We’re totally cozying up to our new digs in the amazing musical city of Atlanta these days. TuneCore has received a ton of support from the local independent music community and we were thrilled to present our second-ever TuneCore Live event series back to the Music Room.
Big shout outs to our pals at A3C and Hot 109.7FM for lending their support, too, as the night was a total success. It was our privilege to present a night of diverse musical styles from hardworking artists – and we get feeling they enjoyed sharing the stage!
Mr. 2-17 wowed the audience with he and his crew’s moves, three-piece Levi Johnson engaged the crowd, Willie Hyn and brothers-in-arms Hero The Band brought the energy, and Kodie Shane and M-City J.R. killed it with their solo sets.
Couldn’t make it out? Be sure to check out the photo gallery below to see everything you missed (sorry!), and follow our TuneCore Live Facebook page to stay on top of all the opportunities to join us in the future.
Four-pieceForeign Figures stem from the lesser known city of Orem, Utah. They’ve got a natural ability to bring listeners a true arena pop-rock vibe to their songs within seconds of pressing play, such that it’s hard to believe the band is only a couple of years old!
As the group continues to accelerate past local and regional markets, bassist Seth Dunshee was kind enough to talk about their beginnings, the new album and how it represents the massive shift towards an independent band really going all-in and full-time, (and everything that comes with that) as well as Foreign Figures’ recent sync placement.
How did Foreign Figures come to be as a band?
Seth Dunshee: Eric [Michels], our singer, and Steve [Michels], our drummer are brothers, so they began writing together while in high school. Steve and Eric put out an EP together in 2010, and I met them soon afterwards through a mutual friend. We jammed for a couple months, but, Eric soon decided to volunteer for a 2 year mission for his church.
During that that me and Steve continued to jam and write casually, but mostly did acoustic covers at weddings and parties. When Eric returned in late 2013, we decided to form a band and record some songs together. I knew a great engineer and producer named Jonny [Tanner], and we soon went into his home studio to record our first song together. It didn’t take long for us to ask Jonny to join the band as a guitarist.
How do you feel the collective music experience of each member has played a role in developing your sound?
Foreign Figures’ sound is truly a collaborative effort. Each band member is a strong songwriter and vocalist, and our musical influences differ enough to spark extra creativity when writing.
Jonny comes from a metal/rock background, whereas I’m more into R&B and funk – a big fan of M.J. and Justin Timberlake. Steve loves dance/pop music, and Eric likes indie/rock pop a bit more. While we all like different genres, we can all agree on a few bands, namely Coldplay and Imagine Dragons. When we write, it’s typically a synergetic experience, but of course, is not without lots of bickering and disagreements. I think that makes us stronger songwriters, though.
Clue us into what the music scene around Orem, Utah is like. What do you think are some of the advantages of forming in a lesser known music city?
Not being from LA, Nashville, New York, or Austin definitely makes it a bit easier to be noticed on a local level, just for lack of saturation. Networking with the music industry is definitely a bit harder though. Orem is extremely close to Provo, where bands like Neon Trees, The Used, and Imagine Dragons have come out of.
Provo has an awesome and very loyal music scene with a lot of talented artists. A lot of our fans will call us a “Provo Band”, since Orem and Provo are sister cities and we play there often.
TuneCore landed “Fire” on Younger in February. How does it feel to achieve a sync placement just a year and a half into your career as a band?
It feels really awesome. We have really loved working with TuneCore, and were especially excited that “Fire” was used in a scene where a guy proposes to Hilary Duff’s character, (laughs). As a musician, it’s nice to know that you can make money without having to play a show, (although playing live is our favorite), so we were very excited about the placement.
How has the placement impacted interest outside of your established fan base?
I think it has legitimized us in the eyes of a lot of fans. To see a band that you’re a fan of on TV is an exciting thing, more so when it’s something that’s somewhat relevant on television.
In terms of outside our established fan base, we got a good deal of traction from people who follow Younger that found us from that scene. Pretty sweet.
In general, what are your thoughts on how independent artists lean on licensing as a source of revenue and exposure in 2016?
We always talk about focusing on making money “while we are sleeping”, which is such a rarity for a band trying to break out of a local market.
Given the current industry and the low payout for digital streaming and downloads, learning to make money through licensing is a must. That being said, we aren’t specifically writing with hopes to land sync deals, but it is a goal of ours to be able to get a certain amount of exposure and income from that area.
Collectively, how would you describe your understanding of the world of music publishing administration?
I feel like when it comes to educating yourself about the moving parts of the music industry, it’s easy for bands to just assume that a label or manager will come around that will make the tough decisions for them and get educated.
For us, we have really tried to run our band as a business, and that means doing our best to be in the know. We try and learn something new everyday. If I were to describe our current “understanding” of the world of music publishing administration, I would say that we have a base understanding of how things work with a desire to learn and network as much as possible.
Especially with this new album – there are so many songs that I feel would be so awesome as part of a movie trailer TV show, etc. It’s pretty anthemic and, at times, cinematic. As we grow, we are excited to work with royalties more as well and actually start to make some money there.
How do you think indie artists can better educate themselves in this area of collecting songwriter royalties?
Perhaps the best way to educate ourselves is to try and learn as much as you can on your own. Every artist has a team – whether that’s a legitimate management company, or a mom and a dad. I feel that indie artists will only gain from trying to learn about it themselves instead of simply trusting someone else to do it for them.
You can’t do everything on your own, but part of the excitement behind success in the music industry is knowing that you, (at least somewhat), knew what you were doing, (laughs).
Tell us more about your debut full length, Paradigm. Where are you guys coming from on this album?
Paradigm is basically the battle that took place for us personally as we decided to make Foreign Figures a reality. Bridging the gaps between, “Hey, we’re pretty good…” and, “Let’s do this for our full time jobs…” and, “Hey (wife) I’m quitting my job to be a bass player in my band…” is definitely an anxiety ridden journey.
Lyrically, Paradigm confronts the uncomfortable emotions of knowing that you want to do music full time, and even feeling that you should do it full time, and then making that happen. Giving up grad school, comfortable careers, and supporting wives and families while deciding to do music full time is a scary thing, but so worth it.
Paradigm is the shift of vision that we had that went from unsure but hopeful, to confident and hopeful. Musically, the album has a “battle born” concept. It’s got some very anthemic moments, and a lot of emotional moments, all within what we’ve found to be our sound. We are so excited for this new album.
What are some of the benefits of having an ‘in-house’ producer playing in the band?
The most obvious benefit is the money we’ve saved – Jonny [Tanner, guitarist] has put in probably 2,500 hours of mixing, editing, mastering. And on top of that, all the production and writing sessions that we had as a band. He is so awesome – he never asked us to pay him anything extra.
He knows we all do things to push Foreign Figures forward, and his engineering and production skills are, in his words, “just part of his contribution to the band.” Besides the financial savings, being able to take time on songs and try things has been super cool.
It sucks to rush art, so it was nice to feel creative freedom. On the other end, it’s been a LOT MORE work than what a band that outsources all of the mixing, editing, mastering. One thing for sure, Jonny is the man. We’re super grateful for him.
What other plans do you guys have for 2016 in terms of promoting Paradigm and continuing to build a fan base?
2016 is our first year as a full-time band, and with the release of Paradigm we will get our first tour of national touring. So far we’ve got a few regional tours planned, and weeklong tour of the midwest as we head to Nashville this May. Our goal is to tour/gig like we’re unstoppable.
Of course, we know that just booking random shows in cities where people don’t know about us isn’t the smartest decision, so we are being strategic and working with a few people in the ways of marketing and PR to maximize dates we play outside of our home region.
Another goal of this year is to really get networked with industry people – so far all of our connections have been organic, but we are connecting a few dots within the industry. We will also be releasing a few other music videos throughout the next year and a half of so. We are very excited to keep working hard to connect with people through our music.
Intense, energetic, and unafraid to take on the conventions of what it means to be a ‘frontman’, Greg Puciato is best known as the face and lead singer of the much adored metal group Dillinger Escape Plan. While he’s been involved with the supergroup Killer Be Killed, (alongside members of Converge, Mastodon and Soulfly), it’s Greg’s latest project, The Black Queen, that has begun to turn heads.
Stepping into the realm of gothy, synth-driven electronic pop, The Black Queen is releasing their debut album Fever Daydream on January 29th (pre-order it on iTunes here!). Puciato got together with Joshua Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv, Puscifer, Nine Inch Nails) and Steven Alexander, and the trio began releasing music in 2105, offering fans a limited 12″ run of their first single, “The End Where We Start“.
Greg was kind enough to catch up with us to talk about Fever Daydream and so much more. It’s a longer one, but whether you’re a fan or an indie artist, it’s well worth the read:
Back in 2001, you went from fan to front man. As your career has evolved over the past 15 years, how has that history affected the way you connect with fans of your own?
Greg Puciato: Well I don’t know how much that has to do with this, or more because I was raised in really meager surroundings, but I never view the artist/fan relationship as some sort of hierarchy. I know it’s cliché to say, but we’re all human beings you know? Born with the same innate dignity. I have never felt entitled. Aware of protecting and nurturing what I value about myself, yes, but not entitled to any sort of special attention from others. I mainly feel acutely aware of wanting to connect with people, to reach from your innermost abstract being to theirs, a direct line, as a person and not a thing or a product, and to never treat people as below you just because they appreciate what you do or pay to see you.
To me art is a universal language to do that with. The people who have somehow found the other end of that connection….how do I say this…if you are putting something out there…you’re sending a signal out into the abyss. It’s like looking for aliens in space…if space was crowded with tons of other aliens all putting out their own individual signals too. So for someone to find your particular signal, in all the ones that are out there, and resonate with it, enough that they choose to respond to it…and then to go one step further and to pay long term attention so they’ll know when you put a new signal out? That’s incredible. It’s beyond an honor. This is the way I communicate, I didn’t really ask to communicate this way, it just always felt good to me. Made sense to me. I was never someone who practiced playing or singing other peoples’ music too much. From the second I could put two notes together or some words or a rhythm, I only really cared about outputting my signal, not replicating, so yeah…again…it’s just incredible that there are people who respond. Sorry I’m kinda off topic. ADD. Comes with the territory.
But I stay fans of people. I geek over people all of the time. Both big artists and niche artists that few people have heard of alike. So again, fan…artist…it’s best to make an effort to make sure you are nurturing both sides of yourself. I’m sure most people who care about things I’m involved in can do something that would blow my mind that I have no idea how to do and no skill at at all.
How did you originally link up with Joshua Eustis? Was the original goal to create new music?
Well this band started with Steve and I. It’s three of us, and Steve and I were already making the earliest crudest demos when we met Josh. Dillinger was on tour, we were in Denver, and Josh, who was in Puscifer at the time, was also on tour and they had a day off.
A bunch of them came to the show, we met backstage, exchanged pleasantries and so forth. I went out to the bus and was texting with Steve, and he said, “Oh that’s Josh from Telefon Tel Aviv”. Steve and I were both big fans of their music, I had actually been playing their latest record Immolate Yourself quite a bit at that time, and so I went back into the venue and re-introduced myself. We got along really well. People use the word ‘bro-mance’ so much…what’s it called when you have, like, an instant bro-mance? Like the friend version of love at first sight? Bud at first sight? Hetero-crush? I dunno. But yeah we discovered we both lived in LA, we were fans of each other, we knew some of the same people. It made sense to start hanging out.
Him being involved just came really naturally when the three of us started to hang out a bit. The cultural and musical influences all lined up uncannily well.
How would you describe the collaboration? What are some shared similarities in terms of creating music, and where do you feel you’ve learned from one another?
Well Josh is a scientist. He’s really really micro. He zooms way the f–k in. Just sub atomic levels of detail with what he does. I’m a lot more macro. I see things in big pieces, I move really fast, very instinctive, Josh is slower, really meticulous. We need both, and people’s strengths are most often the flip sides of their “weaknesses”. And if you go further with that, usually what you are perceiving as a weakness you really are just misinterpreting and it’s actually just a difference. People can be threatened by difference.
But if you are just looking for someone to have the same skill set as you, and you criticize someone with a workflow different to yours, you’re going the wrong way. Our musical similarities come mostly from our references. We have, like I said earlier, a really similar set of root level childhood influences. We aren’t the same personality-wise at all, and like I said he is more zoomed in and I’m bigger picture, as far as song writing and construction goes. But we’ve pulled each other a little closer towards the other’s direction over time…shown each other the benefits of the other side.
Steve is kinda the glue between the two, he’s sort of the free roamer who can speak both languages pretty well, the translator if we’re having a hard time figuring the other one out. He also has a way of Brian Eno-ing everyone in the band, getting us to look at things from different perspectives. His brain probably has psychedelic moss growing on it. Somehow all of the roles came together pretty smoothly and really work in tandem. If we were all only a couple of years younger in our development it probably wouldn’t have worked.
What kind of influences did you draw on in the creation of Fever Daydream that the average DEP fan may not have guessed you to have in you?
Well I’ve never really thought of genre when writing. That seems so weird to me. We never had an initial discussion where we said okay we’re gonna sit down and make a record that sounds like this. That’s like paint by numbers. Better to just rush in and get lost and find your way out on your own than to deliberately start off on an already existing path. Along the way though, influences come out naturally, and you see them, and you’re like, “Oh wow where did that come from? I completely forgot that was in there.”
From something I heard or a movie I saw when I was seven or thirteen or however old. Those kinds of things happen all of the time. With this there was so much coming out from our childhoods. Sci-fi/fantasy movies like Legend and The Neverending Story, The Last Unicorn…Alien…video games…Metroid. Kubrick. We talked about the “used future” element a lot. A neon bar in some Cronenberg-esque future that somehow also feels like the past. It helped that we were in a non-residential part of Downtown LA for a lot of the process. Our surroundings were a big inspiration.
That part of Downtown LA at night feels like someone put an abandoned modern city on the floor of a giant dumpster, very dystopian/cyber-punk vibe. Being mostly nocturnal, that was our background wallpaper for most of the record. Desolate ambience, some element of which is almost always droning in the background of every song. We’re all pretty high on the existential anxiety scale anyway. Nothing makes this life more simultaneously terrifying and beautiful than knowing it’s gonna end. We wanted some beauty/terror element to always be present, veering between the two in the background.
Then there was this other big thing coming through, this weird late 80’s/early 90’s RNB production element. Like a more brutalist Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Once we identified that as something that was coming out of all of us we started to hone in on it more. It’s great uncovering surprise things in your core like that. Like finding a bit of a dinosaur skeleton in a desert and then suddenly you’re all brushing away at it uncovering the whole thing. You end up being amazed at how much is there. That might sound strange to a lot of people but in reality the production on the Rhythm Nation album isn’t too far away stylistically from Violator or The Downward Spiral. Some of the kicks and snares and production nuances on those records are just unreal, from another world, and I think what Josh did on this record as far as those elements go – sound construction and absurd detail in final mixes – rivals any of those albums.
Steve’s got this really great knack for incredible single note melodic motifs as well. Very 16-bit Nobuo Uematsu-type melodies. Which also became a big part of everything. Just these big grand romantic hero melodies cutting through the fog.
As a songwriter, what have you poured into Fever Daydream emotionally?
Well the last three to four years for all of us were pretty intense. I could write a giant book about everything in that time period alone but wouldn’t know where to begin. I guess the thing I would say…depends on whether I’m talking to someone on the “post” or “pre” side of the thing that happens. There’s a thing that happens that nobody tells you about. In life. You go through life thinking it’s about one thing. And then suddenly it becomes something else. And that change comes very suddenly, very violently, the severity of that depending upon how much of your identity is wrapped up in the first part. How much damage you’ve absorbed along the way, how much you didn’t ever stop to process and work through. Maybe you weren’t equipped to. You’ve developed mechanisms along the way, patterns, to not have to deal with things. Or you keep absorbing and accumulating pain and chaos and loss, not knowing why, not realizing that it has unknowingly become your comfort zone.
Then something happens, hopefully, for people, that pushes things into no coming back territory, and your shield shatters. Everything you’ve been piling onto it your entire life. Ego-death. I don’t mean ego in the “high on yourself” way, I mean ego as a construct, an exoskeleton. And at that point you are in the f–king void. That happened to all of us around the same time, which made the album have an emotional cohesion, because we were developing all these connections in what was happening in our lives and psyches, and simultaneously rebuilding and supporting and growing.
More important than anything identifiable musically, is emotional honesty and vulnerability. That’s the thing that gets lost when people are more concerned with technique and proficiency than self exploration. That’s what I’m the most proud of on this record. That we went in and pulled a collective feeling out that I can pinpoint when I hear us. That there’s a feel there that goes beyond external elements of sound. That if someone were to ask what we sound like, that is what we sound like. Not a list of particular traits or related artist examples. A vibe that exists on the album and consistently throughout every element of our presentation.
You’ve made some cool, limited promotional efforts over the summer. How has the reaction of your fans prior to this project been since you began releasing music as the Black Queen?
Well yeah, we really wanted to make this band and this release a feeling for people. Not just songs and a price tag. Something they can see and hold and feel not just hear. We wanted to create things so that we could be the most proud of them, not try to make the widest profit margins. Because really who cares. You’re gonna die. Making things of high quality with extreme attention to detail, and making those things finite, makes them valuable, and I don’t mean monetarily speaking. Things don’t have intrinsic meaning. They have the meaning that you infuse into them.
Our preexisting fanbases…you know it’s tough because I don’t know where everyone comes from. I don’t know how many are Dillinger fans, how many are Telefon fans, how many are both, or neither and came from somewhere else on their own. I do know though that the ones that come from Dillinger…it makes me really happy because Dillinger to me is not and has never been about a genre. It has been, again, about emotional honesty and having your art match the feeling you are trying to express. Trying to get to the source and then trying to get that source out of you to the listener without it becoming too indecipherable or compromised along the way.
So if someone follows that here, and can relate to this too…that’s really rewarding. If someone is a long term or observant fan of Dillinger, they can tell the feel. It’s like a scent or a fingerprint. If you’ve been paying attention for a while then I don’t think the feel from my end is all that foreign to you. The genre may be a surprise, but again, if you’re paying attention to non-surface elements… I think you’ll know what I mean.
Like I said….the last few years. The last Dillinger record was a really extreme catharsis. I already knew this was existing at that point. I referenced this album title in a lyric on that record, and that was three years ago. I try to pre-lead people a bit. The songs that would play during the 25 minutes or so before Dillinger went onstage on our last tour cycle were all picked to get people prepped for this vibe. The music that would play when we would finish was a 33 minute ambient loop that we mailed out to random people on a cassette release. That kinda stuff.
The last Dillinger record was me smashing myself apart and this on my end grew out from that. People don’t realize that screaming in most cases, if you’re not thinking of it in terms of genre, is born from pain or frustration or anxiety or panic or depression, a cry for help, a violent reaching for connection, even if you don’t realize that that’s the case. You think it’s just anger, some sort of rage, you convince yourself that it’s coming from a place of strength or defiance or rallying against something, but those are surface elements – and they can be deceiving.
You’ve chosen TuneCore to distribute the release. Has this been more of a hands-on, DIY process for you as a musician?
Absolutely. I mean 100% of the process has been us. Obviously there are people in place to help us, like you guys, or a publicist or manufacturer, like Pirates Press, but we reached out to all of those people. We coordinate everything. Every single thing. There isn’t some manager doing everything or talking to everyone. There isn’t a manager doing anything. There isn’t a single aspect of this that we aren’t fully in control of, and I truly mean every single aspect. At this point we are operating as both a band and a record label really. We are doing everything that a record label would have a staff of people doing. It’s just more gratifying. I don’t want us to pollute our aesthetic. Our fingerprint is on everything this touches. We have to be very careful with the people that we bring in to help, or people who we choose to work with.
In Dillinger, we are way more involved in everything than most bands are. Always have been. We have complete creative control, complete artistic and aesthetic control of that too. We’ve always chosen the people we’ve worked with. We’ve always done everything ourselves up until the very final step, the actual releasing, which is where a record label gets involved, and we’ve always had an outside producer in Steve Evetts.
But this is definitely a bit deeper down the DIY rabbit hole. I’m a control freak and perfectionist about everything I do. I mean if you have pride in what you do I don’t understand how you can be anything but a control freak. Who is gonna care more than you? We’re all that degree of crazy and when you aren’t paying someone you end up just spending an eternity obsessing over every detail, on the creative end and the release end, which is all fine by me. We enjoy it.
Overall, how different has the process of releasing and marketing an album like Fever Daydream been to an artist who’s been part of the music industry since the late 90s/early 2000s?
This is tough to answer because I’ve had the advantage of having a lot of traditional label releases with a lot of push behind them and moving parts, and so has Josh. Most new bands wouldn’t start with a pretty big pool of people already in their universe. So yeah it’s been different. But really the difference is that you don’t have to argue with anyone on the non-creative side. Because even with the best outside label situations, it’s always a struggle to get someone to see something exactly your way, or you end up having some t-shirts sold on a label site alongside bands you have nothing in common with, or you have to do promo stuff you don’t really wanna do.
They argue with you about the merit of doing things that sound insane. Like pressing bizarre quantities of a 12” vinyl for a single f–king song. Making six high quality videos before an album even comes out. Doing not just alternate vinyl colors, but entire alternate art and layout variations. Things that would just sound crazy and expensive, because they are. You end up having to use their channels for everything. There’s just so much compromise. With this we just do what we want and there’s zero compromise.
We don’t have to ask anyone to do anything. Someone doesn’t have the option to not do something, or to argue with us. We know what’s right for this. We aren’t a part of a formula. I don’t give a shit about what some guy who went to school for media marketing thinks about anything. His way probably works for the majority of things out there, but I know we aren’t one of those things.
I think if you have something you care about it’s best to be as hands on as possible with every aspect of it as long as you can. I’d have a nuclear sized freak-out over the wording or aesthetic of a mailing list email or a picture post or a merch description, or shirt material being wrong or “different” than I would have done it, so I’d rather just not have that meltdown.
“Marketing” to me is an unnecessary thought process if you give a lot of yourself to every aspect. “Marketing” makes me feel like you’re trying to figure out how you can trick people into spending their money on you instead of elsewhere. Like hiring a pick up artist or reading a book about tactics to help you meet girls or something. It makes my insides shudder. If you’re genuine and people can feel you, they respond to you.
On that note, whether they’re creating metal or electronic music, what kind of advice do you have for an artist who’s readying their first release?
Be yourself, fiercely. Don’t let anyone steer you away from what you know is right for you. Care about everything. A lot. People always say, “Ah I just don’t give a f–k…” as if that apathy and nonchalance is something to be proud of. There are some things you shouldn’t care about at all, but when it comes to what you are putting out into the world, you should give all of the f–ks.
What kinds of plans do you have for the Black Queen in the first half of 2016?
Back in 2008, Cole Schwartz was doing what many music-obsessed teens his age were doing: starting a rock band. Drayter was formed in Dallas, TX, and in its 8-year existence developed a sound that draws equally from heavy metal and hard rock as it does pop and emo – a combination that the band has found appeals to a very wide audience of music fans.
It doesn’t hurt that Drayter brings a high-level of energy to their performances, sharing large venue and festival stages with the likes of Stone Sour, Chevelle, Flyleaf and Three Days Grace.
Earlier last year, Liv Miner joined Schwartz and the band as a guitarist/vocalist, and they just released their first full length, Nine, in December (distributed via TuneCore). Liv and Cole weighed in on their experiences together so far, what kind of roles brands can play for independent artists, and what is was like to work with a couple of major producers on their latest album:
You both come from musically inclined families. How old were you each when you began playing and writing music?
LIV: My Mom and Dad have been professional musicians for longer than I’ve been alive, and consequently all of my siblings and I are very musically inclined. I started banging around on the piano as soon as I could reach it, I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, and I picked up the guitar and started writing songs at age 9.
COLE: My grandpa played music consistently all the way into his late 80’s, and my uncle is a working musician that plays guitar and sings. I started playing guitar when I was six, and recorded my first studio EP at 13 (and it was distributed on TuneCore).
Who were some of your earliest influences when it comes to making music, and what are you digging more recently?
LIV: Instrumentally I turned to Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top as virtual mentors that helped shape my ability to create a full sound without a lot of extra musicians. Lately I am really into Adam Jones. Tool is one of my all-time favorite bands because each member is so gifted and the music they create leaves me feeling very emotional.
As a lyricist, Maynard is certainly someone special. I’m also really digging down-tempo music right now because the ambient and spacey grooves put me in such a mellow and relaxed place.
COLE: My first concert was Green Day, and that experience was indelible. The fast licks, the bright lights, and all the fun they were having on stage made me want to be a performing musician. As I got a little older I really gravitated towards Randy Rhoads, Jim Root, and Dimebag Darrell as the influences. All of them helped shape my style.
Currently I am into Deafheaven and Power Trip primarily because of their super washy guitar riffs intertwined with extremely precise blast beats. Lyrically I have always been a fan of Corey Taylor (both Slipknot and Stone Sour) because you can feel what he is feeling in every word he sings or speaks. Sharing a stage with him in 2014, I got to see it up close and it was very powerful to me.
You started Drayter awhile back. How has the band’s sound evolved over the years?
Cole: We were only 13 and we were very much into bands like Metallica, Marilyn Manson, and Van Halen. When we wrote our first songs they were simple and straight to the point hard rock with minimal studio refinement. Over the past five years we have matured as musicians, as human beings with life experiences, and have been afforded the opportunity to work with some Grammy-winning producers. So obviously our sound has evolved as well to a more refined and modern pop-rock vibe.
How did you and Cole link up? What was it about Drayter that appealed to you?
LIV: I met Cole a handful of times because Drayter opened for my last band on occasion. People always joked that we should get together and merge the bands. We were always friendly, but never really talked about working on a project together. In early 2015 I found out that Drayter was looking for a new lead singer and I reached out to Cole for an audition.
He was all for it, so I auditioned and here I am. As far as what appealed to me, I think it was several things. First and foremost, they were serious. They were very professional about everything, put on an awesome live show (seemed well rehearsed), had management, and their songs were really good. The music business is hard and you need to be 100% committed to have a chance. I liked my chances better with Drayter, and everything is going great.
How would each of you, in 5 words or less, describe your collaboration process?
LIV: Lyrically, emotionally, and instrumentally connected.
COLE: A comfortable but organized and systematic process.
With your latest release, Nine, what can fans (new and old) expect in terms of songwriting and genre intersection?
To help intersect two very different genres (pop and rock) for this album, we worked with two very different producers — Matt Squire, who has produced pop stars like Ariana Grande, Ke$ha and One Direction, and on the rock side we worked with Dave Fortman, who has won Grammy Awards producing hard rock bands like Godsmack, Evanescence, Slipknot.
It was a great process and we feel combining two different producers, two different genres and two different emotional melodies we achieved a sound that is pretty modern and will appeal to a broad audience of people that enjoy both pop and rock bands. As far as songwriting, the themes are about life; what we’ve experienced and how we see the world.
We feel that the good and bad experiences are universal for everyone, and we hope that others connect and take away something from our music.
The production of Nine is pretty on-point! What was it like to work with Matt Squire and Dave Fortman?
Working with these two producers has been one of the high points for Drayter. For an independent band to be able to work with work with Grammy winning and nominated producers is a dream come true.
Dave Fortman has been one of our idols. He is the producer who helped shape and push one of the most successful female fronted bands, Evanescence. He also produced Slipknot’s most successful album, All Hope Is Gone, among other projects with bands like Godsmack. We were nervous before we met and began working, but he was the most down to earth, laid back Louisiana guy you’ll ever meet. Working with Dave was just a good time.
We primarily recorded at a small studio down in southern Louisiana, and only went to a bigger studio to track drums. The atmosphere with Dave is totally chill and all about music without time constraints. It truly feels like we are all just hanging out as friends, doing what we love. There are lots of laughs and no stress. That’s what makes the musical process with him so good that we can’t wait to work with him again.
But don’t let the relaxed vibe fool you. Dave is a perfectionist and will spend hours working with you to get exactly what the song needs. Also, he is a master mixer, which also helps the project stay well rounded.
Working with Matt Squire was a huge step for us. He is known for helping artists/bands find that special sound which is what we were wanting since merging with pop. Matt is on fire in the studio. He is open to every idea. In fact, I don’t think he turned down a single one. He seemed to see it all as part of the process and understood our need to draw in all the different elements. There was always a “happy” atmosphere while we were working with him. The entire experience was like something out of a Hollywood movie. It’s basically how you would picture the recording process to be for a multi-platinum selling artist/band. Obviously we are not that, so working with him was such an amazing and unforgettable experience.
We flew into L.A. and tracked drums at NRG Recording Studios in North Hollywood. Some of the greatest albums have been recorded there so we were honored to be able to walk down the halls and see all the plaques, not to mention the insane mountain of vintage gear lying around. The rest of the time we worked at Matt’s home studio in Calabasas. The musical process was exactly what we needed. Sometimes it was serious and other times it was a riot. We laughed our asses off! It was roller coaster ride from start to finish and we are ready to go again.
What advice do you have for duos when it comes to reaching out to additional musicians to record and tour?
Make sure that you work with people that are professional in every since of the word. They should have the following attributes – music ability, a great attitude, and accessibility where and when you need them. If you waiver on any of these qualities, you might set yourself up for problems.
How does it feel to remain an indie group that is capable of acquiring brand sponsors and endorsements? What kind of role do you feel brands play in indie music in 2015?
Since the music business has changed so much, successful bands are not really independent anymore per se, they are entrepreneurial. Everything they do – from sound to image, branding to networking – has to be done like a start-up business. We felt that we could make high quality music, grow a fan base, and make an income if we had backing from sponsors.
We knew from our Facebook, Reverbnation, and website statistics that our fans were 14-24, and figured that advertisers/sponsors might want to have access to this age group. We made a grid of what companies might want to market to these groups and picked up the phone and started making calls. We got a lot of no’s, but we did get several yesses. For a small fee an advertiser can market to our fans (through us). It feels good having financial resources to do some things, but there’s always the hard work of convincing big companies (music and non-music related) that our band is worth their support. Yet we are passionate and authentic about what we deliver, so we stand by our brand.
The role brands play with indie groups is still developing. Many brands don’t know how to attach a value to a band, especially if it’s an up-and-coming band. Plus, bands aren’t really a safe investment because of the typical ‘creative personalities’ that are involved. But if the brand is willing to take a risk and do their homework on the band, they can significantly benefit from loyal consumers (fans) that have an affinity for that band. It can be an easy win/win.
The band wins because they generate income; the brand wins because they reach targeted consumers at a low price.
Similarly, how important is remaining independent to you? How has TuneCore played a role in that?
We want our music to reach as many people as possible and have a positive impact that resonates for a long time. Obviously having the support, distribution, resources of a major label would expedite that, but that’s not our reality right now. In the meantime we will continue to try to gain sponsors and grow our reach with what we can afford.
TuneCore has helped this process of being independent and entrepreneurial by giving us a platform to distribute our music, to report on sales and other metrics, and to collect royalties. Also, TuneCore has assisted with making connections to other industry resources they offer like website development, mastering, and publishing administration.
With over 30K followers on social media, how do you use different channels to engage and communicate with your fans in creative ways?
That really depends on what information we are putting out there. Some of our channels like Instagram respond better to short videos, while others like Facebook and Twitter respond better to pictures and random musings. We reach out to fans via social media whenever we have a show in their area and try to support other artists and venues through social channels.
Since we started so young, we came of age with social media and understand the power of it. We realized that a band can market to thousands if not millions of potential fans virtually for free through social media. If you use different channels, and post regularly, you can really develop a super engaged fan base.
[Editors Note:Back in November, our friends at Infinite Mag did a wonderful feature/interview with TuneCore Artist India Shawn. Her pop-infused R&B sound can be heard on her debut Origin, and more recently her 2015 EP Outer Limits. Read on as India opens up on performing and growing as an artist.]
When Infinite last talked about extraordinarily refreshing LA born singer and songwriter, India Shawn, back in February, she was on the heels of releasing Outer Limits -a collaborative EP with Grammy winning songwriter/producer, James Fauntleroy. Blurring R&B and pop genre lines with an eclectic sound, the impact of singles like “Floating Away” and “One Sun”, left her growing fan base wanting more…and she’s giving it to them. India Shawn embarked on the Crystal Express Tour with Atlanta’s own budding phenomenon Raury in October, allowing those who already love her music to experience her live.
India’s ability to create songs that seem to come straight from her soul to our ears has given her a respectable career of 10 years and counting. Spending part of that time behind the scenes writing for some of our favorite top artists, the 2012 release of her first EP, Origin, placed her in front of the microphone and in our hearts as we fell in love with her angelic buttery voice.
The songstress admits that she had been speaking a tour experience into existence for herself and wanting the opportunity to travel and meet her supporters, while sharing her songs. She says, “The touring element is what makes it real for me. I want to get outside of the world I know and touch the people.”
There’s no doubt that being on the road with Raury won’t be a traditional tour experience. Both share fans who enjoy the true artistry behind music and the desire to hear a message that many say is missing in the majority of music being played on today’s mainstream radio.
While in between her Boston and Vancouver show dates, India chatted with me about the tour experience, connecting with the audience, making fashion blend with confidence on stage, and creating new music.
Alisa Dunn: What has the energy been like so far on the Crystal Express tour?
India Shawn: Beyond description really! Raury brings out such a diverse room of people. I’m talking about black kids in dashikis, older white couples, industry folks, and of course, all the “indigo children”. It’s beautiful to see.
I’ve heard you say Boston was a great show. What made it such a wonderful night?
Well, for one, the audience was sitting Indian style on the floor before the show even began. *laughs* I knew at that point the show was going to be something different. They were just so open and receptive to the music. They were FUN and they were involved. Nobody was staring at their cell phone or talking during the show. They came to hear music, and that really energized me. I actually think that was one of my best shows…like to date.
What do you want to give your fans on this tour?
I just wanna sing my ass off every night and leave people feeling inspired and excited about me, and about the future of music. I want them to feel like music is in good hands.
What do you want those who have never heard your music before to walk away with?
I want them to feel like I’m what they’ve been missing. It’s cool because I approach each show as a challenge to win the audience over. I’m on stage like, “How many people can I make fall in love with me tonight?”
What’s the best part about being on stage?
The best part is making the connection. It’s the point where it all kind of comes together. Like, I’ve had emotional experiences, I’ve written about them and put a ton of energy into recording these songs that are so special and so personal to me,and I’m up there blown away that people are responding and singing the lyrics with me…and that people even care. It’s a spiritual experience.
What common thread to do you think you share with your fans? How do they relate to your music?
Most of my fans are music makers and music lovers. The kind of music lovers who read credits to see who contributed to an album. I was that person. From the feedback I get online, I know that my audience really dissects the music and the lyrics. There’s an appreciation for the craftsmanship.
In addition to connecting to the music, people also have to connect to your image. While there are many over the top entertainers we love, there are also the ones who’s looks seem as genuine and organic as their sound.
How important do you think is image to an artist’s success?
Seems like today’s industry is totally about the packaging and presentation of it all. The artist as a product. I get that. I just don’t know how important it is to me anymore. My image is whatever I felt like wearing that day. Thinking about people like Bob Marley, Amy Winehouse, and so many other greats confirms for me that realness is what resonates.
You’ve been in the game for several years and you’re having a humble climb to success. The music industry can be so fleeting, so what validates you and gives you strength to keep going?
Knowing this is what I was put on earth to do keeps me going. I have a gift that I’m responsible for and a part of that responsibility is sharing it. Whether that be with 3 people or 3 million people. It’s much bigger than fame.
You’re well respected for your writing ability and have a unique way of using words to move us to certain emotional states. Where’s the most unlikely place you’ve written a song?
In the shower! I guess a lot of people feel like they have musical super powers when they get in the shower, but I kid you not, there was a point where I felt like ideas were pouring down onto me through my shower head. *laughs*
You went to LA earlier this year to work on new music, so what’s next? You experimented with a lot of different sounds for Outer Limits. Any idea what musical direction you want to go in?
It’ll be more of a focused direction. I can’t tell you what it’s going to be just yet. I’m still in creation mode, and in music or art in general the art has this magical way of doing its own thing and becoming something greater than you’d anticipated or planned for it to be. It’ll be great.
TuneCore Artists come in all shapes and sizes: from hobbyists to full-time touring musicians, singer/songwriters and MCs to indie rockers and classical pianists. No matter how they differ, each is leading their own unique musical journey with ups and downs, struggles and opportunities. We do our best to offer a platform for different TuneCore Artists to share their stories, as we know without a doubt others in the community will relate!
Enter pop artist/songwriter Emily Fullerton. Balancing a music-focused college career and a budding music career, Emily attends Belmont University and lives in Nashville. Both the city and the school are destinations for aspiring artists, so she is not alone! Like other independent artists in her position, Emily must both complete a four-year education while building a network within a crowded music scene. She’s released her debut EP Daylight and her latest single “Take Off” via TuneCore. Emily has also been invited to be on a web series called Road To Nashville. We wanted to know how one works to use all of these experiences to complement each other, (while also maintaining some level of sanity), so we invited her to discuss it! Read more below.
Deciding to go to school for music requires commitment. When did you know for sure you wanted to pursue a career in songwriting?
Emily Fullerton: I took group guitar lessons after school when I was 10. The first songs I learned were by The Beatles. I loved it and knew I wanted to make music.
What kinds of efforts have you made during your schooling to better prepare yourself as a businessperson?
I’ve been networking like crazy. I go to Belmont University in Nashville and while you don’t have to do the academic thing to be in music, being here has really helped me make connections with people. The professors and mentors want to be there for you as a person, artist, and songwriter. They want to see you do well and they are always willing to help you out.
I’ve had some pretty cool opportunities come my way while living in Nashville and every single one was sparked by a connection from Belmont, whether it be a professor, classmate, or a friend. I don’t really like using the term ‘networking’ but that’s what it is. I believe that I’ll get to where I need to be in the business through the relationships I have with people.
How would you compare those efforts to the experience of getting out there and gaining real life music business experience?
So far, I think it has been a balance between the classroom and ‘getting out there’. I have classes that teach me about publishers, PROs, and labels. There is a lot to learn about the business side and I want to learn as much as I can. But I also get out there and perform as much as I can. I do writers rounds at different venues in Nashville, and I have had a few opportunities to play in DC and some other events as well.
On that same note, what kind of network have you started to building in Nashville and on campus?
Like I said before, Belmont is a great school for making connections; the relationships I have made there with the professors, mentors and my friends have opened up a bunch of opportunities for me. When I was in high school, I hosted a benefit concert at the Hard Rock in DC for a school project. One of my mentors connected me with Richard On of O.A.R., and he has helped me a lot through encouragement and advice throughout this whole process. I guess I have been building the network since I really started getting serious, and Belmont and Nashville have been huge catalysts. But I got started on the right path with help from Richard and a few others.
Emily & Richard On of O.A.R.
What were your expectations of a city like Nashville? Were there any misconceptions?
Coming from Washington, DC, my definition of a city is very different from Nashville. I didn’t quite understand how different life would be like without a major metro system or a lot of diversity, (whether that’s ethnically, economically, or politically). I knew that Nashville was going to be an amazing place for me to grow as an artist and songwriter. I wasn’t wrong about that. I was wrong about how different life in Nashville would be compared to DC. I’m a city girl at heart: I love walking everywhere, dealing with the crazies on the street, and that fast paced environment you feel when you’re in a city like DC.
Nashville is a great place, it’s the pace that’s different. I have to say I am still learning how to adjust to these things. There is something very magical about the “laid back-ness” of the south. People are so nice to you. That “southern hospitality” is real. They claim that DC is still the south but people aren’t as nice there as they are in Nashville. I’m glad that I have had the chance to make Nashville a part of my journey. It’s such a vibrant and cool place for an artist and songwriter to learn and grow.
Have you found mentors and resources for inspiration in a city buzzing with likeminded musicians? Or is there a competitive nature to the scene?
I think going after a career in music puts you in a lot of sink-or-swim situations. You’re either going to crumble under the pressure to be different and talented, or you’re going to hustle and be yourself throughout the entire process. Yes, there is a competitive nature in Nashville and at Belmont, but it’s nothing compared to what I’ve heard about L.A. or New York.
One of the most inspiring parts of my Nashville experience has been going to songwriting class at school. I’m not sure why, but there is something that seems so powerful to me about a group of young aspiring songwriters who are all committed to helping each other grow. It’s magical, heartbreaking, and encouraging all at the same time.
How did you discover TuneCore, and how has it played into your overall musical journey?
I discovered TuneCore during the summer of 2013. One of my favorite producers from the D.M.V. area, Mark Williams at Sucker Punch Recording Co., told me about TuneCore. A lot of artists and bands he had worked with used it, so I checked it out. It has been a great and easy way to get my music out there. As an independent artist, the process of creating and sharing one’s music can be very intimidating, but TuneCore helps simplify the process.
Tell us about Road To Nashville and your experience on the web series.
Road To Nashville is a reality web series on AwesomenessTV based on the lives of five singer/songwriters in Nashville. I was one of the five featured cast members and let me tell you, it was a blast. The entire process of being on a web show was incredible. From the audition to the last episode, I feel like I learned so much from the experience. I learned how to be comfortable in front of the camera, how I wanted to be perceived as an artist on camera (including how I did my makeup, hair, wardrobe etc.), and I also got to meet some pretty cool people along the way.
During the entire filming of the show, we had a vocal coach, live performances, studio time, and interview sessions. This is one of those opportunities that I came across through a connection with a former Belmont student. I didn’t even know exactly what I was auditioning for when I got there because it was such a last minute thing, but it ended up working out in a pretty cool way.
What advice would you offer to a high school or college aged songwriter considering enrolling in a program like the one you’re in?
I would say make sure that music is your ultimate passion. Music programs are competitive and the business is even more competitive. If you feel like this is what you’re meant to do, no one can stop you, but many will try to. Work hard, don’t get discouraged, and be ready for the challenges and rejection. This sounds pretty harsh but it’s true. College is an investment no matter what, it’s a student’s responsibility to get as much out of it personally, artistically, and socially as possible.
Take advantage of the programs your school has but also take advantage of the city that you’re living in. I still have to tell myself over and over again that every song I write will not be good. Every live performance will not be flawless. It’s okay. These opportunities are designed to build and nurture you. I’ve had an amazing experience so far; attending a music school is a great place to start if you’re looking to become an artist, songwriter, or any part of the music industry.