Friday, January 26, 2024

Wild Horse: Charting a New Course in Indie Pop for 2024

East Sussex's Own Indie Pop Sensation: Wild Horse

As 2024 unfolds, Wild Horse, an original indie pop band from East Sussex, UK, is poised to captivate audiences with their new single, "WEDNESDAY NIGHT DISTRACTIONS." This release marks the start of a promising year, following their spectacular success in 2023. Each of their five releases last year was met with critical acclaim, earning the title of BBC "Tracks of The Day" and featuring on numerous radio shows globally.

A Year of Musical Triumphs

2023 was a landmark year for Wild Horse. Their songs resonated with both reviewers and radio stations worldwide, setting a high bar for their upcoming projects. The band's commitment to their art was evident as they spent the year recording, touring, and promoting their music tirelessly. This hard work paid off, with each release receiving high praise and widespread recognition.

The Craft Behind the Music

The band's latest single, "WEDNESDAY NIGHT DISTRACTIONS," is an indie pop anthem that celebrates the vibrancy of nights out and the joys of friendships. The song, penned by the band's frontman and lead singer, Jack Baldwin, was expertly produced by Mat Leppanen at The Animal Farm in London. This collaboration has once again demonstrated the band's ability to blend catchy melodies with thoughtful lyrics.

Critical Acclaim and Industry Recognition

Wild Horse has garnered attention from several music publications and critics. 1111Crew described them as a band redefining the boundaries of indie music. Sono Music praised their infectious sound and captivating live performances, while Mesmerized Mag expressed their support for the band's bright future.

The Band's Roots and Style

Formed by brothers Jack and Henry Baldwin and their childhood friend Ed Barnes, Wild Horse stands out as a unique indie trio. Their sound, a fusion of hip hop beats and classic 60s/70s Brit Rock, reflects their diverse musical upbringing. Their music embodies the excitement and anticipation of a night out, resonating with a broad audience.

A Record of Consistent Excellence

Their journey has been marked by relentless gigging, writing, and recording, earning them enthusiastic support across the industry, including the BBC. They have been featured as a BBC Intro band multiple times, with multiple tracks named BBC Tracks Of The Day. Their music has been acclaimed worldwide and even discussed in the UK Parliament.

Looking Ahead to 2024

After a successful national tour and an appearance at the 2023 Great Escape Festival in Brighton, Wild Horse is gearing up for an even busier 2024. They continue to work closely with their London label, The Animal Farm Music, consistently writing and recording new songs. Their enthusiasm and ambition for the future are palpable as they prepare for more gigs and festivals.

The Band's Ethos and Influences

At their core, Wild Horse embodies hard work, dedication, and a passion for delivering high-energy live performances. They draw inspiration from a wide array of artists, including Harry Styles, Fleetwood Mac, Bruno Mars, and Prince. Their music has been likened to The 1975, Harry Styles, and Fleetwood Mac, among others.


Wild Horse's journey is a testament to their talent, ambition, and unwavering dedication to their craft. With an average age of just 21, they have already made a significant impact on the indie pop scene. As they continue to write, record, and perform, Wild Horse is undoubtedly a band to watch, promising to bring more exciting and innovative music to the forefront of the indie scene.

The members of the band Wild Horse are:

Jack Baldwin - Frontman and lead singer

Henry Baldwin - Brother of Jack Baldwin

Ed Barnes - Best mate from primary school and a band member

Wild Horse Socials

Interview with Wild Horse

What was the initial spark or idea that led to the creation of 'WEDNESDAY NIGHT DISTRACTIONS'? How did this concept evolve during the songwriting process?

I wrote the song about 2 years ago when I was at Uni and enjoying being single and exploring those areas of adult life that had become available to me by living away from home for the first time. I wrote it after being mugged at knifepoint one night whilst I was waiting for someone to meet me. I ended up grabbing a guitar the next day and coming out with the song. For some reason I wrote it about the situation I had with the person I was seeing the night before as opposed to the whole being mugged thing. I don’t know why but that’s what came out. 


Could you discuss the thematic elements and lyrical depth of 'WEDNESDAY NIGHT DISTRACTIONS'? What message or experience are you aiming to convey to your listeners through this song?

Lyrically, I believe that a song holds different meanings to different people, and you should let it have its own personal meaning to yourself, rather than me telling you what it’s about. But yeah, there’s no particular message, it’s just about having fun and living a certain lifestyle that you tend to live when you’re young and leave home for the first time. It’s not the sort of song that is meant to have a particularly deep meaning. 

Which musical influences most prominently shaped the sound and style of 'WEDNESDAY NIGHT DISTRACTIONS'? How does this track align with or diverge from your previous work?

All sorts of things. I write songs about all areas of life really. Love life is obviously a big one, but also friends, politics, personal experiences. Many things really. You could write a song about a cup of coffee if you really wanted to. There’s inspiration in all walks of life. 

Can you shed light on the production process of 'WEDNESDAY NIGHT DISTRACTIONS'? Were there any significant collaborative dynamics or challenges encountered during its production?

Nothing particularly special. Once we are in the studio recording, we listen back continuously to each element & often make subtle & sometimes not so subtle changes. With this track we added some more keyboard & synth parts but the heart of the song was the same.

How do you anticipate your audience will receive 'WEDNESDAY NIGHT DISTRACTIONS'? What impact do you hope this new single will have on your listeners and on your career trajectory?

We always hope that our audience love what we put out. But that being said, I think it would be wrong to try and shape things in a way that you think people would like. Music is about self-expression so I think you should always make the music that you enjoy most, rather than what you think other people will enjoy. Usually, you’ll find people will much prefer music which is authentic to yourself because people can sense that and relate to it. There’s no point trying to be fake in the hopes of getting people to like you because I think people can see through that. 

Reflecting on your initial attraction to music, could you elucidate the pivotal moments that propelled you towards forming Wild Horse?

It’s hard to pick a pivotal moment. My brother learned to play guitar well & once I then started to learn & picked it up pretty quickly. Both myself & my brother went to the same “Rock School” club at school, so did Ed who was by far the best drummer in the school. Once we started to play together it just became obvious to us.

How do your individual musical preferences and backgrounds amalgamate during the creative process, influencing the distinct sound of Wild Horse?

We all have a non-genre attitude to music & listen to everything, so we often share new finds & artists as well as all having a great love of all the greats from the Beatles, Stones, Hendrix through to everything today & classical music.

Apart from musical influences, what diverse sources - like literature or personal experiences - catalyze your creative output?

All sorts of things. I write songs about all areas of life really. Love life is obviously a big one, but also friends, politics, personal experiences. Many things really. You could write a song about a cup of coffee if you really wanted to. There’s inspiration in all walks of life. 

Can you trace the development of your musical style from your earliest compositions to your current works?

We were very young when we started and our initial main musical influences came from the type of music our parents played, all good stuff, Stones, Hendrix, CSNY, Beatles, Doors, etc. As time went on, we broaden our tastes to just about everything & I think this is clear in our songs, we are not genre fixed & are happy to go in whatever direction feels right.

In what ways do interactions and feedback from your audience shape your musical creations and performances?

We always hope that our audience love what we put out. But that being said, I think it would be wrong to try and shape things in a way that you think people would like. Music is about self-expression so I think you should always make the music that you enjoy most, rather than what you think other people will enjoy. Usually, you’ll find people will much prefer music which is authentic to yourself because people can sense that and relate to it. There’s no point trying to be fake in the hopes of getting people to like you because I think people can see through that. 

Looking ahead, what new projects or musical directions are you enthusiastic about exploring?

A larger tour that has an international aspect is our main aspiration right now & something we are looking very seriously at.

Can you describe the moment when you realized that music was your true calling, and how did that realization influence the formation of Wild Horse?

I think our first live gig would certainly have made me start thinking seriously about it. I was 11 years old & we played in an established music venue nearby. It was packed & we had a great reaction although we were only playing covers. I think the real moment came a little later on after I could see the reaction to songs we had written ourselves.

Could you walk us through your songwriting process? How do you typically go from an initial idea to a finished track?

I always say every song is different. Some songs can come from a guitar part, a piano part, a bass part, a vocal part of even a drum part. The inspiration comes in lots of different ways. But I’ll always start with creating a song musically. After I’ve got the base of a song I’ll think about vocal Melodies. Then I’ll record a demo at home and spend time trying different arrangements. It’s just having fun and trying stuff, seeing what sounds best. And then at some point the vocal Melodies will turn into lyrics. But that’s something I spend the most time on. That could often take me months. I won’t wire lyrics unless I get a proper and clear inspiration about what to write about. 

Your live performances are known for their high energy. How do you prepare for a show, and how do you maintain that energy on stage?

Well, I stay in shape all the time. I’m a bit of a health freak so I’m always working out and eating properly. I always do vocal warmups before a show, and I drink a couple of shots of vodka to clear out my throat. In terms of keeping the energy up, I have a good stamina anyway from staying fit but when the audience reacts well you get a burst of adrenaline that easily Carries you through.

Evolution of Sound: "How has your sound evolved from your earliest songs to your most recent work?" 

We used to be much more centered around an Indie rock sound, we are now much broader, more pop, funk, sole and R&B, no fixed genre.

Collaboration Dreams: "If you could collaborate with any artist, living or deceased, who would it be and why?" 

I don’t know if I have a dream collaboration per say. It would depend on the song. If I wrote a song that I felt like needed a certain artist on it then a collab would be great, but we wouldn’t do a collab just for the sake of having a certain artist on our song. That being said I’d love to duet Wild Horse with Mick Jagger at a show one day, we all love him & has been a massive influence from the first song that got me into music, “Sympathy For The Devil”.


How do you view the current state of the music industry, and how do you navigate its challenges?

We were brought up in the Social Media era where streaming is king & so this is our normal. The one thing that never changes is the fact that you have to primarily entertain an audience & get people to want to hear your music & see you play live, to invest in you.

How do you want Wild Horse to be remembered in the history of music?

We will be very pleased if in the future people listen to some of our songs.

How do you feel about the global reach of your music, and do you tailor your music to an international audience?

We would love a broad global reach but we write what we write & do not consciously tailor anything.

What gives you the most satisfaction as artists?

It's always about live reaction for me. There is nothing better than a great reaction from an audience in front of you, when they know the words to your songs it's just brilliant.

How do you measure success for yourselves as a band?

The aim is to be able to fund our lives purely from doing what we love most, so the day none of us have to have other jobs to support ourselves will be success.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who look up to Wild Horse?

At the very beginning we were told, Rehearse, Rehearse & Rehearse some more. This is very true but more than that, get used to playing to near empty rooms, to not getting paid, to being treated pretty badly by venue owners & learn very quickly that nobody will put an audience in front of you, you have to work very hard to do that yourself & harder still to keep them. There is no magic wand, but the feeling of playing to a packed house & getting an audience singing along to your songs is worth all the hard work & strife. 

The Warning's Rising Tide: Exploring 'S!CK' and 'Hell You Call A Dream' - A Dive into the Band's Latest Sonic Wave

The Warning Band, an all-girl metal band hailing from Monterrey, Mexico, has made a significant impact in the music scene since their formation in 2014. Comprised of three sisters, Daniela "Dany" Villarreal (guitars, lead and backing vocals, piano), Paulina "Pau" Villarreal (drums, backing and lead vocals, piano), and Alejandra "Ale" Villarreal (bass, piano, backing vocals), the band has garnered attention for their dynamic rock music and impressive musicianship.

The Warning gained momentum with a series of independent releases, including "Escape the Mind" EP in 2015, "XXI Century Blood" in 2017, and "Queen of the Murder Scene" in 2018. They've also achieved viral success, amassing over 120 million YouTube views and 10 million streams. Their debut single under LAVA Records, "CHOKE," released in 2021, was a notable success, and they have collaborated with Alessia Cara for Metallica’s "The Metallica Blacklist" album. Their third album, "ERROR," was released in June 2022, showcasing their continued evolution and growth as a band.

In their relatively short career, The Warning has performed extensively, including over 100 shows in America and tours in Europe. They've opened for notable bands like Muse, Foo Fighters, Sammy Hagar and the Circle, Stone Temple Pilots, Halestorm, The Pretty Reckless, and even Guns N' Roses. Their influences are diverse, ranging from Metallica and Muse to My Chemical Romance and Pink Floyd, reflecting in their eclectic and powerful music style.

The band's discography is a testament to their prolific output and musical versatility, with three studio albums, two EPs, and several singles. The studio albums include "XXI Century Blood," "Queen of the Murder Scene," and "ERROR." Their EPs are "Escape the Mind" and "Mayday." Among their singles, "Money," released in 2022, reached no. 31 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Airplay chart, demonstrating their growing popularity in the rock music scene.

The Warning continues to captivate audiences worldwide with their energetic performances and unique sound, marking their place in the modern rock music landscape.

The Warning has been stirring interest with their songs "S!CK" and "Hell You Call A Dream." These tracks reflect the band's unique style and dynamic approach to music, resonating with their growing fan base.

"S!CK" and "Hell You Call A Dream" are among the newer additions to The Warning's repertoire. The band has been actively promoting these songs, generating excitement among their audience. They even posted a teaser on TikTok, raising curiosity about which song would be released on a specific date, showcasing their interactive approach with fans. This kind of engagement is a testament to their evolving presence in the music industry and their connection with their audience.

The song "Hell You Call a Dream" was performed at various shows, including at Teatro Diana in Guadalajara, Mexico, and at the Pepsi Center in Mexico City. It's indicative of the band's continuous effort to bring fresh and exciting music to their performances. The title of the song itself went through some variations, but according to ASCAP, the correct title is "Hell You Call a Dream".

The Warning continues to carve out a unique space in the rock music scene with their original songs and engaging performances. Their ability to blend different musical influences into their sound makes their music appealing to a wide range of listeners. For more detailed information and updates on their music, it's advisable to follow The Warning on their social media platforms and music streaming services.

Lryic Review of Choke

The lyrics of "Choke" by The Warning are poignant and emotionally charged, delving into themes of despair, surrender, and the metaphorical concept of drowning in one's emotions. The opening lines express a sense of inevitability and resignation, suggesting that certain outcomes are beyond control and acceptance is the only path forward.

The chorus, "Just let me drown / Let me dive in / Sink in deeper / Push my head / Choke me till I drown," is particularly powerful. It uses the imagery of drowning to convey a deep sense of being overwhelmed, perhaps by emotions, circumstances or struggles that the narrator is facing. This metaphor of drowning serves as a central theme, encapsulating the sense of being consumed by something much larger than oneself.

The lines "Wear your tears like jewelry / That vice is overpriced but / Art is dead it died with me / Don’t cry," introduce a juxtaposition of beauty and pain, suggesting that sorrow can be as ornamental as jewelry, yet burdensome like an overpriced vice. The notion that "art is dead" and died with the speaker adds a layer of personal loss and the end of creativity or expression.

In summary, the song seems to traverse the landscape of emotional turmoil and the struggle for relief through the metaphor of drowning. Its vivid imagery and emotive language invite listeners into a deeply introspective and somber narrative. For a more detailed exploration of the lyrics, I recommend visiting platforms where the song is available or official band resources for deeper insights.

Lryic Story from the lyrics of CHOKE

The Depths of Surrender 

Created by Indie Mastered

Copyright 2024 The Warning

In the heart of a bustling city, where the lights never dim and the streets hum with endless activity, there was a young artist named Elara. She was known for her captivating paintings that often explored the depths of human emotions. However, beneath her success, Elara was battling a storm of despair and desolation.

The story begins on a cold, rainy evening as Elara stood on the balcony of her high-rise apartment, overlooking the city. The raindrops mirrored the tears that slid down her cheeks, each one a silent testament to her inner turmoil. The recent loss of her muse and partner had left her in a state of profound grief, rendering her unable to paint. The canvases in her studio lay blank, much like the emptiness she felt inside.

As she gazed into the abyss of the night, the lyrics of a song drifted from a distant radio, echoing her own feelings, "I won’t say goodbye, In the end, it won’t matter at all, I’m sure, I won’t survive the fall." The words resonated with her, encapsulating the sense of hopelessness that had gripped her soul.

Elara found herself walking the rain-soaked streets, aimlessly wandering as if searching for something she couldn't name. The city, once a source of inspiration, now seemed like a maze of concrete and neon, trapping her in its unyielding embrace.

In a small, dimly lit cafe, she sought refuge from the rain. There, her attention was drawn to a street performer outside, his voice raw with emotion as he sang, "Just let me drown, Let me dive in, Sink in deeper, Push my head, Choke me till I drown." The lyrics mirrored her desire to surrender to her pain, to let the waves of sorrow engulf her completely.

As the night wore on, Elara realized that her journey through the city was a metaphorical descent into her own psyche. She confronted her memories, her loss, and the overwhelming sadness that threatened to consume her. The realization hit her that she was like the song’s narrator, drowning in a sea of grief and longing for release.

But as dawn approached, breaking through the darkness, Elara experienced a moment of clarity. The lyrics, "Wear your tears like jewelry, That vice is overpriced but, Art is dead it died with me, Don’t cry," spoke to her. She understood that her sorrow, while heavy, was also a part of who she was – a painful yet precious ornament of her life's experience.

With the first light of dawn, Elara returned to her studio. She picked up her brush, not to escape her pain, but to embrace it. Each stroke on the canvas was a testament to her journey, a blend of darkness and light, despair and hope. Her art was reborn, not in spite of her pain, but because of it.

"The Depths of Surrender" is a story of loss, pain, and ultimately, the transformative power of art. It reminds us that even in our darkest moments, when we feel like drowning in our despair, there is a potential for rebirth and newfound strength.

Band Members:

Daniela -- Dany Villarreal Velez: guitars, piano, lead and backing vocals

Paulina -- Pau Villarreal Velez: drums, piano, lead and backing vocals

Alejandra -- Ale Villarreal Velez: bass, piano, backing vocals

"We are three sisters from Monterrey, Mexico. We love music."

The Warning Socials

The Early Days:

The journey of The Warning began in 2005 with young Daniela and Paulina attending a summer camp featuring music and theatre activities, leading them to start piano lessons. Their musical tastes ranged from children's songs to iconic bands like AC/DC and Muse. By 2007, the sisters, including the youngest Alejandra, were deeply influenced by the video game ROCK BAND, which shaped their choice of instruments. Alejandra's choice of bass guitar was driven by her love for its sound, having been immersed in a musical environment since a young age.

The formation of The Warning was almost serendipitous, stemming from a school festival performance by Daniela and Paulina, later joined by Alejandra. Their shared passion for rock and roll, combined with their growing skills, led them to start recording and uploading their rehearsals to YouTube. A major breakthrough came with their cover of Metallica's "Enter Sandman," which went viral, amassing over 70 million views and drawing attention from Metallica members and other renowned bands.


Escape the Mind (2015)

XXI Century Blood (2017)

Queen of the Murder Scene (2018)

Narcisista (2019)

ERROR (2022)

Following their online success, The Warning began writing original songs, resulting in their first EP "Escape the Mind." Their dream to attend a summer course at Berklee College of Music became a reality through a successful GoFundMe campaign and an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Their single "Free Falling" from the EP was included in Rock Band 4, and they started receiving invitations to perform at various festivals and events across the U.S. and Mexico.

XXI Century Blood (2017):

Choosing to remain independent, The Warning worked on their first studio LP, "XXI Century Blood." The album was accompanied by a concept music video for the title track, winning several awards at film festivals. They continued to perform live, including opening for Def Leppard on their Mexican tour.

Queen of the Murder Scene (2018):

This period marked the creation of their concept album, "Queen of the Murder Scene," exploring psychological themes. Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, the album narrates the journey of a young woman's descent into obsession and madness. The album was launched with a co-headliner show alongside Wacken Metal Battle winners Jet Jaguar.

ERROR (2022):

In 2020, The Warning signed a five-record deal with Lava Records. They recorded their third full-length album, "ERROR," with producer David Bendeth in New Jersey. The first single, "Choke," topped streaming charts, followed by other successful singles. The album features a mix of high-energy tracks and thought-provoking lyrics, showcasing the band's evolution.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Musical Journey of n/a: The Duo That Rocks Beyond Boundaries


Musical Beginnings: Arek Tirtir, of the dynamic duo n/a, reminisces about his earliest musical memory which set the stage for his musical journey. Growing up with a punk band rehearsing in his home, thanks to his brother's band, Idiot Proof, Arek was lullabied into a world of music. This unique childhood experience instilled in him a deep love for music and showed him the potential of his passion.

Inspiration and Influences: Arek credits David Bowie and Tom Waits as his major musical influences. His musical initiation began with classical piano at age 4, but it was Bowie's "Life on Mars" that transformed his perception of music. Tom Waits' music, on the other hand, taught him the power of emotional singing and creative problem-solving in the studio.

Memorable Performances: The duo's performance on October 29, 2023, stands out for Arek. Featuring an artist creating live paintings and a Halloween-themed exorcist gag, this show was not just about the music but the healing power it held during Arek's personal struggles.

Fan Interaction: For n/a, their audience is primarily each other, focusing on prolific creation and live performances. They maintain a cool presence, both literally and metaphorically, in their musical journey.

Album Creation: The process behind their latest live EP, "Ceremonies," reflects a collaborative and intuitive approach. Arek and Nicholas Mastrangelo (Nick), the other half of n/a, carefully selected the best performances of 2023, with Nick's creative influence shining through in the album artwork and title.

Live Performance vs Studio: Arek expresses a strong preference for live performances, valuing the spontaneity and joy of musical conversations with his bandmate over the meticulous nature of studio work.

Musical Milestones: Releasing two EPs in a single year marks a significant achievement for n/a, showcasing their productivity and ambition.

Genre Exploration: n/a's music is a kaleidoscope of genres, reflecting their eclectic tastes. From jazz to indie pop, they embrace diversity in their sound, driven by a philosophy of exploring new terrains in music.

Social Media and Music: While acknowledging the time-consuming nature of social media, n/a emphasizes the importance of focusing on their core identity as a band rather than getting lost in digital promotion.

Personal Favorites: Arek playfully avoids picking a favorite song, likening the choice to choosing between his 'babies.'

Artist Identity: Arek resonates with the idea of being 'not made for this world' and believes their music reflects this sentiment, appealing to those who feel similarly out of place.

Instruments and Gear: Arek cherishes instruments with personal and emotional connections, especially his Sonor AQ1 drum kit, which carries a piece of his brother's musical legacy.

Future Plans: Looking forward, n/a aims to maintain their pace of releasing music and performing live, with aspirations to tour.

Influence on Fans: n/a hopes their music contributes to a less lonely world, bringing people together through their art.

Creative Rituals: Advice for Aspiring Musicians: Arek advises aspiring musicians to focus on the joy of making music with their bandmates, ensuring that if they're having fun, the audience will too.

n/a's journey is a testament to the power of music in shaping lives, transcending genres, and creating a unique identity. 

Interview with Arek Tirtir

Musical Beginnings: 

Can you tell us about your earliest musical memory and how it influenced your path as a musician?

***n/a is a duo comprised of Nicholas Mastrangelo and Arek Tirtir. Arek filled out this form on behalf of the band, and answered questions from his point of view. We hope that if we are eligible for an interview, we could be interviewed together as to give you a complete picture of the band.**** 

Arek: My only sibling is my brother, who is 11 years older than me. As a toddler, my lullabies were listening to his punk band, Idiot Proof, rehearse and write their material. Having a loving older brother is a real luxury. I think I was born with an intense love for music, yet I’m eternally grateful to have a brother show me where that love could take me one day.

Inspiration and Influences: Who are your biggest musical influences and how have they shaped your sound?
Arek: if I had to boil it down to a two artists, and trust me, I’d prefer to include many more here. It would be David Bowie and Tom Waits. I started music by taking classical piano lessons at the age of 4. I was 6 years old when my brother put on “Life on Mars” while driving me to school. I was never the same ever since. I never knew flourishing, seemingly “classical” piano could be used to rock my face off. And it was the first time hearing music caused goosebumps to cover my whole body. So I have Bowie to thank for many many things, as we all probably do. Listening to Tom Waits gave me possibly the most important gift of all. Weeping along to his tracks, gave me the courage to sing in public. I learned from Tom Waits that great singing comes from the heart. You can transcend the voice you were born with if you put your heart on your sleeve and sing it with everything you got. Additionally, I’m enamored with Tom Waits’ intuitive problem solving in the studio. Is the snare not punchy enough? Ok throw the snare out, let’s hit a dresser with a 2x4. 
Memorable Performances: 

What has been your most memorable performance to date and why?
Arek: I think our performance on 10/29/23 was the most memorable of last year. I thought our improvising and comping were on point, we had the absolutely incredible @strangefrenzy (her instagram handle) up on stage with us improvising paintings in response to what we were playing. It was so fucking cool. As a Halloween gag, we had an exorcist come in to lift a curse that had been placed on the band, concluding in an epic Ramones cover of Pet Sematary. We have a bunch of clips from this show on our twitter page! Check it out my friends! Though frankly, it’s the behind the scenes stuff that made this performance so memorable to me. I was really struggling from an unexpected breakup. At that moment, I didn’t think I was capable of anything. But as a band, we decided we’d do this super ambitious show, and in the middle of the set, I really did start to feel the dark clouds hanging above me begin to part. Sure my heart was broken, but we made some lemonade that day.
Fan Interaction: 

What role do your fans play in your music career? Any memorable interactions?
Arek: Right now it’s just a ceiling fan that keeps us cool in the summer months. Though you never know who will hear what! n/a’s intention is to be prolific as possible and perform live excessively. The audience we do this for, is each other. 
Album Creation: 

Can you describe the process behind creating your latest album?
Arek: Our most recent release is a live EP. Basically, I listened back to every single n/a performance of 2023 and flagged what I thought were the best songs. I sent Nick something like 10 or 12 songs that I thought went really well. Then from there, Nick whittled it down to his 5 favorite songs. Also, Nick picked out a film photograph I had taken in the summer of 2022, for the album artwork, and suggested the title “Ceremonies”. It’s funny because when Nick first pitched the cover artwork and title to me, it didn’t really resonate with me at first. But a few days later, the “meaning” revealed itself to me, and I fell in love with it all, and gave Nick the green light to finalize the packaging. You see, besides the final track, “Ceremonies” is comprised of songs that Nick wrote. The meaning I found from the EP’s presentation is that this is Nick, from Arek’s point of view.
Live Performance vs Studio: 
Do you prefer performing live or working in the studio? Why?

Arek: I prefer performing live so much more, I really can’t emphasize it enough. Performing live is the most fun thing in the whole world! Can you think of something more fun than having a musical conversation with your best friend, with spontaneous unplanned beauty erupting with no warning whatsoever? Performing live also means band practice, and god is band practice so fun too. Everyone should form a band, just so they get to enjoy some band practices in their life time! I get a lot of satisfaction from being incredibly meticulous during practice and preparation, but then throwing that all out the window when it’s time to get up on stage. 
Musical Milestones: 

What would you consider the biggest milestone in your career so far?
Arek: Releasing two EP’s in one year. One day we’ll make George Clinton proud and do like 20 releases in a year or something. Something I’m always talking about, and I’m never sure if it horrifies Nick or gets him pumped up haha! 
Genre Exploration: 

Have you explored different genres in your music? What draws you to them?
Arek: Yes we have explored different genres of music, you can especially hear so in our debut EP “Shadow of the Alley”. That EP goes from plastic jazz paranoia as a means to psychedelia, to a New Orleans brass band who had to pawn their brass instruments, to indie pop, to our own twisted style of outsider garage rock. I think this is a natural consequence of Nick and I being eclectic listeners. We love Gary Numan just like we love the Grateful Dead. We love Britney Spears just like we love Count Basie. We’re all beautiful, with beautiful ideas. Staying in one lane sounds boring to me. Life is too short for that! 
Social Media and Music: 

How has social media impacted your career as a musician?
Arek: Frankly, it’s mostly been an unproductive time sink for us. In the past, Nick would spend hours upon hours in Adobe Premier creating Instagram stories more akin to stunning artwork than engagement inducing PR, that haven’t led to significant growth for us. So these days, we’re always reminding ourselves to focus on being the band, and not putting too many hours into all the other demands of running a DIY band.
Personal Favorites: 

What is your favorite song to perform and why?
Arek: I can’t publicly choose between my babies this early in my career! Hahaha! 

Artist Identity: 

How would you describe your identity as an artist and how it is reflected in your music?
Arek: I’ll quote the ever brilliant band, of Montreal here. “But it’s like we weren’t made for this world, though I wouldn’t really want to meet someone who was.”
Instruments and Gear: 

What are your favorite instruments or pieces of gear and why?
Arek: My favorite instruments are the ones I have an emotional connection to and that I enjoy the feel of playing. I adore the drum kit I used on “Shadow of the Alley”, a sparkly white Sonor AQ1 I got for dirt cheap back in 2013, with the same snare my brother used in his punk band Idiot Proof, decades ago. I just love that kit to bits. It’s small enough to fit in the back of a sedan, and resilient enough to survive my bullshit for 11 years. 
Future Plans: 

What are your plans or goals for the future in terms of music?
Arek: We hope to continue our pace of two releases (EPs/LPs) a year, alongside a ton of live performances! And of course, the dream is to go on tour as soon as possible.
Influence on Fans: 

How do you hope your music impacts your listeners?
Arek: I hope n/a’s music helps create a less lonely world for everybody.

Advice for Aspiring Musicians: 

Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring musicians starting their journey?
Arek: I highly suggest that the metric you measure success by, be the amount of fun you and your bandmates are having. Make your audience be each other. This also makes performing live a lot less scary. Don’t worry about making the crowd happy. Improvise a little variation on the chord change that’ll make the bassist smile. Play a drum fill that gives your guitarist blues face. Do you catch my drift here? If you have fun, so will the rest of us.

n/a Socials




Instagram: https://instagram.con/thisbandisna

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

How Cascade Riot's Fusion of Melodic Rock and Punk Influences Shaped Their Unique Sound

Cascade Riot, a band known for its unique blend of melodic rock and punk influences, has carved a distinctive niche in the music industry. This article delves into their journey, highlighting key influences, challenges, and their evolution over the years.

Musical Influences: A Mix of Generations

The band's sound is heavily influenced by a mix of 90s and early 2000s punk, pop-punk, and alternative bands like Green Day, Foo Fighters, NOFX, and blink-182, along with a love for classic rock from the 60s and 70s. This eclectic mix has been instrumental in crafting their melodic yet energetic rock style.

Origins: The Middle School Bond

Cascade Riot's roots trace back to the middle school friendship between Ryan and Adam. Their early collaborations and the addition of Adam’s brother Al eventually led to the formation of Cascade Riot, highlighting the significance of long-term friendships in the band's genesis.

Early Challenges and Reformation

Initially, the band struggled with a lack of resources and direction, leading to a cycle of short-lived formations and breaks. However, in 2015, the band members reunited with a more mature outlook, marking the official beginning of Cascade Riot.

Creative Process: Unconventional Rehearsals

Their first EP, “Code Red,” was a product of unique rehearsal sessions in an outdoor storage unit. The unusual setting contributed to the EP’s distinct sound, reflecting the band's adaptive and creative spirit.

Hiatus and Impact

A hiatus in 2016, driven by personal life changes, led to a temporary disbandment. This period was crucial for the members, both personally and professionally, as it allowed them to grow individually and reassess their commitment to the band.

Reunion and Renewed Energy

The band reunited in 2022 with a rejuvenated spirit. The release of their comeback single “Hypnotized” received a positive reception, encouraging the band to continue their musical journey.

The Success of “Page Not Found”

The EP “Page Not Found” released in 2023, played a pivotal role in re-establishing the band and shaping their future direction, reinforcing their commitment to their music.

Memorable Moments and Expanding the Band

Post-comeback, the band enjoyed moments like being featured in podcasts and opening for major acts. The addition of Nick Maston as a guitarist brought new dynamics and enthusiasm to the group.

Upcoming EP: “Life on Venus”

Their upcoming EP, “Life on Venus,” reflects themes of contemplation and change, signaling the band's continuous evolution. The EP’s creation process, slightly altered by Nick’s addition, marks a new chapter for Cascade Riot. The release date is set for January 30th, 2024.

Significant Tracks and Evolution

Songs like “I Don’t Want to Fall Asleep” and “Chasing Stars” from the new EP hold special significance, symbolizing the band's new era and their willingness to explore different musical territories.

Looking ahead, Cascade Riot aims to broaden their reach and balance their music career with personal commitments. Their journey sends a powerful message to fans and aspiring musicians: it's never too late to pursue or reignite your passion.

Cascade Riot’s story is one of resilience, evolution, and the enduring power of friendship, set against a backdrop of a unique blend of musical styles. Their journey from a middle school friendship to a band with a distinctive sound and dedicated fanbase is an inspiring tale for anyone who believes in the transformative power of music.

Interview with Cascade Riot

Ryan Failla - Vocals/Guitar
Nick Maston - Guitar
Adam Brady - Bass
Alex Brady - Drums

How did the unique blend of melodic rock and punk influences shape the sound of Cascade Riot?

We pull from a lot of influences but we have always been drawn to melody. We love energetic rock songs that you can hum and that informs pretty much everything we do. 

Can you share some of the key musical influences that have inspired the band over the years?

Green Day, Foo Fighters, NOFX, blink-182… those are some big ones. All bands we grew up on. A lot of 90s/early 2000s punk, pop-punk, and alternative. We are also all pretty big fans of classic rock from the 60s and 70s.

How did the middle school friendship between Ryan and Adam contribute to the formation of Cascade Riot?

Ryan and Adam first met in 6th grade. They played in various bands together before ultimately forming a trio with Adam’s younger brother Al. That was the lineup that would go on to make up Cascade Riot years later so there is a direct link between that initial friendship and the formation of the band. 

What were the main challenges you faced during the initial phase of the band, and how did you overcome them?

At that time our biggest challenge was how young we were and a lack of resources. We really had no idea what we were doing. We would get together, play for a few months, and break up. It was like a cycle. We were young and dumb and didn’t even know where to start. We also weren’t mature enough to figure out how to make things work as far as managing personalities and other things that come along with the relationship part of being in a band. We just kinda grew apart after high school. 

Adam and Al played together in a different band for a period of time but Ryan was out of the game for a while. In 2015, we all started talking about making something happen and we wound up getting back together and taking a crack at things as an actual band. We consider 2015 to be the actual birth year of Cascade Riot. 

How did the outdoor storage unit rehearsals influence the creative process for your first EP, “Code Red”?

Code Red
was interesting because it was the first time we recorded together as adults. We didn’t really have anywhere to practice so we rented a storage unit. The natural acoustics of the place sounded surprisingly better than you might assume. Ryan brought in a batch of songs and we just hammered them out in the unit. We recorded the EP in there as well. It’s really the sound of childhood friends coming back together as adults and taking a crack at things. 

What led to the hiatus in 2016, and how did it impact the members personally and professionally?

We found ourselves at a crossroad back when we were teenagers and now here we were finding ourselves at yet another crossroad as adults. We were just being pulled in different directions in our personal lives which made things difficult and we still hadn’t fully figured out how to manage the relationship aspect of being in a band. It just kinda fizzled out. There were no hard feelings and I think there was a sense that we might play together again one day but it also wasn’t a certainty. Al moved from Michigan to Ohio at one point and that made the prospects of things happening even more difficult. It just wasn’t the right time. 

Can you describe the journey and emotions involved in reuniting Cascade Riot in 2022?

Over the years we all kept in touch and talked about possibly getting back together at various points but we could just never find a way to make it work. Al will be the first to tell you how pestering Ryan could be at times. Finally, things just started falling into place. Al moved back to Michigan, the talks of something happening intensified, and it just sort of happened. We all came in with a renewed sense of motivation but also just a lot of appreciation for each other and the fact that after all this time, we could still play music together. 

What was the inspiration behind the comeback single “Hypnotized,” and how did it feel to receive such a positive reception?

That was actually a song we had been kicking around back in 2015. We had always liked it so we decided to record it and put it out because it felt like unfinished business. In a way it symbolized picking up where we left off. We weren’t sure what to expect when we released it. We really had no expectations. But some people actually started to latch onto it and it just made us want to keep going that much more. It felt good that anyone cared.

How did the success of the “Page Not Found” EP in 2023 influence the band's direction and ambitions?

Page Not Found was important to us because it was our first full release since coming back together. We’d released a few singles before then but this was the first collection of material and . It established in our minds that we were actually back but also solidified that we didn’t want to stop.  

What were some memorable moments from the shows and podcasts that featured your music after your comeback?

It was a crazy feeling to go from not knowing if anyone was going to listen to us or care to having a song featured on a podcast hosted by Chris DeMakes from Less Than Jake. We just kept taking baby steps and slowly more things just started happening. The craziest was being asked to open for Billy Talent. We didn’t see that coming and it was the largest show we’d ever played at that point (still is at the time of this interview!)

How did the decision to add Nick Maston as a guitarist come about, and what has he brought to the band’s dynamic?

We had toyed with the idea of adding another guitarist at various points over the years but we were afraid of altering the chemistry, so to speak. It had always just been the three of us, and I think we romanticized that a little bit. Finally, we just realized it would be nice to have another guitarist to help fill out the songs live more and play the parts that Ryan would have to omit live.

Adam and Al had known Nick for years and even played with him briefly in a project they were apart of when they weren’t playing with Ryan at one point. Nick is also a photographer and when we were asked to open for Billy Talent last year, we asked him to come take some pictures for us. When we were hanging out with him before and after the show, it just felt like he was part of the band. It wasn’t long after that that we asked him to join.

He brings a ton of enthusiasm to the band and is exactly what we were looking for in a guitarist. From the very first time we played with him everything just clicked. 

Can you give us a sneak peek into the creative process behind your upcoming EP “Life on Venus”?

We started working on Life on Venus in the summer of 2023 not all that long after Page Not Found was released. We had more songs ready to go and were eager to just keep things moving. “P.N.C” was the first song we started recording. “I Don’t Want to Fall Asleep” was the second song we laid down and after Ryan laid down the lead part at the end, there was immediately talk of how we were going to approach it live. The seeds for Nick joining the band were probably planted during that session. We just slowly chipped away at things and finished up in the Fall. 

What themes and stories can fans expect to hear in the "Life on Venus" EP, and how do they reflect the band's growth?

If there’s a theme it’s probably along the lines of trying to figure out a way to pull yourself out of a current situation. A lot of searching and contemplating.

How did the process of creating "Life on Venus" differ from your previous works, especially with the addition of a new band member?

The process itself was largely similar to what we had done in the past. Nick actually joined the band just as we were wrapping up recording. He plays acoustic guitar on “Chasing Stars” and sings some vocals on “Wall”. He was present for some last minute editing though and having a fourth opinion  for certain things was new and welcome. 

Are there any specific tracks on the "Life on Venus" EP that hold special significance to the band, and could you share the inspiration behind them?

I Don’t Want to Fall Asleep” was the first song we wanted to release ever since we started recording. We just knew right off the bat that we wanted that to be the initial statement. We made a video for it right after Nick joined the band and I think we will always remember that song as representing the beginning of our new era with him.

Chasing Stars” was also interesting because it was the first time we had ever really put out a song like that. Not that it was a crazy departure, but it was a little slower and had a little more texture and vulnerability.

We love all of the songs on the EP for different reasons. 

How has the band evolved musically and personally since its formation in 2015?

We feel like we have finally figured out how to make this work. We know how to interact with each other. Relationship-wise, we are in the best place we have ever been. Musically, we’re really doing the same thing we’ve done since we were kids except we’d like to think we’ve gotten a little better at it.

What are Cascade Riot’s plans for the future, in terms of touring, new music, and collaborations?

We want to just try and get “Life on Venus” in front of as many people as possible after it comes out and play as much as possible. Because we all work full time and have other personal commitments, it can be a bit of a balancing act at times but we want to take things as far as we can take them. There’s a lot we would like to do and if it’s the right opportunity and we can find a way to make it work, we are down for anything. 

Finally, what message do you want to convey to your fans and aspiring musicians through your journey and music?

It’s never too late to start or to start again. If you love what you’re doing, never stop doing it.

Cascade Riot Socials

Twitter    @CascadeRiot
Instagram @cascaderiot
Facebook Cascade Riot

Monday, January 22, 2024

The Musical Path of Smokin' Cola: An Authentic and Evolving Artistic Identity

Smokin' Cola, an artistic persona born out of a placeholder name, has evolved into a significant identity in the music world. Initially a catch-all term for various creative endeavors, Smokin' Cola organically grew into a distinctive persona for a musician recommitting to his passion. This identity mirrors the DIY, lo-fi ethos of the music, reflecting an authentic and honest approach to artistry.

The Technical Origin and Multi-faceted Nature of Smokin' Cola

The name 'Smokin' Cola' carries a pun, integral to the artist's persona. This identity extends beyond just being a band name, as it encapsulates the varied aspects of the musician's personality. Each role - the singer, guitarist, bass player, and drummer - contributes to a composite musical character, each with unique influences and styles.

Influence of a Musically Rich Childhood

Growing up in radio stations and with musically inclined parents, Smokin' Cola was exposed to a diverse range of music from a young age. This environment ingrained a habit of constant musical exploration, leading to a wide array of influences, from classic rock to grunge, shaping the unique sound of Smokin' Cola.

Transition to Solo Project and Musical Evolution

From a band member in his earlier years to a solo artist in his late 40s, Smokin' Cola's music has undergone significant evolution. This transition involved embracing the natural music that resonated within him, moving away from expected genres and exploring more rock and experimental sounds.

Integrating Diverse Influences while Maintaining a Unique Sound

Smokin' Cola manages to blend a spectrum of influences, from Johnny Cash to St. Vincent, while maintaining a distinct sound. This integration involves embodying different personas for each instrument, influenced by a background in user experience and web development, to channel various musical styles.

Fatherhood's Impact on Musical Perspective

Fatherhood significantly shifted Smokin' Cola's musical perspective, enhancing his confidence and authenticity. This change led to a more genuine exploration of preferred musical styles, transcending previous self-imposed limitations.

Advice for Aspiring Artists

For aspiring artists, Smokin' Cola emphasizes authenticity and honesty in music creation. Practical advice includes constant recording and self-review to refine skills and understand audience perception. Embracing one's unique voice is crucial in carving out a distinct place in the music world.

Rule-Breaking and Self-Taught Learning in Music Creation

Despite being self-taught, a brief encounter with music theory provided Smokin' Cola with foundational knowledge that complemented his natural style. This blend of education and innate creativity has been crucial in his musical development.

Maintaining Individuality in the Music Industry

In an industry teeming with talent, Smokin' Cola stresses the importance of individuality, suggesting that authenticity naturally leads to distinction. Understanding the universality of musical elements like the pentatonic scale and focusing on creating music that resonates personally are key strategies.

Upcoming Projects and Preparations

Smokin' Cola's plans for 2024 involve working on new music, including participation in the Monthly Music Challenge and potential covers of songs from his father's 1960s band. Balancing songwriting and live performance preparation is a critical aspect of his current focus.

DIY Ethos and Collaboration

The DIY ethos is seen as compatible with collaboration. Smokin' Cola is part of Only the Label, a collective of DIY musicians, demonstrating that independent creation can coexist with collaborative efforts.

Engaging with the Local Music Scene

Based outside Baltimore, Smokin' Cola intends to engage more with the local music scene in 2024. This involvement will include both contributing to and drawing inspiration from the vibrant local community.

Adapting to Different Audiences and Venues

Smokin' Cola's experience in adapting to different audiences dates back to earlier live performances, where he embraced the challenge of diverse roles and venues. These experiences helped shape his current adaptable approach to live shows.

Handling Criticism and Feedback

Constructive criticism is welcomed by Smokin' Cola as an opportunity for growth, while negative, non-constructive feedback is largely ignored. Maintaining a positive and supportive stance in the music community is a core principle.

Self-Promotion Strategies

Smokin' Cola's self-promotion strategies involve active engagement on social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok, and participation in music community events. Emphasizing mutual support among indie musicians is a key part of his approach.

Balancing Artistic Expression and Commercial Appeal

Striking a balance between artistic integrity and commercial appeal involves envisioning audience reaction while staying true to one's creative instincts. Smokin' Cola views commercial success as secondary to artistic fulfillment.

Composing for Film or Television

While Smokin' Cola has not composed specifically for film or television, he expresses a strong interest in exploring this avenue, leveraging his creative energy across various artistic forms.

Challenges in Independent Music Production

Time management is a significant challenge for Smokin' Cola, balancing family, career, and music. Prioritizing and scheduling dedicated music production time is a key strategy in overcoming this challenge.

Networking in the Music Industry

Networking, crucial in the music industry, involves genuine engagement and interest in others' work. Platforms like Twitter have proven beneficial for building connections within the music community.

Influence of Early Music Experiences

Early musical experiences, including the first instrument played and the origin of the stage name, have been previously addressed, highlighting the lifelong impact of these early influences on Smokin' Cola's artistic journey.

Personal Inspirations and Artistic Creation

Current inspirations for Smokin' Cola come from fellow independent artists, with a focus on continually exploring new musical territories and maintaining a commitment to authentic music creation.

Interview with Smokin' Cola

How did the persona of Smokin' Cola come to be? Can you share the story behind the creation of this artistic identity?

Smokin’ Cola as a persona – and it very much is, which I’ll get into, even if I’m not going full Buster Poindexter or Ziggy Stardust over here – really came about unexpectedly. I’ve used Smokin’ Cola forever as an umbrella, catch-all name for everything I did, so when I decided to recommit myself to making music, I called it Smokin’ Cola almost as a placeholder. But it just grew, organically, into its own thing. It really fits the music, I think, but it’s also starting to influence the music in some ways.

Inspiration Behind the Name 'Smokin' Cola': What's the story behind the name 'Smokin' Cola'? How does it reflect the essence of your music and persona?

Well, those who get it, definitely get it, as far as the pun in the name, which is the technical origin of the name. And that is certainly a part of the persona. I gave the IRL answer above but Smokin’ Cola the band also has its own personality, which is all about making the most authentic, honest music possible and has a DIY, lo-fi ethos that sort of identifies the music and the general vibe of everything Smokin’ Cola does.

But the other part is that I am also Smokin’ Cola the musician, and there are, like, several of me. I’m Smokin’ the singer and guitarist who is kind of out there, then I’m Smokin’ the lead guitarist, who’s really into Johnny Marr and John Frusciante and I’m sure some guitar players not named John. And they’re a little different from Smokin’ the bass player who is, you know, the bass player. And the drummer is my computer.

Early Musical Environment: You mentioned growing up in radio stations and being surrounded by music through your parents. How do you think this unique childhood environment shaped your musical tastes and your approach to creating music?

Well, as one would expect, I just have a ton of musical influences (and I’m not afraid to use them). My dad worked in all kinds of formats, some of which I learned to really hate (haha), but I also have appreciation for a lot of music that doesn’t directly seem evident in my sound, whether it’s Top 40 pop stuff or whatnot. But what it really did was just make listening to music and constantly finding new music something that we just did, just as a regular part of life. So, some of my biggest influences are from when I was a kid and my dad was playing stuff like Tom Petty and Foreigner at work and then coming home and playing Bob Dylan and John Prine, then watching my mom and stepdad’s band play stuff like Pretenders and The Fixx, then watching Talking Heads and Blondie on SNL. But then I found stuff like Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers or Guns ‘n Roses and Metallica own my own. Then, you know, I was the right age to be right in the middle of the whole grunge thing, so that left a huge mark. And it’s never really stopped from there, so, yeah, that whole idea of constantly searching out and listening to new music is directly a huge part of who Smokin’ Cola is.

Musical Evolution: You've transitioned from playing in bands in your 20s and 30s to embarking on a solo project in your late 40s. Can you elaborate on how your musical style and objectives have evolved over the years, especially with the shift to a solo project?

This is a good question, that has been a really interesting transition, no doubt. So, I come from a very musical family, my parents, siblings, various extended family were (or are) all musicians. But I started seriously playing an instrument kind of late, in my senior year of high school (h/t Cliff Burton). I was a bass player in my first band, Disco Soul Saviour, which was in the mid 90’s and was kind of a rock/funk/rap thing. We were pretty good for a small-town band, played a bit all over Louisiana. When that broke up, I moved to Maryland, and my best friend from that band followed me up a few months later and, with others, started another band. That was Atomic Brown, and we were a 7 piece, really funky, experimental band. We had saxophone and steel drum; one guitar player played a synth setup pretty exclusively. I switched between vocals, guitar, bass, whatever. It could change gig to gig. But, as these things go, that ended for a variety of reasons after 3-4 years. After that I started doing some things solo, but, yeah, life happens, and I ended up doing not much more than occasionally strumming a guitar for way too long.

A huge thing that happened over that time was having kids, who are freaking awesome, but two specific ways they impacted me musically is, number one, singing a LOT of bedtime songs – I was never a confident singer (fire rapper, even if I keep that mostly in the back pocket these days, lol), even though both of my parents are fantastic singers. So that practice, in a real way, just kind of helped. And the other way is, I just had one of those things where, when my first kid was born, I just stopped caring what other people thought a little bit more – not in an “eff you” way, I was just, you know, a little more confident and a little more, for lack of a better term, a dad – different priorities suddenly.

Anyway, back to the question. Once I started figuring out what I was going to do with Smokin’ Cola, one thing I focused on was exploring the music that I’ve always just had in my head. And that music was a little different than what I had played with either of my bands. There are little similarities - I kind of can’t resist a little groove you can shake to – but for the most part, the music I naturally hear in my head has always been a little more rock ‘n roll, but still kind of experimental and filtered through all the different genres I’ve absorbed over the years. But figuring out how to do everything has been a…let’s call it a creatively stimulating process.

Influence Integration: With such a broad spectrum of influences from Johnny Cash to St. Vincent, how do you integrate these varied styles into your music without losing your distinct sound?

There are two ways I think I can approach this question. Going back to the last band I was in, Atomic Brown, we actually had a conceit (I think I’m using that correctly) where each member of the band was a Mr. or Ms. Brown. That’s how we would refer to ourselves on stage (I was the Downest Brown, for inquiring minds), and we very loosely built little personas onto them (or at least some of us did, I don’t want to necessarily speak for everyone; in any case, it was fun, and I liked it). So, I sort of borrowed that once Smokin’ Cola started coming to life; I think I mentioned this before, where I try to get into a different mindset for each instrument, and really build a persona around that. So like I mentioned before, I can kind of use my influences and assign them to each persona and go from there.

This is where I must break the fourth wall a little and talk about my non-musical career, which is in web development, specifically user experience. And a big thing in that field is building various personas for different users, so I also used that knowledge to inform, to a much less formal extent, the different Smokin’ Cola mindsets. Anyway, in a real sense, that’s how I organize some of my influences, because Smokin’ Cola, right now, is trying to focus on really honing a specific sound, so there is a conscious focus on more guitar-driven, yet eclectic, sounds. I have many that I’m not remotely using right now, though I think all the time how to incorporate them, from going back to some of my funk, hip-hop oriented musical roots, to some different heavier styles, to even some more international influences.

Parental Influence: You’ve mentioned your kids as one of your big influences. How has fatherhood influenced your songwriting and your perspective on music?

I know I touched on this a bit already, so I’ll share this anecdote – I mentioned singing bedtime songs to my kids and, for whatever reason these things happen, one day my kids decided they wanted me to sing Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer one night and that lasted for about 5 years. I’ve literally sang Rudolph thousands of times and, if I may say, I’ve got it down.

Another thing I’ll touch on is this: I mentioned how the music I hear in my head is a bit different from my previous band’s music, but I always resisted that in some way. I felt I was identified with a certain type of music and that’s what I had to create, and yet this weird rock and almost rootsy, dark folk stuff kept coming out and I just, like, couldn’t understand it! There was a point where I almost felt like lost the music a little bit, and I think that was partly because I was trying to create what I thought (in my own, wonderful, noisy mind) was somehow expected of me. You know, I wasn’t being authentic, even though I wasn’t really consciously aware of that.

But, when I had kids, I stopped caring as much about what anyone thought and more about just being a true, authentic person (and I will tell you that is summing up years’ worth of blood, sweat, and tears in one sentence) and when it came to music, that carried over. So, I started authentically exploring the sounds I always naturally gravitated towards, and it has just felt so much – not necessarily easier, but a lot more fun and fulfilling and something that I’m really proud of at this point.

Practical Advice for Aspiring Artists: Based on your experience, what practical steps would you recommend to aspiring artists in terms of developing their craft and finding their unique voice?

You know, I can only speak for myself, I think everyone has to find their voice in their own kind of way. But I would say, I think in terms of being unique, being authentic and honest in your music helps – I can make some straight-ahead rock music that I still think has a sound that’s unique to me, because I’m not trying to sound like this band or this guitar player, I’m just playing what I want, the way that I want.

Beyond that, I feel like a lot of it is true cliches – practice your craft, don’t be afraid to step outside the box, whatever. All of that is good. I guess in terms of practical advice, record yourself all the time, listen to it, figure out what you don’t like and how to fix it or what you want to change. I am constantly sneaking down to my studio to just play a few songs with my phone recording. Especially if you want to play live, I think this just a must do, because sometimes you get caught up playing and you’re not really listening to what the audience is hearing. So that’s probably my biggest piece of practical advice.

Rule-Breaking in Music Creation: You've described yourself as self-taught and unafraid to break rules. Can you give an example of how this approach has directly influenced one of your songs or albums?

It’s true that I am pretty self-taught and for many years I was kind of proud of not having had any lessons or anything. I mean, I picked up stuff from friends and musicians I knew. I worked in a guitar store for many years in my twenties and, you know, talked to the guitar instructors and overheard stuff in lessons, but that was pretty much it, haha. And I believe that definitely helped me develop my own sound and style, but, honestly, it also made it really difficult to finish songs and play with others, because a lot of the time I was really just kind of guessing what would happen if I played a particular thing.

So, at the risk of going against the question a little, one of the biggest things that happened right around the time Smokin’ Cola came into being is, I was (and this is a totally different story) in the process of finishing my bachelor's degree and I had to take an elective, which ended up being a FANTASTIC music ethnography class, which also really influenced me a great deal. But most importantly, the first couple of weeks of the class were, like, a music theory primer, so non-musicians would have some grounding in what to listen for; those two weeks basically connected so many dots that I had picked up over the years and suddenly I had this basic understanding of theory, and it was just mind expanding. I don’t know if it would have had the same effect at another point in my life, but it was just the right information at the right time and things just clicked. Now, I’m not suddenly some genius composer or something, but just knowing some things makes the whole process more – not less – creative and energizing.

But, like, I still am mostly self-taught and one thing I don’t have is a big repertoire of other people’s licks and riffs and stuff, so I feel like I still have my own sound. It’s like I have the best of both worlds – a little bit of education and the freedom of ignorance, for lack of a better way to put it.

Individuality in a Crowded Industry: In a music industry crowded with talent, how do you maintain your individuality and ensure your music stands out?

I mean, it’s right in the word, individuality – you have to be yourself. In my world, we’re all different, there is no “normal”, everything is a spectrum of something, so if you want to make rock or EDM or trap or Avant Garde piano, whatever, just be true to yourself and by default you have individuality.

One thing I think about though is that – so when I studied music ethnography, one of the most liberating things I learned was that the pentatonic scale isn’t just for blues music, it’s literally in everything. You know, classical music uses the pentatonic scale, choral and chanting music, even Indian music, you find the pentatonic scale in everything, because it’s just a universal set of sounds that resonate with human ears. Yet for so many years I refused to use it because I thought it wasn’t cool, like a dumbass, haha.

So, my point is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you don’t have to make every song some brand new thing the universe has never heard before. We’re all using the same set of notes and whatnot, just like painters are all using the same available colors, right? So, at least for me, I’ve gotten to a point where I’m just trying to make some songs that I like and am proud of; everything else should just flow from there.

Upcoming Projects: With plans for a new EP and potential live performances, how are you preparing for these new ventures? What can your fans expect from these upcoming projects in terms of style and substance?

Yeah, my plans for 2024 are still somewhat fluid – my plans always will be – but I am currently working on new music. I am participating in the Monthly Music Challenge (#MMC shout out to @CosmicBos on Twitter (or X or whatever)), so in theory that might end up being an album by the end of the year.

I have found that I work well with challenge-type projects; my EP Quadrivium came from the Album Writing Club put on by the Lights and Lines label last May and I’ll enter that again if it’s happening this year – my guess is that would be another EP, I have a few ideas I’m bouncing around.

I also want to do some covers, especially some stuff by my dad’s old band back in the 60’s. I think that will be really fun. And you never know what else; one of my favorite musicians right now is Truck Dog and the Go People and that guy is so prolific. I am, um, not, but that’s something I’d like to get better at. That’s kind of all about getting better at my own recording workflow and improving my skills at that craft.

That’s actually a good transition to talking about playing live, because one thing that slows me down is, like, I can write and record a song, but I also want to play it live and that’s its own process, especially figuring out how to play and sing parts together. So, I end up getting caught up learning how to play my own songs and not writing new songs. But I want to get a little more relaxed releasing some stuff that, heck, I may never play again, and being ok with that.

I do think my philosophy around songs is compatible with that idea. My personal way of thinking about songs and songwriting is sort of thinking that each time a song is played – and I mean whether live or listening to a recording – it is a unique, living version of itself. This is another area where I’ve evolved over the years, there was a time I had real issues finishing songs because I was trying to make the “perfect, final version”. But now, I’m like, “just finish the song the way that it is right now.”

Because, if I play it live, it’s likely going to be just me with a guitar, which will be completely different from a studio version with drums and bass and multiple layers anyway. And those versions might change and evolve too, from performance to performance, or as part of new bands or collaborations, so what the hell even is a “perfect, final version”. I just let go of that concept, at least as best as I can – I still want to put out something I’m proud of, so there’s a balance between making it good and not getting hung up on some tiny detail.

DIY Ethos and Collaboration: You've expressed a love for the DIY ethos. How do you balance this with the collaborative nature of music, especially as you plan to work with other musicians?

I think DIY and collaboration are completely compatible. You can do it yourself or do it yourselves, right? I am very open to musical collaborations – I mentioned Truck Dog and the Go People, and we’ve had some loose discussions that I am hopeful come to fruition this year. I’ve been very fortunate to find an awesome, supportive community of essentially DIY musicians online – I’m talking about people who are writing, playing, recording, and largely even mixing and mastering on their own, which is what I’m doing. We’re talking about genres that are incredibly diverse, as are the styles and the mixes, but the thing that everyone has in common is this love of independent music as art and the musicians as artists. That community has organically kind of organized itself and, thanks to some really incredible, generous people, recently culminated in Only the Label, a new record label of which I am incredibly honored to be part. I never thought I’d ever be able to I’m on a label, but here we are, haha.

But, in a very real sense, that’s another form of DIY collaboration, not must making music, but working together in a very real and intentional way to form a community and provide support structures and tools for promoting and growing ourselves as an artist. It’s just been something special to be involved with.

Engagement with the Local Music Scene: Being based outside of Baltimore with its vibrant punk scene, how do you plan to engage with and contribute to the local music community?

With great care, haha! No, I know some great people in the Baltimore scene and, even more, really, in Annapolis and this general area, that I have no doubts I will be welcomed and have some opportunities when I’m ready to get out there. Now it is kind of funny that, to this point, Smokin’ Cola is completely online, and I can honestly say I have more fans in England and Spain than I do locally. But I anticipate that changing a bit this year – for one, thanks to Only the Label I have discovered that a few of the people I’ve been interacting with online are somewhat local to me, so there’s been some discussion of putting together some label shows.

Beyond that though, I think my plan for 2023 was to create something that I could take out into the world and, for the most part, I did that. So, there are some local people I’ve known for years who are just starting to get wind that I’ve been making music again and I plan to spread that word locally more in 2024.

As far as supporting the scene, I think that’s really important, but for someone like me, who also has a family and career outside of music, it’s kind of do whatever you can, whenever you can. Probably the best thing I try to do is just be a good example of a cool guy and supportive fellow artist. There are enough critics and trolls out there, you know, so I just always try to focus on being supportive, especially to anyone who is just coming into the scene or putting themselves out there – that experience is recent stuff for me, so I have that perspective I can offer.

Adapting to Different Audiences and Venues: Can you share an experience where you had to adjust your performance style for a specific venue or audience? How did you approach this adaptation and what was the outcome?

This is kind of a weird question for me, since my recent experience playing live is pretty slim, going back ten or fifteen years. Though, now that I think about it, what live playing I did over that time is probably where the answer is. After Atomic Brown broke up, I didn’t play live again for at least five or six years, which ended when I played at this tiny fall harvest festival. That was actually the first time I ever played solo in public singing with at guitar, so that’s kind of the embryonic origin of Smokin’ Cola. That whole thing was an adjustment, from hearing myself through monitors to hitting the mic stand with the guitar neck, haha.

But the experience that really comes to mind was shortly after that, and that was when one of my best friends, Boo Valdez, who was in Atomic Brown with me, passed away. He was just a huge figure in our circle and beyond – I mean, he was stage manager for freaking Toto for a while – just the best, nicest, guy. So, a couple of months after he passed there was a tribute show in Annapolis and we had a mini-Atomic Brown reunion. But we were pretty scattered across the country at that point and not everyone could make it and, as it turned out, it sort of fell to me to do all the vocals, singing, rapping, screaming. I had done the last two actively – those were mostly my parts, but I had to sing all of Boo’s parts.

Boo had a great voice and, at that point, whatever my voice is, I had very little confidence. But I just went out and was like, “for Boo” and went for it. And I am not, by any means, a religious person, and even my spirituality is a little agnostic, but I’m telling you I felt Boo on that stage with me and I just sang along with him and, dammit, I left that show knowing I could do this. It was like the last, best gift Boo gave to me (though I am also the owner of his old washboard). Anyway, I don’t know if that exactly answers the question, but there were definitely adaptations made, both by and to me, that night.

Handling Criticism: As an artist, you’re likely to face criticism from fans or critics. How do you handle such feedback, and can you provide an example of how criticism has positively influenced your work?

If it’s given honestly and constructively, I totally welcome criticism – well, I’m at least open to it, haha. I know I’m not a virtuoso at anything I do, so there is certainly a lot of room for improvement. Hell, putting it all out there so the audience can follow my growth is part of the whole idea, Smokin’ Cola is supposed to be this organic, evolving thing. So, if someone wants to offer some tips on improving my mix or say, “Hey, does that note really fit there?” or says, “you’re a little pitchy, but if that’s intentional you should really lean into it (true story, h/t Loop City Slums)” then I’m taking that kind of stuff to heart.

As far as negative, not constructive feedback, I mostly just ignore it. Like, there’s different categories of it – someone might say my song sucks, but it’s kind of obvious that they don’t like weird rock music in general, so I’m not really going to take that personally. And if someone wants to go low and troll to get a reaction, well in my world that’s a reflection on them, not me, so again not going to take that personally.

Kind of going back to some of the stuff from before but getting to a place where you’re comfortable in your own skin of course helps with dealing with negativity. And being a positive, supportive person – you’re just going to get positivity back more than if you’re out there spreading negativity yourself.

Self-Promotion Strategies: What strategies do you employ to promote yourself as an artist? How do you utilize social media, networking events, or collaborations to reach your audience and industry professionals?

Ugh, I’m the wrong person to ask this question, haha. HELP! I NEED HELP WITH THIS!!!

Like, I’m pretty active on Twitter/X, intermittently on TikTok, sporadic on YouTube. The things I’ve had most success with is finding people who will play your music and give feedback – I already mentioned Loop City Slums, they are awesome about that. Only the Label basically grew out of something called the Indie Music Hunt, which is done by John Woodson, AKA Only the Host and is a daily live YouTube show where he plays whoever submits and newcomers get priority. That is appointment watching for me and I recommend anyone check it out. The community and feedback there is incredible. And there are lots of other great, supportive people like this if you look around, the Music Mondays podcast comes to mind, too.

It's kind of like when I was talking about the pentatonic scale – especially when you’re first starting out, you shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed for your fans to be other musicians. I’ve actually seen that criticism, “oh that’s just some circled jerk” or whatever – but how effing dumb is that? I LOVE that musicians like me. You know, the traditional music industry is pretty much nonexistent now for most of us indie musicians, so we’re all in the same boat trying to define what this new landscape looks like. It’s a really important time to support each other. But it’s also a time where there is SO MUCH music out there and, contrary to what a lot of people say, it’s a great time to be an indie music fan. And most of us indie musicians are of course fans too, so why not support each other in that way as best we can.

Anyway, that’s all I got for this question.

Balancing Artistic Expression and Commercial Appeal: How do you balance artistic expression with the need for commercial appeal in your music? Can you give an example of a project where you successfully achieved this balance?

This is a balancing act and, to be clear, to the extent that I’ve achieved this balance the commercial appeal was definitely theoretical! Really, I don’t focus on commercial success at all – if I make enough money off this to support itself or buy some new gear, that’s all good with me. That said, I do want to people to like my music – I’d like to think some people might bob their head or tap their foot and, heck buys a download or a t-shirt because they dig my song. So, when I write a song, I do try to really envision someone listening. I try to get out of my musician shoes and into my fan shoes. That’s a helpful exercise for me, actually, when trying to figure out how to phrase a line or arrange a song – how will this get a crowd going?

I might be a broken record, but it’s all going to go back to being true to yourself and focusing on doing things authentically, then trusting that things will flow from that.

Now, to counterbalance that thought – if you are really, authentically desiring of that commercial success, then you need to hustle, you need to grind, you better put your work in, you better be someone people can work with, or all the talent in the world won’t mean anything.

Composing for Film or Television: Have you ever composed music for film or television? If not, how would you approach such a project, and what aspects of your creativity do you think would contribute to its success?

That’s something I’d love to try, but I’ve never actually composed anything intentionally for film or any other medium. I do love tinkering and making videos for my songs, but that’s really on the hobby level right now – another thing that keeps me from writing new music, haha. But that’s part of the DIY mentality, to just throw yourself into, and really enjoy, whatever part of the creative process calls to you. Like most musicians and artists, I have a lot of creative energy, but that energy can manifest itself in all kinds of avenues. I love to create art, whether it is a song or album cover or video, and I have other non-musical outlets, too..

Challenges in Independent Music Production: As an independent artist, what are some of the challenges you face in music production? How have you overcome these challenges in your career?

For me the biggest challenge is just time – like I’ve mentioned, I have a family and a career outside of music and – as much as I love music, and I really intensely do – I love those things too, so I have to prioritize the best I can. Fortunately, I do work from home most days, so I try to do something productive for Smokin’ Cola every day, but when it comes to recording new music, it definitely helps to have a few days when the family is busy with school or whatnot. Then I can take a few days off work, and just focus. Kind of like booking time with myself in my home studio.

I think your challenges vary according to your goals, too. So, like, I’m not seeking fame and fortune, so I don’t have a lot of worries about do I have shows booked or how many units I’ve sold. I’m more concerned about creating something authentic and a being part of a community, so I worry about things like, making sure I contribute in terms of feedback or buying merch or recommending new artists to friends, as well as creating new content. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love that some of my songs have gotten way more streams than I ever expected and if this somehow finds me playing some festivals and selling merch in a few years and I somehow make some money, like I’ll never complain. But that would all be house money at that point. I just need to have this outlet.

Networking in the Music Industry: Networking is crucial in the music industry. How do you approach building and maintaining relationships with other industry professionals?

You know, I’m really new in terms of what Smokin’ Cola is doing and, though I have a few in different roles, my contacts in the industry are pretty few and far between. But, you know, this industry, whether you’re talking musicians or producers or stage crew, engineers, labels, there are a lot of characters that you come across, so I think just being a cool, real person is a good place to start. Not something I ever thought I’d say, but Twitter, I think, is actually one of the best places for musicians to network, at least in my experience. Maybe I’m lucky, but that’s where I really found my people the last few years. Be interested in other people, ask questions about stuff you’re genuinely interested in, stuff like that will never steer you wrong.

Influence of Early Music Experience: Reflecting on your early years, what was the role of music in your life and how has it influenced your journey as an artist?

First Musical Experiences: What was the first instrument you learned to play and what is the story behind your stage name, Smokin' Cola?

Personal Inspiration and Artistic Creation: Who are your personal inspirations in the music industry, and how do they influence your creative process and artistic creation?

I kind of feel like I’ve already answered these last three questions for the most part. I will say, in response to the last one, my biggest inspirations these days are my fellow independent artists. It’s very energizing to see and hear people out there creating and putting themselves out there daily. It’s inspiring from an effort standpoint, it’s also inspiring in regard to being inspired to try new things, whether different genres or arrangements or tonal pallets. My personal aspirations are pretty simple – just keep makin’ music. I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

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Special Lyric Review Face My Love

The lyrics to "Face My Love" are quite expressive and touch on themes of vulnerability, love, and the fear of not being enough for someone else. The song seems to navigate the complexities of a deep emotional relationship, where one person is seeking validation and a decision from their loved one.

Emotional Depth: The repetition of "face my love" could symbolize a plea for the other person to confront the reality of the relationship, to acknowledge the depth of the feelings involved. It's a call for openness and honesty.

Insecurity and Doubt: Lines like "I'm never gonna be good enough for you my dear" reflect a deep-seated insecurity and fear of rejection. This sentiment is common in many romantic relationships where one person feels unworthy of the other's love.

Urgency and Decision: The recurring lines "So you've got a choice to make, Will you run, Or face my love?" emphasize a sense of urgency and the need for a decision. It's as if the speaker is at a crossroads, needing to know whether their partner is fully committed to the relationship.

Self-Reflection and Realization: Phrases like "Then one day, it occurred to me, You're my life, I don't wanna die" suggest a moment of profound realization about the importance of the relationship in the speaker’s life. It’s a recognition of how deeply they value the other person.

Imagery and Metaphors: The use of imagery, such as "Oh little stars, how they shine," adds a poetic quality to the lyrics, creating a romantic and somewhat dreamy backdrop to the song's emotional core.

Confrontation and Resolution: The final lines, "This is just the rest of our lives, Look me right in the eyes, And tell me, What are you going to do?" bring the song to a climax, demanding a confrontation and a resolution. It's a moment of truth for the relationship.

Overall, the lyrics are laden with emotion, combining elements of love, fear, and the longing for clarity and commitment in a relationship. The songwriter uses repetition effectively to emphasize the main message and create a sense of urgency.

Lyric Story Stars of Decision

Created by Indie Mastered

Copyright 2024 Smokin' Cola

In the quaint town of Luminara, where stars shone brighter than anywhere else, lived two souls entwined by fate but separated by doubts. Ella, with a heart full of dreams, and Noah, a poet at heart, found themselves at a crossroads, under the very stars they once wished upon.

Ella, with eyes reflecting the night sky, had always been the anchor in Noah's tumultuous world. Her love was a sanctuary, unwavering and pure. Yet, Noah, plagued by insecurities, often wondered, "Am I good enough for her?"

One night, under the luminescent glow of the stars, their unspoken fears and desires came to the forefront. Ella, ever patient, had waited for Noah to see what she always saw in him – a kindred spirit, a soul mate.

"Noah," Ella whispered, her voice as soft as the night breeze, "you've always been more than enough. Your love, your fears, your hopes – they've all held a space in my heart. But it's time for you to face my love, face the truth of us."

Noah's eyes, usually filled with poetic verses, now mirrored a storm of emotions. The stars above seemed to dance, casting a celestial glow upon them. He realized then that his love for Ella was not a quiet stream but a roaring ocean.

"Face my love," Ella repeated, her hand reaching for his. "Will you run from us or embrace what we have?"

As they stood under the starlit sky, Noah felt a shift within him. The words he often penned in solitude now found their voice. "Ella, you are my life, my muse, the star that guides me through my darkest nights. I've been a fool, lost in my own fears, blind to the love that was always here."

With a newfound courage, Noah looked into Ella's eyes, their future reflecting in them. "I won't run anymore. I choose to face your love, our love, and embrace whatever comes our way. This isn't a compromise; it's the beginning of the rest of our lives."

That night, under the watchful eyes of the stars, Ella and Noah's hearts aligned in unison. They realized that love wasn't just about facing each other but also facing themselves – their fears, their hopes, and their dreams.

As dawn approached, with the first light breaking the night's embrace, Ella and Noah knew that their journey wouldn't be easy. But with love as their compass and the stars as their witnesses, they were ready to face it all, together.