"The intention was always that we were going to do another record," states Tom Reno, guitarist for The Mercury Program. After the release of A Data Learn The Language in 2004, The Mercury Program took a hiatus that was so long it seemed as though they would never return. The band made the decision to take time from touring constantly and abandoned the meager lifestyle of the full-time indie band to pursue other ventures. Finally, seven years later, TMP have returned with a gem of a record, Chez Viking.
With the release of their self-titled album in 2007, HEALTH, clad in tight jeans and neon t-shirts, solidified their place amongst hipsters and teens. But while the group quickly appealed to these demographics, they had alienated themselves from the mainstream, written off by many as musicians more concerned with style than music.
Two years later, their new album, Get Color, exemplifies their newfound maturity as songwriters and renders them whole conceptually. Whereas HEALTH went completely over the heads of mainstream audiences, Get Color is a bit more accessible to the layperson. Its tracks are more discernible as songs, and for the most part, they are no longer just noise, proving that HEALTH are more than a group with just a distinct fashion sense. While still experimental, the songs now harbor more melodies and qualities found in traditional songwriting.
"I think we just got better at writing our songs," says bassist John Famiglietti. "We don't want you to only like [our music] because you're supposed to like it or you like it because it's cool. I don't want you to scratch your fucking head. It should be immediate... I think [the new album] just makes our music more effective."
To drive this message home, the quartet recently come off a tour supporting Nine Inch Nails, and despite getting pretzels thrown at them in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and an equally terrible show in Jacksonville, Florida, Famiglietti has only great things to say about the experience.
"Trent is just about the coolest dude there is, especially for being someone who's like pretty openly worshiped by all people coming to the show," reveals Famiglietti. "After [our] first show, Trent was like, 'Hey, I don't even know what the hell's going on up there... why don't you guys use all the screens behind you?' We used literally several multi-million dollar LED screens which were like 20 feet high, and infrared cameras were put on all of us... our shows went way better after we had this gigantic light show."
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Robert Francis has just dropped his second full-length record, Before Nightfall, but it's his first on a major label. And as he spends a few days in New York City with his cronies from Atlantic Records, the frosty November weather is just another reminder that he's thousands of miles away from his hometown and inspiration: Los Angeles.
"When you're in a city like L.A. or New York... they're fast-paced cities that can tear people apart," Francis explains. At only 21-years-old, Francis not only chooses his words carefully, but each one exudes insight beyond his years.
Insightful words combine with insightful sounds and vocals on Before Nightfall. The record steers clear of what other 21-year-olds seem to be peddling these days with vocoder voices and electronic beats. The music itself lends a fresh outlook on what can only be described as soulful alternative with a heavy helping of classic rock; National Public Radio (NPR) has already compared Francis to the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle.
Francis' voice radiates an authentic, haunting sound that reaches not only into the soul of the listener, but into his own, as well. Every note drips with a drawling sadness of the past but simultaneously conveys an urgency to cultivate an optimistic future. A listener doesn't need to know anything about Robert Francis or his music to feel like he or she has been touched by his voice and his story.
Before Nightfall takes listeners through a 12-track chronicle of Francis' love life. "It's centered around a singular relationship that was set in L.A. that haunted me and consumed my life for about five years," reveals Francis.
While he has no problem identifying the inspiration for his new album, his boldness recedes when asked to identify who this muse is or the problems surrounding their relationship.
"A lot of the record is about growing apart from the person you love," says Francis. "Time changes people, especially when you fall in love at an early age and you both are still growing and changing. The theme of 'Junebug' is the dissipation of a relationship. There's a lot of nostalgia on the record for better times."
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All bands -- or at least the good ones -- have an album that, in future years, will be judged as the pinnacle of their successes.
Some start out strong but never achieve much recognition with their first and second albums. Some build up to a grand finale but crumble right as their greatest album is released. Some are so consistent, with each new album being a fitting reinvention of their sound, that the debate will rage on for years as to which album defines their legacy. Such is the case with Portugal. The Man, whose fanbase is constantly at odds with itself over which album is the band's most important release to date.
With their fourth disc, The Satanic Satanist, the debate continues to rage on. From its fantastically elaborate album packaging to its upgrade in record production quality, The Satanic Satanist marks a definitive, significant change in Portugal. The Man's career; it solidly extends the band's sphere of influence into pop, folk, and funk territories.
Scotland has a grand, deep tradition of storytelling. Around dinner tables and with bottles of wine and pints of beer, family, friends, and community members gather to tell stories and yarns, evoking memories and messages. Frightened Rabbit picks up on this tradition in the stories and threads of their songs and bring it forward with a folk-rock edge that's undeniably emotional and intoxicating. Their music has an inflection and tone full of desperation and resolve that's plainly unique and compelling. Refrains like, "Be less rude," and, "Make tiny changes to Earth," that weave their way into the music of Frightened Rabbit might sound trite without the earnestness of their delivery. But the sincerity is there throughout, and it rings in each turn. Imagine a high school love affair gone sour, with angst and melancholy, but with the hope of reconciling on a cold, rainy night in a coffee shop. Somewhere in that experience and imagery is Frightened Rabbit.
The band has received accolades from many a rock critic. 2006's Midnight Organ Fight, in particular, turned the ear of writers and promoters throughout the U.S. and the U.K. Its sound falls somewhere between that of Death Cab for Cutie and Arcade Fire, with a little Modest Mouse or Conor Oberst too.
"I like the idea of expanded folk," says vocalist and guitarist Scott Hutchison. "It's like louder rock folk. The thing that I want to have most is a journey through song with an intelligent story. I want to get into hooks and spaces in the music that grab and interest me and an audience."
Hutchinson prefers to avoid using specific tags for Frightened Rabbit's music. Like many with a guitar and a song to sing, his goal is to express himself and get his music out -- and with intensity. "I just want to treat the audience for my music like I'd like to be treated," says Hutchison. "I like clever, smart songs. I like intelligence in a song."
As of late, Frightened Rabbit has been playing a number of music festivals, and Hutchinson enjoys the festival experience. The energy of these huge events have become ubiquitous across the US and Europe, and they present challenges and benefits for Frightened Rabbit.
"It's hard to get a crowd going in broad daylight at 1:30 on a hot afternoon. But we know that in a festival set like that, our music is heard by hundreds, and could be heard by thousands, and that's cool. People who've never heard of us can walk by and get to know us without the filters of the small music club," reveals Hutchinson. "We don't really have a solid measure for how we do at the festivals, but at Pitchfork [Festival], we sold out of t-shirts! Whenever you sell out of t-shirts, you know you did something right."
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The last time REDEFINE caught up with New York's Nightmare of You, the Long Island quartet had just released their self-titled debut and were on the verge of hitting it big. Alongside tourmates like Fall Out Boy and Gym Class Heroes, Nightmare of You were able to gain a wide variety of fans across the board, appealing to new jacks who discovered pop-punk recently, as well as people who grew up with British-inspired pop music.
August 2009 Interview
Well, not entirely nothing. The band shortly split with East West Records, a subdivision of Warner Brothers operated by Triple Crown Records founder Fred Feldman. They kept their boutique imprint, The Bevonshire Label, and independently released the melodious EP, Bang.
On August 4, 2009, the band's latest album, the tongue-in-cheek-titled Infomaniac, came out, with Nightmare of You on the a full U.S. tour supporting their newest opus.
Unlike its predecessors, which recall the peak days of '80s dance jams, Infomaniac relies heavily on dub-inspired grooves and highlights the group's heavy-on-hooks-and-sarcasm approach to pop music.
"I think the sound is constantly in flux... we're always experimenting with new things, and we have very many influences, so it's kind of hard to commit to one kind of music," says singer and guitarist Brandon Reilly.
Reilly and guitarist Joe McAffrey are the chief songwriters of Nightmare of You, and their audio visions have been able to guide the duo from an idea to a cult favorite.
"I think Joe and I find it a bit boring when you have this equation to how you make records," adds Reilly.
When asked about their songwriting approach for their new album, Reilly and McAffrey explain that they reduced the amount of synths, horns, and electronic effects that were heavy on their debut, which helps the band with their ability to recreate the songs in a live setting without compromising what people would hear through their speakers or headphones.
"That's how we ended up producing the songs," says McAffrey.
"We just kind of go with it, and we don't plan things to be a certain way," says Reilly. "We just see what happens.
Adding to the band's shift in sound is their new rhythm section, comprised of drummer Michael Fleishmann and bassist Brandon Meyer.
Reilly and McAffrey have also positioned The Bevonshire Label to be a fully-run record company for the band's affairs, unlike other bands in the music scene who've been granted their own vanity labels.
"A vanity label is just a logo," says McAffrey. "You have to look at what's behind that. Who are the players on that team who are pushing the product?
"For us, The Bevonshire Label currently just releases Nightmare of You albums. Considering that we're pretty passionate and serious about our music, we do the best job we can... It's very much a learning process."
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Along with gaining new members and pushing their records through their own label, the band is regaining the momentum that slowed following their break after the release of Bang.
"We're definitely realizing that we have to work really hard, and we're not in a position to be lazy," explains McAffrey.
"We did a U.S. tour off of the EP as well," adds Reilly. "Just sorting out whether we were going to self release [Infomaniac]. We were talking to a few labels, and we weren't sure of what the plan was yet.
"Ultimately, we decided to it ourselves," he continues. "It takes a lot to fundraise the money."
Getting back to the van, Nightmare of You began a heavy touring schedule midway through 2009 by supporting Saves the Day and Alkaline Trio before heading off on their own marquee tour.
Now with Infomaniac in stores, fans can expect to see a lot more of the band in the coming months.