Light Up Ahead: In Memory of Jon Bunch

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Sad news broke late yesterday afternoon that vocalist Jon Bunch had passed away at the age of 45. Bunch was perhaps best known as founding member and lead vocalist of indie rock band Sense Field, but is also widely recognized for being the third lead vocalist for heralded emo act Further Seems Forever. Bunch also formed the Rise Records post-hardcore band War Generation and, at the time of his passing, was serving as vocalist for Lucky Scars.

You truly get a sense for the community of this music scene when news such as this breaks. So many of these musicians impacted our lives with their notes and words, and stories of Bunch’s kindness and singing prowess began flooding social media in the hours after news of his passing. For myself and many others, Jon Bunch will be remembered warmly for the influence his music had on my life, particularly during his time in Further Seems Forever.

As any longtime fan of the band can attest, discussing the band’s discography and career arc is truly a joy. Further Seems Forever proved to be one of the most influential and respected bands to come from the late 90s and early 2000s emo scene. From a strictly musical standpoint, the band is almost without peer in terms of the technical qualify of their songwriting. Their songs were made even more special by the talent and legend of the three distinct, unique vocalists that sang atop the music – Chris Carrabba, Jason Gleason and Bunch.

Like each of the band’s albums, 2004’s Hide Nothing, the final release from the band before their 2006 hiatus and the only release to feature Bunch, was uniquely Further Seems Forever. While any debate about which album is the band’s best is quite often futile, there’s certainly an argument to be made for Hide Nothing. Produced by James Paul Wisner (who also produced The Moon is Down and How to Start a Fire), the album is marked with some of the band’s crispest songwriting and most accessible melodies, but is truly highlighted by Bunch.

Bunch’s clean, polished delivery throughout the album still stands as a clear departure from the more emotive offerings from Carrabba or Gleason, yet there’s no denying Bunch’s passion. While many fairly point to “Light Up Ahead” as the signature track from Hide Nothing, I was always more captivated by “Someone You Know” – an under-the-radar track that was rarely played live. One of the more aggressive songs on the album, I still get chills up my spine during Bunch’s pleading chorus of, “Take my soul, I / Take my soul, I / Break my heart, I’m / Ready, ready, ready when you are”.

In the week’s to come, I’m certain that Hide Nothing will speak even greater volumes than I had previously known. Jon Bunch wasn’t just a great part of Further Seems Forever’s history, he was a great all around musician and someone that was respected and admired by thousands of fans and fellow artists. He is gone much to soon and will be sorely missed.

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.

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Review: Twin Forks – Twin Forks

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With the slew of folk rock acts that have seemingly burst from the woodwork directly into the mainstream in recent years, it’s fair to assume that there would be certain amount of bands pandering to the newfound demographic. How then, would one go about determining what’s genuine? Perhaps it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

An established songwriter jumping on the folk rock bandwagon may appear odd to some, but for many of us that have grown up with Chris Carrabba, Twin Forks makes sense.

The Americana/folk rock band was formed in 2011 by Carrabba, who has become a living emo legend due to his time in Further Seems Forever and Dashboard Confessional. If the shift to Twin Forks seems stark and curious, one listen to the band’s debut self-titled LP should bring a bit of clarity.

Previously, Carrabba had made a career out of heart-on-his-sleeve, emotion-filled cuts that dug deep at the sting of lost love. The early Dashboard albums felt so in the moment, mostly because so many of us were experiencing them in the midst of similar pain.

The appearance of Twin Forks is about much more than a fresh stylistic change, it’s about growing up. Now in his late 30s, Carrabba seems to be taking this opportunity to show his growth – not only as a musician, but as a person.

Twin Forks is about love, viewed through the eyes of a wiser, yet still learning adult. Opener “Can’t Be Broken” exhibits not only the fresh upbeat folk sound of the band, but brings Carrabba’s storytelling abilities to the forefront.

Throughout the course of the album, he’ll reflect on past love and the excitement of new love with a patient eye. There’s no rush and the album flows smoothly in both lyric and tone. The tracks themselves provide the appropriate soundtrack to each story, shifting from toe tapping twang to stripped down strumming with relative ease.

Truth be told, there’s some familiarity to be found here as well. Songs like “Cross My Mind” and “Danger” wouldn’t feel too out of place on Dashboard’s 2009 outing Alter the Ending. Meanwhile, “Plans” features one of the more emotional melodies that Carrabba has written in years and “Back to You” finds his recognizable strained vocals fitting right in to their new background.

Backup vocals, courtesy of Suzie Zeldin (The Narrative), are a welcome addition to the mix, providing a wonderful harmony on tracks like “Kiss Me Darling”. Likewise, her mandolin pushes several of the songs over the top by capturing jubilant and thoughtful moments.

If there’s any gripe to be found, it’s that Twin Forks sometimes seems to be constricted by its chosen genre. “Scraping Up the Pieces” feels a bit forced and formulaic while “Come On” uses its upbeat tempo to guise a rather boring track. However, where these tracks lack in depth they certainly make up for in charm.

At first glance, Twin Forks appears as an awkward flight from known territory for Carrabba, but it’s clear that he knows what he’s doing. Some detractors have pointed out a lack of his once-appealing painful songwriting in his more recent work. This is a good thing.

Those old Dashboard songs will always serve to remind us of our youth, but with age comes experience and perspective. Twin Forks offers these qualities in abundance and meshes them with a sound that feels mature and honest to the subjects at hand. In doing so, Carrabba has shown us that there’s more than one way to wear your heart on your sleeve.

4/5

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.

The top 5 bands from Tooth and Nail Records

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As it turns out, there’s no right answer when you decide to write a retrospective article on the top five bands from Tooth and Nail Records. Of course, on the other side of the coin, there’s not really a wrong answer, either.

There’s an extremely good chance that if you’re a fan of today’s punk and hardcore scene, you have close ties with a band that was signed to Tooth and Nail Records. If not, it’s a near certainty that some of your favorite bands were heavily influenced by Tooth and Nail bands. The Seattle punk label has churned out more than a few prominent and influential acts over the past two decades and, for much of that time, the label itself was a trailblazer in fostering the sounds that define today’s scene.

If you’re unsure of the label’s credibility or are too young to remember their heyday, consider that we just made a list that excludes the likes of Ghoti Hook, Dogwood, The Juliana Theory, Anberlin, Mae, Squad Five-O, Project 86, As Cities Burn, Stavesacre, Copeland and many others.

It’s perfectly understandable if you disagree with our list. The good news is that the point of this piece is more of a reflection on an influential label that’s turning 20 than a definitive record that we’re stamping in stone. Feel free to share your favorite bands in the replies or share your own list with us. Without further ado, here are our five favorite Tooth and Nail bands of all time.

1. MxPx

There’s really no way around this band not landing in the top spot. Not only are they the label’s first signing, they clearly paved the way for everything that the label was to become and are one of the most important bands in pop-punk history. MxPx is a direct influence to the likes of Yellowcard, Good Charlotte, Relient K and countless other bands that came in their wake.

Whether you’re a fan of the brash and raw Pokinatcha, the seminal Life in General or the polished Secret Weapon, there’s no shortage of styles and sounds to come from the Bremerton, Wa. trio. MxPx not only put Tooth and Nail Records on the map, they shaped the future of the pop-punk genre and released some of the most noteworthy and memorable work this scene has known.

2. Underoath

There’s no denying that some will argue this placing, but consider the impact that Underoath had on the scene in the mid-2000s. The band’s masterpiece, Define the Great Line, not only destroyed the post-hardcore rulebook with its forward-thinking display, but was a commercial success, charting at number two on the Billboard 200 the week of its release.

Underoath managed to grab a stranglehold on the scene spotlight without ever losing their identity or dumbing down their sound. Instead, they forged beyond the typical expectations of the post-hardcore genre with unique recording methods, odd time signatures and an unorthodox use of electronic programming. When considering today’s post-hardcore and metalcore scene, it’s hard to argue Underoath’s impact.

3. Slick Shoes

Slick Shoes never achieved the notoriety of many of their peers, but this was not for lack of talent or gusto. Slick Shoes was the secret you had between your close friends in high school; the cool band that belonged to you. They never seemed to mind. Instead, they churned out a collection of memorable albums, such as Burn Out, Wake Up Screaming and their 2002 self-titled.

Despite their lack of fame, you can bring up the name of the band in just about any punk circle to positive reactions and recollections. In truth, Slick Shoes managed to have just about as much influence on the scene as many of their more well-known peers and did it without the flashing lights and headliner status. Honestly, that’s about as punk as it gets.

4. mewithoutYou

It’s hard to put a label on mewithoutYou’s sound. Not only has the band dabbled in a multitude of genres and sounds, but they’ve done it by adding their unique touch and thoughtfulness to each endeavor. They’re a band fueled by passion and it comes across in everything the band has ever put their hands on. mewithoutYou is the band that this scene needed.

While their debut certainly caught ears, it wasn’t until their follow-up Catch For Us the Foxes that people began to really take notice. Indeed, the band would expand their repertoire with each subsequent release, building on their quirky post-hardcore sound, laced with artful imagery and the poetic lyrics of Aaron Weiss. mewithoutYou never fit a particular mold and certainly didn’t follow the beaten path, and we’re all the better for it.

5. Strongarm/Further Seems Forever

Yes, this is clearly a cop-out. However, when four members of an influential hardcore band go on to form an equally influential emo/indie rock band, it’s worth noting. In fact, Further Seems Forever held a place at many a hardcore festival simply based on the fact that the members were deeply rooted in that community. That being said, the addition of Chris Carrabba at vocalist was obviously a game changer that pushed Further Seems Forever over the top.

Even after the band made its mark on the scene with Carrabba behind the mic, the band managed to remain solid and relevant with two other lead singers (Jason Gleason, Jon Bunch) over their next two albums. Behind both bands lies the heart of its original members and their ability to craft music across different genres while maintaining credibility and focus. Because of this, you can’t really mention Further Seems Forever without Strongarm.

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.