AlternaZine’s first video interview with the awesome singer-songwriter Elyse Haren!
AlternaZine’s first video interview with the awesome singer-songwriter Elyse Haren!
(from left to right: Skyler, Gavin, Miles, and Chris)
For about a week and a half I’ve been struggling to retrieve damaged audio from the video interview I’d conducted with SoCal-based group BAD SUNS. Although the tape, when played back on the camera itself, carries the audio with apparently no issues, I had no luck transferring it into my editing software on any attempt. This is is the first video interview where something went awry in the technical sense, and I’m still pretty miffed about only being able to deliver my conversation with the rockin’ bunch to you all through text.
Nevertheless, the show they put on -and meeting the band beforehand- were both great experiences, and I highly recommend all in the area to check these guys out! Not only do they put on a really fun live show, but they’re talented well beyond their years, so don’t let their age play any part in prejudging them. One of their next gigs is on October 28th at L.A.’s iconic venue The Whisky, alongside BLOWING UP THE MOON and another wave-making young band called JETSTREAM.
BAD SUNS are: Drummer Miles Kottak, guitarist Skyler Leon, vocalist/guitarist Chris Bowman, and bassist/vocalist Gavin Bennett.
Leja: So you guys are from Woodland Hills. And this is your first time playing the Viper Room?
Chris: This is our second 21+ show. We’ve played On the Rocks at the Roxy a few months ago, and that was really cool. Yeah, sounds great in there, we’re all excited. Sound check sounded awesome.
Leja (to Miles): So I saw on your Facebook that you got a new tattoo? Could you explain what it signifies?
(Skyler grins and runs up to Miles, forcing his shirt sleeve up with a laugh.)
Miles: It’s about… Satan! (he laughs and pulls his sleeve up further, moving closer to the camera and displaying a clock face with Roman Numerals, with inset and surrounding layers of modern, Arabic numerals) Nah, haha. I don’t really want to go into it because it’s really hard to explain, but it means a lot to me.
Skyler: It’s… it’s cute.
Leja: Oh, I’m sorry! So what age did you guys start playing music? And what were some of your early favorites that inspired you to?
Chris: Well, we’ve been playing individually for years. I mean, I seriously started playing music when I was about nine, and all of us have been for a long time. We started playing together, though, about three years ago now. We (he motions to Skyler) kinda had our own little band going, and we sorta decided we needed to branch out a little bit. And we ended up looking for a bass player and a drummer (he motions to Chris, and then to Miles). The three of us met in school and we met [Miles] through another band that I was playing with for a little while. We’ve been playing together for… uh, it’s been about two and a half years. And we just changed our name to BAD SUNS, a little under six months [ago] I think. And it’s been going really well so far.
Leja: And then, you guys just shot a music video for your song “Not Quite Myself?”
Chris: Yeah, well, we’ve been filming for quite a while. We started filming September 5th, I think it was, and we’d kinda go in and look at the video. We had [as] our director Trent Siggard, who does all our stuff with pictures. He’s great. We’d take the shots or whatever and we’d go in and do rough cuts, and say, “Well this is missing; we can make this a little bit better.” And he’s a really good friend of ours and he does everything with us, pretty much, for free. We’re kind of his guinea pigs, so we have the benefit of kinda being able to go in and redo things if we need to. So it’s a really cool relationship we have, so I think the video’s gonna end up looking really good. And we should have everything all done this week.”
Leja: So is there a concept behind the video you’re working on?
Chris: A very loose concept. I wouldn’t say “concept” as much as just a series of events stringing together. But it looks cool. We’re happy with it. (the other guys nod in agreement)
Leja: So are you guys working on an album still, or do you have one out already?
Skyler: We’re working on it.
Chris: We’re working on just piecing songs together. We’ve been recording songs in various studios, and we’ve had a lot of great [working] opportunities. The plan is, sort of, to get an EP together pretty soon, but for now we’re just sort of honing in on our sound and writing, and getting dialed in.
Leja: Hopefully this isn’t an uncomfortable question for you, Miles, but since drumming obviously runs in your family (with Tommy Lee being your uncle, your dad James Kottak being drummer of SCORPIONS, and your mom Athena Lee also being the drummer of KRUNK), did they impart any good advice on you about what to expect in this business, or have any of them kinda “mentored” you?
Miles: Well, not really lessons. I’m kinda self-taught. Good advice, I get it all the time from my dad. I’ve kinda been around the scene, so I kinda know what to expect already. So that’s cool…
Leja: Have you guys played with any of the other bands on tonight’s lineup at all?
Chris: No, all new bands we’ll be playing with. But I’ve check ’em out, but they’re cool and we’re excited to see what they sound like live.
Leja: Any other announcements you want to make to the people out there viewing this? And where can people check you out and, eventually, get your stuff online?
Skyler: (starts to give a link but then isn’t sure it’s right)
Chris: (interrupts) NOPE, NOPE! (laughs) I’ll take care of it.
Skyler: (laughs) Okay, okay dude go for it.
Chris: Hit us up at facebook.com/badsuns, twitter.com/thebadsuns … Um… I guess that’s it! Then there’s youtube.com/badsunsvideo. We put up new updates all the time, and the band’s constantly growing, so… we’re all really excited, and it’s going well!
From left to right: bassist Tristan Hendy, drummer Jake DeSouza, singer/guitarist Gabe Watson, and guitarist Martial Chaput
Native June came to my attention at a showcase for Planet LA Records nearly two months ago, where they were the first of two outfits backed by the label and the opener for the night’s festivities. Unfortunately, the sound in the room wasn’t so great that night (perhaps the fault of whoever was in charge of mixing them at that venue), so I couldn’t completely make out leading man Gabe’s sorta punky, purring vocals but I and everyone around me enjoyed their stage presence and energy.
They have a much lighter, more upbeat and fun sound than the followup act, Djinn (who are very dark and melancholic and basically the night to Native June‘s day; hell, even the lighting the former used for their set was the complete opposite of the latter’s – accented with deep purples, bloody crimson, eerie green and a stark blue all loaned a foreboding atmosphere, especially when the smoke machine started spewing out a ghostly fog at the Djinn guys’ feet). NJ‘s music would be well-suited to a nice long coastal drive on a sunny day. Perhaps that’s why they named their latest effort, a 9-track EP, Ocean to Sunset.
Native June have a strong stage presence. The turnout for this particular location was unfortunately lacking, but the people were watching were definitely catching on to their infectious charm, and these boys would play with the same energy level and enthusiasm for a three head crowd as they would for a sold-out arena. From the get-go it’s obvious that they’re passionate about what they do, and the very experience of playing is what they’re there for. That’s what I like to see in the Rock bands I review for ALTERNAZINE and in the Metal bands I review for HAILSWEBZINE; I mean, if the band isn’t feeling it, it’s painfully clear!
The Briton of the bunch, Tristan, is arguably the most spirited member onstage. Constantly in motion and with red curls and self a-bouncing, the bassist flits from one side of the stage to the other with an ear to ear grin and likes to interact with all the heads in the crowd between songs. and afterwards supported their labelmates Djinn by moving along and getting the rest of the heads around the stage bopping as well.
All of them are extremely friendly and glad to chat with showgoers after their set (which they did; each one of them made the rounds before Djinn took to the stage to introduce themselves and give thanks to all the standing attendees). No rock star ‘tude here!
Native June bring their own brand of cutesy quirk with them wherever they go, too: Gabe and Tristan tend to dress alike and tell the crowd they’re proud brothers (they’re not, I later found out when I spoke with them after their set). I wish I’d asked where that particular inside joke started.
As it turns out, none of the guys even share a common origin; I already mentioned that Tristan hails from the U.K., but guitarist Martial Chaput is a fairly recent French transplant, and Gabe is an Indiana native. While they all call L.A. home nowadays, drummer Jake DeSouza is the only lifelong Californian among them.
Ocean to Sunset isn’t their first album; they released Whiskey & Walnuts back in 2006, a single titled “Daisy” last year, and shot a neat music video to partner it not long after. As it turns out, “Daisy” wound up on the Ocean to Sunset EP. They inked their deal with Planet LA Records this year and plowed on ahead getting their new baby show-ready in time for the Fall.
All songs on this album are upbeat and hyper-peppy (I made that word up just for you, guys!), so this is no heartstring-tugging tearjearker. From the first song, “Saturday Night”, the listener is immediately told that this is a feelgood album meant as a deliberate distraction to the uncertainty and apparent darkness all around us (for those of us who continue to torture ourselves with today’s headlines, anyways). The opening track is a hormonally charged party anthem and an ode to having a good time (“from the waist down”, no less), livin’ it up and basically, to not giving a shit.
“Daisy” is a message to a little girl about growing up and moving forward (with some oft-forgotten bits of advice such as “you’ve got one life to live”, ” it’s important to make the most of each day”, and “if it’s meant to happen, it will”), a point which is reinforced with some captured moments of the titular starlet as a playful youngster and later, as a very sexy, very grown up take on Red Riding Hood (basically she looks like a hotter version of the one played by Amanda Seyfried in that awful movie). I didn’t care for the opening of “Daisy” too much, though. The synthesized part sounds a little cheesy.
“I Shoulda Saw it Coming” is my favorite lyrically – especially the line (ha!) about astronauts on drugs. Even though it’s sort of a cautionary tale about doing what you’re told not to, it’s rife with tongue-in-cheek humor presented amongst catchy staccato rhymes and it instantly sticks to your ears like peanut butter does to the roof of your mouth. Sorry for that visual, but when you hear this track you’ll know what I mean. It’s nowhere near as unsavory as the peanut butter experience. Unless you’re a salty old fuddy duddy who hates fun. God, Dad, see?! This is why we can’t have nice things!
The Pop-infused, Indie/Grit Rock quartet cite everything from Kings of Leon, The Juliana Theory, The Killers, Bloc Party, to Sublime and Weezer as influences.
Artwork and tracklisting for Ocean to Sunset are as follows:
OCEAN TO SUNSET
01. Saturday Night
02. Shoulda Saw It Coming
06. Golden Tambourine
Ocean to Sunset was recorded and produced by at Barn Productions in Los Angeles,
The album will be formally released on September 23rd, and there’s going to be a launch party at the infamous Viper Room that night. Click here for more details on this event. I’ll be there myself!
In the meantime, you can hear some of their songs on their ReverbNation.
Make sure to be their fan on Facebook for more news and updates!
I met Caleb Fritel at an industry mixer a few weeks ago in the Highlands Nightclub, smack-dab in the heart of Hollywood, California. It’s a location with the feel of a refurbished cave – despite being pretty fancy, the interior’s got a certain dark, gritty aesthetic, while the high, spacious stone walls and ceilings and dim lighting felt odd during the day. Nonetheless all the faces present within were bright, amped, and more than a little anxious, most flitting from group to group to make themselves known in the flurry of traded business cards and heard over the din of the projector and clopping of high heels and rubber soles.
The club is in a noisy little cubbyhole flanked by the famous Chinese Theater, at which many a star-studded premiere takes place, and several pricy little boutiques and cafes. Tourists from the world over mill about like the frenzied denizens of a kicked anthill at all hours of the day.
Gathered inside the Highlands Nightclub was a throng of other hopefuls all seeking sponsorship for various events or projects and sharing promotional ideas on a panel of speakers. It looked like a marketplace where artisans came from strange lands to peddle their wares, tell stories, gnaw on monstrous turkey legs and take in a good jousting match – except these were very modern times; the merchants were artists, label heads, corporate marketing types, and random stragglers like myself w came in support of speakers. It was a strange amalgamation indeed. I was not inside for even two minutes when I was greeted by a greying, bearded man in a black shirt who at first seemed to wonder if he knew me from somewhere. He didn’t.
When I later divulged that I was a freelance writer/reviewer catering mostly to Heavy Metal, but with hopes of branching out to alternative music, he excitedly excused himself and turned on heel, speed walking back to a row of chairs where a young man with shaggy brown hair was sitting with his back to us. He apparently startled the seated guy, but the two of them quickly returned to me together and I learned that the younger was an independent musician by the name of Caleb.
Caleb is a North Dakotan who made the pilgrimage to California to fight for his dream, like many other entertainment types before him. And he certainly won’t be the last. He began his efforts here in Southern California wielding drumsticks for an outfit called Starving For Gravity, and last year he resumed where he’d left off at the University of North Dakota in his music studies at San Diego State University. He’s unassuming, soft-spoken, and apparently shy – taking a line from his own lyrics, he’s “a man of too few words and too much to say”. However a whole new facet of him emerges when he enters “the zone”. On His YouTube channel, to which I’ve provided a link at the bottom of this feature, you can see his covers of the Incubus favorite “Drive”, Coldplay’s “Til Kingdom Come”, Oasis’ “Wonderwall”, Stone Temple Pilots‘ “Plush”, his rendition of NeedtoBreathe‘s “More Time” and Cage the Elephant‘s “No Rest for the Wicked”.
Also on his channel are two of his original songs – “Miss You” and “If I Never” – from his first studio album Comfort and Compromise.
The album is based on a series of recent events in his life and while at times has a downtrodden, defeated quality to it (maybe mournful, even) there are streaks of light and hope running throughout it. His is an optimistic, soulful, and heartfelt opus that would make a fitting soundtrack for an adventure story and a comforting nod to those who have felt like giving up on the “impossible” quest of self-realization.
Comfort and Compromise fades in with an airy, atmospheric piano intro. There is a clear likeness to Canadian alt-rockers Our Lady Peace from the get-go, and it’s no surprise – Caleb cites them as one of his influences. He even sounds a fair deal like OLP frontman Raine Maida, vocally. His voice is gritty and unpolished, adding a raw and homegrown touch to the record. It’s refreshing that his live videos sound quite a bit like the professional takes on the disc; so basically what you hear on the album is what you can expect at one of his gigs; I have a strong disdain for over-produced, pretentious music.
“Miss You” gently pines for the company of absent person, someone he left behind by his own choice according to the lyrics, but there is a certain confidence in the way Caleb spins the song that tells us he knows he’ll see this person (presumably a love interest) again. While apparently ashamed of or regretful about the path he’s chosen, he seems to be courting the idea of returning and making amends – and the song ends on an audible question mark, unresolved but not undefeated or bleak. “If I Never” is similar thematically; once again, it’s Caleb’s desire to reconnect with people from his past, but this time it is they who have apparently let him down or abandoned him in some form. He is playing on his own insecurities as well; it almost sounds as if he’s blaming himself for their shortcomings, not wanting to believe in circumstances outside his control and the underlying fact that he audibly realizes deep down – people can be quite cold. He asks, “If you never see me again, will it matter?” The contrast between the two and handles his role from both ends of the heartbreak equation is interesting.
The entire album is a frustrated whimper, in a way – the underlying motif being existential curiosity; “Who am I, and what the hell is this all about? What am I here for, exactly, and what do all these other things and people have to do with me? I’m complacent because I have to keep my head afloat, but as soon as things start to make sense they change again!”
I think I best liked the pace of “A Lie”; it’s energetic and again seems to have been very heavily inspired by OLP.
One of the things that impressed me about Caleb is that he’s not merely a guitar player and a singer – as I already mentioned, he’s an experienced percussionist, but he also juggled the piano and the marimba duties on this release, rounded out with bass work by Chris Bradshaw and guitar support from Chris Luebeck.
The Comfort and Compromise artwork and tracklisting are as follows:
03. If I Never
04. The Past is a Thief
05. Miss You
06. Run Away
09. Moving On
The album was recorded, mixed, mastered, and produced by Sean Redding and Caleb Fritel (also the writer) at The Recording Farm in Temecula, CA.
You can listen to Comfort and Compromise and purchase a copy here.
My name is Leja Siv Harju; I’m an LA-based writer/reviewer.
You may or may not be aware that ALTERNAZINE was conceived as the baby sister-zine to the much more prominent HAILSWEBZINE, my website that focuses exclusively on Metal and extreme, heavy music.
Well, I started realizing there was quite a bit of non-Metal music I greatly enjoyed, and decided it deserved its own platform as well.
This is basically a stylistic free-for-all. Whether the band or musician in question is a indie soloist or some whack ass dubstep undertaking, if I’m listening to it, I’ll discuss it here.
In the meantime, you can also check out my work at HAILSWEBZINE at hailswebzine.com or myspace.com/hailswebzine.