Edward Burnett chats to Chicago based band Tough Ombres about their origins, how their Christmas went and their shows during the pandemic which have been held with social distancing over in the United States!
RNRR: Hi Tough Ombres! How are you guys doing? Would you mind introducing what you do and where you are from to our readers who may be unfamiliar with your work?
TO: Hi! We have been called “The New Alternative“ with a full spectrum of sound. Our back grounds are diverse in R&B, thrash-metal, blues and hard-rock. Lead singer, bass and drummer (Jeff, Nikki, Dave) are from Chicago. Guitarist (Tony) is from New York. We started this band to have no walls around our music. We pride ourself in giving our audience a high octane show with diverse music that leaves everyone entertained and musically pleased. We will be releasing 7 EP’s throughout early 2021. We are currently in studio wrapping up production on our new songs. Thanks for having us on!
RNRR: Nice to meet you! So how did all of you meet? Is there some crazy, cross-state origin story with Tony being from New York or was it the simple case of you were all close friends?
TO: In our opinion, it’s a cool story. Lead singer Jeff and myself Nikki went to high school together. Jeff was in R&B bands and Chicago House Music bands. I was in the rock/metal scene. Jeff would sing at house parties and I always thought he had a killer voice. Moving a couple years later, Tony and I are playing in a thrash-metal band. Tony was living in Chicago for only a year or two and he took the call to be a drummer not a guitarist for thrash band. Tony played the drums and then after playing drums he went to guitar just for fun. The minute he started playing guitar, both myself and our rhythm guitarist could not believe what we were hearing. Tony was unbelievable as a guitarist, he was fired as our dummer and became our lead guitarist that same day. Two years with the changes of constant lead singers and drummers killed the spirit of the band. Tony and myself quit the band to start families and careers. Fast forward 10 years later I run into Jeff at a local establishment. We start talking about high school days and that we both were playing in bands after and missed the natural energy of playing a show in front of fans and making music. I tell him that I would be starting a band soon and would let him tryout. Forward a year later I take an advert from a drummer looking to start up a band. This is where I met Dave (Drummer). He was such a powerful drummer at our first rehearsal so I was not going to lose him. So, I called Tony (Guitarist) up and said that I found a drummer and drove 50 miles to pick up Tony to bring him to practice. It was fantastic! Tony, Dave and myself came from all the same musical backgrounds. I then called Jeff (Singer) and gave him 3 cover songs to play. He came in and nailed it! We were so impressed that he had a fantastic voice. I called him the next day to join the band. And the rest is history.
RNRR: Sounds like a great story to me! So let’s take it forward to the present. What are you guys doing now, have you restarted live shows yet after the pandemic? In addition to that question, how has the pandemic affected you as a band? What difficulties arises because of this worldwide Covid situation?
TO: We are finishing up 7 EP’s to be released in early 2021. It has been difficult with the pandemic but we are marching on. We have been playing shows. Any way we can help out local venues and establishments, we have. A lot of shows have had late cancellations and rescheduling but the shows that we have played have been great! Even with social distancing, the energy from our fans at shows has been spectacular. When playing during the pandemic whether at a venue or local establishment it is sometimes surreal knowing that this may be the last show that they have for a while. So every show we are trying to outdo the last. The band has definitely gotten closer thanks to the pandemic. We decided early that we were going to continue playing shows and continue writing. It was scary at the beginning because we were looked at as being crazy, but it was the right decision for the band. It has definitely opened up doors for us.
RNRR: I’d also like to enquire about the band’s inspiration. What previous musical acts were each member’s heroes? Were there certain musical figures which inspired each of you to try and go professional in the music world? Are there famous bands that your own style has been influenced by?
TO: Jeff’s inspirations would be Same Cooke or Donny Hathaway whereas Boys 2 Men, Color Me Badd and Silk pushed him to the R&B direction.
Tony’s inspirations would have to be Jimmy Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen. Kiss, Metallica and Van Halen all pushed him towards the direction of playing. Dave inspirations are Stewart Copland and Vinnie Paul with Pantera and The Police has inspired his playing. My (Nikki) own inspirations are Rex Brown, Michael Anthony and Steve Harris. Kiss, Iron Maiden, Van Halen and Slipknot made me want to go professional.
RNRR: So now we are in January, how was the band’s Christmas? Could you celebrate it together or was it more of a family affair for each of you? Does Christmas mean a lot to each of you in particular?
TO: Christmas was fantastic. As a band we always have our Christmas Band Party a week before and it takes us a week to recover (laughs)! That is always one of our funnest times of the year. We will have a practice with our closest friends. They call out songs that they would like to hear (original or cover) and we will play it for them. After, we will go to the local establishment and just have a blast. Christmas does mean a lot for us because 3 out of the 4 members have families with children. So we try to show our families even in a band you are always humble and thankful for what you have. That it is not about getting but giving to others. Especially this year, just a phone call to a grandparent or a call to a family member that you can not see makes all the difference.
RNRR: A beautiful message there for sure. Now that 2021 has arrived, what do the band have in store for the year? Where would you guys like to be in regards to career progression come next December?
TO: 2021 has arrived and we are excited. We will be releasing those 7 singles this year. The first 3 to be released this month (February). We will be filming our first video in March. Then we will be hitting the road in late March in the Midwest and Southeast (show dates TBA). Then we will be back into the studio November to start recording for 2022. We would like to have our original music getting attention globally. With fans being able to enjoy our live music again in venues all over. We are looking forward to a savage year!
RNRR: Are you aiming for all 7 singles to be of the same genre or are you wanting to experiment on a couple too? Have you got any collaborations lined up to feature alongside the guys in any of the upcoming singles?
TO: We do have a mixture of genre for the 7 singles to come out. Songs will go from R&B, blues, rock, heavy-metal and a little pop-country. That is one of the funnest things about creating music, you play what feels and sound right for the song. As we are in the process of releasing new music we are always writing. There has been talks with a DJ in the Chicagoland area to collaborate with. Coming from Chicago, house music and hip-house music was huge and had an undeniable influence on us. We have a song that we are creating that will need a DJ’s touch. It will be wild, infusing two different genres to create a sound that we grew up with. We also love to play out live with a brass section (when they are available). There are talks of a show this spring where we will do a 6 song Motown cover set before we get into our blistering set. This year will definitely be fun!
RNRR: So talking of changing genres and experimenting, as well as us now being in a new year, now seems a good time to ask the following question. What music have you guys been listening to in 2020 that caught your ears with its inventiveness? Any bands or solo artists you’ve really dug?
TO: To be honest, when we are making music, musical inspiration comes in on the production side but not the creative side. This is the first band I have been in where we do not have walls to stop a direction. Once the song has an identity, we start to mould it to a genre that feels correct. For music inspiration, that comes in later. For an example, we were trying to figure out cool harmonies for a section on one of our songs that will be released this year. We started to listen to old Beach Boys albums for those key elements on what Brian Wilson did. It gave us the knowledge to try different harmonies. Similarly, on another song we were looking for an acoustic sound and could only describe it on a Waylon Jennings album. So yes, music inspiration did feature on upcoming songs.
RNRR: Staying on the topic of media but moving away from music itself, are you guys big film watchers in your spare time? Do you have any firm favourite movies?
TO: Jeff and Dave are ‘Avengers’, ‘Black Panther’ and anything with Marvel or DC comic related fans. ‘John Wick’, ‘Halloween’ (2018), ‘Cobra Kai’, ‘Stranger Things’ are also firm favourites.
RNRR: Do you feel that film is just as an important media medium as music in conveying emotion and life messages or do you regard music as still the main source of creative influence in entertainment culture?
TO: I do feel that film is just as important. Movies with a smaller budget seem to have more of a creative aspect to me. Soundtracks on movies and tv shows have been excellent. There has been such a diversity of new artists and old. I feel that movies and new shows have been an enormous outlet to showcase different genres of music and introducing music to a new generation.
RNRR: Well that leaves me with just one last question to ask you. Every Spotlight we do, we always pose the problem of being stranded on a desert island to our guests with the option of only choosing one album to listen to for the rest of their lives. Tough Ombres, what are you picking and more crucially, why?
TO: What a great question! I think as individuals in the band, there would be different albums picked. For Tough Ombres as a band, I would say Alice In Chains’ ‘Dirt’. The songs on this album kind of brought all of us together when we first started. It was one of the first bands we had Jeff audition to. Still to this day, if we cover any song on that album it always gets a great reaction from the crowd. If we were stuck on an island we all could dig the album until we are picked up or left as bones!
RNRR: Some great choices there and perfect reasoning too! Thanks for coming onto Spotlight guys, it’s been a pleasure.
If you'd like to find out more about Tough Ombres or keep up to date with their new releases throughout the year, the links to all their socials can be found below via the icons:
Leeds indie rock band Artio chat to Edward Burnett about their brand new single ‘Billionaire Nightmare’ which comes out today! They also talk through their favourite films as well as their plans for this year, touring and beyond!
RNRR: Hey ARTIO! How are you guys doing? Would you do the honours of introducing each of yourselves to our readers and telling them a little bit about the style of music you make for those unfamiliar with your work?
ARTIO: Hi, we’re ARTIO and we are doing good! I’m Hol, the main singer and kind of manager, Rob is our lead guitarist and Iewan is our drummer and producer. We produce all of our own music, we don’t require a studio. So we have that lovely cheeky advantage of being able to release music during the pandemic without dependence on a studio. Our style is alternative rock and alt-pop but we generally love making music that we would have loved listening to when we were growing up.
RNRR: So my next question has to be how did you all meet? In addition to that, when did you all decide you wanted to pursue music professionally together? Did the two things coincide or were you friends before the band?
ARTIO: We all met through gigging in the Leeds music scene in different bands for a few years. We had all supported each other’s bands and been at the same shows for years so naturally we all became friends and had loads in common. We’d all wanted to be professional musicians since our early teen years but had been in projects with musicians who just saw it as a fun hobby rather than a career, that’s one reason we gelled so we’ll, because we all had the same plan. So when ARTIO officially began, everyone was all balls in and ready to run with it until it went somewhere!
RNRR: You mention that you all wanted to be musicians since your early teen years and what I’d like to know is what lit the spark for each of you? What inspirations drove you to that point of wanting to go full out professional?
ARTIO: For Ieuan it was his love of edm and discovering artists like Avicci and Skrillex that really inspired him to getting into production. For me it was falling in love with bands like Pvris and Nothing But Thieves. Going to festivals and seeing badass women on stage inspired me to become one of them. Rob has played guitar from a young age, all of us grew up with music as a part of our home life. Going to music college and getting in bands was the starting point for Rob wanting music to be his career.
RNRR: So let’s bring it right up to the present then now that you’ve had many successful songs released with your latest ‘Billionaire Nightmare’, coming out this very weekend! Would you talk us through the song and it’s themes now it’s out as well as the process behind it especially given the difficulties of mass lockdown in the UK?
ARTIO: ‘Billionaire Nightmare’ was written very quickly and kinda came out of nowhere. We wanted to write something about the power of the consumer and the individual. At some point in our lives we have all felt like we don’t belong somewhere or in ourselves. We wanted to write a song for those people in those moments. Not fitting the mould can actually be a superpower.
RNRR: Compared to your previous singles, how fun was this one in particular to make? Alongside this, the ‘Billionaire Nightmare’ single has a very green colour theme that the band have adopted in much of your press release on social media. This differs from the previous prominent red tones in the last releases. Is there any deep meaning to the colour change or is it purely to refresh?
ARTIO: We like switching things up for every release we do as we want every step forward to have it’s own identity. Every new era of the band has different aspects and emotions behind each song, for example in 'SAADYD' (our last EP) was very angry and passionate and we thought it deserved red. But for ‘Billionaire’ onwards, the focus point is power and growth which we think suits green. Green is also a pretty colour.
RNRR: Let’s move away from music altogether and talk about your spare time. Thanks to several lockdowns in our jointly native UK, we have found ourselves with more time on our hands than ever before. What have each of you done with the time other than music? Have you developed any new hobbies or interests?
ARTIO: Each of our lives revolves around music, whether it’s part of the band or not. We’ve spent every lockdown working on brand new material thanks to our abilities to self produce, record, and mix our music. Aside from that, we all have gotten more into cooking, Ieuan and Rob play loads of video games, and I have continued to roller-skate.
RNRR: Moving back to the field of entertainment but in the form of the movies rather than music, do you all have a favourite film and why?
ARTIO: My favourite movie is the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. I have multiple LOTR tattoos and have been obsessed with the Tolkien universe for over half my life. Ieuan couldn’t name a favourite film to save his life but will easily admit that 'Twin Peaks' is his favourite TV show. Rob’s fave film is ‘Seven’ because it’s when Hollywood showed a more realistic storyline with a darker conclusion to compliment that.
RNRR: So let’s bring this forward to the present and 2021. What are your hopes and plans professionally for the rest of the year following the release of ‘Billionaire Nightmare’ this weekend? You have a UK tour coming up don’t you?
ARTIO: We are really hopeful to get back on tour in September and to release buttloads of new music this year. Considering we spent all of 2020 working on music, we just want to get it all our and to entertain all our fans who stuck with us through this difficult time.
RNNR: Staying on the topic of band progression, where would you like to see yourselves in a couple of years time, realistically?
ARTIO: We would love to be able to tour regularly and go to places we’ve never been before. Seeing a packed venue everywhere we go and being able to connect with so many new people would be a dream of ours. We have no plans on slowing down how much music we put out either. We just want to keep growing our community and keep growing as a band until we eventually take over the world [laughs]!
RNRR: Finally, here on Rock N Roll Reports we always have to ask the same final question to all our Spotlight interviewees. You’re stranded for the rest of your days on a desert island, you can only take one album with you on the island to listen to ever again, what are you picking guys and why?
ARTIO: Rob’s album (technically a mixtape but whatever) would be ‘crybaby’ by Lil Peep for sure. It was close between that and Iowa but he didn’t think slipknot would be fun in the desert. Mine would be ‘Sam’s Town’ by The Killers. I have been listening to this album since she was a child and it just never gets old. Ieuan would pick ‘Periphery II’ by Periphery. He’s a super prog nerd who could listen to this album over and over again.
RNRR: Some varied picks there with perfect reasoning ARTIO! Thanks for coming onto Spotlight and best of luck with the release of new single ‘Billionaire Nightmare’ which is out on all platforms this weekend!
If you would like to find out more about ARTIO and keep up to date with their latest releases, you can find the links to their socials below:
In our first Spotlight Interview of 2021, Edward Burnett sits down from afar with talented singer and friend of the page Hana Canhasi. She talks about her new single ‘You’ll Never Change’, her New Year celebrations and her plans for what we hope is a much brighter coming year.
RNRR: Firstly I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year and say that we are all hoping that 2021 is better than 2020. I’m here with Hana Canhasi who is our first featured guest on this year of Spotlight! How are you doing Hana? Are you happy to be here and be the first Spotlight feature this year?
HC: Thank you for the love on the song! It's something different that i was nervous to release (laughs). I'm doing alright today thank you! I’m just finishing up finals! Yes I'm so excited to be collaborating with you all again, after all the love on ‘Drama’ with the Amplified Analysis last year.
RNRR: So since this is a New Year’s special edition of Spotlight, I feel like I have to ask as soon as possible, how did you spend the New Year’s holiday? Was it a close-knit family affair thanks to the current global pandemic?
HC: I'm actually excited to be here in Miami right now for the New Year season with my loved ones. It's been a tough couple of months for my family and I can assume for others as well, and it's really helped me slow down and appreciate those closest to me. So yes, we were out on the beach (socially distanced) and just in the sunlight.
RNRR: That’s a really great way to mark the occasion. Staying on the New Year’s topic, what would you say your resolutions are for 2021 or do you not believe in such annual shenanigans?
HC: I think to learn how to be patient with myself and how to learn to slow down. It's very easy to always want to do more and be better but I find it hard to sit with myself and allow myself to soak in an accomplishment. I also have set goals for my music that I can't quite share but I am so excited to reach a bigger audience with my creativity.
RNRR: You say that you can’t share but you could give RNRR a small teaser? Are there any concrete plans regarding your music releases or even some music videos perhaps that you’d like to get on during 2021’s schedule?
HC: Let's just say you will be able to visually see me more as an artist. Yes, tying into that second question I know music videos are a top priority (after the music) and I'm excited to collaborate with some amazing creatives for them. As for music in general, I am now able to dedicate more of my time to it since I will be graduating this year and I can't wait to become more consistent in what I do.
RNRR: So now we are on to the topic of your music, let’s now talk about your brand new single that has just been released. ‘You’ll Never Change’ has more of a trap RnB vibe to it when compared to your previous hits including ‘Drama’. What was the thinking behind this small genre shift? Throughout your career do you want to stay in the same general genre or could you see yourself fully changing from time to time as you yourself change?
HC: As of right now I haven't developed my own sound or found something I want to stick to genre wise. I wanted to make something a little bit more upbeat with this new single all while still keeping an RnB foundation under it. In time I can definitely see myself switching back and forth from different genres. I want to be able to grow as an artist with my music and there's no better way to do that than to be open to different sounds, so it's what I continuously try to do with every project.
RNRR: What are you personally most looking forward to in 2021? Would you say you love the rest of the arts such as movies as much as you love music?
HC: I'm definitely looking forward to graduating college in May after a long journey, and being able to spend a lot more time on putting out content! I can say for sure that as a new artist, you start to realize just how many people come together to push a vision out and make it come to life. Whether that's digital storytellers for lyric videos, a grip for your music videos, a songwriters, producers, creative directors, choreographers, lightning crews- it's all crazy how much "behind the scenes" there is to making a vision come to life and how equally important everyone is in the whole creative process.
RNRR: Indeed there are many cogs in the process for sure. So Hana, let’s have your very own New Year’s roundup. What music did you listen to last year that impressed you to the most? Any particular artists that came through and who’s work helped you through the tough times of 2020?
HC: This past year I've listened to a lot of Kehlani and Ariana Grande. Also have become a big fan of Dvsn and Kaylee Ameri. 21 Savage's new album helped me zone out and just allow myself to become distracted from over arching emotions so I guess you can say his album has helped me through tough times (laughs). Aside from musical artists I've been really big into podcasts as well and finding other ways to cope through difficult times.
RNRR: Now you mention podcasts, do you feel that the future of digital media and entertainment lies in podcasts? Is this something Covid has fast-forwarded, now there is much more of a podcast presence in the digital entertainment landscape?
HC: Ooo I think yes, especially as times are changing and we are sort of being forced to sit down with ourselves now more than ever. I think that opens this sort of door for self exploration on certain topics and having podcasts to lean towards whether it's a self help podcast or something fun, having something to listen to on the side for sure makes things seem less "alone" if that makes sense? It is definitely a wave of technology that's been there but hasn't been utilized (personally) more than it has this year.
RNRR: So now we are celebrating the New Year, is seems as appropriate time as any to ask how was your Christmas Hana? What did you do to celebrate and are you a big Christmas person?
HC: Since I work at a hospital I had to work all day for Christmas this year but honestly I think this Christmas was different in its way that it didn't feel like "Christmas". It was the first Christmas my family spent without my mom being here and it was very hard and I assume it's been hard for a lot of other people to feel the holiday spirit after the year it's been. However it was nice to be able to view the holiday for what it is-a time to be with your family and to appreciate the time you spend with them. For the past years we've always celebrated Christmas in a way which we gather together with close family all day and appreciate the day!
RNRR: I am sorry to hear that and I think this year has made us all think differently and appreciate life more so than ever. So finally I have to ask the question that we always ask our guests on Spotlight. The desert island album conundrum. One album for the rest of your days on said island, what are you picking Hana and why?
HC: Oh this is a very hard hard question! I'm gonna have to say 6lack's ‘East Atlanta Love Letter’. It brings me back to really good times and it has my favorite song of all time from any artist on there ‘Sorry’.
RNRR: It’s refreshing to hear a modern pick on here with the album being a 2018 release as guests usually go for older “classics”. Well Hana it’s been a pleasure and all that leaves us to say is that we wish everyone a very happy and productive 2021!
If you would like to know more about Hana Canhasi or keep up to date with her 2021 releases, the links to all her social medias are below via the icons:
One year after Edward Burnett's last chat with Irish-Canadian singer 0Stella, the two catch-up and reflect on a year none of us saw coming as well as 0Stella's Christmas traditions and career plans for 2021.
RNRR: Hello and welcome to our second Christmas Special of Spotlight featuring friend of the page, 0Stella! So 0Stella, how are you doing? The last time we chatted was in the first Spotlight interview of this year back in January and of course a lot has happened since then! What have you been up to in this extremely strange year?
0STELLA: Oh man. I’m ok. A lot has happened! It’s actually been really fun watching Rock N Roll Reports grow over the year, you’ve had some whoppers, congratulations. It’s funny how you don’t realise what you’re in the middle of until it’s over. My 2020 was shaping up great. I had just heard I was shortlisted to open for a major artist at an Edmonton festival and it was looking like it was going to be the year to properly launch onto the touring circuit in Alberta. There was also an EU tour through Ireland, UK and Germany being booked. January was New Years in Berlin, then Dublin and then back to Edmonton for a busy month of gigs in Alberta including my first appearance as a Sidedoor artist (house-show, now online platform run by Canadian musician, Dan Mangan). My real first show with Sidedoor had to be cancelled on account of it being -40°C outside. No one’s going to step outside their door at those temperatures, no matter who you are! Their car probably won’t even start. February was Toronto for a week of writing, then to Dublin to play a wedding. I’d been contacted by a band from Saskatchewan, Rymestone, asking if I wanted to join their tour. I was planning on going down to L.A to the new SOCAN writing house for a week, but decided to do the tour before I left. My final single from my debut EP, ‘Little Yes, Little Know’ came out on Friday 13th March. I picked it on account of the fact it used to be considered a GOOD luck day back in pegan Ireland, so I’d figure I’d bring back a bit of luck. That was also our first day of tour. And the onset of lockdown. Restrictions were limiting shows to 250 people, so we soldiered on through Alberta and into British Columbia (including a stop at Jasper ER to stitch up a guitarist’s knee) but never made it into Saskatchewan, where we had 2 dates booked. I was really looking forward to playing there for the first time. In February I joined a 6-month course to learn to write for sync, so that kept me focused and productive - most of the time - and then on to more songwriting camps. I’ll be running my own month-long songwriting camps in the new year.
RNRR: For those unaware, you’re based in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada. How severe have the restrictions and number of cases been in your living area? Have things started to ease at your end with news of the vaccine being passed for use?
0STELLA: Well currently we are the Covid capital of Canada. Obviously every nation is stabbing in the dark at how best to deal with it and very few have got it right. We stayed relatively loose when the U.K and Ireland were severely locked down, but my how the tables have turned! A very isolated Christmas 2020, indeed.
RNRR: One major change involving you this year is undoubtedly the weekly podcast, ‘Imperfections’, you co-host with Callistan. How important is this show to you and do you find that thanks to this year there are more and more successful podcasts/recorded webcasts? Will this trend carry on following Covid’s eventual end?
0STELLA: I think covid has been a very fertile ground for creatives - once we can drag ourselves out of the deep, deep depression we’ve all been oscillating through. I’ve absolutely loved doing 'Imperfections' with Callistan. He and I reunited during lockdown, having worked together in Dublin over a decade ago. We collaborated on a reimagining of my track ‘Fire’ and Imperfections evolved out of that as a means for us to dive deeper into the themes we explored in the song. It’ber been great to have the routine of it - something we all have discovered is so essential to stable mental health this year - and it’s been immensely humbling and heartwarming having our special guests on, who have been so vulnerable with us. I love all the audience participation, too. People are courageous in what they choose to share with us. I feel like we’re building a lovely community around the music we both make.
RNRR: So as I said at the beginning, this is of course a Christmas Special of the feature so I can’t let you go any further without listing your favourite Christmas songs of all time and why they mean so much to you?
0STELLA: There’s too many! But if I could play nothing else, I’d be happy with the following songs. The Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York' as I bristled at this for so many years as a youngster. It is the antithesis of a Christmas song and now I’m in love with it. I played it at a Christmas party last December in Dublin and I’ve never been on the receiving end of an Irish crowd like that. It was magic. Slade's 'Happy Xmas Everybody'. Just a raucous 70’s rock Christmas song, all British, bad teeth, magnificent hair and hooks to sing all the way home. Honestly, this was one of the standout songs I hand on a Christmas special cassette that Pampers used to include on the box. 6-year-old me used to dance around my living room, eating spoonfuls of butter icing and having a great time to this track. Elton John's 'Step Into Christmas'. Also featured on that same cassette. How can you not adore this song? I got to see Elton John last year and I am so, so thankful for that. Then there is Judy Garland's 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas'. I had my attention turned its way when Tori Amos did a cover of it in the middle of my obsessive Tori fandom days. The richness of Judy’s voice in that song, in particular, makes me swoon every time I hear it.
RNRR: On the subject of Christmas songs, you yourself have of course released a festive song of your own this past month entitled ‘My December’. Talk me through this song, how long did it take to write and has it always been a career dream of yours to get your own Christmas song out?
0STELLA: No not at all! I’ve always wondered, but never thought I would. Until some friendly competition simmered up between myself and Callistan. This song was a bugger to tease out. Of course, songs are never done, but I’m happy with where it’s at. Just something to capture the felling of getting home to your familiar airport and the taste of tea and rashers and some ungodly hour of the morning when your body doesn’t know what’s up or down. I can’t get home every year anyway, but the lack of choice this year, in whether we can travel to see our families, is what is exacerbating the feeling of loneliness, I think. I just wanted to shine a light there for anyone that needs a good cry into their dry-ass turkey this year. Doesn’t have to all be Mariah Carey (though I love her!).
RNRR: Carrying on the topic of Christmas and festivities, I wanted to ask you what your traditions are for this time of year? Are there any films that you simply have to watch to get you into the Christmas mood each year or is it the decorating of the tree that truly shakes your snow-globe?
0STELLA: Well, being a music teacher too, I can’t help but reference 'Die Hard' and 'Home Alone' every year and send my students to explore Beethoven and John Williams! I have a weird obsession with 'Batman Returns' I love to watch. 'Meet Me In St. Louis' and 'Love Actually' - this year might be a great year to try the 'Love Actually' drinking game, finally. I do love to shake my snow-globe though, so if I can just crank some tunes and have a dance somewhere, anywhere, I’m happy.
RNRR: So we are at the end of a very rubbish year as we’ve established for everyone and especially those in the music industry. What are you looking forward to the most in 2021 regarding music? Are there any bands you need to see live or any shows you’d like to play in particular?
0STELLA: Playing. Live. For. Humans. Again. EVERYWHERE I can. I plan to not come home.
RNRR: On a similar vein, what are your own career goals for the coming year? Any new 0Stella music in the pipeline that we should be prepared for?
0STELLA: Well, competition for grants has gotten really steep this year, so I’ll be slow releasing a bunch of music this year. I’ve a number of things percolating. ‘My December’ was my first home recorded and self-produced track, so more of that I think. This year I want to open for Garbage….I should have said that in my letter to Santa too...damn.... In addition, Skye Wallace, The Beaches and Hermitage Green. In a perfect world, I’ll meet St. Vincent too. I think since everything must balance, 2021 will be the ying to this ghastly yang of a year. So I feel my odds are good.
RNRR: As we are now talking about the end of this year, I wondered if you’d be so kind to give us your New Year roundup for the new music you’ve heard this year. What new songs, albums and artists have you discovered and heard this year which have been a saving grace of such an otherwise dismal year?
0STELLA: So Skye Wallace - Self Titled: I’m obsessed. Also Megan Nash - 'Seeker': freaking obsessed. Grace Petrie - 'Black Tie'. Dan Mangan's 'Troubled Mind' (though a piano student brought this to me a year or more ago, I’m thoroughly in love with it now). Miesha and The Spanks also as although I’ve known them a long time, I’m getting really into their discography this year. Finally, Gary Clark Jr. - 'This Land'. I heard it the weekend BLM kicked off and it floored me.
RNRR: Finally I need to ask you our favourite question on Spotlight which we ask every guest at the end of the interview as you well know. Way back in January when I asked you the old desert island album question, you sided with Jeff Buckley‘s ‘Grace’. Has your opinion changed since?
0STELLA: That album and Skye Wallace’s go head-to-head on every long commute I go on, and Megan Nash is the umpire. I may have to smuggle a few extras onto the island!
RNRR: Glad to see you're still of the same opinion with loving that classic. Well thanks for being on Spotlight and our very last feature of 2020, 0Stella. We wish you the very best for what we hope is a much improved year in 2021.
Photo Credits: Marta Mora Photography
If you would like to find out more about 0Stella or her music, the links to all her social medias are below via the icons:
Edward Burnett chats to Georgia-based singing sensation Gabe Lustman AKA GABE about his early musical experience, his favourite place to eat and what the weather is like in Atlanta.
RNRR: Hi Gabe, how are you doing? Would you mind explaining what time of music you deal in to our readers who may be unfamiliar with your work to date?
GABE: Hey, I’m great. I sing pop and R&B.
RNRR: So usually I would start by asking about the beginning of your career path but I would rather first find about your recently released single ‘True’ which came out this year. Now ‘True’ is such a catchy song with a great, powerful chorus. When did you first start working on the single and what personal experiences went into this work?
GABE: I first started working on this in quarantine back in May 2020. ‘True’ was part of a group of 20 songs I recorded in about a 10 day span of time. I just locked myself in the studio, caught a vibe and it came out and ended up being a banger. Happens like that ya know.
RNRR: So taking it now back to the very beginning, what was your first musical experience? Do you recall your first gig or show that you attended?
GABE: I remember my parents put me in vocal training and I was in the school choir. I went around singing in nursing homes and even made the state honors choir and I always got the solos! People hated it (laughs). My first concert was The Temptations and Spinners recreated from a few original members and couple new guys at a local fair which my father took me to.
RNRR: Following a similar vein, who were your musical inspirations growing up? Did your parents or friends introduce you to any specific bands that had a profound impact on starting your career?
GABE: I loved listening to Justin Timberlake, Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson, The Temptations, Mario, Usher. There are too many great artists to name them all. My mom actually came home from Target one day and bought me ‘Turning Point’ by Mario. This was really funny because I was only allowed to listen to christian music for years! Incidentally, to this day next to ‘Justified’ by Justin Timberlake, this is my all time favourite album. I would spend hours singing in the bathroom with those great acoustics trying to hit those Mario runs which surprisingly, I actually could reach!
RNRR: Away from the music now and onto your living environment at the moment. Now you hail from but Minneapolis but currently reside in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, a State which gained a lot of global press in this month’s presidential election. What would you say is the best thing about living there?
GABE: Two things. The WEATHER and the OPPORTUNITY. The weather is pretty humid but if I go anywhere now below 60 I’m in a hoodie and cold as hell (laughs). Second, this city is a Mecca for success as the economy is made for entrepreneurs and people of the arts. I remember when I first moved to the A people were getting record deals every month it seemed like!
RNRR: Now it’s no secret that the United States has a collectively big passion for food and restaurants. What’s your favourite meal to have?
GABE: Oh man, Korean BBQ is my jam! Was just there the other night (laughs). Shout out to my guys at D92!
RNRR: Besides the music, do you have any other strong interests? Have you mastered any new talents or developed fresh hobbies while lockdowns have been in place and spare time for the majority has increased?
GABE: I like to try new cooking recipes, workout and just sit vibing to music. I spent most of quarantine in the studio and shooting music videos so just working on mastering my craft before anything.
RNRR: What are your plans for Christmas this year? Has the pandemic stopped any planned or traditional meet-ups for the holidays?
GABE: I respect Christmas and what it stands for but to me Christmas is like any other day of the year to someone who’s on the grind chasing their dreams. I’ll most likely be in the studio or catching up on emails as well as revising my marketing plan.
RNRR: Back onto your profession, what does the future hold for you? Do you have any live shows in the works for once the Covid pandemic eases? How about any new music in the pipeline?
GABE: I am working on more singles, more visuals and I plan to be a platinum artist in addition to my recent #1 Germany EP ‘My Ex’. I’m actually about to order my iTunes plaque for it so I’m very stoked! I plan to start off 2021 performing. I am working closely with a few booking agents currently to set up dates.
RNRR: Where do you see yourself and your career in two years’ time from now? Are there pinpoints on your career path that you want to reach or is it more of a “see where the road takes me” sort of vibe?
GABE: In two years I plan to be a platinum selling artist headlining my own overseas tour and securing distribution through a major. I’m very focused on making this a reality.
RNRR: Finally, here at Rock N Roll Reports we ask the same vitally important question at the end of each Spotlight interview. The old famous desert island question. You can pick only one album to be able to listen to for the rest of your days on said desert island. What are you picking Gabe and why?
GABE: I am taking ‘Justified’ by Justin Timberlake because its my favorite album and singing along with it alone helps keep my vocals in check. I like to think of it as a vocal training cd!
RNRR: A great choice especially due to your reasoning! Well Gabe it’s been a pleasure, thanks for coming on Spotlight! To you and our readers, Rock N Roll Reports wishes you a great Christmas!
If you'd like to find out more about GABE or keep up to date with his latest releases, the links to all his social medias are available below via the icons:
Edward Burnett chats to Prague band Bottled Fish about their latest EP, methods of recording their songs in a pandemic and their favourite films of all time.
RNRR: Hi Bottled Fish, would you mind introducing yourselves to our readers unfamiliar with your work?
BF: Well, Bottled Fish is a indie-rock band based in Prague. We are mostly inspired by such bands as Radiohead, CCR, Joy Division, Depeche Mode and many others. I have formed a band a few years ago with a couple of friends, but most members have changed several times. The band members are bass player Nikita, our drummer Alex and me, Asya, lead singer!
RNRR: You talk of inspirations for the band there mentioning both Radiohead and Joy Division. Both bands have lyrics with very deep meaning and often depressing stories are documented in their music. Would you say that your music also goes to dark places when needed and manages to convey that same almost depressive vibe that is so unique to the few bands mentioned?
BF: Well, for me my music is not depressive but more sad maybe. The lyrics are full of reflection- many songs are about human behaviour, personal responsibility, politics, relationships. At the same time it is not too straightforward, so I am curious if people always get it right.
RNRR: Do you ever feel challenged to write music about something completely different? Or if the topic of the lyrics doesn’t change, are you ever tempted to mix up the genre somewhat?
BF: I never choose what I am writing about to be honest. I just get an idea and try to tell what I am thinking about at that moment. I do have some songs about love also (laughs)! Genre is also a big topic. Originally there were just two guitars, bass and drums. Now we try to experiment a little bit with electronic music. I had an idea of creating a fully acoustic album with piano songs. I hope all this will happen after we release our debut EP!
RNRR: That is a perfect segway to talk about the debut EP then now that you’ve mentioned it. What can you tell Rock N Roll Reports about it? How many songs do you plan for KT to feature and what does it mean to finally have your work out in the world as a fully fledged EP?
BF: Work on this EP was rather complicated. We recorded everything by ourselves at home and we really had to study a lot: mostly about technical part. We played a lot with sounds and samples. But I think that we achieved the goal - we wanted EP to be conceptual. It is. We had an idea to tell about and it is all about that idea.
RNRR: Was this technique due to the Covid outbreak? Would you have gone about the recording differently in a situation without the pandemic? Do you feel that in hindsight, recording at home has worked to your advantage?
BF: [Asya]: Well, I think that thanks to outbreak and quarantine I had more time for music. It is surprising how long does social contact take. [Alex]: I believe that every musician should learn to do at least some recording at home. It helps you to hear your music the way other people will listen to it and gives you a lot of control. It gives you room for experiment, and I believe it’s the easiest way to learn and practice orchestration that you need playing in a band. Answering the question, I think that we would’ve recorded most of our songs at home with or without the pandemic.
RNRR: So you think quarantine had a positive effect on your music then?
BF: I think it had positive effect on my productivity. It was like pause, so many people were able to take a break and focus on one thing.
RNRR: Who would you say is your all time musical hero? You cited Joy Division as an inspiration earlier, would you say Ian Curtis stands at the forefront for heroes for you?
BF: [Asya]: Well I have listened to Radiohead since I was 10 years old and since then I’ve listened to many bands but I would say this is my inspiration 100%. I think that they always tried to do everything their own way and they’ve had success doing exactly this. For me, that is marvelous.
RNRR: How about you Nikita?
BF: [Nikita]: I can’t say that Ian is a hero. I can’t divide him from the band, because when I am listening their music it a whole band deal. But after listening Joy Division I decided to make a band. There are a lot of interesting musicians I like to listen to but I can’t say they are my heroes.
RNRR: Finally yourself Alex?
BF: [Alex]: John Congleton (The Paper Chase, John Congleton And The Nighty Nite).
RNRR: What does the band get up to outside of making music? What do you do to take a break from writing new songs?
BF: [Asya]: Well, probably, on the contrary, we take a break from life and write songs (laughs)! When I need to relax I do gardening. It really calms me down. I love watching movies a lot as well as that I am real series maniac! Although I wouldn’t say I need to take break from writing songs. I never get tired of music.
RNRR: So Asya, what are your favourite films? Do you feel that films are as important as music in conveying emotions and morals to wide audiences?
BF: Yes surely! All arts are doing this - they show something and explain things on emotional layer. Well, it will be long list of films.. I would name Tim Burton’s ‘Big Fish’ and ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’. The last is genius in a way it integrates images and music: you even feel cold when it is winter or when heroes are suffering. ‘The Green Mile’ and ‘Cloud Atlas’ are also in a list. These are movies that make me cry a lot!
RNRR: How about you Nikita?
BF: [Nikita]: For sure films are as much important as music. Maybe a little bit more important because a film gives one more dimension, a visual one.
My top 5 films are - ‘Brick’, ‘Good Will Hunting’, ‘Midnight in Paris’, ‘The Dreamers’, ‘The Wrestler’.
RNRR: Alex, what is your opinion on the matter?
BF: [Alex]: It will be easier for me to list my TOP-3 directors: Edgar Wright, Christopher Nolan and Danny Boyle. I don’t know if it’s correct to compare these media, especially regarding the importance. Although I definitely think that films are much more powerful than music. An average movie will guide you through a coherent story, a ton of emotions. It will teach you to solve at least one problem, how music and emotions are related, and much more. An average song will mostly amplify your feelings. This is important as well, as it will help you live through the moment, but, as I said, it just works differently, and the purpose of this medium is different.
RNRR: Finally, we ask this question to every guest we have on Spotlight and it’s always a pretty big deal. If you’re going to be stranded on a desert island for the rest of your days with only one album to ever play again, what are you picking and why?
BF: [Asya]: That is so haaard, but just due to nostalgia I will choose Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’ purely because it is my first favourite album. I listened to this for the first time when I was 10. Many songs are on here to cry out loud when you are alone (laughs). [Nikita]: ‘Stadium Arcadian’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers. There are all types of songs included, for dancing, for crying, for hot days, for lonely nights. Also it is a pretty big album with 28 songs! [Alex]: I'd prefer to be there without any music. Any song you set as your alarm quickly becomes the song you hate. The album you have with you stranded on a desert island becomes your requiem.
RNRR: Some varied picks there with really brilliant reasons as to why you chose them! Also very interesting to go with the no music option there Alex! Thanks for being on Spotlight and we will be sure to update the page with any news from your camp in the future!
If you would like to find out more about Bottled Fish and keep up to date with their news, the links to their social medias are below via the icons:
Edward Burnett chats to Canadian singer Michelle Treacy about her new song 'Time Off From A Letdown', her future career plans and the time she sang live with Lady Gaga.
RNRR: Hi Michelle! How are you doing? Would you mind describing what genre you perform for those of our readers unlucky enough not to have heard your songs?
MT: Hi Ed! I’m doing great. Most people know me as a pop artist but I’ve just recently released a new song called ‘Time Off From a Letdown’ that leans more psychedelic rock.
RNRR: Brilliant! You’ve teased us there with that new song of yours and we will definitely come back to that later on. However I’d like to first go back to the very beginning and ask you what your earliest musical memory was? What albums did your parents play to you as a kid which have stuck with you all these years?
MT: My earliest music memory is dancing and singing around in my underwear at 3 years old to ‘Oops I Did It Again’ by Britney Spears. My brother brought me up on Avril Lavigne, Madonna, Spice Girls, Paula Abdul, Amy Winehouse and Kyle Minogue. The list goes on.
RNRR: Some great picks there for sure. So what made you want to follow a career in professional music? Was there a tipping point when you decided that was what you were going to do and nothing else would suffice?
MT: I’ve just always known. There was no moment or point per say. I just had a gut instinct that this is what I wanted to do ever since I was a baby.
RNRR: That brings us round to the present nicely and of course we have to talk about that new single of yours that you mentioned! So what was the thinking behind ‘Time Off From a Letdown’, what do the lyrics mean to you?
MT: Thematically, the song represents the feeling of letting everyone down; however, the reality being that you are only letting yourself down by putting others first. It is about refocusing on yourself, as I have spent the last couple of years doing just that after going through such a dark time in my life. The cinematic video is a beautiful representation of this created by an all-female team. It is a piece of art in it's purest form, and I hope you take something from it.
RNRR: Was the process of creating this song lengthy in comparison to your previous singles or do you find that no matter the song, they all take roughly the same amount of time and care?
MT: There’s no set time or care per song. It’s all different. I care about each song I write. But the process is always different.
RNRR: With the pandemic, we’ve sorely missed live music of all kinds. What have you missed more, attending live gigs or performing your own?
MT: I don’t miss one more than the other. I miss live shows so much. I miss getting sweaty and screaming lyrics. I miss the ringing in my ears after a loud show. I miss people. I miss it all.
RNRR: While on the theme of live performances, you famously sang ‘Born This Way’ alongside Lady Gaga back in 2014. What does an experience like this do for a young musical artist? What was it like getting close with Lady Gaga?
MT: This experience changed my life and launched my career. After this I got signed and released Armageddon which landed on Billboard Hot 100 for 16 weeks. It was an absolute dream. Gaga is great. She is incredibly kind to me anytime I meet her. I’m grateful.
RNRR: For those that don’t know, you’re from Ottawa, Canada. What’s the best thing about Ottawa? Do you find your living environment affects your music in any way?
MT: I love Ottawa because it has a small town feel. I love the river and the bike path. I love the whole vibe of the city. It’s just so chill. This environment is great to make music in. It’s so laid back. Most people who do music live in Toronto tho which is why I’ve moved.
RNRR: What do you like to do outside of making and performing music? Do you have any interesting hobbies?
MT: I like eating food, teaching music and cleaning. Haha so boring!
RNRR: Where do you see yourself in two years time, post-Covid, as a musical artist? What do you hope to have achieved by then?
MT: I’m hoping to get signed to a label that really fights for me and loves who I am. I hope to have new music out and start touring. Who knows though with covid.
RNRR: Finally, here at Rock N Roll Reports we ask the same most important question at the end of each Spotlight interview as I’m sure you’re fully aware. The old famous desert island question. One album, for the rest of your days on said island, what are you picking and why?
MT: CTRL SZA. It’s my favourite album of all time. Good for any mood and always pulls me out of the worst places. I still can’t believe it’s a real album. What a gift.
RNRR: A brilliant choice there as it does suit any mood as you say. It’s been a pleasure Michelle and we’ll be sure to update the page with any news from your front.
If you would like to find out more about Michelle Treacy or keep up to date with her latest news, you can find links to all her social medias below via the icons:
Edward Burnett chats to Brighton rock band YONAKA's Theresa Jarvis about what the band's debut album meant to them, why it is so great to live in Brighton and why she now wants to pick up playing chess.
RnRR: Hi Yonaka! First of all, how are you doing Theresa? Would you say that you have been managing to deal with the pandemic and lockdown well?
YONAKA: Hello, I’m doing well thanks! Lockdown has its ups and downs, a lot of music has been made and also to have the time to really think was nice. Yet at the same time I’m so ready to play shows and see all our fans again.
RnRR: Going back to the very start, what is your earliest musical memory? What was the first song, album or artist which majorly influenced you at a young age?
YONAKA: My earliest musical memory was dancing and singing along to the Spice Girls, Tina Turner and lots of Motown. Then the first time I sang in front of an audience was in a school play and I was dressed as a mouse singing S Club 7’s ‘Never Had a Dream Come True’ [laughs]. As for influences it was Whitney Houston for me. I was obsessed with trying to sing her big notes which I for sure did not hit! Pink and Mariah Carey were also important artists for me when I was younger.
RnRR: So on May 31st 2019 you released your debut album ‘Don’t Wait ’Til Tomorrow’. What is your proudest achievement from doing this? How great was it to finally have an entire album of your own on physical copy?
YONAKA: This was super exciting for us to have an album, our first album, a big piece of work. The most joy we get from it is from the fans. To know that we’ve touched somebody’s life with music that we have written is incredible especially when it has a positive effect. In that album I talk a lot about mental health and my own struggles which I know is a topic that a lot of people relate to. Many share the same experience so to know that it could have potentially helped is BIG news for us. Also just people hearing it and the crowd singing it along with me at the shows.
RnRR: The album is an intense, energy-charged ride which encapsulates themes of commitment and underlying devotion. Was it always the idea to cover these sort of topics and are they influenced by your own life experiences?
YONAKA: Yes the album is about my own experiences and ones that I have found people who are dear to me go through also. I didn’t intentionally mean to write about this stuff but it was the only thing I could write about and it was consuming my life. I found when I wrote about other people’s experiences it made me feel better.
RnRR: All of us in the musical world are missing being able to attend gigs and festivals greatly due to the current COVID pandemic. What would you say was your best show before lockdown? A gig where you really connected with the crowd and everything just went right?
YONAKA: It was our last london headline show for sure. The energy was on fire and it just felt like magic. I mean that whole tour was magic to be honest. When the room is literally electric, aghhh! I can’t wait for it to come back.
RnRR: So the most important news coming from your camp this year is the preview of your new music we got this summer. ‘Ordinary’ debuted during your live performance on Twitch back in July. Is this going to be your next single to be released? The song is about getting away from a situation or time in your life which is no longer right and not settling for the norm anymore. What inspired this song and why did you choose to release it during this summer? Have you got more new music in the pipeline?
YONAKA: So ‘Ordinary’ isn’t actually the next single to be released, we just wanted to give a sneak of what we’ve been doing. We’ve actually got a big single dropping early next year and it’s just ahhhhhhhhhh my favourite! It’s so BIG and empowering! I can’t wait for everyone to hear it. ‘Ordinary’ is great we are just putting finishing touches on it in the studio. It is taking its time but we’re turning it on it’s head. We have so much music ready now!
RnRR: You recently covered Taylor Swift’s ‘You Need To Calm Down’ for Spotify. How was that to cover? Is there any other songs you’re desperate to cover either on record or when live music shows are resumed?
YONAKA: Ahhh yes Taylor swift is just AMAZING and that song was so much fun to cover! I have recently been working on a little ‘happy together’ by ‘the turtles’.
RnRR: So away from the musical side of things, what are your biggest interests and hobbies? Have you watched anything good while in lockdown?
YONAKA: I love to cook and actually I just watched ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ on Netflix so now I wanna learn chess so let’s see!
RnRR: With the group being based in Brighton in the UK, what would you say is the biggest charm to Brighton? There is the seaside of course but what else allows you to really call it home?
YONAKA: So yeah the seaside is the best, then The Lanes is super cute. I dunno it’s just nice it’s like chilled and fresh air. I really like that you can look out at the sea for miles and not stop, it’s so beautiful.
RnRR: Finally is the most important question we ask all our guests. If you were stranded on a desert island (which somehow has electricity!) and you can only play one album ever again, what is each member picking and why?
YONAKA: Ok so I would choose either ‘The College Dropout’ by Kanye West or Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’. For George it’s ‘Doris’ by Earl Sweatshirt. Rob has picked ‘Rumours’ by Fleetwood Mac. Finally Alex has gone with ‘Voodoo’ by D’Angelo!
RnRR: Some smart and varied selections there guys! Thank you for your time and I’m definitely not alone in saying that I’m very much looking forward to what comes next from you!
Photo Credits: Rory Barnes
If you'd like to keep up to date with YONAKA's latest news and releases then you can find the links to all their social medias via the links below:
Our Halloween themed week comes to a close with one final special feature, an interview with South-West London band Bosco Bosco. The guys talk to Edward Burnett about their origins as a band, their new Halloween single, ‘Witch Hunt’ and that one time Rachael dressed up as a candle...
RnRR: Hi Bosco Bosco, would you introduce yourselves to the Rock N Roll Reports readers who may be unfamiliar with your music?
BB: Bosco Bosco are a rock band from SW London experimenting with synths, nostalgia and a touch of 80's.
Formed of two siblings and their bass-slapping friend, the group create music through the influences of Bring Me the Horizon, Enter Shikari and Taylor Swift giving their songs a high energy, alt-rock sound.
RnRR: Nice to meet you guys! Now this high energy, alt-rock sound is becoming more and more popular these days on the main rock scene with bands such as Yonaka dominating. What do you feel is the reason for this surge in this genre of music?
BB: The great fact about alt-rock is that there’s variation between each band and their style. For many years now the indie and alt-pop scenes have been expanding- we feel it’s time for alt-rock’s moment. Woohoo! People love the energy and excitement of each track. Last year we actually went to see Yonaka perform in Brighton- they were so fun live and we look forward to seeing them and similar bands gig again soon!
RnRR: You mention wanting to see similar bands soon and with that comes my next question. Has the hardest impact from the pandemic been missing going to gigs or has it been a bigger blow not being able to perform your own shows?
BB: Both have been very difficult- going to gigs has always been one of our favourite things to do! We all had tickets for loads of crazy concerts this year- Taylor Swift, My Chemical Romance and Enter Shikari to name a few. So not going to gigs has been tough. We hate seeing what’s happening to the grassroots venues and how hard it is for them to stay open. We had our first headline show booked for April which had to be postponed. We were gutted as we had worked so hard for the last year in the studio. The gig poster is still up in the venue- it makes us sad whenever we see it but we’re determined to make the gig amazing when it finally happens!
RnRR: What was the last show that you managed to get to before the pandemic hit? While we are on that topic too, what your all time favourite gig or festival that you have attended?
BB: Oisin, our bassist, says the last gig he was able to get to was Crossfaith and Ocean Grove at Chalk in Brighton. Such a sick show! Matt saw Nile Rodgers, one of his guitar icons, days before we went into lockdown. He almost didn’t go because things were already starting to shut down but it’s now a great reminder of how good things are going to be once the live industry gets up and running again.
In terms all of time favourites- that’s a tough one. Rachel’s fave has got to be Don Broco in Paris- the energy was irreplaceable! Swinging her T-shirt around her head to ‘T-Shirt Song’ was not a moment to forget.
RnRR: Let’s talk about your music now, what’s the story behind you guys forming as a band?
BB: Matt and Rachel were jamming one day and wanted a bassist to play along. They had met their mate Oisin at youth music organisation, Groove Academy. Oisin was studying in Brighton and came all the way to London just to jam. It was only meant to be one jam session- they couldn’t get rid of Oisin after that!!!
RnRR: Your new single ‘Witch Hunt’ is seasonally themed around Halloween. Is Halloween an important season for you guys?
BB: With not being able to perform over the last few months, we wanted to do something a little different. As Halloween was coming up, we gave ourselves the challenge of creating a spooky EP in time for Halloween. So, it’s not Halloween itself that’s super important to us but it’s a fun time and a great excuse for some spooky tunes!
RnRR: What’s your best ever costume that you’ve worn at Halloween?
BB: Rachel's best Halloween costume was a candle. (She’s ginger and modelled her hair up to be a flame). She is very glad there is no photo evidence!
RnRR: Who would win in a musical fight between Rob Zombie and the entire cast of the ‘Thiller’ music video?
BB: Rob Zombie. No question.
RnRR: What does the future hold for the band following Halloween and as the pandemic restrictions hopefully lift?
BB: We’ve got a few secret songs up our sleeves that we cannot wait to share after the Halloween season. We also hope to gig as much as we can- we’ll no longer be sad when we see our gig-that-never-happened poster up in The Fighting Cocks.
RnRR: Where would you like to be as a band in 2 years time, realistically. Do you feel like setting goals this early on in your professional career is a hinderance or rather healthy competition with yourselves?
BB: We think it’s fairly important to set goals- they help with motivation and excitement. You can’t be disheartened however if goals are not achieved in the ideal timescale, especially at the moment. We hope to continue sharing music and expanding our fan base while hopefully getting some bigger gigs! We’ve all agreed to get band tattoos if we reach a certain number of streams….is that sad?!
RnRR: Finally, I ask this to all our Spotlight interviewees and is regarded to some as the hardest question of all time. You’re going to a desert island for the rest of your days but can only take one album with you to play. What are you choosing and just as importantly, why?
BB: If the whole band had to pick one album it’d have to be Automatic- Don Broco. This album inspired us as a band in our early creative days. We’ll never forget yelling the songs out of a car window as we drove through the Welsh countryside. We love it!
RnRR: Great choice there guys and thanks for your time! All the best for the future!
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Emma Furrier interviews The Soundtrack founder, Gemma Mastroianni, about grassroots music journalism in the age of digital media, embracing music as a lifestyle and her Halloween themed artist recommendations in this Shock and Soul Spooktacular edition of Spotlight! Join us in this conversation on women in music, BLM, and the importance of diverse representation.
RnRR: Hi Gemma! I think we should first start off by giving you the platform to introduce yourself. Who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
GM: I am Gemma of course, I work in PR by day. At night I do freelancing for a Toronto-based artist here. I do music PR, social media consulting, and here and there I will do some freelance projects with different artists. So I'll do press kits and things like that. By night I also run my blog and the concept is music as a lifestyle. For me, at the end of high school I saw the movie 'Almost Famous' and I was like "Oh my God, I want to do that!" and then in grade twelve, I decided I was just going to do it. I started doing interviews over Skype with random bands and then I worked my way up to Arkells. Max Kerman the singer called my house for it, my family home, and they were like, he'll call you at this time, and it was so weird 'cause I was still in high school. I was like, maybe this is a good sign, things are really going up. At the time, I was just posting these interviews on my Tumblr page. I started working with some Toronto-based outlets, moved to school, did show reviews, interviews and just kind of threw myself into it. I met a Toronto lifestyle blogger at a Junot Awards event. Junot Awards is like the Canadian Grammy's [laughs]. So, I didn't even know what lifestyle blogging really was but I was like, "that's sounds different from music, let's do it!" And then I kinda got into this whole influencer world and it happened very quickly. I got overwhelmed, and after a couple years after that, I was sick of it. I knew I needed a break from everything. I eventually decided to marry the two ideas because I knew I liked both things, but I didn't necessarily love the way I was executing them and I just felt like I wanted my own platform to do it, and do it the way I wanted to do it. So then, The Soundtrack was born.
RnRR: You mentioned how you're in Public Relations "by day" as an account executive. What’s that like and how does it influence your work with The Soundtrack?
GM: It helps me in terms of networking. I do influencer management, so I manage seven or eight different people across Canada, so it has given me a lot of networking skills and such. Learning how to interact with people, how to find contacts, all of that. Especially with brands, from that aspect, because I am starting to do a lot more of that. It also helps in terms of marketing. It keeps me creative working on different clients. I'll do anything from creating content, graphics, copy. I feel like I'm a jack of all trades [laughs] but it helps keep me creative and continue learning.
RnRR: You do really have to be in this field!
GM: Yes, totally! I could not agree more.
RnRR: Since The Soundtrack is a digital platform, spanning across various social media channels like Instagram, Spotify, your own website, blog, and podcast, where did that start? Was it originally created solely on one platform and then organically expanded into the others?
GM: So I started the blog and then I created social accounts for everything right away. I started it, but I didn't feel like I was ready when I started it. It was just like, "if I don't do this now, I am never gonna do it". So I just kind of did it to put it out there, then it took me a few months to find my groove, find a voice that I wanted to have on each platform. However, Spotify is a more recent thing. I can't even remember when I started it, because my timelines are all messed up because of quarantine [laughs].
RnRR: Cool! So where did your inspiration come from? Were there other accounts out there that inspired you, or was The Soundtrack created as a response to a lack of resources or public platforms in Canada for lifestyle and underground music blogging?
GM: Yeah, the thing is that I have always felt inspired by different music blogs that I worked with locally. Then there are also a lot of lifestyle bloggers that I have met in my time, that I am influenced by. However, when I look at the two, they were very much separate things and knowing that I am passionate and like to have fun with both, it just felt right to marry the two. It feels like there are blogs that do one or the other, or both but very separately, whereas I feel like you can make lifestyle content with music. And unfortunately, I wanted to do a lot of it around concert-going and I was really ready to dive into that this year, but I can't, so it's tough but it's still a thing and I think I'm still doing an okay job at it.
RnRR: After I found your account, I started discovering more pages, not that they were doing the same thing, but I could see how the influences of like— the music is your lifestyle for people who are so passionate about it. That is the life they live, and everything revolves around that such as what they wear, what they listen to, who they surround themselves with.
GM: Exactly! It's just not talked about enough and I want to continue that conversation more, and I just feel like there are somany fashion bloggers, so many makeup bloggers. In reality, I like all those things, but I don't wanna just talk about that one thing all the time. It allows me to balance between different topics about my life.
RnRR: And by combining the two as well, I feel like it makes you more of a niche market, so you can be marketable to both sides of it, yet you are still unique in your own way. That would attract an audience all in its own, because you're not competing with a million other accounts that are doing the exact same thing.
GM: Exactly, yeah, and I feel like it is a different audience. I feel like the people who follow my blog aren't necessarily following fashion bloggers or whatever. It's a whole new audience and sometimes brands have been kind of confused by that, but I guess it's just kind of niche, as you were saying. I'm just hoping to make it more of a mainstream realization, that music is a lifestyle [laughs], it sounds so cheesy.
RnRR: I myself draw a lot of inspiration from women in music. From your posts, I can tell you do as well. Whether that be the artists themselves or anyone in the industry: the writers, the photographers, even the fans. Women hold such an enigmatic power within the music industry, yet are so often overshadowed. Have you felt this in your own work? Can you share with us your experience being a young woman working in the music and entertainment industry? How have you felt that has impacted you?
GM: I can't say I have had any major negative experiences. I of course have noticed that in certain environments there are not a lot of girls around. Whether that be in the media tent at a festival, it is pretty male populated. I also interned at an artist talent agency, but it was pretty half and half. I can say that a majority of my audience is male, ever so slightly. I think it is 53/47.
RnRR: The #MeToo movement and the Black Lives Matter movement have caused a huge pivotal shift in what people are posting and talking about openly on their platforms. As well as living through COVID-19 now, how has your perspective or approach shifted when covering certain artists or songs, or even brands you promote on your page?
GM: When that whole thing happened, I realized that I was apart of the problem in a way. I looked at the photos I was sharing of artists, and it was all white people. I even just look at my podcast season, last season, I think I only featured a couple of different people of color. I really realized that I need to do a better job and I made an effort to look into the indie black musicians. There are tons of them, and unfortunately it is just not being marketed properly. It's about making that effort to go out and cover those shows, artists, all that. When things do go back to normal, I am definitely going to be making the effort to go out and do that, and discover more artists. I think it is also an issue with the way it is marketed. As consumers, especially an average consumer, they're maybe not going out and looking to find new artists. Maybe they're looking at whatever is being put in front of their faces. It's a really big issue.
RnRR: I have been thinking about that a lot too. Look at the Spotify algorithms, your Daily Mixes and recommendations. You're constantly being presented pretty much the same exact thing every single day. There is really no variety in it, and I feel like they could do a better job about that.
GM: For sure, yeah. And as someone who kind of goes and actively hunts for new music and now with this in mind, there is so much out there that isn't being shown. You bring up a really good point about Spotify algorithms, that is very true now that I think about it.
RnRR: Not even just Spotify, but digital media in general. Platforms such as The Soundtrack, Rock N Roll Reports and everyone else out there, the independent writers who are out there doing it just for the passion of music, I think that is one of the best things about it all: you go digging and looking for the artists that deserve recognition and for their voices to be heard.
GM: Yes, yeah I totally agree!
RnRR: What is your favorite memory from your work thus far at The Soundtrack? Is there a particular artist you have interviewed where you’ve had a pinch-me moment? I know you’ve had the opportunity to interview some amazing artists like Kurt Vile, Metric, and Taylor from Local Natives. How was that?
GM: It was amazing. Probably interviewing Kurt Vile, I didn't expect him to be so legitimately chill. You look at him and you're like, "oh, he's a chill dude, but when you talk to him he's probably not gonna be like that". He was literally just like the chillest, nicest dude and he poured out so much to me. He was talking about his insecurities performing. I was asking him about music festivals and those versus playing an indoor show, and he was like "Yeah, you know I like it but like I'm nervous 'cause I always mess up, and whatever" but it was such a raw, candid moment. He was also talking a lot about his struggles with alcoholism and stuff, and how his wife gives him natural cures. He pulled out this box of different oils and stuff, like it was just crazy. Then he told me he liked my hat and that was great. That was probably the most memorable thing right now.
RnRR: How do you create these opportunities? Do you put the work in yourself, reaching out to artist’s managers and agents directly, or slide into the DMs? Or have you experienced these artists reaching out to you themselves? If there’s a balance of both, how do you manage that and choose which to pursue?
GM: I get a lot of emails a day, like a lot. It's overwhelming sometimes, so I can't even always open all the emails. However, sometimes it is DM'd. For instance, my favorite band, The Antlers, I got an interview with the singer literally through just DMing him. However, when it comes to festival interviews like the one with Kurt Vile... the festival lineup drops, and I pretty much just start reaching out as soon as possible, or maybe as soon as media stuff starts going. I look at the lineup, I take note of everyone I wanna interview, I find out who their PR is and I just start sending out pitches. In short, just consistent communication.
RnRR: Since Halloween is right around the corner, what would you personally endorse as your Spooky Season jam? What song or artist really gets you in the Halloween spirit? Especially when it comes to witchy women, there’s such an archetype there. Do you find it overdone or empowering?
GM: I think it's cool, like why not? Why not embrace the season and I think music is such a good way to get into the Halloween season. I think "witchy women" is cool, let's keep it up [laughs]. My favorite witchy woman right now would probably be Luna Li who is Toronto-based. She's so cool. Another one I really like is Witch Prophet, who is also Toronto-based, name very fitting. For fall, I really like anything off the new Fleet Foxes album, I've been listening to that like every morning.
RnRR: What does the future of The Soundtrack look like? Is there anything exciting in the works that you can share with us?
GM: I'd say it's pretty TBD right now. I can't wait to get out back to shows and make a lot more content. I want to make content about what I'm wearing to the show, where I'm going to eat and have drinks before the show.
RnRR: The whole experience!
GM: Exactly! Exactly, yeah more in-person interviews, I'd love to get that up on Youtube. I'm starting my podcast back up this week. That's the future of it, but right now with quarantine, I'm just vibing, creating whatever I feel good about.
RnRR: Is there anyone you think we should be listening to? Do you have a favorite Canadian musician?
GM: Lower Dens, Steve Lacy, Teen Daze, The War on Drugs, Kid Bloom. In terms of a Canadian artist, I'm going to recommend Kay Tranada.
RnRR: With every Spotlight Interview that Rock N Roll Reports does, our very last question is always if you were going to be deserted on a desert island, and you could only bring one island with you, what would it be? What is your desert island album?
GM: Oh, it's gotta be the first Tame Impala record, 'InnerSpeaker'. It has all the ups and downs and in betweens, every feeling I need to feel. Lots of layers.
RnRR: Awesome, that wraps things up for us today Gemma, thank you so much!
GM: Thanks for having me. It's so kind of you to think of me!
RnRR: Of course! It was my pleasure. Plus, I feel like we are kind of the same person. Gemma and Emma. There we go.
GM: I couldn't agree more.
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