Monday, October 17, 2011

Exclusive Interview: Ariel from Icon For Hire!

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ariel, the lead singer of Icon For Hire! I loved the band's debut album, "Scripted", and I know several others that love it as well! My questions are in black, and in homage to Ariel's hair, her answers are in pink! Enjoy!

Icon For Hire has been one of my favorite bands for quite a while now! Can you give us some background on the formation of Icon For Hire?
We started the band almost four years ago. None of us had ever been in bands before, and none of us knew what we were doing. So we just kind of guessed that "this is probably how you start a band." A few months later, we played our first show to a packed club in our hometown. It was mostly our friends and family, but since Adam and Shawn had recently been a big part of the local party scene, they still had a ton of friends that came out to see us. We played a terrible show but when it's your friends, you know, they tell you how good you are anyways. Our passion for music was there; whatever we lacked in sound we made up for with enthusiasm.

“Scripted” released to positive reviews from critics and fans alike. Did you ever expect to be where you are as a band now?
For me that changes on a daily basis. There are some moments where I am 100% certain that this is what we were born to do and we will continue to do it the rest of our lives. Other times I think "Man, the fact we got this far is amazing, we should probably just quit while we're ahead!" I remember that before the album came out we had a conversation about how proud we were of this record. We decided that we didn't care too much how it was received, we were just stoked to have the opportunity to make an album, period. It's important to do what you're doing because you completely love it, regardless of the response it garners.

From the punching guitars and strong vocals to heartfelt lyrics, “Scripted” has become one of my top ten albums of 2011. What was the inspiration behind the album?
Thank you! We didn't set out to give the album a unifying theme, we were just making music about issues we were passionate about. It ended up that a lot of the songs on the album deal with getting over your past, and the message that if you're not happy with your life right now, then stop complaining and go do something about it. It is really important to me to remind our listeners that everyone thinks they've had a crappy life; that doesn't give us an excuse to sit life out waiting to recover.

“Make A Move”, the main single from “Scripted” is an in your face message of standing up for what we believe in. What challenged you to write this song?
This song came from my personal struggle with how we as Americans spend our time, money, creativity, and all that. There are amazing, wonderful, precious people in anguish because they don't have access to food. There are bright-eyed, adorable little girls forced to have sex with strangers for fourteen hours a day, and are drugged up if they fail to perform. And what do I do with information like that? I shrug, think about how sad it is, and hope that somebody will come along and do something about it. That song brings up the fact that we do so freaking little with all this knowledge. We are selfish. I am selfish.

“Only A Memory” (also known as “Pernilla”) is one of the most powerful Icon For Hire songs. What is the story behind the song?
I wrote the lyrics for my friends. It just so happened that a lot of them went through some extremely horrific abuses around the same time. "Only a Memory" is from their perspective and is a reminder that you are not what has been done to you.

The lyrics of the songs on “Scripted” are so refreshing and thought provoking. How have you seen your music affect your fans?
It's been very rewarding to see the album actually doing something, actually having an effect on our listeners. That's the whole reason we started this thing, you know. We've heard stories of it bringing hope to kids. I hope it inspires them.

Icon For Hire has been compared to bands such as Paramore and Evanescence. What would you say makes you different than those bands?
That is a huge, loaded question! The easy answer is that our music has the unique combination of programming/pop elements, mixed with a commercial rock sound. We also have a live show that easily sets us apart, we've never had someone come see us live and compare us to other bands. But the more complicated part of this question is the fact that I hate answering it! I hate having to defend our band, like somehow because we have a female vocalist that we are in the same genre. It sends the message to our female fans that there's no place for them in music, like somehow since "female singer with rock or pop band" has already been done, that there's no room for creativity or growth within that. It frustrates me how in so many other industries, you are acknowledged for your skill and education, but it music somehow if you're a chick you better be bringing something extraordinarily mind-blowing to the table in order to have a shot. It’s a bit sexist I think.

Are there any causes you support that are near to your heart?
Human trafficking is the first that comes to mind, just because of the extremity and magnitude of that. Abortion is another thing that I hate with a passion. As a band, we have lofty dreams for digging wells in Africa, inspiring change, and enabling well-meaning fans to do something with their concern for the world. 

Touring can be crazy. How do you stay grounded in Christ?
Sometimes I suck at spending time with God, and sometimes I surprise myself with how often I find myself wanting to be with him. It's no different than being at home- we just have a great excuse not to do it because there is never any quiet or alone time on tour, and we are never not tired/sore/hungry/etc. So just like at home, you fight for it.

How has God been speaking to you recently?
Through a lot of journaling.

Has anything crazy or funny happened to the band recently?
The other day someone misread our band name on the side of our van as “Con For Hire”, as in Convicts For Hire. He thought we were a group of ex-cons looking for work!

In 15 to 20 years, what would you want people to remember most about Icon For Hire?
It'd be great if people recognized that we cared more about loving and talking to the fans we have then working to win new ones, that we inspired kids at the shows to look past their own lives and be something great. More than anything, we want to stay close to each other, and remember what's important. "Quality over quantity" is a huge value to our band.

Would Icon For Hire ever consider releasing some of their older songs such as “Conversation With A Rockstar” or “Sno” on a future release? Yes definitely! Conversation with a Rockstar is a huge fan favorite, and I think it deserves a better chance than just the little acoustic demo we did in the basement. But I am sorry to say that Sno will probably never see daylight, only the hardcore fans will know that one.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. My readers and I appreciate it! Any closing thoughts?
No, thank you! Anytime we get the chance to explain who we are in our own words is well appreciated. Our Facebook ( is the best place for listeners to stay in touch, so readers can see our tour dates and video blogs all from there. :) We’d love to hear from your readers

Friday, October 14, 2011

"The Reckoning" by Needtobreathe Review!

Needtobreathe has been one of my favorite bands since "Daylight" was released in 2006. In the past five years the guys have changed their sound to a more Southern Rock/Alternative/Country genre, won 6 Dove Awards and opened for Taylor Swift. The guys are back with their fourth album, "The Reckoning", and to be honest, I didn't really like it at first. However, now that I've had a chance to listen to it more, I find I really enjoy this more serious side of Needtobreathe.

"Oohs & Aahs" starts things of on a somber note unlike the fun, banjo picking opener on "The Outsiders". "Oohs & Aahs" has a strong Southern Rock flavor that brings gritty guitars and slightly distorted vocals that somehow create a smooth, solid song. Definitely one of the best songs on the album, it showcases great vocal and musical talent. "White Fences" is one of my favorites off the album, and is a bittersweet tale of a love gone wrong, and could even be taken as a Christian's spiritual struggle between sin and God.

Next on the album we have "Drive All Night" that showcases the country sound of Needtobreathe, and tells the story of a restless soul longing for adventure; something different. "A Place Only You Can Go" is a beautiful, sweet song and I love the addition of bagpipes on this song. Very creative! "Slumber" the first single to Christian Radio from "The Reckoning", pleads for Christians to awake from their "slumber", and tells us that we don't have to "stand in line for crumbs that fall from the table, just enough to get by" , we can chase our dreams and make them reality.

"The Reckoning" is a powerful tune about fighting to become who you know you need to be, and visits the sound Needtobreathe showcased on "Daylight". "Able" is one of the best songs lyrically on the album, acknowledging that we are not able to do anything on our own, that we need God's strength and guidance. Another top notch track! "Maybe They're On To Us" is the main "fun" song on "The Reckoning" with brassy trumpets and a fun guitar rhythm.

Photo Credit: DJ Buchanan
"Wanted Man" is a lovely song about a man who acknowledges he has done wrong, and the consequences he must now face, but still desires love. "Keep Your Eyes Open" sounds like it came straight off "Daylight", and listening to this track, I found myself missing that side of Needtobreathe. "Tyrant Kings" seems a little off to me, and I wish Needtobreathe had kept "Cops" (which sounded so awesome on the behind the scenes video) and left this song off. "The Devil's Been Talkin" has a fresh, unique intro, and is one of the catchiest songs off "The Reckoning". "Angel At My Door" keeps the alternative/country feel, and although I found it a little confusing at first, I find it a beautiful song of encouragement to a friend. "Learn To Love" closes the album, with a message of unconditional commitment.

"The Reckoning" is a very strong album from a band that went from sounding like Switchfoot to creating their own, unique style that captured the attention of listeners all over. Sure, it's darker than "The Heat" and "The Outsiders" but it has such strong emotion and some of the best musical and vocal talents you'll ever hear. "The Reckoning" definitely belongs in your library.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Throwback Thursday: Nevertheless

Throwback Thursday is back! I've finally managed to get the blog going again, and I'm excited to bring this post back!

This week's band is "Nevertheless". Nevertheless came in on the Christian power punk scene in 2005 and released their first major label album in 2006 entitled ""Live Like We're Alive". The guys met in high school and came up with the name Nevertheless from Luke 5:15 which says: "And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net." I love when bands take their names from Scripture, and the meaning behind Nevertheless is very special. 

"Live Like We're Alive" did well, and a music video for "The Real" was made. In 2008 the guys released "In The Making", and although "Sleeping In" made it to #24 on the R&R charts as well as the Wow 2009 cd, "In The Making" was vastly underrated. Finally, in 2009, Nevertheless released their last project, "When I'm With You EP" which was a collection of acoustic love songs written for the band member's wives. How sweet!

Towards the end of 2009 Nevertheless released a statement saying they were disbanding at the end of 2009 due to personal issues. It was sad to see them go, but ultimately it was the best decision for them. Their guitarist, AJ Cheek went on to join Revive, who also disbanded this year, and has recently released an EP. The former Lead Singer Joshua Pearson is reported to be working on a solo project. AJ's stuff is pretty exciting, and I'm sure Josh's will be also.

Nevertheless was a great band that wasn't around for very long. Their music lives on through their two albums, and is no doubt still impacting listeners. Be sure to check these guys out!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Music from Skyhawk Drive

Today is a great day. Skyhawk Drive has released their new single and music video called, "Whisper". "Whisper" was produced by Ben Kasica, and I'm loving the harder sound of Skyhawk Drive. The passionate lyrics are amazing, and the music video is one of the best I've seen all year. Congratulations Guys! You can buy the single off iTunes or Amazon today.