Aiming For Average: Miles Better Than Their Name Dictates

Aiming For Average (@Aiming4Average) is a pop-punk quintet from Berwyn, IL (a western Chicago suburb) proving they do not live up to their tongue-in-cheek name. They are actually better. The group was founded in 2011 and has two records currently on Bandcamp (Icebreaker, which was released in 2014 and Blueprints the following year). Given what they have provided thus far on both EPs, the band is well on their way to joining fellow pop-punk groups A Day To Remember, Allister, and Taking Back Sunday on Active Rock radio and with a label deal.

 

The five-piece act consists of lead vocalist Nik Maniotis, guitarists Chris Perez and Christian Castillo, drummer Ruben Lopez, and bassist Zak Vhrel. On the seven-song release Icebreaker, the group primarily stays in high gear with heavy guitars and blazing drum work. The second track, ‘Sorry Not Sorry’, is a headbanging bitter love song relatable by anyone whose heart has been broken. The album’s final song, titled ‘3 Years, And All I Got Was A T-Shirt’, is another jaded relationship track in the band’s repertoire. With most tunes on Icebreaker being at warp speed, a standout track is their ballad ‘Man On The Moon’ in which Castillo gets to reveal his voice as the second coming of Chris Carrabba’s. This is their cigarette lighter/cell phone waving song at live events and the band will have ladies eating out of their hands after this is played.

 

On the four-song EP Blueprints, Aiming For Average keeps it short and sweet with fine results. Each track will have its place on rock radio, however, their best chance for a hit is the opening track ‘Feedback’, which is a brilliant toned down song similar to ‘Man On The Moon’. ‘IOU’ is another tune that will be pleasing to not only radio listeners, but to those who get to hear it live. The band has recorded themselves two fine pieces of work that at some point are going to attract the attention of labels big and small. Able to tour the Midwest this year, these guys are doing fine on their own, though.

 

Not only are Aiming For Average above-average musicians, they seem like swell gentlemen. Per Facebook, the group has raised money and performed on behalf of Autism Speaks and have had several write-ups recognizing their talent. Their summer tour is underway with stops in Shickshinny and Lansford, Pennsylvania on June 16 and 17, respectively. The big show of the week is on Saturday, June 18 as part of Columbus, Ohio’s Pride Weekend. Thousands of tourists will invade the capital city and once the marching and parading is over, Woodlands Tavern will feature three hours of in-your-face live music. They will be joined by indie rock darlings Sam and The Barbers and fellow pop-punk outfit Two Years Later. It is in one’s best interest to catch the band when they can and sample the music for themselves to confirm how good they really are.

Sam and The Barbers Definitely Make The Cut

Indie rock trio Sam and The Barbers (@samandbarbers) have provided a sample of what they have to offer the industry on their new four-song EP End of the World and alternative music’s future is great shape because of it. What vocalist/guitarist Derrick Walter, drummer Brett Williams, and synthesist Paul Strawser have constructed demonstrates a bright outlook for them in the years to come.

The band’s name is an ironic one as at no time since their inception has any band member been named Sam and none of them are or have been hair stylists. According to their October 2015 video interview with the university’s publication The Lantern, the band is named for American composer Samuel Barber, who Walter noticed had a noun for his last name and thought it was a good idea to keep the same band name format that has worked for Katrina & The Waves, Huey Lewis & News, among others.  The Columbus, OH band was formed by high school friends and former Ohio State University undergrads Walter and Williams. During their college stint and after several lineup changes, fellow student Strawser joined and magic has been made ever since. That has resulted in positive feedback for their high energy, spot-on live shows around town and now critical acclaim for the EP released just this year.

End of the World has potential radio hits across the board all the while maintaining musical integrity sometimes lost in mainstream music. The opening track titled ‘Everyone Here’ is a synthesizer and drum driven tune that has teenage rom-com soundtrack written all over it, and that is a good thing. Walter’s guitar-playing comes in about 90 seconds into it and takes the track to another level. His solid lead vocals give it a boost to create some static on the Alternative and Adult Rock radio charts.  The EP’s title track is a faster-paced synth-laden track that should also not be ignored by rock radio and by alternative music lovers.

It is End of the World’s middle two tracks that with the right people backing them will make Sam and The Barbers well-known. ‘I Promise I’ll Never Promise Again’ is a high-energy modern rock track that exudes influence from Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkeys, and the like. ‘1982’, written by Walter, is a fun throwback that has a 1980s new wave vibe to it yet has enough relevance to be a surefire Top 10 Alternative smash and cross over to CHR Pop stations (you know, the ones that carry Ryan Seacrest’s ‘American Top 40’).

During their live shows, Sam and The Barbers have included a handful of other catchy rock tracks along with a unique take on the Talking Heads tune ‘Once in A Lifetime’. The next chance alternative rock enthusiasts can see and hear the hoopla for themselves is Saturday, June 18 when they invade Woodlands Tavern to open a show featuring Chicago pop punk quintet Aiming For Average and local rockers Two Years Later. It is in modern rock fans’ best interest to become familiar with these three upstanding and talented gentlemen before their careers explode and they become inaccessible.

Review: Captain Kidd / Clubhouse / Personal Public (Skully’s: 4/8/16)

This past Friday night, three of Columbus’ up-and-coming indie rock groups took to the Skully’s Music-Diner stage not only to entertain the sea of concertgoers who braved the elements, but also to support a fantastic charity. Proceeds went to the non-profit Music Loves Ohio, which makes disadvantaged youths’ dreams come true with scholarships, songwriting workshops, and more.  Early into the evening, the doorman had a wad of cash in his hand and given the crowd’s size  by show’s end, thousands had to have been donated.

Spunky quintet Personal Public (@PersonalPublic) kicked off the night to a great sized audience for a nine o’clock start. All five guys seemed to be having fun performing their array of catchy, yet thought-provoking alternative rock songs. Their sound is a fresh mishmash of Kings Of Leon, Parachute, and Knox Hamilton, who are three acts that have earned respect within the genre. The coolest part of their set was the bassist showing off his drumming chops off stage in front of the crowd. Not to be outdone, Personal Public’s actual drummer took to the standalone kit on the concert floor and did his thing. Furthermore, the fact that the week prior these guys played the same gig as national alternative acts Declan McKenna and Best Coast demonstrates Personal Public is getting the right ears to hear them.

Clubhouse (@clubhouse_music) had big shoes to fill and this group held their own with no issues. These guys stood out with a hybrid of the romantic 1980s sound combined with the hooks and harmonies found in today’s alternative music (think UB40 + The 1975). Their music is cool enough to dance to by oneself, but it strikes the heartstrings enough that couples can be affectionate to it, too. It seemed quite obvious due to what Clubhouse brings to the table musically and aesthetically, they had the female-heavy audience from the first note. This is a band that is not too far from where Personal Public are in terms of opening for nationally known artists. On June 11, they will participate in LaureLive, a festival outside of Cleveland that features O.A.R, Grace Potter, Red Wanting Blue, to name a few.

Despite setbacks with the singer/guitarist’s monitor, once headliners Captain Kidd (@Capn_Kidd) started playing the mob quickly forgot about the snafu and hung onto every chord these guys cranked out. These gentlemen were spot on from beginning to end and their indie dance style caught on with ladies and gentlemen alike. Their best known tune, “Freaky Love”, was played next to last and sounded just as great as it does in the awesome video with over 26,000 YouTube views.

When the night was over, fifteen musicians had given their time, effort, and energy to execute something special. Those who witnessed the greatness exuded this past Friday were left wanting more. Perhaps Columbus festivals’ big wigs were in attendance for a prime scouting opportunity as these bands deserve to be considered for spots. If they were not, then they missed out on good music with a fun crowd for a great cause.

Review of Good Luck Year’s Tinder for the Fire

Good Luck Year (@goodluckyear) is a Dayton, OH-based alternative rock sextet comprising of Matt Shetler, Justin Smith, Tesia Mallory, Jason Thompson, Josh Guild, and Cole Howell. Much like other rock outfits like Children 18:3 and Skillet, there is a hybrid of male and female vocals at play from Shetler and Mallory. On September 18, the group released their third record Tinder for the Fire and they have garnered praise in their hometown for it. Upon listening to the EP, there is no surprise why the outfit has a buzz about them. It is now time for the record and the band to reach a wider audience to show the masses what they are all about.

Tinder for the Fire starts off with a bang with ‘Temporary Light’, a track cocked and loaded with harmonic dual vocals that is Good Luck Year’s staple. The tune is a mishmash of what would happen if Hayley Williams teamed with Andrew McMahon. The result is a surefire Top 20 rock hit one can headbang to. Once a label gets their hands on this band, expect widespread attention off of this song alone.

Clocking in at 2:42, ‘Pinch’ is the shortest track of the five and the only downside of that is less of Tesia Mallory’s voice, which leads off the song. It is a departure from ‘Temporary Light’, but it displays to the listener that this six-piece is no one trick pony. The third track ‘Tie Tie’ has elements of Twenty-One Pilots, Panic! At The Disco, and Paramore mixed in leading to what would be another rock radio staple.

The group prides itself in being unique, which is important the current state of the industry. ‘Colors’ turns the intensity down several notches with acoustic guitar more at play than the previous three tunes. On their Facebook page, Good Luck Year mentions they have two keyboardists, which outside of Tennessee act sElf is uncommon. It gives the band more to play around with on this EP and future releases. Lastly, clocking in at exactly four minutes ‘Secret Science’ is the group’s best chance at a crossover pop hit. The pace is slowed even more than the previous tune with the emphasis on the dual vocals and acoustic guitars. Both singers show they have the chops to make this tune work.

Similar independent artists to Good Luck Year can also be found right in the state of Ohio. Cleveland’s Envoi with frontwoman Maddie Finn perform tunes in the same vein as Good Luck Year. Furthermore, Columbus’ Two Years Later with founding members Jamie Rogers and Zak Toth present a similar superb style of music. It is worth a pop-punk fan’s while to hunt down this EP, available at Bandcamp, iTunes, and Amazon. The band is looking to tour, thus bookers and fans who want them in their town need to take the initiative now before the group’s calendar fills up. It is safe to say with what they have displayed thus far, Good Luck Year will have very, very good luck for years to come.

*Photo courtesy of the band’s Facebook page.

Artist Showcase: Nick Frye (presented by DX Entertainment)

Nick Frye is an American musician who calls Columbus, OH home. This past March, Frye released a four-song EP that is pure genius. The tunes are sharp from top to bottom and after a listen, indie music lovers are going to want more from Frye. He was a drummer for now-defunct Ohio band Bonneville, but has the aptitude to make a serious go of it as a soloist.

The record kicks off with “ZUCKER!”, a tune that gives off the funky image of Adam Ant as frontman of Neon Trees. It’s definitely a track that’s ready for massive radio play. Perhaps that will come one day. “Miles” is the second tune and the song featured in the video above. This track is the epitome of modern electronica with elements of 80s music thrown in. It’s another gem that is worthy of hitting the airwaves.

The longest track is “Phony” and it has more of an 80s sound than the previous tunes on the EP. That alone makes it a standout on its own. It would have been a smash hit back in the day. The final song “You’re So Tired” is the shortest one and is more of a throwback than the prior efforts on the album. This EP leaves listeners wanting more and here is hoping Frye has a successful run to create another record and cash in on his talent.

Listeners will have a chance to see and hear Nick Frye up close and personal as he opens an amazing night of indie rock at King Avenue 5 in Columbus, OH on Friday, October 24. Also performing that night are Motherfolk and the headliner Pseudoname. Admission costs $5.00 at the door and the venue is only two miles southwest of The Ohio State University. It will be well worth it to hear Frye bring his ready for radio tunes to an intimate venue live and in living color.

This record is available now at Bandcamp.

This record is available now at Bandcamp.

Revised Review of Reva’s “Landslide”

Reva

 

English quartet Reva (@wearereva) recently sent out their latest single “Landslide” in advance to a select crop of individuals. The band had released a ‘raw’ version several weeks back, however, the newer version is different in several ways. That is not necessarily a bad thing as the group prepares to release it to the masses this Thursday (15 May).

 

The original recorded version clocked in at over four minutes while the version fans will get to hear soon comes in slightly under three. The group is currently without a record deal and although they are doing fine without one, they know the game and want to play it well. It pays to have a radio-friendly single that is long enough to have substance but will not lose those listeners in this day and age of shorter attention spans.  This was a change that the band felt was necessary if they are going to progress as a recording artist.

 

One thing Reva fans and soon-to-be converts will notice about “Landslide” is how notable the drums are on the track. From beginning to end, the work behind the kit is clear and distinct. This is another point the group clearly wanted to tweak to make the track stand out. There is a lot more clarity with the guitars, making it quite splendid. Overall, the newly mixed version loses its garage feel, but this is a sacrifice for the greater good as Reva is clearly thinking about their musical futures and putting out what they want and how they want.

 

Reva has scored with “Landslide” and if there is justice, it will go viral and earn the group a well-deserved recording contract that will lead to more live shows across the globe. The single is old school alternative that will remind listeners of the great days of Oasis and Kula Shaker’s dominance on rock radio stations. In a little over a day, music enthusiasts will have a chance to hear the greatness for themselves.

 

*Photo courtesy of the group’s Facebook page

Artist To Watch: Chased By Giants

The Nashville quartet @chasedbygiants is quite atypical of the brand of music that comes out of Music City, USA. That does not discount the quality of what this band has put out thus far. The group is in the midst of recording their debut record, but have provided the general public a sweet taste of what to expect.

The foursome consists of guitarists/vocalists Joe Darkangelo and Kenny Rutschow, drummer Justin Bird, and bassist Joseph Falconberry. The group made their Facebook debut in May of 2013 and list some of their influences as Yellowcard, Paramore, and Relient K. Honestly, the band’s demo version of “Tonight” (which can be heard in the video above) is reminiscent of Box Car Racer and Sum 41, which is a good thing.

Based on the raw version of “Tonight”, if Chased By Giants stick to recording songs like that track, their debut record should receive rave reviews. This month, they have a couple of live events for music fans to see them in action (Sat. 4/19 and Sat. 4/26 in Mt. Juliet, TN). People in that area are going to be very lucky to have a chance to check out this group on a live stage. Their demo is a strong sign that they are going to rock it on the live stage and their first album, when it drops, should not disappoint.

Artist on the Rise: The Wet Darlings

@thewetdarlings are an American quartet who currently call Columbus, OH home. The band has been performing self-described ‘indie sludge pop’ for a half-decade. They have released some great music over the years, but from the looks of things this is the year things should take off for this down-to-earth foursome.

The Wet Darlings are comprised of guitar-playing brothers Bill and Joe Patterson, drummer Aaron Bishara, and vocalist/keyboardist/ring leader Jenny Lute. The track “Bicycle” consists of Pixies-esque rock by Bishara and the Pattersons combined with Lute’s alluring voice. Lute is on the list of strong Ohio frontwomen, including ex-Phantods singer Gretchen King, former Frostiva members Leslie Jankowski and Trinae Rose, and Vanity Theft’s Alicia Grodecki.

The band has done right by the hometown fans by playing in central Ohio every so often to make each performance in front of Columbusites meaningful. No matter what municipality one is in, there are some local bands who play too often and try too hard that they wear out their welcome real fast. Ultimately, those artists do not last very long as in a short time the music consumers have seen all there is to see, which may not have been much to begin with. The Wet Darlings are the polar opposite of this. They are a group that, no matter the size of the crowd or venue, give 100 percent effort onstage without coming across as overexposed. In the entertainment business, it is about leaving the audience wanting more. Also, for a group that is highly regarded around the city, they have high standards and put on a stellar performance the rare times they take the stage.

The group is currently recording a full-length record likely due out late this year or early next year. Furthermore, next month the band is heading out on the road for a couple of gigs in New York, the number one media market. Before they do, however, The Wet Darlings have one of their rare in-town performances on Saturday, April 12 with critically acclaimed trio Nick D’ & The Believers. Because they do not play often, indie music enthusiasts need to make a serious effort to attend one of these shows to have a brush with greatness. Please check out the song “Vampires” as featured in the video above to see what you are missing.

New Hollow Is The Future and The Future Looks Good

@NewHollowBand is a trio comprised of Mookie Clouse, Chad Blashford, and Evan West who have just inked a deal with Epic Records, the former label of Flickerstick, Michael Jackson, and Bliss 66. On their Facebook page, New Hollow mentions The Smiths, The Naked And Famous, and HAIM as some of their influences. On what should be a surefire Top 40 Pop and Alternative hit “She Ain’t You”, the group channels successful young-but-veteran band Lifehouse. “She Ain’t You” won the Breakthrough Song Of 2013 Award from Sirius XM’s The Pulse. Based on that song alone, the band should have an excellent 2014 with all new ears hearing their tunes.

New Hollow’s success started several years ago with three consecutive trips to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Sales Chart, all with minimal to no radio airplay. This goes to show the superb marketing the band has been fortunate to have. Now that the group has a deal with Epic, will this translate into full-length CD sales? Only time will tell. It is the one thing that has plagued young bands in years past. Those groups might have had a song or two that received some heavy play on the music video channels and the radio, but the tracks did not resonate with enough paying consumers and the group loses its contract. Sales, sales, and sales are the name of the game these days and these blokes know how to play it.

A sense of the pride about New Hollow is that this is considered a “local” band. Their hometown of New Albany is a Columbus suburb in central Ohio. There has been a bevy of great talent to come out of the area. Watershed, Willie Phoenix, Howlin’ Maggie, Frostiva, The Sun, and Sean Benjamin are just a handful that come to mind. In this day and age, these young men have the best chance to succeed with all the various means to make money. There was no YouTube and iTunes when some of these artists were making their way through the scene. Here’s to New Hollow’s success in the past, the present, and a very bright future based on what has been seen and heard thus far.

The British Invasion Continues in the Form of Woman’s Hour

Londoners Woman’s Hour (@womanshourband) is a quartet in their third year of existence looking to make an impact in 2014. The foursome of singer Fiona Jane, guitarist brother William, Nick on bass, and keyboardist Josh have busted their bums to present a unique brand of music. The band is wasting no time attempting to expand its brand as they are in the midst of an international tour that is surely going to increase their profile.

Track “To The End” is a beautiful piece of work that combines Fiona Jane’s sweet vocals with an electronic backdrop. It is some of the songs that can make up the soundtrack of anyone’s life. A YouTube user described the tune as, “A song like when you dive into the water and forget everything around you.” Another single, “Our Love Has No Rhythm” is an intimate tale of awkward desire, but its presentation is a motivation to express desire. The song featured in the above video has the most YouTube views of them all, however, once the full-length is released watch out for Woman’s Hour to make some noise on the Adult Rock and Hot AC charts.

Woman’s Hour is looking to make noise on the independent scene sooner versus later with their world tour. Besides shows in their native England, the group has played Paris and will hold gigs in New York, Los Angeles, as well as the famous SXSW event in Austin, Texas. Based on what the band has provided thus far, 2014 looks to be a breakout year for these four Brits.