Monday, May 23, 2011

As Tall As Lions

As Tall As Lions are an indie rock band from Long Island, New York. Forming in 2001, they worked together for 10 years with three record releases and a number of tours on their belt. This interview took place on their last ever Australian tour with the lead singer, Dan Nigro.
By Hayleigh Sipek

As Tall As Lions were formed in late 2001, how does it feel like to be at the end of a decade of music together?
It feels good for me, it’s different for each of us so I speak for myself and myself only on this I’m just at a different point in my life right now and I wasn’t enjoying being on the road constantly and I didn’t feel like I was actually becoming the creative person that I wanted to be. I felt really stagnant, stale and confused with my creative process – I never wanted to be somebody who kept on doing something when they weren’t sure of what they were doing.
Would you say it’s a moving-on point as well?
Yes, it’s a different time in my life. I will admit that there are a lot of regrets that I have, everything is a learning experience and there are times when I think that everything’s meant to happen for a reason.

What would you suggest for other musician, would you say, “go ahead and do 10 years as a band”?
When you’re young and you start touring and doing the band… like for us we got signed when we were 20, we were still in college and we didn’t really listen to anybody which I think is the ethic when you’re a couple of young dudes in a band and you’re like “we don’t give a fuck what anybody says and we’re just gonna do whatever we feel” and you get advice from people who actually know what they’re talking about but you almost want to do the exact opposite because you don’t want to do what someone is telling you to do and you want to be defiant of it and there’s definitely been a few times, looking back where we should have just listened to some people who were telling us what the right things to do were. I definitely would say if bands are looking to try and make it that to find people that you trust ie a manager, a record label who have a good head on their shoulders and have your best interest and to be able to take their advice… not all of the time but not to be so guarded by their mind and their ideas for what a band should be.

I guess managers aren’t meant to be the producers the band as well?
There’s definitely a tough line in what a manager is supposed to do and what they’re not and what a record label is supposed to do and not supposed to do. You need to be able to work in that harmony, it’s a really big thing in the making of a band that can have longevity.

 ‘You Can’t Take it With You’, the last album- what was the creative space for that?
The creative space was weird for that record because we had come off of three years straight of writing and touring off of the self-titled. We spent the better part of a year writing and recording the record and then as soon as we were done recording it we went on tour for all of 2006, 2007, just non-stop touring and it was a really weird time for all of us because we were starting to see the first taste of success and people really genuinely caring about the band and people coming out to shows for us and being really passionate about what we were doing and so that kind of was feeding our confidence and egos but also draining us of a lot of energy and we came off of two years of being on the road. For me personally the last thing that I wanted to do, and I remember getting really anxious and not feeling like I wanted to go back into the studio, but feeling the pressure of getting back in the studio and that created a really negative tone. I think everyone was feeling really jaded and tired and wanted to take a break because even though we needed to go back into the studio and make another record we had just spent years and years doing one thing. We just went into the studio and started arguing and didn’t have a clear vision and I think the end product, ‘You Can’t Take it With You’ has a few good songs on it but overall it wasn’t a very cohesive record, there were more weak points than strong.

Alternative Press rated it pretty highly, what is your relationship with them?
Yeah they were nice to us, they’re good people over there. We built a really good relationship with them and I think they really wanted to see us succeed and they tried and did all they could to help us out in that sense which was nice of them.

You came twice to the annual Soundwave Festival in Australia, how did you find that experience?
Nothing would beat our first experience of coming to Australia, we came in 2007 and for us we were obviously all pretty young, this was four years ago, just the fact that you come from a small town and all of a sudden you’re in a different continent getting paid really good money to play shows. That was definitely one of the highlights of being in a band, was being in Australia and playing on a massive stage to thousands of people. The first day we were in Brisbane I remember we took the city cat and we went to the Kangaroo Hotel and we took the city cat to North Quay and we walked up and down the little strip. We went to a little restaurant and we didn’t realize that you’re not supposed to tip and we were trying to tip the waiter, and he wouldn’t accept the tip and we were like ‘nah take the money’ and he was weirded out that we were trying to give him ten bucks. I have a lot of good memories of Australia, which is nice.

Do you have a favourite place in Australia?
I’ve had a lot of really great experiences, we had a few days off in Sydney that first time and we spent a day just going to the aquarium and we went to the botanical gardens and they have those crazy bats there. The second time Julio and I came together and we had three days off in Melbourne and found this really great Chinese restaurant and we ate there like every night. We had some good times for sure.

Do you have any plans in particular for this time?
 I’m still trying to figure it out, because we’ve been here twice and I still haven’t been to New Zealand and I kind of fell like if I’m over on this side of the world and it might be the last time I’m over here, you never know, I think that probably I’m going to take a few days and go to New Zealand.

So you played last night at The Hive, how was that?
It was definitely a weird transition because we just did the American farewell tour and we were playing these gorgeous venues all throughout the states to go to playing a teen centre to 45 kids in Brisbane. You never feel like you’re above it because you’re not and it was fun but there’s definitely a weird way that it transpires in your head to go from playing massive shows to a tiny show were maybe 25 people really care.

Are you used to an all ages crowd?
It’s different in America because it’s either all ages or 21 and over so it’s a little bit different because obviously the main demographic of people that go to shows are probably between the ages of 18 and 25 so when that’s split in half by the drinking age most shows for bands unless they’re an older crowd band specifically are going to be playing all ages shows because a lot of their fans are teenagers or in their 20’s and wouldn’t be able to get a show.

What do you think of Elliot the Bull?
They’re great, it was honestly the first time I saw them play (last night). They’re amazing people and they’re really tight, it was cool.

After the tour do you have any projects are you just going to chill out?
I’m in the middle of working on a solo record right now so I’m doing that and I’ve got a couple of other things going, I started getting into writing songs for other artists and that’s what I spend a lot of my time doing now. I just signed with a publishing company a few months ago so I’m just building up a catalogue of songs for other artists.

Anything you have to say to the fans?
Check out the solo record, the project is called ‘Blocks’ check it out!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bamboozle Day One

Two weeks ago, I made the journey up to the Meadowlands outside New York City for the annual Bamboozle Festival. My second year in attendance, I knew that the only thing you can expect from the 'Boozle is a non-sensical, yet brilliant band lineup, teenage boys who still think 'Free Hugs' signs are clever, and over-priced food. This year the festival area was expanded with extra rides and two new stages, making for even more difficult time management decisions. The above photo was taken at the top of the ferris wheel before doors opened, aka the calm before the storm.

The first band to play on Saturday were pop-punkers We Are the In Crowd, who I will admit to knowing nothing about, but enjoyed regardless. They've just been revealed as one of the acts for the new Soundwave Revolution Festival, which come to think of it, is basically the Australian equivalent of Bamboozle.

The best stumbled upon band of the day was Brooklyn via Israel married duo Hank & Cupcakes. It's hard not to stop when you walk by a woman standing on drums in a Lady Gaga-esque outfit throwing lipstick into the crowd. Judging from the audience size at the end of their set compared to the beginning, others were clearly drawn in as I had been. Making unique, upbeat indie dance music is difficult enough, but for only two members to do the work of four and pull off a great live show is even more impressive.

Forever the Sickest Kids singer Jonathan Cook climbing the stage scaffolding during their hit, 'She's a Lady.' Several seconds after this was taken, he accidentally dropped the microphone into the sea of people below. Fortunately, the two teenage fans who caught the mic returned it to the stage and were personally given free merch by the band as a thank you. Aw!

"I take it this is the first time many of you have seen us," laughs Tokyo Police Club singer Dave Monks after instructing the crowd to sing along and receiving a quieter than expected response. One of the hazards of playing a festival like Bamboozle is that you honestly don't know what percentage of an audience are there for another band and Tokyo Police Club handled the waiting Thrice fans with grace. Actually my first time seeing them (after years of failed attempts), I was glad the indie pop Canucks lived up to their recorded work and filled their short but sweet set with hand claps, bright clear vocals, and happy keyboard dances.

Just a man and his guitar, the always amazing Frank Turner took the stage sans band for Bamboozle. He enlisted the help of the audience to be the harmonica (he forgot his) in 'Dan's Song' and when some were hesitant, he went for his usual banter, "If you're the type of person who's too cool to do air harmonica at a fucking festival in the middle of the afternoon, you're too cool to be here anyway, you hipster motherfuckers!" Doing a perfect mix of old and new tunes (including my personal favourite 'Photosynthesis'), Frank promised a major US tour in the future to support his upcoming release England Keeps My Bones.

Due to a HUGE crowd at a tiny stage, I surpassed a much buzzed about The Movielife reunion show and instead wandered over to the area usually reserved for comedians. There I watched the legendary Marky Ramone do a 'cooking show' to promote his new line of pasta sauce. Yes, I'm serious. It smelled delicious and 80% of the people present were waiting for comedian Bo Burnham and had no idea who Marky Ramone is. As you can see, Marky also chugged an entire jar of the pasta sauce. This is not even in the top ten weirdest things I saw at Bamboozle, if that gives you an idea what that weekend was like.

It was especially exciting to see Pennsylvania locals Tigers Jaw (who I once saw at a gig in my friend's garage with five other people, a dog, and someones Mom) play to a large crowd. Even the band themselves didn't believe it, "Why are you guys watching us? Don't you know New Found Glory and Das Racist are on now?!" The die-hard crowd screamed along with every word, some yelling at pauses that they came from the Midwest just to see this band. If by any chance we have any Midwest or Southern US readers, I suggest you check out Krazy Fest in Kentucky, which has a fantastic lineup consisting mostly of all the good PA/NJ bands us East Coasters tend to selfishly hog.

As the day goes on, the names get bigger and it becomes more difficult to get photos. Sorry Dashboard Confessional, Gaslight Anthem, and Taking Back Sunday fans, I assure you their sets were fantastic, but I have no photos or notes because by this point I just wanted to sit and listen to them play from far away. You would too if you'd been standing in the sun for ten hours straight. Here's a photo of a midget wrestler dressed as a chicken in the new Bamboozle Luchador Ring to make you feel better. The only thing that made this sight even more ridiculous is that Miley Cyrus' brother and the chick from Gossip Girl were standing next to me cheering them on. Yes, that's in the top ten weird moments.

Oh Bamboozle, you so crazy! More on Day Two coming soon!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Single from Prayers for Atheists!

The second album from Prayers for Atheists, "New Hymns for an old War" has just been released. Check out the single 'Guns Up'!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Beginning, The Struggle and The Reward - Steve Towson

There is something about songs of protest and revolution that I just can not go past.  Whether it is the political point which is being conveyed, the traditional aspect which speaks of an infamous historical event or just the pure romanticism of it all, I love protest songs. 

The latest release from Queensland’s own, Steve Towson, “The Beginning, The Struggle and The Reward” is a five tracks of hardship, struggle and workers rights.  All except for one of the songs are covers selected from a wide range of artists including Joe Hill and John Lennon.  This release differs greatly from what we’re used to with Towson, it’s incredibly stripped back and raw which highlights the intense passion in his voice.  “The Beginning, The Struggle, The Reward” does not sound like an album of covers, the strength and passion in Towson’s voice makes each song his own and indicative of his desire for change.  This short but soulful release is well worth a listen.  I was fortunate enough to catch Steve playing tracks of his new album at the May Day Workers Concert recently held in Toowoomba on the first day of his tour to launch “The Beginning, The Struggle, The Reward”.  Accompanied by his guitar, a cello and a flute, the songs truly came to life and a raw, emotive energy was inescapable for everyone in the audience.
-Words and Photography: Angie Hurlock

The tour to launch “The Beginning, The Struggle, The Reward” has just kicked off, so go and catch Steve at one of the following dates.

Steve Towson "The Beginning, The Struggle, and The Reward" tour
6 May:  Mt Morgan, House Concert (41 Byrnes Parade)

13 May:  Townsville, at The Cot.

14 May:  Cairns, at Mofo (70 McLeod St), with Babylon 420 and Meat Bikini.

27 May:  Brisbane, at the Jubilee Hotel, with Wheat Paste, The Great Shame and Paddy McHugh & The Goldminers.

4 June:  Brisbane, at Fat Louies, with The Young Liberals and Fever Pitch.

29 June:  Toowoomba, at Smells Like Zines store (Shop 4/203 Margaret St).