XL102's Summer Meltdown
Conditions, The Unlikely Candidates, American Fangs
Mon, July 22, 2013
Doors: 6:30 PM / Show: 7:30 PM
$10 ADV / $12.50 DOS
Satellite towns tend to breed big ambitions. Perched on the hills above Manchester, Macclesfield’s principle claim to fame comes in the cult of Ian Curtis. That classic example of the ‘just out of the city’ boy reinforces how big horizons tend to breed big ambitions.
The Virginmarys are not part of the Curtis club. Their music blends the dynamics of platinum class ‘grunge’ (basically Nirvana, Mudhoney and Screaming Trees) with the spikiness of punk and the attention to detail and honesty of prime British rock of the early 1970’s, before the wizards and capes overcame the attack and dynamic. Their belief system begins with a devotion to the idea of playing. Live or in rehearsals, the three are at their most comfortable instruments in hand. Whether this is cool or not in a world where we sometimes seem to want our bands to devote themselves to studiously not playing is of no consequence to them. So, the debut album, ‘King Of Conflict’, was recorded live in the studio with Toby Jepson producing and Chris Sheldon (Pixies, Foo Fighters, Biffy Clyro, etc) at the mixing controls to capture the band at their thrilling best.
But this is not ‘muso’ territory. Whilst Ally may have learnt his playing via a local blues maestro and lived in a house sound tracked by the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Free and The Allman Bros courtesy of his dad, the revelation of Nirvana and the digging backwards to punk and forwards to the diverse likes of Elbow and Arcade Fire meant that when Ally, Matt and Danny set out to write rock songs, those were never likely to be dumb, despite being a hell of a lot of fun. Further, Ally’s nature and his position as lyricist pretty much guaranteed that The Virginmarys would share much in common with those bands who eschewed the brainless cartoons of metal to create a rock music that used its words to deal with real life, real feelings and serious subjects. So a typical song from the trio rocks as hard as anything you are likely to hear but can talk about making the wrong calls despite yourself (‘Dead Man’s Shoes), domestic violence from the less thought out position of male as victim (‘Portrait Of Red’) and anti-capitalism (‘You’ve Got Your Money’).
It’s that blend of rock schooling and intelligence that makes The Virginmarys such a thrilling proposition. Unlike so many contemporaries, the three are unlikely to fall into any of the obvious traps that bedevil young bands in their world. Having spent three years touring and playing alongside a series of self-released EP’s the band have built a fan base that encompasses the likes of Slash (a regular VM’s T shirt wearer), We Are Scientists, Eagles Of Death Metal and Ash, all of whom have invited the band to support them and thousands of devoted fans across the globe. In the process they have featured on BBC Breakfast, scored an iTunes single of the week both in the UK and US, had a track featured on Rockband 3 and sold out London’s Garage at a canter as part of HMV’s Next Big Thing series of shows at the close of 2011.
Those beginnings have fostered a band that are ambitious without being arrogant, Ally claims that honesty is at the heart of everything he does, Danny wants The Virginmarys to be a catalyst for new bands to form and create great new music and Matt sees success as blowing away the dross that currently populates daytime radio and creating a world in which their music, and that like it, makes the music world an exciting place to be once more.
In a world crying out for a band with substance, The Virginmarys could well prove to be the answer to all our prayers.
THE UNLIKELY CANDIDATES
“The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, passion.” – Juliette Nadia Boulanger
It makes sense that the members of the best post-hardcore/melodic rock band to come barnstorming out of the Northeast in ages would draw inspiration from this quote (from a celebrated French composer) and adopt part of it as their moniker. Conditions is all about choice, love and passion. Having cut their teeth in heavier acts before coming together, the guys joined forces with the swift and decisive mission to explore broader creative terrain, to pour ever more devotion into their craft and to share it all with others.
The contemplative but catchy bounce of Jimmy Eat World, the esoteric but driving atmospherics of Thrice, the dark experimentalism tempered by soft sentimentality of Brand New and the soaring radio melodies of Foo Fighters and Blink 182 have all found a new home within Conditions, who have fashioned this formula into something uniquely their own. With a passing glance backward and a full throttle charge forward, Conditions are taking melodic post-hardcore toward the future with the stunning new album, Full of War.
The stage is set for a full-on salvo on the medicore and mundane. “The radio is full of droning songs for lemmings that are about absolutely nothing,” Brandon Roundtree laments. The singer and the rest of the band defiantly stand apart, producing spirited anthems filled with meaning.
The best art stands for something. It doesn’t have to be political, it doesn’t have to be divisive, but the best art has a strong point of view, take it or leave it. Conditions posses a depth and artistry that is lacking in many of today’s bands.
Conditions creates music that demands further inspection. It demands listener attention beyond the surface hooks. “We want people to stop listening with their eyes, so to speak,” explains the singer. “To stop buying into what is being force-fed and to start re-growing the ability to say ‘no’ to certain things; to have a musical opinion. People just blindly start to listen and blindly start to like certain things. It’s frustrating.”
In the recording studio, interacting with fans and supporters or touring the US and Europe with Paramore, New Found Glory, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Sleeping With Sirens, letlive. and on the Vans Warped Tour, Taste Of Chaos, at Bamboozle, at SXSW, Conditions are always cognizant of the choices out there and endeavors to offer something truly unique, invigorating and refreshing. It’s no wonder why Alternative Press called them a “Band You Need To Know.”
Roundtree’s impassioned pleas pull from the deepest recesses of angst and the highest reaches of optimism with one of the most distinctive and powerful voices of this generation of bands, in full partnership with exceptionally creative guitarist/vocalist Alex Howard, fluid and dynamic bass player Corey Thomas and powerhouse drummer Ryan Tinsley, who demonstrates high-caliber skills throughout.
Thanks to the extremely tightknit closeness of the Richmond, Virginia music scene, the Conditions guys had shared stages together throughout high school. The future members of the band coalesced together following the independent dissolutions of their respective groups. Roundtree was in Forever In A Day with Conditions first lead guitarist. Howard was in Motion Picture Demise. Two weeks after Roundtree left the vocalist position in Scarlet, who had multiple releases with Ferret Music, he got a call about a new project. “The idea was to make a band that that sounded like the sum of everything we had been doing, but benefitting from the lessons we’d learned along the way.”
Producer Brandon Paddock - who has done various production and engineering work with The Used, Papa Roach and Black Veil Brides, among others – helped Conditions craft an album that is leaps and bounds beyond their already impressive debut, Fluorescent Youth. “We whole-heartedly believed in our last record,” insists Roundtree. “But then after we lived with it, we realized it was maybe a little ‘safe’ for us. We took that very much to heart and decided to showcase the fact that we are not a play-it-safe band.”
“A Wonderful Lie” was a turning point in the writing, where the band realized they were coming up with material beyond what they had conceived their own limitations to be. “Best Mistake” is one of the best examples of the album’s sense of adventure, blending a hint of electronic elements with a straightforward approach to love. “Long Division” is a slower song that delves into the human battle between believing in science and believing in God that is raging now. The entire album, thematically, deals with duality and paradox.
“Life is a series of decisions and what are decisions but little mini-wars, opposing forces, pulling upon each other?” Roundtree explains of the album’s title. “’Full of War’ lyrically ties the record together literally and metaphorically.”
Conditions offer uplifting, meaningful songs filled with heart, soul, spirit and most of all, purpose. At the end of the day, they are a band who does exactly what they want and steadfastly retains their identity. Their inner relationships are strong, which has ensured their output remains topnotch. The world, the people we know, they may all be Full of War, but art like this can help to light the darkness.
This is not the story of a typical rock’n’roll band.
“In music, everybody wants to be part of something big,” explains American Fangs frontman
Gabe Cavazos. “But sometimes we zig when others zag. We stick out like a sore thumb. And
that’s ok. We create our own vibe.”
That vibe — loud guitars, big hooks, punk rock attitude — has already won American Fangs a
fervent fanbase and a number of big-name (and wildly diverse) tours, ranging from Saul
Williams to the Deftones to Chevelle. And it’s a vibe that’s more than apparent on the band’s
debut album, American Fangs, the first release under rock promoter/manager Bill McGathy’s
new record label In De Goot Recordings.
Typical or not, that’s a pretty strong start for any band, especially one hailing from the rather
atypical music Mecca of … Houston.
“It’s not necessarily what people think of when they look for great music,” admits Cavazos. “But
there’s a lot of talent here.”
At least enough talent to put together AF. “We all were in different groups, but we go together
because we realized we all had the same idea of what we wanted a band to be,” says the
singer. “And that’s grown into an amazing bond.”
That idea was American Fangs, a name that struck a strong visual tone and, as Cavazos puts it,
exuded the right “who-gives-a-shit” attitude….something the band also brought to the stage.
“There was a lot more anarchy early on,” Cavazos admits. “But it was exhausting, like musical
whiplash. In the end, we’re a fan of songs. We want to share those, have people enjoy it, and
not necessarily have anything else overshadow the music.”
One person who caught on early was Bill McGathy, a rock industry vet best known for his work
with Shinedown, Neon Trees, 3 Doors Down and Grammy-Award winning Halestorm. “He saw
us just as we started, and stuck by us from the get-go,” says Cavazos. “Finally, one day he just
said, ‘go record something. I wanna release this.”
To capture the band’s wild side on record, the band enlisted producer Mike Watts (As Tall as
Lions, The Dear Hunter, Brand New). “Mike’s really cool,” says Cavazos. “He saw us at a
showcase a long time back and he was the only person who came up and asked how we
thought we sounded. He saw our potential, but he doesn’t spare us any feelings if we sound like
shit. So when it came time to do this record, we were like ‘we want that guy.”
The end result is an adrenalized blast of loud guitar rock, underlined with dynamic musicianship
and emotional honesty. First single “Pomona,” named after “the goddess of fruitful abundance,”
is a revved-up radio anthem full of “whoa whoa whoa” chants. Meanwhile, other standouts like
“Riot Food” come off as cranked-up power pop, while “Apple of My Eye” recalls the best of 90s
But the band also shines during slower moments, like the ballad “Sorry” Says Cavazos: “That’s
about the brief period of time when I was homeless as a kid. That song means a lot to me. Mike
pushed me to dig deep on that one.”
With the record finished, the band is hitting the road with Hollywood Undead and Falling in
Reverse, and converting a whole new audience. “I’m psyched: people will see we’ve got an
energy when we play live,” Cavazos says. “There’s a rhythm there. You can tell we really
believe in what we’re doing.”
Just don’t expect a typical rock’n’roll concert.
“That’s true, though even I’ve had to tone it down a bit,” says Cavazos, laughing. “I can’t always
be in people’s faces or climbing stuff during every song. But it’s nice to go to a show and see
people cut loose, see girls having a blast. It’s something that’s been missing from music for a
- Monday, July 22, 2013 7:30 PM