All posts by Hannah Schneider

About Hannah Schneider

Hannah is a music enthusiast. At only 17 years old the Californian has launched her own smaller music blog "Unheard Gems” in effort to give a voice and promote the voices of smaller and emerging musicians. On AltWire she hopes to continue to highlight the voices of growing artists and share more new finds and amazing talent.

[AltWire Video Interview] Forts Like Vana

AltWire contributor Hannah Schneider sits down with the boys of Forts Like Vana!

Recently we had the opportunity to talk to a new and upcoming band called Forts Like Vana. Hailing from Nashville, TN and having only founded in January 2018, they are a young alternative band in their early 20’s who “give a damn about working harder and playing [their] hardest”.

Their goal as as they grow together as a band are to rock out, party, meet people, and shake things up. They said, “you could say we like to go against the grain but as far as we’re concerned we do things the Forts Like Vana way”.

Check out our interview below!

[AltWire Interview] State Disco

Indietronic dance rock band, State Disco, was conceived in a dream about an imagined European realm where people rave at government-sponsored dance parties. One listen, and you’ll lose yourself in driving, urgent beats, melodic synth and guitar, and soaring vocals. A fresh, danceable sound and energetic live show are quickly earning State Disco recognition as one of Omaha’s most exciting new bands. Led by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Cody Rathman, the four-piece is rounded out by Jay NeSmith (keys, vocals), Nate Fowler (drums) and Jared Bakewell (bass, vocals). We got the chance to interview this incredible up and coming band and hear more about tour, music, and their story.

AltWire: How did all of you start music? What drove each of you to music and then how did your band come to be?

Cody: The band got started with me and Jared trying to write weird dance music on some synths and a drum machine. We had a bunch of people over to jam with, but nothing felt right until Nate, my longtime friend, moved back to Omaha making him our drummer. We met Jay through Hear Nebraska, a music blog, and he had great hair so we added him in and got after making this music.

AltWire: Can you tell us a bit about your music? It is a really interesting mix of a bunch of different styles and is totally different from a lot of what I have heard. How have you developed this sound?

Cody: We knew we wanted our shows to be parties, not just concerts so everything we make has to be danceable. Jared’s influenced by 80’s synth-driven pop. He typically brings in the original idea and then we build the song from there incorporating everyone’s influences which are pretty all over the place from jazz to punk rock. We like to imagine it would be the soundtrack if John Hughes made an 80’s movie in 2018.

AltWire: Let’s talk about your EP Going to Sleep Is Giving Up, what is the story behind the EP and what was the process of writing and working on the project like?

Cody: Since our inception as a band, we have all been through a lot. Making music is cathartic like few other activities and our rehearsals are usually pretty late at night. Calling it a night in the midst of hatching a new idea or a melody before it’s finished feels like giving up. Jared spends a lot of late nights working on weird creative projects and has a hard time giving up on the day so he named the record after that feeling that straddles insomnia and manic creativity.

AltWire: Have you had a favorite song to work on (released or yet to come out) and why?

State Disco: Our song “Chameleon” went through some big changes in the studio and has become one of our favorite songs on the album. It was always a favorite of the band, but became even more so after Graham Ulicny worked his studio magic on it. It might not be the best song on the record musically, but it smokes live and it’s usually the show closer.

AltWire: What about anything else in the works? What ideas do your have for upcoming music?

Cody: As of right now, we are planning on releasing several more music videos by the end of the year. Our record release party is coming up on April 21st at The Waiting Room in Omaha, NE. This will be a big night for us as we finally play to our hometown crowd after a long break from local shows.

As for new music, we still have five more songs that we hope to record in the future. With things settling down, we are looking forward to more writing sessions as a group. Settling on the five songs for Going To Sleep Is Giving Up was a challenge as we all had our different favorites within the band as well as some crowd favorites that we knew had to be on the first record.

AltWire:  What has been your favorite memory as a band so far? Any crazy experiences or specifically great moments?

Cody: We shot our “Million Miles Away” video at O’Leaver’s where we actually played our first show. Returning to that spot with a polished record instead with those first show nerves was a cool experience. Being in a band with three other creative, adventurous guys makes playing out of town fun. We just got back from playing three showcases in Austin and had a blast down there.

AltWire: Do you have any artists you love right now that you think we should listen to?

Cody: On our adventures at SXSW we found some new favorite bands. Check out Charles Fauna and Vesperteen. These artists really got our attention. At our record release party we have the honor of having Twinsmith and The Kickback play with us – these two are easily our favorite local/regional bands and are very excited to share a stage with them.

AltWire: Lastly, and thank you for your time, where can we find you and your music online?

Cody: Head on over to our new website at for our music, video, photos, and social media connections. Thank you for taking your time to interview us, and thank you readers for supporting indie artists!


[AltWire Interview] Shadow of Whales

Vocalist Joshua Flores, drummer Caleb Flores, lead guitarist Chris Fraga, bassist Jeremy Boyum, and keyboardist JD Vazquez make up the alternative-indie band, Shadow of Whales. They first performed at the Austin Convention Center, and after appearing on the local news station, have shared the stage with artists such as Mayday Parade, Courage My Love, Jonny Craig, and Cartel. A year after their debut performance, they released their first self-titled EP and have now participated in multiple festivals such as Vans Warped Tour and RedGorilla. They released their second EP, What We Do, in August 2017 and went on tour to promote their latest work. We got the chance to interview them and talk more about their music and the story of their band.

AltWire: Just to get started so we can get to know you, how did you all get interested in music and decide to pursue it as a career? Also, how did you as individuals meet and form Shadow of Whales and how did you decide the name and style of the band as well?

SoW: All of us, and I guess this goes for most people, have been affected by highs and lows in our lives and music has just always been the theme that has either amplified or gotten us through those experiences. We have a deep connection in our souls with music and doing anything other than creating it and performing it just seems wrong.

Every one of the band members at one point or another met our lead singer, Joshua Flores. The planets aligned and we were all opened up for new projects when he brought everyone together.

AltWire: Now that we know a bit of background on you as a band we can talk about your music! I noticed you consistently lean towards positive sounding music and lyrics, it makes your music very fun to listen to but is there a creative reason you have chosen have a more positive vibe?

SoW: Music you can move to is definitely a goal we strive for. Beyond that though, our mission is to “spread hope and love as far as sound can reach”. Much in the way music has helped us get through hard times and amplified our great times, we want to make music that is a catalyst for somebody else in that way and give back to music and the world what it gave to us.

AltWire: Can we talk a bit about the album? What inspired some of the music and what do you hope fans can take away from the album? Does the album tell a specific story when listened to in a certain way, what should fans keep in mind?

SoW: The music is inspired by the experiences we’ve had in our lives and experiences our fans tell us about. A lot of our music is actually inspired by the fans we talk to on a daily basis. We try not to be too specific in terms of interpretation because we want to allow our music to say whatever people can be inspired to take away from it. However, our goal is to comfort, encourage and inspire our listeners to know that they’re not alone and that we believe in them; no matter what they’re going through.

AltWire: Your song Talk seems very different from the rest of the record, is there a reason you chose to include that song in the compilation?

SoW: Yeah, that one was kind of on the edge. The whole goal of What We Do was to show that you can still believe in yourself and you can still chase your dreams even in the midst of tribulation. Our first record didn’t speak a lot to how real life can be in the way of it’s difficulties. Talk is probably one of the darkest songs of the record, it’s about trying to mend a relationship that you might have even broken yourself and while trying to constantly give and pour into it, it’s just never enough. There’s a lot of people that might relate to this. Even if you haven’t done anything wrong, you might have a friend who is always unhappy with something you’re doing in your life or to them from their perception. The reason we included “Talk” was because of it’s chorus. It’s resolution is to own what you can own and move on. A relationship is a two way street and there’s only so much road you can give someone before you have to decide whether or not that road is still worth traveling for your own emotional sanity. If you have a toxic friendship or relationship and the only one trying to fix it is you, it’s time to move on. It’s a situation we have heard a lot with many of our fans and a lot of them feel trapped and unable to pursue their dreams or even be happy because of it. It’s not as optimistic as the rest of the record, in some ways it’s almost a lose-lose situation. No one wants to lose a friend or significant other or make that decision to walk away but sometimes you have to for both parties sake. Only then can you find happiness within yourself again.

AltWire: What about new music? Anything in the works for you guys that you can tell us a bit about?

SoW: We are working on new music, whether or not it will get released this year I can’t say. But we definitely want that to happen.

AltWire: I really loved your music video for Runaway! Can you tell us about that video and what it was like to film?

SoW: It was both really fun and really difficult to film haha. We were on a pretty big time-constraint and the weather was not agreeing with us. But we had a lot of fun and the finished product turned out great. Shout-out to Fox & Florals for the amazing job they did.

AltWire: I have watched some of the behind the scenes videos from your tour that showed what life was like on your side of the stage so to speak. How was the tour? Any weird or fun things you did together or learned about each other as friends and bandmates?

SoW: There is a part in the video you’re talking about where we are at this venue that had this underground basement with a TON of weird stuff. Definitely one of the highlights haha. The whole tour was a lot of fun overall though. Even all of the really difficult parts (when a show fell through, when we had to reroute or drive through the night to make the next gig) it was a lot of fun; and I don’t think I would’ve wanted to experience that with anyone other than the band and crew that was with us. It was great.

AltWire: One thing I always want to know about is the artists you are listening to…any good recommendations for us to check out?

SoW: Oh man…do I. All of the bands below are fantastic and bands for the most part we recently discovered and became friends with ourselves. Every one of them deserves a listen (and they’re all on Spotify)!

Hate Drugs
Wee Beasties
Fellow Vessel
Sweet Ascent
Death By Fireworks
Serf and James


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[AltWire Interview] Singer-Songwriter Brandon Ben

Brandon Ben is a singer/songwriter from Toronto, Canada. He recently released an EP titled Songs from a Basement Apartment and is now starting to work on a full-length release. Brandon is a multi-talented instrumentalist, formally studying the double bass, with talents in playing piano, bass guitar, and other instruments in a variety of styles ranging from classical, to jazz, to pop music. Brandon has spent most of his music career backing up other artists as a bassist, but is now breaking out on his own as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist.

AltWire contributor Hannah Schneider, who also curates lesser known artists for her music blog Unheard Gems, recently sat down with Ben to discuss a variety of topics. Check out her interview below:

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Just to get to know your background story, can you tell us a bit about yourself and when and how you first knew you wanted to pursue music?

Brandon Ben: I got into music on my own at a young age. When I was around 12 years old, all of my friends began playing guitar, so, I decided to start playing bass guitar so I could be in a band. Over the years I began picking up different instruments and getting really interested in pursuing music, and I eventually went on to study study music in University. I studied music education in my undergraduate degree, and majored in the double bass. Currently I’m finishing up a master of music therapy, and during this training I started to play a lot of guitar and began to work on my singing. I realized that people generally enjoy listening to me sing, so, I started to write music and perform, and here I am now!

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: How would you best describe your music and style in one sentence?

Brandon Ben: DIY singer/songwriter, indie folk with nylon strings.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: You just released your EP Songs from a Basement Apartment this January, can you tell us a bit about that EP?

Brandon Ben: Well, during the summer when I realized that I had some type of affinity for playing guitar and singing, I decided that I would try to write, record, and release a project as an experiment. The EP is just that, songs from a basement apartment! I wrote, recorded, and mixed everything by myself. The EP is a representation of me in a way, so, by listening to this EP you’re getting to know me without meeting me in real life.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Where do you get inspiration to write your music? What is your writing process like?

Brandon Ben: I get inspiration from events that happen in my life, my friends, relationships, breakups, or I just make up whatever comes to my head! Usually, I make up a chord progression, and try singing over it just to see what comes up. Interesting story about the first track “Set You on Fire”, I literally improvised some of the lyrics as I recorded the track in one take. I liked it so much I kept it.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Is there a song on the EP that resonates most with you or was the most moving to write? Why?

Brandon Ben: “The Way It Is” is definitely the most meaningful, I wrote it when I was feeling pretty low and decided to just spill my thoughts into the song. It serves as a marker when I look back at how far I’ve come in life.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Any ideas for new music? Similar style and feeling to SFABA or do you think you want to try some other ideas or styles?

Brandon Ben: I am just starting work on a full album, it will definitely have a similar feeling, but I want to do more. As in, add more instruments, more layers, and perhaps some features too. I never want to ditch my DIY attitude, but I want to be more professional for sure.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Are there any artists you are inspired by or who have influenced your music or the way you want to write music?

Brandon Ben: Sufjan Stevens, Jack Johnson, and Bright Eyes are big ones for sure. Those artists feel very human to me. I like to take bits and pieces from different artists I listen to. I am also super influenced by rap music in general, mostly because of lyrics and structure of the songs. I think it’s very interesting to play with rhyming, pacing, syllables, etc.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Because I’m all about finding and sharing smaller or “Unheard” artists, do you have any “Unheard” recommendations that we should listen to?

Brandon Ben: Gosh so many! I recently found a singer/songwriter named Okay Mann from Winnipeg Manitoba. I don’t know him personally at all, but came across his music on Spotify and I love it. Also I have to shout out artists I know personally, check out Romancer, Crown Lands, and The Funny Funk Band if you’re looking for new music.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Finally, where can people find you and your music?

Brandon Ben: I go by @brandonbenmusic on Instagram, twitter, and Facebook. You can download by EP from for free. I’m also on every streaming service there is (Spotify, apple music, etc.) just search Brandon Ben, I’m the only one! Soon I’ll be releasing a new track, and I’ll be donating all the revenue to a charity, so look out for that!