Reflecting On: Paramore – Riot!

I was sitting in my first apartment at a TV tray, which served as a desk for my old, rickety laptop, when I first heard “Misery Business” over a pair of shitty $10 headphones. Although far from an audiophile’s dream scenario for such a moment, I immediately understood its importance. I can’t remember if anyone else was in the room, but I vividly remember saying aloud, “Paramore is about to be the biggest band on the planet.”

I bought Paramore’s debut album All We Know is Falling because of the recommendation attached to the shrink wrap of the CD’s jewel case. Copeland vocalist Aaron Marsh made a similar proclamation on that sticker to the one I would make two years later in my apartment, and it was enough to provoke an unexpected purchase. I ended up loving that album with its raw production and youthful energy. Even then, with all of the apparent promise attached to the band, it was hard to foresee what would come next.

You can buy Riot! on iTunes.

A decade later, I’m not 100% certain that Riot! is Paramore’s greatest achievement, but I won’t argue with anyone who feels that way. It’s undeniably one of the most explosive and important albums to come from the scene and the defining example of the sound of an era.

I drove an hour and a half from Enid, Oklahoma, to Oklahoma City on the day of Riot!’s release to purchase the CD at a Hot Topic and enjoy the album from front to back on the drive home. I remember being immediately struck by David Bendeth’s production, which had literally taken the band to a whole new level. I also remember being surprised at the diversity of sound throughout the record’s 11 tracks. “Misery Business” will forever be attached to Riot!’s success, but this album is still a goldmine of hits.

Nevertheless, it was that first single that changed everything. It was hard to go anywhere in the summer of 2007 without hearing that unforgettable opening riff or Hayley Williams’ chorus of, “Woah! I never meant to brag”. Add in an unforgettable music video, striking bright colors attached to the album’s marketing, and the unrivaled energy of the band’s live performance, and Paramore had concocted the perfect cocktail for success. Riot! would move one million copies within a year before eventually going double platinum.

Just a few months prior, Fall Out Boy had appeared to set the standard for scene bands on the big stage with the release of Infinity on High, but were suddenly rivaled in the most unexpected of ways by a band that would outlast the rest of their competition. One of the things that makes Riot! so unique a decade later is that the band has actually gotten much better since the release of its signature album. Good luck naming an active band from that era that can make the same claim.

Yet for all of the excitement surrounding Riot!’s success and, sadly, the ensuing inter-band drama that would become intertwined with Paramore’s narrative, it’s important to acknowledge the uphill battle that Paramore, and more importantly, Hayley Williams, have climbed amidst their continued success.

In a scene that has consistently been plagued with persistent sexism and misogyny, it’s difficult to look back and not grimace at some of the painful conversations surrounding Paramore in 2007. Still, Williams persevered and undoubtedly impacted the community around her in ways that are still blooming. There’s much more work to be done, but the call for elevating women’s voices in the scene continues to rise, often led by Williams herself.

Riot! is not only a hallmark album for the 2000s pop punk scene, it’s a testament to a voice that refused to be ignored. Only 18 years old at the time of the album’s release, Williams commanded our attention with confidence and drive well beyond her years.

I love Riot!. I still own and wear the t-shirt I bought along with the CD that day back in 2007 and remember my initial excitement every time I put the album on. However, I cannot express how delighted I am that it was only the beginning of what was to come – the music and the progress.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2017

There are two kinds of memorable music videos: Those that stand the test of time as artistic genius that defined an era (think Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) and those that serve as stark reminders that times change quickly and mercilessly (think Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time”).

However, even if your favorite band’s best music video feels a little goofy in hindsight, there’s still pleasure in chuckling with nostalgia. We’ve taken a look back at some of the most memorable music videos from 2007, each with their own quirks and flashes of brilliance. Enjoy!

Paramore – “Misery Business”

There’s an argument to be made for “Misery Business” as not only the defining music video of 2007, but maybe the scene as a whole. Who can forget the Riot!-covered set inspired by the album cover, Hayley Williams’ fire-orange hair whipping about, and the band’s over-the-top head-banging performance? The video served as the grand introduction for Paramore to the general public, and proved to the rest of us that this band had what it would take to take over the rock world.

The Academy Is – “We’ve Got a Big Mess on Our Hands”

“We’ve Got a Big Mess” is one of my favorite music videos of all time. A heart-breaking story of an artist’s internal battle, the video goes from amusing to agonizing in its final moments, as William Beckett goes to war against himself. And who can forget the Pete Wentz cameo that serves as a conceptual bridge to Fall Out Boy’s “Thnks fr th Mmrs” video? Admit it, you wanted to be a part of the Fueled By Ramen Friends Club in 2007.

Fall Out Boy – “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race”

Speaking of Fall Out Boy, it’s hard to pick just one video from Infinity on High to make this list, but “This Ain’t a Scene” has to be the clear winner. Full of call-backs to past Fall Out Boy videos and littered with humorous references to the members’ various exploits, this clip is a perfect example of Fall Out Boy’s unparalleled self-awareness and serves as the perfect video for one of the best singles of the year.

The Almost – “Say This Sooner”

By 2007, Underoath had become one of the biggest rock bands around, which probably made it the perfect time for drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie to branch out with this solo project, The Almost. His first video finds him traveling time and dimensions as he gets the chance to walk in various strangers’ shoes. We’re still not sure how he managed to get back to his own body, but the video is a fun ride nonetheless.

Mayday Parade – “Jamie All Over”

The biggest problem facing Mayday Parade music videos in 2007 was the absence of Jason Lancaster, who left the band before the release of A Lesson in Romantics. In the band’s videos, various members take over mock-singing duties, with Jeremy Lenzo drawing the straw for “Jamie All Over”. It’s hard not to wonder if their Vegas gambling rollercoaster concept inspired Katy Perry’s almost identical “Waking Up in Vegas” video. Has anyone ever investigated this?

The Devil Wears Prada – “Hey John, What’s Your Name Again?”

Plagues became the coming out party for metalcore stars The Devil Wears Prada, and it all started with their video for “Hey John”. The clip explores a young boy’s regret and redemption, but also gives us our first glimpse of the band’s incredible energy, driven by vocalist Mike Hranica. By the end of the video, Hranica appears exhausted from the performance – either that or he’s really relieved that bird didn’t actually die.

All Time Low – “Dear Maria, Count Me In”

Remember when All Time Low were just a bunch of bratty pop punk kids with bad haircuts singing about strippers? If not, the video for “Dear Maria” should jog your memory. One thing’s for certain about 2007 All Time Low – they loved dressing up in costumes in their videos. Or maybe they just couldn’t afford more than one extra for each shoot. Whatever the case, this song still features one of the best choruses of all time.

We the Kings – “Check Yes, Juliet”

While we’re on the topic of chorus heavy pop punk, We the Kings made their way onto the stage in 200y with “Check Yes, Juliet” – a single that still happens to be the band’s most popular song (for good reason). The video re-hashes an oft-used Romeo and Juliet storyline and is hella cheesy but…wait, is this video actually good? Too late. It’s on the list.

MxPx – “Shut it Down”

2007 turned out to be a year of revival for pop punk legends MxPx as they returned home to Tooth and Nail Records. In hindsight, this song sounds a lot like your dad giving you a hard time for staring at your cell phone, but it’s pretty fun to watch these guys smash a variety of electronics with baseball bats. Oh, and that close up shot of Mike Herrera’s “PUNK RAWK” knuckle tattoos is kinda perfect.

Kanye West – “Stronger”

The plot of this video essentially consists of the members of Daft Punk engineering a new and improved Kanye, which is a little scary, but also exciting. The video for “Stronger” also introduces us to the visor shades that became his ironic calling card for a few years, so that’s pretty good. If you’re still asking why this video made the list, it’s because the song is incredible and the video is so tacky and absurd that it’s hard not to laugh while you dance. So there.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Saying Goodbye to Letlive.

My first experience with letlive. was unintentional. On a hot July evening in Louisville, Kentucky, I was in attendance to cover my favorite band, Underoath, in support of their new album Ø (Disambiguation). It was mid-2011 and I was unaware of letlive.’s existence before their placement as the opener on the tour, though that night would prove to be the most enraptured I have ever been while watching an opening act.

Within moments of taking the stage, vocalist Jason Aalon Butler leaped into the docile crowd, screaming the repeated refrain of, “There are no martyrs in resolution / Remain still, don’t expect restitution / Stand up, stand up, stand up”. From there, the energy only escalated. Before the band’s set came to an end, Butler would be pulled from the stage by two venue security guards and dragged out of the building for his response to their abuse of a spectator. Feedback blared over the house speakers as the crowd looked around in bewilderment, unsure what it had just witnessed.

In so many ways, it was the perfect introduction to a band delivering an unwavering wake-up call, resolute in its cry against injustice.

Hanging with Jason after a 2012 concert in Indianapolis.

That night, I purchased Fake History, their breakthrough album, which had just been re-released by Epitaph Records. In the years that followed, I made it my ambition to share the news of letlive. at every possible opportunity, framing them as the west-coast spiritual successors to New York hardcore kings, Glassjaw.

For all of the criticism aimed in the direction of modern punk music, perhaps none is more valid than the idea that the genre has lost its teeth: misdirected passion with no resounding political or social message; no voice. It was, and still is, my belief that letlive. encapsulated the spirit of the punk community in a way that very few bands have dared in recent decades.

Fake History is a manic display of outrage directed toward systematic oppression and collective rejection of truth. Topics range from religious denial of evolution to the pitfalls of capitalism. On “Casino Columbus”, Butler takes aim at the pillaging of Native Americans and their culture, shrieking, “I want to be the bourgeoisie, but I don’t have blue blood in my veins / My eyes did see the vampirous pilgrim drop a few red drips from his fangs” before closing with, “Stick your finger down the throat of your freedoms / And let it all purge on out”.

The raw, post-hardcore violence of Fake History, coupled with grassroots, word-of-mouth marketing around the band’s live performances brought letlive. to scene attention, complete with magazine covers and features that showcased the delicate, thoughtful off-stage personality of Butler – a man determined to deliver his message at any cost. It was that organic rise to attention to made 2013’s The Blackest Beautiful all the more impactful.

I’m a firm believer that The Blackest Beautiful is one of the most important rock albums the genre has produced in recent memory. In addition to refining their sonic chaos, Butler delivers an inspired performance, targeting systematic racism, the broken healthcare system, and a misplaced worship of celebrity. It’s the punk album that letlive. had earned more than enough cache to deliver, and it is close to perfect.

That summer was a whirlwind, with letlive. leading a long-overdue conversation in an often-complacent scene. One of the personal highlights of my career came while covering the band on that summer’s Warped Tour, writing a feature on a band that had put the genre I love on notice in all the right ways. It felt like validation.

As I’ve learned so many times in my life, though, it’s easy to take good things for granted. I largely shrugged at last year’s If I’m the Devil…, an album that I felt lacked the bite of letlive.’s previous work, even if it did contain some interesting new tricks and important discussion. It never crossed my mind that we might have heard the last from a band that I presumed would lead the genre forward for years to come.

The news of letlive.’s demise is hard to swallow and even harder to believe. The mission statement and idea behind the very website you’re reading is based largely off of the spirit of letlive. – a commitment to praise authenticy, progress and positivity. In a scene that still shamefully struggles with misogyny, gender and racial imbalance, and general apathy, it’s hard not to feel a giant hole. Nevertheless, I know this community benefited greatly from letlive. and I firmly believe that others will carry their torch.

I feel fortunate to have been at that show in Louisville in 2011 and even more fortunate to have watched the band play countless times after, seeing something new with each performance. I’m grateful to the band for their music, their message and their humbleness. Finally, I feel confident than their spirit of empowerment and justice will carry on. After all, according to Butler at every show I attended, letlive. was composed of more than just the members on stage – it was all of us.

“We got an army for us versus them, but look, it’s not us versus them / It’s just us, my friend”

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Reflecting On: The Academy Is… – Santi

It’s been 10 years and I’m still not completely sure how to use the word “Santi” in a sentence. Employing an inside joke from your high school days as the title of your sophomore release and potential mainstream breakthrough is admittedly curious, but The Academy Is always seemed to have an affinity for doing things their own way.

Two years before Santi’s release, the Chicago rock act had their breakthrough on Fueled by Ramen with Almost Here – a scene classic that helped define an era of snide emo pop, even as the album itself remained a relatively underground gem. The ensuing years would see a cast of the band’s label mates rise to pop radio stardom (Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Paramore, Gym Class Heroes) while The Academy Is seemingly remained a buzz band on the brink.

You can buy Santi on iTunes.

Enter Santi – an album that seemed primed for success. With a stellar debut under their belt, one of the most exciting young frontmen in music behind the mic, and the benefit of rising Fueled by Ramen stock in their pocket, The Academy Is tabbed the legendary Butch Walker to produce the record. The resulting effort remains the band’s most divisive album to date, but is arguably their best.

I still remember purchasing Santi on the day of its release at a Hasting’s book store in Enid, Oklahoma. As a huge fan of Almost Here and a firm believer that the band was destined for stardom, I was giddy to see the CD’s front and center placement when I walked into the store. I also remember those subsequent first listens as I tried to process what I was hearing. Despite spinning the album for weeks on end, I couldn’t decide if I actually liked it.

Everything about Santi (aside from its peculiar title) seemed primed for a breakthrough. The album’s cover, featuring the band’s name in flashy neon lights. The Pete Wentz cameo in the band’s video for first single “We’ve Got a Big Mess on Our Hands” (which was later referenced in a Fall Out Boy video). A prime slot on the summer’s premier Honda Civic Tour. William Beckett’s cocky swagger blossoming even further, placing ruminations on impending fame to tape: “It was a big bang and a bright white light from nowhere / It turned my coach class window to a first class seat on the evening news on NBC”.

Despite all of the signs, Santi never quite took off. True to the band’s free and unconventional tendencies, the album was a complete departure from their debut. Gone were the pop punk leanings and snappy production of Almost Here, replaced by gritty guitars and stark changes of pace that gave Santi a garage or indie rock type feel. As the scene around the band began embracing the successful sheen of pop radio, Santi may have been ahead of its time, simply by avoiding an obvious approach.

If you were to dare administer criticism in the direction of Almost Here, you might draw attention to its lack of variety. That debut, for all of its worthy praise, avoided diversity at all costs, choosing to play to one very commendable strength. Santi, on the other hand, is so full of range that it’s hard to pin the album down to one particular genre.

While rich melody is present throughout, its presentation changes from track to track. Here you’ll find homages to classic rock (“Bulls in Brooklyn”), dance-y post-punk (“Same Blood”), mid-90s alt rock (“You Might Have Noticed”) and even a gentle ballad (“Everything We Had”). A signature Butch Walker underbelly of raw guitars serves as Santi’s refrain, even as the songs themselves vary wildly.

It is my firm belief that there is not a bad song on Santi. In fact, many of the album’s tracks would quietly prove to be the best work The Academy Is produced during their eight year run. Unfortunately, a lack of cohesiveness accompanied by a hard right turn from the sound that put the band on the map made Santi a tough pill to swallow for most fans, even though most seemed to have softened on the record over the course of the past decade.

The Academy Is released three very different albums during their short existence, each showcasing the kind of range that many bands could only dream of. In the case of The Academy Is, this penchant for variety potentially hamstrung the band from cashing in on a definitive sound that could have propelled them to greater heights. Instead, they remain mysterious legends, respected for their refusal to follow the crowd. If I had to make a guess, the band would likely say that they wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Honestly, I don’t think I would either. On a warm, sunny summer day, Almost Here can be found in regular rotation on my stereo – the perfect background music for the season. But when I want to remember how great of a band The Academy Is truly was and ponder on what could have been, I reach for Santi.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Reviving the Future: An Interview with Ryan Fergus of Lucky Boys Confusion

Last week, Lucky Boys Confusion released their first new single in nearly a decade. “It’s After Midnight” is an aggressive rock song that finds a slick balance of crunching harmonies balanced against a swirling story of a relationship spiraling out of control.

As a long-time fan of Lucky Boys Confusion, the song is a refreshing answer to the curiosity of what a band that hasn’t written a full record for almost 15 years looks to create, and how it balances against the rest of their career. For a smaller band, Lucky Boys Confusion has an exceptionally strong and loyal fan base that follows them from show to show, and “It’s After Midnight” certainly beckons their attention.

With just a month until the release of new album Stormchasers, I spoke with drummer Ryan Fergus about the build up leading to its creation and what it means for the future.

***

First off, “It’s After Midnight” is awesome. I’ve been listening to it since it was released and it really feels organic for the band. Do you think it reflects how the album sounds stylistically, or does it branch and venture out more?

Oh thanks! Yeah, we’re really excited about it and it’s been getting a lot of really great feedback. You know, when you go away for as long as we did, and we really created this record in a vacuum, you get a little bit nervous. We really love this, we’re really jacked about this but we don’t know how people are going to receive it. It was such a relief to finally get at least one song out there to kind of show people what we’ve been working on, and the reception has been really positive, which is really encouraging for the rest of the record.

To answer your question, it would definitely be a song that we thought would kind of bridge the gap, so to speak, in terms that it does sound reminiscent of a lot of songs off of Commitment or Throwing the Game. It’s really reminiscent of the How to Get Out Alive EP, but it is a bridge. There are a lot of songs on the record that sound like the older stuff, but there is some modernization and maturity to it and we’re trying different things.

It’s probably our most cohesive record. It’s very fortuitous that we’re talking today, as we just got the final master of the whole record back today. To hear everything together as one rolling, cohesive piece, I’m just on cloud nine right now. We’re really pumped up about it.

That’s fantastic! I was going to say, the single reminds me of How to Get Out Alive. It’s interesting that it’s more cohesive. Closing Arguments, I know it was a mix of demos and B-sides, but it did feel like a patchwork of songs.

Yeah, it wasn’t as coherent. It was basically seeds of what would have been the next record, and obviously that would have changed a lot. And we had a chance to start fresh. We didn’t revisit any of those old pieces so this is all new ideas and arrangements. All new ideas we really cooked up in the last year, year and a half. Once we started working on it and decided that we could do this, it all came together very quickly. It does feel like one piece. There’s no little skips, there’s no 30-second interludes – it’s 12 songs, and it’s a story.

Really, it’s closure in a lot of ways. That’s not to imply that this is the last thing we’re ever going to do, because if anything, we’re more invigorated than ever. What I mean by that is everything that happened to us over the last four of five years, we didn’t really comment publicly on it. Most notably, our guitarist, Joe Sell died suddenly, tragically and very young. I think we left a lot of people in a lurch. We didn’t really have a way of addressing everything we’ve been through in the last few years.

This is kind of our statement to everything that has gone down and what we’ve been through, and there were some pretty dark times, I won’t lie. But I think this has been really therapeutic for us, and we’re all in a really good place. And we’re excited to be working together. We really couldn’t be more pleased with how everything came out.

Everyone has been kind of focused on their side projects for quite some time. Was it natural to be writing together again? Especially since Stubhy (Pandav) and Adam (Krier) went their own way for a while and wrote in their own ways for so long, did things mesh well when everyone came together again?

Yeah, it felt like home, I think, a lot for all of us. Especially for the two of them from a song writing perspective. What happened after Joe passed, it kind of spun us all out in different directions. For Jason (Schultejann) and Adam, they started AM Taxi. Stubhy had multiple projects that he was involved in. My project was kind of having a normal life. Having a job, getting married, having two great kids and living a more normal day-to-day. To do that and then come back into this, and bring a lot of lessons learned with maturity, the things we’ve gone through and bring those together… It was comforting.

The joke of it is, the creative part of this thing has been the easy part. The songs really came together quick, we didn’t have a lot of knock-down, drag-out arguments about arrangements. Even the recording process was a really smooth situation. Honestly, the difficult part for us has been everything else.

We’re doing this completely self-sufficient. There’s no label, there’s no manager, nobody. If anything, the difficult aspect of setting this up and launching it is that we’re doing everything on our own. Every day is a thousand tiny decisions with a constant text thread between the four of us during all hours of the night, starting at 7:30 in the morning. It’s just an ongoing dialogue for a year of, “Hey, did you call that guy?” or “Johnny K (producer) needs an answer today for the mix.” The difficult part has just been the little technical aspects. The creative part was actually quite wonderful and really did feel like coming home again.

Listening to “It’s After Midnight”, the lyrics are about a pained relationship, and they’re fairly vindictive. Lucky Boys have been known for a slight storytelling aspect as much as you are for party songs. With everything that has happened, is Stormchasers more of a serious record, then?

It’s not a kind record, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. If anything, it’s a celebration record. It’s celebrating life, death, love, losing love. All the aspects that kind of make up the human condition. There are darker aspects and you can make the claim that the world is going in a darker direction than it was five or 10 years ago. It’s definitely a reflection, and I think people will see a lot of things they identify with on the record.

There’s a lot of stuff about Stubhy’s marriage, which he’s been very open about and I’m proud of him that it’s out there. But his marriage ended. He’s since fallen in love again, engaged and getting married this summer so it’s been this roller coaster in a lot of ways. He’s been very transparent about that. There are a lot of lines on the record, where you just go, “Wow, he went there.” And I’m so proud of him for not holding that back and not pulling punches.

In that regard, I think people will be surprised at the lengths we’ve gone with some of this stuff and ultimately, it’s a lot of things people will identify with. We got older, but a lot of the folks that are listening to us have been along for the ride and gotten older too. They’ve got responsibilities, they’ve got relationships they’re maintaining and dealing with, someone in their family that have been through some pretty tough times as well. It’s stuff people can relate to, tear apart and identify with.

Speaking of the fan base, I just moved to Chicago a few years ago, and everyone I’ve met who has any kind of interest in rock music knows who Lucky Boys Confusion are. A lot of them seem to have the same type of story, where it’s almost an urban legend where someone finds a copy of Throwing the Game tucked away in a closet somewhere and just falls in love with it after listening to it. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed being at live shows, it’s a lot of the same people coming again and again, talking about past shows. Do you pick up on that from the fan base in general?

It’s stunning to me. It’s stunning to all of us. I’m not sure that you know this, but this year is actually our 20 year anniversary. We started this band when we were 18 years old and just out of high school, and there are a lot of people who have been there since year one or year two. It’s unbelievable. We’re starting to get to the point where some of these folks are starting to bring their kids. Their kids are old enough to go to shows now. It’s definitely a surreal thing.

But you’re right, there are so many stories about, “my older brother left the CD with me before he went to college and then I got into you guys.” It’s really been amazing, and what we’ve kind of said all along is that if they keep coming, then we’re going to keep showing up.

Especially for this long stretch here where we weren’t putting out any new content and you start to think, it’s gotta be here, right? You’re gonna start to see a drop off, kids are going to stop coming and we’re kind of back where we started, playing for 30 people. But so far, that hasn’t happened.

That was definitely in the back of our minds, but these folks have been coming out to hear the same older songs for however long now and we owe them something new. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that we wanted to come out with something new, especially for the folks that have been around for so long and have been patient and just waiting. We thought maybe there never would be a record. We’re excited to make that happen for the diehards throughout the many years and we’re just so appreciative of that.

I know it’s a hack question, but do you have a favorite song off of the new record?

[sigh] No, it’s a great question. [laughs]

No, it’s probably changing by the day. Again, it’s a record that finally feels like a whole thing. But we’ve got a song called “Sun In My Eyes” that’s probably going to be our next single. That’s going to come out this month, actually when the preorder goes up on iTunes and whatnot. But I think it’s going to throw some people for a curve ball. It’s a bit more different than anything we’re really tried. “It’s After Midnight” is a call to arms and the announcement that we’re back and Lucky Boys are grown up. “Sun In My Eyes”, I think is something totally different. It’s poppy, kind of a mystical tune but it really crunches, it really rocks. It still feels like us, and I’m really digging that right now.

We close the record with a tune called “Candle in the Window” and it’s the same thing, it’s really different. It sound kind of like an old Elvis Costello B-side or something. It’s really powerful and kind of punctuates the record. And there are a lot of different fields and different directions. Listening to it today as a cohesive piece, it really feels like one statement. I’m really excited to get it out there.

Lastly, what do you think Stormchasers means for the future of Lucky Boys Confusion, especially after you said everyone seems more invigorated now than they have been for a while?

You know, its funny. I like serial dramas on Hulu, like “The Americans” and shows like that, and a lot of these shows are in a bubble. They don’t always know if they’re going to be renewed, so what they do is have this year end finale that wraps up the current storyline and resolves those problems, but it leaves the door open for more story. I think it’s an analog to Stormchasers in that, if it ends up being the last record, I think it’s turning the last pages of the book.

But it’s not a full resolve. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of time, a lot of hard work, a lot of intense moments here and there, but overall this was a really pleasant, really great experience. A lot of that was based on working with our producer, Johnny K, who is just amazing. He produced it, engineered it, mixed it so that this became one single vision.

I would feel very open, and I think the way the guys are feeling right now, that they would probably agree that there’s no reason that this couldn’t be the beginning of a really nice creative era for us. This year is really about the new record, and celebrating the 20 year anniversary. We really want to mark that and will probably be doing some stuff later in the year to mark that. It’s kind of a big deal – not many bands get to 20 years.

But there’s nothing saying that there couldn’t be more in the future, especially with as excited as everybody is right now. It’s definitely viable.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has been to a Lucky Boys Confusion show at least once every year for a decade. Their shows have never once gotten stale in that time. It really was an honor to talk to someone who has kept the attention of myself and my nonsense friends for that long. My apartment suddenly smells like spray paint, and that can’t be great.

Reflecting On: Anberlin – Cities

anberlin_photo_2007

While Cities is widely regarded as Anberlin’s best album, the argument can be made that it never fully received its due. However, it’s quite possible that both the band and its fans would have suffered if it had.

Leading up to 2007, the Florida rock act had quickly ascended the ranks, becoming one of the most revered bands in the scene. Anberlin spent their first two albums, Blueprints for the Black Market and Never Take Friendship Personal, honing their sound and bridging the gap between the popular emo leanings of the time and full-on alt-rock. By the time Cities dropped, it was clear that Anberlin had carved their own niche.

You can buy Cities on iTunes.

You can buy Cities on iTunes.

Cities can’t quite be classified as a concept album, but is certainly far more than a collection of songs. The album’s tracks are intertwined by themes of pain and frustration – an acknowledgement of the depravity that affects every community and relationship. Yet amidst the brokenness lies a will to continue the search for hope.

Not only was Cities a deep thematic success, the album showcased a band that had refined its sound to perfection. Underneath the album’s crisp production lied evidence that Anberlin had become a new leader in the genre, no longer following in the footsteps of others. Even 10 years later, Cities sounds unique for its time. If it were released today, it would still sound just as fresh and compelling.

However, just a few short months after its release, and before fans could fully digest the record, the band announced some shocking news. Having completed their contract with indie label Tooth and Nail Records, the band had been courted and signed by Universal Republic and would return to the studio to begin crafting their major label debut.

Although both the promotional and touring cycles for Cities were cut short, fan excitement for the band heightened. Soon, rumors spread that Universal Republic might re-release Cities to a wider audience or that the band might even re-record the album with new guitarist Christian McAlhaney now in their ranks. The events that followed are almost stranger than fiction, but somehow elevated the band to heights that no one expected.

There would be no major label lionizing of Cities. Instead, Anberlin released “Feel Good Drag” in the summer of 2008 as the lead single for New Surrender. The re-recorded song from 2005’s Never Take Friendship Personal left fans befuddled, as did the rushed writing and recording of the new album itself. Before Cities had even cooled off, the album had seemingly been replaced with what many perceived to be an inferior product.

However, “Feel Good Drag” became an unlikely breakthrough hit. During its 29-week climb to the top of Billboard’s Modern Rock Chart, the track became a record-breaker, spending more time on the chart en route to #1 than any other single in history. Suddenly a staple on rock radio and MTV, the band were booking large headlining tours, playing bigger venues, and attracting a massive new audience.

From a fan perspective, New Surrender received flack upon its release for feeling cluttered and uneven. While certainly not without its standout tracks, the album seemed to lack sonic direction, but also suffered from being quickly released on the heels of the band’s masterpiece.

In hindsight, there’s no denying that Anberlin’s major label signing and the sudden unexpected success of “Feel Good Drag” overshadowed what the band had accomplished with Cities, but it also changed the lives and careers of the band’s members. Without those events, would the band have been able to experiment to such critical success with 2010’s Dark is the Way, Light is a Place, return to their aggressive roots with 2012’s highly lauded Vital, or been able to exit on their own terms with 2014’s Lowborn?

Without the perceived slight that Cities received in 2007, the conversation surrounding one of the scene’s most successful and respected bands might be much different. Now, a decade later, we can talk about the album with full knowledge that Anberlin achieved a great deal over the course of their 16 year run, and that later albums like Dark is the Way and Vital even rival what the band accomplished with Cities.

Over the course of seven solid studio albums, it is my opinion that Cities is Anberlin’s most cohesive, focused and exemplary release. It features the band’s best song (“Dismantle. Repair.”), the most powerful album closer I’ve ever heard (“*Fin”), and best represents the band’s sound and purpose. However, if the short cycle of Cities meant the extended career and expanded audience of one of my favorite bands, who am I to complain?

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Fall Out Boy – Infinity on High

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I believe Infinity on High to be Fall Out Boy’s best album, but there’s plenty of room for debate. What’s not up for debate is the fact that the scene will never again see the heights it reached by the time the album released.

Between the moment “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” hit radio airwaves in 2005 and the opening notes of “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” first graced our speakers in early 2007, things had changed. Underoath had a gold record. Gym Class Heroes were in regular rotation on top 40 radio. Cartel had signed on for an MTV reality show. Panic! at the Disco had graced the cover of Rolling Stone. A few months later, Paramore would crash the party and go platinum.

You can buy Infinity on High on iTunes.

You can buy Infinity on High on iTunes.

To say that the stakes were high for Fall Out Boy leading up to the release of Infinity on High would be putting it lightly. With From Under the Cork Tree, the band had fallen backwards into unlikely stardom, effectively dragging an entire scene into the spotlight with them. Was Fall Out Boy’s success a flash in the pan, or were they truly an outlier – a band with legs that could carry them far beyond the confines of the Warped Tour bubble?

Infinity on High did not disappoint, and in hindsight, it’s easy to look back at the album as the moment that Fall Out Boy lifted the title belt as the clear winner of the very competition they inadvertently started.

If you’re like me, you can easily recall certain moments outside of the music itself that stick out in your mind. The shock of hearing Jay-Z’s voice open the album, declaring the band’s arrival on the big stage. Walking into a Circuit City and seeing the video for “This Ain’t a Scene” playing on every TV screen in the store. Finding the band on the cover of magazines and tabloids in every check out line, exuding an air of emo indifference.

Ironically, it was this very fame and the suffocation it breeds that led Pete Wentz to unleash his pen in retaliation. Wentz had already cemented himself as a narcissistic, silver-tongued lyricist before Infinity, but decided to turn his attention away from perpetual heartbreak and self-destruction and toward critics, haters, the scene and even himself.

Wentz flashes his pessimism on “The Take Over, The Breaks Over” with, “They say your head can be a prison, then these are just conjugal visits / People will dissect us till this doesn’t mean a thing anymore”. Moments later on “This Ain’t a Scene”, he dismisses the late arrivals: “This bandwagon’s full / Please, catch another”.

With the release of Infinity, the days of starry-eyed Chicago boys with dreams of a breakthrough would forever be over. The consequences of those achievements proved to be even more compelling. Wentz’s ability to communicate the resulting pain in between his rapid cocksure gunfire remains both legendary and poignant in lines like, “The only thing I haven’t done yet is die / And it’s me and my plus one at the afterlife” and “I sing the blues and swallow them, too”.

With lyrics this meaty and full of double meanings and unexpected turns of phrase, translation into digestible bites would have been nearly impossible had Patrick Stump not come into his own at just the right moment. On Infinity, Stump makes his first major transition from pop punk crooner to pop star diva, taking full advantage of his vocal range. His high notes are higher, his runs are more daring, his melodies are tighter. With the band now fully incorporating R&B, pop and soul elements, it provided the perfect platform for a star to appear right before our very eyes.

As a result, the band’s most unrelatable album became a smashing success on the charts. Half victory lap around the ring, half vicious rebuttal to naysayers, Infinity on High succeeded amidst Wentz’s snark thanks to a sonically diverse experience that elevated the band out of the pop punk mire. Even so, early signs of the band’s crash landing hiatus could be seen on the horizon, with Stump and Wentz fighting for the proverbial spotlight with drummer Andy Hurley and guitarist Joe Trohman watching from the sidelines.

As clear as the warning signs were, it’s also obvious that this period of the band’s career made their later comeback possible. Fall Out Boy’s 2013 rebirth and subsequent return to the top of the charts speaks volumes to the clout the band has earned. Following the events of 2007, the scene at large would begin to descend back to its original home in the underground with only a few stars surving the oversaturation.

A decade later, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a band from our scene rising to fame as quickly and powerfully as Fall Out Boy. Could another band be this divisive? Be this willing and able to transform? Have this much longevity? Love them or hate them, Fall Out Boy are still the undisputed champions of a short-lived arms race, with Infinity on High standing as a monument to a time when the sky was the limit. Long live the car crash hearts.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Most Anticipated of 2017: #1 The Return of Paramore

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It’s almost hard to believe that it’s been nearly four years since the release of Paramore. That album, and the singles it produced, had a long tail, with “Ain’t it Fun” blasting through radio speakers for almost two years after its release. Even now, well over a year removed from any sort of touring, Paramore still feels like one of the most relevant bands in the rock scene.

Nevertheless, as with almost any break between Paramore albums, the past couple of years have brought their wear and tear. Gone is bassist Jeremy Davis in a messy divorce that spilled into the courtrooms. Another painful departure is certain to have provided fodder for Hayley Williams and Taylor York, who, nearly inconceivably, rejoined with original drummer Zac Farro to record the band’s follow up.

Paramore has overcome adversity in the past with flying colors, continuing to up the ante with each release the band puts out. At this point, though, Paramore has become more of a brand than anything. Still, it’s a brand we trust to create emotive artwork that spills through our speakers with the sounds of Williams’ heralded voice. No matter who follows her into battle, it’s easy to rest assured of the outcome.

The last time we waited for four years for a Paramore release, the band followed up Brand New Eyes with their self-titled album – a behemoth of a record that garnered the band another platinum plaque. Here’s to the anticipation of what we believe will be yet another stellar album from one of America’s most fun bands.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Most Anticipated of 2017: #2 AFI’s Resurgence

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This may be the busiest year AFI have ever had as a band. Notorious for long delays between albums, there are hints of three possible releases related to the band on the way. Their 10 album, AFI (The Blood Album) is coming out in just a couple of weeks, preceded by two very strong singles and a national tour following not long after. While AFI’s discography is phenomenally strong, the singles indicate one of their best endeavors in several years.

If that weren’t enough, there are at least two side projects on the way: Blaqk Audio have recently announced that there are over 40 songs demoed for their fourth album. Considering that Material released less than a year ago, it seems like Davy Havok and Jade Puget are still riding that wave of creativity to make good on their promise of trying to get new Blaqk Audio releases out quicker.

Additionally, DREAMCAR, the super group of the No Doubt band with Davy Havok on vocals are set to release their debut album this year. There’s no indication of what their collaboration will sound like, but I know enough about Davy Havok to know he wouldn’t be a part of a project he didn’t believe he could make magic happen with. While I don’t know that much about No Doubt personally, people sure seem to like them.

Either way, the prospects of more than one project from a group of artists known to taking their time is something in and of itself to be excited for.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.

Most Anticipated of 2017: #3 The Wonder Years Come Out Swinging…Again

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It’s impossible not to be excited for a new release from The Wonder Years. The band has written some truly magical music unlike anything else in the genre. When they announced on Twitter just before the new year that they were getting busy writing a record, they accidentally bumped off a few contenders for this list (sorry, Saves the Day and Hellogoodbye).

Around this time seven years ago, The Wonder Years seemed to appear out of nowhere and take over the punk scene by storm. Since then, they’ve not only released music regularly, but they’ve managed to up their own ante each time, growing as into one of the strongest and most respected bands out there.

I don’t need to know what direction they’re going this time, nor do I care. Each experiment they’ve touched has paid off, and each theme becomes deeper and more structured. I just can’t wait to see what else they’ve come up with.

Additionally, it’s about time for a new Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties release. Last year’s Bittersweet EP was a fantastic taste of what’s to come and gave some insight into what has happened in West’s life since we last saw him on We Don’t Have Each Other. It’s been three years since that album, and if West’s acoustic tour last year was anything to go by, there is a frantic fan base waiting for the next real chapter.

It’s only been a year and a half since the release of No Closer to Heaven, and they’re already gearing up for their next record. The dedication and groundwork The Wonder Years team show toward their craft is why they’re so beloved. That they have enough inspiration to work so tirelessly is enough reason to anticipate anything they’re preparing for.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.