Category Archives: Interviews

Interviews with Rock and Roll artists

Max McElligott of Wolf Gang Interview

Max McElligott of Wolf Gang House of Blues in Orlando
Max McElligott of Wolf Gang House of Blues in Orlando

Interview With Wolf Gang’s Max McElligott

Bastille has capitalized on the smashing success of their recent release, Bad Blood to headline a Sold Out tour of the United States. Their support for the tour? A band familiar to both Bastille and RARA’s Farm, an act on the cusp of breaking through, London’s Wolf Gang. We caught up with uber-talented Wolf Gang frontman Max McElligott to chat about the tour, their new album and a few other interesting things.

Cretin: Max, when we first saw you a few years back at the Social, I loved the show, and your charisma.
Max: Thank you.

Cretin: At that time, it seemed as though the rest of the band was just starting to come into a groove as a band, and it was almost more of your project. Since then, has it been the same group of guys in the band?
Max: Yeah, even before that point where you had seen us, we were playing together as a band for two or three years.  It’s always been the same guys.  When you saw us,  I was still signed as a solo project, but I was playing with the same group of guys, James, Gavin and Lasse, and we had formed into a band.

Cretin: On the Suego Faults album, you played all the instruments?
Max: I did, I hopped about from the drum kit to the piano, etc. This time out, everyone was putting in their own effort. It’s cool. On this last record, (Black River) everyone got a vote.

Cretin: Which is good because you get more creative spark.
Max: Yeah it’s just nice to hear the different personalities, which you hear on the record. We sound much more like a band.

Cretin: Are you still doing the primary writing?
Max: It’s shared. James (Wood the bassist) also contributed quite heavily, so it’s a mixture.

Cretin: The new EP is out. Will we hear these songs on the forthcoming full-length album?
Max: The album is all done, and those three are on the album. So that’s a taste of what can be expected, but there’s still another seven or eight songs that will be on (Black River).

Cretin: On Suego Faults all of the songs came together nicely, almost like it was a concept album. Was that the plan?
Max: Yeah, there was a theme that ran through it. A dreamy, ethereal type experience, a romantic one, I feel.  And, this next album also has a theme to it, but it’s more grounded in reality and our own experiences. It’s almost as though you’ve woken up from that dreamy ethereal Suego Faults experience. This is much more like the real world, but still with notions of romanticism but just a little more realistic about the lives we are living and friends of ours are living and that you reach in the late twenties; people questioning the paths in their lives, so it’s a little more autobiographical in a real way I suppose.

Cretin: A lot of the great albums over time were written by band members of that age. It’s a fertile time for writing.
Max: Yeah

Cretin: So how has the sound changed in the last two years, any noticeable changes? Will we still hear that same Wolf Gang?
Max: Well, you’ll hear tonight, I guess. I think it feels obviously a little more bandy and maybe a little more raw, and there will still be synthetic elements and sort of atmospherics, but maybe that’s been reined in a little bit. I think vocally I’ve pushed myself a bit more and I might sound a bit more truthful to my voice. I absolutely loved the last album and this is just slightly different, but I love it equally.

Cretin: So how did you end up touring with Bastille?
Max: So, funny enough, maybe seven or eight years ago, I used to go down to Brighton, a town about an hour South of London, and I’d play these acoustic nights and Dan from Bastille was kind of doing the same thing. So we actually played together in small pubs long before Bastille existed and long before Wolf Gang existed. It’s actually very nice and quite surreal to be out here and seeing Bastille absolutely smashing and to be playing these big stages with them and to think we were just two young boys trying to pursue some kind of career in music. So it was really nice to support them. They’re a great band and they’re all lovely guys.

Cretin: Perseverance has paid off for both bands. It’s nice to see that success for both of you. You realize you’ve sold out tonight?
Max: Bastille sold out tonight.

Cretin: We’ve been giving Wolf Gang great props because you guys are so great live. I think everyone coming out is going to enjoy you guys, as well.
Max: It’s been going damn well. It’s a good support, because it seems that the guys coming out to see Bastille have seemed to be appreciative of our music. On Twitter the feedback has been real positive.

Cretin: Your Twitter has exploded in the past few months.
Max: It’s nice when you actually have something to be promoting and talking about and you’re actually doing something. The whole last year was sort of a hibernating period of just writing and recording. But now that we’re out on the road again and meeting people and shaking hands and taking photos and playing for them and hearing what they think of the new songs. It’s nice to have that activity going on again.

Cretin: Will we see you back in the States this year?
Max: We’ll be back I think in the summer. Maybe hit the West Coast. We try to spend as much time in America as we can.

Cretin: When are we going to see the new album released.
Max: Realistically the album will probably be coming out late summer, maybe September time. I think because we’ve been outside the game writing and recording, we wanted to build that up again and get people excited about us.

Cretin: Anything we’ll hear tonight from the new album?
Max: Yeah, plenty of new material

Cretin: Excellent, looking forward to it.
Max: Great to see you again.

And from there, they hit the stage, and killed it… again. Watch for this talented, quickly rising band in your city, and in the meantime, check out our show review from a few weeks ago: Wolf Gang Orlando Concert Review.

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Rock On!

Within Reason Talk About Their Future

Within Reason at Welcome To Rockville
Within Reason at Welcome To Rockville

Within Reason Interview

Prepping for Welcome To Rockville, I did some exam week style cramming. I listened to 40+ bands trying to identify the dozen or so that I was most interested in covering. There were a bunch that I listened to often, others that I was fairly familiar with and then a handful I didn’t know at all, but whose music caught my attention.  Within Reason was one of those bands fresh on my radar, but one that made a quick and lasting positive impression.

The talented rockers from Alabama opened the main stage at the festival with a killer set, that had the crowd thoroughly engaged, and left me impressed. I caught up with Chris Dow (vocals), David Koonce (bass) and Chase Davidson (guitar) backstage shortly after they closed their powerful set.

Cretin: You just releases your new single. “Enemy.” And despite the fact that you’ve been playing for years, you’ve decided to release this one all your self. Tell me a little bit about that decision?
Chris: I think we all got into music to get out of corporate America. Why would we want to sign a deal with these massive conglomerates who tell us how to do our work, take all of that money when we could figure it out on our own?

Cretin: You lose a lot of control, and potential profit.
Chris: First off, record labels only exist because of the bands. I’ve never known a band who have said good things about their label.

Cretin: Sounds familiar. I talk to more and more bands going the Indie route. But you guys have really done it your own way. Your own label with total control over everything. Will you have other bands on this label?
David: Maybe somewhere down the road, but right now we don’t want to take anything away from our band.
Chris: If we had the funding and saw a band that we really liked, we could put some money behind them and basically put all of the resources we’ve put together behind them. (smiles) But right now, we’re focused on us.

Cretin: That’s perfect. YOu work your asses, you guys bear the fruits of your labor. So, the After The Crawl EP is great, love the powerful rock sound. They songs are all a little bit different, but the last song is really different. Tell us about it.
Chris: It’s a Justin Timberlake and 50 Cent cover. (“Ayo Technology” – which is linked below)
Chase: Our old sound check song.
David: When we played it love, people were telling us ‘you should record it.” So we did. A lot of people liked it, and we put it on the record.

Cretin: The new single, “Enemy” is about to hit the airwaves. What radio stations and rock genres are you targeting for airplay?
Chase: All of them.
Chris: I think Kid Rock had it all figured out. If you think about it, he’s been on every genre of radio. He’s been on rock, rap, country, hot AC and pop. But, right now, I think our single will start on active rock.

Cretin: What’s up next for you guys? Any touting this summer.
Chris: We’ll be touring, and we’ve talked to a few bands that are here at this festival. We’ll also be playing a huge event later in the summer that hasn’t been announced yet (so stay tuned for that).

This talented quartet out of Birmingham, has quite the bright future. They write distinctive active rock with catchy hooks, put on a strong show, and are driven by a passionate love for their craft: rock music. But, it’s a tough business and even more challenging when you strike out on your own. These likeable, talented musicians have a chance to breakthrough soon. Make sure you check out their music; you’ll be happy you did, and you might be making a difference in their future.

Check out our photo gallery on our Facebook (and Like Us while you’re there! Within Reason at Welcome To Rockville

Rock On!

Within Reason Photo
Within Reason on the Jacksonville Waterfront

Interview with Adam Cohen of The Vinyl Kicks

Adam Cohen Interview
by Joey Farese

I recently met Adam Cohen, rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist of the Vinyl Kicks and he passed me a copy of his upcoming EP, Ambitions Don’t Age Well. I didn’t think much of the encounter at the time but once I listened to the EP my entire perspective changed. Adam and The Vinyl Kicks are doing something wonderful for the music world, and more specifically, the Florida music scene. After reviewing the album and listening to it countless times since, I decided to pick at Adam’s brain and interview him about the new album, his inspiration, and music in general.

(Editor: Make sure you check out Joey’s EP review here: Ambitions Don’t Age Well)

RARAs Farm: Adam, we know you’re the lead vocalist of The Vinyl Kicks and you are largely responsible for writing the lyrics. Where do you get your inspiration from when writing songs for the Vinyl Kicks?
Adam Cohen: I guess a lot of my inspiration comes from life experience. My main objective most of the time is to paint a picture in your mind of what’s going on in the song, I really try to write in a way that isn’t too direct to one specific thing, or one specific scenario so everyone can take it in a way that makes sense to them. Writing something that everyone can relate to but with an underlying message I think is pretty important.

RARAs Farm: How would you describe the band’s sound?
Adam Cohen: It sounds like 5 people that come from mostly all different musical back rounds. You have a little bit of everything and It’s hard to explain, but I love it.

RARAs Farm: As a vocalist, who are some of your biggest influences? Why?
Adam Cohen: I mean I’m not so much influenced by other vocalist because I am very into doing what I want to do. To be honest I just kind of sing and, I feel it’s a very organic sound in a sense because I’m just up there doing my thing; if you like it, that’s awesome, and if you don’t… Hey that’s okay too!, but there are vocalist’s that I definitely admire, for example I’m a big fan of the classics like Robert Plant, Jimi Hendrix, Roger Waters, Van Morrison, and I have to throw in Mick Jagger, of course John Lennon, Don Henley, Tom Petty, going back even more Ray Charles is amazing, too. For the more modern vocalists, I have to say Alex Turner. He’s got it all in terms of originality, same goes for Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. Of course Julian Casablancas, going back a little Thom Yorke, Luke Prichard of the Kooks, Russell Marsden, James Mercer,  again there’s so many awesome vocalists out there.

RARAs Farm: Do you think the band has matured since the release of The Vinyl Kicks first EP, Almost Young?
Adam Cohen: We’ve definitely matured in every aspect, I think we all just kind of put our influences aside, and played the music we want to play. As to the last record, we did our own thing, but we for sure had our influences in mind a lot more. We all have improved so much as musicians in this past year and I think I’ve matured as a writer. The lyrics in the first record were a lot younger sounding and light hearted. On this record the lyrics are a little played out better, and deeper.

RARAs Farm: What are some of the struggles you faced when putting together Ambitions Don’t Age Well?
Adam Cohen: Ahhh struggles… I know I kind of went off my rocker a little bit to say the least.. I just loved what we had been putting together. We didn’t really go into this record with the intentions of writing another EP. We just had that moment where we decided we need to record these songs; we were making because we loved them, and they were getting really good crowd response when we’d play them live. It just felt right. Going back to what I was saying about me going a little crazy; I was so passionate about this record that when I was going back and writing lyrics, tweaking different parts, I didn’t want this to be a sophomore slump; I wanted this to in our own eyes, and hopefully in the eyes of others for this to be a breakthrough, and transitioning EP as a group. I think we accomplished that for ourselves at least.

RARAs Farm: I noticed that the band has a strong online presence. How has the internet helped to get your sound out there?
Adam Cohen: The internet is everything now-a-days especially if you’re a musician. We promote our music every chance we get. I know for me I get the most fulfillment that people are actually just listening to our stuff, that to me is the coolest part. It’s pretty surreal when I see people at our shows singing our lyrics, and dancing around, but I guess the internet did a lot for us organically, too. It still blows me away when we get random “Likes” on Facebook from people in England, Australia, different parts of South America, I even saw one from the Philippines which I thought was pretty awesome. Technology still continues to blow me away everyday just how much we have to work with. It’s unbelievable.

RARAs Farm: I know you guys have a music video in the works; When will the music video be released and where can we find it?
Adam Cohen: Our music video for our single “Parachute” will be out in late May and it’ll be on YouTube, and Vimeo, and you know we are going to post it to Reddit. We love Reddit. Also it’ll be on our page for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

RARAs Farm: Do you guys have any shows booked or tours coming up to show case the new music?
Adam Cohen: We actually have a lot coming up gearing towards the summer. We are starting our tour with our EP release show June 28th in Miami, FL with Dinosaurs and Disasters, they’re awesome by the way definitely check them out. We are mainly doing the Southeast this summer trying to get up North a little, and out West but we are always down for adventures along the way, so stay posted because there could be a lot of unexpected shows along the way. We post everything on our Facebook page as far as shows, tours, everything and you can find that at

RARAs Farm: Tell me something about The Vinyl Kicks that most people don’t know.
Adam Cohen: Oh man… too many things, most people don’t know about our awesome Catapella side project. We kind of keep that to ourselves, You know??

Joey Farese

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Smile Empty Soul Refine Their Success Formula

Smile Empty Soul's Jake Kilmer -
Smile Empty Soul’s Jake Kilmer –

Jake Kilmer (Smile Empty Soul) Interview

A decade ago, three brash young Californians exploded onto the Alt-Rock scene with a smashing breakthrough single “Bottom of the Bottle.” Their first release peaked inside the Top 10 and they were on everyone’s list of band’s to watch.  But then, they seemed to slip off the Alt-Rock radar.

Were they a one-hit wonder bereft of potential? No, far from it.  The rock music business is a fickle one, record companies are unpredictable, and radio stations schizophrenic.  While the trio still churned out excellent music, they lost some of their presence. But, fortunes are changing, and the trio is again on the cusp of big things.

We recently caught up with talented drummer Jake Kilmer after a rousing set in front of a few thousand rabid fans at hard rock’s premier music festival, Welcome To Rockville in Jacksonville.  The band symbolically kicked off the set with “Black and Blue,” the title track off of their latest release; then powered through a nice sampling of their past decade of music, both new and old.

We took a few moments to chat about the band’s latest project, and their plans for this summer, shortly after they left the stage.

RARAsFarm: So, you guys had a big crowd out there. What did you think of the Jacksonville fans during your set?
Jake Kilmer: I thought they were into it. There was some good energy there. I got an awesome picture with the guys in it and the crowd in the background, we had a lot of fun.

RARAsFarm – here’s the photo Jake referenced, and it is pretty damn good (we’ll provide our link to their show photos below)

Jake Kilmer crowd shot Welcome To Rockville
Jake Kilmer with his great crowd shot at Welcome To Rockville

RARAsFarm: You’ve been together for about ten years now, and just released your sixth album, Chemicals, how’s it doing?
Jake Kilmer: It’s going good and fans dig it. They know more and more songs each day. Our second single “Chemicals” is out on Sirius XM’s Octane and it’s being picked up on radio stations all around the country.

RARAsFarm: You mention Octane, and truthfully there’s parts of Florida with no good rock stations, so Octane is where I hear most of these Welcome To Rockville bands. Has it become an important station for a band’s success these days?
Jake Kilmer: Now it is, sure; Sirius XM’s Octane is bad ass, because it’s nationwide. If you’re on there, you are doing something right because you’re pleasing them.

RARAsFarm:  What are your plans for the summer?
Jake Kilmer:  We’ll be touring. We just put a shitload of dates on our site. We’re going all over.

RARAsFarm: Are you guys just focused on touring, or making new music now?
Jake Kilmer: We’re just focused on touring. Sean’s always been writing. Collectively we all work on the tunes together to put them together, but he’s the songwriter. I’m sure he’s been writing a bunch. It’s never been hard for Smile to get together and produce new material; it’s only been hard to get the right label team who aren’t douchebags, to become a part of the team and support us.

RARAsFarm: It sounds like you have a lot of company. A bunch of bands I speak to are facing the same challenges.
Jake Kilmer: That’s why it’s bad ass that we’re doing our own thing label-wise. We’re in control and that’s why we didn’t come back so fast. We got off that label because they didn’t do shit. We found a new opportunity with a friend of ours willing to invest. We put together this team, found a great radio team and publicist, and we’ve been working hard at it.  And, we’re not going anywhere.

RARAsFarm: Well, the new stuff sounded great today and it was nice to hear, and you guys killed it live. Hopefully we’ll see you again soon on the East Coast.
Jake Kilmer: Cheers.  Thank you.

Check out the latest Smile Empty Soul album below. It’s jammed with solid straight-forward American alt-rock, and some of their best stuff in years.

Make sure you Follow Us on Twitter and Like Us on Facebook for more from Smile Empty Soul in the near future.

Our Smile Empty Soul concert photos are here on our Facebook (Like Us, please): Welcome To Rockville Photos

Rock On!

Insights from Band Manager, Todd Forcellina

Interview With Todd Frocellina
Insights on Managing a Rock Band

I’ve always been as interested in music as I am in writing; and in the summer of 2012 I thought I would do my best to combine my two interests. At the time, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the Polk county based band, Chasing Thrill, and I knew I wanted to write about them. Through a friend of a friend, I was able to meet the guys in the band and we hit it off pretty quickly. I knew that I wanted to write a piece on the band but hadn’t decided what exactly it was that I wanted to write until I learned that the band was about to make a road trip to New York City to stay with their manager and play a show at the legendary Gramercy Theatre.

During the trip, I met Todd Forcellina, Chasing Thrill’s band manager and was instantly fascinated with the way in which he managed the band. Todd was precise and calculated in everything he did, but he never forgot to have fun. I think I was most surprised to see how much work goes into making a band successful. It was when I met Todd that I learned that making good music is only half the battle to becoming a successful band.

It only seems natural that when I sat down to compose an interview for RARASFARM, Todd would be the first person I would turn to with questions about the rock industry.

(Q) What first got you into managing bands?
(A) I have been on the performance side of the business since I was 16. But I have always had an interest in the industry itself. One of my best friends who had been working for a major label asked if I would be interested in starting a management company with him to see if we could help bands along this very difficult business to navigate; something we never had when we were trying to land a deal.

(Q) What are some of your responsibilities as a band manager?
(A) When a band doesn’t have the luxury of multiple departments at a label taking care of everything, my job basically includes doing EVERYTHING except performing! It includes booking shows and trying to gather interest in the band from venues to booking agents who can help spread the fan base. It includes working on merchandise, promotion, and just being a general cheerleader to make sure they are doing everything they need to do on their end like, practicing, writing , promoting, performing or even getting enough rest.

(Q 1) Can you list some of the bands you have managed?
(A) Sure, International recording artist PJ Pacifico who I also drum for, Chasing Thrill a band out of Orlando, The Third Rail, a cover band and a new band called The Broadcast Hearts out of Connecticut, who we are looking at possibly taking on. They produced a very unique video that has gotten some great response.

(Q) How would you describe your personal relationship with the bands you manage?
(A) They are like my family. The bands that I have played in personally are still to this day my best friends. The bands that I manage become like my own kids. I have had multiple bands stay at my home for weeks at a time while they are out on tour in the East Coast area. I am honest to a fault with them always telling them exactly how I feel. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t. I guess it is no different than having real kids.

(Q) What advice would you give to someone looking to start managing a band?
(A) It is a lot of work! If the band is looking to get farther than just playing the local scene, it should be someone other than the friend who can’t play an instrument, so he or she decides to be the manager. It is a rewarding job but you better be able to multi-task and be able to deal with different personalities. Also, be able to deal with record industry types who are generally looking to try and take advantage of hungry young kids. I would say a must read for anyone looking to get into this part of the industry is “All You Need To Know About The Music Business” by Donald Passman. It was given to me to read before I started out and it is invaluable.

(Q) A lot of band members look up to legendary performers. Are there any legendary band managers that you looked up to?
(A) Sure first one I can think of is Brian Epstein who managed the Beatles one of my favorite bands of all time. Also I would say Bill Aucoin who managed KISS for many many years. Today there is Doc McGhee who has managed everyone from Bon Jovi to Motley Crue to KISS. They are very successful at what they do or did and are just in the spotlight enough, but not so much to take away from the artist they represent.

(Q) I know you’ve worked closely with the central Florida based band Chasing Thrill. How did you first discover that band?
(A) My partner in Blitz Management has a relative from their hometown. She had told us that there was this popular local band and wanted to know if we would be interested. She then sent us the CD and press kit and we kind of took over from there.

(Q) Once you discovered Chasing Thrill, what attracted you to them?
(A) I will never forget, we listened to their debut EP “Promises” in my partner’s office. It wasn’t like the music was so ground breaking or different that we thought this band was a no-brainer, but we could not get over how well the songs were produced with having no backing from a label, plus the vocals were so strong, the melodies and hooks were unbelievable, the guitar playing and drumming was so solid, plus they had “the look”, the look of a band ready for the road. My partner went to go see them when they were in the Connecticut area. He told me that Josh (the lead singer) was sick and that the sound system in the club was awful and that they didn’t sound that great that night. But he did speak to the entire band after they were done and he felt they all had the right attitude and there was something there we could work with. When they got back to Florida at a venue they played all the time, we flew down to see them. The place was packed, the kids knew the words to every song, the band was super tight and sounded incredible and the energy in the room was undeniable. We knew we wanted to sign them and within a month we did. The problem with Chasing Thrill was that I think they thought because one of their managers was a big deal at a major label it was going to be a walk in the park signing a label deal. That is not the case. It still takes hard work, building a fan base and constantly writing new material until something sticks. At some point in time it became apparent that we wanted it more than the band did, and when that happens you can forget it. They are still to this day some of the most talented kids I know and the songs are still what I listen to on a regular basis. I just wish they could all take their heads out of their you know what and realize that they had something very special.

(Q) What role does social media play in band promotion?
(A) Social media is HUGE. I will be the first to admit I don’t know all the ins and outs of the latest things that media has to offer. Once again when a band gets on a label so much of that is taken care of for them. Hell, back in the day when I was playing 3 or 4 shows a week there was no Myspace, Facebook, Twitter. No Pandora, iTunes, Youtube….NOTHING. We would sit around a coffee table in our band house printing out flyers and spent days driving around town hanging them up everywhere to promote our gigs. We would print up hundreds of postcards that had our gig schedule on them and stamp them ourselves spending all our money on hundreds of stamps to send out to our mailing list! To get a label to listen to you, you had to actually send you material to the label in hopes that someone would listen to it and not just throw it in the trash or a pile with hundreds of other cassette tapes. It has changed so so much. It is so much easier now to build a fan base, but that is still the most important thing for a band, maybe even more than the quality of their songs, is building that fan base so a label can’t ignore you.

(Q) Fill in the blanks with words that you believe describe your overall experience working with rock bands.
(A) Satisfying, tiring, fun, enlightening, and rock n’ roll.

(Q) I think there’s a general belief that front men are prima donnas. Any truth behind that?
(A) I guess. I can only say that with Josh (Chasing Thrill) he needed the most attention. He is a strange guy for sure, but a real sweet guy. I still believe he could be one of the best front men in rock if he would just go for it.

(Q) Would you rather have managed Guns n’ Roses or KISS? Why?
(A) KISS. I could not deal with all the drugs that came with Guns. KISS had in the past a couple members who had issues with drugs and alcohol but for the most part Gene and Paul just always had a vision and never lost focus on what they wanted and how they were going to get there. Don’t get me wrong, GNR was a great band and I am sure would have been fun to manage as well, but KISS are more than a band, they are a business, a franchise and have taken what started as four guys from NYC starving to make it to becoming basically a part of the American fabric. Think about it. There is nowhere you can go in the world and if you show the KISS logo or the makeup that someone doesn’t know who it is.

(Q) I know that you recently had your first kid. Has that affected your band managing at all?
(A) Having my son Jett has made my life complete. He is already a little rock and roller. The only thing that it has affected with anything I do in my life, not just band managing is that HE comes first along with my wife, everything else comes 2nd. End of story.

(Q) Do you have any exciting things in the works for the rest of 2014?
(A) Musically I am just playing my drums and happy to be able to do it with my busy schedule. Spend as much time with my wife Emilie and my son Jett, do some traveling, etc. I will also say again I have my eye on this band The Broadcast Hearts from Trumbull, CT. they are making some noise up around this area. They got their video on VH1 And MTV with no help from anyone including me. They are young, determined and focused and that is exactly what I look for in a band that I might want to get involved with.

Rock On!
Joey Farese

Interview with Sleeper Agent’s Tony Smith

Phil Knott Courtesy RCA
Phil Knott Courtesy RCA

Sleeper Agent Concert Preview and Tony Smith Interview

Sleeper Agent, a distinctive and talented Alt-Rock band is headed to Orlando, and we had a chance to chat with front man Tony Smith a bit about the tour, the band’s new album, About Last Night, and a few other things.

RARA’s Farm: RARA’s Farm has an affinity these days for Alt-Rock with Male/Female vocal trade-offs, like Sleeper Agent, Grouplove, Mother Mother and a few others. As a music fan, do you find yourself drawn to that kind of music or are your tastes totally divergent?
Tony Smith: In 2009 when Alex joined, I originally intended for her to play bass and sing back-up, ala Kim Deal of the Pixies. It didn’t work out and we had a show coming up in a few days so to save time we just split the difference on vocals. I was also really into The XX at the time, too. Now that I think about it, all my favorite albums in the past couple of years have been from females: EMA, Grimes, Haim…

RARA’s Farm: When the songs are first written, are the vocal plans already decided, as in who takes or shares the lead? Or is that something that evolves after the fact?
Tony Smith: Melody always comes first and is most important to me. On the new album, About Last Night, I wanted to toy with more harmonies and reserved a lot of my vocals for back-up unless it needed that extra male vocal dynamic.

RARA’s Farm: Where did the new album title come from? Who’s the big Rob Lowe fan?
Tony Smith: The title’s somewhat of a continuation of Celabrasion. It’s the morning after that experience and the content is reflective of the past three years of being in this band, and 80’s Demi Moore was hot.

RARA’s Farm: When will the album hit the streets?
Tony Smith: March 25th.

RARA’s Farm: Which song from About Last Night has been the most positively received by your fans when playing live?
Tony Smith: It’s a little too soon to confidently say for sure. But, “Be Brave,” “Shut” and “Impressed” have been turning some heads.

RARA’s Farm: Is there a song or two from across your catalog that you particularly enjoy playing live?
Tony Smith: “That’s My Baby” is always fun to play because it seems to have resonated most with fans after all these years.

Grab “That’s My Baby” on iTunes here: That’s My Baby – Celabrasion

RARA’s Farm: After many years of sort of not being on the rock music landscape, Kentucky is a hot place right now. Any idea why?
Tony Smith: No idea. Is it really? I need to get out more.

RARA’s Farm: Humor seems to be such a prevalent part of your fabric as a band. Is that just my overactive imagination?
Tony Smith: We’re all too damned serious as individuals and so when you put us together we recognize how off putting that is and just start riffing on each other.

RARA’s Farm: You are touring with New Politics and Magic Man for the next few months. Is there any one place you are most looking forward to playing, other than Orlando, of course?
Tony Smith: It was -3 degrees in Kentucky the week we left for tour. Any place that’s warm is more than welcomed. Orlando’s warm, right? But, I’m looking forward to seeing St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta and Santa Barbara again, as well.

For those of you in Florida, you can catch this excellent live band at The Social in Orlando on Saturday, January 18th and at The Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale on the 19th.. They open the show with New Politics, so don’t be late.  This is a killer show that RARA’s Farm will not miss, so Follow/Like Us for show updates…

Rock On!

James Durbin Talks About His Upcoming Tour

James Durbin Photo
James Durbin – Photo by LeAnn Mueller

James Durbin’s “Celebrate” Tour Comes to Florida

The Central Florida 2014 rock concert season is about to instantly ratchet up a few notches with heralded young rocker James Durbin tearing through Orlando and Jacksonville as part of his current National Tour.

The American Idol success story is touring in support of his forthcoming release,Celebrate, on a tour that promises to spotlight his continued growth as an artist and performer. Durbin took some time out of his tour schedule to share some thoughts on the album and the tour, including one from our Twitter Community.

RARA’s Farm: For your new album Celebrate, you had considerably more time to complete the release. What was the greatest advantage to having that time to prepare?
James Durbin: The greatest advantage to having more time to make the record was that it gave me more time to write and craft the record itself. On the physical record (not including bonus tracks) I co-wrote 10 of the 11 tracks. That definitely wouldn’t have happened without having that solid, creative time span.

RARA’s Farm:The first single “Parachute” is a pop anthem in the waiting, it possesses a bit more of a polished and mainstream feel than your earlier music, is that what we should expect throughout the album?
James Durbin: Yes and no. The whole record is composed of songs that are very hooky and catchy. It’s all fairly “mainstream” (if that word even still holds value). Like I said before, I had time on my side making Celebrate. Time to know and find out what worked and what didn’t.

RARA’s Farm:You have cited the influences of many diverse artists In your past, The Beatles and Paul McCartney seem to play a prominent role. Would you consider Paul your greatest influence as an artist?
James Durbin: Now that you mention it, I always find myself referring to The Beatles and Paul McCartney’s songwriting style. If you’re gonna look up to someone, might as well pick the greatest living legend, right? No one works for their entire life’s dream aiming for the middle.

RARA’s Farm:Which song off of Celebrate translates the best live, or is your favorite to perform live?
James Durbin: I really love performing “Parachute”. There’s nothing more important than loving your single because you’ll be playing it for the rest of your life. Whichever one it is. It sucks playing something over and over because you have to, but it’s a walk in the park when you listen to it like it’s your own theme song.

RARA’s Farm:Will fans from American Idol see any of the songs you performed on the show in your show setlist on this tour?
James Durbin: Probably not. But then again you never know. I like to perform “on the fly”. There’s so much liberty in being able to go off on some jam. Stray from the setlist ya know? I’m really loving that these days. We are musicians after all.

RARA’s Farm: You seem to wear your heart on your sleeve and are quite passionate when you perform. Which song touches your heart the most when you perform it these days?
James Durbin: “May” has been and always will be an emotional song to perform. Especially when I open my eyes, look into the audience, and see people crying.

RARA’s Farm:Could you tell us anything about the touring band?
James Durbin: It’s me on guitar the whole show. That’s a first. In addition I have my bassist Justin Kastner, who I found on Craigslist, no joke (Thanks Craig!), and one of my best friends Jeremy Cross on percussion. Jeremy was the first person to ever ask me if I wanted to join/start a band. It’s good to have friends with you on tour. Hallelujah!

And finally, from one of our Twitter followers:
Wendy Liu ‏@wendyucliu6h:  In one word, how would you describe your new album?
James Durbin: “CELEBRATE”, that’s why I named it that.

That pretty much says it all. Come out and CELEBRATE with RARA’s Farm as Durbin brings his show to Central Florida in the next week.  We’ll be at the show and providing our review and photos right here afterwards. Follow Us on Twitter and Like Us on Facebook for coverage of this show and everything rock music related in the Central Florida region.

Upcoming Area Shows
Wed. 1/15 – Will’s Pub, Orlando
Fri. 1/17 – Brewster’s Roc Bar, Jacksonville

Tix for both shows are available and at bargain prices! Tickets and a full concert listing are available here: James Durbin Tour Schedule

Rock On!

Luke Dowler EP Review and Interview

luke dowler

Chat with Luke Dowler on His New EP West

From the first listen to “Coming Home,” the opening track off of Luke Dowler’s 2012 masterpiece Polarized, I’ve been captivated by his unique blend of rock ‘n roll. A true singer-songwriter with a penchant for churning out passionate, thought-provoking originals, Dowler is an artist who always captures my attention.

The Montana based performer is back with his recent release of West, his new EP.  The Kickstarter funded EP finds Dowler pushing his boundaries yet again and is an excellent and diverse offering.  We caught up with him recently and chatted about the new EP.

RARA’s Farm: Tell us a little bit about the decision to use Kickstarter to fund this EP.
Luke Dowler: I thought about doing one a few years back, but even then Kickstarter seemed so over-saturated. The idea came back around and I decided to take the leap.  Any project that takes the Kickstarter approach, there’s some risk out there. Fortunately, we succeeded and we were able to make the EP.

RARA’s Farm: So, this EP is titled West; is there significance as to why these five particular songs ended up on the EP named West?
Luke Dowler: Leaving the label last year and looking forward I was thinking ‘what now’? And, the answer was ‘anything and everything’. I would say that on one level, the EP is not very linear sonically but at the same time, the glue of it is “West” conjuring up images of pioneering and looking forward to the future and what’s next. You’ve got a little bit of electronic a little folk rock and a little acoustic. It was my thought that I could go anywhere from here.

RARA’s Farm: That makes sense. As I listened to the album, it seemed really diverse and I was wondering what the common thread was; that’s a good way to pull it all together.
Luke Dowler: I started out in a ska band and played in a lot of different variations musically and have written in a lot of styles. Sometimes the delivery of style is something that people get hung up on. I’ve always considered myself a songwriter… So that’s why I decided to start out with West. “West” as an idea is where I wanted to start.

As a reviewer, I found the EP was truly a diverse group of songs. A few of them work better than others, but they all stand strongly on their own. The first three are straight forward Dowler-esque rock, and all three are superb; then the EP takes some different twists and turns. We chatted about the five tracks.

RARA’s Farm: The EP kicks off with “Firewater Revelation;” it’s an excellent track with fantastic lyrics.
Luke Dowler: I’m a big fan of Van Gogh’s “Cafe At Night” and the emotional response it evokes and I thought I wanted to paint a picture with a song. So, it’s describing a bit of a melancholy scene. The working title was actually “Bar Rats.” Growing up in the church and learning about life within that context and then playing music and meeting people outside of that context you start to see the similarities in people and similarities in drive and desire and realizing there really is universality of the human spirit. So you see the contrast of the church language and the coarser bar language.

RARA’s Farm: “Good Enough” is a bit of a stripped down folk rock track. Is that a genre that you’re more comfortable playing in? The first three songs are all a bit different, but feel like good fits for you. Is there one that seems like a better fit?
Luke Dowler: I think I like the first three songs equally. “Good Enough” is one that also translates well live. I like all of the tunes on the album, but would probably say my least favorite is “Hold Up The Sky,” and that might be more because of the production value.

RARA’s Farm: Let me ask you about  “College Town,”  listening to those lyrics, are you speaking to a specific college town, or more the electric, eclectic atmosphere in many college towns?
Luke Dowler: I live just North of Missoula, which is similar to a city like Portland… an organic creative and youthful place where there’s a lot happening all the time. So, that’s definitely an influence.

RARA’s Farm: “Hold Up the Sky” – is that a song to your wife Jacy?
Luke Dowler: Yeah. when I first started out, I was writing songs about girls and now that’s come back full circle where I realized the first things I wrote about, girls and love, are worth pursuing.

RARA’s Farm: That female vocal we hear on “Halfway?”
Luke Dowler: Yes, that’s my wife, Jacy singing back-up vocals.

RARA’s Farm: “Halfway” is a bit of a different feel than I’ve heard before from Luke Dowler.
Luke Dowler: I’ve always been a sucker for electronic and dance music. When we’re touring, I always force the crew to listen to it, typically the tackier the better.  “Halfway” is one that I like.

RARA’s Farm: Are there still plans to do the other three compass directions, North, South and East?
Luke Dowler:I think so, I think that is still in the pipeline. I don’t have the timeline down, as I’ve got a couple of singles I’m working on and some music videos, so creatively, I’m looking at that stuff first before completing the three follow-up EPs.

So, there you have it, a bit of an in-depth look at West, and it’s five songs. Check it out below and give us your thoughts.

If you like pure, passionate singer-songwriter rock, you’ll love this album.  The first three selections are pure perfection, and the EP offers a diverse collection every fan of rock music needs on their new music radar.

Rock On!