32 Leaves – Pensive Music For The Soul

Since briefly touring in support of their album Panorama in 2009, not much has been heard from the band. 32 Leaves is a unique breed of music. Haunting melodies and atmospheric vocals fill the voids between energetic guitar riffs and pounding drum beats.

I remember discovering the band in 2006. One of my friends had been completely immersed in listening to their music. I never even gave them a second thought after he’d mentioned them. Another one of my friends let me borrow one of his mix CDs to rip a song. I merely stumbled upon “Your Lies.” I couldn’t figure out why they sounded familiar.

Suffice to say, I had been missing out on one of the greatest bands I could have ever listened to. By the time I had gotten into them, two years had passed.

32 Leaves released a five track EP titled Fik’shen in 2003. The first three tracks would later make their way onto their first full-length album Welcome To The Fall in 2005. Beginning with “Sudden Change,” the album chronicles pensive emotions like no other. “Blood On My Hands” starts with a looming bass, and in comes the spidery guitars, crawling into the skin. “Your Lies” pushes the boundaries on the standard use of drums. “Wide Awake” takes the listener on the journey of a person in an insomniatic state, rendered lucid with fear from an inebriated significant other. Descending from an emotional cocaine high, “Overflow” paints a vivid picture of coming down one step at a time. The lead single from the album, “All Is Numb,” follows suit with its predecessor songs in telling vocalist Greg Norris’s narrative.

The next two years, 32 Leaves would tour in support of their debut album with Crossfade, Smile Empty Soul, Evans Blue, and similar in sound, 10 Years. They were able to attract Universal Records to sign a deal for their follow-up album Panorama, but it ultimately did not work out. Independently releasing the long-awaited second release, the band toured only minimally.

Panorama takes off from where the previous record left off, but with a slightly different approach. Songs were still thought-provoking, but not nearly as brooding and pensively. Guitars took on a different mix, slightly on the higher side, changing the overall sound of Panorama. The single “Way Beyond” was released as a part of the album. Songs like “Human” and “Protocol” show the evolution of 32 Leaves four years later, and stronger than ever.

32 Leaves is a definite must-have for any rocker’s arsenal, especially if they’re fans of 10 Years.

Herotide – “Music Was My Only Outlet”

Hailing from South Africa, Herotide have been making a name for themselves. Started by John Dirker after breaking his back from a dirt bike accident, the band has trudged its way through the local music scene attracting much attention. Beginning with a 5FM Unearthed contest under the name Switchback, Dirker ended up winning the contest with the song “Troublegirl.” It’s never been about selling millions of records and claiming fame for them. They do what they love, and it shows through their music. Occasionally, criticized for trying to imitate bands like Seether and Theory Of A Deadman, the truth is that they just write what they feel, and any similarities are simply coincidence. Dirker’s personal story of how he started writing music is inspirational, to say the least. Being laid up in bed, losing many who were close to him, and almost never walking again, it’s a testimony to something greater looking out for him. It’s something that has inspired others and helped them keep going.

There’s a certain honesty in your lyrics that I feel anyone can relate to. How do the lyrics come about when writing your songs?
Thank you. Yeah, I just write about what bothers me, or what is going through my head. I don’t try and be a poet or over think it at all, or try and impress people that I have a vocabulary, just plain English and plain feelings. We all have love, miss, hate, etc.

For most of the fans I’ve talked to, “Want You” is the reason they started listening to Herotide. For me, the song “Friend” was the song that hooked me when I first heard it. While most of your other songs are upbeat, this one slows down the tempo and seems somewhat mournful. What was the inspiration behind “Friend?”
You are so right about “Want You.” I think it’s the song and sound people liked, and that they can compare it to their favorite artists, place it so to speak. It wouldn’t be bad idea doing a music vid for it.

“Friend” — The inspiration about that song was from being in the hospital. I had many, many friends, until I broke my back. I could count them on my right hand. I wrote it lying on my back and the words just came out by itself from what I was feeling.

Within the last year, your fan base has exploded and you are playing RAMfest 2012. What are you anticipating for that festival?
Thank you, it surely has. It’s merely ‘cause I got members again and we started doing shows. Thats how it all flamed up again. We landed some big gigs as a new band “Herotide” doing a massive New Year’s show and Ramfest coming up. The Festival should be cool and very well received. They will be having it in 5 cities across S.A.

Being in the US, I haven’t had the privilege to see Herotide play any shows. What songs do you usually play in a setlist?
It depends what crowd there is. We always have to feel them, or if it’s a conservative setting, but “Track of Time,” “Losing Me,” and “Want You” are normally on the setlist, but we always throw in new ones and test them out too.

What’s your favorite song to play live?
Track of Time

I originally discovered your music because I found a blog saying you sounded a little like Shaun Morgan of Seether. How do you feel about people making comparisons to what you write and other bands?
Yeah it’s becoming old news, its irritating, but it’s a good and bad thing at the same time. But I guess it makes people notice right? lol nothing against Shaun or Seether though, cause I know him. He’s even been at my Recording Studio, Tanglewoods Studios, and home.

I guess it’s the Nirvana influence we both have, my accent and my voice, like Sick Puppies from Australia. There’s a few bands in Australia that sounds similar to them ‘cause of the vocals department

What does your pedalboard look like when it comes to effects. Is it the standard clean/distortion, or are there other nuances that you add?
I play with a Mesa Boogie Triple rectifier with 4/12 Cab

The core of Herotide has been you and your brother Andre. Is that how the band started?
Not at all. Long story short, there’s been many members that have come and gone and that’s actually how Andre started. He saw with what nonsense I had to put up, he wanted to do it. Well he pulled it off big time and now I couldn’t ask for a better drummer, and being my brother, what a bonus.

herotide_banner[1]You’ve been competing against other bands in the South African music scene for almost a decade now. How do the other bands differ in sound from what you do?
There aren’t bands really from SA that has a similar sound to us. Most have a Indie sound, like The Killers. A lot play with synths and tracks, or your metal bands.

Halo was released in 2008 under the name Track Of Time. You changed your name from Switchback to Track Of Time, to Herotide now. The one thing that I’ve noticed remained consistent through most of it was the use of the angel wings in your logos and promotional material. What is the meaning behind the wings?
Yea, both names ended up with legal issues, but hey at least we have a name now that comes up first on all search engines haha.

The angel wings inspiration comes from me being nearly paralyzed, like I had a guardian angel watching over me, and that I could walk again.

When can we expect the next album to be released, and what is the possibility for you to be signed by a major label?
We will be releasing EP’s this year. It’s more material and content in a short span, and then do a album compilation after a cycle.

Don’t know about the major label thing as we haven’t given it any thought. The industry isn’t big here, well for English rock there isn’t. There was a lot of interest in the U.S. from many industry people. Roadrunner was one of them. I even have the e-mails still, but each time when something great happened, it fell through. I guess its cause were on a different continent, and it’s a risk for them, but who knows what the future holds or who’s eyes are looking at us.

You’ve recently played Mossel Bay, the KFC sessions, and other huge shows, and it seems like Herotide is gaining momentum. What’s in the near future for you guys?
Thank you, it’s just keeping at it and what you love to do!
We will be doing a crossover to a different language Afrikaans and release Afrikaans material that were currently busy with but join us to see what were up to www.facebook.com/herotide.

HURT – An Interview With Drummer Victor Ribas

Hurt began as a creation of vocalist J. Loren Wince in 2000. After self-releasing two albums, Hurt was picked up by Capitol Records, releasing Vol. 1 and Volume II before being dropped by the label for “strictly financial reasons.” One of the most recognized of Hurt’s repertoire, “Ten Ton Brick,” was actually intended for another album, but was forced to be included on the tracklisting by pressure from the label. After being manipulated by record labels, replacing every single member of the band except Loren himself, Hurt continues to thrive on. Self-producing Goodbye To The Machine in 2009, their sound changed slightly, giving every one of their records an identity. Their latest work is due for release on March 27, titled The Crux. This highly anticipated album has already garnered great reviews on its first single “How We End Up Alone” with one critic raving, “This is undoubtedly the most underrated band in rock today. Do not miss The Crux… and if they come anywhere near your town, drive over your own grandma for tickets if you have to!”

The band that sets to defy industry standards today might be taking a backseat to more trendy pop-oriented music, but their loyal fan base keeps pushing. In a symbiotic relationship, the band relies on the fans just as much as the fans depend on their music. And the band never forgets it. I was lucky enough to have the pleasure of interviewing Hurt’s newest addition, Victor Ribas.
Hey, Victor, I appreciate you taking the time for doing the interview. You’re Hurt’s new drummer on the forthcoming release “The Crux.”  Most of the guys are from the eastern U.S. but you’re from Seattle. How did you land the gig to play with the band?
First, you’re welcome.  It’s my pleasure to chat.   Hmmmm.  Joining HURT.  That seems so long ago. I believe I was in San Diego for a few days attending a Buddhist Convention when I got a call from an old guitar player friend of mine back in Saint Louis.  He asked me if I’d ever heard of the band HURT.  At the time, I had only heard of the band’s radio songs like “Rapture,” “Ten Ton Brick,” and “Falls Apart.” So, my buddy mentioned meeting Michael at a show and caught wind that the band was quietly seeking a new drummer.  Michael got my number and he called me a few days later.  The band flew me to Sickhouse Studios in Saint Louis for the audition.  They had me learn a whole list of songs from all of the records, which proved to be much more challenging than I had originally expected.  But honestly the story that sticks out from the audition the most is what happened in between playing HURT songs.  For the audition, I was playing on someone else’s drum kit and was just messing around to get comfortable. I started playing one of my favorite drum grooves ever, the breakdown from Tool’s “Eulogy” (“You claimed all this time that you would die for me…..”)  I’ve always been a huge fan of Danny Carey from Tool, and that groove is just really fun to play. I stopped and it was obvious the guys knew what I was playing. Michael flipped out, Rek had this grin on his face, and J. said something straight forward like, “Man that’s pretty good.”  I could tell that it had made an impression. After the audition we all stepped outside and sat down for a chat. They asked me questions that you’d expect; “Where did you come from?, Do you have any serious commitments that would prevent you from touring? Do you have any serious financial debts?” Stuff like that. After about 20 minutes of railing me, the guys said another drummer would be showing up at any minute for another audition. As I walked out the front door, another guy was walking in. That was a little awkward.  The next day I got a call from all the guys on speakerphone telling me to get my ass to Saint Louis.  Five days after that I played my first show with HURT in Saint Louis at a festival called Pointfest in front of around 15,000 people.

What is your favorite part of playing with Hurt so far?
It would have to be that we all challenge each other to better ourselves as musicians and artists. All of us have very high expectations for each other because we all realize just how talented we all are. I am EXTREMELY lucky to be playing with some of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever met. I could tell during my first rehearsal with the band that they would challenge me no matter how good or bad I was. On top of that I enjoy the brotherhood that we’ve become.  All of us are in this for the same reasons, aiming for the same goal. Not one of us is unappreciative of the other and that lays a foundation of respect that fosters great musicianship. Also, since joining the band I’ve learned a great deal about the business side of things from our manager, Tom. I’m grateful for that.

Going from Vol. 1 & II to Goodbye To The Machine, there were two different drummers. You replaced Louie Sciancalepore in 2010 and had a hand in the writing of The Crux. How does your style of playing complement Hurt’s compositions on this next album?
Really tough question to answer.  When joining an already established band with an already established sound, it’s important to find your role in the family because that role has probably already been defined by the previous drummers.  Honestly, from the first rehearsals and first tour, I could tell that above all other things, the band needed a drummer who was open minded enough to try their ideas. My style of playing is one of open mindedness and collaboration. Two heads are better than one, three better than two, etc….   I think a lot of drummers get so caught up in the rhythms in their head that they forget that a song usually starts out as some words and a guitar riff.  It’s important not to get in the way of that.  I wanted to see how the band would react to having a kind of freedom where they can come up with beats for the songs they had written. When working on THE CRUX, the guys would show me a song and, like always, a million ideas would come into my head.  But I wanted to let them experiment with rhythms in their own heads before I laid down any foundation.  It was all very collaborative.  Also, the band really emphasized the fact that they were going big with this album. J. wanted this to be the best HURT record released to date, so I knew the drum sounds had to be huge but also diverse in sounds and dynamics.  I definitely believe we achieved that goal.

When you were younger you had a rare hip disease that almost prevented you from being able to play the drums. When everything was said and done, how did that affect your ability to play and the life you had as a child? I assume growing up with that condition must have been difficult and probably changed the way you looked at life.
It didnt just almost prevent me from playing drums. At the age of 7 or so they almost had to amputate my leg. As a result of the illness, when i was a child I had a few years that were somewhat difficult. Not being able to do physically active things. But I believe that knowing I could have lost my leg gave me a very strong appreciation for life and what I do now. Although, I think I may have still ended up a musician regardless. Who knows?
What kindled your interest in playing music?
When I was five years old my mom forced me into piano lessons. I pretty much instantly fell in love with music. I can confidently say that I would not be the person I am today had I not become a musician. For me, drums have become a method of expressing myself when I feel as though I cannot. I think the rest of the band sees music in the same way and thats why we work so well as an ensemble.  You can hear in J.’s voice he’s singing something real, EVERY SINGLE TIME. I like to believe he does that because sometimes just saying the words doesn’t communicate the point enough. I can relate to that.
Your boss gave you a week off to record the drum tracks. How easy is it to hold a job and pursue your passion?
Great question.  I wouldn’t know.  I don’t have a day job.
You will be continuing the acoustic tour until the end of February due to popular demand by fans. When stripping down the performance, what changes stylistically?
Very little changes stylistically. We could tell early on that most of the songs lended themselves to an acoustic setting naturally.  However, what does change is the voicing of the instruments. We have a cello player on tour with us, J. plays guitar, banjo, and violin, and Rek has a few basses. I play a lot of odd ended things in the acoustic show:  hand drums, chimes, singing bowls, tambourine, Latin blocks, etc…  And I also play my kit with a wide range of mallets, brushes, multi sticks, and drum sticks. From the beginning of rehearsals it was very challenging to hear how the drum parts would mold with acoustic instrumentation.  But as time went on, the show grew and became something really intimate and magical.  By the end of December, I felt very comfortable with the reconstructed drum parts. We also removed any sense of smoke and mirrors from the show. No big lights or smoke machines. Just four guys playing our hearts out in front of our fans. I can honestly say that some of my favorite shows I’ve ever performed have been from the acoustic tour.
Do you have any crazy stories from touring this last year?

Do you mean other than J. almost getting arrested, nearly dying on the highway, going three days without sleep, J. throwing his guitar on stage during a show, the power going out at another, playing backstage for fans, losing my phone, waking up in strange places…..next to strange people, and almost getting mugged next to the Mexican border? Yes………………..  No comment.

Check out one such crazy story at: http://banana1015.com/j-loren-of-hurt-talks-about-a-crazy-night-in-detroit/

Alright man, thanks a lot for your time. Any last words you want to say to your fans?

Of course.  To the fans I would like to say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, for doing what you do for this band.  It allows us to do what we do and that’s such an amazing thing. You are our family and friends. Also, be ready. We have HUGE things planned for 2012.

Saturate: “In Our Own Way” – The Only Way We Would Have It

saturate[1]The first artist to be featured is a well-deserving band from Baytown, TX. Their sound is so unique, I won’t even try to classify them. SATURATE has been working hard to promote their name since their conception in 2005. Their last album, The Point Of No Return is a culmination of various influences that make their music what it is. Most importantly, they stress that the music should speak for itself.

The Point Of No Return yielded a strong arsenal of songs that further expands on Saturate’s first record, Soul Element. They are currently working hard on their next release, with the lead single “In Our Own Way” being a strong start. I interviewed vocalist Jimmy Miller about what  approach to music he and his fellow bandmates take when writing material.
Your songs are so different from what I’m used to hearing. What inspires you to write music with such a distinct sound that can be identified as Saturate?
We never set out to write anything other than what we felt inside of us.  Each member of Saturate had been involved in a music scene for many years and had been through the trials and tribulations of being a young musician before ever having joined this band.  Moving beyond that identity of youth and inexperience was the basic goal we set for ourselves and for our music upon Saturate’s formation.  We wanted to play the music we would be proud of for the years to come without current industry styles or trends getting in the way of what we felt was inside of us, and we felt that what we had to say and the music we had to write was worth it.  As for our sound I think that our albums paint a vivid picture of the fact that what we ‘feel’ is what we put down… i.e. you can’t sit listen to one track and fully grasp what we are about, each track reaches in its own direction and paints its own picture.  The strange part about that though is where this question started about the “Saturate sound”….if you’re listening to one of our tracks whether it’s hard, soft, acoustic, rhythmic, reggae or whatever, you know instantly that it’s Saturate.  The reason behind that though is beyond me for sure, but the best reason I could probably give you is that we (the four of us) have always had a connection and been kindred spirits long before we ever met and will long after we’ve gone….that sound will always be ours and ours alone, whether it can be defined or not.
You recently parted ways with your keyboardist; how has this changed the way that the band writes now that you are a four-piece?
To be honest it didn’t change a thing about the way we write.  We started Saturate long before there was an official keyboard/synth player and while it was good and right for its time, that time has now passed and we’re focused on the same goals and passion that have always driven the core of this band, the music.
My favorite track from your last release was “Hollow Eyes.” The lyrics are captivating, and the song itself is powerful. It’s one that you rarely play live, but I’ve seen a video where Jimmy introduces it saying, “If you know somebody who does too many pills… I just want you to know this song is about losing somebody.” What is the message behind it?
Actually that song (along with every song we’ve put down on record) has been played countless (hundreds) of times live…the reason our songs seem to get lost in the live show is the amount of shows we play for one, the way we decide our setlists (based on crowd reaction on the fly), and also the fact that we debut our songs in their infantile stages.  By the time we get the songs perfected, laid down in the studio, mixed, & then mastered, we are already focused on newer music that will be on the next album.  I remember the quote you are talking about in introducing Hollow Eyes and that was more of a broken thought that I bit my tongue on.  I started to say something and halfway through I decided to keep it inside and change my words, however I will say that in referring to ‘losing someone’ I was more speaking to the idea of losing someone as you knew them, or losing the idea of someone and the way they existed in your mind (their own changes that didn’t mirror your expectations of them as a person or loved one).  Some people just let you down, ya know.  That embodies what Hollow Eyes is really about… about coming to terms with what a relationship has transformed into and what that other person has done to themselves (and I don’t necessarily mean relationship in the traditional sense, any kind of human interaction is what I refer to in all of our songs).
Can you elaborate on the music video for “Keep Digging?” The lyrics alone have so much meaning behind them, and the video only amplifies that. It’s not the typical verse-chorus-verse that everyone hears so often, and it seems to me more like a narrative with a story.
While all of our songs have many many different ways of looking at them and different stories hidden in the overall theme, Keep Digging is at its core a story.  A story from the outside in of a boy digging his hole, much as the old saying about digging your own grave.  The difference here is that he (the boy) knows it, he craves it, he wants it, and he wants to dig a grave/hole so deep that he breaks through to the other side of whatever ground he is on.  The old man (narrator) standing on the edge of the hole is in fact his older, calmer self, who has long since forgotten why he would have ever put so much passion into what seems such a meaningless and self-destructive path, but the boy knows better, he feels it and so he acts upon that feeling digging deeper still with every bit of shouting that his passionless future screams at him.  It’s means many things really but in this instance it’s about never giving up, never giving in, and never listening to words of doubt no matter what dirt they dig up on you…ask me on a different day and I may decide to let you in on a different aspect if what it all means to me but today that’s where it is at.
The new single “In Our Own Way” was just released and I’m really digging it! I understand that you’re currently in the studio working on your third major album. What can we expect from the next release?
Everyone can expect what they have always expected from Saturate….the unexpected.  When it’s time, you’ll see what I mean.  Expect it in mid-2012.
I also heard that your previous albums were produced solely by yourselves. What is that like? 
It’s the only way we would have it.  I really can’t say any more than that.  If you let someone write your songs for you then you’ve lost your soul.  Not to say that outside influence and assistance isn’t necessary, but when someone comes along that shares our vision of art, music , and lyric for that moment, we instantly know it, and at that point both they and we know what the limits of suggestion are and aren’t.
Your tour with Future Leaders of the World was cut short last year around this time due to lack of funding. With the advent of your next album coming out, are there any places you’d like to visit or bands you’d like to tour with?
We’ve always had a short list of bands we would like to tour with (some reasonable, some not-so-much lol).  But that tour with F.L.O.T.W. was actually a tour with Flaw (one of many), who happen to be close friends of ours in the industry.  Flaw is a band we will tour the country and/or the world with ANY day ANY time, because we understand each other, we know each other, and we love & respect each other on a level that many bands out there have forgotten about in this industry.  There are others we think we would really gel with and would benefit us in huge ways but name-dropping is something we’ve come to not be so fond of, AND you never know who people really are until you peel away the stage and spend some time with them on a personal level.  I think our fans know who we would do well with and we’ll just hope for the best for the future.  I will add that as a band we would like to get overseas to hit Europe pretty badly at some point.
I feel like mainstream radio doesn’t give you the credit you deserve. Is there anything the fans can do to help get you plays on the air or promote your music?
It’s less about cramming us down their throats and more about letting the music speak for itself.  Radio has been good to us but not as good as its been to the cookiecutter bands over-saturating the market these days (forgive the pun lol).  Internet radio is a great start, BUT if people don’t start really supporting FM ROCK RADIO and letting the bigwigs at these stations know what you really want, then it WILL die on us, and it will be sooner than later.  I hope this doesn’t happen in all honesty…I still love the radio, especially rock radio and it makes me sad to see it dying out.  If anyone wants to really help though just do the simple act of playing our music whenever and wherever you can, and sharing us with those that you know will dig it.