Podcast: The Delightful Return of MxPx

Last month, pop punk legends MxPx returned with a surprise self-titled album that quickly became lauded as one of the band’s best. On our latest podcast, Kiel Hauck is joined by Richard Clark of Christianity Today to discuss what makes the new album so much fun and how the band’s reflections on growing up have resonated with their longtime fanbase. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What is your favorite MxPx album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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Review: MxPx – MxPx

Self-titling an album is always a bold move, but to do it a quarter century into a career is something special. At this point, MxPx are one of the legends of the skate punk/pop punk scene, which makes it fitting that their newest album, MxPx is a reflection of their accomplishments and favorite memories. It genuinely sounds like the band are continuously having a blast. If anything, it confirms the brilliance of loud, fast simplicity in music and is a reminder of why people fell in love with punk to begin with.

You can buy or stream MxPx on Apple Music.

MxPx is an album that finds joy in reflection. It’s pure energy that at once shows the craft of a band so far into their career, as well as the manic noise that draws so many people to punk rock. While it sounds like it could have fallen out of 1998, MxPx is an record that relishes not being more than it is and doubles down on itself in an era when bands (and audiences) seem obsessed with finding something new.

Its greatest strength is that it is simple in construct. The music sounds similar to the skate punk of 20 years ago, though more refined. The lyrics wholeheartedly become party ready sing-a-longs, but there are glimpses of a career well earned and fondly remembered. It’s a touch that makes the record feel like a celebration of the band itself as much as it is meant to excite a crowd into a frenzy.

Album opener, “Rolling Strong” sets the tone for the album as singer Mike Herrera proudly boasts, “There’s no giving up, no going home / We’ll be here till the end / We’re pressing on / Probably should have asked a friend, but that not how we’re living / We’re still rolling strong”. It’s a song that really sounds like the band still love what they do, especially during a breakdown filled with enthusiastic shouts and crazed guitars.

MxPx finds ways to mix memories with the youthful optimism of pop punk in ways that sound neither self-indulgent nor ham-fisted. “The Way We Do” has a generic sounding chorus about following your dreams (“This is the way we do / Like the way we always wanted to”), but dispersed between these are stories about past tours and great nights on the road. “Let me live on through the songs and stories / Like that time Face to Face destroyed our van / Our freezing balls, crossed Canada with Simple Plan / Or stealing food from Bad Religion’s dressing room”.

Closing song, “Moments Like This” sends off a message of hope about making the most out of life and enjoying freedom while you have it. “It’s moments like this, that I’m gonna miss / When I’m dead and gone and I can’t kiss my kids / Will they look up at the sky and think about me? / These are the ways I’ve been spending my days, thinking weird thoughts and the things that amaze / Beyond my life and the way I’ve been able to live it so free.”

Though I listen to a lot of punk rock, I find music similar to skate punk hard to comment on. Predicated on fast guitars, steady drums and thundering bass lines, it can start to run together extraordinarily easily. However, simplicity is the biggest strength of MxPx. Many bands who started in the genre around the same time as MxPx, such as blink-182 and AFI, have drastically changed their sound over the years. Without more familiarity with MxPx, I can’t say for sure how their self-titled album compares to their earlier work, but it is crafted with the strength of a band who isn’t trying to build their reputation as much as they’re putting it on display.

MxPx is an album that should make fans of the band proud, and one of the few self-titled albums that seem to truly represent the band as a whole. While it provides one of the most fleshed-out versions of lightning quick punk rock, it makes the genre feel relevant and energized. MxPx could have been released anywhere in the last two decades, but it wouldn’t have quite the same depth of nostalgia or inspiration. Perhaps more important than anything though, MxPx is just incredibly fun to listen to.

4/5

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 he just heard the cabinet in his bathroom open and close on its own. He is typing this to avoid having to go see why it did that. The cat sitting on his lap seems alarmed as well. Booooo.

MxPx – “Teenage Politics” Turns 20

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Want to feel old? Teenage Politics, the sophomore effort from legendary Bremerton, Washington, pop punk band MxPx, has officially turned 20 years old. Released in 1995, the seminal album became a staple in the pop punk community and played a large role in the rapid growth of Tooth and Nail Records in the mid-90s. The album also contained classic tracks like, “Punk Rawk Show”, “Moneytree” and more.

To celebrate, the band has released a commemorative t-shirt that can be purchased at the band’s website. If you’re in the mood, you can also check out a feature from last year in which we ranked every single MxPx release. When you’re finished, throw on Teenage Politics to celebrate!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Top 10 Summertime Pop Punk Track Ones

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If you’re like us, the first weeks of warm weather and sunny skies provide the perfect opportunity to drive with the windows down and the stereo cranked up. What better way to celebrate the beginning of the spring and summer months than with pop punk blaring from the speakers?

Believe it or not, there was a time when listening to your favorite pop punk songs didn’t include downloading the latest single from iTunes or queuing up a playlist from Spotify. Instead, it meant inserting your favorite CD or cassette tape into the stereo and starting from track one.

That’s why we’re celebrating our favorite summertime pop punk track ones. These are attention grabbing, foot tapping, sing-a-long ready songs that kick of some of our favorite summertime albums. Check out our top 10 below and feel free to chime in with your favorite track ones in the replies!

10. The Fratellis – “Henrietta”

“Henrietta” by the Fratellis is an energetic romp that starts off Costello Music, an album full of singles. From the crisp slap of the high hat, the baritone sax acting as bass and the rickety guitar chords, the song never takes itself seriously and builds the energy right up until the very end. It’s one of the few songs I can think of that has a solo of the band members shouting “Wa wa wa waaaa”, only to be followed by the pub-rock lyrics of, “Clean out the bank and bump off your daddy, you can come live with us amongst the has beens and the addicts”. – Kyle Schultz

9. Relient K – “Chap Stick, Chapped Lips, and Things Like Chemistry”

Back in the day, Relient K were known as the corny goofballs of the pop punk scene. With Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right, But Three Do, the band turned the corner towards a more serious sound, while still keeping the cheekiness that made them so fun to begin with. “Chap Stick” is the perfect example, as the song celebrates one of the greatest of all summertime traditions: a trip to the theme park. Vocalist Matt Theissen even laments losing his phone “to the lake beneath the Batman ride”. It’s a song about youth, summer and the awkward relationships that come along with both. Theissen ends the song with his infamous line, “I don’t want to be perceived the way I am / I just want to be perceived the way I am”. – Kiel Hauck

8. My Chemical Romance – “Helena”

“Helena” became one of the oddest singles to dominate MTV, mostly due to the hypnotizing umbrella dances amidst a funeral, and introduced the world to My Chemical Romance. What it lacks in the polish of MCR’s later work, it makes up for in raw punk energy and Gerard Way’s gorgeous crooning. It’s atmospheric, creepy and commanding as Way sings, “So long and goodnight, so long and goodnight”; a fitting end to a season of energy. – KS

7. MxPx – “Middlename”

“Emotion is my middle name!” Likely one of the most famous opening lines of any pop punk album, these lyrics, courtesy of Mike Herrera, kick off Life in General, one of pop punk’s seminal albums. Driven by the fast-paced drumming of Yuri Ruley, “MIddlename” is a definitive example of the golden age of pop punk, combining the perfect emotional blend of confusion, anger and determination. MxPx has always had a knack for crafting upbeat, in-your-face tunes and “Middlename” is the match strike that ignites an album that bands would be replicating for more than a decade. – KH

6. Green Day – “American Idiot”

“American Idiot” is a quintessential summer song: loud, catchy and extremely pronounced. For being a song with such a simple melody, the chorus of, “Don’t want to be an American idiot, one nation controlled by the media / Information age of hysteria, it’s calling out to idiot America” is legendary. Simply put, it is a song designed from the ground up to blow out car speakers and demand fist pumps in the putrid humidity. If there’s anything that can keep spirits up in the heat, it’s the song that helped relaunch Green Day’s career. – KS

5. Fall Out Boy – “Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today”

No, we’re not the types to go on and on about how Take This To Your Grave is Fall Out Boy’s best album and everything since has fallen short. However, there’s no doubt that “Mick” is an absolutely killer opening track. From the opening dial tone to the Stump’s belting of “around your throat” to close out the song, it’s a blast of nostalgia from beginning to end. Along with its upbeat feel, the song showcases some of Wentz’ most potent songwriting, including the infamous line, “Let’s play this game called when you catch fire I wouldn’t piss to put you out”. – KH

4. Saves the Day – “At Your Funeral”

“At Your Funeral” by Saves the Day is without a doubt one of the most well known songs in the scene. With the slow build up of twangy plucked strings leading to the brutal ending and shaking guitars, the song is a slow build that ends in absolute melodic madness. For as dark as the lyrics can be, the song is so upbeat and poppy, it’s impossible to not be happy or sing-a-long as soon as the opening sentence drudges out of Chris Conley’s mouth, “This song will become the anthem of your underground”. – KS

3. All Time Low – “Weightless”

The guys in All Time Low were facing a rather big moment in their careers upon the release of their third full length release in 2009, Nothing Personal. Would the band keep the momentum that had propelled them to the forefront of the pop punk scene or hit a speed bump that would send the band crashing back to reality. With the album’s opening track, “Weightless”, one thing was crystal clear – All Time Low was here to stay. The epitome of a summer anthem, this song had just he right amount of pep and positive energy to push the band over the top. Vocalist Alex Gaskarth’s “Maybe it’s not my weekend, but it’s gonna be my year” captures the heart of summer’s dog days for many and provides a dash of hope for the days to come. – KH

2. blink-182 – “Feeling This”

While it isn’t blink-182’s most famous song, “Feeling This” is a great summer song with varying styles and the first hint of the band’s more mature sound. The bouncing guitar blazes past Travis barker’s amazing drumming and intertwines lyrics about a lustful relationship falling into the bedroom, constantly pushed forward by Mark Hoppus’ shouting “I’m feeling this”. The duo toy with R&B elements and pop, holding the signature fury of their signature sound at bay just long enough to build towards a final wave of pop punk the likes of which the genre as a whole hopes to create. – KS

1. Yellowcard – “Way Away”

Before the title track of Ocean Avenue would become everyone’s summer anthem in 2003, “Way Away” proceeded it as the album’s lead single. If those opening notes don’t give you chills, it’s likely a sign that you missed out on this incredible album’s heyday. LP’s drumming, Sean Mackin’s violin and Ryan Key’s belted notes of “Way away away from here I’ll be” scream to be played at full volume with the wind in your hair. Truth be told, this entire album is a summertime experience from start to finish, but “Way Away” kicks things off perfectly. – KH

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.

Ranking the albums of MxPx

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Whether you know it or not, if you listen to music coming from today’s punk scene, there’s a strong chance that some of your favorite bands are heavily influenced by Bremerton, Wash., punk band MxPx.

Starting in 1992 as a couple of high school friends jamming together in neighborhood backyards, MxPx would go on to become one of the most influential pop punk bands in history and the flagship band for one of the genre’s premiere labels, Tooth and Nail Records. Over the span of the band’s 22-year existence, they’ve released nine full-length albums, two cover albums and a slew of EPs and b-side albums.

Influenced by bands like Black Flag and The Descendants and contemporaries to the likes of blink-182, New Found Glory and Good Charlotte, MxPx never achieved the wide-spread mainstream audience of their peers, yet they remain one of the most revered and respected bands from their era. For many, the band’s journey through adolescence parallels their own and serves as the soundtrack to growing up.

Comprised for the majority of the band’s career of Mike Herrera (bass, vocals), Tom Wisniewski (guitar) and Yuri Ruley (drums), the band still plays scattered shows and records new music during their free time. They released their most recent album, Plans Within Plans, in 2012.

We’ve decided that now is as good of a time as ever to break down the band’s discography and rank their full-length albums from one to nine. For the purposes of this piece, we’re leaving out all cover albums, b-sides and EPs and focusing only on the band’s proper full lengths.

Read on to relive a bit of the band’s history and see how we rank the albums of MxPx. Feel free to share your thoughts and your own rankings in the replies!

9. Pokinatcha

pokinatchaPokinatcha, MxPx’s 1994 debut, is a fast paced and raucous affair, with many of the album’s 21 tracks clocking in at under two minutes. The only album to feature Andy Husted on guitar instead of Tom Wisniewski, Pokinatcha is rough around the edges, to be sure. You can see flashes of greatness to come scattered throughout the album and it’s still fun to go back and listen to the band in their infancy.

8. Plans Within Plans

plans_within_plansThe most recent release from the band, Plans Within Plans was recorded over the course of several months during 2011. Though the album lacks a bit of cohesiveness and the power of some of the band’s better albums, it’s still one hell of a punk rock record. Opener “Aces Up” is a highlight and proves that even 20 years in, MxPx is still doing it better than most bands on the scene.

7. Before Everything and After

before_everything_and_afterLong considered the black sheep of MxPx’s discography, Before Everything and After is about as pop as the band ever got. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – there’s some great tracks on this album, but there’s also a few over-produced and out-of-place songs that don’t sound right on an MxPx album. Though it’s not a throw-away as some fans believe, it’s far from the band’s best work.

6. Teenage Politics

Teenage_PoliticsTeenage Politics serves as the bridge between the band’s beginnings and their golden era. The band began polishing their rough punk rock sound and added in a splash of skate punk to keep things interesting. The album also features staple track “Punk Rock Show” along with a few other classics, including hidden track “Dolores”. It’s youthful, energetic and showcases a band on the rise.

5. Panic 

panicNo one saw this one coming. MxPx bounced back from 2003’s poppy Before Everything and After with what may be their heaviest and hardest hitting album – Panic. The album ignites with a bang when opener “The Darkest Places” kicks in and then proceeds full throttle, featuring staples such as “Heard That Sound”, “Young and Depressed” and “Wrecking Hotel Rooms”. Panic single-handedly breathed life back into MxPx and proved that their career was far from over.

4. Secret Weapon

secret_weaponThe band reunited with Tooth and Nail Records in 2007 to release Secret Weapon, an album that showcases pop punk at its best. Produced by Aaron Sprinkle, the album is glossier than some of their other releases, but is just as fast and furious – check out “Contention” as an example. The album is chock full of singles, including the title track, “Shut it Down”, “You’re On Fire” and “Angels”. Fifteen years into their career, MxPx managed to mop the floor with majority of the pop punk scene and solidified their legacy with Secret Weapon.

3. Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo

slowly_going_the_way_of_the_buffaloYou wouldn’t have been able to blame MxPx if they had failed to follow up Life in General with another stellar album, but the truth is, Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo is a classic in its own right and is also the band’s only gold record. The band is on top of their game on Buffalo, an album that’s littered with classic songs – “Tomorrow’s Another Day”, “Invitation to Understanding”, “I’m OK, You’re OK” and many more. Titled after a dismayed fan told the band they were “slowly going the way of the buffalo,” MxPx decided to prove him very, very wrong.

2. The Everpassing Moment 

the_everpassing_momentIt’s true that this album may be ranked too high for some, but The Everpassing Moment features just about everything there is to love about MxPx. There’s no duds on this album and it rolls rapid-fire from front to back. Whether it’s the fast-paced industry commentary found on “The Next Big Thing”, the sing-along feel of “Is the Answer in the Question?” or the accessibility of semi-hit “Responsibility”, the album is solid throughout. From fiery opener “My Life Story” to dark closer “Misplaced Memories”, The Everpassing Moment may be the most re-listenable and consistent of any MxPx album.

1. Life in General

Life_in_generalIt’s really no surprise to find Life in General at the top of this list. The album is considered one of the greatest pop punk albums of all time, and for good reason. MxPx managed to capture lightning in a bottle – every song is memorable, well-written and perfectly placed. There may be no better way to describe the process of growing up than Life in General – from the girl problems (“Do Your Feet Hurt?”, “Chick Magnet”) to depressing days (“Middlename”) to learning to be yourself (“Sometimes You Have to Ask Yourself”, “Doing Time”).

In addition to Herrera’s amazing storytelling abilities, the album is also a snapshot of the golden era of pop punk. Wisniewski’s guitar slides the melody in and out with apathetic excellence while Ruley’s drums power the songs from front to back. Even the album’s artwork is classic, capturing the warzone of a high school hallway. Life in General isn’t just MxPx’s best album, it’s one of the best punk albums of all time.

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.

5 bands we want to see return to Warped Tour in 2014

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With each passing day, we’re drawing closer to this summer’s Warped Tour. The last batch of lineup announcements will be coming over the next few weeks and we’re excited to see who’s on the list.

Even though we all know it’s wildly unlikely, we’ve all taken a moment to daydream about some of the past Warped greats that we’d love to see grace the stage once again. Since Fall Out Boy and Paramore are heading out on the Monumentour this summer, we know they’re out of the question, but what about some of the other big names?

We decided to take a moment to list out five bands that would make us shout with joy should they once again be announced for the Vans Warped Tour. We know, these are all long shots, but hey – we can dream, can’t we?

1. Blink-182

blink_182It’s been 13 years since Blink graced the stage at Warped, and we’re pretty sure they’d draw more fans than every other band combined if they joined the lineup this summer. Two years ago, Warped made a big push to bring back older bands in what could almost have been considered a throwback year for the tour. With this year’s lineup being so top heavy with young bands on the scene, what better band to level out the playing field between the old guard and new than Blink?

2. Saosin

saosin_anthony_greenAccording to Saosin, their upcoming reunion performance with original vocalist Anthony Green at this year’s Skate and Surf Festival will be their last. However, we can’t imagine a better way for these post-hardcore legends to go out than one last trek on Warped Tour. Can you imagine the uproar if the band were to release one final EP with Green before hitting the road on Warped as a farewell to their fans? Yeah, this needs to happen.

3. MxPx

mxpx1If pop punk legends Blink-182 were to come back, why not bring back their longtime contemporaries, MxPx? The last time these left coast rawkers were on the tour was in 2007, in which they looked just as energized and rowdy as they did on their initial run in 1998. Over two decades into their career, the MxPx fanbase is still strong and always hungry for new music and fresh performances. There’s no doubt that MxPx would add a healthy dose of punk to this year’s lineup.

4. Say Anything

say_anythingSurprisingly, Say Anything has only joined Warped Tour one time (2008). With a new album on the way, we think 2014 would be a prime time for Say Anything to make another appearance on the tour. The live performances of vocalist Max Bemis were made for large crowds and massive sing-a-longs, something every Warped main stage can provide. We’d even be up for throwing in Eisley and Merriment for a full-family Warped Tour run.

5. Circa Survive

circasurvive1What would be better than a double dose of Anthony Green on this year’s Warped Tour? If Saosin were to make the trip, we’d want to see Circa too – imagine the wild back-to-back sets these bands would perform. Circa was last on the tour in 2007 and has added a whole lot of new music to their arsenal since then, including last year’s triumphant Violent Waves.

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.