Monday, September 28, 2020

 Interview with Mad Nona

After forming in late 2019, Mad Nona spent time during the pandemic putting together their self-titled debut.  I recently emailed with them about their new release as well as being a band in Iceland, dealing with the pandemic and more.  (note - the band’s native language is Icelandic and the interview is printed in their own words with a few tweaks from me)

Can you give me a bit of a band background? 

Located in Reykjavik, Iceland heavily influenced by the infamous Seattle sound, the tasty riffs of blues-rock and the headbanging effect of metal, Mad Nona have been working on creating their own material. Powered by aggressive riffs, energetic vocals and powerhouse drum style Mad Nona, hit their own envisioned sound which takes you for a ride, followed with words which many can relate to. Although Mad Nona is just a toddler in a sense only formed late 2019, by local boy Arnar and UK born Thor, they had known each other for over 10 years. The pair admitted that they had not yet done shit with their musical gift and decided to team up and record an album, which they did. During Covid19, whilst that son of a b***h virus pandemic was causing lock-downs, jeopardizing everyone's health and threatening lives, the two stayed home at Fitzgerald's place. In his hallway they bounced some old riff ideas of each other, wrote new ones and slowly progressed their delicious tasty style. When they knew they had material which was not for just anyone to kick the beat to, the pair reached out to drummer Kristjan B. (artist at both Pearl and Paiste), after having his name repeatedly being brought up to their attention. Accompanied with Kristjan's stellar groove they were able to push their boundaries by twirling heavy rock towards the rhythm of blues only to top it off with the perfect amount of metal twist. With their heart and soul input, out-of-the-box song structure and audacious lyric composition they are sure they have something new and exciting to offer the modern music scene. Thor, our guitarist is a really blues orientated guitar player and he has taken a lot from the likes of Eddie Van Halen and Eric Clapton. Despite his bluesy heart Thor has always been a fan of groovy rock though. Arnar also has been blues-rock orientated liking the great Zeppelin a lot but the person who has influenced him the most is Chris Cornell. Chris´s songwriting and voice skills are something Arnar has dreamed of getting close to. Mad Nona´s powerhouse drum machine Kristjan B., is what you call a musical fanatic, loving a wide variety of genres but his admiration of metal has made him a first class metalhead. Also, Kristjan has been playing guitar for a long-time which kind of describes his love for music, he wants to do it all.   

Arnar (lead vocals/guitar) and Thor (lead guitar/vocals) met ages ago but it was only through a mutual friend that this journey started a year ago. This mutual friend approached Arnar at a bar while he was performing shitty cover songs for drunk ass people and just shouted at him: "What the hell are you doing here bro, you are wasting your goddamn vocal talent for drunk people at a pub, let's rock brother" he said. Both Arnar and Thor have been paying the bills by playing at the pubs and all that stuff but they have always wanted to create, record and share their musical gift. At that time Arnar and Thor both realized that they should give this career a chance and decided to give it a go. Unfortunately, the mutual friend as the bassist had to withdraw from the band due to personal reasons but Arnar and Thor kept on going. The pair then met Kristjan when the first Covid wave had cooled down a bit here in Iceland. We were impressed with his skills and ambition and just knew that this long hair tall dude was the one we were looking for. We have been playing together for almost 5 months now but before the launch of the band we all had been a part of the Icelandic underground rock scene for many years. Even more so Kristjan, our beloved drummer even played with Skálmöld, one of Iceland's most well-known metal bands in the summer of 2014 while their drummer, Jon Geir was recovering from surgery. Currently we are working on promoting our self-titled debut album and we will keep on going after that. Now it's time to give it all we can. 
I really like the diversity of your release.  There's a definite bluesy rock element throughout, and I hear a vibe in alot of the songs that reminds me of bands like Skid Row, Tesla and Motley Crue, but then “Cul de Sac” sounds alot like Alice In Chains.  Is that diversity something you strive for in your sound?   

Well, all of us like a wide variety of genres, which have influenced us all, and grunge is a heavy factor in that equation as well as blues and metal, so when we were strumming our acoustic guitars one night and this song partially popped up, we knew we had something to work with. The whole album was written with what sounded right to us as our guiding light and though we were not thinking about diversity too much to say the truth that song really just sounded right to us. But of course, as we were working on the song, we realized that we had a song that was a bit more relaxed so of course we wanted to showcase our softer side if we can put it like that. This album was a work of finding our sound so we guess people can expect some more grunge sounding tunes in the future. 

How does your songwriting process tend to work? 

Well we are going to take you through our debut album songwriting process. So, our songwriting is something we have been experimenting with since late 2019 and though our album contains 9 songs, we wrote almost 20 in 6 months' time, so we had to find our sound through trying out different things. While we were writing the songs for this album, we decided that we would not follow the so-called song-structure, instead we wanted to do what sounded right to our ears. As a result, some songs don't have a preferred verse, chorus or pre-chorus, it was the feeling and flow that led the songwriting way. As you might notice a few of our songs contain a lot of anger, well that is the result of both tragic events and past experiences as well as state of mind feelings. While recording the songs we used a drum kit software to kind of get the rhythm in shape but when Kristjan put his stellar groove into our songs, the songs just got lifted to a higher class and just to give an example he drummed "Paranoia" in a way that we had never thought of and the way he used the snare and the kick in that song just blew us away. So, it all sticks together although the songs had been written before Kristjan joined in but we believe the ratio of drums importance is 50% of all rock songs and he did an amazing job creating the beat.

Do you feel being from Iceland has impacted your music? 

Well maybe in a sense. Being from Iceland in the era of grunge as young boys and having all the different rock genres played to our ears at our house ever since we were toddlers has impacted us a lot. Iceland at the time and honestly still today had only a few selections of radio stations, so what we grew up with and heard on the radio we fell in love with and that was at large scale the American rock'n'roll. So, it would be the isolation of our nation that led to us liking the kind of music we like. Also, the Icelandic underground rock scene has always been a strong one here in Iceland although it has never quite overachieved the mainstream and we have never really liked the mainstream so we have always been a part of that underground group. Therefore, being an Icelandic teenager isolated from the big world has definitely colored our view on music.

How is the music scene in Iceland and have you had an easy time finding your place in it? 

The Icelandic music scene is admirably various and I would guess that compared to our population we have the highest tally of musicians in the world. We have been sticking with our style and we know what kind of music we want to create and so far, we have only heard good things about our stuff and we think we have found our place, but of course we want to share our music with the world and hopefully our debut album will unite some folks who like this kind of rock and we can work from there. Interestingly though when it comes to bands in the underground rock scene there really are not a lot of great venues to play here in Iceland. I would guess maybe 5 good ones but compared to the outer world we don´t have too much to work with. We take what we get, but in recent years some of our greatest and largest venues have been shut down. Despite that the Icelandic underground rock scene always seems to flourish due to the dedication of our fellow musicians, they don't care about the size of the venues. For instance, when Iceland Airwaves is held some bands play in book stores and even hotel lobbies. I think it’s the Icelandic way, we always keep on going.

You mention in your bio that you are dads.  How has that impacted your music and what do your kids think about it? 

Well, our kids are singing the songs right before they go to bed and in the car on the way to kindergarten so they have heard it quite often, and sometimes they ask us to play a certain song so the recording process has colored them and we now have a bunch of rock babies. Well, being fathers means that we have to make sure about the house´s income as well as serving our duties as role models and being there for them, so we really have had to orchestrate our time for rock a lot and it's not always easy. Even when we released the album, which was a time for a cold one both Arnar and Thor were trying to network with the kids barking up their throats for attention while Kristjan was doing the same on the road.

You have a really good acoustic cover of Motley Crue’s “Live Wire” up on bandcamp.  Do you think we might see more covers down the road or maybe acoustic versions of some of your songs? 

If there's anything we love besides groovy rock/blues/metal/grunge it's the beauty of acoustic guitar, so we will definitely work on a few of those in the future!  Having been inspired a lot by the infamous grunge scene we will surely be looking to do one of those shows like Chains and Nirvana did. Who doesn’t remember Nirvana: MTV unplugged! Man, we would love something like that. 

I know your vocalist Arnar recently tested positive for Covid-19.  Hopefully he’s doing ok.  Besides his illness has the pandemic had any impact on the band? 

Arnar is recovering quite well and actually, Covid was one of the main reasons we went ahead and made this album. You see, if not for Covid then the pair probably wouldn't have been able to find their style and record this album so fast. During the Covid pandemic we stayed at Fitzgeralds place, progressed our style, wrote some riffs and also took what had been in our mind for a long time. Songs like “Rock'n'roll” and “Tornado Jane” were just collecting dust in our bedroom drawers, and were taken out, adjusted a bit and recorded. Meanwhile “King of the Hill” and “Cul de Sac” were just a single riff idea. The others came with weeks and months of working on our style. So, although the Covid pandemic has been a thing nobody could have wished for, it kind of got us to start doing what we love and what we are good at!  Regarding release plans we have not been able to share our music due to the Covid pandemic yet but we simply can't wait. On the other hand, it means we have to do as much as we can online and try to reach out with our music and personality. We will be looking for ways to create videos in the upcoming weeks, but this era we live in requires a lot of innovative thinking ways in trying to connect our music with future listeners and fans. It won't be a long time till we release our first single for our next album that's for sure. We want to create more and more for ourselves and our fellow citizens of the world.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers? 

Please, above all in life; music, work or whatsoever do stay safe during this pandemic and take it very seriously because we know by experience this virus is one hell of a bastard. Also, stay true to who you are and try doing the most of what you love to do because otherwise our lives will just be a dull one and meaningless. Thirdly, if anything bad happens in your life, don't let it beat you, get back on your feet and carry on! Don´t be a victim, be a survivor! Lastly, follow us on Spotify because we are only beginning giving you guys some serious rock'n'roll!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Dead Low - "Listen Up" 

Massachusetts has a long line of classic punk / hardcore bands and now with the release of their debut 4-cut EP “Listen Up!”, the Cape Cod trio Dead Low has taken the first step towards adding themselves to that list.  Meshing high energy punk with tasty rock guitar licks and hardcore choruses they have come up with a refreshing sound that manages to come across as familiar, but also sets them apart from the pack.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Interview with The Velvicks

The New York (by way of Brazil) four-piece The Velvicks recently released their outstanding debut EP Run.  I recently emailed with guitarist/vocalist Vick Nader about the new EP, going back and forth from Brazil and Miami in his youth, the future plans for the band and more.

Can you give me a bit of a band history?

It’s 2017 and Vinny (guitar), Ed (drums), Apoena (bass) and myself, four dudes with different backgrounds sharing similar appreciation for rock music find themselves in a perfect condition to start a band: time to spare, a home studio in the basement and rock n roll parties on daily basis. Hanging out at Ed’s was the key factor which allowed us to come together as a band. At one of those gatherings we were spotted by a booking agent who dropped a card and a few months later we debuted at Irving Plaza.

Can you tell me about the “Monroe Mansion”?

Not without jeopardizing my immigration status (haha). Jokes aside Monroe Mansion was the birthplace of the band. It was a very special place in a very special time of our lives. It even inspired us to write a song that sums up what it meant to us. It says: 

-Babe, take me down 


-To the Monroe Mansion


-To release my tension

-With who?

-With my fellow pagans


-Right now!’

How does your songwriting process tend to work?

I usually have a seed that comes followed by lyrics. I share it with the band and we all build the tune from the ground up. We discuss structure, arrangement and production together till we stand in a common ground where we all feel happy about it. It sounds more complicated than it really is or they make it simpler than it actually is. The point is we get there very quickly haha. It’s a group of very talented guys who all have years of devotion to music. In the end of the day it’s Rock n Roll. No one here is trying to reinvent the wheel. 

All of you are from Brazil, but I know you went back and forth from Brazil to Miami throughout your youth.  Do you think that traveling had any impact on your music?

100%. Music was what shielded me from the harsh adaptation between two very different worlds. A small rural town in the middle of Brazil and Miami, a city hard to define let alone for a 7 y.o. On the other hand I was exposed to music that was years ahead of my local friends on both sides of the map, internet wasn’t a thing yet in the early 90’s. 

I listened to some of your older songs and the songs on the EP are a lot heavier and more aggressive than the ones I heard. Was that a conscious change or just a natural evolution?

We did choose to come out to the world as full on rock band. Even those quieter songs, on stage were getting more distorted and more aggressive. So to be fair with your train of thought, I’d say it was a natural evolution that paved our way to how the EP sounds. Regardless of the rock n roll esthetics of ‘Run’, our musical range is pretty vast and we plan to share that side of us with our fans in the near future. 

You spent several years playing shows all over the country before releasing your EP.  Did all those live shows have an impact on how the songs finally turned out? 

Super yes haha. There were long periods of time that we were no longer rehearsing. We had so many shows one after the other that we started messing up with the songs on stage to fuck with each other. We developed an internal vocal signal that regroups us a couple bars before we transition from instrumental/solo parts to the next section of the song, allowing us to jam and extend a song to whatever length we judged adequate at the time. We matured the songs on stage before recording them. That made us a very strong live act. 

To me the explosive sound of “Jones" kind of stands out from the other songs, especially when it slows down with the fuzzed out guitars (which I love).  Can you tell me about that?

Jones’ is fearless. A ballsy song that was never meant to please anyone. The guitars are visceral while the kick drum simulates a heart beat. One of the band’s favorite tune and there is rarely a live show that we don't add it to the setlist. Lyric wise it is our own version of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". A little more aggressive, less dramatic and with alcohol breath we usually. It’s about a person who lost it, who didn’t manage to hold it together but nevertheless had an inspiring and ambitious soul.

I love that you wrote the song “LDNYC” as a tribute to the first responders.  Can you tell me a little more about that?

While us artists are the first layer of the industry to discontinue working at a pandemic outbreak, the first responders become instantly the core piece of the puzzle to not only treat the ones infected but to also help secure the others from getting sick. Where I come from whoever walks towards the beast when everyone else is running towards the other direction deserves a homage. When I sing ‘Spring hasn’t sprung to me’ I say it from the prospective of a first responder who isn’t being able to see the Sun in days due to work. Risking his/her life on top of it. 

You turned down four labels and self-released the EP instead.  Why did you decide not to go that route?

I didn’t think they would have injected the amount of energy necessary to push the band to match up with the push we were doing on our end. It’s our first album, we have no history therefore no bargain to negotiate with a record label. We believe we can generate a buzz ourselves with this first album and see where it goes before kicking off owning only 50% of our masters. We would’ve toured extensively through North and South America in 2020. Our world domination plan (haha) wasn’t very far off if it wasn’t for covid. 

I read something that mentioned the song “LA” and it said it was going to be on the EP.  What happened there?

LA is one of our strongest tunes and fans favorite, like “Old Mistakes”. We decided to postpone those releases for the full length album. We were certain about releasing a 4 songs EP but then ‘LDNYC’ was made weeks before the album release. The timing and relevance of this song spoke louder than our 4 songs EP plan. In order to level it with the other tunes was challenging cause ‘LDNYC’ was produced, recorded, mix and mastered remotely and from home, but Ed managed to reach a very similar texture and successfully converged it to the unity of the EP.   

I saw something that mentioned an EP you were working on called “Red Heads”.  Was that ever put together and just never released or did it never get that far?

It was an alternative name for ‘Run’ that got too far noticed out there before properly addressed and modified. 

As long as you’ve been together I would imagine you have a pretty decent catalogue of songs built up.  Any reason to limit your debut to a 5 song EP and do you think we will be getting more soon?

Yes sir, we do have over 2 full lengths mastered and ready to put out. I prophetically hinted why we released 5 songs when you asked me about the record deals. We believe that releasing an EP as an independent artist first is a good step towards building the team and the brand of self sustained entities. That gives us a better position if/when we get approached again by any music executive.   

I know you had alot of shows scheduled around the EP being released.  What has the band been doing during the pandemic since you weren’t able to play live?

We actually have managed to stay pretty busy in order to stay mentally healthy. We recorded 4 originals and a cover song, we recorded 2 music videos and working on a third one, we collaborated with Leesta Vall Records on a Direct-to-Vinyl session and recorded 21 vinyls, a photoshoot, PR campaign, a couple live streams here and there, updated our website and we’re pressing some CD’s for a radio campaign starting later this month. We were just invited today by iVoted Concerts to perform Nov 3rd to support voter turnout. We are staying busy luckily. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

We are heading to some troubled waters this winter. Stay positive and believe in science. Try to fill in the gap between left and right first and foremost by not labeling yourself as neither. I know it sounds weird when it shouldn’t, but empathy and respect are the first steps to a more social and gender just society. 

Don’t be strangers. Feel free to reach out to us anytime. We try to be as responsive as possible. Bear hugs and long live Rock n Roll.