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Author: Brian Murff

Take a walk with Ring Of Truth

A little bit punk, a little bit alt rock, and a whole lot of 1960s-style pop rock, Ring of Truth’s album Everything’s The Same But In A Different Place is a musical adventure that takes you along as the band explores variations on a signature sound. That sounded weird, let me rephrase. They experiment a bit, but you’ll easily be able to identify a common, unifying thread through the album. It’s an enjoyable if somewhat short work, clocking in at just over half an hour. Their sound seems like a mix of Sons and Daughters, the Raconteurs, and the Beatles. It’s energetic and earnest, the kind of stuff where you can tell they’re really enjoying performing.

The song “Well, I Walked” caught my ear almost immediately; it’s one of the most distinctive on the album, and quite representative of their sound. Generally Ring of Truth have a 1960s sound not unlike the Beatles or Beach Boys, and it works quite well for them. A sweet little guitar lick in the middle completes the track, and tempted me to air guitar a bit. “Maybe this is heaven, maybe this is hell / it seems to me these days they’re one and the same.” You won’t find any deep lyrics here, just light, catchy pop-rock.

The 1960s-styling continues into “Why Should This Be?,” albeit with a different tone near the end. It took on an almost psychedelic feel to it, a sonic blending of guitars, multiple vocal parts, and what sounded suspiciously like a sitar (correct me if I’m wrong, guys). The vocalist’s full potential shows through on the track as he gives it a bit more energy and emotion, with a sound that’s a bit rough on occasion. The end melts into a guitar-heavy instrumental session, a fitting end to the song.

Ring of Truth’s punk influence shows through in “Never Compromise,” which takes on a slightly 1980s, doomsday-ish tone in the chorus. They sing, ” I never compromised / you never compromised / we never compromised / there’s no compromise.” Amusingly enough, they can’t seem to leave out that 1960s influence, as the style mutates back into pop-rock for five or ten seconds at a time. “A Spanish Hunger” further fleshes out the album with a sound that is distinctly Ring of Truth, but also a clear break from earlier songs. Frantic hand claps and easygoing rhythm guitar create a fun, almost tropical style.

That potential I mentioned the vocalist had on “Why Should This Be?” comes out full-force on “Smile,” the next-to-last song of the album. It’s raucous and a bit crazy, with the lead singer wailing his lyrics over distorted guitar that has a touch of soul to it. It’s a strong performance from Ring of Truth, and I absolutely loved it. The album progresses well, going from the pop-rock, lighter fare of the opening, to more of a mellow tone in the middle, ending with the likes of “Smile” that are pure, unadulterated rock in all its vibrant and energetic glory.

Everything’s The Same But In A Different Place is a strong offering from Ring of Truth . It’s clean and polished, with a sound that at once pays homage to music of an earlier time and makes its own way. It makes for a fun listen, and I’d recommend it for listeners of diverse tastes – as long as you like some form of rock, you’ll probably like this one.

Photons Are Glorious

Photons have got some serious talent, if Glory! EP is any indication. Even with only four songs, the album displays a depth of talent and songwriting that most bands never develop, and this is just their first effort. Their sound is entrancing, mixing dream-like instrumentals with punchy hits and wailing lyrics.

“Waves and Gamma Rays” starts off Glory! EP. The instrumentation isn’t that of your typical rock band; specifically, they don’t use any bass guitar. Paired with lots of color instrumentation, the Photons produce a very light-hearted, cheery sound. Though short, “Waves and Gamma Rays” is a fun little number, and piqued my curiosity for the remainder of the EP. In comparison to other bands, I drew a fairly strong correlation to The Polyphonic Spree’s sound, though lead vocals sound more like they’re from The Decemberists or Gogol Bordello.

The title track “Glory!” opens with rock and wailing lyrics that really come into their own, sounding plaintive and passionate. So far as I can tell, there wasn’t any post-processing done on the recording of this album, lending it something of a garage-rock sound. It isn’t what I was expecting, but the raw feel of the vocals and lack of bass are really working well here. Near the end of the track, backup vocals come in and really complete the song.

“Where Were You Last Night” brings in some of the most fascinating instrumentation of the album. It starts with some fun percussion – marimba, or maybe xylophone? Something like that. In an unexpected turn, bassoon enters at around forty-five seconds, and it works surprisingly well for them. It’s really making their sound unique and a pleasure to hear. The more I listen to Glory! EP, the more I’m getting a feel for the characteristic sounds of the Photons. You can expect those emotional vocals from their front man, periodic backup vocals, an unfinished and slightly raw sound, and unique instrumentation.

The album closes with “Witness Protection,” and gets back to the light-hearted feel it opened with, which seems to be an over-arching theme. The song features dual male and female lead vocals, as well as a backup ensemble. The tone and energy level wind down from the previous two songs, but still comes across as very fun, and very much reminiscent of The Polyphonic Spree. Really, I can’t wait to hear a full-length album from these guys, and I somewhat selfishly hope I get to review it. Do yourself a favor and give these guys a listen.

Mesmerized by Cryptacize

There are some artists who don’t do anything more than retread familiar tones and grooves, and others who go so far out of their way to “challenge your perception of music” that the product becomes distinctly unenjoyable. In between those two extremes is a territory where musicians find a happy balance between the two pursuits. That territory is where you can find Cryptacize and their new album Mythomania.

Their sound includes familiar elements of rock, alternatingof artists like Radiohead, The Shins, and Architecture in Helsinki. Mythomania has two main elements constantly at odds – the guitar and drums providing a solid foundation on which the music is based, and light, floating vocals that see male and female vocals, and the periodic use of keyboard or organ. At various times they reminded me m to be almost the exact opposite of the instrumentals. “Tail And Mane” is a fun example of this, and gave me impressions of a boardwalk or circus scene. The instrumentals and vocals are sometimes on different time signatures, melting in and out of phase with each other. On the song “What You Can’t See Is,” this technique works to great effect.

In “Blue Tears,” the guitar is a standout, providing a wicked intro. Rhythm on this song is fascinating, and indicative of the quality over the whole album. It’s driving, fun, and fresh, providing great contrast against the vocals.

One of my favorite tracks was “The Loving Sun.” Heavily distorted guitar follows a keyboard opening. It’s paired with a soft female vocal part, and makes for a great sound. It’s a short track, but I love it. Male backup vocals and some great harmonizing seal the deal for this song.

In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t been able to listen to this entire album. I’m working out of China, with a somewhat less-than-stellar internet connection. I’ve gone through my three allotted downloads, with each of them failing. Frankly, it’s killing me. There are five tracks at the end of the album I haven’t been able to hear, but if the others are any indication, they’re probably really cool.

With Mythomania, Cryptacize demonstrates greater musical depth and capability than your average band. If you’ve got the scratch, this is an album well worth purchasing.

Conceptual Music is Tough, but Tasty

There are music albums, and then there are conceptual albums. Hand in the Dark by Tin Veil falls firmly into the second category. The album’s sound is ephemeral, floating; every time you think there’s a pattern emerging, it takes a completely different course. Vocals range from trippy, wordless effusions to a wailing, pseudo-Flyleaf sound. The album is perhaps a bit too long for what it is, occasionally losing focus, but the end result is plenty rewarding even after the slightly-confusing mix. Tin Veil’s instrumentation consists of guitar, a ton of synth, and vocals.

Describing individual songs in detail is a little difficult for this album, perhaps even pointless, because the point isn’t what each song sounds like, but rather the emotional layer it adds to the whole. These tracks aren’t readily accessible by the mainstream public, and there will be peace in the Middle East before any of them breaks into the Top 40. That being said, here’s what I can tell you:

Hand in the Dark opens with “Intro A,” heavy on synth and effects, but light on actual music. Tin Veil’s vocalist erupts with half-uttered phrases and nonsensical ramblings that give the listener a vague idea of something being wrong, but no clear idea of what’s going on. Deeper in, “Dartboard” features light guitar and moaning lyrics; it has an echo-y, melodramatic tone. I could be wrong, but it seems as though the aim of the vocals is more to give an idea of a character and her circumstances than to actually sound good. That may sound harsh, but I want to make it clear that this is a conceptual album – it’s not readily accessible music, and even listeners experienced with this stuff may have a hard time getting into it.

The album swings in a different direction on “Float,” sounding more trippy and strange than the somewhat overdone quality of the earlier track. It starts out dreamy, then gets a bit like a bad trip, anxious and scared.

Near the end, a repetition of ideas from “Dartboard” surfaces in “Intro B.” Concepts come full circle, bringing a new level of understanding. “Intro B” has a different tone than “Dartboard;” it’s lighter, perhaps even hopeful or optimistic.

Honestly? Don’t listen to this album for its musical quality, because it isn’t strong in that area. Listen to it with the intention to do so as a thought exercise, because that’s where it excels. Each song on the album reveals further dimensionality whatever it is that you interpret this album as being representative of. I had a very strong feeling of a single person as I gave the album repeated listens; maybe you’ll get something else entirely out of it. Regardless, if you like conceptual albums and you find appeal in the idea of learning to think differently about what an album can be, Hand in the Dark wouldn’t be a bad choice.

Kings and an Untruth

It took me a little longer than usual to write this review. I downloaded the Lie To Me EP by Kingsbury, unzipped it, and added the album to my music library. Once it started playing, I threw it on repeat. I do this because first, I want to listen to an album as much as I can before passing judgment, and second, I like to take notes while I’m listening.  Hearing each song multiple times lets me be pretty thorough in that regard. After that, well, suddenly it was three hours later. I’d totally gotten lost in the music, and managed to listen to the album seven times straight through without writing a single word.

There’s a pretty good reason for this. Kingsbury is dark indie rock. It’s somber and chock-full of emotion. The instrumentals are simple, mostly relying on piano and guitar, along with some synth and percussion. Vocals are soft and melancholy, with appropriate lyrics to back that up. Any one song won’t blow your mind, but as a whole, well, that’s another matter entirely.

Lie To Me opens with “Ocarina Mountaintop,” a post-rock, instrumental piece that sets the mood quite nicely. It grows somewhat over the course of the song, taking on a sound that’s something like This Will Destroy You, but without ever really hitting a loud or defining moment. The album then flows seamlessly into “Back in the Orange Grove,” building on the previous number with vocals that intone, “I’ll never go / back in the orange grove.” I love frontman Bruce Reed’s voice; he conveys quite a bit without using a ton of range or volume. Kingsbury defines itself with slow, rolling music that has body and depth to it.

The album continues with “As I See It” and “Lie To Me,” both of which hold their value in their lyrics. Stuff like “Everything has got to be just like I want it / Everything has got to be as I see it /  Everybody in the world has to care” from the former and, “The deeper we go, the higher we are / No one can say if you take this too far” from the latter are priceless, if only because the real meaning of each song lies in what goes unsaid. The music itself just serves to emphasize and reinforce the emotional impact of the words. “Lie To Me” feels like the darkest song on the album, though it does so quietly, instead of getting all death and destruction and mayhem on you.

All the parts here work well together and contribute to the overall tone. The songs are long, but it works for them. This is one of those albums that’s a continuous experience; each song seems to melt into the next. I want to describe the sound as haunting, but that’s cliché, and I use it too much to describe music. Maybe regretful or remorseful is better.

This album is strong, but it’s because of Kingsbury’s restraint, not because of loud guitar riffs or bombastic lyrics. The moderately repetitive instrumental and vocal parts are what bring home the emotional impact of the EP. For this I say well done, Kingsbury. They created an album that I’ve really enjoyed, and they’ve earned my respect as artists. If you want to hear the Lie To Me EP, it’s available online as a free download at http://www.kingsburymusic.net/audio/released_mp3s/lie_to_me.zip

Get Your Head around Muttonhead

muttonheadMuttonhead by Constant Velocity is a little difficult to describe, mostly because their style varies from song to song. Part post-rock, part lo-fi, with bits of punk and general alt-rock thrown in, these guys have created a sound that is immediately likeable, yet hard to put your finger on. It’s like The Mountain Goats decided to make babies with mewithoutYou, then asked Massive Attack to be the godfather for the offspring. Anyway, Muttonhead grabs you as soon as you start listening, and doesn’t let go. I’m currently on my fifth straight-through playback of the album, and it’s still interesting and fresh.

I feel as though I can’t even go into discussing individual songs without talking about their sound a bit more. The recordings of the songs on the album aren’t perfect – far from it, in fact. Every so often, you hear something that sounds like it might have been a small mistake, the vocalist’s voice wavers a bit, or something along those lines. That’s part of the charm of this album – it isn’t a glossy, airbrushed album full of studio-adjusted separate tracking for each instrument and extra little effects that can only be done with computer software. This stuff is as real as it gets, and I’m guessing Constant Velocity sounds almost exactly like this in concert, which is pretty wicked considering how good it already is.

Muttonhead opens with “From the McLean Co. Lockup,” a gorgeous bit of rock that evoked my comparison to The Mountain Goats. The song is simplistic in its composition, yet manages to come off as epic in scope as something from Explosions In The Sky or This Will Destroy You. The lyrics are great, with stuff like, “Allow me to pontificate / Whilst I inebriate my liver and kidneys and brain” being the rule and not the exception. This song alternates from soft and thoughtful to loud and bombastic, then back again.

“Kelly” presents an entirely different flavor. It opens with something of a western twang, a musical irony when compared with the lyrics “Kelly don’t like country / Kelly like the city / Kelly I’d like to show her / I’d like to show her I’m not a failure / Kelly, come back to my trailer / Please.” It’s hilarious, frankly. You just don’t see lyrics like that very often. When combined with a raucous, rolling tempo and borderline-country music flavor, the song becomes absolutely irresistible.

Later on in the album, the band delivers a little punk with the song “Truculent.” It’s heavier on the bass, with a really fun sound, a little like Primus blended with the afore-mentioned mewithoutYou. The lyrics open with “Nice truck, asshole.” It’s literary genius, if you ask me. Instead of singing the stuff, the vocalist delivers his message rapid-fire in a style that’s borderline spoken word. This stuff rocks, really. “Truculent” is witty and relentless, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

Constant Velocity’s other songs continued to throw me for a loop, each one a little different from the rest, yet with an overarching sound that is undeniably their own. “Time” is pulsating and reminiscent of Massive Attack (they perform the intro song on House, if that helps). “Lucky Double Nines” reminded me of Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia.” Perhaps appropriately after so much great music, “In Memoriam” closes out the album with the lyrics, “And you’ve earned it old man / So why don’t you rest.”

This album is long enough to make me love Constant Velocity’s sound, and short enough to leave me drooling for more. Fingers crossed that they crank out more, ASAP.

Gonna Rule the World… Not Bad

Upcoming 2009 album The Few Not Fleeting by Nothing More pulls you in, and it pulls you in fast. It has great continuity over the course of the album; the whole thing is a stunning emotional journey. For the uninitiated, Nothing More plays progressive/alternative rock; their sound is equal parts 30 Seconds to Mars, Coheed & Cambria, Dredg, and Fair To Midland. This San Antonio-based rock band has been around since 2000, and they’ve been busy the whole time, mostly playing across Texas and Louisiana, including performances in the Taste of Chaos tour in 2007 and Warped Tour in 2008. The Few Not Fleeting is their sixth release.

Consistent across the songs on the album are thick, richly blended sounds from guitarist Mark Vollelunga and bassist Daniel Oliver, strong lead vocals by Jonny Hawkins, excellently harmonized backups, and perfectly matched drums  (also by Jonny Hawkins). Interestingly, Jonny transitioned from drummer to the role of lead singer over the past year; a temp drummer fills in at live shows.

Production value on this CD is quite good, especially for an independent band. Despite all this, what I found most striking about the album are the lyrics; they are inspired entirely by things the band has gone through. It lends a striking quality to their performance.

“Gone” is my favorite track on the album. It opens with an ethereal electronic effect, and quickly transitions to Nothing More’s more typical guitar riffs and pounding drums. Over everything else, Jonny sings about the pain of his mother’s death; “I wish I’d never seen cancer/I’d die just to find that answer.” The emotional impact is practically overwhelming.

Rock anthem “Fat Kid” gives the album a helpful mood swing to the positive. Its tongue-in-cheek nature and rebellious nature are great fun, and when the chorus rolls around, you’ve just got to cheer. Lyrics proclaim, “I’m gonna rule the world, steal your girl/Not bad, not bad for a fat kid.” It’s an energetic song, celebrating the triumph of the underdog. Who doesn’t like that? I’ve had this album for a couple weeks now, and every time I hear the song I start singing along. If I’m alone, I might even dance.

“Blue And Gold” and “Love?” present a return to the deep and emotional, and are each an extremely satisfying listen. The first is one of the softest songs on the album, and both feature gorgeous vocal moments with great harmonies. In “Love?” they sing “I’ll sing it ‘til the stars fall down/I’ll sing it ‘til my lungs dry out/I can sing it all night long/But you didn’t listen/When I sing this song.”

I really can’t find fault with this album. There’s no low point, nothing that I didn’t like. Half of the songs I gave four stars in iTunes, which coming from me, is high praise. I own all of Nothing More’s discography, and while the rest of it is good, The Few Not Fleeting is a significant improvement. I’m going to go a step further than giving this my seal of approval. I want to go on the record (no pun intended) stating that I believe this is the album that will see Nothing More getting major recognition, and probably even signing with a big label.

The Few Not Fleeting is being released Saturday, February 21st. If you’re in the central Texas region, be sure to attend the CD release party at Scout Bar in San Antonio. Want to hear some of their stuff now? Check them out at myspace.com/nothingmoremusic or nothingmore.net. The Few Not Fleeting will be available for purchase on iTunes.

Reason covers a lot of ground

Music Review: Reason by Monork To Die

“Spiduh Man”: I like the groove on this song. Weezer meets lo-fi rockers The Mountain Goats. “When I grow up/ I want to be like spider man” (Should I have spelled that ‘spiduh’?). Heavy distortion on the guitar – waves of grungy, garage-rock goodness. Very unfinished sound, which is fitting for them. Slight echo on the vocals.

“Vampiress”: Overall echoing sound, like it’s at the bottom of a well. Vocals here are slightly reminiscent of Creed or maybe Audioslave.

“Gloomy Together”: Slow, rolling bass and acoustic guitar. This one has a slight doom-rock tinge to it. Very heavy sound, almost overpowering in the chorus. Monork To Die doesn’t have very complicated lyrics or instrumental tracks, but it works, I think.

“France”: Kinda relaxed, laid-back sound. It’s present in the entire album, but especially obvious here. More crazy-distorted guitar. Slight dreamy sound. For chorus, something about “Tell momma I’m moving on to France.” There’s a bit of sixties vibe, maybe Beach Boys.

“Weaker”: Starts with drums and acoustic guitar; totally got a Smile Empty Soul sound going on. Raw, emotional, throbbing music. Vocalist has a bit of swagger in his voice, if that makes sense. Still got a Creed/Audioslave thing going. This song is one of the better applications of their sound and tendencies.

“Jenny Don’t Read No More”: Rhythmic guitar and bass, with vocals taking a stronger position than previously. A bit like ’90s punk – simplicity of sound, fun lyrics, etc. Unfortunately short.

“Dark One”: meh.

“Carpet Cleaner”: Borderline metal. Kinda caught me off my guard. “She’s cleaning up my stain,” cute. Much more energetic than the rest of the album.

“The One Thing Under The Sun”: Odd mix of “House Of The Rising Sun” (both the Eagles’ version and the Muse cover, if you were wondering) with southern rock.

Overall, Reason is a good album. Monork To Die has a good thing going with their music; it just needs a little more focus. I’m all for a band trying out different sounds, but not quite this much in a single album. More of the likes of “Spiduh Man,” “France,” and “Jenny Don’t Cry No More,” please.

Interview: Nothing More’s Jonny Hawkins

Nothing More‘s new release The Few Not Fleeting is coming out this upcoming Saturday. IC writer Brian Murff had a chance to visit with lead singer Jonny Hawkins about the album and the processes behind it. The physical interview is below.

Nothing More has had a lot of changes in lineup. Can you tell me a little about the band’s history?

We didn’t quite get it right the first six times around, so seventh or eighth time’s the charm for us. The core of the band was always Mark Vollelunga, Josh Kercheville, and me, Jonny Hawkins. We went through bass players and singers like fast food, basically.

We finally teamed up with Daniel Oliver a little after Josh Klaus parted ways with the band. That really formed I think the real core of the band right there. Then we got Travis as our singer and released Madhatter’s Bliss, and after that, we got Trey Graham as our singer when he got off tour with Kelly Clarkson, and released Save You/Save Me. And I think Save You/Save Me was our first big push, in regards to touring, and playing with 30 Seconds to Mars, and Burden Brothers, and on the Warped Tour – stuff like that. Then things went south with our singer Trey. The whole time through all these people we never really quite felt like it was there yet, like it had sunk in and… I don’t really know how to describe it; it just didn’t have that peace.

Josh Kercheville ended up leaving the band, which was a big blow too, so that left it to Mark and Dan and I. I can honestly say I don’t think we’ve ever been happier creatively, through the writing process, playing live… I play all the drums on the album, but we hire a drummer for shows. He’s on contract for now, I don’t think I’m ready to give up all the drumming right yet, but I can say I’ve never been with somebody that I’ve been as open to the idea about potentially joining the band. He’s an amazing guitar player, drummer, writer, artist, so he brings a lot to the table.

How did you go from being the drummer to being lead singer?

I got kind of into a depression in the last year. I had a lot of stuff going on in my life with my mom and cancer, and Trey – we parted ways and it felt like the band wasn’t going to go anywhere. And I had this revelation that I told Mark one night. I was like, “I want to sing for the band.” Let me say this: first of all, my biggest fear has always been speaking in front of people. I would lose sleep in high school if I had to speak in front of the class the next day. I wouldn’t sleep the whole night! So the idea of getting in front of hundreds of people and singing was enormous. Second of all, I couldn’t sing. I was not a singer, I’d been a drummer my whole life.

I was like, I’m afraid to be in front of people and I can’t sing. That’s not a good combination for a lead singer, right? But I felt very passionate about music.

So the last year all the guys were like, “All right. Jonny, we believe in you, even though it sucks right now and you sound like crap.” I’m lucky to be with guys that… we know each other well, we believe in each other to the point of, even if it doesn’t make sense now, we support each other. And they supported me and believed in me, and I never could’ve done it if they hadn’t been there and believed in me.

Is this upcoming album (The Few Not Fleeting) is pretty big for you?

This CD is kind of monumental for us because it’s kind of our first “This Is It” CD. Not that the other CDs don’t mean a lot to us musically, but this is the first CD where, like I said with the other lineups and everything, it wasn’t quite “It.”

You’ve gone through a lot of changes. As far as musical influence goes, there was a time where your music almost had a funk vibe, and then you had a pop thing going for a while. This album feels like Shelter, but what Shelter should have been. What was that the result of?

When you watch a lot of bands, you can see them start somewhere, and then they kind of trail off and start exploring, and then they kind of go back to their roots but in a new way. We obviously all listen to so much music. There are a lot of bands that only listen to one kind of music. “All we listen to is punk rock, so we play punk rock.” Or, “all we listen to is hard rock, so we play hard rock.” We listen to jazz, to funk, to death metal… we’re very open-minded.

I think it’s taken us this many years to find out what it is that our musical soul, if you will, resonates at. Because we love playing funk! Daniel brings a lot of funk to the band, I love playing funk on the drums, but it doesn’t have as big of a portion of our heart as progressive/alternative rock like what we’re playing right now. But members are a big thing – when Trey was in the band, he brought this pop, kind of mainstream… I don’t really know what the right words are, but a little softer around the edges. We always wanted to rock, but we felt like we had to compromise, and that’s what Save You/Save Me was, was a compromise between the two things. Now it’s complete exploration of the progressive rock, harder rock direction.

Along those lines, the new record is coming out. In what ways have you made improvements on this one?

I feel like we’ve improved on the production value. This album is different from the rest because we produced the album at home in my room – half the album. With that, we had a lot of time and flexibility to explore the production side of things that we really didn’t have time or budget to do in a studio where we were on the clock, or with a producer that’s on the clock. So we really got to explore and flex nuts on the production side, if you will.

On song writing, we put more time and thought and energy and emotion into all these songs than we ever have. This year has been the hardest year of my life. I lost my mother, I lost my girlfriend of five and a half years, I lost one of my best friends in the band, lost our lead singer, had all these great things that went to nothing, you know, along with a lot of other stresses of being in debt and being on the road. It’s been a monumental year in the amount of pain that I’ve felt and the band has felt, and that’s translated I think through the music. I think the greatest things come from the greatest suffering, the greatest pain. I’d say that’s been the biggest factor through all of this.

Lyrically, I hadn’t quite gotten a grasp on this album until I read the jacket. How much of this is based on things that have happened in your lives?

Most of the songs are pretty deep. “Gone” was about my mother, “Blue And Gold” was about my friend that died in a car wreck. “The Cleansing” was about a friend of ours that got raped, “Salem” was about a very tight-knit group of friends that got destroyed by gossip and lies and all these things.

I’d been wondering about that one. Metaphorically, it’s a little bit more out there – witches, etc.

Yeah, it’s sarcastic. Well that song… I guess before I keep going on, I’ll let you know too that we’re going to release a website. There’s a thing in the album jacket that says for a deeper look into The Few Not Fleeting, go to www.nothingmore.net/thefewnotfleeting. There’s nothing up there right now, but probably in a month or two months we’ll put out an announcement. We’re going to release that website and it’s gonna be a handwritten website, very personal, and it’s going to be about all the songs and what was going on with me and my mom, or with “Salem” – what was really happening. Because it’s a quirky take on something that was very real and happening.

As far as coming into songs in a playful manner, I can’t think of one song on the album that’s not deep and real. One of my friends listened to the album, and she said, “We gotta start working on writing some happy songs.” And I was like, you know, the funny thing is that my happiness and I think the band is this way, too, is that we express our joy and happiness and all these emotions, not all positive but light-hearted emotions through hanging out with friends and very light-hearted things. But the deep, dark, very hard things in life, for whatever reason… music, that’s just what it does for me. That’s where it comes out. It doesn’t come out in other areas; it just comes out in music. So that’s why our music is dark, that’s just how it is I guess. But it’s hopeful, you know? It’s not just leaving you helpless, at least I hope not.

Okay. Now in contrast to that, you’ve got “Fat Kid.”

Wait a minute, never mind, I take back everything I said! That’s one song, there we go. I would say that it’s a slightly light-hearted, sarcastic song. “Salem” is sarcastic, but it does have a lot of angst in it. This one was more of the, “let’s write a song about Daniel, who grew up as a fat kid.” It’s like a look at me now song.

We’ve talked about how this album really feels like “It.” Do you anticipate the band taking off, or do you have any big tours lined up?

I definitely see this as a catalyst album, to our success as a band. I mean, Nothing More has been, every year, “Okay. Work, work, work, make an album, tour, here’s Nothing More, gain a bunch of fans.” Tear all that down, say, “forget that, here’s the new Nothing More,” lose all those fans, and gain new ones. This is the first one where we say, “Here we’re starting, and we’re following through with this, or we’re just going into the ground,” you know what I mean?

But this is a catalyst album. I would say the music industry as a whole isn’t what it used to be. Nobody’s selling millions of albums anymore, because music isn’t selling. But more bands are popular; it’s much more spread out. With that said we have a greater chance to reach more people, but it’s harder to make money in the industry than it ever has been. It’s a new challenge. So I guess what I’m trying to get at is yes, this album is going to be a catalyst as far as making the big bucks. I’m not quite sure yet, I can’t give you an answer. As long as we can do what we love and we can make a living at it, that’s success to us.

Big tours – we have some things in mind, we’re talking to some management in Dallas who can get us on tour with Fair To Midland. Are you familiar with Fair To Midland? That’s a potential. We’re talking to a lot of management right now, because we’ve been self-managed for a long time. We’re talking to some promotions companies to help us out. We have a lot of things in the works. I don’t have any solid tours that I can say, “we’re going to be on tour with this or that band,” but we are going to be touring the region very heavily on our own for the new few months.

What do you think your future is? Is there a road map that you’d like to be able to follow?

I would say we definitely have a very headstrong goal to do this as a career. Most people, especially in the art world, approach things with “if it works out great, if it doesn’t I’ll go do another job,” a plan B, right? We all purposely haven’t had a plan B, because we didn’t want any excuse when the going gets tough to get out of this, because we all know that deep down inside, music is what makes us happier than anything. I can’t picture myself not doing music, so that’s it. That’s my tunnel vision. I can’t predict the future, I know things change, and I change as a person, I may like different things and value different things in the future but for right now we’re dead set on making this a career and being the greatest band in the nation, if not the world one day. We have big goals, and we’re shooting for it. I’m not going to say we’re there by any means, no way, but…

Over the years of touring, performing, this whole experience, is there any wisdom you’ve learned?

We have learned what not to do a lot. If I were to pick one thing, I would say that the greatest asset we have above anything else is knowing who you’re working with and having trust. Our band wouldn’t have survived however many years as it has if I didn’t have guys that I trusted one hundred percent; we’ve been good enough people to lean on each other in the hard times. Bands freaking rise and fall like there’s no tomorrow. There have been millions of bands. It’s the highest turnover rate of any industry, I think. But knowing and trusting the guys in my band, and knowing and trusting the people we work with, is invaluable.

I’ve seen bands rise and fall based on trust, and it’s like the Roman Empire – some of the greatest bands have fallen from the inside. There wasn’t trust, or greed crept in; some little thing that destroyed a great musical thing. Happens all the time, I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned. Know who you’re in bed with, you know what I mean?

On a slightly lighter note, what would the famous last words of Jonny Hawkins be?

You’re giving me some tough ones here. Famous last words… Is this funny last words, or serious?

It doesn’t matter.

I’d say hard work goes a very long way, but relationships are the most important thing. In business, in work… relationships are gold. I had to lose a lot of relationships to learn how much they’re worth, you know? That’d be my famous last words, hang onto your relationships.

Is there anything else you want to mention?

Just keep your eyes open this next year, because we expect great things with this album.

Rock is a Good, Good Thing

There are bands out there with a hint of retro in their sound, and there are tribute bands that try to copy another era’s groups. Somewhere in between is Underride. They’ve got a sound that is firmly based in ’80s metal, but also incorporates flirtation with glam rock of the same decade and occasional touches of ’90s grunge. It’s impossible to listen to their music without drawing similarities to the likes of Aerosmith or Guns-n-Roses.

The album opens with “Side By Side,” an energetic, driving number that lies on the harder side of their music. It quickly highlights the vocal strengths of the band with a roaring chorus from frontman Rev and smooth backups from the rest of the group. A wicked guitar solo seals the deal for this track.

Further into the album, the song “My Little Hell” stands out. Lyrics like “lower your body down/below the surface ground” and other dark references give it great character without devolving into death metal. “Riot Stick” was my favorite from the album. It’s that raucous, no-holds-barred kind of song that gets you out of your seat and rocking away with the music. Getting the listener involved is a great test for music, and Underride passed with flying colors.

One Of Us by Underride is rock, pure and simple. I had a blast listening to this album on a recent road trip. It isn’t what typically goes on my iPod, but change is a good thing, right? Is their particular brand of rock your cup of tea? Check them out and see for yourself.