Monday, February 28, 2011

D.R.U.G.S. - Debut Album Review

Craig Owens had a lot of weight on his shoulders this past year. After being booted from Chiodos, the singer was adamant on making a return to music with a new band and new record capable of turning some heads. And now, after the release of his band, Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows' (D.R.U.G.S.), first album, it's clear that Owens has shed his past and is putting his music first and foremost.

D.R.U.G.S. is composed of ex-members of Chiodos, Story Of The Year, From First To Last, Matchbook Romance and Underminded. The five-piece decided to enlist the forces of John Feldmann (The Used, Atreyu, Saosin) as the producer for their debut album. Feldmann, having worked with some of the best punk and alternative bands out there today, helped put together a record that will undoubtedly appeal to fans across the board.

The album opens with "If You Think This Song Is About You, It Probably Is", an anthemic track showing both the heavy side and catchiness this band are capable of. Owens' scathing lyrics seamlessly tear apart broken relationships with friends and lovers. "Today was the day you tried to shut me down. / Be honest, / did you ever mention my name? / Did you get sick of the shame? / Did you lie on your back like a whore?"

And the record doesn't slow down from there. Track two may sound familiar to Chiodos fans. Lyrically, "The Only Thing You Talk About" is Chiodos' "Thermacare" set to new music. (Chiodos' "Stratovolcano Mouth" consists of "Thermacare's" old music with new lyrics) It actually works better for the song in this instance, and proves to be one of the heaviest pieces on the record.

Some of D.R.U.G.S.' best work, though, comes during the middle of the album. "Laminated E.T. Animal" is packed with hooks that express the band's deep knowledge of turning a heavy rock song into something catchy - without losing sight of what made the song heavy in the first place.

After eight post-hardcore tracks of consistent screaming, chugging guitars and a double-kick bass drum, you get "I'm Here To Take The Sky" - a pop-punk-esque tune that could pass as radio friendly. It's probably one of the strongest songs on the album, but it can feel funny amongst so many other hard and driving tunes. Nevertheless, it's one you'll be playing on repeat.

Though the entirety of this album is reminiscent of other essential albums like The Used's Lies For The Liars, it does have its weak points. "Sex Life" feels a little unrelatable lyrically. Musically, it also lacks. The verses are the song's strongest attributes leaving the chorus pitchy and discordant.

Overall though, the self-titled debut record from D.R.U.G.S. easily stands as one of the best releases of the year so far. This is the record, and the band, the scene has been missing.

You can catch D.R.U.G.S. on tour this Spring both in the United Kingdom and United States.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bayside - Killing Time Review

When it comes to longevity in the music industry, it's hard to find a band today that have stuck together through the years, and more importantly, haven't altered their sound from record to record. And with the release of Bayside's Killing Time, it's clear that the Long Island outfit stand as one of the few bands that can actually accomplish this.

The 10-track album, released on Wind-Up Records, stands as both a throwback to Bayside's earliest work, and a step toward maturing their sound. Killing Time opens up with "Already Gone", a track that will immediately satisfy fans of the band's 2008 release, Shudder. The opener picks up where Shudder left off, but with enough flair and hard-rock genius to set a tone of anger and emotion that remains present through the other nine tracks.

For fans of Bayside's earlier work, including Sirens and Condolences and their self-titled effort, they need to look no further than songs like "The Wrong Way" and the album's title track. Both tracks prove to be memorably intense and in-your-face thanks to the driving bass lines of Nick Ghanbarian and the screaming lead guitar riffs of Jack O'Shea.

Lead singer Anthony Raneri's lyrics have a way of sticking around once you hear them. Again, as with almost every other Bayside record, Raneri can write about tragedy and heartache without sobbing or feeling sorry for himself. The emotion he copes with on Killing Time are met with a passion and anger that will undoubtedly have crowds exploding toward the stage during live shows.

But the record does have it's slower side, too. The one thing about Bayside is they always leave a little space for something acoustic on each record. This record's unplugged tune comes in the form of "On Love, On Life" - a somewhat depressing account of love lost. "I can't let it bother me / if fact and fate just can't agree / on love, on life. / Can we just stop taking ourselves so seriously?"

All in all, Killing Time moves in a way no other Bayside record has. While it finds a nice mix of fast and slow, anger and aggression, it's the fluidity and consistency each song has that makes the album stand out. No one song is left behind. Each part works in perfect harmony with the last. Nothing is left out, and nothing seems overdone.

Perhaps the real sell for this album is that fine balance between old and new. You can hear Shudder in this record, but it's never too much. You can also hear traces of songs like, "Masterpiece" and "Montauk" riddled through the track listing. But again, it's never too much.

It seems that Bayside have found their stride. While Shudder represented a leap toward maturity, which was ultimately too much, Killing Time has found that balance they were looking for two years ago. All the elements of this band that fans know and love are represented equally. With nothing left out and no one left behind, Bayside have covered their ground nicely.

Armed with Killing Time, look for these guys to take what's left of the scene by storm.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jonny Craig Allegedly Scamming Fans

There's an old adage that says, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." And unfortunately for many fans of Jonny Craig (Emarosa, Dance Gavin Dance), they're learning this the hard way.

Back in January, Craig started posting on his Twitter account that he was selling a MacBook for up to $800 or best offer. His means of doing business were simple - just hit him up on Twitter and the ball would get rolling.

Now, for an artist who has over 38,000 followers, he was bound to get more than a few "@ replies." And as most fans should have suspected, Mr. Craig is not a computer retailer. But regardless, it now seems that a staggering number of fans replied and eventually sent the singer money. You can guess what happened next. recently posted a story from a fan about the alleged rip off. After sending an email offering $550 for the computer, Craig replied to the fan asking for an extra hundred, and gave the fan his phone number so they could work out the deal.

Sure enough, the two started talking and the fan was soon wiring the money over to Craig at a local Walmart. A week went by and the fan hadn't received the computer. Craig claimed not to have sent the MacBook out yet, but assured the fan it would get there - and if not, Craig would offer a full refund.

More time went by. Was a computer ever received? Nope. Was a refund ever given? Nope. Was this an isolated instance? Nope.

Comments on the original story added up quickly. "I had nearly the exact thing happen to me," wrote one reader. That fan sent Craig $600, and now claims Craig will not answer any texts or emails.

"Same thing happened to me," wrote another reader. "I offered him $500 and he said he'd take it, but needed it asap to pay rent." And, as the other stories went, Craig received the money, fans never received any computers and Craig eventually lost touch with the potential buyers.

Claims of similar stories happening to fans number in the teens now. Craig has taken to his Twitter account again claiming no one is getting scammed, and to email him if you haven't received a computer.

But angered fans are hitting back. A Facebook page was recently created called, Jonny Craig Twitter Scam. A joke Twitter account entitled, Jonny Craig's List, has also become a hot trend to those familiar with the story.

We'll have to wait to see Craig's next move. It's all pretty sketch right now. So before you trust anyone, in the scene or not, remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

GIVEAWAY WINNER - Punk-Rock Prize Pack

Thank you to the 60+ people that entered our Punk-Rock Prize Pack giveaway. We'd like to announce that Ben R. from Merrick, NY has been selected as our winner!

We hope you enjoy the swag, Ben.

Be sure to check back in the coming months for more giveaways. And, as always, thank you all for reading.

Our Prize Pack

Friday, February 18, 2011

Handguns - Don't Bite Your Tongue Review

It's usually a band's sophomore release that makes or breaks them. And while Handguns may only be releasing their second EP of seven songs, it's these tracks that will prove sink or swim for the Pennsylvania quartet.

What fans of Handguns will be looking for is consistency. The band's first release, Anywhere But Home, was a quick, but memorable slice of pop-punk that meant something. This was a record that reflected the do-it-yourself spirit of pop-punk. It was the self-released, living out of a van, type of music that was missing from the scene.

So, can Handguns' new EP, Don't Bite Your Tongue, live up to everything off their first release - without being a mirror image of the record? You bet it can.

One listen through the EP and it's clearly Handguns. Forget the frills and producer tricks. This is straight pop-punk courtesy of a guitar, bass and drum kit. It's a snare happy, palm muted ride reminiscent of early 2000s pop-punk. Fast, fun and catchy - what more could you want?

Pop-punk has always had a certain nostalgic effect to it. Songs about lost love and better times, old friends and wasted youth - these are the concepts that defined the movement at its roots. Handguns know this, and show it with ease on Don't Bite Your Tongue.

The song "I Hope He Kills You" starts with lead singer Taylor Eby exclaiming, "I'll pretend my heart's not breaking / It's taken everything I have not to call you back / And I hope he breaks you down / The next time you call, I won't be around."

Couple these heart crunching lyrics with Eby's matured vocal approach and an instrumental take that relies as much on bass as it does on guitar and drums, and what you have is one of the most well rounded songs on the EP.

The message of the record is clear. Where playing shows and the open road defined Anywhere But Home, raw energy and emotion define Don't Bite Your Tongue. This essentially makes for the most relatable and solid grouping of tracks Handguns have ever put out.

So sink or swim? Despite track three's title ("Sink Like Lead"), this release should please the masses. It's consistent with what fans are already accustomed to, but catchy and relatable enough to reach a whole new pop-punk fan base. This EP definitely does more than tread water. Swim, swim, swim.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What To See At SXSW 2011

With South By Southwest just a month away, musicians, filmmakers, press and fans from across the world are gearing up for the yearly pilgrimage to Austin, Texas. The week-long festival, which started in the late 80s, has grown to incorporate the best of the global art scene.

From writing seminars to live music, trade shows to a film conference, this year's SXSW has got it all. There are set to be "can't miss" performances by Neon Trees, Dance Gavin Dance, Automatic Loveletter, Panic! At The Disco and more.

A music lover's dream, no doubt. And while fans can have their choice of what events they want to attend, not all the musical buzz will be held at the some 80 stages this year.

For those of you music purists with an affinity for vinyl and the long-lost record store, you're going to want to check out the film portion of SXSW this year. That's because you'll get to see the world premiere of the Official Film of Record Store Day, entitled, Sound It Out.

Sound It Out is a 75-minute documentary that chronicles life in the last surviving record store in Teesside, North East England.

In an all but too-rare phenomenon of the past decade, record stores have become virtually extinct. The availability of music on the internet has led to a serious decline in the sales and marketability of both vinyl and CDs. But, it seems that no matter where you live, there's still just one shop that has stayed open, despite all these setbacks.

And that's exactly what this documentary is looking at (and exactly why you should check it out). Sound It Out may take place over in the UK, but its fundamental meaning is something that rings true from country to country, wherever music is sold.

What does it mean to own a record? Why is it important to have a record shop around? Who even shops for these things anymore? This is what it's all about.

The filmmakers are also asking for a little bit of help from all you audiophiles out there. They've raised enough money to finish the film, but still need quite a bit to make it down to SXSW in Austin from the Northern UK. You can help 'em out by donating, and in return you'll score some sweet stuff. Depending on your donation, you'll receive stickers, a signed poster, a DVD of the film or even a few tickets to a screening in London this spring. To donate, click HERE.

So if you're headed to Texas next month, be sure to catch a screening of Sound It Out. And if you're not, but remain righteous to the cause, hit up the donation page and help the filmmakers out. Only you can keep rock 'n' roll alive.

Friday, February 4, 2011

GIVEAWAY - Punk-Rock Prize Pack

It's been two years since Backstage Press got started! And in celebration of our anniversary, we're giving away an awesome Punk-Rock Prize Pack. After all, you're the reason we're still here, still writing, still interviewing and still rocking out. So, we want to say thank you for all the good times with this sweet little giveaway. Check it out.

The Prize Pack includes:

An AUTOGRAPHED CD booklet from The Almost (Monster Monster)
Six (6) sampler CDs including songs from:
- Dashboard Confessional (alternate version of "Even Now")
- Close Your Eyes
- A Day To Remember
- The Audition
- Amber Pacific
- Sugarcult
- Mumford & Sons
- Passion Pit
- Cage The Elephant
- and more!
Limited Edition +44 stickers
Limited Edition Mark Hoppus Octopus stickers
The Dillinger Escape Plan stickers
Three (3) Envy On The Coast stickers - One from each record release (EP, Lucy Gray, Lowcountry)
Other stickers from This Providence, Reeve Oliver, Action Reaction and more
She & Him luggage tag/keychain
Newbury Comics brand earplugs
Newbury Comics balloons
Guitar picks

The whole Prize Pack!

Autographed CD booklet from The Almost (Monster Monster)

Limited Edition +44 & Mark Hoppus Octopus stickers

She & Him luggage tag/keychain, Newbury Comics earplugs, pins

Enter your name, email address and mailing address (in case you win). Your information is confidential, and will not be sold, used or given out.

Deadline to enter the giveaway is Friday, February 18th at 7:00 p.m. (EST)
*We will ship internationally

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The State Of The Scene

It's no surprise that the digital-age, coupled with a down economy, has drastically altered almost every facet of the music business. From touring to recording, to purchasing and listening to music, it seems that the only constant in the industry over the past decade has been change.

But what exactly does this mean for both musicians and fans? How can we combat this constant change? And perhaps more importantly, what steps can we take to keep the integrity of the scene alive?

Buying & Selling Music
Music is more accessible today than ever. With the popularity of iTunes, as well as free file sharing sites, picking up a song or album you're interested in is as easy as clicking the download button. But does this convenience come at a price to the musicians who create the music you're after? Absolutely.

Whether purchasing your music online or from a chain like Best Buy, you can be assured that the retailer is most likely keeping half of what you're paying. The remainder will probably go straight to the record label to cover recording costs, producer fees, distribution and any other financial offsets the label took care of. Realistically, the band you think you're supporting is making only a sliver off the royalties they're legally obligated to make.

So what can be done? The answer is simple - buy direct. That doesn't mean ordering a CD off the band's website. Instead, pick up an album directly from the band at one of their shows. Chances are they bought those CDs in bulk from their label, and are selling them to you without any added taxes, shipping or fees that go straight back to label executives.

Think of it as saving the scene by putting your hard earned money directly into the hands of the artists, instead of the pockets of corporate bigwigs.

Going on tour is the best way for bands to make quick cash and gain invaluable exposure. But, as we mentioned earlier, with the sluggish economy slowing everyone's spending down, it's getting harder for bands to bring the big crowds to their shows.

But, as touring is a form of marketing, many bands have opted for new and exciting ways to bring the fans out. It might not always warrant the greatest cash flow initially, but these innovative ideas are helping hook fans for the long haul.

Just before Motion City Soundtrack's latest album My Dinosaur Life was released in early 2010, lead singer Justin Pierre hit the road with only an acoustic guitar, some stickers and a few close friends. His goal was to play free impromptu performances nationwide, in the oddest assortment of places, to anyone willing to listen.

And it worked. By the end of the tour, which generated insane amounts of coverage online, hoards of people were showing up in parks, on sidewalks and on college campuses to see Pierre perform. Those crowds eventually followed MCS on tour after the release - including Warped Tour and a slew of club dates.

Other bands such as Hawthorne Heights have also decided to shed the amps and pedalboards for strictly acoustic tours. The "Stripped To The Bone Tour" that HH are currently on, stands as a great way for the band to get exposure and make some money, all while keeping costs down.

Think about it, no giant trailer filled with cables, amps and mics to lug around. That saves on everything from gas to tolls, and in turn provides fans with a real intimate setting to see one of their favorite bands. Just another way bands are finding ways to fight the changing face of the music industry.

Record Labels
Let's face it, making music is expensive and musicians seem to never have any cash. And this is where record labels come into play. Labels are there to take care of all the expensive stuff up front - studio time, producer fees, CD distribution and promotion. And in return, most of what the band make off of sales goes back to the label.

It can be a vicious cycle. As seen in the past, when disagreements between labels and their artists arise, it can lead to lawsuits and, in some cases, bands breaking up. So, in the label-heavy music world of today, is there anywhere a band can turn to still cover their costs without having to go 100 percent do-it-yourself?

You bet your skinny jeans there is. The newest wave of record labels to hit the digital-age bridges the gap between band, label and even the fan-base. Take for instance the new company called, Crowdbands. They're a label that let fans donate money to help cover recording costs, and in turn give fans a say in what songs make the album.

What could be better? Bands make the music they want, fans choose what they want to hear, your money doesn't get pumped to the top of the corporate ladder and artists can finally have a career in music rather than retail. It's about time.

Believe it or not, age discrimination is part of the music business today. Let's face it, who's going to sell more records to a hungry, neon obsessed, teen fan-base -- a group of beard sporting, PBR drinking dudes in their late 20s to early 30s, or some fresh faced hipsters with wild hair and hand tattoos?

The latter, obviously. Labels know this, and it's exactly why you've got Never Shout Never gracing the cover of Alternative Press almost every other month, while veteran bands like Bayside have yet to nab a cover shoot.

So where's the scene you fell in love with? Well, like you, it's getting older... fast. But that doesn't mean it's dead. Terrible Things lead singer Fred Mascherino sat down with Backstage Press last year to discuss this very topic.

"You know, our fans that were 17 when we were in our big bands - now they're 23, 22. But I really believe in what we're doing, and we think it's worth it."

Mascherino, who recently turned 36, is well aware of the "dying" scene. But that's not stopping him, or other older and established bands like MXPX, New Found Glory and blink-182 from making new music. If anything, it's these dedicated lifers that are helping keep the integrity of the music industry alive.

Lessons Learned
The fact of the matter is that today's music industry is as broken as Capitol Hill. And the only thing that's going to save it are grassroots movements such as the ones listed above. The industry needs more innovative ideas like these - ideas that challenge the boundary between artist and fan, label and band, and consumer and retailer.

What the past decade has lost sight of is the music itself, the artist and the connection with the fans. Music isn't just meant to be about convenience and money. Get that notion across the radio waves and consider the industry saved.
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