7-Inch Review: State Lines – Self-Titled EP

I am one of those guys out there who has no problem admitting that they like the band Brand New.  Yeah, I can be a little sensitive when I need to be and sometimes pop-punky emo rock is all I need to soothe my nerves.  I am beyond the point in life where if you question me about this confession that I will challenge you to a duel with fists and a spiked club, but you get my drift.  Point is, I like all sorts of music and it was no surprise to me when I first heard State Lines and immediate dug them.  They sound relatively close to a younger Brand New and I am sure they are completely aware of that.

Earlier this year, State Lines, with help of Tiny Engines, released a 4 song self-titled 7-inch EP.  The result is a quick listen, but those four songs beg to be played over and over again.  They may have formed in 2010 and were probably born right around the time I was kicking ass in high school, but they do not sound very novice at all.

Speaking of high school…that guy on the cover of this 7-inch reminds me of Rotor Man.  Unless you grew up in Cleveland and went to Geauga Lake in the 90s, chances are you have no idea who I am talking about.


“5’s On The Elephant” started things off and was hands down the best track of the four.  This song that reminded me of the all the bands I started branching out to once I became a late fan of poppy punk  thanks to a girl who used to work with me at a record store back in the day.  It was almost a blend of Brand New and Taking Back Sunday and I completely was sucked into it.  Pounding drums matched up with catchy guitar playing just carried along a fun vibe throughout.  “Plenty Of Time” followed, but was not nearly as powerful as the opener.  Still, it was a good track that sped up halfway though.  B-side “Win Free” was another solid track to listen to.  I loved hearing the raspy voice of Dimitri met with Werring’s harmonic singing throughout the track.

Here’s hoping that this EP is just a sample of what they have in store for their next release which should be coming up shortly.  So what if they sound like Brand New? They sound amazing and I think that hey are well aware of that and plan on acting upon it.  Here’s hoping that their follow up LP drops very soon. I am stoked about this young act and can’t wait to see where their talent takes them next.

Check it out for yourself and see what I am taking about:

Album Review: Luther – Let’s Get You Somewhere Else

In case you did not know, today is a very important day.  No, not because everyone is being all political and American and waving their “I Voted Today” stickers in the air, but because today a sweet punk rock band from Philadelphia by the name of Luther is celebrating their 2 year anniversary.  That right folks, there are way more important things going on today other than this rich man presidential selection campaign bull mess.

In all seriousness though, Luther has a lot going for them and has grabbed a ton of attention since forming in 2010.  The band caught my attention in a good way last year and their EP topped my Best Of 2011 list with Siblings & Sevens.  Since that EP was released, they have toured non-stop and caught the attention of a little record label home of the Bouncing Souls.  Recently, the band released their first full-length album entitled Let’s Get You Somewhere Else on, you guessed it, Chunksaah Records.

Without talking them up too much, I will say listening to Let’s Get You Somewhere Else brought back memories of me years ago when I first was introduced to bands like Hot Water Music, Jawbreaker, and even the Bouncing Souls.  From the moment the album started, I was enthralled and wanted to immediately be their biggest fan.  At my age that might sound a little far fetched, but what I am trying to say is that I got that same feeling of a musical satisfaction, you know, that great feeling of knowing you just listened to something not just good, but amazing.

Luther’s debut EP, Siblings & Sevens, really rubbed off to me as DIY punk rock album with some folky style sewn in and I absolutely loved everything about it.  Let’s Get You Somewhere Else was an amazing follow-up with the band sounding like they just had fun creating all the songs while improving their sound as a band.  From the moment “The Concrete Sound” started, you cold just hear the confidence the band had in recording the track.  The track “Heavy Monday” really was just a fun song all around to listen to with plenty of lyrics that have flowed through my head once or twice at the beginning of a workweek.

I loved how “The Glory Bees” started off with a certain 90s rock feel only to transform into a catchy ass track.  Maybe it was the mono-toned opening vocals that reminded me of yesteryear, but the song picked up  and changed style in a good way.  “Backyard Fence Appeal” kicked things up a bit with a faster paced track with “oh my good look at this mess around me” repeating throughout.  How could I not like that track?  I was singing along my first time in.  “The Second Star” really was a deep track to listen to and I really dug the lyrics throughout.  I especially loved the lyrics”rotting like an apple and bringing down the tree or so it goes that the devil is strong, the devil is right for turning on us and letting us lie here.”

All I have to say about “Rattlesnake” is that the recorded hand-claps were not necessary at all.  Great track, but the only hand-claps that should be played during this song should be when the fans clap along when the song is played live.  “A Quiet Stretch Of Weather” easily could have been derived from a Tim Barry track.  The lyrics “I hope I don’ die when I’m forty” are repeated throughout and once again relate to something I have thought multiple times.  I found myself really appreciating this track and almost wished more of their tracks carried the same brash poignant feeling.

I see really big things with Luther happening in the near future and it is easy for me to say that with Let’s Get You Somewhere being such an impressive release.  This foursome contains a bunch of top-notch guys I have had the pleasure of seeing live before (of course there was a small delay due to their van crashing earlier last year before they were able to make it to Cleveland), and let me tell you, they do not disappoint.  They have already won over tons of fans and I am sure there will be plenty more where that came from.    Their Philly pals The Menzingers have already skyrocketed in the punk rock scene throughout 2012 and I know Luther will in no time as well based on their talent without riding a single coattail.  If you like bands like the Sidekicks, Menzingers, Banner Pilot, Cheap Girls, and so on, you really should be checking Luther out.

Happy 2nd Anniversary boys.  Keep up the great work.

Oh, and check out how bad ass their vinyl is:

Yea, I can be artsy…deal.

Interview: Blue of Masked Intruder

Masked Intruder‘s self-titled release was pretty much the soundtrack to my summer this year.  Full of love songs surrounded by committing crimes, the album is a pop-punk gem that I know tons of people have enjoyed as much as I have.  Think Ramones and Descendants joining forces and becoming villains of love.

If you have not heard of Masked Intruder yet and like your punk poppy, you have no reason to not check them out.  To make matters even more fun, the band had chosen to hide their identity to the public.  Each of the four members in the band wear different colored ski masks to help tell them apart from one another.  At this time their identity has still not been revealed.

Recently I was able to chat with Blue, the lead signer/guitarist of Masked Intruder.  The result was one of the more entertaining interviews I have done in some time; granted he held me at knife-point for the entire interview.  I guess that is what I get for agreeing to meet a masked musician in a dark alley.  I am kidding of course…at least that is what he told me to say…

So, who the hell are you guys?

We’re Masked Intruder.  We’re a pop punk band.  We used to be total dorks, then we got wise and started doing cool shit like breaking the law and writing love songs.  We’re still dorks, I guess, but we feel cooler.

What’s up with the masks?

When you do the kinda stuff we do, you don’t want people being able to positively id you.  It’s not exactly something you wanna advertise, you know?  I am referring of course to writing pop music.  I mean, everybody likes a sweet song, but nobody wants to admit it.  People are ashamed to be softies.  It’s sad but true.  Also, we don’t want the cops to catch us.  Also, we think that our masks are pretty cool, and kinda go with the whole theme.

I agree.  Seriously, how hard was it really to find masks that matched your shoes and gear?  Was that planned?

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.  We were in the joint when we started, so we had to figure out a way to get the masks inside.  You can’t just go to amazon and order whatever in jail.  Or prison, for that matter.  You gotta be creative.  Sometimes, you gotta give a dude a blowjob, or stab a dude with a toothbrush you sharpened on your toilet.  We didn’t have to do nothing like that, thank God.  Still, it was hard.  But yeah, it was planned.  Everything about Masked Intruder was planned.  What do you think dudes do in prison?  You plan.  And lift weights, I guess.  And some dudes play chess too.  Of course, the worst part was getting color coded instruments.  You literally cannot get a guitar in prison.  We had to wait till we got out to do it, and it was still fucking hard.  It’s harder than you think to find a chance to nab the right color instrument.  Green ended up lifting a red guitar and just covering it in green tape.  It turned out pretty cool, actually.

You’ve been doing a good job keeping your identities safe so far.  You’re like a punk rock Daft Punk, but different.  How close have you all come to getting busted?

We been busted many times, but not as far as our secret identities are concerned.  We are pretty religious about our masks, too, so nobody really sees us without ‘em on.  Yellow is real religious just in general, actually.  He never went to church too much though, so he always get’s shit confused.  He thinks Jesus died on a x-mas tree.  It’s hilarious.  Actually, it’s really depressing.  But, hey, that’s Yellow!  Truth is, we aren’t really anybody other than our colors.  It’s like, I am Blue.  Green is Green.  That’s how we feel about it. It’s like, why does it matter what name is on my birth certificate?  You know?  There really aren’t any other identities to discover.  This is us.  We are Masked Intruder.

 Your self-released album is incredible.  I am sure you know that.  I am just curious to see who some of your major musical influences are?

Hey thanks!  We have a lot of musical influences, but I guess everybody says that.  You always wanna give a cool answer, like, some obscure band that will prove how hip you are.  The truth is, we like a lot of stuff that wouldn’t even make us seem cool if we said it.  Like, I really like Taylor Swift.  I think the songs are sweet, alright?  I don’t know how much it influences me, as such, but I definitely like the idea of perfect pop songs.  Pop of all kinds gets us going.  You know, Eddie Money, Buddy Holly, Lady Gaga, Green Day, Weezer, Abba, Queen.  That’s good shit, if you ask me.  We all did our time listening to nothing but punk in the 90’s.  Well, not quite.  I think Green used to listen to some weird shit, and Yellow maybe listened to Boys II Men a lot.  I guess I did own Doggystyle on cassette.  Anyways, yeah.  We have a lot of influences.  One thing that’s definitely true is that we were listening to the Four Seasons a lot while we were first working on the record.  Red had this double LP, with a bunch of their songs.  He loved it so much, he used to carry it on him at all times.  Then, one day, it got eaten by a dog when he was doing a b&e.  Allegedly.

Man, sad story about that LP… You’ve been touring with Teenage Bottlerocket and Nothington lately right?  How did that go?

In a word, it was really fucking cool.  Both of those bands are just awesome dudes.  We couldn’t have gotten along better, you know?  I mean, I guess we could have made out with each other and stuff.  I don’t mean that those dudes are gay.  I mean, it would be ok if they were, but I don’t think any of them are.  We’re not gay, neither.  Not on the outside, at least.  You do what you need to do to get by when you’re on the inside, you know?  Anyways, the tour was great.  Both of those bands are so good, it’s great to see them do what they do every night.  It’s a real pleasure to share a stage every night with class acts that them.  That goes especially for TBR, which are easily one of the best live bands any of us have ever seen.  The response to us was really amazing too!  We love our fans!  Especially the girls.  Double especially the single girls, or girls who maybe have boyfriends but would be into leaving them for a sketchy musician in a mask.

I heard you dragged Toby from Red Scare to the Cleveland show.  Wouldn’t that be considered kidnapping?

No way was it kidnapping, he was stoked on it.  Something you should know about Toby: he never misses a chance to party with a bunch of dudes of questionable integrity.  I mean never.  I’m pretty sure he would have put his wedding on pause if a douche bag in a leather jacket had asked nicely enough.  Actually, he probably wouldn’t a done that.  He’s got tact.  That’s why we admire him.  He is like a real mentor to us.  He thinks we oughta give the crime thing a rest, but then we just ask him for more money, and it’s understood.  Like I said, you do what you gotta do.

Money makes the world go round.  Any arrests or close calls while on tour yet?  

We were worried about getting into Canada, but those people are really nice and let us right in.  Come to think of it, that was a really dumb thing for them to do.  I mean, people in Canada don’t even lock their doors.  That’s what we heard, at least.  We ended up not having enough time to case any houses seeing as how we were playing every night, though.  Oh well.  Red did almost get picked up for skateboarding in San Diego.  He was all like, “skateboarding is not a crime!”  Then the cop was all like, “vandalizing is a crime, though, and you are doing that too.”  This was true, of course, but it wasn’t Red’s fault.  He just hates rules, you know?  You can’t blame him.  Why should we respect a society that don’t respect us?  Anyways, it turns out it wasn’t a real cop: it was just a parking lot attendant with a mustache and sunglasses.  Maybe not what you would call a close call, but it was scary at the time.  He ended up being a pretty cool guy though.  We traded him some CDs for some weed.

Did you have anything to do with the Bouncing Souls’s gear getting ripped off?

Absolutely not.  It sucks that that happened.  It was kinda weird that they got ripped off right around when we played with them, but it wasn’t us.  We wouldn’t wanna steal from a band we like.  For one, we assume they don’t have much money on them at any given time.  Bands don’t really make much money these days.  For two, we respect those dudes and what they do and we wouldn’t want that to happen to us.  There may not be honor amongst thieves, but there is honor amongst touring bands.  If you are gonna rob someone, make it somebody less cool.  Like, a lawyer or a stockbroker or something dumb like that.

Since you are a punk pop band of mystery, tell us something we may not know about you all? 

We are actually really nice dudes and easy to get along with.  People always think we are gonna be these hardened criminals, but we aren’t.  We are soft criminals.  We are all kinda dorks, too.  I am really into horror movies.  So is yellow.  We all like comic books a lot too.  Also, Red is a vegetarian.

When are you releasing Masked Intruder on vinyl?

Originally, we wanted to release the vinyl at the same time as the CD.  There were a lot of setbacks, though, so we had to push the release back a couple months to October.  Then there were more setbacks, so we are looking at releasing it just in time for xmas.  We feel bad having to push it back like that, but it was out of our control.  It was like we were cursed with all these setbacks.  Not as bad as Def Leppard or nothing.  I mean, Red still has both his arms.  But, still.  Setbacks are tough.

Will it come with a promotional ski-mask?

That’s a good idea!  We will have to see about that…

What ever will you do when someone robs a bank and says Masked Intruder was their influence?

We hope that never happens.  We don’t advocate other people doing crimes.  We would prefer it if we were the only ones doing crimes, since that means more take for us.  If some birdbrain ever did rob a bank and try to say he got the idea from us, we would probably try to sue him for a portion of the money he stole.  I don’t know if you can do that, but we would definitely try.  If we were so famous that people were gonna copycat us, we should be able to afford pretty fancy lawyers.  Like, Johnny Cochran is a good one.  Or, it would be cool to have Saul Goodman.  He’s just a tv character, I know, but still.  He is a awesome lawyer.  Way better than the public defenders we are used to.

Saul rules.  I say go for it if it ever happens.  So, you got a knife motherfucker?  Sorry, that song rules in so many ways.

Thanks!  It was inspired by true events.  Allegedly.

Who’s the dame on “Heart Shaped Guitar” getting all sorts of freaked out?

It’s Maura from the band Mixtapes.  She was the voice I pictured when I wrote the tune, so it was beyond rad that she was able to do it.  We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

No shit.  That is awesome.  Please tell me there is a video in the works…

There is a video in the works.  You will see a few videos from this record.  Could be you will see one of them pretty soon. You didn’t hear that from me.

Hear what?  Maybe it’s too soon to be asking this, but what are the chances a follow up to this release is going to happen?

The chances of a follow up to this release are at least 100%.  We never stopped writing songs, even while we recorded the first album.

Will it be about love and bath salts?

We ain’t written a song about bath salts yet, but you never know.  That shit sure is a wild ride.  Somebody should write a song about it if we don’t.  I think it’s a safe bet that there will be a bunch of love songs on any records we put out.  Then again, we can’t say for sure what all will be on the next full length, since we are still writing for it.  For all we know, all of the songs that will end up on the next LP are yet to be written.  When we feel like we have the tunes to put together a full length that beats our first, we’re gonna.  There is a pretty damn good chance you will see another EP and maybe a split or something from us before then, though.

You are hitting the road again with Teenage Bottlerocket right?  They must really like you all.

They do!  And we like them too!  We are in like.  Actually, they are seriously probably my favorite band.  It’s pretty awesome to have them like us back.  Now, if only we can get that action working on hot chicks…

Speaking of chicks, what’s the best way to get a chick to fall for you while you are on house arrest?

I wish I knew!  The best idea we have had yet is to write the best songs you can and then record them and try to get enough people to listen to them that the girl ends up hearing them and liking them and falling in love with you from your lyrics and then you meet up and discover that you both secretly love each other like in the end of a Taylor Swift video or a Tom Hanks movie or something.  It’s a long process, but we figure it’s gotta work out eventually.  Then again, you never can tell about these things.  Girls are like Chinese: they are basically impossible to understand.  I mean, Chinese people understand it, I guess.  So, girls are like English if you’re Chinese, and like Chinese if you’re English.  Or, I mean, American.  Unless you are an American that speaks Chinese or a Chinese person that speaks American.  Anyways, girls are confusing.  You just gotta wear your heart on your sleeve and hope for the best.

Supenia of love…  You can use that if you want.  I like you guys that much.

Fuck yeah!  Thanks!  I picture “Lawnmower of Love” by MTX with the words changed.  I guess that would probably get us sued.

Eh, I say go for it.  You are masked, they will never know who to sue.

Check out Masked Intruder’s self titled release available on their Bandcamp and through Red Scare Records.

7″ Review: Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo – Fields Of June Featuring Frank Turner

There is nothing in the world quite as mysterious as a relationship.  From the start until the end, however it may conclude, we have all been there.  There are easily a million songs that have been written over time  about relationships and love.  Some are positive tunes that end happily ever after, and then there are the ones that are straight up depressing with no light in the future for a resolution.  We all know these songs, and honestly almost all of them were written because of love and heartache.

Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo may have written one of the sadder love songs I have heard in my time in regards to the departure of love.  The chamber-folk song, “Fields Of June”, is just depressing as hell.  Considered a murder ballet duet by Barker, it actually was written back in 2007.  The song became even more poignant once the song was re-recorded and the male vocal duties were taken over by a good friend of Barker’s, Frank Turner.   The original duet is nothing compared to the re-released single on Xtra Mile Recordings.  Barker and Turner are perfect in trading verses, no matter how run down they may be.

To make things even more melancholy, the two made a music video, or should I say filmed a silent movie, to accompany said track.  The result is a clip I have watched over and over now.  It hits the heart hard and can cause a laugh or two as well.  Turner has proved quite the performer in the video.

Barker and Turner make for one hell of a duet act on “Fields Of June”,  and it would only make perfect sense that collaborate again in the future.

The song is available for download on iTunes as well as was released on a white 7″ in the UK with another Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo track “Nostalgia” that came from their album Despite The Snow.  The second track may not have been infectious to me as the first, but was really an amazing listen.

After hearing both songs, I must say I am really interested in hearing more of this chamber-folk that Barker and company creates.

Check out the video below for “Fields Of June” featuring Frank Turner:

Album Review: Versus The World – Drink. Sing. Live. Love.

Southern California’s Versus The World is what many night call a pop-punk /alt-rock supergroup. Made up with a former bassist for The Ataris, Mike Davenport, current Lagwagon guitarist Chris Flippin, vocalist Donald Spence and Crooks and Liars drummer Bryan Charleson, the band easily has years of experience rocking out and their recent release, Drink. Sing. Live. Love., certainly proves that.

Dropped though Viking Funeral Records (Fletcher from Pennywise’s part-owned label), Drink. Sing. Live. Love. was an impressive pop-punk/post-hardcore listen from the start.  I really did not know what to expect prior to checking out this release, all I knew was that the band consisted of some standout musicians from bands I have been a solid fan of for years.

Starting off the album was “She Sang The Blues”. a moderately heavy track with a good post-hardcore feel.  Spence and Flippin share vocal duties throughout over distorted guitar playing as well as some fun solos.  I am not going to lie, I was heavily impressed with what I heard, and I was only one song in.

There were plenty on singable opportunities on “A Fond Farewell”, a track that just screamed to be played on mainstream radio.  Yeah, it sounded like a Fall Out Boy song at times (mostly from the singing solo), but who the hell cares?

“The Kids Are Fucked” easily was one of my favorite cuts off the album.  Perhaps it was the Freaks and Geeks sample of Daniel  yelling at Nick, “rock ‘n roll don’t come from your brain. It comes from your crotch” that got me going.  Besides that, the track had all the qualities of a good listen: catchy hooks, lyrics I cold relate to at my tender age, and good ol’ fashioned guitar playing.  If there is one song you need to check out on this album, this is it.

“A Love Song For Amsterdam” easily could have been a b-side to an Atari’s album.  Then there was “Crooks And Lairs”, a likable typical moving-on-with-life-after-a-failed-relationship track that can make anyone who ever was in a rocky relationship can relate to.  “Donner Pass” was the shortest, fastest, and heaviest track on the album.  No offense, but I almost wish more songs on the album matched the tempo that this track kept.  I have the feeling that Flippin had something to do with this track.  Wrapping things up was “We Were Alive”, a track that was just not doing it for me.  With how the alumb started, I really was hoping for a nice finale.  To each their own of course.

Turns out, Versus The World dropped their debut release back in 2005 under Kung Fu Records.  I think that was the year I moved to Egypt or fell off a cliff…  Seriously, I am scratching my head on how I have never heard of this supergroup until today.  Regardless, I now know what I was missing out on and liked a few tracks off this release.  Pop-punk fans, you need to hear these guys.  They certainly fit the bill.

What i like the most about this band is that it is full of musicians who have taken their lives and dedicated them to music.  10 years ago things may have been different in their lives, but they have all moved on and matured into what they are today.  I respect that.  Rather than recall their past, they have moved on and formed something new to impress the world with.

Drink. Sing. Live. Love. recalled the pop-punk sounds of the early 2000s with close similarities to, you guessed it, The Ataris and also Fall Out Boy and even a young Taking Back Sunday.  Hell, I can even hear some old Alkaline Trio in there.  Leaning more towards a rock sound at times, the album overall was a good listen.  I have a slight feeling that this band might sound even better live.  Here’s hoping I can experience that.