It’s been around the better half of nine months since I mentioned anything big regarding the next EP/album. And I can’t ignore why any longer. This isn’t a joke, or an early April Fool’s prank, but something that needs to be brought to attention, and makes me quite sad for what feels lost, but very, very excited for the future:

For the past year or two, metal just hasn’t moved me like it used to. I haven’t felt any creative spark in that area. To be very honest, I’ve been feeling this so much, it feels like I’m losing a major part of my identity. The music I listen to on my personal time has changed a lot. BUT, at the cost of making new kinds of music!

After the past few days of writing and demoing new songs, I see a huge lack in similarities between this music and everything I’ve written before. At best, it has the dark/southern tone that “Death Riders” had, with the psychedelic tendencies of “Thank You for Everything”. Just imagine softer, and the gain turned way down. It’s still really emotional music, and is still music I believe others can relate to and identify with. But at the same time, if it isn’t a huge departure from what I’ve released previously, I don’t know what is.

I’ll say this much. There’s one song that has a straight up country picking guitar solo. Straight out of left field.

My belief is that after getting these two projects written and released, it will get the gears turning, and I’ll starting wondering if the grass is greener on the metal side, and things will be back in line. That is very much music I still want to create! Ultimately, time will tell, but never say never. But there’s no point in forcing what wont come out naturally.

And I know this with certainty, that if you’ve liked any of the music I’ve released before, you’ll absolutely still dig this stuff! All I’ll say for now is one project is like a really dark/psychedelic Neil Young sound, and the other is psychedelic surf rock.

So – the next few months are going to be busy, and full of new exciting ventures. I’ll be back to the heavy music soon, I just need to get this out of my system.

 

After recently re-arranging the gear in my room/pseudo studio, everything became so much easier. There wasn’t any kind of first world excuse to not do something. Everything is always ready to go.

The pedal board is right there (and easy to charge), my amp is always mic’ed up, the keyboard is right ther- you saw the video, there’s no need to explain it. It’s really easy to get stuff done now.

On facebook, I talked briefly about a massive project I’ve been working on that’s due this Monday. It’s a project that’s called for pushing myself into new areas of creativity, and for being extra resourceful. It’s been so much fun working on this and is making me all the more excited and eager to get to work on the next EP/album.

But above all, it’s taken me to such a creative high point, the music I’m working on is so cool, it’s times like these I remember exactly why music has such a prominent role in my life. This thing that we all can create and enjoy, yet technically never physically touch. But it moves us so much. It’s been extremely inspiring and educational. And of course, FUN.

(This is a feeling I wish I could keep all year ’round. [NSFW])

With that said, I can not wait to share this video with all of you. And this might, surprise you, it’s not metal.

 

Top 5 albums of 2015

Posted: December 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time for me to pick my top five favorite albums of the year and to try and not sound too pretentious doing it. Just a fair warning, this isn’t a very metal themed list. I’m not snuffing all the amazing metal that came out this year, but if I’m picking the top five, why not go with what rarely left my iPod?

Most of it might surprise you.

#5. Ghost – Meliora

Never mind what side of the fence you were on with 2013’s ‘Infestissumam’, this album is incredible. It blends the larger than life atmosphere of it’s predecessor, and the pure, raw darkness of ‘Opus Eponymous’. The lyrical themes suggest that Papa III feels confident in taking on the vocal duties after his brother was sacked (well, it’s the same guy, but, you know what I mean…). Like he’s here and he’s taking over the earth and nothing is getting in his way. It’s bad ass.

The Nameless Ghouls are always spot on with getting solid riffs together also. And as a guitarist, that’s one thing I love so much about the band. The guitars aren’t nearly as distorted as most metal bands today, and it’s just pure riffing. It just proves you only need a little to do and say a lot.

Also, I developed a small conspiracy theory after reading the lyrics to “He Is”. That some time down the road, when the band is ready to do other things, maybe in the public eye instead of concealed identities, they will reveal hidden messages in the lyrics and reveal they were one of the most successful Christian Rock bands of all time, and used the Satanist shtick as a ploy.

#4. Father John Misty –  I Love You, Honeybear

Not only do Josh and co. belong on this list, but could easily be right at home on my Top 5 Best Live Shows of 2015 list. I had the pleasure of seeing them both weekends of ACL, and both times were just as euphoric. Plus I got to touch Josh’s arm when he came up to the barrier on weekend 2. So weekend 2 might just a little bit better.

Anyway, I don’t know exactly what it was about this album that drew me in so much. Overall it can be a really cynical view on love. Josh wrote the majority of it after marrying his now wife Emma, which he said he never expected to fall in love with someone so quickly.

The composition and arrangement of the songs are like some of the most well thought out pieces of architecture in history. It’s one of those albums where you listen the first or one hundredth time you just think “That is brilliant…”.

Plus Josh’s sense of writing lyrics is a true treat through out the album. The way he structures a lot of the lines is new and refreshing. Full of blunt descriptions and clever metaphors. Song writers and lyricists take note.

Going back a bit, the album can have some cynical undertones while sounding like almost a whole album written for his wife. But one of the album’s shining moments is the ending song, “I Went To The Store One Day”. Again, like Ghost, shows you only need a little to do a lot.

#3. Wildspeaker – Survey the Wreckage

Topping the list of bands I need to see live within the next year, this band from just outside of Dallas, Texas is a must have on your radar if you’re a metal fan.

Now, to do this review right, I have to do it honestly – I normally don’t listen to blackened crust. Actually, I never did before Survey came out. And the only reason I did initially is because I know the band’s bassist, Michael Munday. But what’s wrong with that? I’m glad I did!

Through Facebook and Snap Chat, myself and others got to see the progress of this album come to life. I became invested in the writing/recording. And would it surprise you if I said that a lot of it was recorded into one of the band member’s laptops, and the majority of mixing was done by them also? And it wasn’t recorded in a studio. It was done at (from what I can gather) the rather large room they rehearse and write in. Mastering was done by Garry Brents, and the final product is absolutely incredible. It’s yet another release that goes to show that if you have the passion, dedication, and the music, you don’t need a studio to make a great sounding album.

Above all, the musicianship, composition, and mix are all top notch.

And I have to give a plug to the band – they are incredibly nice people.

You can download the album for free on their BandCamp page, but I urge you to buy the album, or buy a t-shirt.

#2. Tame Impala – Currents

First, I apologize to anyone I relentlessly word-vomited this album to since the first single came out in March. And anyone that was in a 20′ perimeter of me at ACL. This album was kind of a big deal.

Ever since hearing Elephant on Austin’s 101X back in 2013, I was hooked on Tame. That song got me to check out the rest of Lonersim on Spotify, and the rest is history.

There’s just something so inviting about the music Kevin writes. It’s like Kevin’s writing music about his emotions and experiences, but takes you in his brain and takes you along for a ride. This album especially, you hear (and almost see) him tell his story about experiencing change and embracing it instead of running from it.

It couldn’t have come out at a better time either. This summer I was in such a creative/personal slump, where I just didn’t feel motivated to do anything. Partially, I was scared of all of the changes and new responsibilities in my life. But after reading a bunch of interviews surrounding the album’s release, and reading about how Kevin just decided to embrace the changes in his life, it really inspired me to do the same.

Kevin had said he wanted to just start writing really sugary pop songs, and I think he really fulfilled that dream with Currents. The album was described in a review as “the most kushed-out Beegee’s album ever”.

The layering of synthesizers, guitars used to sound not like a guitar, the vocal tricks, real drums VS. a drum machine, Kevin seems to have it all down to a science. His love and eagerness to get the music sounding the way he wants to shows through more than ever with this album. And that could be because for the first time ever, he completed every part of it himself. From writing, recording, mixing AND mastering, Kevin did all of it himself. And did it extremely well.

Plus, should radio stations ever pick up “Less I Know The Better” as a single, you can bet your happy ass that every single person will be at least bobbing their head in their car. You just can’t help but move around to some degree with that song.

And this all isn’t just because Kevin is one of my biggest musical inspirations, it really is just that solid of an album. It was kind of like his equivalent of Metallica’s Black album. It was a dividing release for the fan base. Most were either disappointed or loved it, while a small percentage were somewhere in the middle. Maybe it’s just a case of people being cynical to Tame’s success, or the “too popular = lame” mentality. Who knows. Either way, I’m already eagerly awaiting album #4, but have plenty to keep me busy until then.

#1. Israel Nash – Silver Season

In the spring of last year, I was driving home and flipping through the radio stations trying to find something new since everything was at commercial. Then I landed on Austin’s 98.9 KUTX. And they were playing this song that was just magical. It was warm, dreary, and made me think of an old cabin. I was in love immediately. But the radio in the truck wont display an artist/song ID for KUTX. So a three week search was on.

For the first time, LyricFinder.org didn’t pull up any results. Googling the lyrics didn’t give anything to go on. Nothing. Until I heard the song again on KUTX about three weeks later, and Laurie Gallardo said the well awaited words, “And that was Israel Nash with “Through The Door”, from his album Rain Plans“. I texted myself all the names, and looked Israel up when I got home later that day.

The trial and error from those three weeks weren’t for nothing. That afternoon I was listening to Rain Plans front to back and continued to for the next month.

Fast forward to this past March, I went to KUTX’s Live at the Four Seasons event when Israel and his band played what was, from memory, most of Rain Plans. Standing in the back of the room, it was just like discovering “Through The Door” all over again. Except hearing it live was like flying through the sky on a partially cloud spring day over the Texas hill country.

And today, we have Silver Season. Released on October 9th, I went down to Waterloo Records to pick it up and just like RP, didn’t get off repeat or leave my car for about a month. And it’s still in regular rotation.

The majority of the album is like listening to a big warm hug. Or biting into a fresh, warm chocolate chip cookie. Israel and his band made the impossible possible by making this album better, and different from Rain Plans. It’s an evolution.

Seeing the band again, this time at Stubb’s JR, they played the whole album in it’s entirety and then some. And just like seeing them in March, live was so much better when I thought it couldn’t be possible.

But whether live or on the album, it’s one of those albums you can physically feel come out of the speakers. Maybe it’s just the way it resonates with the listener, but it’s gorgeous music. Everyone in the band is on fire once again.

And my goodness… the mix on this album is breath taking. Everything is so clear. Israel’s vocals, the back up vocals, and Eric’s pedal steel all shimmer in pure beauty. Joey’s guitar is like thunder rolling over the hills of the landscape of the Texas hill country, and Aaron’s bass and Eric’s drums are luscious and provide a solid foundation. Not to mention Israel’s lyrics are simply touching.

All in all, this is hands down my favorite album of the year. And that’s saying a lot. Just like 2014, there was a TON of amazing music. But this one just did it for me the most. It’s pure blissful magic, recorded to tape, then transferred onto vinyl, CD, or an MP3.

Do you agree with this list? Comment below what you would have picked instead.

  • – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Artists I’m looking forward to or hope to see a release from next year:

Rob Zombie

Melody’s Echo Chamber

Zakk Wylde

Mastodon

… Tame Impala? (It’s a pipe dream, but you never know)

Nick Johnston

 

 

 

 

To set the scene, this was in the not so distant past of August 2014. I was eighteen, and looking for a way to make money that didn’t involve painting fences or doing other odd jobs in the Texas heat.

So I set up an audition with a restaurant that’s about five minutes from my house. If they liked what I brought to the table, I would be a semi-regular feature in their bar lounge playing light jazz as background music. And not only that, but it would be a paid position for this part time residency. All I would need to take is my acoustic guitar, small PA system, and an MP3 player with backing tracks to a bunch of jazz standards. It would have been SO SIMPLE. There was almost no way to f*** this up, right? Well…

Instead of getting the gear packed the night before like I always do, the logical side of my brain said, “No, do that in the morning. It’s time to play video games”. With that sound self-given advice, I also waited until morning to test the PA that had been sitting in the garage for over a year, only wrapped in a single giant garbage bag and tucked away in a box. Did I mention the audition was at 10:30 am, and I woke up at 9:30 cause I stayed up til about 2 in the morning? Not a shining moment. At least I had the sense to iron my button up the day before.

When I finally did check the PA, it was making an obvious buzzing noise, unless an instrument cable was plugged into one of the main speaker outputs on the head, and touched my skin… The ingeniousness of the night before left with absolutely no time to inspect the PA head, or time to take it to Guitar Center and get an exchange. If it wasn’t fifteen minutes until the audition was to start, I might have had time to figure something out. But I had to roll with it. Quickly packed the truck, button up shirt incorrectly buttoned, and left for the restaurant.

I pull up on time (probably the only thing I did right that day), fix my shirt, and unload the truck and go inside. After finding the manager I had been emailing with, she kindly took me to the office to meet the head staff. One of the gentlemen gave me a full tour around the restaurant, even going into detail with what their plans to expand and grow the place were.

Then we went upstairs and I got to meet the owner and start setting up. Him and the manager were both really excited to hear me play, and I was confident since I had done this kind of gig a ton in the past. I knew I had this in the bag. It was time to start.

Amidst the joy and great hospitality of the staff at the restaurant, I had completely forgotten all about the situation with the PA. It only stopped buzzing when a cable made contact with human skin. And since I was going to be playing with both hands, holding the cable was out of the question. But oh no, I had a solution that MacGyver would be proud of. When neither the owner or manager were looking, I quickly stuffed the end of the cable down my sock, and into my shoe so it rested on my ankle. Another awesome idea. But, it worked… sort of.

I played two songs for them, all instrumental, perfect for the setting I’d be playing in later. But the PA kept having brief bursts of buzzing or making small pops. And as it continued to do so, it was painfully obvious they noticed.

After the last song ended, we talked for a bit then they asked to hear another song. About thirty seconds in, the volume dropped significantly. So much that I had to stop playing and figure out what was going on. After trying everything, and sweating bullets, the PA gave a loud surge of power, then a louder pop, then a puff of smoke.

Yup. The PA died IN THE MIDDLE of the audition. It was only fitting. It was the perfect cherry on top of the shit-sundae that I had whipped up and started making the night before.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the gig.

So the moral of the story, don’t be an idiot. This was a hard lesson to learn. But it taught me that no matter what’s on the line, you have to prepare for it and give it the respect it deserves. Besides it being the right thing to do, it just goes a long way.

If I had checked the PA the night before, I could have emailed them and said, “Hey guys, I’m terribly sorry for the last minute inconvenience, but I just found out I need to get my PA replaced. When can we reschedule?”. Who can argue or be upset with that!

Instead of showing myself as someone who took the audition and their time seriously, I came off as someone who was under prepared and was probably lying about having done this before.

A tough lesson, but one that is still with me to this day.

(If you liked this blog post, please check out my music and YouTube channel!)

 

Well… that was ****ing amazing.

Posted: September 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

After taking a day to process everything, that’s still the best sentence to describe this past Saturday.

Once the gear was loaded in, Sean and I stayed downtown and walked around the Pecan Street festival, eating food and paying tribute to House of Pain, and running into a few friends, all in between going back to the venue to check on the gear.

Finally that evening, the bands started, and people started coming into the Dirty Dog. Everyone played and sounded great. But while An Army at Dawn started, the one thing I was afraid of happened – that’s when everything sunk in. The nerves hit me like a brick wall. The first note they played, that was the official kick off to the event. That’s when it all became real. The nervousness that seemed to have absent pulled right up and made itself at home.

But once 9:15 rolled around, it was time to focus. We went and started getting the gear ready to be taken on stage, and that focus helped calm everything down. They started playing Black Label Society’s “Overlord” on the house system, so I took that as a good sign. After a quick set up and sound check, we went at it. Derek and I started letting our guitars ring out, then Rob hit us off, and we all started the show, right into Equites Mortis.

In the same moment, it was solidified this is what I will do with my life, and one of my biggest dreams came true. And I got to share that moment, and the remaining fourteen minutes and fifty nine seconds with three of my friends playing music, and my friends and family in the audience.

Zakk Wylde said once how he always wears his mining boots, whether he’s working at home off the road, or on tour. So that at the end of the day, he can take them off, and know he put in another day’s work. Converse aren’t the exactly the same, but it was still a great feeling none the less.

All in all, it was an amazing time, and I would do it all over again in a heart beat. Special shout out to Fall of Man Kind for being awesome guys, and a huge congratulations to Buried Under Texas for winning the battle! We hope to play with you guys again soon! Everyone that played was awesome and brought it, on top of being super nice. Everyone that came out to the show and hung out afterwards was fantastic, there just isn’t more to ask for.

It was ****ing amazing.

The day is here…

Posted: September 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

For years, I’ve thought about this day. All the daydreams played the scenario of being a nervous ninny right now. But it’s different. I feel very calm, like the show is still two weeks away. It’s like there is a war going on tomorrow, and I’m up at 2:42 in the morning, waiting for the sun to come up, still at ease.

It’s a dream come true in every sense of the saying. Since I was eleven, this is what I wanted to do with music. And I’m kicking it off with three of the best guys I could be playing with, at the best venue, and for the best circumstance.

The top prize for Battle for KnotFest is an opening slot at this year’s KnotFest. And I hope we do win, but the show today is what’s more important. Just having a killer time with my friends and family, playing a great show, and destroying the stage. If we win, then it’s all guns blazing to our first California show, and then trying not to freak out cause we’re opening for Mastodon. Until then, the focus is on now.

Anyway, the sun really will be up in about four hours as I’m writing this, so I should get some sleep. If you’re still wanting to get tickets, text/call/email/message me and I can deliver them to you on the way to the venue this afternoon, or arrange for you to pick them up before the show. They’re $13 each, and we play at 10pm!

I’m so incredibly grateful for the fact we’re playing this show, the hard work and dedication everyone in the band has been putting in, and for everyone coming out to the show – special thanks to Violet and her friend for coming in from Dallas!

Thank you guys for reading, and I’ll see you tonight!

Lee

This past Wednesday, we had the first full band rehearsal for the show this Saturday (Tickets still available!). It was the first time any of the songs I’ve written have been played by a full band.

It was an incredible experience. The guitar solo was botched the first few times running through Equites Mortis because I was amazed. Hearing other people play your music is weird. Hearing three other guys play the music is really, really weird.

A few years ago, I had a violinist try out for the band. He was an accomplished musician, and very talented. Though it didn’t pan out because he loved stoking his ego just as much as he did stroking his violin. It was a slightly awkward audition, but hey, MERCILESS. If nothing else, it solidified that a violinist is a must for the live band. Maybe in the not so distant future.

Anyway, that was the first time I heard another person play something I wrote that wasn’t my guitar teacher. Well, like how people talk about their first time having sex not being great, I wish I could take back the first time I heard other people playing my music. This past Wednesday was a MUCH better experience, through and through. All those weeks (years, how ever you look at it) of prowling the Craigslist musician’s section, posting ads, making flyers, calling people, all came to this. And naturally, I end up playing with three guys I already know.

It’s one thing to have the song idea in your head, then to watch it evolve and come to life as it’s being written and recorded, then to hear the mastered product. Those are all unique experiences. But hearing a band play them is such a different take on it. You can spend weeks getting a band to sound exactly like the album, but why would you want to? There’s an energy that’s in the songs when it’s live. It almost makes the album seem stale. Or stagnant. That energy will be what I chase through life.