Wednesday, July 31, 2013

She Said Fire Album Review for 'Boom'

(Guest Blog by Emily Zoda)

She Said Fire, a contemporary four piece rock band based right here in NYC, released an EP called Boom on April 9th of this year. 

With Joshua Hawksley on vocals, Peter Strzelecki on guitar, Chris Moss on bass, and the latest addition of Christina Vitucci on drums, the band soon began their recording at producer Mike Watts's VuDu Studios after their enthusiastic response to their EP, To Whom It May Concern

This is their first discography and also their first single, "Funhouse," under the name She Said Fire, who were formerly named The August Infinity.

The title of the EP really explains the gist of it, "boom." SSF takes different genres of music and makes them work well together. As a contemporary rock band, they take pop­like elements as well as post hardcore elements creating the sound of She Said Fire and making it as explosive as ever. 

I saw an acoustic performance of theirs at the Full Cup on Staten Island about a month ago and thought they were weird. Joshua had this incredible voice and he was moving around in his seat like he couldn't contain himself, they were also doing the screams from their songs acoustically which is something I've never experienced before.

Their single "Funhouse" was the hard hitter of the album, giving off a funky laid back sound almost a little seductive. Heavy wah pedals drive the song into the upbeat ska rock feel of the chorus. Then right after that is the soothing ballad of "Better Ways", with a slow but powerful beat and heartfelt vocals (making this my favorite song on the EP.)

She Said Fire is the first EP I've been able to enjoy in a while. I highly recommend it and if they make it to a venue near you, check them out! They love interacting with the audience and talking to fans. 

She Said Fire seriously rocks.

Listen to their music here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Interview with Stephen Kendrick Co-Author of 'The Love Dare for Parents'

***I did this interview for my job at the Christian Post. Read original here***

The Christian Post had the opportunity to speak with one half of the creative team of brothers behind Christian blockbusters "Fireproof," "Facing the Giants," and "Courageous" – Stephen Kendrick.

The Kendrick brothers, Alex and Stephen, released their newest book, "The Love Dare for Parents," on July 1 as the follow up to their critically acclaimed first book, "The Love Dare," and now they are looking to further spread the truth of Jesus from the silver screen to the bestsellers list.

The Christian Post: What has the response for the new book been like so far, and how has it fared against the release of the first "Love Dare"?

Stephen Kendrick: We are very excited about this book. Our prayer has been that this new 40-day journey will help moms and dads to win their kids hearts, and help them to train them to live blessed lives of wisdom, faith, and love. We tried to write it whether someone's kids are in preschool or even graduating from high school they will be able to pour out Christ like love onto their kids for 40 days and develop that habit and instill into their children a more dynamic legacy of faith. So often parents have a great desire and hopes, and aspirations for their kids but they don't have any practical plans of action. ... We broke it down into 40 days and each day teaches a principle about parenting and love together.

CP: Of the "Dares," what would you say is the most "daring"?

Kendrick: Challenging [parents] to memorize scripture with their kids. It's something I did growing up. My parents would quote Psalm 91 over our lives, that whole chapter. ... We put some really great passages in the back for parents to memorize with their kids.
Some of the last dares tie in to writing a letter to your kids, and it's really a legacy letter based on Psalm 71 that they can pass on to their children one day. I know that will not be easy for parents to do, but we kind of walk them through communicating with their kids ... I know so many men that will say to me that "my dad and my mom never told me that they loved me." That's first base communicating love to your kids.

One of the days we unpack finding out how your kids are wired, what kind of intelligence has God given them, how do they give and receive love, what the passions of their life, how does their birth order and their gender affect them because all of those things are part of the tapestry that God is weaving together to use each of our children for His glory. Too often, parents force their kids into becoming something they want them to become rather than trying unpack the treasure chest God wants them to become.

Stephen Kendrick on the left, Alex Kendrick on the right.
CP: When writing this book with your brother, how did you guys divide what to write? What was the process like?

Kendrick: With the movies, we will both work on concepts and bring them to the table together. ... I imagine this scene about 75 percent of the way into the movie ... It's like a pearl that you are adding to the mix and that will be strung together with the other pearls, and so that's how we do it with movies where we come up with scenes, ideas and when we have a lot of them after we've been praying for months over it we'll dive in and work together on kind of crafting this storyline.

We'll then usually write separately. Then we'll come back together and say "I wrote this scene, I took a first draft on it, here what do you think?" We'll go back and forth, he'll critique my writing and I'll critique his. He's a better storyteller than I am. When it comes to script writing he is better at writing dialogue. I tend to focus on pure and Biblical principles. He's good at interweaving those into the story telling. When it comes to the books, I will usually write the first draft chapters of the book and send them to him and he will add his touch on them. He edits me really well. He helps me to clarify what I'm writing. It's been a really good partnership that God has made happen with my brother.

CP: Of the two aspects to your ministry-- the film and books-- which would you say is more rewarding and impactful?

Kendrick: Movies are definitely more fun because there are so many different seasons in a movie. It is exciting to be drafting together. Writing a book is very hard, it's like writing 15 college term papers in a row, and you are just like, "when is going to end?" You can communicate so much more when you are writing a book, and you can go so much deeper.

Usually we'll have a book connected to a movie so the movie will inspire people, but afterwards when they walk out of the theater they can think, "what do I do now?" "How can I take the message of Fireproof and work on my marriage?" The books are important because they can dive in and start applying it to their day in and day out lives and dive into what God says about those specific topics.

CP: Which do you feel is an easier tool to convey Christianity to a secular audience: a movie or book?

Kendrick: Definitely the movies. Jesus communicated parables to the secular people around him and he used stories that were very relevant to their lives, and He was taking heaven's truth and packaging it in an earthly context. ... We've seen that we've reached a ton of people through movies who have never walked into the door of a church. Then as a result they'll start reading the books, and the books will get a lot deeper into truth and what scripture said about those issues. And they are much more ready for that after they've watched the movies.

CP: Anything else to add?

Kendrick: We've launched We can collaborate, we can help them, they can help us. We want to pour into the next generation of Christian filmmakers. We feel like God has intrusted a lot into us and we don't want to sit on it and be selfish. We want to think long term on how we can help this next generation of Christian filmmakers to make a big impact for God.

We launched a website called, where people can take a free marriage or parenting evaluation. It will then show them how they are doing and here's some verses where you can begin to focus in to make you stronger.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Interview with Christian Artist TobyMac (Full Transcript)

Christian hip-hop, rock and pop superstar artist TobyMac helped shape the foundation of Christian music and how that music can infiltrate the mainstream with his unabashed proclamations of Christ through his music, books, and philanthropy work.

The artist, who's real name is Toby McKeehan, began his career in 1987 with DC Talk along with Newsboys current vocalist, Michael Tait, and Audio Adrenaline current vocalist Kevin Max. Together, these three were among the most successful gospel acts of all time, making albums that mixed genres such as hip-hop, soul, and gospel. They later on experimented with grunge, alternative, and contemporary music until their hiatus in 2000.

Since then TobyMac has made quite a name for himself as a solo artist, winning virtually every award possible and selling lots of records along the way, all while praising Jesus at every stop.

You have won several major awards this year. Which of these has been the most meaningful to you?
It's always hard to surpass a Grammy Award. It's kind of the shot heard round the world when it comes to music. It's not just a United States thing, it's beyond. Anywhere you go whether it be Africa or Jamaica, if you win a Grammy Award, people recognize that immediately. A Grammy Award winning artist just gets people's attention, and there's a reason for that, its a different standard.

I will say I've been up for I don't know how many between DC Talk and my solo career, I've been up for American Music Awards and I've never received one ever, probably swing and a miss 10x but I got one this year and that was awesome. That was an amazing time, and it means so much because it was voted in by the people that listen to music, the fans.

The K-LOVE awards, because it was the inaugural year, that did mean a lot to me because that's the people who listen to Christian music, and to choose me as Artist of the Year, I was truly honored and humbled.

Since your days in dc Talk each one of your albums has had a different sound. How do you continue to reinvent yourself, and how have you evolved as an artist since going solo?
I think I'm moving...I'm a pop artist leaning towards hip-hop definitely. I think for me it's like one of those things where there's a river moving, and it is called music. I feel like I am part of that river, I'm not  separated from it. I like to move with music. It's not necessarily reinventing myself as much as it's just moving along the river of music and where it's going where the drum sounds change and the tempos change, just choosing to be a part of that rather than stop and get off at a certain river bank and stay there. I want to keep moving with it.

How do you feel music is a great communicator of the gospel?
I think music is what you choose to make it. You can bring any message you want in music, and everyone is bringing some message in music. Even if it's a message just to have fun, or have a party. Like Macklemore's current song, "Same Love," he's obviously telling us to stop judging homosexual people, and that's what he's saying in the song. Music has always been there, there's always been messages in music. There's something being said whether it's love people well, or whether it's be angry, and I think it's natural to me to choose to tell people about Jesus with my music because that's the most important thing to me. Something about his love, or something about the attributes I've learned in God's word is going to come out in my music. It's when I'm at my best, it's the centerpiece of my life, it's the center of my life, so when I write it just kind of flows out even when I'm writing a song about somebody who got hurt or failed in a way or stumbled and fell, I'd write a song like "Get Back Up," to remind them that forgiveness is there for them. God's love is there for them.

There's been a lot of school shootings, tornados, hurricanes, etc, what would you say to someone who has experienced tragedy?
I would say, God's love is bigger than anything you are going through. I think that we go through things that turn us to him. Sometimes it's beautiful and sometimes it's really tough, but if we turn to Him, I think we'll find comfort in His arms.

How does it feel to be a pioneer of Christian music, and where would you like to see Christian music move to?
Hip-Hop is dear to my heart, I started out a rapper and have become sort of a rapper/singer, always leaning to hip-hop beats, always leaning to hip-hop culture. It's part of me. I wouldn't call me a flat out hip-hop artist because some people might be up in arms, but hip-hop is part of what I do, part of where I've been since I came into this industry. I will never deny, I will always embrace it. I will always wear it like a badge of pride when it comes to my musical passion.

I think there are so many artists out there who are expressing their faith through hip-hop and their beliefs through hip-hop, and I find more and more mainstream artists talk about their love for God through hip-hop. But then there's a movement that's happening with Lecrae and those guys that are making people just stop and notice. We've always had some great hip-hop groups along the way from Grits to any other groups in the 90s and 2000s. To me they are doing it and they're not compromising and people are stopping and noticing and appreciating them for what they do. It reminds me a little bit of when dc Talk, when I wrote Jesus Freak and dc Talk wrote Jesus Freak, I think people recognized it for how bold the statement was. There was no watering it down, there was no underlying message. It was a bold message and a blatant message, and that's the way I see Lecrae and those guys. They are not two stepping this thing or half stepping, they are not treading lightly on this Jesus thing, and I love it.

Three of the biggest groups in the 90s, dc Talk, Newsboys, and Audio Adrenaline. Michael is in Newsboys, Kevin is in Audio A, where's dc Talk? (three band tour)
I think Talk is in a little bit of each of each of these groups. Dc Talk is in three forms I guess.

You never know my man, you never know. I don't think any of us are opposed to it. Just waiting for the write timing and hopefully everything works out and something like that can work out. Nobodies against it, everybody's open to it.

Tell us about the ERACE Foundation and Camp Electric.
The ERACE Foundation is something we started a long time ago with dc Talk and we've always been about trying to create dialogue between races where there's situations and problems. Sometimes we'll go in different campuses and just promote dialogue. We'll bring an author with us who's written a book about racial reconciliation and we'll try to make it not like a professor student situation but just promote dialogue for people who have questions. For people who have this burning question for people of a different race. It sort of dispels some of the stuff people fear about the other race. Or maybe it's just on a lighter note, we've just always tried to have been intentional about bringing different people together and appreciating different races, and appreciating different cultures and sort of cherishing them instead of wonder or be fearful of or hate on. So just try to love the way God loves or try to flex the beauty of his artistic handy work and the colors of our skin.

Camp Electric is something that was started by a few guys and after the first year I just saw the beauty of it and trained up a whole new future of people who love God and want to make music. I quickly became a partner and became an advocate of it and began to play it. I play the shows every summer at the camp. We have three different locations this summer which I'll play all three. I teach a songwriting class there, and I get to share with campers on how important it is to align yourself with what you do and surround yourself with people who will encourage you in your face walk and ask God to breathe songs to you. I really started delving into that a few years ago, and I think it's love speaking into this next generation of God loving musicians.

If you could leave any sort of legacy on this earth, what would it be?
I think it would be, I man that loved God with all my heart and that acknowledged God in the songs he wrote, and loved his family and lived what he sang about.

Who are your top 5 emcees dead or alive?
I think Rakim. I like some old school junk. KRS-One. I know it's on the lighterside, Whoodini. I know they weren't about conscious rhymes but they taught me about how to mix singing with rap. They would always have the singing, 'the freaks come out at night, how many of them are friends.' You know they really taught me something more than they were some kind of conscious emcees. Q-Tip. I mean I know it's real controversial, but it's hard not to say Jay-Z. I mean I would say I put Jay-Z and Kanye right there. I know some people would kill me for saying that. Jay-Z for his changing the game and Kanye for his experimentation. I have to say a byline to all that. I do not agree with everything they say. I do not like the vulgarity. I always get the clean version, and I do not suggest that anybody go out and buy it because there's a lot that they talk about that I don't think is good for younger ears, lets just keep it at, I don't agree with everything they say and I don't agree with everything they say for my life. I  respect their gifts. Their abilities to rhyme.

Ability plus heart, I'd put Lecrae on that list. It's easier for you to listen to him because I feel like our hearts are in the same place because we desire the same things generally.

Anything else you'd like to add or talk about?
I'm doing a tour called the Hits Detour with a lot of different artists on it. Mandisa, Brandon Heath, Jaime Grace, Chris August, Capital Kings. That will be going out in November/December in the West Coast and will end in February.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Diet EP Review

Local Staten Island punk/grunge band Diet are releasing an EP very, and upon the first listen, I'm in love. Diet consists of Thom Kinnear of guitar/vocals, Michal Pando on bass/backing vocals, and George Bulger on the drums, not to mention, the recent addition of Chris Taranto on guitar/vocals (he does all backing vocals on the EP).

The EP opens up with "Zooey," and has an erie feel to it with the way the guitars and bass seem to wave back and fourth over light drum work. It has a soothing yet hypnotizing feel to it. The track breaks into a standard groove and melody around the 1:40 mark of the song. The vocals come in and go perfectly with the music, and has a Brand New type haunting vibe to it, before the song yet again switches around at 3:55. In kicks the heaviness and the gritty guitars with louder vocals. For lack of a better word, a really cool song to kick off the album.

"Gaze" is a straight up punk song from the first snare hit, and sounds like a throwback to the late 70s and early 80s. To be quite honest, after the first track I feel like I'm listening to a totally different band. It really is an amazing switch of genres.

Next up is "Shapes," which mellows the fast paced previous track down. The song feels drum driven as steady tom rolls swing rhythmically with the guitars building an instrumental tension of what's to come next.

And what's next is the "Short Song," as it flows directly from the last and picks up around 1:05. As the name suggests, the song is over quickly but in that short span they reminded me of Relient K's first album, one of my favorite punk albums by the way...

"Shoe Bomber" goes back to more of a 90s signature punk style, think old Blink 182, MxPx, or the aforementioned Relient K. The driving guitars lead to a nice solo section toward the end flowing over pulsing drums.

Up next is the single,"Knee Brace." I previously spoke about this track and it's no secret I'm a big fan of it, and so is everyone else locally. The verse is super fast, the bridge is super melodic and features a lot of bassy goodness along with effected guitar work. The transitions are great between the instrumental and the vocals.

"Planks" is the final track on the EP. Again Diet slows the tempo down, and focuses on instrumentation as the vocal point. The song has a very distinct bass line, a signature sound on guitar that kind of runs as a theme throughout the album. The vocals on this are really soft, and the track has a little more of an indie, Nirvanish appeal to it. About mid way through the song, it starts coming undone and intentionally falls apart. The distortion is cranked up, strings are plucked feverishly and chaotically, but the bass and drums remain a constant as the song sort of descents into itself. 

Overall, the album is work of art unto itself. I am actually blown away by this band's artistic ability, and their willingness to stray away from the stereotypical notions of punk rock being "easy" and "non-musically" driven. Diet manages to take the best parts of classic punk, 90s punk, indie rock, and alternative and mesh them into a melting pot of an EP that flows from one song to the next seamlessly. 

Thom Kinnear's vocals and vision as a guitarist and vocalist are extraordinary. Michal Pando's bass playing is so fluid and succinct, that most of the songs would simply not sound so pretty without him, and George Bulger's drumming is on point. The way he effortlessly switches between fast and slow, heavy and soft, tom rolls and straight up snare and bass is great! 

Diet isn't playing any games or holding anything back, and with the addition of Chris Taranto are sure to, if not already, change the way people think of punk music. Hands down my favorite local submission of the year. Well done gentlemen.

Freestyle Fam New Song 'By Your Side'

Local hip-hop duo, Freestyle Fam released a banger that touches on their personal lives and why they rap the way they do. Check it out, and download it below.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Love Him Madly: An Intimate Memoir of Jim Morrison (Book Review)

Love Him Madly: An Intimate Memoir of Jim Morrison paints a wonderful portrait of Morrison's love life and how the rock icon was off stage and out of the spotlight with the people he thought he loved and the people who loved him.

The book is written from the perspective of the author, Judy Huddleston, who's obsession with Morrison sees her passionately unrational at times as she wages an inner war and what she believes is true love.

Huddleston goes into to detail with every conversation putting the reader in the room with Judy and Jim. From the pillow talk to the drug infused incoherencies of a live free or go home hippie, everything is distinctly real and genuine.

Especially telling is the turmoil in Judy's mind between love and hate, and how easily she was able to have her feelings and emotions melted away at the mere sound of Jim's voice. 

Delving deeper into the abyss of Morrison's soul, the reader is able to understand the loneliness and utter depression of one of the world's biggest rockstars. Filling his life with mind altering substances, booze, and a plethora of woman, some he "loved" and others he forgot, Morrison was truly a tortured artist.

It started innocently enough, a fresh out of high school girl's infatuate crush of someone unobtainable. After attending a few Doors concerts and getting lucky enough to meet Morrison back stage after a show, she was hooked. Morrison became her drug of choice.

Leading the pack as some sort of head groupie, Jim took a liking to Judy and frequently called her when in town or when he needed late night action. However, Judy was different. She had a conscience, she had a soul, she wanted to be intimate with Jim on another level besides the physical. She usually obliged for fearing of losing him or for the chance to make him love her.

Their rendezvous became something sort of like a spiritual revelation as they became one in the physical, metaphysical, and sometimes mentally, but never emotionally. Jim was cold to the emotional stakes of love and the oneness and specialness of intimacy.

Regardless of some of these setbacks and the little jealous and non-chalant games they played together over the years, they had some sort of hypnotic spell that kept them coming back for more.

Judy was committed to this relationship despite Jim's non-comittment to anything. The only things he seemed to come back to was Judy, albeit in between a herd of other girls who couldn't connect with him or intrigue him mentally.

Towards the end of the book and ultimately Jim's life, an expressed profession of love was said between the two. Honesty started to flow between the two of them, there was hope for Judy's dream. At that time however, the drugs and the alcohol became to much for a mere mans body. He became gaunt, disheveled and unstable. His oozing sexuality and "god-like" stature was gone, he was the shell of what was.

Morrison's untimely death in Paris was the end of Judy's childhood, and although one life seemed to come to an end, her life really just began. She was free to be a person not bound by a life of inconsistency. Jim was alive in her memory and in every facet of her senses, and that affection would never grow stale.