State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Author - Eric Poluhovich

State In The Real Interviews A Lot Like Birds

We got the chance to sit down and talk with Cory Lockwood and Kurt Travis, the two vocalists from A Lot Like Birds. Late last year, the band released their groundbreaking third album No Place, which further cemented the band’s sound and creativity. The album is a concept album where the narrator visits his abandoned childhood house. Each song takes place in a different room of the house, and explores different emotions, memories, and associations the narrator (and listeners) have with these places. It’s a dark and twisted album, and we talked with Cory and Kurt about it.

Please introduce yourselves.
Cory: I’m Cory,
Kurt: and Kurt, from A Lot Like Birds.

How’s the tour so far?
Cory: Awesome. This is our first time on Warped so it’s just an incredible experience for a band. We get to play music to a lot of people who might not have heard us otherwise.
Kurt: Yeah I agree. It’s a great opportunity for us. The crowds have been awesome. We couldn’t be happier.

How are you beating the heat?
Cory: Fortunately not the whole tour has been very hot. It’s been alternating days.
Kurt: Some days will be deceivingly hot. It’ll look like it’s not that bad. “Oh I don’t need to put sunscreen on,” but really at the end of the day you’re like “Oh my gosh.” But Texas was pretty humid. Arizona, New Mexico. I love the people, I love the people. But I don’t know how they deal with it.

So your latest album No Place came out at the end of last year. It’s a concept album and each song is essentially a different room in a house with the connotations, the emotions and the memories that are associated with those places. Who came up with that idea?
Cory: Well, we knew that we wanted to do a concept record, and I think we sat on the idea of doing it for a while, and we’d throw out ideas, like, “Let’s do space,” or “Let’s do this, or that.” And I think it just sort of came naturally to all of us that a home would be a perfect way to explore different segments of emotion. For me personally, concept records are scary, because if the concept itself doesn’t resonate with one person, then you’ve alienated an entire group of people, whereas a house, allowed us to explore a bunch of different things. Even if you don’t resonate with this song, you might with this one.
Kurt: Also, since we were constantly on the road, and very much winging it, just hoping we’d get through shit…and loved ones at home…for me at least, we were very, very not around our home base. So the concept of home was…we’re promoting this thing, we love this thing, we love this music, we love this art, but there’s a whole nother thing at home waiting. If you’re in a different city every single day, there’s not very much interaction. I’ve even heard [Cory] say because we were not at home…
Cory: No place WAS home.
Kurt: No place was home. Exactly. I couldn’t wait to get home. I love what I’m doing, but it has it’s [downsides]. It’s not candy and roses. It’s been a gruesome, life changing, mind-altering experience. Shit that I would never do, I have done because of it.

You touched upon the idea of a concept record appealing or resonating with one person. I personally, right when the first song “In Trances” started…I love that song because my grandparents used to babysit me while my parents worked, and I heard that melody every day, every hour because they had a grandfather clock. So right when I heard that song, it brought me back to my childhood, and I kind of associate the house in the album with my grandparent’s house because of that. With that song specifically, for example, were you trying to get that kind of connection, or did you really just like the melody? (note: this melody is called the Westminster Chime).
Cory: It was intentional. We didn’t write that song until we were in studio and decided that we wanted to have an entrance-
Kurt: And welcome you into the house. And once you’re in the house, you’re in the fucking [house]. And that’s why it goes *recites Westminster Chime melody*. Then in the basement, on “No Nature,” it’s diminished. *recites guitar riff from song, which is a distorted version of the melody*. It’s pretty thought out.

With the songs, a lot of them are very personal. There’s a narrator, but a lot of them are personal. Was there one person writing the lyrics to these songs, or did you guys come together and say, “This is how we feel about this room.” Or did you have conflicting views about certain rooms and how they should feel?
Cory: There are some rooms where the theme is constant throughout. Then there’s other rooms where it is sort of black and white, which I think felt extremely natural because we explored it through various situations. “Hand Over Mouth, Over and Over” it is, from his perspective, a very heartfelt, loving song, and darker on my perspective. Each room is represented in a different way. Sometimes there’s two different opinions, sometimes it’s the same one.
Kurt: “Connector” was one of those songs where we took it and was like, “Okay, this is the hallway of the house.” We’re going to start and finish in the same way, kind of like a mirror image. We definitely collaborated and came together on that song.

And what is each of your favorite song on the album?
Cory: I personally like “Recluse” a lot. We got to step out of our comfort zone a lot with it and I’m always partial to that song. I love that song so much I can’t even describe it.
Kurt: I think I know why. We got that song last, when it was mastered and mixed. I wore the fuck out of every other song, and then “Recluse” was one of those that Kris (Crummett) was holding onto, and didn’t give it to us yet. At least in my opinion, that song is amazing to me because it’s the newest. It’s refreshing, and we never play it either. It was mixed last, and it keeps its freshness.

Is that your favorite song too?
Kurt: I have a soft spot for every single song I’ve recorded in my whole life, so it’s kind of all relative. But that’s one of the favorites.

And what are your plans for after the tour?
Cory: Our guitarist is going off to write a side project (note: Michael Franzino and his project alone.), so we’re going to write on our end while he does that, and then come together and try to record the next album.

Is that going to be a different dynamic? Because Michael writes a lot of music right?
Cory: It may or may not be. Although Mikey does write a lot of the music, Joe our drummer writes as well, and he wrote some of the songs that are…I don’t want to preview or spoil anything because this may not necessarily be that accurate, but Joe wrote “Next to Ungodliness” and “Think Dirty Out Loud,” and that’s a direction we want to explore further. So I’m not saying the next thing that we write is going to sound like those two songs, but we do have that in our pocket to write with while Mikey is away.

That’s interesting because those songs were also some of the singles that you guys have had [from the past two albums]. Those were not written, or were only partially written, by Mikey?
Cory: I mean he wrote guitars for them, but the structures of the songs themselves was our drummer.
Kurt: Our drummer was like, start to finish, “Here’s a song. Guitar players: put them on.”

Is there anything else you guys want to say?
Cory: Thanks to everybody who’s come out to see us on Warped Tour so far, and who have supported us through touring out No Place. We’re excited to slowly but surely get to work on the next [album].
Kurt: Shout out to our SoCo friends: Dance Gavin Dance, Hail the Sun, Stolas, I the Mighty, My Iron Lung, Night Verses, HRVRD, all those bands. We love them to death. And we would not be where we are if it was not for those bands.

State In The Real Interviews Dan from Four Year Strong

At the Holmdel, NJ date of the Vans Warped Tour 2014, we got the chance to talk to Dan O’Connor, co-lead singer and guitarist of Four Year Strong. The band recently returned from a short hiatus. They’re back after a much needed break, with a new EP coming out on a new label. Dan talks about the time off, the new EP, and how he feels about coming back to touring after two years.

Please introduce yourself.
I’m Dan from the band Four Year Strong.

How’s the tour going so far?
The tour’s been great. All the shows have been awesome. The weather has been really good, especially for Warped Tour. It’s usually super hot. Today’s probably one of the hotter days, but it’s only like 85 so that’s okay.

The band took a little of time off. Not to get too personal, but what were you guys doing? Was it planned, or did it just happen?
It kind of just happened. We did Warped Tour 2012, and after our last record we finished our contract with our label, because we owed them two records: Enemy of the World and In Some Way, Shape or Form, and that was basically it. So we were free, and instead of signing to a new label, we were like, “Why don’t we take some time off?” We’d been touring forever. I had just gotten married recently to that, and a couple of us had bought houses, stuff like that. We kind of just wanted to take some time and kind of enjoy it for a little while. We all got dogs. We all wanted dogs but we couldn’t do that because we were touring too much. So we all got dogs. I had a kid right before this tour. You know, real life stuff. We kind of just wanted to go home and relax for a little while and get back to normal and hang out with girlfriends, wives, family and all that kind of stuff. We hadn’t seen them in forever. We just wanted to do that. There wasn’t any kind of break up or “beef in the band” or anything like that. We were just like, “You guys wanna go home?” and “Yeah sure, let’s go home.” Then pretty much around last summer, Alan and I just kind of started talking about getting together and doing some writing, and that’s basically it.

Some much needed time off. So the new EP Go Down In History is coming out in roughly two weeks. What can we expect from it?
It’s five songs- the first five songs we’ve written since our last record. It’s really cool. I think that it’s a lot more high energy than our last record. I think, especially when we were writing this, we knew we were coming on Warped Tour, and we were going to do the tour with Bayside before it. So we really wanted to write songs that were a little more-
*someone walked through the hallway and tried to get through a locked door next to us and left*
We were just looking forward to writing some live songs, and songs that kids could jump all over each other to. So that’s what it is: five fast, super riff-y songs. They’re probably the riffiest songs we’ve ever written. I don’t know why, but for some reason after taking this break- I don’t know what Alan and I were listening to- but when we got back together, everything we were writing on guitar was bonkers. We were like “How are we going to do this?”
*plays an air guitar with a lot of finger movement*
But we figured it out.

Yeah I was going to ask, was there anything you were listening to that was making the songs riff-y?
I don’t really know. I don’t think we listened to anything new during our time off. I actually listened to a lot of-
*someone else walks through the hallway and tries to get through a locked door*
Where was I?

Music you were listening to.
Oh yeah. We were kind of listening to softer stuff, and really just not intense stuff. Maybe that’s why we wrote such intense music- because we didn’t listen to any. So I came back and I was like, “Let’s write riffs!”
*another air guitar motion, this time with shredding sound effects*

Is there a little bit of anxiety about releasing the new EP, since it’s been a little while since the last album?
Not really, because the thing with our band now especially is that there really isn’t anxiety over anything, because we really don’t have any expectations over anything, because we’re-
*another person tries to get through the locked door*
We don’t really have much anxiety in the band because we’re adults now and we have things going on at home. We have to keep a balance between the band and home as it is. We’re here doing this because it’s what we love to do. We’re not treating this like, “Oh we have to do this we need money,” or “I need money,” or whatever. It’s really just down to the fact that we tour and we make music because that’s what we love to do. So there really isn’t a lot of anxiety over it right now. If kids like it, awesome. If they don’t…awesome. I don’t know what to say. *laughs*

Is there anything else you want to say?
Not too much. Just come hang out on the Warped Tour or any tours we do after that, and go pick up our new EP.

Cool, thanks Dan.
No worries, thanks.

State In The Real Interviews Caleb Shomo from Beartooth

At the Holmdel, NJ date of Warped Tour 2014, we got a chance to talk with the lead singer of Beartooth- Caleb Shomo. Caleb was formerly the lead singer of Attack Attack! At the age of 21, Caleb has been in bands touring the world since he was 15 years old. His latest release, Disgusting, is a dark and very personal account of his struggles with mental health and how he has coped. The entire album is hard-hitting and in your face, combining aspects of multiple different metal subgenres to become one of the most interesting releases in the metal scene so far this year. Caleb sat down to talk with us about the new release, and how he has coped since the album came out.

I’m here with Caleb from Beartooth. What’s up Caleb?
Caleb: Just chilling out. It’s been a hectic morning, but I’m sitting down in the shade now so I’m cool with it.

What’s been hectic about it?
I woke up late because I for some reason decided to stay up until 4 in the morning listening to music and talking to my friends. Woke up late. It was a stressful time pushing all of our gear to the stage because security guards here- at least at the front door- were not happy about people walking through so we had to walk all the way around. Got our gear to the stage, found out I had some press to do, so I ran over here. Then I have to run from here straight to the stage and then to a signing. It’s a whole thing. But it’s good, it’s good. I’m fine with it.

It’s good to be busy.
Yeah I’d rather that than have nothing to do at all.

So how’s the tour been so far?
It’s been amazing man. Really good shows. The people that come to Warped Tour are just so excited about music, and that’s very refreshing. It’s just cool to have people excited about coming to shows.

How are you beating the heat?
Shirtless. Lots of water. Trying to find shade. You get used to it after a little while. My strategy is just go out and suck it up and get really sunburnt for the first three days, and then you get a base burn and hopefully that tans over. It’s a terrible way of going about it, but it’s how I’ve made my peace with the sun.

You released your new album Disgusting just a little while ago. How has the reception been so far with that? Have you found that people already know all of the words or are jamming to all of the songs?
It seems like- at least the ones we play live- people seem to know a good bit of, which is very cool. I mean so far from what I’ve seen online and from my friends the response has been very good. So I’m definitely happy with it.

With the new album, a lot of it was very personal. There were songs on there, like the last one, “Sick and Digusting,” one take-
Yeah, very personal stuff.

Very personal. I know the album was a lot about mental illness, and struggling with anxiety. Was there then anxiety or fear about releasing something so personal like that?
Oh absolutely. Insane amounts of anxiety about that. I still question whether or not I should have put it out. But at the end of the day, I’m happy I did because it’s an honest song, and that’s kind of the whole point of Beartooth in general- me being as honest as I can with myself. So I guess I’m glad I put it out.

Was there [an emotional] release after you put that out? Did you feel better a little bit, or no?
*laughs* I’m still not sure. We’ll see as time goes. But as of now, I mean, it doesn’t really bother me. Most of the time it’s just that, you know, we don’t really touch on that song very much, and we’re playing more of the happier songs on this tour to keep the vibe light. So it’s okay- I’ve been doing alright.

What advice would you give to people who are struggling with anxiety, stress, mental disorders, or anything like that?
I guess in my own personal discovery, I think more important than anything is really making a choice daily to wake up and decide to have a good day, because there’s going to be all these things that come at you that kind of mess with your head and mess with your day. But you have control over your own mind, and as much as there’s chemical imbalances and mental disorders that kind of bog you down, it’s worth sitting down in the morning and meditating for a minute and clearing your head and deciding that it’s going to be a good day. Get a lot of sun and a lot of exercise as well. That really helps.

I didn’t mean to put a damper on your day or anything, but thank you very much for talking with me.
No absolutely not. I’m having a great day. No problem, and thank you.

Warped Tour 2014 Is Almost On The East Coast

The Vans Warped Tour is almost here! As the tour enters it’s fourth week this summer, it has almost arrived on the east coast, with plenty of dates for nearby Penn Staters to attend. This is the 20th anniversary of the tour, and it has been bringing people together all across the country every summer with one main goal: to enjoy music. With over 100 bands performing at each date, concert-goers have a lot to choose from when they attend. Bands span all genres too, from punk to hip-hop to heavy metal to ska to electronic to radio rock. The 2014 Vans Warped Tour has a huge number of artists including such acts as: 3oh!3, All Time Low, Air Dubai, Bayside, Beartooth, Bowling for Soup, Breathe Carolina, Echosmith, Enter Shikari, Every Time I Die, Four Year Strong, Issues, Less Than Jake, Mayday Parade, Mod Sun, Of Mice and Men, Parkway Drive, Pvris, Real Friends, Saves The Day, Sleeping With Sirens, Stray from the Path, The Devil Wears Prada, The Maine, The Ready Set, The Story So Far, The Summer Set, This Wild Life, We The Kings, and Yellowcard.

State In The Real will be attending the July 6th date of Warped Tour at the PNC Banks Arts Center, bringing you live tweets, pictures, coverage, and hopefully some great interviews. But if you’re looking for something to do one day this summer and want to experience the Warped Tour for yourself, definitely come to a date near you. The line up features more than 100 bands for the whole tour, and there is something for everyone here. Tickets usually range from $30-$50 depending on the venue, which is a small price to pay to see lots of good music. Check out some of the local dates below, and check out the full listing/buy tickets here!

July 06 Holmdel, NJ PNC Bank Arts Concert Center
July 08 Darien Center, NY Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
July 09 Scranton, PA The Pavilion at Montage Mountain
July 10 Mansfield, MA Xfinity Center (formerly Comcast Center)
July 11 Camden, NJ Susquehanna Bank Center
July 12 Wantagh, NY Nikon at Jones Beach Amphitheater
July 13 Hartford, CT Xfinity Theatre (Formerly Comcast Theatre)
July 15 Burgettstown, PA First Niagara Pavilion
July 16 Cincinnati, OH Riverbend Music Center
July 17 Cuyahoga Falls, OH Blossom Music Center

State In The Real Interviews Kevin Devine at Arts Crawl

We got a chance to sit down and talk with Kevin Devine last month when he (and the Goddamn Band) was here for SOMA’s Arts Crawl 2014. Kevin and the entire band were extremely friendly and polite, and we were very lucky to get a chance to talk to them. But before Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band put on a great show in a packed, 3rd floor room in the Visual Arts Building, we did an interview with Kevin. Watch parts 1 and 2 below.

Check out the music video for their song “Bubblegum” of their album Bubblegum!

Concert Review: Chiodos, Emarosa, Our Last Night and '68 "Start Over" at The Trocadero

Photo by Eric Poluhovich

I was lucky enough to attend and take pictures at the April 19th show of The Devil’s Dance Tour at The Trocadero in Philadelphia on April 19th. The tour featured ’68, Our Last Night, Emarosa, and headliner Chiodos.

The Devil’s Dance Tour should have been called The Tour of New Beginnings. Maybe it doesn’t have the same ring (or alliteration) to it, but it’s the truth. Within the past year, every one of these bands has undergone some kind of major change, and have essentially had a new beginning.

The opening band, ’68, is Josh Scogin’s new band. Josh Scogin is known as the vocalist, founder and only consistent member of The Chariot. In the 10 years that The Chariot was a band, they slowly but surely gained a considerable and loyal following, but the band called it quits after a farewell tour late last year. ‘68 is somewhat of a departure from Scogin’s last project, but you can certainly tell where his roots are. The band is similar to a harder-hitting version of The Black Keys, but you can hear some similarities to his work in The Chariot. Josh Scogin has taken on both vocal and guitar duties in this band, while Michael McClellan hits hard on the drums.

Unfortunately finding parking was an issue, and I only caught the end of the set. But the band makes it obvious that they are not to be taken lightly, even with only two members. Their personal style of hard rock is loud and aggressive, and Josh Scogin still finds a way to rock out, even when constrained by a guitar and a mic stand. This is Scogin’s new beginning, and ’68 seems to be on their own unique path, finding their own niche in the scene.

Following ’68 was Our Last Night. Up until 2013, the band had released almost all of their albums under Epitaph Records. Last year, the band decided to change how they were going about their careers. First, after releasing a cover video of Adele’s “Skyfall,” the band started releasing covers of Top 40 hits on YouTube for their “Summer of Covers” series, with considerable success (they released their cover of “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry less than three months ago, and the video has nearly 1.5 million views). After reaching a new group of fans, they decided to go independent with their releases. They launched an IndieGoGo campaign to fund two EPs, one of which came out late last year and the other which is still in the works.

The band took the stage and opened their set with their single “Same Old War,” which seemed like an appropriate way to open their set on the “Tour of New Beginnings.” “I’ve been fighting the same old war…/They say it’s a battle that can’t be won…/Should I run away and change my name?/Or should I stay and fight through the night?…/I’ve come too far to go back now.” It sounds curiously like this song is about the band contemplating the tough decision to continue on with their career independently (if at all). But deeper meanings aside, the song set the tone for the rest of their set- loud, energetic, and involved with the crowd. Trevor Wentworth, the band’s lead vocalist, couldn’t stand still the entire set, and he ended up in the crowd very quickly. Fans were singing along from the start of their set to their songs, which sound like they could be on the radio while still being aggressive and in your face. The band also made sure to include their cover of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” in their set, which was surprisingly a crowd pleaser. Also surprising was that Our Last Night didn’t play any of their songs from before 2012 (they’ve been a band since 2004), which means they’re likely more focused on moving forward. But regardless, I saw the band perform in 2009, and they’ve certainly come a long way in the past five years.

Photo by Eric Poluhovich

Next on the bill was Emarosa. Started in 2006, the band originally played metalcore, before picking up Jonny Craig to take over on vocals in 2007. After that, they modified their music to embody a more post-hardcore sound with a lot of soul added into the mix. Fast forward to 2011, and the band is without a singer. The band opened up auditions for a new vocalist, and then there was silence. Barely anything was heard from the band for over two years. No new singer, music, tours, updates. Finally, nearly two and a half years later, it was announced that the band had found a new vocalist in Bradley Walden, formerly of the band Squid The Whale. But it wasn’t until a month or two ago, nearly three years since their last show, the Emarosa started performing live for fans again.

When Emarosa took the stage, fans screamed in excitement. For some, it was likely the first time they had seen their favorite band in years. For many, it was a chance to see what the new Emarosa had in store for them. From the crowd’s response, it seemed that they accepted Walden’s new place in the band, and for good reason- Walden’s voice was powerful, and full of soul. Yet while his voice was his own, there were certainly some similarities. Bradley seemed to hold the same stage presence as the band’s former singer in the way he moved, composed himself on stage, and even talked. It felt very similar to a JC performance, just with a different voice. Yet while I may have been looking for something different, this certainly does not speak to the band’s performance. They were incredibly tight for playing live shows for the first time in three years. They even had a lot of energy at first, but this died out a little after the first few songs. They’re off to a great start- the band is probably still getting comfortable again with performing, and Bradley is likely still finding his exact place in the band and trying to fill some big shoes at the same time. Within a few months, I’m sure we’ll be seeing big things from Emarosa. (Update: Emarosa just released a new song titled “Mad,” and it’s killer. Be sure to check it out.)

Photo by Eric Poluhovich

Finally, the headliner: Chiodos. Formed in 2001, the band spent the next eight years building up a fan base and gaining considerable success within the scene. Fans loved their music, and many felt a personal connection the band, and specifically their frontman Craig Owens. Then in 2009, fans were shocked when Owens was removed from the band. Owens formed a new band and released a new record. Chiodos found a new singer and made a new record in 2010. But things slowed down after about a year. Not much was heard from Chiodos, and the number of shows they played started to dwindled. In 2012, the band announced that Owens and Derrick Frost (the band’s former drummer, who also left in 2009) had rejoined the band. The band also added Thomas Erak of The Fall of Troy to play guitar for them. But even after the return and addition of major members, it wasn’t until Warped Tour 2013 when many fans got to see them. Finally, on April 1st, 2014, the band released their long awaited follow up album with Owens, Devil. And now, after years, the band was heading out on their first headlining tour, with former members back in the band, a new guitarist in the mix, a new album under their belt, and fans eager to see if Chiodos really was back.

Photo by Eric Poluhovich

The crowd had been waiting eagerly the entire night for Chiodos to take the stage. The lights dropped, and you could barely hear the intro audio track over the fan’s screams. The band energetically opened with their new single “Ole Fishlips Is Dead Now,” and fans responded to the musicians in the same way- by rocking out. The band’s intensity continued with fan favorites “The Undertaker’s Thirst for Revenge is Unquenchable” and “There’s No Penguins in Alaska,” complete with Owens jumping into the audience and crowd walking. Chiodos continued to switch back and forth between new songs and old, soon playing another new song called “We’re Talking About Practice.” The album had barely been out for two and a half weeks, and fans were singing along to some of the newer songs louder than some of the band’s older, more popular songs.

Photo by Eric Poluhovich

The set took a short break with softer songs “3 AM” and “Under Your Halo,” but picked back up again with “The Words ‘Best Friend’ Become Redefined.” More heavy songs followed, and Owens asked the crowd to get involved by chanting lyrics and participating in a wall of death. The songs were angry, but Owens had a positive message to go along with many of them. He told fans that no matter how difficult, it’s important to be yourself. He said that we can always improve ourselves to be better people. He also told the audience to think of the people in their lives who have put them down, and to yell at the top of their lungs to release their anger, because it’s not healthy to hold on to. After a few more, the band finished their set with a two song encore. At the very end, Owens walked to the front of the stage and yelled, “Tell your friends Chiodos is back!” He dropped the mic, the band took a bow, and everyone walked off stage. And with that, Chiodos was back. In fact, it felt almost as if they had never left.

’68, Our Last Night, Emarosa, Chiodos- all these bands have had some form of “new beginning”: Starting over with a new band, leaving your earlier career behind, finding a new singer, bringing back an old singer, and releasing new music. But even after all of the hardships, and potentially career ending events, each band seems to be back and stronger than ever. So tell your friends, because all of them are back.

See more pictures from the event here!

Photo by Eric Poluhovich