Monday, October 28, 2013

Backslashes and Bad Ideas 'There's No Place Like Home' EP Review

Local Staten Island band, Backslashes and Bad Ideas, are gearing up to release their second EP, There's No Place Like Home, off of Harbor RecordsNovember 9.

The band is:
Nick DePalo - Vocals/Guitar
Josh Crono - Vocals/Guitar
Ricky Abolt - Vocals/Guitar
Nick Colella - Bass
Ed Mone - Drums

With the musical stylings of post Tell All Your Friends, Taking Back Sunday and early Brand New, B&BI make the music of mid 2000s teenagers "mix CDs," but with updated flare for 2014.

"North By Noreaster" is a great intro instrumental track. It features nice acoustic guitar work, and a happy feel good bass line that eases the listener into what is sure to be something fantastic.

"Defend Josh's Life Choices," speak of the Devil, it's an ex-Taking Back Sunday member on a track! Fred Mascherino, former guitarist and secondary vocalist of TBS, makes an appearance on this track and fits perfectly. 

I am throughly impressed with this song for several reasons. 1) The song rocks. 2) B&BI have Fred "I've gotta bad feeling about this" on a track! 3) I prefer DePalo's vocal performance on this, and think he outshines the feature. Kudos Nick!

The next track is, "No Matter What Happens, Don't Ask Who." The opening is pretty cool because it is kind of mellow, but punky at the same time. Mone's double bass gallop throughout the song is most welcome, as is the guitars that weave in and out seamlessly.

This track has several different parts to it with the real highlight coming in the bridge over some guitar shredding and dual vocals.

"Conditions" follows, and is a perfect example of everything that is on this album. Depalo's smooth, calm vocals contrast nicely with Crono's more heavy and raspy background vocals…Then, just as you're ready to get to the end of the song, enter the female vocals!

The ending of the song is pretty awesome, three vocals going on, three distinct guitars going on, really strong start, and and even better ending to the song.

Following in vein of the last track, "Southern Tea" is an acoustic track that in its own way feels like a stripped down single reminiscent on something from Pop Goes Punk. I would love to hear this song with the full band just to gauge it. However, it is great as is!

Closing out the EP is "Wearing Thin." Shout out to Staten Island in this song! This is probably the most aggressive song of the album, and actually my favorite as well. Depalo and Crono showoff the throaty sing songy rasp scream, which makes this track all sorts of awesome. 

During the bridge Depalo speaks over a small musical break before gang vocals burst onto the scene and bring the EP home.

Backslashes again does a phenomenal job on this EP. Their sound has matured and evolved as well since the last release. The addition of the third guitar is evident as well. The drums are great, the strings are good all around, and the vocals stand up and stand out. The dual smack of DePalo's low with Crono's highs add a perfect dichotomy that this band needs.

The boys of Backslashes are making moves, and if their first EP was a step in the right direction, this one is a leap onto the highway. 

Keep up the good work fellas!

Pick up There's No Place Like Home November 9 at the Atlicic and Backslashes and Bad Ideas EP release show.

See B&BI's last review for their EP, Nothing Left to Give.

Dying Eyes of Sloth Reunion Show and New Music

Metal heads Dying Eyes of Sloth are back and reuniting November 17th after a few away in various projects such as Incognito Theory and InDisguise.

They re-released and remastered their 2010 EP, Book of Blood.

Listen to it and purchase it for $4 at -

Also available are pre-sale tickets for the reunion show -

Show info - Dying Eyes Of Sloth will be playing with "SIX FEET UNDER" and "JUNGLE ROT" at Dingbatz in Clifton, NJ. Advance tickets are $25 and $30 day of show.

All those who pre-order will be given a free download code for the EP as well as entered in to win a free t-shirt and physical EP.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Matthew West Brings to Light God's 'Chosen,' in Stories of Redemption, Love and Forgiveness (INTERVIEW)

Originally this article was for the Christian Post, read it here.

Matthew West, an artist known for his vivid storytelling and in-depth musical stories, chatted with The Christian Post to speak about his newest release, Into The Light: Life Stories & Live Songs.

After a series of life changing turns including a lost dream for baseball, an almost career-threatening guitar playing arm injury, and problems with his vocal chords; West has managed to find provision through God's favor and has pushed on.

Christian Post: Your newest release, Into The Light: Life Stories & Live Songs; why was it something you wanted to do as far as the CD/DVD combination?

Matthew West: Over the past few years, I've been on a mission to tell a story of a different kind. Instead of writing songs inspired by my own story, I have given people everywhere an invitation to tell me their stories and inspire my songs. Three years and 25,000 stories later, I have now recorded two projects inspired entirely by these peoples' stories. The live DVD was an opportunity to allow people to take these powerful stories home with them.

CP: Do you perform any of the songs differently live than you would on the album?

MW: Songs always take on a new form from the studio to the stage. There may be a song that is fully produced on the record that I decide to just play how I wrote it – with an acoustic guitar or piano. Some songs just translate better with a more intimate delivery, and others are received better by the crowd if the whole band is rocking. All in all, the show is like a roller coaster by design. I want it to rock a bit more than you'd expect from me, and still get just as personal and intimate as you might expect from a singer/songwriter.

CP: Can you please speak on some of the themes represented on the album, and how would you like people to come out of listening to the album?

MW: The overall theme of the record comes from 1 Peter 2:9. The scripture calls us a "chosen people." It says we are a "people belonging to God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." The people who have inspired songs on this record are individuals who have bravely brought their story out of the darkness and into God's perfect light so that he might shine through them and bring hope to a hurting world.

There are stories of a broken marriage being restored, a victim of abuse who found God's healing in her broken past, a woman who learned the power of forgiveness from tragic drunk driving, and the stories go on and on. One by one, the common thread of God's redemption at work in peoples' lives comes through loud and clear.

CP: Do you think music is a good evangelism tool, why or why not?

MW: Music has a unique way of helping to unlock the doors of a heart and let that heart begin to feel again. Time and time again, I've seen how God uses music in someone's life who may never darken the door of a church, but will turn on a radio station or listen to a CD. God's voice is not limited to the confines of a church. With that said, I think it is important for Christian artists and songwriters to be mindful of the potential impact the music we make can have, and to make sure that the songs we write are real, authentic, and clearly communicate the message of the gospel.

CP: How hard was the decision to pick music over baseball and how do you think your life would be different if you chose the other way?

MW: That decision was made for me! I couldn't hit a curve ball and I didn't get one single scholarship offer. God used that experience though, to remind me that His plan for my life is ultimately better than any plan I could come up with on my own. I've learned that even if it looks different than we might have planned it, ultimately there is no better or more fulfilling place we could be than the center of God's will for each of us.

CP: How important do you think it is to find God's calling on your life and stick it through?

MW: It is essential. John 10:10 assures us that God has come to give us life to the fullest. But sadly, many of us miss out on a full life because we never fully surrender to God's dream for us.

CP: How have you evolved as an artist since your first release, and is there anything you wish you have done differently over the years?

MW: Well, I hope I've evolved for the better; better songwriting, better singing, more effective communicator from the stage. But more importantly than that, I do feel like I have greater clarity as to why I do what I do, and I don't take lightly the fact that this is not some singing career. This is a ministry. Every song and every show is an opportunity to tell someone about the God that can change his or her life. I'm more mindful of that now than ever. I have even started a non-profit ministry with my dad that offers prayer and counseling to people online and at my shows so that each person gets the chance to grow deeper in their faith and to know they are not alone.

CP: You've written songs for a number of artists. Who was your favorite to work with, and how do you approach writing a song for someone else?

MW: Writing with and for other artists requires an entirely different mindset than when I'm writing for my own projects. I just sort of switch thinking caps, and my whole focus is how to serve that artist and their platform. With Casting Crowns, Mark Hall knows exactly what God has laid on his heart to communicate. I'm just there for musical purposes and maybe some lyrical perspective.
Sometimes, it's about getting out of the way and being an encourager when needed. Songwriting can be a painfully isolated process. Many times, we don't need a co-writer to get the song written, we just need a cheerleader! Someone handing us a cup of water and cheering us on to the finish line. Sometimes I feel like that when I'm writing with another artist. Whatever role I need to be in, I try to ebb and flow to help the process and not hinder it.

CP: Anything else to add?

MW: My new book is called "Forgiveness: Doing the Impossible." Thomas Nelson was kind enough to let me write it, and this is another way people can experience some of the stories that I have read over the past few years. I hope people will check it out and be encouraged by it.

West has five albums since 2003, and has been nominated for eight Dove Awards, winning once for his 2003 album, Happy.

He is currently out on the Into the Light Tour with Jason Castro and Sidewalk Prophets.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Former Superchick Frontwoman Tricia on Family, Going Solo and Real Beauty

This original interview was done of the Christian Post. Read it here.

Tricia, the former frontwoman of Christian pop-punk band Superchick, released her second solo album, Radiate, in August and just finished up a tour in support of it.

Tricia chatted with CP in an email interview and spoke about her views on being a role model, transitioning from rock to pop, healthy self-image and being a mom.

From punky rockstar to pop star. Is it tough musically to write for yourself as a solo artist than as a band, and how did you transition into the style of music you are doing now? 
The whole transition has been harder than I imagined it would be. I was used to writing as a band, and in Superchick, Max was the main writer. Being solo has stretched me, but I'm becoming a better writer. I'm not really even sure how we came into this sound. It's definitely more pop than a lot of Superchick albums. We knew going into it that's what we had planned. I guess albums tend to be reflective of the season we're in. We had just had our little girl (our first) and I think it was a happy, pop music season! 

How is Radiate different from The Road, and do you feel you have progressed as an artist since your first release?
As different as they can be! I had always hoped to record a worship album. It was kind of how I found my voice in worship as a kid. So that was a really special thing for me to do all around. My dad, sister and husband all sang on the album with me and I'm so proud of those songs because they were from our heart. I definitely think Nick and I are constantly learning as writers and him as a producer. I'm learning what I love to sing live; that's always important to me to – loving the songs that I sing live!

What's it like working with your husband on the album as far as the writing and production work?
We had to learn how to communicate, how to work and not take things personally. You have to be honest and try to be perfectionists, so that was the hardest part, I think. And sometimes the fact that our studio is here in our house, it's hard for us to walk away from it like a normal job. 

What are the themes of your album, and what overall message are you trying to convey?
God’s faithfulness, self-image, being an individual, dependence on God, acceptance of who I am and where God has me in this moment, choosing to be grateful for the good every day, choosing joy today no matter the circumstances around us and the list goes on!

In August Superchick announced their breakup. Was this a necessary step towards the future for your development to move forward as an artist, or more of "the right time?"
It was definitely the right time. When our drummer Chase passed away, I think we felt like there needed to be a goodbye and kind of an explanation to our fans. After 15 years there is such a relationship with fans and radio teams and everyone who's a part of your career. We didn't want there to be rumors or have it be anything it wasn't to our fans. It definitely helped our fans understand why I was going out on my own and that I hadn't broken up the band to do my own thing. 

Do you perform any Superchick material in your sets, and do you see possible reunions in the future?
Yes, I play a few of the favorites in my full sets! These songs have never gotten old to me and I still love that I was a part of something so special for so many years. I still hear stories of how our songs helped someone through a season when they were broken or hopeless. I love that songs are sort of a legacy and they will go on long after bands stop touring. 

I keep saying that I wouldn't be surprised if the chance came to tour together again one day, and I would be the first to sign up! I look back at the time with Superchick and feel so blessed by God choosing us and letting us travel the world and be a part of something really special as well as becoming family in the process. For me to have been able to do this with my sister, no words can describe how much fun we had together!! 

How important do you feel it is to be an example to young woman as someone with a platform to do so?
I believe that we all are leaders and each one of us chooses whether we will take that role seriously. But I do think we are accountable with what we do with our positions of leadership in life. I love that I have a chance to speak into girls’ lives! I remember vividly what high school years were like. I remember struggles and fears and insecurities and I want to be an example of a strong, courageous woman who is willing to be vulnerable about my faults and my struggles. Trying to appear perfect just doesn't work and it's exhausting. 

What would you say to girls who try to be the embodiment of perfection because of what they see in magazines, TV, etc?
My song “Mirror Mirror” really says a lot of how I feel. It angers me that the way beauty is portrayed is almost that it's the beautiful, "perfect" people who are happy. That happiness or wealth is a result of outward looks. There is not such thing as “perfect” and beauty is so much more than our reflection. I had people who really spoke those truths into me as a teenager and it helped me re-focus when I would start to obsess with how I looked and to think that who I am is just my reflection.

Do you feel music is a great tool for evangelism and why?
Music seems to be able to speak to people in a way just words can't. I know God uses it at just the perfect times in our lives to heal and encourage us. I love to be a part of that in someone's life! I get to meet people who were strangers and they share their heart and their stories of awful times in life and that I was a part of healing for them. I am so humbled by it and I love how it connects us as people from all over the world.

What would you like God to say to you about your career when it is all said and done?
I imagine what we all want to hear – “well done, my good and faithful servant!” I'm sure my heart hasn't been right every moment of every day, but when I pause and have God moments I know in my heart why I have stayed in this ministry for this long and still don't feel like God has moved me yet. I love to be a part of changing people's lives. Of making someone smile when they haven't for so long. Thinking that my songs can reach someone I haven't and may never meet, such a gift! 

What's in the immediate future for Tricia?
I just did a month of touring this record and had such a great time! This winter I am mostly home being a wife and mom. And at this point, we just pray that these songs start to connect with people. Next year the plan is to tour as much as we can! We will just keep writing in our down seasons and we will see where God takes us this year. I've gotten kind of used to a lot of working and then trusting and waiting in this career. We can only do our best and then see what happens and what doors open. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sara Groves Interview 'Seek Out Things that are Inspiring, Whole, and Noble'

This is an original interview I did for the Christian Post. Read the original post here.

Christian singer/songwriter Sara Groves is releasing a compilation album on Sept. 17 called The Collection, which will highlight what she feels is the best music of her 15-year 10-album career.

Groves exclusively debuted her first promotional performance video, "All Right Here" on the Christian Post two weeks ago, and now has answered a few questions about her upcoming album, her life right now, and her thoughts about her career s a whole.

Christian Post: You are releasing The Collection on the 17th. Why did you feel it was the appropriate time to put together this album, and will it differ from the standard versions of them?

Sara Groves: We hit ten records and fifteen years on the road I thought it was a good time to reflect back and celebrate that time. I won't claim that it is much different from other best-of albums, but we did work to assemble the list ourselves, so it is not just a list generated by our label; it was lovingly assembled! And then there are four new songs on the record.

CP: Why did you choose for the first video to be "All Right Here" and do you think these live performance videos offer a different side of you?

SG: "All Right Here" basically says that my life is a collection of all of the experiences that have happened to me, so it seemed fitting to feature that song in a stripped down version. I have always loved singing, "every heart has so much history/ that's my favorite place to start / sit down a while and share your narrative with me / I'm not afraid of who you are."

CP: When played in the order you have the songs, do you feel the music carries a theme or flows in a different way than they did apart?

SG: Yes, I think with this collection you see themes emerge. Some of my most visited topics would have to be marriage, our role in social justice, the integration of faith into our everyday lives, the intimacy of a walk with God, and letting grace abound!

CP: How have you grown or changed as an artist since releasing your first album?

SG: Well, I've just gotten older! That has brought children, and now a teenager even, and life change – but I think my goals for myself have changed a great deal. I feel a real desire for simplicity, and to lean into the things that I am made to do and be. I feel in my gut a desire to make a record that really takes it out of me, to write something that goes beyond my ability. I have always written from a very emotional place. The craft of songwriting has always been a secondary thought. But when I read good literature, and hear good songs, I see a lack of self- consciousness by the author that I have not yet attained. I have been moving in that direction, but I wonder what that would be like for a whole album.

CP: How do you feel the four brand new songs hold up against some of your best work?

SG: Yeah, it was hard to write songs to put on a 'best-of' collection. I decided to think reminiscently instead about those 15 years. We have lived on the road for a decade and a half on the kindness of strangers – that felt like a good complimentary theme. "Blessed Be the Tie" is one of the only hymns written about Christian community and also felt like a good fit to our journey with other artists, and with the people listening to the music. "Strangely Ready" is also a fit for that place of reflection and vision – I don't know where I'm headed, but I feel a strange preparedness for what comes next in this spot in St. Paul that God has led us to. "Lay it Down" rounds out these same ideas – our struggles are common to all men, so don't go it alone.

CP: Now that you have the greatest hits out of the way, what is next for you, and can you see yourself going another 15 years or so?

SG: I hope to take some very intentional time in making my next record. I feel something inside that I don't have language for and I sense a real challenge in getting it right. Aside from that, Troy and I are still enjoying our work with Art House North in St. Paul, MN and plan on bringing more thoughtful people to the Twin Cities. I haven't ever followed a big career plan. I will keep making music, and if people keep listening, that's great. And if they don't, I will probably still be playing and writing anyway.

CP: Do you think music is a good tool for the gospel? Why or why not?

SG: I will say yes, but with a caveat by Charlie Peacock who once said – "the Gospel is the ocean, and we keep writing about a cup of water." We could also have a longer conversation about music as tool, where I would heavily quote Makoto Fujimura's thoughts on art as utility!

CP: What would you say to young girls or teens whose only role model for a woman is what they see on television?

SG: I think I can't fill voids by talking about what is missing – I have to seek out things that are inspiring, whole, noble, excellent, praiseworthy and expose my kids to those things. Then they are drawn to what is, instead of standing at the edges of this chasm that I have created by telling them what everything isn't.

CP: After all these years playing music, does the purpose and focus of creating music ever waiver or change?

SG: Sure. I go through seasons of great frustration and doubt, and then ride the euphoric waves of creativity and vision again! But the role that music plays in my life hasn't changed much – this is how I sort out my life.

Groves released her first album, Past the Wishing, in 1998, and earned an Album of the Year title for 2005's Add to the Beauty by CCM Magazine. She has three Dove Award nominations and had a contribution to the book, The Art of Being, in 2004.