Los Angeles CA | Rock
Connect is the perfect title for Sick Puppies’ third and most ambitious album. The trio is all about connection–with their fans, each other, their own psyches—and each of the dozen songs on Connect–from intense, epic rockers to mellower yet lyrically anguished ballads–is introspective yet also universal. From the first single, “There’s No Going Back” to the band’s most political song, the ironic “Gunfight,” Connect will exhilarate old fans and captivate new ones. The L.A.-based, Australian-bred band struck an elusive musical and lyrical balance of past and future on Connect, as band co-founder/singer/guitarist Shimon Moore explains: “There are two ways to shoot yourself in the foot—never changing… or changing too much.” With Connect, Sick Puppies came into their own, thanks in no small part to five years of touring and a full year of songwriting, finding their musical medium without sacrificing intensity or their trademark, dead-on lyrical acuity and introspection.
Since the release of Tri-Polar (nearly half a million units to date and over 2 million single sold) and its slew of radio hits—the #1 Rock track “You’re Going Down,” the Top Five Modern Rock/Active Rock hits “Odd One” & “Riptide” and the cross-format anthemic smash “Maybe.” Connect (out July 16, 2013), with its melding of room-filling rockers and edgy yet poignant lyrics, is poised to be the lineup’s best-selling record yet. Moore explains how Connect evolved: “We’ve always had the colors to work with, but we really got to use some broad strokes in Polar Opposite, our 2011 reimagined acoustic record. It was always a dream of mine to work with strings and a choir, and our producer made it kinda trippy and unusual on Polar Opposite. So I was looking forward to taking some of the elements of that, and furthering some melodies and sentiments of [2007’s US debut] Dressed Up As Life, and the heaviness from Tri-Polar. It’s an amalgamation of all into one, which is why I think it’s our best work to date.”
Produced, as was Tri-Polar, by the Rock Mafia production team of Tim James and Antonina Armato, Connect also took guidance from another, very pure source: the trio’s legions of fans. With face-to-face and online interaction with Sick Puppies World Crew, the band listened when followers said they loved their agro side, yet also wanted more of bassist/co-founder Emma Anzai’s vocals. Indeed, Anzai comes into her own on Connect, with more vocal presence on songs like “Die To Save You”, “Telling Lies” & debuts her lead vocal on “Under A Very Black Sky”. Though the whole band contributes to songwriting, she takes particular pride in “Healing Now.” “It’s got my bass riff at the beginning, like ’Odd One’ on our previous record,” she notes. “And on ’There’s No Going Back’ I love that while it’s slightly nostalgic and a little melancholy, it’s also uplifting. Our ballads can be sweet, but at the same time, the content is quite painful, and I like that contrast.”
The band, co-founded in 1999 by Moore and Anzai while still in high school, signed to Paul Stepanek Management, soon after they rounded out their line up by adding Orange County, California-bred drummer Mark Goodwin, who they met through a classified ad following their move to LA in 2006. Soon after, signed to Paul Palmer’s indie label through Virgin Records, a fortuitous video pairing with a friend led Sick Puppies to online fame with the song “All The Same” (AKA the Free Hugs video), which earned an astonishing 75-million-plus views worldwide, and led to appearances on Oprah, 60 Minutes, CNN, Good Morning America, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Other outside-the-box endeavors also pepper the band’s impressive resume. Sick Puppies were featured on Cinemax’s Tour Stories, a five-part documentary about the band; “You’re Going Down” was the official theme for the WWE’s “Extreme Rules”; plus, as dedicated road dogs, playing over 750 shows in North America, they’ve shared the stage with bands including Muse, Tool, The Killers, Papa Roach and Deftones.
The years of touring are evident not only in the tight, intuitive playing on Connect, but also in the lyrics, which proved cathartic for the group. “We’ve been on the road five or six years straight,” Moore notes. “And when you come back to ’real life,’ everything is different, and you don’t realize until you have a moment to breathe. Your parents have gray hair, stores have moved, Twitter happened, the world vomited a whole new culture while we were out playing rock ’n’ roll!” he notes. Grappling with those changes and emotions lend an intimate searching to many of Connect’s sound and words. “You’re like, ’where did the time go,’ and that’s exactly the title of one of our songs.”
As for the concept of connecting, Moore observes that “there are only a few things every single person in the world has in common. One is that we all need each other. To have a song [“Connect”] that captures that is pretty special.” While most of the songs on Connect were written in 2012, the album’s title track “Connect” contains the oldest riff in Moore’s musical arsenal. “It’s fun; I wrote it while in high school learning how to play guitar, and I always had it in my back pocket,” the singer recalls. “I’ve brought it up on every record, but wasn’t right.” Finally, though his eternal riff found its perfect chorus—with a little banjo added for good measure.
Drummer Goodwin notes: “We’re a career band. We want to build and take the time to make things right. The first time we ever jammed it was a massive wall of sound; amazing for a trio. It’s been that way ever since. On Connect, we went more for ’big’ rather than ’heavy.’ We did a lot of percussion–tambourines and shakers—and that’s rounded us out when we play acoustically as well.”
The third time is the charm on Connect. With two powerful albums and three varied EP’s preceding it, Connect ties the Sick Puppies sound and vibe together and sets the stage for future aural adventures in all shapes and sizes. To wit: the persuasive lyrics of “Run,” which is a favorite of Moore’s, contains his personal mantra in lines such as: “You better run as fast as you can / cause this world tries to stop you, stop you, stop you / whenever it can.” He confesses, “I only subscribe to that half the time, so it’s good to have a song you can sing to yourself for inspiration as much as to your audience!” Even with Connect’s myriad lyrical and musical layers, the record still manages to breathe. “I believe that we succeeded in making an album that will stand the test of time,” Moore concludes with a laugh. “At least I hope so!”
Hamilton Ontario Canada | Rock
There’s stubborn. And then there’s Kaz stubborn. The singer-songwriter of Redlight King refused to take no for an answer when music business suits denied his request to sample a Neil Young classic, pressing relentlessly until he got a “yes.” More importantly, Kaz held on to vanquish the inner demons that nearly wrecked him several years ago. Now, with “Something for the Pain,” Redlight King’s redemptive Hollywood Records debut album, Kaz relives both his darkest days and the turn-around, when he clawed his way back to the light.
A latticework of rock and hip hop, the album conjures old school sounds, thanks to Kaz and producers Wally Gagel and Xandy Barry, as well as the good vibes at Hollywood’s TGG Studios (now called Wax Studios, whose alums include Jimi Hendrix, the Doors and, yes, Neil Young). “I’m all about mixing in the old sounds,” Kaz says, “and giving it that warm, analog feel. There is sampling, hip hop grooves and beats, but I also wanted good old fashioned meat and potatoes: bass, guitar, drums.”
The sound may be warm, but his songs revisit the cold climate of Kaz’s native Hamilton, Ont., and the even chillier emotional landscape of his lost years. In the astonishing hip-hop flavored debut single, “Old Man,” Kaz offers a reluctant salute to his father, a larger-than-life figure who taught school by day and raced stock cars at night (“The life he demanded/Kept us all in a struggle/When he ruled with his fist/It kept us all out of trouble”). “No father issues here,” says Kaz with a laugh.
Hard-edged rockers like the blustery “Bullet in My Hand,” “The Underground” and the title track take listeners on a vertical drop into an abyss Kaz once knew all too well. “Most of it was written while the feelings were still there,” he recalls. “My songs are written about real issues, real experiences. I like to bring listeners in deep, and give them time to look around.”
Kaz starts “digging six feet up” (as he puts it) on songs like “Comeback,” “Built to Last” and the irresistibly melodic “Driving to Kalifornia.” Collectively, they describe the hard labor of rebuilding a life, then hitting the road, with the wintry east receding in the rear view mirror. The album ends with the acoustic-flavored “Past the Gates” and “When the Dust Settles Down,” the former a hope-filled forward glance, the latter a last look back. He may be whistling past the graveyard, but it’s such a pretty tune.
Kaz grew up in Hamilton, Ont., once a booming steel center on the shores of Lake Ontario, and now struggling in the global economic meltdown. He grew up in middle class home where his parents “struggled to pay the bills.” Like his dad, Kaz loved cars and drag racing (Redlight King is named for the light “tree” that signals the start of a race). As he grew, music also began to take hold. He loved Queen, Springsteen, Dylan and Lennon no less than A Tribe Called Quest, Rakim, Treach and Nas. He started writing early on, recording his first track at age 16. But in his teens, music took a back seat to judo. He was good enough for a shot at Canada’s Olympic training center to prepare for the 2000 Games. But he didn’t make the team -- a blow that would take a toll later.
Meanwhile, Kaz returned to music, landing a deal and releasing an album in Canada. That led to a Juno Award nomination for Best New Artist, but the affirmation wasn’t enough to halt a steep slide. “You know why it’s happening,” he recalls of his struggle with substance abuse. “You don’t know where the end is, you’ve lost all rationality. You’re borderline insane. But in the end, you make a decision to start again, and the only way was to forgive myself for my mistakes.”
It worked. Kaz came back strong, headed to California in a rebuilt ’49 Mercury pick-up and converted his two-year nightmare into the song cycle that became “Something for the Pain.” Says Kaz, “Writing songs when you’re in a dark place is dangerous. The songs I wrote for this album I won’t write again. I won’t have to.”
Just because he lives in Los Angeles now doesn’t mean he’s gone Hollywood. When the mood strikes, he takes his rebuilt 1950 Harley up the PCH, just to clear his head. Hot rodder that he is, Kaz is currently restoring a rare 1937 Lincoln Zephyr coupe, with plans to make “a film capturing the journey and process of bringing the car back to life,” he says. “Hot rod culture runs deep in my roots.”
Music runs even deeper, and with the release of “Something for the Pain,” Kaz will take the show on the road very soon. He knows his music touches a raw nerve, but that’s part of the appeal for him. “I hope people will be able to connect with it and take from it what they need,” he says. “It’s about the human condition. In the end, we’re all the same.”
London England United Kingdom | Rock
September 2012 marked the completion of a debut album that had been several years in the making. Having come together as young teenagers in London, England the boys quickly began to write songs and spent a large part of their formative years balancing their aspirations for the band with the task of completing their education. After self-releasing a 4-track E.P back in 2010, the guys sat down to consider their options moving forward. "We had collectively always wanted to write and record the biggest sounding album we possibly could" says singer Charlie, "it was becoming too difficult to juggle the responsibilities of university and jobs with the full time nature of a working rock band". During the spring of 2011 after an initial visit to California, they decided it would be in the best interest of the band to drop out of university, quit their jobs back home and take a chance on the other side of the pond. Fast forward to 2013 and the bands ambitious risk is beginning to pay off. With a debut album completed (Caroline/Capitol Music Group release) - production duties going to Bob Rock (Metallica, Aerosmith, Motley Crue) and John Fields (Andrew WK, Switchfoot, Jimmy Eat World) Charming Liars have already released a taster of the fruits of their labour in the no-nonsense rocker "Break Away" which has wetted the appetites of CL newcomers famished for more tunes. With the first official music video wrapped for lead single "New Disorder" and an introductory EP showcasing 2 more tracks alongside the official debut and "Break Away", Charming Liars are preparing themselves for their first ever North American run. They will be embarking this August on this summer's Rockstar Uproar festival tour alongside some of rock's biggest legends and heavyweights including Alice in Chains, Jane's Addiction and Coheed & Cambria. Having already made a mark in the Los Angeles area with shows on the infamous Sunset Strip at venues like the Viper Room, Roxy, Whiskey a go-go and Troubadour amongst others, it's obvious that there is a powerful resurging demand for quality guitar music and Charming Liars look set to deliver.