A Chat With Bear Hands' Ted Feldman

Post-punk/rock band Bear Hands just celebrated their 10th anniversary and are currently on tour with Foals. We were able to catch them play at the Hollywood Palladium and chat with guitarist Ted Feldman about their new album, tour life, and a little friendly competition with Foals. 

How did you guys meet?

I went to college with Dylan, our singer, and he introduced me to Val and TJ at our first practice, in NY, the summer after my freshman year.  Dylan and I met on the set of working on a film together.

What type of film?

It was like a student film. It was like a historical fiction student film.

Was it good? *laughs* 

I don’t know how it came out. It was probably… she got a passing grade.

Oh you never watched it?

I don’t remember seeing it in the end. It was alright * Laughs*

Alright, so since you guys have been together for ten years now, your anniversary just happened. Has the dynamic changed over the years, at all?

Definitely

Because you guys have obviously grown as people. Ten years is a long time.

Absolutely. When we started, from the first day, we were arranging altogether on the fly, some songs that Dylan had written. Over time, I’ve done a lot more writing and I think our sound has changed. We’ve had more instruments and electronics.  And yeah…. I don’t know, its hard to say exactly how,  but we’ve gone from being really excited by playing with new people to being keenly aware of everyone's habits. There’s a lot of chaffing that happens when you know what someone’s about to do before they do it. You go from hating that to loving that.

The predictability?

The predictability! And wanting to change it. And we used to fight a lot more.

It’s not like the honeymoon phase anymore, you're in the comfortable phase

Yeah, we know each other very well. I don’t know how much more the dynamic will change from here. Things happen, people move cities.

Since you were speaking about habits, you’ve toured with Passion Pit, Cage the Elephant, all those big massive bands, has anything they’ve done rubbed off on you? Either musically or not.

I don’t feel like we’ve been influenced musically by the bands we’ve toured with, but certainly seeing what is possible on a stage or steal some gear.

You try it out?

Yeah you try it out or you realize theres a lot of routing instruments. It could be simpler. Like of course, I can run my pedals this way. Things that seasoned bands or more professional bands or bigger bands, like have things streamlined that we’ve adopted.

Now the album title, You’ll Pay For This... why? Because I think that’s such an interesting album title that just grabs your attention.

What does it make you think of?

Honestly, I think of a guy going “you’ll pay for this!” with his fist balled up and like kind of angry OR like you’re going to pay for this album!

Exactly! That was the intention. I think those things, those kind of funny cartoon-y revenge thing and (we’re) in this crazy time of streaming music. But also I thought it was fitting because of some of the lyrical aspects. Like there are consequences for actions and what you do when you’re 21 alters your life when you’re 29. 

If anything, it makes me question why? Its not clear, which I like. It made me think about it. What do you think is different about this album than Distraction? Other than obvious sound differences, more electronic influences.

Yeah, the arrangements are thicker. We paid less attention to how’d we execute it live before we made the record. Which gave us the freedom to add all sorts of layers and things and we’re still sort of figuring out how to rearrange and translate it for live shows. We worked with James Brown, who mixed our other records. But he was in production with us and I think that changed the dynamic of the sound a lot. I also think the songwriting went longer and deeper.

Do you think sequestering yourself up in Big Bear really helped with that?

Yeah its a lot easier, or a lot more effective, when youre sequestered and don’t have any distractions. You spend all day and all night finishing an idea. Like if you have an idea, and if you have dinner plans, you’re gonna abandon your idea because you have obligations. If you have an idea and you get so far and you need a break, but there’s literally nothing else to do, you keep working on it. You’ll get to the next stage.

Since you guys have been touring for about 10 months solidly or a pretty good chunk of time,  is there anything you NEED to have on the road?

I need time blocked out for us to take care of business stuff and things that just aren’t the shows. Because if we don’t sit and have a meeting and talk about release schedules and videos or whatever, it just doesn’t get done. You get into a routine during tour and everything just kind of falls by the wayside. So having that and also blocking out time for myself. Just making an effort to get away from the touring party and do something on my own.

It helps you keep your sanity a little bit?

Yeah positive headspace. Yeah and its all awkward or weird if we’re all sitting in the van and someone just shouts out the important decision we have to make. We’ll just deal with it later.

You don’t know if everyone’s ready to deal with it in that exact moment in time. So scheduling really gets everyone mentally prepared?

Yeah,  so I‘ve learned that you need to make an effort to schedule time to focus on business but also personal well-being

Is there anything influential that you’ve seen? Places, things that have happened during the shows, just moments that make you go "Wow I can’t believe I’m seeing or experiencing this"?

This tour so far, this is day four of this run, and we’re playing these really beautiful theaters. So yesterday we walked into the Fox Theater in Oakland and a lot of people were telling us how great it was. But then we were standing there at sound check in an empty place and Val and I were talking about how lucky we feel to be able to play in an amazing room like that. Some times things are really hard but what a privilege (its is that) we are able to do this for our work and for fun. Also I had a really crazy Uber driver that I was happy about.

*Laughs * Happy about? Crazy in a good way?

Yeah, he was an intelligent and maybe crazy dude.

Philosophical?

Yes, we got into a deep philosophical discussion about the origin of man.

How long was this Uber ride?!

Like 30 minutes.

I was kind of let in on the fact that you guys like to have basketball matches. How’s that going so far?

Actually we haven’t played yet. But Foals is carrying a hoop with them in their uh…

Like a sticky hoop of sorts?

No like a stand up, regulation sized hoop. And we all got Nikes.

So you’re like prepped. Are they matching?

Uh well, they all have swooshes on them.

*Laughs* Well whats your prediction for that?

Well we have this new crew member, named Aaron, that does our monitors. He’s like 7…. like 7 something. He’s insanely tall.

So you’ll stick him under the hoop?

Yeah, so now we are just gonna detroy. We have the advantage.

Last question: so since you just started this tour, what do you hope will happen by the end of it? I know that’s a very broad question.

Well like with any tour, I hope that we’ve reached some new people, converted some new fans. That would be ideal. Most people will be coming out for Foals but I hope they catch some of our set and enjoy it.

Well they’ll be paying for it, that’s forsure!

Certaintly. We’re just happy to be on tour with friends and having a good time.

The Misfits Toys Tour: Ryn Weaver, ASTR, and HOLYCHILD at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana, November 5th, 2015

The Misfits Toys Tour consists of three acts who have an incredulous amount of creativity that oozes from their pores, which is visualized on stage through dance, fashion, and the very essence of their presence. The first of the three to hit the stage was HOLYCHILD.

Hailing from Los Angeles, HOLYCHILD shocks their audience with their ornate and radiant sense of style, but takes you by surprise with the powerful message behind the brand of music they've aptly titled 'brat pop'. Liz and Louie define this new genre of music as a way to speak about the very things society revolves around (gender, age, money, beauty, and celebrity) but in a sarcastic manner. Their stage show largely consists of Liz dancing around the entire venue, including hopping up on the bar, straddling the patrons sitting in the back while she walks across the couches, and jumping into the crowd to hug every nearby fan. After doing some research and watching their "Money on My Mind" video, I now understand how they've gained such acclaim and a significant following in the last 3 years. Their message is bold and they don't shy away from presenting it in way that's anything less than eye-catching or shocking.

Following HOLYCHILD's magnetic performance was ASTR. The duo consists of New Yorkers Zoe and Adam, who took the internet by storm after performing at CMJ and releasing their Varsity EP in 2014. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with them and chat about the tour, their new Homecoming EP, future ambitions, and of course, food.

Initially, I was curious to hear what city had shown them the most love out of the four dates they had played on the tour. They both agreed that on past tours and the present one that, "Every time we go to Portland, its weird but the turn up is real". Then we started chatting about the many festivals they've played over the past two years including, Governor's Ball, Voodoo, SXSW, and Fun Fun Fun Fest. Out of all the acclaimed festivals that they've played, they raved about the Sweetlife festival in Maryland as having the best food and that they were able to play alongside amazing artists such as Lana Del Rey and Chromeo. I also was interested in knowing whether they liked seclusion and isolation when they create music or if they preferred to stay in the busy city life that is New York: "It's nice when you can break it up... It's your real life. Writing is real life, its not a vacation. It's everyday, it's all the time". ASTR revealed that they are excited to spend the winter in LA because of the community, especially at the studios. The interaction and run-ins with other artists is a constant motivation to create the best music possible: "If you're in New York, you're isolated, you're out there, you don't know what else is going on, other people's processes, what other people are doing. In a way, the competition of LA makes you work hard." When I pressed them about the album and the release date, they said it'll definitely be released in 2016 and possibly a "series of ideas...visual interactive stream, a collage of sorts" to go along with it. Without a doubt, this is only the beginning for ASTR. Their brand of electronic synth-pop will be sure to make it alongside the ranks of Ellie Goulding soon enough.

The headliner of the Misfit Toys tour, Ryn Weaver, I spotted earlier outside the venue sitting with her fans in a circle around her while she took a cigarette break. Ryn glows when she sings and just like HOLYCHILD, loves to interact with the crowd in a way that most don't dare. During several songs, she caressed a boy's face and played with his hair while she sang to him. Anytime she spotted someone singing along with her, Ryn's eyes would light up and she would give them a huge grin. Essentially, the entire crowd fell in love with her and was hypnotized by her music.

Her debut album, The Fool, was released in June of this year and has already had tremendous success with its indie pop/alternative tunes. Before the release of her album, the single Octahate was a viral sensation, with the help of Cashmere Cat's remix which has over 2 million plays on Soundcloud alone. Ryn's album is flawless; she has crafted an album that you can play on constant rotation without skipping a single song. All artists strive to achieve this feat, but few are actually able to accomplish it. Ryn certainly is in a class of her own and will be leading the pack of pop singers to come with her talent, message, and music.

Scattered Melodies vs. The World in "Modern Repair"

Picture this: a band with only a bassist and a drummer. No lead singer, no guitarist, just the rhythm section. Hard to imagine? When Josh Montag and Jake Johnston were left in this predicament after The Morning After disbanded in 2011, they were forced to get creative. To continue to make music, they obviously were in need of some more members. After struggling to find the right fit, Montag came up with a brilliant idea. How about we bring in different singers to feature on our songs? And in that moment, Scattered Melodies was born.

Two years later, their ingenuity became a reality. They released A Collective Agreement in summer of 2013. “Most of the artists were people we were already friends with so that made it easy to collaborate and come up with an album's worth of songs,” said Montag. Taking a chance on something innovative and “winging” it, they had no clue how successful the idea would be. Needless to say, it worked.

Once word got out of what Scattered Melodies was doing, the calls started rolling in. There was a buzz within the Phoenix music scene, and instead of having to initiate collaborations, artists were coming to them. The duo quickly began writing for their new album in August of 2013. Due to the ease of finding talent to work with, the band had an easier time creating a general theme and message.

Joining the duo on Modern Repair are musicians of all genres including reggae soul singer Ruca, funky folk musician M.R. Mal, and members of several local bands like The Hourglass Cats, Treasurefruit and Pride Through Strife. Working with so many different artists took a lot of time and effort, but Montag said the extra work was “worth every minute of it.” Getting to team up with so many people was inspirational for the group, and it’s reflected on the album. “Every collaboration happens a different way, which keeps things fresh and exciting for us.”

In order to keep the theme of Modern Repair throughout the entire record, Montag would ask the singers two questions: What are some things you see that are wrong or corrupt in our country/world? And what would you like to see done to try and change those things? “Everyone was super passionate about this idea and they all brought inspiring and realistic ideas to the table,” Montag said.

The album’s first single, “Every Race at the Finish Line” delves into the recent riots and racial issues plaguing the country. The premise for the song came to Montag late one night when he was pondering the current state of racism. The lyrics describe stereotypes and judgments due to looks; something we have all encountered in our lives. Montag chose this song to introduce the record because he felt it was a good way to say, “This album is going to talk about some real shit so we might as well start right off the bat with something that everyone can relate to.”

Modern Repair also touches upon greed with the opening track “Sunset Choir”, the corruption of our governmental system in “Research and Destroy” and the impact of the press in “The Media’s Shelf Life” among other worldly issues. Each song has it’s own unique sound but focuses on a powerful message. “We hope that our new record reflects a positive and conscience message on what we can all do to make the world a better and happier place for everyone,” said Montag.

Modern Repair will be available on iTunes starting September 18th.  You can also catch Scattered Melodies with featured artists live at the 4th Annual Sidepony Express Music Festival in Bisbee, Arizona this November.

URN Returns from the Ashes

After several years out of the spotlight, dark metal band URN is back with their third full-length album Epiphany. Their first effort since Scribings of a Forgotten Soul in 2009 and first produced by Dark Moon Records, the album shows the band’s evolution over their 20-year existence.

The brainchild that would come to be Epiphany started its creation in 2011 after the band took some time off to focus on their personal lives, family, and “to gain a fresh perspective” following heavy touring to promote Scribings. The extreme life changes the members went through in that time period provided easy inspiration for the album’s name. “It summed up a great deal of what many of us on an individual level had come to learn about ourselves,” said Founder and Frontman Dominic St. Charles.

These life changes and emotions are heavily reflected in Epiphany. From the haunting “Empty Promises,” which touches on loss, to the self-titled track that delves into the hardships of finding yourself, there is something for any fan to relate to. The album’s first single, “Cast in Amber” represents some of the depression the band has faced over the years and triumphed. A sequel to “Etched in Stone” from their 2006 album Dancing with the Demigods, the song is written in the form of a suicide letter.

‘The true message of what we are trying to convey is no matter how bad life can seem, there is no difficulty too great that it cannot be lessened and that life itself is a beautiful gift meant to be cherished and shared,” said St. Charles. The debut video, he said, portrays the sentiment that once someone has left his loved ones behind he hopes that they will one day forgive him and think better of him than he obviously thought of himself.

The album is an emotional one for the band, who lost an integral part of the group earlier this year. Great friend and fill-in bassist Scott Clendenin passed in March after health complications. Formerly of the pioneering death metal band Death, Clendenin had a lot of input in the band’s catalog. “It calls to light not to take people for granted, you never really know how much time you have with someone,” said St. Charles.

URN lends a lot of their success to their versatility, which has captivated audiences across multiple genres. Epiphany focuses on the more Celtic/folk side of the band, which has drawn rave reviews from fans in the past. The album integrates a heavy use of non-traditional rock instruments such as the violin and harp as a departure from the use of keyboards. The group still believes in a symphonic approach, but St. Charles said that “this migration stylistically we felt was a natural progression for us.”

The band is currently working on booking a tour to promote Epiphany. Though they have been “blessed” to tour with some of their heroes in the past, they have their eye on Paradise Lost and Cradle of Filth to share the stage with.

In Memory of Scott Clendenin (January 17, 1968 – March 24, 2015)

An Interview with The Hollywood Kills

The Hollywood Kills is composed of Vocalist & Guitarist Brent Powelson, Guitarist Cody Wilson, Drummer Johnny Angel and Bassist Preston Jackson.

The Hollywood Kills is composed of Vocalist & Guitarist Brent Powelson, Guitarist Cody Wilson, Drummer Johnny Angel and Bassist Preston Jackson.

Fifteen Minute Media sat down with The Hollywood Kills, a rock band from Nashville, and talked about their favorite tour, writing process, and craziest fan encounter. Spoiler: Lead Singer Brent Powelson's mustache is a total crowd pleaser. 

Q: Before The Hollywood Kills was created each of you played in different Nashville-based bands. Can you tell me the names of those bands you were previously a part of?

A: Covington, Farewell Fighter, Static Revival, Frances and the Foundation.

Q: You have shared the stage with Fall Out Boy, 3 Doors Down, Cage The Elephant, and Everclear. You’ve also toured with The Pretty Reckless and even played on Vans Warped Tour. Out of all those shows, which one was the most exciting to be apart of?

A: The Pretty Reckless. There were 30 dates on the tour and all had great crowds. We ended up getting really close to the band. The end of this tour was awesome too—at the end we ended up in Orlando and went to Disney World, which was awesome.

Q: Speaking of great crowds, do you have any stories about any crazy fan encounters?

A: Once we got asked to sign a mother’s shirt. It turns out the shirt was really low cut. She was hot though. Fans usually just ask if they can touch Brent’s ‘stache. He’s just like, sure, but wash your hands first.

Q: What is your creative process when writing songs? Are you most motivated to write when you are experiencing sadness, love, anger or happiness?

A: Sadness usually gets us singing. We create some random songs—like, we just made a song about an X-Men character.

Q: How do you think music affects you and the world around you?

Growing up in Nashville, the music capital of the world, music had a lot to do with shaping who we are. Music is something that has the ability to bring people together, because it is something we all love and are touched by. Music has the power to not only affect your mood; it also has an impact on the way we perceive the world.  

Q: With that in mind, how do you hope to influence the world through your music?

A: Art is neglected—nowadays it’s about creating music that people are going to react to. It used to be so much more than creating songs just to make a profit. We believe music that is honest is more important than anything.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share—from new merchandise, to upcoming shows, tours, songs, albums or a message to your fans?

A: Next month one of our band members, Preston, is getting married. Since the band is more tied down now time is limited to go on tour. However, we are still committed to bringing music to the fans.

Thrive: A Band and a Movement

We're crammed into a tiny green room at Neck of the Woods venue in San Francisco on a rainy Friday night. The sound of the opening act's set is reverberating through the walls, matching the positive vibes emitting from musicians Aaron Borowitz and Matt Masih.

Their band, Thrive, is on the tale end of their 6-show California tour with Maui-based Inna Vision. The 5-man group was founded by Borowitz, the lead singer and guitarist, in early 2008 and has taken the California reggae scene by storm since then. Their most recent album charted number 3 on iTunes and number 6 on the Billboard charts.

The group’s unique sound stems from each member’s variety of musical influences. Their differing tastes in music, from gospel and soul to R&B and of course reggae, have helped their sound evolve and the group has become a pioneer within the genre.

It's quickly apparent by their upbeat attitude that the soulful band from Santa Cruz practices what they preach. According to their website bio, they pride themselves on carving a ‘positive, new musical niche in a world where materialistic and careless attitudes prevail.’

These positive vibes are inspiring; especially due to the tragedy the band faced in the past couple years. In December of 2013, their saxophone player, Scott Schipper, lost a 2-year battle with cancer. Borowitz says losing a huge piece of their band, and lives, has been an “eye opening experience” and pushes them to work harder. They still stay connected to Schipper’s parents, who are avid supporters of the band.

“Scotty was a big motivation in this group. We still feel his motivation everyday that we are on the road and everyday that we hit a stage. We still feel his presence with us every time that we play,” said Masih.

When Schipper was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in 2011, he didn't let the disease overcome him, but instead used his misfortune to help others. He created Unify to Thrive, a nonprofit that raises cancer awareness and offers support groups for young adults.

The organization is in a transition period, but the band plans to continue running it in Scott's memory. They will have a booth at Cali Roots, a 3-day reggae festival in Monterey in May, with shirts, bracelets and hats to support the cause. They are debuting a brand new line of merchandise, one of Scott’s many passions, which they are excited about.

Though the band itself isn't in the lineup for this year's festival, they have plans to play a secret acoustic show at some point during the weekend.

“We have a new album coming out, so we are going to be out [there] with the presence of that album and pushing it and telling people about it,” said Borowitz.

The album is the first for the band since they released Relentless in May of 2013 and incorporates songs they’ve collected over the past year or two. Borowitz hopes the new EP, which the band has been in the studio working on the past couple of months, shows the growth they have experienced after everything they’ve been through. 

“For the first time in all of our years playing music, this little EP that we put together is some of the most proud music I’ve ever done in my life.”

Masih believes the collaboration and chemistry they’ve had creating the album has not only shown the growth they’ve had as individuals, but also enhanced their live performance as well. He said that the overall vibe of the project has come together effortlessly and “everybody wants to be a part of it”.

If you go to a Thrive show, you can bet on being a part of a large group photo Borowitz usually takes from the stage. The band is really in touch with their fans, encouraging them to be a part of their growth and success, especially in regards to the new album.

“That’s our main focus, to connect everybody together,” Masih said. “It’s about making music about real things that real people go through,” Borowitz added.

The band is planning on announcing their next hometown show in Santa Cruz Tuesday, and promises it will be full of special guests. For more information, follow them on social media or check their website thrivetheband.com.

To find out more about Thrive’s non-profit organization, please visit UnifytoThrive.org or make a stop at their booth at this year’s Cali Roots festival May 22-24.