PEV: When you sit down to write music, or getting ready to music, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?

Doug: My tiny-ass apartment. (Laughs.) I live in the East Village so space is not abundant and I just arrange everything in my room. I sit on my bed, I plug in my iPod, figure out the initial song and then rearrange everything right there and then and work it out. So everything pretty much happens in my room, sitting on my bed.

PEV: What one word best describes you?

Doug: I work my butt off so…workaholic.

PEV: Do you think jazz is something you’re probably going to end up going back to at some point in your career?

Doug: Yes. And the ult for me, I’d like to have a nice jazz band in New York where I can play every once in a while, or if it gets to a bigger level, do some dates here and there all over the country.

PEV: Finally, what’s next for Doug?

Doug: Next for me, well the album comes out November 20th, Does Decaydance, and obviously the artist’s name is Doug. So I’ll be joining some other tours I’m sure, that will be coming around. I have a release party at the bar Angels & Kings in the East Village, that’s on the 19th. So I just can’t wait for it to get out there and see what people think and hop on some more tours and play some more dates. If this one goes well, either I’m going to do another concept album or I’ll start going over to the jazz standards and make one of those albums, see how it does.

For more information on Doug, check out www.DougDoes.com

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