All posts by Mark Stoneman

About Mark Stoneman

Mark is a twenty-something guy with a love for virtually things all music, having been brought up with the likes of Deep Purple to Fleetwood Mac, and through the golden era of early 2000s rock. With this in mind, an obsession with finding new and wonderfully cathartic soundscapes has led to looking for what delightfully captivates, while always looking ahead for the next amazing artist.

[Album Review] TT – LoveLaws

“I need a little room to sway.”

Exquisite Corpse is a tremendously beautiful piece of work. Be it the dreamy, lullaby tones of ‘Billie Holiday’, or perhaps the gorgeously absorbing layers of reverb drenching the guitar licks of ‘Krimson’, Exquisite Corpse stands tall as one of the most enchanting debut EPs of any band, painting a perfect and crystal-clear representation of exactly what Warpaint had to offer.

From then on, it was only going to grow further: the likes of The Fool’s ‘Set Your Arms Down’ or Warpaint’s ‘Keep It Healthy’ stand as two easy examples from two albums that were absolutely determined to mesmerize and delight, continuing the band’s ever-persistent maturity in exploring new territory and expanding beyond the initial psychedelic/art rock roots to broader horizons. This eventually culminated in the more radical shift in the band’s style with third album Heads Up, seeing the incorporation of a more up-tempo, pop orientated focus throughout much of the record and lead single ‘New Song’ being a far more synthesizer-laden affair compared to previous works. With this all in mind, it came as absolutely no surprise that vocalist/guitarist Theresa Wayman’s debut solo track ‘Love Leaks’ is as wonderfully eclectic as it is.

Brooding and soulful, Wayman’s first offering of solo project TT spends much of its time gently navigating the desperation of steadily losing something and realizing it may be too late: “I knew when love leaked out of the bottom of my cup.” As a reintroduction to Wayman’s identity as a musician, the hauntingly poignant admission of “I feel like we’re failing, I feel like I’m waiting on you” and mournful ending chorus line “I feel like we fucked up, I feel like we lost our love” allows a brutally personal side of Wayman’s song writing to shine through. And this is exactly the course that much of LoveLaws takes: it’s honest and personal and wonderfully so.

Take introductory track ‘Mykki’, for example: the album opens with pulsing, popping electronics that subtly grow throughout the track, while the chorus explodes in a longing outburst of “tell me you’re alive, make it feel right. You’ve got tonight, make it feel right.” With the track ending in softly delivered, reverb-laden guitar licks that pierce through the mix and contrast the introductory electronics, ‘Mykki’ establishes the album’s intended direction perfectly, and ‘I’ve Been Fine’s dissonant introductory guitar work continues this immediately. Utilizing subtle atmospherics and minimalistic instrumentation, ‘I’ve Been Fine’ sways back and forth quietly throughout much of its duration, until finally breaching the surface and plunging the track in gorgeously absorbing synthesizers and Wayman crooning a desperate mantra of “why can’t you be next to me? Why can’t you be next to me?”

Elsewhere, LoveLaws continues with ‘Tutorial’ with an entrancing mellow bassline and fragmented percussion, while Wayman drifts back and forth between confident observations of “I’m feeling you, what’s my body saying and hesitant vulnerability of “you’re only my love and it’s like you know my secrets. Know me in the dark.” Lyrically, this introspective and agonizingly personal delivery is entirely captivating, even on slightly more upbeat tracks such as ‘Safe’ and ‘Take One’. Introduced with the brilliantly raw ‘Sassafras Interlude’, ‘Take One’ continues the spirit of Ludivine Anneliz’s striking observation of “happiness is only found when you stop comparing yourself” with popping, snappy electronics, alongside hazy synthesizers and Wayman opening the track in a confident gasp of “and so I feel open, let’s go. I can be myself, I can be myself.” Again, ‘Take One’ displays a delightfully eclectic approach instrumentally, breaking away from the moody introductory electronics to embrace a direction far more akin to a jazz track; implementing a slick bassline and some of the rawest percussion seen on the album, the last third of ‘Take One’ sees Wayman at some of her most experimental and it’s so charmingly wonderful because of it.

An album born out of raw, blinding emotion with strikingly haunting lyrical content and exquisitely atmospheric instrumentals, LoveLaws couldn’t have been a more appropriate introduction for Theresa Wayman’s TT. From the elegantly sombre guitar work of ‘Dram’, to the soothing vocal layering of finale ‘Too Sweet’, this staggeringly memorable body of work grips the listener and takes hold instantly. Make no mistake, like Exquisite Corpse, as much as it may delight in gentle, dreamy soundscapes, LoveLaws deserves your utmost attention.

[Album Review] William Ryan Key – Thirteen (EP)

It hasn’t been an easy 18 months for the world of music.

From the likes of Tom Petty to Chuck Berry, to Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, and the recent tragic news of Scott Hutchison, the last 18 months have been an example of loss and of losing those who have gone far too soon. The amazing display of tribute across the globe, from some of the most influential names in music throughout recent generations, has been something beautiful to witness despite the pain that walks hand in hand with it. If it wasn’t Bennington’s poignant, heartbroken delivery of Leonard Cohen’s iconic ‘Hallelujah’ in the face of the loss of Cornell, then it was the equally heart-breaking group tribute Celebrate Life show for Bennington himself. And amongst those tributes was, of course, Ryan Key.

With the tenth and final Yellowcard studio effort, an appropriately self-titled album, acting as the 2016 swan song for one of the most distinctive pop punk bands of the last two decades, it was easy as a listener to also take the chance to reflect on time passed throughout those years and ponder on past choices. After all, lead single ‘Rest in Peace’ does this accurately enough; “If you could go back now, would you say it differently?” As a follower of any group, you often don’t want to see the final chapter in the story, but it can also be exciting to see what comes next. Indeed, the closure of the band led comfortably into a continued period of production work and acoustic performances for frontman Ryan Key, largely spent building The Lone Tree Recordings studio and contributing to the latest Like Torches album, until eventually paying respect through the tribute performance of Linkin Park’s ‘Shadow of the Day’. This was later followed up with Key debuting the gentle, melancholic track ‘Live On’ during a live performance, a track written in reflection of Bennington’s legacy.

Ryan Key’s debut solo EP, THIRTEEN, sees the musician writing primarily in reflection (recently re-embracing his hereditary first name “William” (taken from his grandfather)) and explaining the EP’s title which refers to personal difficulties throughout 2013. Indeed, when opening track ‘Old Friends’ begins, with softly played acoustic guitar and soothing ambiance that lingers gently in the background, Key’s opening sentiment “in 1999 I was first learning to sin, cranked up and hit the road to grind some gears again” immediately shows exactly the kind of record this is going to be; it’s a far more mature statement that William Ryan Key is looking to make, with ‘Old Friends’ displaying a weary look back on the mistakes of youth and introspectively exploring a brand new identity musically. Sure, second track ‘Vultures’ may retain the slightest hint of what Yellowcard used to represent stylistically, but this is a song far more akin to the likes of Linkin Park’s ‘Sharp Edges’, as opposed to the energetic pop punk tones of Ocean Avenue, a lively acoustic riff driving the instrumental side of things while Key contemplates quietly, “is it better to have had or to have not?”

And, as the EP continues, William Ryan Key stays true to his chosen course; THIRTEEN remains for the entirety of its duration a quiet, brooding meditation on Key’s catharsis, with ‘Thirty Days’ softly navigating the pursuit and loss of a personal relationship, while ‘Form and Figure’ lightly echoes the gorgeous atmospherics of the likes of Ben Howard, with Key pondering “how do I get right, color my eyes white again?” While stylistically much of the EP remains in very similar territory, it’s the tender, open-hearted reflections of the lyrical content that ends up being so wonderfully captivating here, as Key draws the listener in perfectly, crooning with ease throughout THIRTEEN.

Ultimately, THIRTEEN is a body of work that benefits beautifully from the past, with Key bearing the weight of it all lyrically and yet still displaying a continual desire to pursue the better and beyond. The lingering influence of personal struggles throughout 2013, rediscovering his identity musically, and the recent loss of those, both influential to Key himself and the rest of the world, have all clearly played their part in the writing of this particular chapter in the journey. It hasn’t always been easy and it hasn’t always been fair, but THIRTEEN stares it all in the face admirably, and perhaps ‘Great Unknown’ says it best in a haunting sentiment of acceptance: “funny how time doesn’t care, who we love and who we wish we could repair.”

[Songs For Spring] Becky and the Birds – Concept Store

While the incoming dizzying and vibrant summer tones (and pulsing, infectious holiday beats that tend to accompany it) are always entertaining and fun to play with, spring tends to lean towards being far more withdrawn; there’s a lingering winter hesitancy there that hasn’t yet been shed, while the peeking indications of new life still take root and push forward to bloom, before summer finally takes hold and carries things forward.

Compare this frame of mind to a certain piece that feels appropriate, and you may find yourself landing on Becky and the Birds latest single, ‘Concept Store’.

Released in April following the critically acclaimed debut single, ‘Holding On’, ‘Concept Store’ treads far more carefully compared to the more energetic former; layering gorgeous hip hop beats and electronics with jazzy basslines and Becky and the Birds‘ soulful vocal delivery, the Swedish singer/producer spends much of the track crooning gently while lyrically reflecting on intimate paranoia, obsessing over what a partner may be thinking throughout the relationship. Despite the chirping birdsong and soothing rustle of nature that flutters throughout the track, it’s an incredibly mellow and borderline mournful few moments with Becky and the Birds, wonderfully introspective while the vocalist carefully unravels the still more hesitant aspects of her life.

It’s of course not the booming, over-happy summer beats that so enthusiastically flood these final transitioning weeks between spring to summer, but for a final lingering glimpse of spring, ‘Concept Store’ is just right.

[AltWire Interview] Leo, Adam and Rebecca of Falling From Trees

Falling From Trees are an English rock quintet hailing from Norwich, UK. Having already released EP’s On and On and Words, the band’s newest single ‘Dirty Footprints’ saw the group re-established as a full five member band, opting for a more rock orientated sound and less akin to the folk direction of previous releases.

I recently caught the band performance at Epic Studios (Norwich, UK), and members Leo, Adam and Rebecca were kind enough to chat with us here at AltWire!

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Hi guys, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview! For those not yet familiar with Falling From Trees, would you mind first introducing yourselves to our readers and tell us a little bit about the band?

Leo White: Hi, thanks for contacting us! So, we’re a five-piece rock band from Norwich consisting of Rebecca White (lead vocals), Leo White (lead guitar/vocals), Adam White (rhythm guitar/vocals), Joey Scampion (bass/vocals) and finally, Sam Ball (drums).

Adam White: Our sound is kind of hard to describe as we all bring different influences to the band but it’s rooted in blues with soulful lead vocals and catchy rhythms. We’re also partial to a vocal harmony or two…!

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Where would you say it all started for Falling From Trees? Were you all already in contact before coming together to form the band? 

Adam White: Bec, Leo and I are actually siblings and so we’ve been lucky enough to play music together in various iterations since we were kids. We all kind of drifted apart for uni but eventually ended up in Norwich and basically picked up where we left off!

Leo White: Falling From Trees began as an acoustic folk trio and we released a couple of EPs under this format. In the last year or so we gradually introduced Joey and Sam into the band on bass and drums. Joey just so happens to be Bec’s fiancé and Sam, well, we just found him… he’s kind of like a pet that can drum. Poor Sam.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: I definitely get a bit of a Fleetwood Mac vibe from ‘Dirty Footprints’, and personally really love the moody alt-country direction on ‘Rainfall’; can you name any specific influences that have fed into the sound of Falling From Trees? 

Leo White: Honestly, I know it’s a cliché answer, but we really bring on influences from all over. Every member of the band comes from a different musical background and we feel like that gives us the edge when writing new music. With ‘Dirty Footprints’ I’d say that was a development from our former folky-selves mixed up with a heavy blues vibe. But then you get to the breakdown and that’s where we like to think there’s a Wishbone Ash influence.

Adam White: I think the main thing is we’re all just huge fans of music in general; we all listen to all kinds of stuff and it just naturally finds its way into our songs. It definitely goes back to our childhood though. I mean, one minute we were listening to Led Zeppelin and the next we’re listening to Jean Michel Jarre. It’s a great thing – we have no respect for genres – all that matters is if it sounds good.

Rebecca White: ‘Rainfall’ is actually one of our oldest songs and comes from way back when me and Leo used to play music as a duo in our teens. It was probably the first song we wrote together and then of course we developed it as a three piece. We’ve actually tried it as a five piece and it becomes a really powerful song.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Lyrically ‘The Dad Song’ from your On and On EP really stands out to me as a particularly personal track, would you say a lot of other songs draw from similarly personal experiences and influences? 

Leo White: Not necessarily. A lot of our songs come from characters and scenarios we invent. ‘The Dad Song’ was a bit different though – It was a birthday song that we wrote for our Dad, which in turn, we may have made overly obvious when we debuted it at a show a few years ago! It would have been okay if he hadn’t shed a tear at the end of the song. Oh, the guilt

Adam White: Yeah, sorry about that, Dad. It’s funny because I think for me a lot of the lyrics I write are pretty personal in the sense that the emotion definitely comes from within even if the subject matter might not. The great thing is that I can take those words, give them to Bec and she can channel a completely different emotion. So I guess what I’m saying is, yes and no.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: How would you describe the overall writing process for the band, from an initial song idea to eventually making it as a Falling From Trees track? 

Rebecca White: I guess generally Leo and Adam will come up with a riff or more and bring it to the band and we kind of just work on it from there. It’s a nice process that really gives more meaning to the songs we write because we are all involved and can decide where it goes next.

Adam White: In the past, we used to be a lot more, what’s the word… prescriptive? I think when all you have is two acoustic guitars and three vocals you have to be very precise. Bringing in a rhythm section and going electric has just opened up a lot of opportunities to experiment.

Leo White: Also, the fact we are now a five piece is still a novelty in many ways because we write to our strengths and know where a crazy drum fill will go or a super dark bass breakdown will fit in.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: It was really great fun seeing you guys live at Epic Studios on Friday 20th, you really seem to have a lot of fun up there; are there any really memorable performances throughout the band’s career that stand out at all?

Leo White: Glad you enjoyed it! That gig was really special for us. Mammal Not Fish are good friends of ours and we’ve gigged with them before, so it was an honor to support them at their EP launch.

As far as other gigs go, I would have to say The Revelation Brothers “Angrycultural Areas” EP launch at Open, Norwich in September last year. I think that was one of the first gigs we played with Sam as our new drummer and it really set the tone for what was to come for us as a band. It was the start of a new phase of Falling From Trees.

Rebecca White: Also, earlier this year we had our first London gig at Ninety One, Brick Lane! We were playing at a friend’s fundraiser for Bricoleur Magazine. Again, that was another special one because it was our first taste of London.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Are there any artists in particular that you would love to collaborate with, either live or in studio? 

Leo White: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sabbath, Wishbone Ash, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, Nina Simone, Bowie, Weezer, Tom Petty & The Heart Breakers, Uriah Heep, Ray Charles, Amy Winehouse, Fleet Foxes, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, The Menzingers, Black Stone Cherry, Little Richard, Skindred – It’s a ridiculous mix of bands and that’s not even half of them.

Rebecca White: That’d be a wicked festival line-up!

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Let’s talk a little bit about the future for the band; you mention on your official site that your newest release ‘Dirty Footprints’ marks a turning point for Falling From Trees. Can I ask what might be coming next for the band? 

Leo White: Well, we don’t like to kiss and tell… but some Sleepless Nights have been had… (wink wink)

Adam White: I guess that’s the cat out of the bag! We have recently finished recording our debut full band EP with Justin Brand at NRSIX Studios in Norwich. It’s a five-track record and we hope to release it very soon. Like ‘Dirty Footprints’, expect more big, groove-laden tunes with huge vocals and maybe a cool breakdown or two! Other than that, we’re also looking forward to a bunch of festival appearances over summer, including Homegrown Festival, Harlequin Fayre and Trunchonbury.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us here at AltWire, on a final note was there anything else you would like to add, either to fans of the band or to our readers? 

Leo White: To anyone who has listened to our music, seen us live or come and talked to us after a show, we want to say thank you. We do this because we love writing and performing music. Your support means the world to us!

Adam White: Keep listening, spread the word, and most importantly, continue supporting local music.

Rebecca White: Thanks for having us – much love from the whole band!

Leo White: And Sam.

Listen to Falling From Trees ‘On and On’ here:

 

 

 

[AltWire Interview] Alton Wahlberg

I had the pleasure of meeting English singer-songwriter Alton Wahlberg during a live evening in Norwich, UK at Epic Studios. Mixing classic acoustic rock elements with a truly honest lyrical perspective, Alton Wahlberg‘s style and delivery has resulted in a duration at number 1 on the iTunes UK Singer/Songwriter charts, amassing him a dedicated following, as he tours in support of the release of his latest EP Time.

While taking some time out from performing, Alton was kind enough to chat with us here at AltWire, read more below!

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Hi Alton, massive thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us! For those not yet familiar with your music, would you mind first telling us a little bit about yourself?

Alton Wahlberg: I’m a Norfolk based musician, was given a guitar for Christmas when I was 12 and fell in love with writing and playing music! I started off busking and joined a few bands over the years where I learned the trade and gained valuable experience. I spent more than 10 years gigging around on the pub circuit, playing open mic nights and performing to pretty much anyone who would listen! Just over two years ago I decided to leave the bands and return to the thing I love the most – writing and performing my own music. I’ve been lucky enough to build an amazing group of followers who have supported me all the way which has enabled me to take the plunge and go ‘full time’ as a solo musician!

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: What would you say first drew you to start writing and performing music? Is there a particular moment you can recall that stands out?

Alton Wahlberg: I think because I grew up with my Dad’s tape collection full of the likes of James Taylor, Tracy Chapman, Bob Marley and Paul Simon, I always knew that was the type of music I wanted to play.

Funnily enough, it was during one of the biggest gigs I’ve ever played in with my old band that I decided to take the leap into a solo career…

I used to play in a Killers Tribute Band called ‘The Fillers’. The guys in the band were by far the most talented people I’ve ever had the privilege to work with and I learned so much from them. We were headlining one of the biggest Tribute festivals in Europe, and at the end of the set as I looked out onto literally – THOUSANDS of people screaming out as we broke into ‘Mr Brightside’ I just had this little feeling eating away at me that this wasn’t my song. The thousands of screaming fans didn’t actually want us – they wanted the real thing and we were just the closest thing to it at the time. Right then I knew it wasn’t enough for me to just play other peoples songs.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Since you’ve mentioned playing in a cover band for The Killers, and also feature a number of cover songs on your YouTube channel; are there any artists in particular you would love to collaborate with?

Alton Wahlberg: Obviously the big names come to mind – but realistically, the likes of Passenger and of course the main man Ed Sheeran aren’t going to be queuing up for a collaboration with me! To be honest, I love collaborating with anyone and actually have worked with several up-and-coming musicians already and have a section on my YouTube Channel dedicated to collaborations. I would genuinely work with anyone, just being around like-minded musicians is such a buzz for me!

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: You jokingly described your sound as “depressing acoustic music” before opening the evening at Epic Studios last Friday, are there any specific musical influences that add to your style? 

Alton Wahlberg: I remember stumbling into a Church in Cambridge many years ago now and listening to a guy on a guitar singing a sad song about a Homeless fella called David who he’d met in a hostel. I was mesmerized by this guy and could literally feel the sadness and emotion as he sang this song. I remember thinking to myself – This is how I want to make people feel when they listen to me. The guys name was Passenger and as his career exploded he became an absolute inspiration to me and proved that a solo acoustic busker really could make it in this tough industry.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: One thing that really seemed to resonate with your audience were the brief stories you told during your performance about what inspired you to write a particular song, such as the elderly marathon runner on ’24 Years’, or the reflections on being a father on ‘Questions’. Would you mind perhaps naming a few more that stand out to you? 

Alton Wahlberg: I worked in a Prison for 10 years, teaching Fitness courses to help with rehabilitation and during that time met so many people who had some incredible stories to tell. I’ve actually written a few songs about some of those people, two of these songs have featured on different EPs that I’ve released on iTunes and Spotify. One is called ‘Criminal’ and the other is ‘Jailhouse Confessions’. You should check them out!!!

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Throughout ‘Walk on By’ you touch on earlier days playing along to Jimi Hendrix and playing locally, do you have any particularly fond memories from playing music live? 

Alton Wahlberg: My first ever gig was at my School Christmas Show. Me and a couple of friends played 2 Oasis tracks and that was when I got the bug for performing live! I think my favorite memory though was meeting Passenger the guy who influenced me to go solo whilst I was busking in Manchester. Incredibly and totally by coincidence he was performing in a little Chapel on the opposite side of the road where I was busking! We had a chat, we had a selfie, he signed my guitar and that was that! Top bloke!

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Congratulations on the recent release of your latest EP Time! Tell us a little bit about what this EP means to you at this point in your career, was there anything you felt you had done differently to previous releases on this EP?

Alton Wahlberg: This EP is by far the most personal collection of songs I’ve released so far. There was a massive amount of pressure on this release as my previous EP – 1723 – had spent some time at Number 1 on the iTunes UK Singer/Songwriter charts. When I finally decided on the songs I wanted to include in this one I had a moment where I worried that they were just too sad and depressing and needed something a bit more cheerful included. But I wanted to keep this a really personal collection and felt that I wasn’t being true to myself by just including a ‘happy’ song for the sake of it. On the day it was released it went straight to number 5 on the singer/songwriter charts so it was a massive relief that people were still downloading it!

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Following the release of Time, where would you like to take your music next? 

Alton Wahlberg: I’ve kind of learned over the years that everyone’s musical journey is different and nothing ever goes to a generic ‘plan’. For me, I just want to keep writing music that people enjoy listening to, I want to keep performing and connecting with people through my music and just keep plugging away to reach as many people as I can!

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us here at AltWire, on a final note was there anything else you would like to add, either to fans or our readers?

Alton Wahlberg: Just sincere and genuine thanks to every single person who has watched me live, listened to me online or just simply taken the time to follow my musical journey on Facebook. I’m eternally grateful for your support, my songs and my stories mean absolutely nothing if no one is listening so thank you so so much to all who have supported me so far!

Listen to Alton Wahlberg’s ‘Here I Go Again’ here:

 

[Album Review] Shinedown – Attention Attention

It’s fair to say that Shinedown are the kind of band where you know exactly what you pay for. Mixing hard rock with flavours of heavier post-grunge, The Sound of Madness effectively stands as a near-perfect example of fun and catchy rock music; it wasn’t anything revolutionary, but that was hardly the point – you’re here to have a good time, and Shinedown were pretty damn good at that. Fast-forward a decade, and despite what some have considered a misstep with tamer 2015 effort, Threat to Survival, the Jacksonville hard rockers are still going strong if Attention Attention’s ‘Devil’ is anything to go by. Indeed, the slick Zach Myers guitar riff and explosive Barry Kerch percussion saw the band returning to exactly the kind of sound that made the likes of ‘Devour’ so much fun, and with vocalist Brent Smith roaring “cause it’s about to get heavy” it certainly appears that Shinedown’s sixth studio effort is going to be a hell of a ride.

Regarded as something of a concept record by the band, and focusing on the struggles of overcoming personal negativity, Attention Attention’s hefty collection of 14 tracks quickly sheds the far safer direction of Threat to Survival, and this is certainly rewarding; ‘Pyro’ and ‘Black Soul’ both benefit immensely from allowing guitarist Zach Myers a little more room to stretch out and put some really solid riffs on the table, while ‘The Human Radio’s huge, Royal Blood-esque bass guitar sees Eric Bass stepping into the limelight a little to an extremely satisfying result. At a glance, the band definitely feels reenergised, far more akin to The Sound of Madness’ heavier territory and seemingly delivering on their promise: “it’s about to get heavy.”

Continuing this frame of mind and true to the assured direction of the album, the thunderous and somewhat cinematic ‘Evolve’ roars triumphantly and embraces the signature Shinedown hard rock delivery, while ‘Monsters’ joins the ranks of Skillet’s ‘Monster’ and Three Days Grace’s ‘Animal I Have Become’ with Smith lyrically dehumanising the negative side to human personality. Taking a more mellow approach, ‘Kill Your Conscience’ flows back and forth between soft synthesisers and a more energetic, percussion-driven pre-chorus, and generally makes for a nice change of pace, while album closer ‘Brilliant’ dabbles ever so slightly in ‘Summer of 69’s classic guitar riff, before leaping into far more recognisable post-grunge Shinedown territory and ending the record on a noteworthy high.

Unfortunately, while Attention Attention shows once again that Shinedown definitely have a knack for getting your attention, where the album falters shows in what seems a classic case of quantity over quality; while the album’s 14 tracks (and 50 minute runtime) is certainly generous, it also feels somewhat oversaturated compared to the far brisker 40 minute runtime of Threat to Survival. This is first indicated ironically through title track ‘Attention Attention’, feeling much more like an underdeveloped addition to the album or even an unused Threat to Survival B-side, while ‘Get Up’ and ‘Special’ both try their hand at being a little softer compared to the album’s heavier style and end up not really achieving anything worthwhile as a result. That being said, ‘Special’ does actually utilise some particularly stunning acoustic and string elements, but the self-congratulatory applause at the end of the track feels just a little too much on the nose and comes across somewhat hubristic.

As a whole, Attention Attention is an easy step up from the band’s previous effort and offers something that is generally fun and rewarding; it’s nothing revolutionary or ground-breaking, but then it was never going to be. It may not be a perfect record, but there’s enough here to get into that will appease any Shinedown fan, and the band’s energy is infectious enough to hold your attention. In short, it’s everything it needed to be to be a Shinedown record, albeit a little overlong and perhaps a little too pleased with itself at times, but plenty enjoyable to warrant more than a few listens.

[Concert Review] Awolnation at Scala – London, UK 04/22/18

A few months ago I covered Awolnation’s latest studio effort Here Come The Runts in a review here on AltWire, offering my thoughts and feelings on what I felt was an incredibly captivating and exhilarating body of work. Here Come The Runts stood out to me, with an extreme enjoyment that lasted from the very moment ‘Here Come The Runts’ began, to the last huge riff and slam of percussion on finale ‘Stop That Train’. It may be ‘Sail’ or ‘Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)’ that drew some to the London Scala venue to see the band, or perhaps long-time fans since the release of debut Megalithic Symphony, but for me it was the wonderfully diverse Here Come The Runts.

I recently caught Awolnation at Scala in London on April 22nd and it was a fantastic show. Opening act Eliza and the Bear kicked things off in exactly the kind of fashion the evening needed; the smaller enclosed Scala venue easily allows for a more personal atmosphere, and you certainly felt that Eliza and the Bear were proud to be there. The group played for what felt too short a time, but this is by no means a criticism; a handful of songs were all that was really needed for much of the audience to completely fall in love with the act, all members of the band clearly having a fantastic time throughout their performance.

Before long, the snappy introductory percussion of ‘Here Come The Runts’ began, a warm and fuzzy synthesizer, and that wonderful opening line kicked things off:

“Let’s start the magic.”

Pulling heavily from Here Come The Runts’ track listing, it wasn’t long before Awolnation’s performance had the entire venue in a state of euphoric uproar; through the likes of ‘Passion’ and ‘Miracle Man’, or ‘Seven Sticks of Dynamite’ and ‘Table For One’, the band captivated and awed, magnified immensely in the enclosed Scala, and the audience drinking in every single second of it. And from the looks of things, the band were loving every moment of it too; from Aaron Bruno adoringly throwing flowers into the audience, to encouraging everyone to dance enthusiastically during ‘Burn It Down’, or moments where the vocalist vacated the stage completely to allow the band to perform instrumentally, such as ‘The Buffoon’ or a brief excerpt of AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’. The performance of the moody titular track to second studio effort Run easily proved another highlight, the atmosphere hitting an wonderfully ominous note with Bruno crooning the gentle mantra “I am a human being, capable of doing terrible things.”

Unfortunately as all good things do, it came to an end far sooner than anyone would have liked, but not before an extended performance of the band’s iconic hit ‘Sail’, the audience in full force screaming along, Zach Irons throwing in a blistering guitar solo, and Aaron Bruno’s repeated scorching screams of “We. Are. The AWOLNATION.”

Be sure to catch Awolnation if they come through your city. This is a show you wont want to miss!

[AltWire Interview] Jen Ledger of LEDGER

Having now spent a decade performing with American Christian rock giants Skillet, from 2009’s Awake through to the band’s latest offering, Unleashed, drummer and backing vocalist Jen Ledger has become an essential element to the band’s widely recognizable sound.

Now opening a brand new chapter musically with the newly established solo project, LEDGER, and having just released her debut EP, Jen Ledger has been causing a lot of excitement among the band’s hugely dedicated following, now touring with Skillet as not only the band’s drummer, but also opening for the joy. UNLEASHED Tour as LEDGER.

While busy touring, Jen Ledger was kind enough to discuss her brand new project with us here at AltWire.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: First off, congratulations on releasing the debut LEDGER EP, and huge thanks for taking the time to answer the questions we here at Altwire have – Skillet seems to be the kind of band that is always working! I guess the best way to start is at the beginning; since way back to when you first started with Skillet, can you think of a specific time throughout that journey that stood out to you as “I want to do something as a solo artist?

Jen Ledger: Thanks so much! I feel so incredibly excited to begin this new chapter. It was about 6 years ago when I felt a serious stirring in my heart to write my own music. I had been touring with Skillet for 4 years at that point, and I had seen just how powerful music can be. From Russia to Japan to Australia, I had seen music change and even save people’s lives. It breaks all barriers, including language barriers, and is able to touch the heart like nothing else. At that time, I told the Coopers I would love to learn from them and start writing my own music. They were incredibly supportive and Korey immediately took me under her wing. She started writing with me and teaching me how to craft a song. I wasn’t necessarily sure back then what, if anything, would come of it all. However, I knew I had something in my heart that I needed to get out, and I was eager to express it through songwriting.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: From numerous social media updates to Korey acting as producer, and John’s guest vocals on ‘Warrior’, the band seems to have been incredibly supportive of the process to create LEDGER; how did you find approaching the idea with the band?

Jen Ledger: Well, there is nothing quite like approaching world-known, multi-million-single-selling songwriters and telling them you want to start writing your own music. Ha! I felt intimidated to bring up a solo career, but honestly, I couldn’t have hoped for more generous, open-handed people. I was more so nervous because of their success and talent. As it all panned out, the Coopers have been outstandingly supportive through every step of the journey. To begin with, the fact that they took a chance on me all those years ago when they chose me to be their drummer for Skillet still amazes me! I was a 17-year-old kid when I auditioned, I had no touring experience, no life experience, I didn’t know how to pay my own bills or even drive a car when I met them. They took the time to train me musically and help me find me feet as I stepped into being an adult, too. With their influence they have made me a better drummer, and a better woman, than I ever would have been on my own. And so, when it came to asking them to train me in songwriting, I knew they would be incredible about it. But it was still scary to ask, ha!

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Although you’re better known as the drummer for Skillet, it’s definitely exciting to hear more from you vocally. I remember when ‘Hero’ debuted back in 2009, since then the fans always seemed to want to hear more of you! Having now worked on three albums with the band, did you find you approached the process any differently to before when taking on lead vocal duties?

Jen Ledger: When I sing in a Skillet song, I do it in the middle of smashing the drums as hard as I can, and sometimes while spinning on a fire-shooting platform 20 feet in the air! So, I often feel like the pressure is off a little with my singing and multi-tasking. It’s definitely an adjustment and something I’m finding my footing in now being the front person of my own band. I’ve never been so aware of my own limbs. It’s a vulnerable feeling to step out from behind the kit because you have nothing to hide behind.

A wonderful part of writing my own music is playing to the weird strengths of my voice. I have a great shouty tone and I have a really soft and breathier high register. We experimented a lot with my falsetto and softer parts of my vocal. It was great because these are the aspects that wouldn’t be heard if I were doing it from behind the drum kit. I love experimenting and trying new things right now!

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: We had a lot of fun hearing the EP for the first time, it definitely feels like there are hints of more than just the influences of working with Skillet in there; were there any specific musical influences that affected the way you approached writing the tracks?

Jen Ledger: I think I have a lot of influences showing themselves in my music. The first thing people might notice is that I have a bit of a pop side mixed in with the rocker in me. I grew up listening to all sorts of things; thanks to my dad, I grew up on Alanis Morissette and The Beatles, but as a teenager I loved a wide range of artists like Pink, Avril Lavigne, Evanescence, Linkin Park, and Blink-182.  I even liked more emotive stuff such as Jimmy Eat World. I would say that my biggest influence vocally would have to be Lacey Sturm, the former singer of Flyleaf. I’ll never forget the first time I heard “I’m So Sick” at the age of 16, and thought, “I want to be her!”

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: ‘Ruins’ in particular seem to come from a very personal place; can you tell us a little more about the influences that fed into the lyrical side of things on the EP?

Jen Ledger: “Ruins” is a song that will always be incredibly dear to me. There were quite a few songs that I wrote in the beginning with Korey 6 years ago, and Ruins is the only one to make the final cut for the EP.  Korey kept challenging me to dig deeper, to be more vulnerable and more real than I was really comfortable with. She pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to lay it all out there in a way I never had before. What I love about the song “Ruins” is that it’s not just a simple break up song, it explores all avenues of being ruined — the good and the bad..  It’s about being wrecked by love in both senses. On the one side, I’ve been ruined by a love that has hurt me; a love that’s let me down and left me wanting to stay guarded to protect myself from being hurt again. Alternatively, it’s also about the beauty in being ruined by something so good that your life can never go back to what it was before. When you find a love this good, it’s a wonderful and scary thing to fully lean into it. You’re ruined in the sense that life as it was before will never be as satisfying again. I love that “Ruins” deals with the battle within, trusting in a new love, and letting it ruin you in beautiful ways.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: There must be a lot of anticipation in debuting these tracks live for the first time, with LEDGER opening the joy. UNLEASHED Tour, were there any songs you’ve been particularly excited to perform live? Maybe even a couple that didn’t make the debut EP?

Jen Ledger: I have been super eager to perform ANY of my songs live! One that is particularly fun to perform live is “Warrior.” I wrote it with John and Korey Cooper, and the EP actually has John featured singing with me. It’s pretty special when he walks up on stage with me to make his guest appearance. In that moment, I have Korey rocking by my side on the guitar and John singing by me. It’s surreal and dreamy to perform my own songs with them. It’s almost like Deja vu in the best way. I don’t know how to describe it other than surreal and special.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: It’s always fun to see you and Seth share live drum/guitar solos together, you guys seem to have a really great time. Has it been at all tempting to ask him to throw a solo or two into the mix while recording for the EP?

Jen Ledger: Definitely tempting! We have a great time on stage! Korey produced a lot of the EP (along with Seth Mosley), and she definitely pulled Seth Morrison in to play some of the guitars. But overall, we were going for more of the emotive sounds and parts. She leaned into more of my Jimmy Eat World guitar influence and completely killed it.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: I actually still have the t-shirt from Skillet’s October 2014 gig at the UK Norwich Waterfront, any chance we’ll be seeing a little more of LEDGER supporting the band outside the US?

Jen Ledger: I certainly hope so! It would be so fun to take this same template around the world with LEDGER opening up for Skillet or being able to play the same events. I am super curious to see how LEDGER would go over in Europe and Russia. The rock scene is so strong over there. It would be a lot of fun to do that together in the future.

AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions, on one last note; it must be exciting seeing the LEDGER project already receive such a positive reception from fans, is there already an idea of where you would like to take things next?

Jen Ledger: Honestly, I have no idea, but I feel unbelievably excited to see what the Skillet/LEDGER team can venture into. In production, I would love to team up with Korey more for a full-length album; I’ve nicknamed her “World-Renowned” because her production is killer and I know she will have people knocking down her door after hearing this.

This week has felt like such a strange dream come true. I’ve been caught up in the whirlwind of it all. Songs that have been in my heart for so long are all of a sudden out there for the world to hear! And to have people respond so positively and already connect so deeply with the music is truly overwhelming. I couldn’t have hoped or asked for a better response. It feels like I’ve been on a journey, through highs and lows, and after all of these years people are all of a sudden on this journey with me. So, even though I’m not sure what lies ahead, all I can say is I am so freaking excited for what’s to come!

Stone Sour To Release ‘Hydrograd Acoustic Sessions’ EP

Following the success of 2017 studio effort, Hydrograd, American rock act Stone Sour are to release an acoustic EP featuring four tracks from the album.

At a lengthier 15 tracks, Hydrograd was acclaimed for being something of a departure to previous Stone Sour records, opting for a more “rock-and-roll” sound and going on to win Loudwire’s ‘Hard Rock Album of the Year’. With the recent release of the ‘St Marie’ music video, the acoustic EP looks to continue the band’s success and very positive reception with fans and critics alike.

With acoustic versions of ‘Song #3’, ‘Mercy’, ‘Rose Red Violent Blue’ and ‘The Witness Trees’ confirmed to feature on the Hydrograd Acoustic Sessions, the EP is scheduled to be released this coming Saturday 21st of April.

Missed the ‘St Marie’ Music Video? Watch it here: