Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Imagine Dragons - Music

Wayne Sermon is the lead guitarist for Imagine Dragons, an indie rock group hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada. If you’ve listened to the radio, browsed the Internet, watched television or been anywhere near a CD player, iPod or smart phone, you’ve probably heard Sermon’s band’s song, “It’s Time,” a track so pervasive it even ended up on the hit show Glee.

“I haven’t actually seen the episode yet,” Sermon says. The band is on the road so often it doesn't really get a chance to own a television, much less watch one. “When we hear one our songs in ads on the TV it’s a surprise.”  Does Imagine Dragons feel less cool because of its popularity? Nope. Sermon and his cohorts enjoy sharing their music. “Our stance has always been that there’s no reason to hide our music from different groups of people,” he says.

The rock scene in Las Vegas exists, but you have to look for it. “There actually is a really cool, kind of underground music scene out here,” Sermon says. “There are a lot of venues and cool bands that play a lot in Las Vegas.” Many of those groups, Imagine Dragons included, perform at the casinos to make ends meet. “You either have a side job or do that, if you are a musician working in Vegas,” the drummer says.

As a result, Sermon and the band played a lot of hours for a many different groups of people, often mixing in their own compositions next to the popular singles the crowds at the casinos wanted to hear. Sermon is glad the group does because the practice certainly paid off. “We’d play six hour sets every night, all week long.  A lot of bands don’t get that opportunity.”

It wasn't long before Imagine Dragons signed up with Interscope and ended up touring the world over as one of the most talented and popular indie rock bands of the modern era. All that hard work and long hours entertaining near-exhausted, inebriated tourists and gamblers is why Imagine Dragons and its debut album, 2012’s Night Visions, is so damn near perfect—songs from it are everywhere, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Listening to Imagine Dragons can impress from the sheer range of styles in each track on its debut LP. Sermon admits that the band likes to perform a wide range of music because it had to when it was entertaining the crowds in Vegas. “When we were working in the casinos, we’d play everything from back in the day. The Cars, The Cure, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles . . . anything that people would recognize, we’d play it,” he says.

As a result, the band has a keen understanding of what makes a hit, well, a hit. Sermon and the group have played enough of them to know. “When we write a song, we try to make it the best one possible. If you couldn't enjoy hearing it played on acoustic guitar, it’s probably not a good song,” he says.

What’s next from Imagine Dragons? Everyone likes to hear about new albums, but Night Visions was just released in September of 2012. Sermon promises there will be more albums in the future. “Our goal was always to be an album band. We never wanted to just be some flash-in-the-pan. We grew up listening to solid singles and great albums, the kind you enjoyed from the moment you pushed play on track one,” he says.

The group wants some off time before it starts recording the next album, but there are certainly future plans. “We’re always writing melodies or songs and coming up with ideas,” Sermon says. “For every song we write, there are probably a hundred that don’t make it.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Colurs - Music

Max Townsley and Drew Erickson are The Colurs, a contemporary pop group that combines introspective, orchestra-powered grandeur with modern radio sensibilities. The band’s songs possess more strings, horns, flutes and other classical instruments than a lot of other work out there, with an end result being similar to music written by composers such as John Lennon, Brian Wilson or Alan Parsons.

Tracks like “Julia” and “Easy to Love” from its self-titled EP, are progressive yet serene. Each possess thoughtful notes and earnest vocals backed up by compelling instrumentations that would sound overcomplicated in the hands of lesser musicians, but The Colurs pull it off with controlled flair.

Townsley and Erickson both met in high school. “Max hung out with a lot of jazz musicians at a local piano bar,” Townsley says. “He also toured with a rock band called Midlake, while I played organ with my church choir.” The two musicians ended up in a lot of bands together, but eventually decided to form a duo.

The freelance musicians eventually saved up enough money to operate out of their own home studio. “Now we have all the resources we need to completely orchestrate a song to follow the vibe we want,” Townsley says. “Since we also have the luxury of having the skills and resources, we try to take advantage of it.”

“We’ve had absolute control creating our music. I’ve never had to work with another producer who was telling me what to do.” The move also saves money. “Mostly, we’ve done it ourselves for financial reasons. I had to learn to mix because I couldn’t afford to do so,” Townsley says.

Everyone enjoys a little EP, but will fans get something meatier? “We are working on a full-length album. We’re still in the process of recording and mixing everything.” Townsley assures fans that his commitment to the project is absolute. “It will be done the beginning of January, even if I have to stay awake through December.”

While earlier tracks played by The Colurs utilized some prerecorded instrumentations, it’s not the duo’s first preference. “We are getting away from using a lot of programmed music. The songs on our next album are going to have much more live, natural instrumentations,” Townsley says.

What does The Colurs’ first big album sound like so far? “I think it has a broad spectrum of music,” Townsley says. “As opposed to the EP, it’s going to have a wider variation, including ballads and some high-energy songs. We haven’t proposed a name for it yet. Maybe it won’t have a title.”

When asked for more details about the full-length album The Colurs are destined to release in the future, Townsley plays it close to vinyl. “We’re still coming up with a lot of concepts.” The two have a lot of talent and tools, so there have been no final decisions. They also want their first album to be perfect. Why commit to anything too early? “Everything I tell you could be false.”

The young artist assures me that while The Colurs have written a lot of sweet, quiet songs, Erickson and Townsley aren’t confining their future to nothing but more of the same. Elements like hard rock and heavy metal are still on the table for the two.

“I would be open to writing anything,” Townsley says. “I don’t have any preference. My personal taste is all over the map. If a piece that calls for high-energy instrumentation, that’s fine.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

Clutch - Music

Clutch released their first LP, Transnational Speedway League, in 1993. Since then the band has made many albums full of hard rock, heavy metal, blues, funk and punk, touring the world playing honest, high-octane music when they aren't hanging out back at home in Germantown, Maryland.

Tim Sult has been lead guitarist for Clutch since the beginning. There are many other genres of music out there for people to enjoy, including electronica, EBM, hip-hop and countless others. After so many years, why do fans around the planet still enjoy traditional rock and roll?

“I think it’s because rock is a form of music that people enjoy seeing performed live,” Sult says. After decades playing in front of audiences, he knows. “For rock bands it’s very important to put on a good live performance, but I think it’s also a necessary trait for any group, whether they play EBM or hip-hop.”

A band can make a lot of mistakes over the course of a career, but to Sult the worst error is quitting. “Too many bands want to sign on to a big label before they go on tour. They don’t want to go out on the road without a major label to sponsor them.” Clutch spent years playing anywhere they could. “You have to play a lot of live shows to build up a good fan base.”

On December 21st Clutch will headline the KBPI “When Hell Freezes Over” radio show in Denver, Colorado at the Fillmore Auditorium. The concert will give the band an opportunity to show off a few of the new songs from their latest album, Earth Rocker.

The new LP will be released on March 13, 2013. “We just finished recording it. It was a long time coming. We spent a lot hours working in the studio, so I’m glad we’re done.” Sult admits that he’d rather play on the road than locked up inside a studio, but the hard labor paid off. “The recording is perfect. It just sounds like a very sharp production.”

Sult believes that Earth Rocker is the best, heaviest collection of rock and metal tracks the band has ever created. “Honestly, it feels like a cross between our first LP and the Robot Hive/Exodus album.” The guitarist also says that Earth Rocker will have a much more modern sound to it, thanks to all the time the band has spent in the studio making it all pitch perfect. “Our old albums can sound more like classic rock, but this certainly sounds like an album from the 90’s and 2000’s.”

The group also composed an acoustic track for the album. “We decided to take a chance with this one,” Sult says. “Sometimes a heavy metal band will write an acoustic song. It either works or it doesn't ” Sult and the group are glad they rolled the dice. “There’s something about an acoustic song that forces you to strip a composition to its bare elements to entertain the audience. It’s a worthwhile challenge.”

Why did Clutch finally put together another LP? “We all felt like it had been too long. We had spent a lot of time compiling ideas for songs without recording any.” If you want premium quality, you have to wait for it. “Our motivation was to write the best record we possibly could.” They all spent long days in the studio until “…the songs came out heavier and faster than anything we’ve done before,” according to Sult, so veteran fans won’t have to worry if they think they’re favorite band has gone soft with experience.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Minus the Bear - Music

Erin Tate is the drummer for Minus the Bear, an indie-rock band from Seattle, Washington. Since the release of the band’s first album, Highly Refined Pirates (2002), Minus the Bear has spent a decade composing sophisticated music that challenges conventions and tantalizes the listener with inventive keyboards, progressive bass lines; ferocious guitar licks and brilliant lyrics that can make you think and rock.

Minus the Bear didn’t sell out venues and get millions of hits on YouTube, MySpace and iTunes throughout its career by playing it safe. With its new album, Infinity Overhead, the challenge was to reinvent its formula without forgetting where it came from. “We just want to do whatever makes us happy, but we also want it to sound good,” Tate says. “When we went back to the writing process we decided to just write rock songs with heavy guitars and odd signatures that kick ass.”

Infinity Overhead will kick your ass if you enjoy metal bands that defy modern conventions like King Crimson or Pink Floyd. Psychedelic rock is a broad category that Minus the Bear could almost fit into, but its music feels more post-punk or alternative than something entirely from the 1970's. The band’s signature sound is at the cynosure of many genres, which is why old fans come back for more of what this band makes.

“When you listen to our previous records, you can always tell that it’s us,” Tate says. This challenge exists for every modern band. Change too much and you might lose your fans, but if your music doesn't evolve the band and/or your listeners will get bored, which is when everyone loses. Tate and the band approached Infinity Overhead with that danger in mind. “We wanted to stay out of our comfort zone and try different ideas.”

“On our first record we wanted to play guitars the way people like to hear,” Tate says. It wasn't long before they decided to spice up the process. “After that we began incorporated weird samples and other odd riffs.” A few albums later Minus the Bear wasn't afraid to experiment and combine beauty with the beast. “With Planet of Ice we just went hard with the guitars and wrote intricate songs to go along with it, but with Omni we used a lot of funk,” he says. “I thoroughly believe bands could have longevity if they keep reinventing their own music.”

Infinity Overhead is a broad work. “The record is a really great representation of our career,” Tate says. “Our band has turned 10 years old, so there was this feeling that this album was a tribute to everything we've done so far.” “Lies and Eyes,” one song from the album, is somewhere between pop and electronic, while another track, “Lonely Gun” is a guitar-driven rock song with so much going on its fun to keep up.

While the new album might challenge listeners who are expecting the same thing for a dozen songs, Tate and the band are glad they made an album that has so many angles. “We got a lot of criticism, but we also got a lot of new fans.”