Tag Archives: lovedrug

Top Rock Albums of 2012


As I looked back on the 2012 rock landscape and reviewed the year’s best rock music, I realized that I’ve definitely become more of an Indie Rock fan over the past few years. 2012 brought us lots of great Indie rock, but we also heard some rocking albums in the mainstream.  You may see a few albums here that you’re not familiar with, but I implore you to check them out. You’ll open your ears to some killer new rock, and impress the hell out of your friends. (After each selection, you’ll find a link to check them out on iTunes as well as our recommendations if you just want to grab a few tracks off of each album).

So, here are the Farmer’s Dozens in reverse order. The two dozen best rock albums of the year:

Bonus Selection: Each farmer’s dozen comes with a bonus, so here are two:  Grouplove,  Never Trust a Happy Song and The Black Keys, El Camino.  Both of these albums would be at the top of our 2012 list… if we had not already recognized them in 2011.  Here’s our Top Rock Albums of 2011, to see what else we visionaries were thinking last year.

24. The Lumineers, The Lumineers – Impressive debut album from these “pop-folk” rockers out of Denver. Best tracks: “Hey Ho” and “Stubborn Love.” The Lumineers - The Lumineers

23. Lovedrug, Wild Blood – These Indie rockers out of Ohio are powered by Michael Sheppard’s unique voice and a nice Kickstarter campaign. Best tracks: “Premonition” and “Ladders.” Wild Blood - Lovedrug Read our full review

22. Halestorm, The Strange Case of… Lizzy Hale’s powerful vocals lead the way for these masterful metal rockers. Best tracks: “Love Bites… So Do I” and “I Miss the Misery.” The Strange Case Of... - Halestorm

21. Green River Ordinance, Under Fire – Great rock ‘n roll harmonies from this quintet out of Forth Worth.  They offer up a diverse selection of tunes on another self-funded effort. Best tracks: “Dark Night” and “Lost in the World.” Under Fire - Green River Ordinance Read our full review

20. Mumford and Sons, Babel – A nice follow-up to their hugely successful 2009 release Sigh No More for these barrier-breaking folk rockers.  Best tracks: “I Will Wait” and “The Boxer” (Simon and Garfunkel cover). Babel - Mumford & Sons

19, Dinosaur Jr., I Bet on Sky – The Massachusetts Alt-Rockers continue to put out solid Alt-Rock with their distinctive brand of guitar rock. Every song is good on this one. Best tracks: “Rude” and “Pierce the Morning Rain.” I Bet On Sky - Dinosaur Jr.

18. Luke Dowler, Polarized – Dowler’s music offers raw vocals with an urgent passion, mixed with poignant lyrics about world affairs, relationships and deep personal faith: Good stuff from Big Sky Country. Best tracks: “Polarized” and “Gun.” Polarized - Luke Dowler Read our full review

17. Jack White, Blunderbuss – White breaks away from the shackles and structure of his former band mates in The White Stripes and Raconteurs and it works nicely. Best Tracks: “Love Interruption” and “Trash Tongue Talker.” Blunderbuss - Jack White

16. The Shins, Port of Morrow – Fantastic lyrics, beautiful harmonies and rock and roll that just oozes likability  I just wish these New Mexico natives would put out album more often than every four years. Best tracks: “Simple Song” and “It’s Only Life.” Port of Morrow - The Shins

15. Muse, The 2nd Law – The band, built for stadium rock, took some chances on this, their sixth release. This stuff is nothing like what we’ve heard from them before, but it is intriguing and captivating. Best tracks: “Madness” and “Survival.” The 2nd Law - Muse

14. The Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten – Talented New Jersey rockers who offer up their most polished record to date. Strong heart felt rock and roll with excellent lyrics. Best tracks” “Too Much Blood” and “45.”  Handwritten - The Gaslight Anthem Read our full review

13. The Killers, Battle Born – Brandon Flowers and the band never disappoint.  One of the year’s best produced albums and it shows the band moving in a more mature direction. Best tracks: Runaways” and “Miss Atomic Bomb.” Battle Born - The Killers

12. Neon Trees, Picture Show – Everybody talked about “Everybody Talks,” but this album was much more than one hit.  Tyler Glenn is a future superstar and highlights his broad talent throughout the band’s third album. Best tracks: “I am the DJ” and “Everybody Talks.” Picture Show - Neon Trees

11. Django Django, Django Django – Hip, cool, groovy, rock ‘n roll with an oddly familiar feel considering this is the band’s debut. Mixes the best of the sixties, eighties and modern times. Best tracks: Default” and “WOR.” Django Django - Django Django

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10. Metric, Synthetica – From the opening lines of “Artificial Nocturne,” where Emily Haines offers “I’m just as fucked up as they say,” this album demands your attention.  Some deep introspective tracks disguised as excellent pop rock songs. Best tracks: “Youth Without Youth” and “Breathing Underwater.”

9.  Thousand Foot Krutch, The End is Where We Begin – The songs are positive Christian rock but these guys don’t slam you over the head with their beliefs.  It’s solid, active rock music that any hard rock fan will enjoy. A very diverse selection from a band returning to their Indie roots. Best tracks: “War of Change” and “All I Need to Know.” Read our full review

8. The Wallflowers, Glad All Over – Jacob Dylan continues to evolve as a musician and has never sounded better than he does now.  Excellent music with soulful vocals on a selection of tracks guaranteed to grow on you with each listen. Best tracks: “It’s a Dream” and “Reboot the Mission.”

7. The Drowning Men, All of the Unknown – They’re back with their second full-length album release, their first on Flogging Molly’s Borstal Beats label, which builds on the success of their fantastic debut album Beheading of the Songbird, and shows the talented quintet continuing to grow. These Indie rockers remind me a bit of the layered harmonies of Arcade Fire, with a clear West Coast U.S. bent. Best Tracks: “A Fool’s Campaign” and “Lost in a Lullaby.” Read our full review

6. Green Day, ‘¡Uno!‘ – Billie Joe Armstrong needs to be recognized as the prolific rock songwriter he is.  He and his longtime band mates never fail to put out good music and this is another prime example.  A great fresh punk/pop sound from our favorite So Cal trio. They released three good albums this year, this one was the best of the bunch. Best tracks: “Oh Love” and “Let Yourself Go.”

5. Fun., Some Nights – So much more than “We Are Young.” This masterfully produced album is a great vehicle for the talented vocal stylings of Nate Ruess and is packed with memorable addicting ditties. Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost round out the trio and lend their voices to create impressive harmonies throughout.  On Some Nights, Fun. has developed a unique sound and carved a nice niche in today’s Alt-Rock landscape. Best tracks: Why Am I the One” and “Carry On.” Read our full review

4. Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal. This talented Icelandic band has taken advantage of the revitalized interest in folksy rock courtesy of Mumford and Sons, but have kicked it up a notch.  Great, fun rock songs with amazing boy/girl vocals and meaningful lyrics; as well as a few tracks that are strictly fantasy adventures like the addictive “From Finner.” Best tracks: “Mountain Sound” and “Little Talks,”

3. River City Extension, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger – The second release from this talented octet out of New Jersey is a musical and lyrical journey well worth a listen. It’s a folk rock/Americana album packed with original sounds and with each listen a different track stands out. Joe Michelini, the band’s singer and guitarist is the primary songwriter and he takes us through a varied collection of memories. He offers: “Half of this record is love songs, and the other half is ‘I’m sorry that I fucked up’ songs,” and he writes about both in a compelling way. Best tracks: “Glastonbury” and “Ballad of Oregon.” Read our full review

2. Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball – I had just about written off the sage of the Garden State, but this is one of Springsteen’s best efforts in years.  The music is superb, and the lyrics even better.  It’s a bitter, but honest look at what Corporate Greed and idiot politicians have done to his country, and Springsteen pulls it off by surrounded the words with excellent music At times, he evokes memories of the E Street Band’s greatest anthems, at other times he has us heading down an entirely new path, such as the Celtic rock feel in the fantastic “Death of My Hometown.” Best other tracks: “We Take Care of Our Own” and “Wrecking Ball.”

1. Shinedown, Amaryllis – I loved “Bully” the moment I heard it and was pleasantly surprised to hear the excellent diversity on the rest of the album.  It’s aggressive, powerful, passionate rock that’s impossible to put down.  The Jacksonville based band has only put out four albums in their decade plus together, and each one has gotten just a little bit better.  Rolling Stone hated the album, which in itself is proof that it’s mainstream rock for the masses.  Amaryllis is one of the best hard rock albums in years and it’s packed with great songs.  Best tracks: “Unity” and “I’m Not Alright.”

There you have it – the best rock albums of 2012, according to me.  Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section.

Click here for the Top Rock Songs of the Year

Rock On!
Cretin


Back Booth – Orlando Cool Coziness

I had a chance to check out BackBooth when Lovedrug bright their Wild Blood tour to Orlando recently.

The small club formerly in the UCF area is now located downtown on Pine Street just off of Orange.  The venue accommodates around 350 people and is a truly intimate place to see a show.  Despite the relative small size, they still get a good mix of national and local acts.

There are a few stools around the place, but it is generally a standing room kind of place, yet site lines are pretty good throughout.  There’s a riser towards the back of the room, and a small balcony, both offering nice views of the stage.

It’s a tight room and the sound mix is a bit of a challenge. Surprisingly, the sound was pretty good for the room configuration.  Not the best sound system you will find in the city, but more than adequate for this club. Overall, it is a great cozy place to see a show.  You’re never more than fifty feet from the stage, there’s always a clear view and the sound mix is decent.  Definitely a good place to catch a show and a cool crowd to spend a few hours with.

Offering about 20 diverse beers on tap, they have a fantastic draft beer selection. It’s fairly priced, and they also offered cheap deals with PBR oil cans.

The one down side – short set lists.  They seemed to be in a rush to get the bands off the stage to start a late night dance party.  I’d rather see fewer bands play longer sets if they need to clear the crowd out early in the night.

Miscellaneous Ramblings:

  • The staff was friendly both at the door and behind the bar, and they graciously let us sample some of the more unusual brews.
  • Ticket prices are reasonable.
  • For the show, the room was non-smoking, but pretty sure that ban is lifted when bands are not performing.
  • Parking available and plentiful at local garages ($5 to $10)

Bottom line: Worth a visit, and definitely check out the beer selection!

Lovedrug Concert Review

Lovedrug touched down in Orlando this weekend as they tour in support of their excellent new release of Wild Blood.

They played an energetic, yet short set in the cozy confines of Back Booth.  The quartet sounded excellent and seemed to truly enjoy their limited time on stage, from Michael Sheppard’s opening guitar riff on “Pink Champagne” through the powerful closer “Anodyne.” The group was tight, and sounded excellent during the forty-five minute set.

Lovedrug Michael Sheppard Live
Lovedrug Michael Sheppard Live at Back Booth

The first three selections were all off of Wild Blood. “Pimk Champagne” and “Wild Blood” had the crowd bouncing and singing along to kick the show off, and singer/guitarist Michael Sheppard sounded great.  Jeremy Gifford, who played guitar most of the night shifted over to keyboards during “Dinosaur” which was one of the early crowd favorites, particularly during the call-and-answer segment.

The highlight of the show was the fantastic “In Red” off of the band’s Pretend Your Alive album. Drummer James Freshwater and bassist Thomas Bragg absolutely powered this driving song, and seemed to have a blast doing it. Gifford and Sheppard traded off impressive guitar leads, with the latter displaying his broad vocal range hitting some nice high notes.

The foursome closed out the show with a great version of “Anodyne,” the song that also closes out the new album.  The crowd packed the small club and knew all of the songs. Speaking with the band after the show, they felt good about the Orlando welcome, and were looking forward to the next few months on the road.

I was hoping to hear “Ladders” and “Premonition” but imagine they were casualties of the shortened set time.  All told, it was an evening that whet my appetite for more Lovedrug.

Local bands Valise and Savannah did a nice job opening the show.

Rock On – Cretin!

Check out our Album Review of Wild Blood

Setlist:
Pink Champagne
Wild Blood
Dinosaur
Blood Like
Ghost By Your Side
Pushing the Shine
Great Divide
In Red
Black Out
Anodyne

Central Florida Concert Update

Lots of good music headed our way as we hit Spring in Central Florida, as March wraps up with a ton of great shows.

Orlando

Tonight, Friday March 23rd, it’s Ohio’s Lovedrug at Backbooth.  They are playing in support of their excellent new album – read our review here: Wild Blood review.  Cretin will be there to review the show.  You can also check out Cretin’s interview with Lovedrug’s Michael Sheppard here.

For you 70’s Rock And Roll Animals – the Guess Who are at Epcot all weekend.  Those shows are typically fun, but do require park admission.

On Saturday, it’s Alternative rockers Blue October at House of Blues, and more interesting to me, Chuck Ragan playing “The Revival Tour” at The Social. We saw Ragan open up for Social Distortion in November, and he put on a great show. His album, Covering Ground was also in our Top albums of 2011. The guys are in Jacksonville at Jack Rabbit’s the following night.

On Monday, it’s Atlanta’s The Black Lips at The Social, and they are supporting their latest album Arabia Mountain, and they are rumored to be fantastic live.

Thursday Hard Rock Live features Snow Patrol, and over at the main Hotel, it’s Hard Rock’s Velvet Sessions with Tonic; then they visit Williams Park in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

Friday 3/30, you HazelNuts can catch Sister Hazel at House of Blues.  It’s the perfect-sized venue for the semi-local crew from Gainesville, who usually put on a good show.

Then on Saturday, The Red Hot Chili Peppers close out the month at the big house at Amway Center.

Tampa

Friday – two different ends of the spectrum, with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band playing at Tampa Bay Times Forum and the aforementioned Black Lips at Orpheum. We’ve seen Bruce many times, and he’s great live, but I’d be inclined to check out the Black Lips this day.

Sunday you can take a “Slow Ride” with Foghat at Screwy Louie’s Porpoise Pub.

Wednesday 3/28, it’s hot Alt-Rockers The Naked and Famous at State Theater in St. Pete.

Thursday, RHCP hits Tampa at the TImes Forum.

Friday, the 30th, Blue October hits the West Coast with a show at Jannus Live. All of The Parrotheads will be inland at the Ask-Gary Amphitheater in Tampa. Here’s our review of last month’s Buffet Show in Orlando to whet your appetite.

Enjoy the Rcok – Mike G.

 

Lovedrug’s Wild Blood Worth the Wait

It’s been a crazy, yet rewarding, past few years for Lovedrug.  The band from Ohio, settled down in Nashville, funded their own album, took full creative control of their career, and ultimately delivered a strong album with this week’s long-awaited release of Wild Blood. From the opening notes of the title track to the riveting close of the beautiful final track “Anodyne” it’s a powerful, passionate and very “real” album.

The Alternative Rock veterans have had previous releases with Columbia and Militia Records which were received with modest levels of success.  This time, they went with a creative fan-funded approach that gave the band total freedom and full responsibility for the final product, and clearly, it works.  Lead singer Michael Shepard offered “We’ve been a band for ten years now, but at the same time, this feels like our first album. We feel like a new band, and that same energy is still there and I feel like it’s becoming even more intense.”

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Shepard’s unique voice is back in fine form, but the real power to Wild Blood is the fantastic guitar work throughout by both Shepard and Jeremy Gifford.  The band also took a different approach to recording this album, where the full band played the songs together rather then later meshing together the independent tracks as most other recordings do these days.  Coupled with bassist Thomas Bragg and drummer James Freshwater, the band sounds cohesive and passionate.

The album features some fantastic anthemic rock, particularly “Wild Blood,” “Ladders,” “We Were Owls” and “Pink Champagne.” “Dinosaur” is another fun sound that is likely to bounce around in your head for days after listening to it.

“Your Country” and “Premonition” are my personal favorites.  Both feature a great, fresh sound that actually reminds me musically of early 90’s U-2 guitar work. In “Your Country,” the lyrics and chorus are addictive and the message resonates with the struggles most Americans are faced with during these difficult times. “Premonition” offers Shepard’s finest vocal work and has a great real “budding relationship” feel to it.

Wild Blood closes powerfully with the emotional “Anodyne,” a musical olive branch offered to a troubled soul.  Strong, powerful stuff, and a great way to close the album.

There are a few mediocre tracks mixed in, but overall, it’s an excellent album (check it out below)

Rock On! Cretin

Interested in learning more about front man Michael Shepard: Check out this interview from late 2011.

 

Of Monsters, Men and a Nashville Muse



A friend of RARAs Farm recently made us aware of a nice offer for fans of Alt-Country / Folksy Rock. In advance of the release of her forthcoming album, Kate Tucker is offering a free download of her latest EP, Ghost of Something New, beginning today, January 9th. The talented singer songwriter from Akron, Ohio has relocated to Nashville where her music has taken a bit more of a country feel.

The first song on the EP, “Revolution”is fantastic. It’s got a great driving beat, excellent guitars and most of all superb, memorable vocals from Tucker. All-in-all, it’s a nice collection of songs from a talented singer songwriter.  Dwonload the EP for free during the month of January at Noisetrade.

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After downloading the EP, make sure you check out Tucker’s poignant cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” This video also features RARAs Farm favorite Michael Sheppard and his Lovedrug band mate Jeremy Michael Gifford.

In the same genre, Of Monsters and Men, a young band out of Iceland have found a bit of notoriety over the past few weeks.  Sirius XM’s AltNation has added their wonderful new single “Little Talks” into their rotation, and the single was the Free Single of the Week on iTunes (linked on our Free Music Friday page). The band reminds me a bit of Mumford and Sons, and even more of the under-appreciated and immensely talented English band The Beautiful South. Keep your ears tuned for this quintet – big things are on the way.

From these two hot new bands to the other end of the spectrum: Van Halen returns to the airwaves with Diamond David Lee Roth, nearly three decades from his last album.  The new single “She’s The Woman” is rumored to be released in the next few days. It’s actually not all that new, as it was originally recorded by the band in 1976.  Here’s Rolling Stone’s review of their preview show at NYC’s tinyCafe Wha last week.

I stumbled across this Youtube channel recently from FrontStepGames, where they feature good new Indie rock each month: check it out, good stuff: Songs You Wish You Found

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2012 – Not Just the End of the World

I took a quick tour around the internet to capture some of the items we have to look forward to before the impending end of the world.

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Here’s a primer for the next few months:

  • In the first five weeks of the year, both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr release new albums.
  • As they announced from Times Square on New Years Eve, Van Halen will release their first album with David Lee Roth since 1984 (that’s 28 years for those of you counting at home). They’ll release their first single and start selling tour tickets on January 10th.  The odds of them finishing the tour? 12:1.
  • Albuquerque’s The Shins  will release their Fourth album, Port of Morrow this March

Heavily anticipated 2012 releases with unknown dates:

  • Punk legends Green Day, The Offspring and Rancid all have new stuff on the way.
  • Six of today’s top bands will return to the charts in 2012: Muse, The Killers, Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, MGMT and Linkin Park
  • Classic Rock fans will see new albums from legends Bruce Springsteen, Rush, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Guns and Roses (Slash has an album on the way, too).
  • Hard Rockers Metallica, Alice in Chains and Marilyn Manson deliver new goods.
Two RARAs Farm favorites have new albums o the way:
  • Lovedrug
  • The Last Royals
A few other artists who may be of interest to RARAsFarm readers:
  • Adam Ant
  • Alice In Chains
  • Bad Religion
  • Garbage
  • Keane
  • Kiss
  • Queensryche
  • Soundgarden
  • Suicidal Tendencies
All told, lots to look forward to, while we still can, of course…
Mike G – January, 2012


You Are Lovedrug – A Chat with Michael Shepard

Lovedrug has taken a novel approach to funding their upcoming album release. The Alt-Rock veterans have been sharing their distinctive sound for nearly a decade, but now they’re taking a creative new approach that re-defines Indie music. Michael Shepard, the engaging and talented front man stopped by the farm to share the I AM LOVEDRUG experience, as well as to chat about a few other things.

Cretin: So, before we get into the I am Lovedrug experience, can you explain the group’s name? I’ve heard that it is not a reference to an aphrodisiac, but more about your passion for creating music?

Michael Shepard: You’re correct. It’s funny, a lot people do think of it as we’re slinging ecstasy or something. That’s not really what our M.O. is. It was really a time when I had gone through a lot with my old band and decided to get out of the game and spend some time away from music. I realized it was something I couldn’t escape. My passion or whatever that inner desire is that exists in people when they have something they know they should be doing. It’s just something you can’t walk away from. The name is really derivative of that concept. The love for something sort of drags you along whether you want to or not.

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Cretin: You guys went the major label route and had some ups and downs. Now, you’re taking a novel new approach with a Pledge Music campaign.  How did you choose that route, is it something new?

Michael Shepard: I had never heard of the concept until a friend of mine went through a Kick Starter campaign to raise money to record her album. I thought it was really fantastic how the fans could get involved and help the artist.  I thought it was a wonderful concept so we started doing research and found several sites that do a similar thing. Some are more geared toward businesses, others are for the arts.  Kick starter is about anything you can imagine.  Pledge is strictly music. The inner workings are a bit different and made the most sense for us and where we’re at.

Cretin: looking at the website, iamlovedrug.com, it looks like you had a great response to it.

Michael Shepard: We really did.  It was above and beyond our expectations.   We raised enough money to record our first album and everything that we were shooting for we got, and it was all thanks to the fans that pledged through that site.  It worked 100% – more than 100%, we were ecstatic.

Cretin: I was looking over some of the things you did and some of them were off the wall. Answering machine messages, postcards from the road, standard stuff like autographs and liner notes, but then I saw you had an afternoon of bowling thrown in there. Where did those ideas come from?

Michael Shepard: Yeah, haha.  Well some of them we thought up, and our manager was sort of cooking up some of those schemes.  Bowling was mine because I love to bowl and thought what a better way to celebrate an afternoon than to hang out with someone who digs our music and go bowling.

Cretin: I thought that was out of the box – an awesome idea.  Was there any one item greatly appreciated by the fans or that had a great response which really surprised you?

Michael Shepard: Well, yeah, the biggest response was for cover songs. We got so many requests for covers because it was not an astronomical price(it was only $150). It was something that if someone wanted to donate kind of above and beyond, but not crazy they could get this cover song option.  We were shocked at how many responded to that.  It was a challenge, because they would pick the song, we’d do it the way we do it, personalize it and send it to them.  We got songs all over the map to cover which was a challenge to me personally, but a lot of fun, too.  That’s why the tail end of all that we put together The Best of I Am Lovedrug CD which is actually just  a compilation of  some of those cover songs so that everyone could hear how they turned out.  It was a lot of fun.

Cretin:You guys were offering videos at a reasonable price too weren’t you?

Michael Shepard: Yeah, that was another option we had. In retrospect we probably should’ve shortened it a little bit more just  because of the amount of work that went into it we were shocked when we have tons and tons of cover songs to record, but it was worth it, at the end of the day it was all worth it.

Cretin: I was talking to Eric James of The Last Royals and I asked him what his favorite cover song ever was and he picked your cover of “Pure Imagination.” I first thought “someone covering Willy Wonka? That’s insane.” But it was really cool; you put your own spin on it, an interesting approach to the song.

Michael Shepard: Thank you, we really enjoyed doing that one.  It was actually our guitar player’s brother who requested we do that one. It was sort of a little poke because Jeremy Gifford, our guitar player is a huge Willy Wonka fan – one of his favorite films of all times.  So we were pretty excited to cover that one.

Cretin: During that whole event was there one song other than “Pure Imagination” that you really enjoyed recording for one reason or another.

Michael Shepard: Oddly I really liked the way “Nights In White Satin: turned out, we did that, too and it sort of pulled on my heart strings. I can’t even explain why. It just sounded a lot more melancholy than I meant it to sound, but very cool and is actually one of my favorites.

Cretin: That’s an interesting choice. I grew up with an uncle who is a huge Moody Blues fan so I listened to that music a lot when I was a kid.  Is that cut on your The Best of I Am Lovedrug record?

Michael Shepard: Actually I don’t think it made it on there.  There were a bunch we had to choose from and it was a collective choosing to figure what should go on and what  shouldn’t. It didn’t quite make the cut, but it still remains my favorite.

Cretin: Very cool. I’ll definitely look for that. (I did look but could not find a copy anywhere, but there are a slew of very creative covers on the album). Going back to your approach on the forthcoming album; in the past you were with Columbia then before that you were with Militia Group but now you’re really on your own.

Michael Shepard: Yeah, we’re really doing everything ourselves. It’s us and our manager. It’s a lot different than when we started out.

Cretin: Different in a good way or bad way? I imagine it’s a bit of both?

Michael Shepard: It is a bit of both but mostly positive. I’d say 90% is positive actually just because there is no red tape. There is always a certain amount of waiting room effect. “OK, great you turned out a record now sit out here while we do our thing,” and things seem to get sort of lost in the cracks and its unfortunate but when you’re working completely independently like we are now there is more freedom to make decisions like we did to connect directly to fans and say “hey we want to make a record, we need your help or we want to cover a Moody Blues song and throw it up on the internet.” We can do these things and there are clever ways to propel ourselves.  There’s a little bit of freedom that’s lost when you’re dealing with a label.  It’s been a blessing honestly, maybe in disguise at first, but we really enjoy the freedom now.

Cretin: It has to be rejuvenating to go through that process and do what you think makes sense. It’s really all riding on you guys and your manager whether this album makes it and the album is successful.

Michael Shepard: Absolutely. Not that there was finger pointing before, but you only have yourself to blame. We know that if we’re giving 100 percent and working hard, there’s no way the ball’s going to get dropped unless we drop it. Really that whole concept is so indicative of where we are at right now as a band.

Cretin: A new approach?

Michael Shepard: Yeah, everything. We’ve been a band for ten years now, but at the same time, this feels like our first album. We feel like a new band, and that same energy is still there and I feel like it’s becoming even more intense and bubbling up like it used to when you first strapped on a guitar and start a band for the first time. That feeling can kind of wane, but fortunately for us, we’re at a point where we’ve rejuvenated ourselves.

Cretin: So, now that you’ve been doing this for ten years, any major shifts in the way you approach things?

Michael Shepard: There’s been a lot of changes.  The way we approach writing is a lot more relaxed now. A lot of the pressure used to be on me, just because I was working with musicians that were hired to be on call and it wasn’t much of a band but more a solo thing, whereas now it’s way more of a collective effort. The group of guys in this band all put their equal input into the creative process and it makes for a much more enjoyable song in the end.

Cretin: Sounds like you’ve now got a band with a lot more passion about what they’re doing?

Michael Shepard: And it translates in all kinds of ways. It certainly translates live, because inevitably someone is just going to play more passionately when they had a part in the making of what you’re playing.

Cretin: So, I noticed “Pink Champagne” off of your recent EP will be on the new record.  Are there any other songs we’ll be familiar with?

Michael Shepard: There will be a couple. The songs “Ladders” and “We Were Owls” were on the EPs and they made the record, and then there were a whole bunch that we hadn’t released that we wanted to save for the final album.

Cretin: Tell me about directing the video for Dinosaur, the first single from the new album.

Michael Shepard: I went to film school during my break from music.  That video was a short story I had kicking around for awhile so I thought it would be fun to bring it to fruition via a Lovedrug video.

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RARA’s Six Pack (six quick mindless questions):

Cretin: You grew up fairly close to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  When you are inducted, who do you want making the induction speech?

Michael Shepard: If he’s still kicking around, Billy Corgan. I was a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan, One of the first bands I heard that really turned my world upside down.

Cretin:  Your favorite cover tune?

Michael Shepard: That’s a tough one. One that always made me chuckle was The Deftones cover of Freebird. That was pretty hilarious and awesome.

Cretin: What’s your high score in bowling?

Michael Shepard: I’m very proud to say my high score was 269.

Cretin: Do you have a favorite city where you like to play?

Michael Shepard: I could name dozens that I love to play.  The ones that stand out are Chicago, I love playing Chicago, and we always get fantastic responses playing in New York. And, actually Nashville which is one of the many reasons we moved here.

Cretin: Of all the bands you’ve toured with over the years, who left a lasting impression?

Michael Shepard: We’ve toured with some fantastic bands, and some not so fantastic bands, but we won’t name those. We got to play with The Killers a long time ago before they were big and that was cool. They were really nice guys.

Cretin: What’s your favorite roller coaster?

Michael Shepard: Probably still The Magnum at Cedar Point. Not the tallest one any more, but it scared the living shit out of me when I rode it.

Cretin: Thanks for visiting with us and best of luck with the album.

Michael Shepard: Thank you. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has helped us out and pledged along the way. I know it’s been a long process, but I wanted to thank everyone for their patience, and let them knwo the record is going to be out by March.