Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Message is Loud and Clear!


So many great performers have come out of Miami, but Message to Venus may be this musically diverse city’s best kept secret. I don’t blame them for trying to keep these hot rockers all to themselves but I have to spread the word. The guys of M2V were gracious enough to indulge my curiosities.  Here’s what they had to say: 


JJ: Thanks so much for giving me some of your time. Let’s tell the folks who Message to Venus is. In no particular order, we have Jandre Nadal, John Feliciano, Edgar Ramos and JuanMa Font. Give us a role call. Who plays what instruments?
Photo by Chris Martin

Jandre: I'm lead vocals and guitar.
John: I’m the guitar player.
Edgar: Bass.
JuanMa: I play drums.

JJ:  Your new EP The Envelope is out on the scene and doing well with fans and critics. I tip my hat to you guys for creating such an awesome album all on your own. How has the indie experience been for you?

Jandre: Thanks so much for the compliment! It's has been so much work and so much more is left to do, the freedom of the indie experience feels so good not having a label or someone telling me what to sing and how to sing it or what to do and how to do it, how to dress and what type of hair product to use.
JuanMa: Since it's all DIY you really have to learn one way or the other how the industry works. There are a lot of things going on besides getting on stage and doing a great show. We really invest a lot of time. On the other hand it takes work and time that we could be using to write music, jam together, or just be better musicians. We don’t expect anything to fall from the sky, so it’s up to us to put things into motion.

Edgar: Being indie is all about how you manage yourself, how you do the marketing and how you connect with fans. For us, it has been a wild ride. We self finance everything so it’s a lot of hard work and sacrifice but it’s a wild ride I would never want to miss in my life! :)

JJ:Who are your biggest musical influences and why?

Jandre: I grew up listening to classic rock like Hendrix, Santana Led Zep, but I have always been a big fan of Deftones and Tool, and bands like that, not to mention the influence that my fellow musicians have given me, they’re the biggest inspiration.

John: I have to say Tool for how they build up a song and make it a masterpiece and Nirvana for how they made music fun.

Edgar: My influences are music from the 80′s, 90′s, and progressive metal.

JuanMa: I grew up with the whole grunge thing exploding over the radio.  I was basically indifferent to music before that so it was a pretty big life changing moment.  I suddenly wanted to play guitar and just rock out (it was much later that I actually learned to play drums)!  All those great bands from that scene basically pushed my musical taste for a long time.

JJ:When you’re not neck deep in writing and recording, what do y’all do for fun?

Photo by Chris Martin
Jandre: I'm into any water sports, surfing, kayaking, diving snorkeling, fishing for lobsters, hanging out with my GF and my dog, Ricco, and an occasional BBQ.

John: I enjoy going out to watch a movie and traveling, exploring new places.

Edgar: Go out for a beer with friends and play video games.

JuanMa: I love playing video games but I try to limit that since it can be time consuming. Also, I spend a lot of time reading up on Database, SQL and Programming books. And being a beer lover, I try to go out to any good local micro-brewery or any place that serves micro-brews. Yum!

JJ: You all have a really active presence on the social media scene.  How has Twitter and Facebook helped your exposure and built your fan base?

John: We are all about connecting with our fans. I really enjoy talking and building a relationship with them. Social media makes it possible for us to reach people and make fans all around the world, so we are taking advantage of this in any way possible. M2V is an interactive band, so we invite everyone to follow us on twitter! http://twitter.com/messagetovenus

JuanMa: All the online social sites are such great tools to communicate with fans and friends but for them to really shine you have to put a lot of effort into taking care of your online presence.

JJ:  My favorite M2V track is Cold & Grey. Share with us what inspires your songwriting.

Jandre: For a while, I had a bad writer’s block. So, I just read some books and watched a lot of movies while getting ideas for lyrics.

John: I start by creating a riff, just playing the first thing that comes to mind and doing a “free play.” After I have something that catches my attention, then I start building a structure based on that. I have a bunch of ideas recorded for future use.

JuanMa: I just start with a nice pattern or groove and just build some sort of song structure but nothing solid.  After the song has character or personality, we can start an iterative process over it. Sometimes what comes out might be really different from how it started.

JJ: What makes your music different?

JuanMa: I tend to write a lot of groove oriented patterns. Even though we might not do it in all of the songs or we try not to do it explicitly so it feels more natural with the song. You can hear a bit of this in the verse of Universal You.  Also, at the end of Cold & Grey, the tempo slows down and goes into a ¾ groove with a nice cascara-inspired ride pattern. You will find more of those nice grooves on our next album, Victims & Villains.

JJ:  I’ll be watching for the next album. Sounds like more great stuff! When and where can we expect to find you performing live?

John: We are currently working on booking some shows. Stay tuned...

JJ:​  Anything else you’d like to share with the masses?

John: Thank you so much for interviewing us and helping us get the word out about Message to Venus. :)

Lightning Round Favorites:

Jandre:
Drink:  Mojitos with brown sugar and Puerto Rican rum
Color:  Anything water related color
Season: We live in an endless summer island
Movie:  Forrest Gump or any of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies
Band: Deftones, The Mars Volta, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, ohh man...

John:
Drink: Coca-Cola
Color: Gray
Season: Summer
Flavor: Vanilla
Movie: Star Wars
Band: Tool

Edgar:
Drink:  Medalla Light (Puerto Rican beer)
Color:  Blue
Season: December
Flavor: Dulce de Leche
Movie:  Bloodsport
Band: Level 42

JuanMa:
Drink: Indian Pale Ale
Color: Purple
Season: It’s always summer in Puerto Rico ;)
Flavor: Coconut
Movie: Back to the Future 2
Band: August Burns Red

Thanks again. I really enjoyed getting to know y’all.

Pick up Message to Venus music on iTunes!

To keep up with the latest happenings of Message to Venus, follow them on Twitter @MessageToVenus, like them on Facebook http://facebook.com/messagetovenus and check out their website http://MessageToVenus.com.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chasing Scarlet Chase

Photo by Julia Trotti

There’s a new and exciting band coming out of Sydney, Australia. I’m so pleased to welcome Scarlet Chase to the blog. I chased Chrissy, Dan and Matt and pinned them down on what we all want to know about this musical sensation.

Check it out, y’all.


JJ:    Let’s start with introductions. The lovely and bubbly Chrissy is on vocals, guitar and piano. Dan plays guitar and session drums. Matt completes the trio on bass guitar.  The three of you have an excellent dynamic. I know you’ve been playing together since last year, how did you meet?


Chrissy: Thanks for having us! Yes, we’ve been jamming together for a little while now and it all started last year when I was doing my solo thang and got over it really quickly. Though there was a lot of success doing my solo project and I was working doing Football Stadium gigs etc., I didn’t want to go through the ‘journey’ on my own, so to speak. I auditioned for an old band that Dan and Matt had been a part of for the previous four years, walked in, nailed the songs (or so I hope :P) and the rest is history!

Matt: Well, Dan and I met four to five years ago. We were enrolled in a music course which eventually led to both of us completing an Advanced Diploma in Music and Diplomas in Technical Production. We were actually involved together in a band as part of that course. This led to us forming a band outside of the course and auditioning Chrissy as a singer. This project wrapped up late last year and we all decided that we wanted to continue working together because we were so similar in our drive, motivation and goals. Thus, Scarlet Chase was born.

DanMatt and I trekked Sydney's live scene with our previous band when we met Chrissy while holding an audition for a front woman with a "badass attitude." Bam! History.

JJ:    I love the fact you have a female lead. Who are your biggest musical influences and why?

Chrissy: Haha. That’s an interesting one. One of my biggest influences, personally, is Lizzy Hale of Halestorm. These guys aren’t anywhere NEAR as known as they should be! Also, personally, I love Alanis Morissette, Damone. Musically though, I love a bit of everything. Sick Puppies, Nirvana, Old School Silverchair.

 

Dan:  We all have common influences and that’s a huge part of 'sticking on the same page' when it comes to writing tunes, pre-production, the live show and the business side. We're honoured to be mentioned alongside the likes of Halestorm and Killing Heidi. Our main influences, when in a writing session, come from each other. It's all about pushing each other musically and mentally to come up with the next tune, riff or groove to "Hit-The-Spot." That doesn't mean we don't listen to an obsessive amount of Halestorm in our down time though. And, I can be seen groovin' to Against Me! Electric Six and The Creepshow when it comes to rippin' guitar lines, energy and solid 'no bullshit' drums. 

Matt: On a personal level, my influences lean towards the Industrial genre. I mean, I look up to guys like Jeordie White on an instrumental level ‘cause I used to have a huge obsession with Marilyn Manson and always thought he was the coolest guy in the world. As I got older, I discovered that he'd worked with Trent Reznor as a member of the live incarnation of Nine Inch Nails and after watching the Beside You In Time DVD, I found that I still draw an influence from him. Tim Skold is another of my favorites. The fact he is a multi-instrumentalist and producer also adds more of a business influence, for lack of a better term.  There are probably a whole lot more influences I could list. Skold and White are probably the most prominent of them all.

JJ:    Recording your debut album must be exciting. What’s “A Day in the Life of Scarlet Chase” like?

Chrissy:  Hmm…Well, I guess the only way to answer that is by checking out our website at scarletchase.com. There, you’ll find a few promo videos that show us in our true light. Haha. We’re really excited to be working on the album. It’s bigger than anything we’ve done before and we’re damn proud of what we’ve come up with. As far as a day in the life? Well, we’re all very hardworking, supportive and motivating individuals. We’re an independent band, so we very much rely on one another to get things done. Spend a day with us! You’ll see how crazy things can get! J

Matt:  One word. Insane. When I occasionally get the odd moment to sit back and take a look at how my life has progressed over the years, I'm honestly quite humbled by how much has been accomplished. There are very few people who, at the age of 22, can say they've just built a recording studio, are in the process of recording an album, all whilst integrating the more mundane tasks of day to day life along with a whole host of other things. Throw in the fact that I've managed to do so with two of the most amazing people in the world who've become family for me and I start to feel a little mushy. Overall, though, a day in our shoes is probably best loosely termed as “interesting.”

JJ:    When you’re not locked up in the studio, what entertains Scarlet Chase?

Chrissy:   We’re ALWAYS in the studio! Haha. Personally, I run a music website promoting primarily unsigned Sydney bands (www.themoshpitmusic.com) and when I’m not in the studio, I always have a guitar or keyboard on hand! Hmm…Dan does a little of everything. He’s definitely our “all-rounder.” If he’s not working in the studio, he’s shredding on guitar, or out on a photo shoot with his amazing girl (and funnily enough, our photographer) Jules. Otherwise, everything from running our website to homely renovations! As far as Matt goes…well, we aren’t too sure what Matt get’s up to in his spare time. I know he loves long walks on the beach…. Haha.

Matt: Not in the studio? Are you kidding? We live in it! Aside from the huge amount of time I spend with my two fellow mischief makers in the studio or rehearsing and so on and so forth, life outside those four walls usually consists of some form of errand running, mechanical endeavors involving lots of tantrums and throwing of tools, jamming in some work on bass and the occasional long walk on a moonlit beach after a romantic candlelit dinner and talking about my feelings.

Dan: Not at Chase Studios? Our couch is already forming a mould of our back sides! Writing sessions, rehearsals, recording sessions, business meetings, photo shoots, mixdown sessions, you name it, we're there. I’m in the studio working even when I should be getting those few minutes of sleep I need to stay alive. If I don’t have a client in, you'll find me discussing world domination with my better half, photographer Julia Trotti, writing short film scores or groovin' on the skins to Willie Dixon. Matt claims he has the occasional long walk on a moonlit beach after a romantic candle lit dinner and even has the time to talk about his feelings but he's usually found tinkering with his motorbike (what that really means is it's broken and needs attention otherwise it may self destruct, this also leads to a large amount of tantrums and "throwing of the tools").

JJ:    You guys are so friendly with people on Twitter. How has social media helped you build your fan base?

Photo by Julia Trotti
Chrissy:  Social media today is what can make or break a band. I mean, you only have to look at the likes of Justin Bieber to see how quickly you can become a YouTube hit! Our Twitter fans, our Facebook fans, etc., they mean the world to us. At the end of the day, we’re musicians but we’re just people, too. We consider our fans to be our friends. We try to keep in touch as much as possible and answer questions when we see them. The support online has been immense, it has helped us score interviews, such as this one! :P

Matt:  In today's day and age, social media is one of the most important tools in a band’s publicity arsenal. Without it, you'd be limiting yourself to a very small and select audience with only a few different ways of marketing yourself. I mean, we've got friends from all around the world and when I say friends, I mean it sincerely. I always found that I was drawn more to bands who actually gave a damn about the people who loved their music. You get what you give and by actually allowing people to talk to you online, it allows you to connect with them on an entirely new level. So in terms of exposure, social media has been amazingly effective for us in reaching the audience that we wanted to reach.

JJ:    I really enjoyed your promo videos on YouTube and am anxious to get my hands on more! When can your fans expect your album to drop?

Chrissy:  The videos were a lot of fun. Long time friend and director Daniel Saboune helped us with those. We think he’s a genius! As far as the album goes, our first single Like It Rough is set to hit iTunes in the coming weeks. Keep watching the Twitter feed for news!

DanThe promo videos are our way of integrating “thank yous” to all our fans off the back of a new tune. We like to think of it as an insight into the world of Scarlet Chase, too. We'll also be testing some new tunes on our live Stickam shows online.

MattWell we've started rolling with some of the pre-production on the album. So, barring any unforeseen and bizarre obstacles including, but not limited to, alien abduction or out of body experiences, we should have an album ready in the next few months. As is the nature with these things, I don't want to jump the gun and start giving dates only to have to disappoint anyone but the album is on its way!

Lightning Round Favorites:


Chrissy:

Drink:  Green Tea
Color:   SCARLET!
Season: Summer
Flavor:  Hazelnut Chocolate hahaha
Movie:  4-way tie-Almost Famous/Rockstar/The Sweetest Thing/Inglorious Bastards
Band: 4-way tie- Blink 182/Nirvana/Halestorm/Sick Puppies

Dan:
                    
Drink: Black Percolated Coffee 
Color: Whites & Blacks 
Season: Winter 
Flavor: Anything Caffeine, Indian or Mexican related
Movie: The White Stripes: Under Blackpool Lights; Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Tell me what Rockers to Swallow; and, the recent addition of Halestorm's: Live in Philly. 
Band: Against Me! and Electric Six. Every Song: Word for Word..... Others to mention, Bluejuice, Scissor Sisters, Ted Leo + The Pharmacists, Graveyard Train.

Matt:

Drink: Mother
Color: A delightful combination of fluro pinks, yellows and
Lavender, all artfully concealed with black.
Season: Winter
Flavor: Mocha
Movie: It changes constantly, but at the moment, Freddy
Got Fingered. I recently saw Tom Green live and it just
reignited my love of this movie.
Band: As with above, this one is constantly changing.
Currently, I'm really into Korpiklaani. Those guys are
amazing. All time favorites are probably Nine Inch
Nails and Rammstein, in equal measure.

I had a great time with y’all. You gave me lots of laughs and I love how down to earth and humble you all are. It was truly a pleasure. Thanks again.   

Stay tuned for Scarlet Chase’s new single Like it Rough to drop on iTunes. Check them out on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @Scarlet_Chase To be in the know, sign up for their newsletter at www.scarletchase.com


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What Happens in Vegas...




To kick off my music series here on the blog, please welcome rock band VEGAS ASSAULT. I love finding new music and I was thrilled when these boys from Redditch, England agreed to sit down with me. I had no idea how much they would make me laugh and give me that warm fuzzy feeling while listening to them speak about what they love. Okay, enough small talk. I know y’all are ready to hear from VEGAS ASSAULT!

January JamesHey, guys. Thanks so much for sitting down with me for a chat. Let’s get the formalities out of the way and tell everyone who makes up Vegas Assault. We have Dave Zero on vocals. Norway on guitar. Simon "Si" Donovan on, my personal favorite, bass guitar, and Kris Allen pulls it together on drums.

I know you all have been together for six years and after a short split, you got back together and released What Goes Around in January 2012. I have to respect the hard work you guys put in on this album. Give me some insight on the do it yourself recording experience and how you managed to record and release it in just one month?

Dave: We record well, Norway fucks it up.

Kris: Yep! But in reality…

Dave: We all fuck it up.

Norway: Haha. Not far from the truth. Well, I built up a collection of studio equipment with the idea that whatever I did, I could be self sufficient. Before we got back together, I had a bit of practice with it with other bands, but when it came to recording What Goes Around, the process had been streamlined enough to record the album quickly. We already had the songs in some shape or another so we started with Kris and I getting in his garage and recording drums and rhythm guitar, since a huge amount of the album started off with Kris and I jamming the tunes, so it made sense to record the majority of them like that. Then it was just recording the other parts in various living rooms, which was the hardest part with some people at work and then having decent hours where we wouldn’t disturb neighbors too much.

Si: I either took a few days off work to come and record in the day time or did longer sessions at the weekends. The Drums and Guitars were done by the time I got to hear the tracks. I just did my thing. I love the way we record.

Kris: The way we do it just feels right. It feels so natural doing it this way .

JJ:    Y’all definitely have the recording part of this down. Tell me about who and/or what your biggest musical influences are?

Kris: Si.

Dave: Writing wise... Wednesday 13, Scott Weiland, life, erm... I find inspiration from everywhere...art, film, music, people you meet.

Kris: John Bonham was (and still is) a big influence on my playing, as is Mike Bordin and Bill Ward. There’s a lot of bands and artists who inspire me... it’s tough to list them all without missing important figures.

Si: I draw inspiration from many places across many arts and situations. Musically, I'm not really sure I could narrow it down to the biggest. I play what sounds good to me and try to have fun or surprise people with my bass lines.

Norway: For various reasons, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, basically anything Slash has been involved in, The Darkness, Pantera, Rancid and Tim Armstrong in general. To be honest, I could just go on and on.

Kris: Please don’t.

JJ:    What’s “A Day in the Life of Vegas Assault” like?

Dave, Si, Kris and Norway
Dave: Next question!

Kris: Playing cards.

Si: Losing at cards...

Kris: Winning at cards!

Dave: Hang out...we don’t really have like ‘a day in the life’ we just do whatever we want, when we want. If we feel like sitting down on the middle of the floor and playing cards we just do that.

Kris: Yeah, it’s not like we throw televisions out of hotel rooms yet. They’re expensive to replace and I can only just about afford a pint of water down the pub.

Dave: Dude, water’s free...

Kris: You what?

Dave: Yeah man.

Kris: Damn!

Norway: Well, at the moment, it’s not so much a ‘Day in the life’ situation since gigs aren’t so regular right now, and I’m living away. When we’re together for writing/recording/gigging or whatever, it’s a lot of fun. Apparently, from the outside, we can come across as quite strange. We’ve had a few people think we’re high when we weren’t. I just like to think we’re free spirits. Haha!

Kris: We are pretty strange though.

JJ:    Ha! You’re not strange. We’ll call you charming. How’s that? When you’re not writing and recording, what do you all do for fun?

Kris: Wish we were writing & recording.

Dave: I second that.

Norway: I third that. Haha. Generally, I spend my time doing something music or band related. In the small amount of time that I’m not I’m working on artwork, or watching a film or just hanging out. Music does take up the majority of the time though.

Kris: Most of my free time is spent trying to promote ourselves to new people, booking gigs, running all the social network stuff etc. When I’m not doing that I try to be in one of three places – at a record store, a comic book shop or enjoying a gig.

Si: Working during the days, but I do a lot of walking just listening to music and exploring new places in the evening. Partying hard on the weekends! Experimenting on the bass and playing old games the rest of the time.

JJ:    I’m really impressed with your interaction with fans on Twitter. How has Twitter and Facebook helped your exposure?

Kris: It’s helped us a lot. First time we were around all we had was MySpace. Now that was good, for the time, for interacting but limiting at the same way. With things such as Twitter, we can interact with people all over the world who like us which is good…as nobody likes us here.

Norway: It’s quite frustrating at times though. Seeing people from Brazil or somewhere you can’t get to on the M5 asking us to play in their city. One day...

Kris: If anybody with a plane out there wants to take us to exotic locations, let us know!

JJ:  I love your new track Tiger Eye. Share with us how the songwriting process is for you.

Kris: I tell Norway what to play and he does it. You might say I’m the true riff master. Basically, we write a song then tell Dave to hurry up with lyrics so we can play it live.

Dave: It’s not been like a sit down together sort of thing. Ya know, somebody will write a riff or a song and then once it’s shown to the rest of us we make suggestions of changes, cuts, etc. Musically, we’ll get the song down and then for my part at least, I have to sit down with whatever’s there and see what happens...could take days, could take hours.

Kris: I mean a lot of the stuff on the record came from, at first anyway, just me and Norway. When Vegas split up a few years ago, we didn’t do anything musically together until last year. We started writing some instrumental stuff, tracks like Party Spray and Down just for the fun of it. Eventually, we started gigging it, Si came in and played bass. When it got to the VA reunion, we liked those tracks enough to bring them over, if you will.

Dave: Yeah, I put vocals on Party Spray last year and it sounded cool.

Si: From the previous incarnation of the song, I had a few ideas of parts that I wanted to change bass wise. I wanted to play something slightly contrasting to what the guitar was doing, too. The solo section for me was inspired by old upright bass players.

Norway: Tiger Eye was an odd one because we put so much thought into it. When I came up with the riffs, I had no idea what to do with them, then I jammed it with Kris and it all came together, and we ended up almost doubling the length of the track with whole new sections. Then we brought it into VA, and we knew it would need changing but Kris and I were struggling to work it out. Dave had an outside view of the song because he hadn’t been a part of the original version so he pointed out some changes, most of which kicked ass, some of which we misunderstood and played wrong and that kicked ass and that was that. Haha.

JJ:  There has been some chatter about a tour. When and where can we expect to catch a live performance?

Dave: You tell us! Book us and we’ll come!

Kris: We, hopefully, will be out in August around some places in England. We’re playing the o2 Academy 3 in Birmingham on the 19th October. If you’re around for that, you should totally come. Also, our first show in London falls on the 12th August.
         
JJ:    I would love to catch a show when y’all make it out to the U.S. I’ll be first in line. Describe how this experience has changed you?

Kris: It’s no longer a joke, it’s a lifestyle.

Lightning Round Favorites:

Dave:

Drink:  Jack Daniels
Color:  Purple
Season: Football & Ice Hockey!
Flavor:  Oriental
Movie:  Nightmare Before Christmas
Band:  Down / Slipknot / Wednesday 13!

Norway:

Drink:  Mountain Dew
Color:  Purple
Season: Summer
Flavor: Chocolate?
Movie:  Nurses Gone Wild
Band:  Turbowolf at the moment

Simon:

Drink:  Cider
Color:  Purple
Season: Summer
Flavor:  Sweetness
Movie:  Pulp Fiction
Band: Tool, Opeth, Blackfield

Kris:

Drink:  Water
Color:  Purple
Season: When Villa don’t get relegated! (Summer)
Flavor:  The taste of victory
Movie:  Almost Famous
Band:   Faith No More...or…Mastodon…or…Down…or...The Gaslight Anthem…I think.
 
I’m not going to ask why y’all like purple so much. Ha! Thanks again. It was such a pleasure chatting with you guys. 

Click here to pick up their album What Goes Around over at Bandcamp!

To keep up with the latest happenings of VEGAS ASSAULT, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter @VegasAssault and check out their website vegasassault.com

Until next time…

Jan