Tag Archives: Rock

Interview: Royal Bliss Continues to Offer Truth After 18 Years

Five-piece rock band Royal Bliss stepped out of the garage and onto the stage while most folks their age were headed to the dorms. Based in Salt Lake City, they crafted their sound, spinning and weaving influences along the way, and just put out their ninth release in June, an EP titled The Truth.

From recording disasters to broken relationships and lawsuits to injuries, Royal Bliss’ 18 years as a group has seen its fair share of ups and downs. But that’s what makes for great rock music, right? They even got signed to major Capital Records, only to return to independence and distribute their music with TuneCore.

The Truth was co-written by veteran Nashville producers Monty Powell and Anna Wilson, signifying a new direction for Royal Bliss as they embrace a more country sound. Guitarist Taylor Richards was kind enough to re-hash some memories and talk about the new record below:

You guys got together as teens. Explain how it feels almost 20 years later to still be writing, performing, and building momentum as a band.

Taylor Richards: Well it still feels great to create new music. Three of us have been together since the beginning, and now we have two new members that have added some spark and musicianship that we did not have when we started.

We still jam, we still argue about a riff or a lyric, but it’s always a great feeling when you are in a creative environment. This newfound country genre twist has garnered some great new momentum that looks to be very exciting. The Nashville scene has embraced this new thing, and here we are — almost 20 years into being a band, it’ like the feeling of just getting started. We are loving it! All the new songs are some of the best we’ve ever written. We are very proud of this little EP.

How would you break down the fusion of rock and country in terms of the music you were influenced by and grew up playing/writing?

I grew up listening to my parents’ music — Beatles, Beach Boys, John Denver, Kenny Rodgers, Elvis and such– but when I actually started getting into guitar at age 13, I was heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and CREAM. Royal Bliss’ music has always been an evolution of some sort. We started out a [with] a Pearl Jam meets Sublime kind of vibe. We always had acoustic songwriter elements with the folky stuff, and through the years we even had some hip hop, funky rock, hard rock and reggae sound as well.

I think what is making our current music sound so different than what is going on in the country world is that we are coming in from the outside. We aren’t a cookie cutter product of Nashville. We are just seasoned musicians and songwriters that have been honing our craft for many years and just now getting a little notice from the industry in a genre we never thought we’d be in.

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Has it been interesting to see the ‘pop country’ phenomenon that has swept the United States over the past decade?

Pop music that finds its way into a sub-genre is always going to sell and catch on. I am a sucker for a well-crafted catchy pop song. With the [pop-country] explosion it’s been interesting to see the reception country music has gotten with this. Bigger crowds. Better sales. More stars. It’s great! Some of the stuff I’m not a fan of, but if it’s well done I’m easily converted and become a fan.

Being from a place like Salt Lake City, what was it like trying to break into your music scene in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s as a country rock band?

When we started, we were in high school and we had lots of friends. We had a band. And all our friends would come out to these little shows. Through the college years the SLC music scene was actually thriving. I personally knew four or five bands that had gotten major record deals, only to fall apart or break up.

They never lasted. Maybe that’s why we have been successful. We are still plugging away. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been quite the ride!

You’ve equated to being in a band for eight to ten years out of high school as your version of college. How important is keeping the chemistry alive for so long?

I think it’s kind of true. People go to college to educate themselves on a career. Same with musicians. We go out on tour, we write and record, and we learn through trial and error. This can take years to understand and learn in a constantly changing business.

There is no school, no book that educates you on how to be a band on the road: How to write songs with said band. How to read contracts, or book shows. How to tour and not kill each other. Some aren’t cut out for that kind of lifestyle, and some think it’s a glorious life of riches and fame. But really it’s not.

It’s about all of the opposite. Smelly vans, playing in front of nobody, missing birthdays, holidays, weddings, and relationships are hard to keep.

Money is always tight. So if you can find a group of musicians that have musical chemistry and can get along with each other outside of music, you might have something. That’s the hardest part: keeping a band together.

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Going from indie to major back to indie, tell us about your experience releasing music utilizing platforms like Kickstarter and TuneCore.

The greatest feeling is getting a major label record deal. They promise you everything that you can imagine. And when they don’t follow through, or they shelf your record, it is the absolute worst feeling in the world.

All your hard work — gone. They don’t care that you poured your heart and soul into making that record. Thankfully we never got a record shelved! Being independent is great and all, but it has certain limits.

When the record company comes along they have the power to take things to another level. Promotion, marketing, radio…they can take you all the way to the top if you’re lucky.

When you go back from the major label deal to independence, you lose all this momentum and power that the major label gave you. How do you compete with the big dogs now?

Well, we toured a lot. We gained fans the old fashioned way. Made friends at radio stations, venues and in bands across the country to help move us along. And it kind of worked. We used every bit of our major label connections to help us through the independent side of things that we didn’t have before we had a deal.

We utilized kickstarter to help generate some money for radio and marketing and promotion. Our fans got behind us, and we almost doubled our goal. It was a huge success. [Services] like TuneCore helped make it easy for us to get our music uploaded into the digital world and helped us understand the new music business model that we hadn’t ever dealt with. The back end is great, too.

Tell us more about The Truth – what kind of themes and topics are you guys covering?

I don’t think there is a general topic for the album, but like all our albums it’s about life. What we are currently going through. Songs that connect with us and that the listener can hopefully connect with as well. But we have to feel it first. If it doesn’t make us feel anything, than we usually move on.

The song “The Truth” is about finding someone in your life that keeps you going or keeps you grounded while you get caught up in the craziness of life. (Especially life on the road.)

“We’re All Livin’ The Dream” is about the working man getting to celebrate with his friends on the weekend. Or from our angle, working the 9-5 during the week so we can play on the weekends and live our dream!

“Going to Hell” is a funny topic. We are from Utah, and most people would think we play devil music and I’m sure they think we’re going to hell. But really it’s just about making decisions and it sure seems that whatever decision we make, we’re probably all going to hell. (laughs)

Upon dropping a new release after almost two decades since getting together, what kind reflection takes place? Or is it simply ‘On to the next one!’?

Ya know, I’m not really sure? We have been doing this for so long, that in one sense it is a little “on to the next one”. But I think for this one, we have taken our songwriting to a whole new level.

Also the fact that the industry is calling our new EP a country record, it makes things very exciting. It’s like we are a brand new band again. I’m excited for the things to come.

What other plans does the band have for the rest of 2016?

Tour. Write. Record. Repeat. (laughs) We are on all of the Live Nation country festivals this summer, and we just signed an agreement with William Morris agency. We have a few things in the works that I cant announce just yet, so ya’ll will have to stay tuned.

Interview: Foreign Figures on New Album, Sync Licensing, and More

Four-piece Foreign 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!

Foreign Figures released their debut full length album, Paradigm, on Friday, April 1, and as TuneCore Publishing Administration clients, we were able to secure their song “Fire” on the hit series Younger.

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.

The Wealthy West: Brandon Kinder on Balancing Solo & Band Life

It’s a story you hear often: bandmates meet at college, start writing songs and playing locally, gain post-college indie success, start touring with hot bands and even get songs licensed on TV! Just as often, we learn that a member of the band decides on releasing solo work on the side.

As fans or upcoming artists, there is little thought put into what it means to a songwriter to separate his or herself from the band that brought them to prominence, and even less thought into how they balance the two identities. Sometimes it marks the beginning of the end, but what about when songwriters really just want to maintain a different avenue of music creation?

Meet Brandon Kinder, who has fronted Austin’s The Rocketboys for over ten years. As his indie rock band matured and hit new benchmarks, Kinder found himself with the desire to create music under The Wealthy West moniker. His latest release, Long Play, drops tomorrow, February 9th (get it on iTunes Pre-Order here!), and we interviewed him about what it means to step out and focus on his solo efforts while still maintaining a balance between this and his band.

The Rocketboys formed in college – were you already writing songs and performing musically before that point?

Brandon Kinder: I had been in bands in high school, mostly just as a guitar player, but I did write a few songs – mostly goofy stuff just to make my friends laugh. It wasn’t until college that I really started thinking of myself as a writer. And really, I didn’t think of myself that way, you know, as a “songwriter.” I was just a guy who was in a band.

Austin has become solidified as an American music hub over the years. Do you feel that relocating to a city with such a ‘scene’ played a major role in The Rocketboys’ trajectory?

Austin definitely played a big part of our band’s trajectory. We moved here from our small college town, Abilene, because it was a “music city.” We’ve met all kind of wonderful amazing people that are all part of this music scene we have here. There are tons of bands here that constantly inspire me to work harder, and dream bigger.

Austin doesn’t have too much of a “music business” side, (aside from live music). But the great thing is, those people who are on the other side of the stage are the most loyal, amazing, caring people. I mean, there is an organization here called Black Fret, who, (in the past two years), has given more than a quarter of a million dollars to local bands! That is something special, and it’s just one of the great things Austin has to offer its musicians.

Austin is just an inspiring place in general.

What do you feel have been some of the most important lessons you learned early on as an artist when it comes to marketing your music?

I’m still learning, actually. When I first started playing around people were still putting together press kits made out of paper. (I think I still have some somewhere.) I think the main lesson I’ve learned is that you really have to hustle, and you can’t stop – ever.

There are so many bands right now that have so much at their fingertips, and what separates us is our work ethic. Sure, there are tons of lucky breaks happening, but for the unlucky, you just have to work hard. You have to become not only a marketer, but a graphic designer, a photographer, a videographer, a social media guru, a booking agent, a manager, and the list goes on.

You have to be able to do it all. It’s not the sexy side of being an artist, but it’s what can make you a successful one.

You’ve had the opportunity to tour/share the stage with some really well known indie artists, as well as at some larger festivals. What have these experiences meant to you as an artist, and how do you use them as motivation?

You know, every time we get to play with a bigger artist, or play a festival, it’s great because we can see what they’re doing that works and apply that to what we’re doing.

What kept you inspired to write ‘in between touring and recording’ with your band? What kind of emotions are captured on Long Play?

Songwriting is just something I do. It’s become a part of me. It’s the way I work through things. One time a friend of mine said to me that I’m always talking about trying to get somewhere in my songs. That’s still the case with some of Long Play, and I don’t think I’ve quite figured out where I’m going yet.

The song “We Painted Pictures” was actually used to propose to my wife. It’s kind of a long story, but it’s a good one.

You referred to the Wealthy West as a ‘place I go to dream, to escape’.  How do you channel that energy into creating music?

I try to write a little more personally when writing songs for The Wealthy West. And it’s a beautiful thing, to get to work through life in a melody. Music has always been my therapy, even before I started making my own. It’s odd, but even though I’ve been writing songs for so long and working non-stop, when I’m stressed or tired, it still makes me want to write a song. And it’s the same for when I’m happy and feeling alive. I’m just always drawn to document my life through song these days.

What made you want to focus so heavily on the instrumentation throughout this album as opposed to using synths and samples?

I had just finished up working on an electronic instrumental record, (which probably won’t ever be heard by anyone but me), and I think I just wanted a break from that sort of workflow.

For one, I think the music on this album should be organic, but also, I just wanted to do the exact opposite of what I had just been doing. I wanted to slow things down, and make my own sounds the old fashioned way. I will admit though, the piano is fake.

But yeah, I just really wanted to get outside of my computer for a little bit. It was more of a challenge to myself than anything.

For artists who are looking to showcase their solo efforts while maintaining their band life, what kind of advice can you offer?

It’s great to get to diversify and broaden what you’re doing musically, but it is a lot of work, and it’s definitely a tough balance. It’s hard to be in two places at once. For me, I needed to do something with all these songs I’d been working on, and I’m glad I did.

You’ve operated outside the label system for awhile. How have platforms like TuneCore made it easy for you to act as an entrepreneur while handling your music career?

We’ve been working with TuneCore since 2007, and there’s not an easier way to get your music out there. You guys have made it so easy to get music up on all the different streaming sites and stores.

It’s good to know that I can trust TuneCore with my music. And if I’ve ever had an issue, (and they’re always based in my own ignorance), you guys are always super quick to respond and help me figure it out.

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When I first reached out, you were on a songwriting retreat cruise – sounds amazing! Tell us about how that came to be and how the experience was.

Yeah, that was such a great experience. Something I’ll never forget. The Rocketboys are about to play on “The Rock Boat”, which is basically a 5-day music festival on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.

The people putting that on asked me and 6 other songwriters to meet up on another cruise a couple weeks before, and write and record an album while on the boat. None of us had ever met before, and in 2.5 days, the 7 of us wrote 9 songs and recorded them. It was a challenge we were all up for, and it turned out great.

We broke off into little groups, wrote the songs, and then went into the studio, (which was just a cabin on the ship), and laid down guitar, voice, and some percussion. Then the producer took it from there.

At the end of the cruise we all had a listening party and got to hear all of our songs, fully produced for the first time. It was really incredible, and I feel like we’re all family. And now, on The Rock Boat, we’re going to get back together and play a show and sell the CDs! It’s such a cool idea, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.

With Long Play being released February 9th, what additional plans do you have to support the album?

I’m working on booking a tour, and have a few things in the works already, (like my CD Release Party in Austin on 2/12). I’ve got a couple more video ideas I’d like to do as well.

I just want to stay busy. The Rocketboys are about to start recording our third LP in the next few months, so I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Interview: Drayter Marries Pop & Rock, Band & Brand

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.

Interview: The Maine Discuss Their Completely FREE Tour

Touring: it’s long hard work that’ll exhaust most independent artists. Driving for hours on end, sleeping on floors, and spending a lot of time with the same small group of people for a very long time – it’s not easy, but these are the rites of passage that independent artists and bands must endure. Whether you’re supporting a new release with a national tour or just hitting some regional cities over a week, touring truly is an essential element of building your fan base and growing musically.

Tempe, Arizona-based indie rockers The Maine can tell you all about touring. They’ve been releasing music since 2007, and in 2011 they split with Warner Brothers to set their sights on distributing through TuneCore (via their label, 8123). On the heels of their 5th studio album, American Candy, the five-piece outfit decided to shake things up in a way you’ve likely never seen before: The Maine announced a 13-city tour, with each show being completely FREE for fans to attend.

Did we mention that touring is expensive? These guys gave their fans the ultimate ‘Thank You’ with their Free For All Tour this year, and we got the chance to talk to them about it. Read on for our interview with The Maine’s John O’Callaghan and Pat Kirch as we discuss the Free For All Tour, fan reaction, engaging new fans, and American Candy:

What inspired the Free For All Tour? What was the initial fan reaction when you announced it?

John O’Callaghan: Our necessity to push ourselves creatively when it comes to the tour experience and the desire to deliver a unique “thank you” to the profoundly dedicated folks that have been seeing us for almost nine years now both inspired us to construct the Free For All Tour. I think bewilderment, a bit of confusion and extreme excitement overtook the 8123 family when we first announced. People have expressed their appreciation for the idea all over the world even if they couldn’t make it out to a show, and that means the message was conveyed and in our eyes it was a major success.

Having been a band for less than a decade during a time of rapid movement in the industry, how did you go about building a community of dedicated fans?

Pat Kirch: For us it has always been about personal interaction with people. At first that was just online because I was still in high school and we couldn’t go on tour, then it turned into us making sure we talked to every person that came to the shows. The relationship feels much more like a family than just a band and fans. I think the other thing we have done is kept things interesting for ourselves which comes through to the people that pay attention to what we do. We never want to make the same album over and over and we never want to do the same tour twice. We are always trying to push the limits on what is possible for our band to accomplish and create.

Similarly, as you continued to release music, how have you maintained that connection?

PK: The very special and sacred bond we’ve formed with our following goes well beyond the music and is due, in large part, to the sense of community they (the individuals) have developed themselves. We feel as though if we continue to release our expression in its most sincere state then they will continue to stay hip on what we’re doing. If we falter and begin to take their support for granted, that’s the end of the whole show. We’re simply trying to take what is pure about our approach and our relationship with those who support it and nurture both so it all doesn’t fall apart.

Explain the importance of something like a free tour and what it means to you as a band. What has it taught you about your fan base? 

PKBeing a fan of music first and foremost, the Free For All Tour has brought about a sense of pride in ourselves knowing that we did something that not many bands (if any at all) have ever done before. In the age of the paid “meet” and greet, we delivered the exact opposite experience and, save for a few sleepless nights, pulled the thing off without a hitch thanks to the help of some amazing people at 8123. That alone makes us feel like we’ve done something worth while. This run has taught us that we’re lucky enough to be part of something bigger than The Maine will ever be and has solidified our union with incredible people who love music. That rules.

themaine2

How did the fans in each city react to your shows on this tour? 

PK: It was really great! Some of the shows felt more like a festival show where there are people in the audience that only know a few songs or have just heard of the band but they came because it was free. That was a great thing for us because even though we were doing our own headlining tour, it still felt like we needed to work every night to win over new fans and get them on board with what we do as a band. The nature of the tour was so different than anything we have done before that it didn’t even feel like we were on tour. It felt like a bunch of random shows put together; every date was different and that kept it fun for us each date.

Have there been any specifically memorable moments from the road (on this tour) so far in terms of connecting with fans?

JO: We had too many amazing interactions with people on the road to pinpoint one in particular, but the fact that after polling the audience most nights for virgin concert-goers for The Maine and seeing an overwhelming amount of hands raised was something that really resonated with me. This just reaffirms the benefit of the tour for us as a band and makes us rather hopeful for the future.

Tell us about the recording and release of American Candy. How has the reception of this album played into the Free For All Tour?

JO: Recording took place in a house in Joshua Tree, CA back in November 2014. We set out to make a cohesive and uplifting album that would hopefully take people on a sonic vacation from the chaos of everyday life. Feeling the support on the road and online really dictated the move to do the tour. We wanted a new platform to play the album for people that gave us the opportunity to record it and allowing them to do so for free felt like the most appropriate move. Couldn’t be happier with the response and turnout on all accounts, and now we can’t wait to reinvent ourselves with future tours to see if what new ideas arise!

How has your experience been using TuneCore for digital distribution? 

PK: It has been such an important tool for our band for the past 5 years! We made an album called Pioneer in secret from Warner Brothers because we were sick of them giving us input on the music and telling us what type of an album we should make. We were able to release that album all around the world via TuneCore in a very short amount of time once we got out of the deal.

From that point on we have never looked back. It has allowed us to be much more free and able to release special Acoustic EP’s or B-sides to our fans very fast after recording them and get it heard all around the world. It has made it so we do not need a record label and have now released more albums independently than on traditional record labels!

What advice do you have for bands who are starting out and beginning to build a fan base?

PK: I would say first off never forget that the music comes first and that you need to make something you love and not what you think people will enjoy! Then I would say that you need to keep in mind and understand that none of what you do would be possible without the people that support the music – and never forget that. Let that idea lead every decision you make.

Any plans for after the tour or into 2016?

PK: We will be doing more international touring and one off shows and working on some new music. It is not time for an album yet but we will be releasing new music in some way or another!

New Music Tuesday: Nov. 3, 2014

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?

katevoe
Wild Card
Kate Voegele

Pop, Sing/Songwriter

mayang
Caged Bird Songs
Maya Angelou
Spoken Word, Hip Hop/Rap

angelsair
The Wolfpack
Angels and Airwaves
Rock, Alternative

lucyange
Crazy Too
Lucy Angel

Country

austinsto
The Reveille, Vol. 2
Austin Stone

Christian/Gospel, Instrumental

newsboys
Hallelujah For the Cross
Newsboys
Christian/Gospel, Pop

steveyoung
Little Things EP
Steve Young

Singer/Songwriter, Pop

maekling
The Mighty Small
Mae Klingler
Singer/Songwriter, Pop

kimwalker
When Christmas Comes
Kim Walker-Smith

Christian/Gospel, Holiday

jjheller
The Perfect Gift
JJ Heller

Singer/Songwriter

midnightface
Donna
Midnight Faces

Alternative

ryanhumph
Dust and Debris
Ryan Humphrey

Country