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.

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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: WATM’s Get Busy Living…

Columbus, Ohio’s We Are The Movies (@weare_themovies) have something special with their sophomore EP Get Busy Living… due to be released next Saturday March 26 digitally. That very night, the band will release the CD in their hometown at the Scarlet & Grey Café as part of 99.7 The Blitz’s Local Stuff Showcase. This show and the accompanying record are proof of fantastic things happening for this well-deserving group.

Although it clocks in under 90 seconds, the opener ‘Always the Rule (Never the Exception)’ starts off with a bang with Mike O’Leary and Tim Waters’ solid vocals and Bryan Overholt’s high-energy drum work. If it were a half-minute longer, it would be an amazing single in the same vein as Blur’s ‘Song 2’. It has a chance as a track that could be included in a movie montage, though. ‘The Story So Far’ exudes Overholt’s superb drumming in addition to magnificent guitar play from O’Leary, Waters, and Dan McMillan. The tune also possesses O’Leary and Waters’ spot-on vocals, which will remind pop-punk fans of the genre’s all-time greats Hawthorne Heights, A Day To Remember, and Allister.

The third track ‘Happy EX-Mas (War Is Over)’ has Overholt’s great drum play with its standout guitars not far behind. It is a headbanging, sing-along tune that can be successful on rock radio stations. The song should resonate with listeners due to its lyrics that include “We all want something to believe in, but give me something real like happiness.” Song four is ‘The Best Revenge is Living Well’, which is about utilizing the power of positivity to combat negativity. It makes wonderful use of Stephen Goldstein’s bass skills and the track has great potential as a radio single with in-sync drum work, guitar play, and vocals. With the rise in cyberbullying and social media shaming, the song has a great message as a response to haters.

‘Temporary’ is the EP’s longest tune coming in at near six minutes and is starts off as a ballad with beautiful acoustic guitar work before the group turns up the heat. It could be a radio single if they edited a chunk of it, but that would butcher the track and it is best left alone. The record’s final song ‘By a Thread’ starts off the same way as ‘Temporary’ and is an alternative radio prospect with O’Leary and Waters’ essential singing leading the way.

For next Saturday’s album release show, We Are The Movies will play alongside four other fantastic local groups Absolute Hero, No Dice, The Scratches, and Heroes Like Villains. The gig will be free to the public, but great alternative music lovers will want to bring their wallets to support these groups. Although WATM was founded approximately four years ago, with the musicianship and songwriting exuded on Get Busy Living… show the band members have been honing their craft for much longer. With the new EP and a spot on The Vans Warped Tour in Alaska, great things are in store for the gang for years and years to come.

*Photo courtesy of wearethemoviesband.com

 

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.

Mint Leopard is Ready to Pounce

Cincinnati’s Mint Leopard (@MintLeopardOG) consider themselves a psych-jazz rock n’ roll band and based on what they have released thus far, they live up to the hybrid description. Formed earlier this summer, the quartet of lead vocalist Jaxon Hughes, drummer Justin Van Wagenen, guitarist Alex Masset, and keyboardist Ben Bob Hammer have been getting their feet wet with live shows across their hometown and surrounding areas. They recently released the single “Progress in the Evenin’” and even created a music video for the track. Based on first impressions alone, the foursome should have a bright future ahead of them.

The video, directed by Hughes, was conceptualized and executed with sheer brilliance. Based on its premise and production, it would fit right in with the playlist of The Cool TV and MTV2’s 120 Minutes, when the latter network still aired the program. Released this past July, the video is primarily set in the desert, with three guys in business casual outfits searching for Hughes. The song is a melting pot of pop-rock psychedelic greatness that crosses over multiple decades. It would fit like a glove on playlists in the 1970s and 80s. With several acts in the 2000s inspired by music from 30 to 40 years ago, the track is just as relevant today as it would have been back then. Hughes’ harmonic vocals gel perfectly with the slick guitar and synthesizer work of Masset and Hammer. Van Wagenen’s drum work caps off “Progress in the Evenin’” giving the listener approximately four and a half minutes of a non-stop jam session.

Mint Leopard is seeking to expand its horizons beyond being their local territory and they are well on their way in doing so. The group looks to tackle Ohio’s capital, known for its diverse and embracing music scene. Cincinnati has produced good talent across different genres such as 98 Degrees, Pay The Girl, and Motherfolk. With upbeat on-your-feet tunes in their arsenal, Mint Leopard has an excellent chance to succeed anywhere.

*Photo courtesy of the band’s Facebook page

Critique: Midnight Coast Deserves to be Heard Coast to Coast

Released two years ago, Everything In White by Columbus, OH-based then-quartet Midnight Coast (@MidnightCoast) is a fantastic ride from start to finish. With such a polished recording under their belt, the band’s future looks extremely vivid. Despite the group citing Coldplay and Ben Folds as artists who influence them, the group has put together thirteen unique tracks that stand on their own merit. Some of their songs hint at piano-heavy group Keane as an inspiration, which is certainly a compliment. It is only a matter of time before the foursome’s hard work pays off and they get a brighter spotlight placed upon them along with an opportunity to tour throughout the country.

The instrumental first track ‘Drive’ clocks in at less than two minutes and should be part of an action movie trailer. The short, but sweet work of keyboardist Matt Stephan, drummer Kevin King, and guitarist Kevin Murray is a stroke of genius. If the band elected to add two more minutes to it, ‘Drive’ would be one of the rare instrumentals to become a Top 40 hit. The record’s second tune, ‘Runaway’, is the most reminiscent of Ben Folds’ influence on the group. Lead singer Liam Kirkpatrick’s vocals are on point and fit the song to sheer perfection. If Midnight Coast had a record deal in place, ‘Runaway’ would be one of the album’s standout singles with a chance of peaking high on Alternative charts.

The title track is the type of song that would fit right in on a serious indie film’s soundtrack. ‘The Hunter’ would have a fighting chance on the Adult Top 40 stations with its fusion of Ben Folds, Tori Amos, and Train from beginning to end.  ‘Brain Kicks In’, which is the final tune on the album, is the surefire gem that with the right backing would be the band’s best bet at a mainstream Top 40 hit. Kirkpatrick, King, Murray, and Stephan fire on all cylinders and save the record’s best song for last. It is a brilliant way to cap off a disc that has quality musicianship from start to finish.

Midnight Coast is a band that has been in existence for half a decade and they have paid their dues long enough. In short, the band has demonstrated in recording and in concert they are worthy of larger recognition for their talent. The band released an album that is not the flashiest in the industry, however, it holds up well compared to higher budget albums from their influences. While they would fit in on a bill with the likes of other local groups Truslow and Nick Tolford & Co., this now five-piece act deserves a chance to be heard from one end of America to the other and beyond. Now with bassist Nick Ewan in tow, it is only a matter of time before this unsigned group’s day will come and they have the success Red Wanting Blue, Twenty-One Pilots, and Watershed have had coming out of the capital city.

*Photo courtesy of the band’s Facebook page

Artist Showcase: Motherfolk (presented by DX Entertainment)

Motherfolk (@Motherfolkmusic) is an American folk rock quintet currently based out of Cincinnati, OH. Originally formed in Maysville, KY, the band first consisted of Nathan Dickerson and Bobby Paver. The duo eventually became a five-piece with Rich Miller, Aaron Wilson, and Jacob Bremer joining the band. They are a very hard working group who has done some extensive touring throughout the midwestern and southern United States just this year, traveling as far as Texas and also gracing the stage at the Hard Rock Cafe in Chicago. This demonstrates that Motherfolk is serious about building their brand through live events and word of mouth. Gracing stages is one of the best ways a musical act can prove they are the real deal. It will be an honor for them to open DX Entertainment’s second ever show on Friday, October 24. Pseudoname, no stranger to the Cincinnati area, headlines the event and former Bonneville drummer Nick Frye will be fronting of his own band that night.

Motherfolk has a self-titled record out now on iTunes and Bandcamp that should also be available at their gigs. This 10-song gem’s most notable tracks are the mainstream-friendly “Tired”, the jam “Hiccups” which is sure to get people on their feet and dancing, and the rocking “Goldie Hawn” which based on the title alone should generate some attention from record labels. All three of those tunes are a fit on Alternative or Top 40 Pop radio stations. Slower tempo songs are another part of Motherfolk’s arsenal and encourage the listener to pay attention to the lyrics. “Salt Lake City” is a tune that starts off and finishes quite gentle, but in the middle it gives listeners a good kick in the butt. “I know”, “Defining Me”, and “Tune For Me” are classic folk tracks that are to be a staple at their live events as they make for good sing-alongs, especially the latter. This album is a must listen for those who want to be taken on a journey of love, joy, hope, and faith.

From the lyrics of many of their tunes, it is foreseeable these songs are about worship, but it is important for listeners not to dismiss or pigeonhole Motherfolk as a “Christian band”. While there is nothing wrong with that term per se, less than informed listeners may be quick to write off the merits of their music. It would be their loss if they ever did that as no matter what religion Motherfolk’s members practice, the music is extremely phenomenal. There is significance in a group writing and performing songs that have some depth and substance to them in addition to style. Given today’s mainstream music landscape, Motherfolk is a breath of fresh air and after listening to their record, listeners will have solace in knowing pure music is alive and well.

In four days, listeners of this record will get a chance to see Motherfolk play these songs live and in living color. They will take the stage at King Avenue 5 in Columbus, OH on Friday, October 24 and then six days later in Newport, KY for a pre-Halloween bash. Other tour dates occurring later this year include November 14 in their homebase of Cincinnati, December 9 in Cleveland, and December 18 in St. Louis.  For those who live in those areas, it is in their best interest to see what this band has to offer in person as they are sure to be satisfied.

MOTHERFOLK 5

Artist Showcase: Waking Jordan

@WakingJordan is an American quartet consisting of Kelly Potter, Kaleb Aaron, Steven Kent, and Trent Koritansky. The Boise-based band formed in 2011 and is building quite a nice social media fan base.  Word is they put on a really good live show, so the more gigs they play the larger the word of mouth will be, hence increasing the turnout each show.  They are building attention with music lovers, but it is now time for record company Executives to take note as this group is the real deal. The band has release two records without major label help, but with their talent if they had that kind of support they would definitely live up to the hype.

Waking Jordan is obviously serious about delivering solid tunes with crisp production.  Off of their 2013 release Here or There, “Mr. Right” and “Bury Me” pure pop bliss reminiscent of another DIY band with a grassroots following. Think of the Idaho four-piece as the Red Wanting Blue of the Northwest. The song featured in the video above is ready for the Top 40 charts and allows singer Kelly Potter to demonstrate some Macklemore-like skills.  This song deserves to reach a worldwide audience and licensing in motion pictures and television programs should not be out of the question if the circumstances are right.

The group is all about the music, but they also have hearts.  On ReverbNation, the band has partnered with Love Hope Strength to donate a portion of their download revenue. The Temporary Home Foundation is another non-profit organization Waking Jordan is involved with. This is a charity that provides housing and self-improvement opportunities for 18-23 year-olds after they have outgrown the foster care system. It would be excellent for the band to have a chance to make enough revenue to not only tour, make more records, but to provide a fraction of their proceeds to their charities on an ongoing basis.

The group is well on its way to going places, literally and figuratively.  They have sponsors for their upcoming tour and their next listed gig is on Halloween and then they embark on playing several gigs on the west coast in November.  Waking Jordan is showing that they are doing all the right things, but it is time for big wigs to take notice and give this foursome the international stage they deserve.  Those who love quality music should be hearing things from Waking Jordan for years to come.

Drop The Anchor Dropping a New EP

Drop The Anchor (@droptheanchorin) is an American quartet calling Indianapolis home. The group formed in 2011 and currently consist of vocalist Mark Lane, bassist Eddie Rector, drummer Bryan Davies, and guitarist Harold Navarrete. In the band’s short existence, they have released a Christmas-themed song “The December I Won’t Remember” and a 2012 EP titled In a Way, It’s Everything. 

 

Drop The Anchor has the most recent album’s tunes available at their official YouTube page. The standout tracks from the record include “Go Hard Or Go Home”, “Casino Destroyale”, and “Actions.” They are definitely reminiscent of popular artists All Time Low and A Day To Remember, two groups that inspire the Indiana foursome.  The band was fortunate enough to have the record released through Stand Firm Records. 

 

Also at their YouTube page is a lyric video for “Loose Lips Sink Ships”, which is a tune off of a forthcoming EP due out next month. If this song goes viral, it can lead to some big things for the group. If the rest of the album sounds anything like the new track, it should take off. Having thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook certainly helps.  The second half of the year and beyond should be great for this energetic and talented band.  

 

*Photo courtesy of the band’s Facebook page; taken by Easter Daily Photography