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Hopscotch Is A Dangerous Game: Interview-promptu


Hopscotch Injury plays a Battle of the Bands ©HI myspace

All hallows eve is approaching rapidly and that only means one thing: ridiculous Halloween parties with ridiculous costumes. This evening I had the pleasure of attending one of these types of social gatherings and I had, what I like to call, an “interview-promptu” with Paul Giacalone.

This impromptu interview took place in, what I’d like to call, an “opium den”. Of course there was no opium being smoked, only a hookah, but this room was nestled in the back corner of the basement and only lit by black lights.

I got invited by a close friend but soon realized upon arrival that I knew no one at this party. So naturally I gravitated to the hookah where I met my acquaintance and his bassist, Rommel Ventocilla, dressed like the Hulk.

©Hopscotch Injury's myspace

©Hopscotch Injury's myspace

Giacalone is the drummer for Hopscotch Injury of Bridgeton, NJ. “I would never consider us Indie Rock, [it’s] similar to The Red Hot Chili Peppers but groovier and heavier,” Paul explained. “A fan favorite we play is called Land Before Time.. it has nothing to do with the movies,” he said, laughing.

I learned that all of the members come from very different musical backgrounds. “I think that’s what makes Hopscotch what they are,” said Paul. A mixture of jazz guitars and hardcore drumming fuses with an indie feel from Chad, the vocalist.

John, one of their oldest fans sat on the other side of me and kept talking up the band, “They’re like The Strokes on crack!”

Courtesy of Hopscotch Injury's myspace

©Hopscotch Injury's myspace (text has been added)

Leads Point, as it was known back in 2005, has come along way with only minor line-up changes. Today, Hopscotch Injury perseveres on, playing shows all over NJ and Philadelphia. They’ve also released a four-track EP called Beyoncé’s Child. “…and this is before she was pregnant!” said Paul.

Stop by their myspace and check them out!

Rug Doctor (From the EPP) – “Rug Doctor” off the Beyonce’s Child EP

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Minus the Bear Celebrates 10 Years

©minusthebear.com

To commemorate the 10-year anniversary of their album Highly Refined Pirates, Minus the Bear is touring right now and playing the album in its entirety. I’ve been a fan of their most recent string of releases, but Highly Refined Pirates will always have a special place in my CD collection. I was fortunate enough to catch their show in Philadelphia at the Electric Factory last weekend.

Waiting in line @ the Electric factory

Their performance was unbelievable! They played straight through their first album and hit each note with ease. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an artist play live and sound so much like they do on album.

After playing through Highly Refined Pirates, Minus the bear left the stage and it seemed as if the show was over. The lights dimmed and the crowd cheered for an encore. Suddenly, shadowy figures appeared back on stage as the whole place lit up in excitement.

Minus the Bear plays “Menos El Oso” ©Noah Hammond

 

They played for another hour selecting songs off their more recent albums. The photo above was taken by my friend Noah while they played one of my favorite songs, “Menos El Oso”.

Minus the Bear has transcended the indie scene through the years and will continue to do so. I just hope they put out another album soon. Stop by their myspace and give them a listen!

Waiting at the Bus Stop

I stopped by the Bus Stop Cafe in Pitman, NJ to see what others had talked about. What I found was an old-fashioned music store infused with an amazing café and a vibrant music scene that I didn’t even know existed in Pitman. As You walk in the door, instantly you feel the need to order a cappuccino and stay awhile.

This message was taken from The Bus Stop’s myspace page:

“Make The Bus Stop YOUR stop for great food and great music! Since 2005, The Bus Stop Music Café has been working hard to bring you the things you love. Enjoy our award winning food and coffee menu, our HUGE selection of new and used Vinyl, CD’s and Cassettes, our affordable music lessons for all ages (voted best in Gloucester County two years running) and music equipment. Come on out to the Bus Stop for a fun night out at a reasonable price. Eat in or take out, call-ins welcome.”

Victor Martinson, the owner, allowed me take some pictures of his record store/café. He also informed me that they hold an open mic every Tuesday night. Looks like I have another weekly stop on my open mic circuit!

When I was there I happened to catch a performance by String Theory, a local alternative blues band. They played a two-hour set that covered the entire spectrum of blues. Unfortunately, they told me that they didn’t have any music posted online so I thought I’d record a bit.

Below is a slide show of some pictures I took. The background music was produced by me but at the end of the video there’s a short clip of String Theory playing their original song “Any Major Dude”. Enjoy!

Conservatory Without Walls

I followed along with Kyle Kennedy to one of his piano lessons at Gabe Casario’s home in Moorestown, NJ where they run a music school called Conservatory Without Walls. From what I observed, Gabe is a fantastic teacher and Kyle is a fast learner. Check out the slide show below!

Back in the “Studio”

I’ve recorded many different genres and in many different situations throughout my musical career. I’ve moved from some guy’s basement to a fully staffed recording studio, but I’ve always found that I have the most freedom recording myself at my own home. Unfortunately, it has the most limitations.

I recently wrote a whole list of new songs that I’m pretty proud of. I’m just a broke college kid, so the quality of the recordings are poor.  Here is a link to my old EP called BreaktheCycle.

Below is a new song I just finished recording. Let me know what you think!

Sweet Dee is No Deadbeat!

Last night I sat down with DeAnna Munger, founder of DEADBEATFRIENDS! Booking and Promotion. Dee is currently doing all the work herself and you’d be impressed with her résumé. She took me through what it takes to start up a booking agency and why she does it. This girl has to be crazy, but I love her.

Sweet Dee of DBF! ©JLIII

How would my readers know you?

I run Deadbeat Friends, a booking agency among many other things.

If you’ve been to a local show in Jersey or Philly, you’ve definitely seen her before.

Courtesy of DBF! myspace

Could you give the readers some background on your business?

Well, back in 2003 I started a website called Love the Locals to promote local bands.

 

 

My friend Scott was running shows at the time and he asked me if I wanted to run a show that he had coming up because he couldn’t do it. So, I did, and after that I started booking my own shows.

My first show I got an out-of-state band to come down from Connecticut and play at the Holly Bowl (in Mount Holly, New Jersey). Now it’s actually demolished.

After that I started doing shows at Grand Slam in Mount Laurel and I did about three shows a month there. The last show I did  under that name (Love the Locals) was back in late April of 2006. It was a great show. Houston Calls, Front Page (aka Man Overboard), Rushmore, and a bunch of other bands played.

Why the name Deadbeat Friends?

Well, when I stopped doing shows in 2006 I took a long break. in 2008 I was friends with Zac of Front Page  and Nik from A sense of Belonging and I started getting back into the music scene through them. There’s a song called “Passing Ends” that Man Overboard released and in the song it says, “You and my deadbeat friends..”

Don’t you have “Bigshot” tattooed on your arm also? 

Yup. That’s also a Front Page song and I also have Man Overboard lyrics on my leg. “I will cross them out, I will cross you out, then I’ll X myself out,” from “Basics 101”.

Ok, back to DBF! When was your first show under that name?

When I got back into promoting, I actually produced a few bands before I did my first show for DBF in 2009 with The Wonder Years, Man Overboard, Settle For Less, and The Prize(aka Eyes on the Prize). Settle for less has now changed their sound a bit and started booking shows with bigger bands.

From what I have seen of your work, you’ve come full circle within the New Jersey music scene. You’ve booked hardcore shows, like the few you did for me when I was in The World Ends With You, but what is your favorite genre to book?

I prefer to do Pop-Punk because it’s more of what I like. The thing with doing hardcore shows is that hardcore bands are bigger. I did a show at the Elks Lodge..

Poster from the Elk's Lodge show courtesy of DBF myspace

I remember that show, we played it. That show was huge!

Yeah! There was almost 200-plus people there and the owners said that if I let one more person in that they were going to call the fire department. The closest show I’ve had to being that big was, maybe, one or two Pop-Punk shows. My hardcore phase was because the scene loves it. I’m not really into the local hardcore bands.

Hardcore has definitely changed, would you agree?

Yeah, it’s not what it used to be. What ever happened to good hardcore bands like Converge? Now the scene is flooded with kids who care more about what they look like than what they sound like. Like Divide the Sky, all this, “I want to straighten my hair and look like a girl bull-****” It’s all about image.

 

I find that today’s hardcore lacks substance, what do you think?

Yeah, that’s why I like Pop-Punk more because it’s about lyrics and meaning than hardcore.

I feel that Pop-Punk has died out a little and is finally making a comeback. With Blink-182 finally releasing a new CD, Neighborhoods, I feel like a new wave of Pop-Punkers will soon be coming. A few tracks off their new CD remind me of a simpler pop-punk time.

I, respectfully disagree with you only because I feel that the pop-punk that’s coming out now won’t turn into Neighborhoods. At least, I hope.

Ok, what is one of your favorite bands that you represent right now?

Well, representing is one thing. I manage two bands right now. I find them shows and try to book them tours but it’s extremely hard. The first is Boardwalks from Massachusetts, very good! The second is When In Motion from Connecticut. Both are Pop-Punk with a very different feel to them.

When it comes to representing it’s so hard to do promotion for my shows, promotion for other local bands, and managing two bands. It really takes up all of my time.

When it comes to booking bands, I love booking all of them! But there have been bands that have stolen money from me. There have been bands that are set to do a show but don’t do any promotion themselves or they don’t even show up. It sucks.

There’s always some bands like that but I never feel personally hurt by it. They’re only hurting themselves. And if they do show up and don’t bring a lot of people with them, they still expect to get paid $50 even though they didn’t bring $50 worth of people with them. There’s always pro’s and con’s to booking shows. Some bands understand the business, others don’t.

courtesy of DBF! myspace

I know you put a lot into your shows, I’ve seen it, but often times that’s all over looked. So then, whats the pay off for you? How can you afford all this?

A lot of it comes out of my own pocket. Most venues want money right up front. I’ve paid a couple hundred dollars to venues in order to book shows in advance.

There are other venues that will take the money after the show. So we take money at the door and pay the venue right after. First and foremost, the venue gets paid.

After that, it goes to the headlining band. If you want a good show you have a headliner who’s worth it. The majority of the time the headlining band has a guarantee. After the headliner gets paid, I calm down a whole lot. Then, depending upon how much the rest of the bands ask for, they get paid with what ever is left over, or I keep it for Deadbeat… or if I need it.

 

Isn’t that generally what it comes to?

Pretty much. Like, the shirts we just ordered, that’s all out-of-pocket.

It seems more like a full-time job than a hobby.

It’s a job that doesn’t pay well. It’s a job that you get more satisfaction out of promoting bands, seeing bands play, and having people come out. It’s just a generally good feeling but it’s still a business you know?

Yeah, I remember playing a show for you. After the show we had to come up and ask you to get paid.

Yeah, the Trophy Scars show at the Flyers Skate Zone! Every single dollar that was made went right to Trophy Scars. I paid them $900. I actually had to ask for money. But it’s not like it was a bad show.

Actually, I remember that show being pretty awesome. Good job.

The World Ends With You @ the Skate Zone

I remember you looking like an idiot.

Yeah, I wore cut off jean shorts and flip-flops. Not hardcore attire. Anyway, that brings me to my next question. What’s your favorite venue to book?

Hands down. Broadstreet Ministry! But I did like shows at Holly Bowl a lot.

That was when Pop-Punk was still around. Local shows with bands like The Third Try (aka Middlecoast), Stratus-35; a blink type band, and then a crappy metal band like Hay-Wyre. There was more diversity within the local scene back in 2000.

Yeah. That’s how I used to book shows. That’s when Templeton was around, and Break Away was around. Waiting on Wendy was around. Break Away actually just got back together! But yeah, my favorite venues to book were Holly Bowl and Grand Slam.

I booked so many shows at Grand Slam that I became known as, “The Grand Slam Girl”, which has different meanings.. I guess. I actually had to break up a fight there once between Templeton and The Concubine because neither wanted to close the show that night.

I also liked booking shows at The Skate Zone. Back when it was Love the Locals, I booked Houston Calls to play on the floor, out on the rink. That was back when I drank; I got so drunk that I fell off a car and cracked my tailbone. But when it was Deadbeat Friends they only let us play upstairs. But I had The Let Down reunion show there. That was awesome!

Courtesy of DBF! myspace

Ok, my final question is this: What is your advice to someone who wants to start their own production agency?

Think twice about it. I started out when I was 14. It was a lot easier back then. It’s all about business sometimes. You have to stay focused because it will take up a lot of your time. There will be days where I spend all day promoting.

Have you ever thought about setting up a real shop? Maybe take on a partner? 

Well, Me and Eric, Preuss the sound guy for DBF!, thought about doing that. We were looking at places in Philly.

Because, I mean, you already have a whole Rolodex full of bands to play. Any room for expansion?

Yeah, but honestly, I’d still tell people to think twice about doing this. But of course, you want to do it because you love it, because you love the way it makes you feel.

Not because you want to be part of something, that technically is fleeting. This whole scene, I’ve seen it change a couple of times a year. It’s not about how you look or how people think of you, it’s about music. Oh, and don’t expect credit for things. At this point though, I don’t take it to heart.

Ok, well, thanks a lot for talking to me.

Thank you!

– DeAnna has been at this for seven years. She deserves a medal or something. Show some support for the local scene and come out to her next show in Philly!

8tracks > Pandora

I recently stumbled upon an amazing website, 8tracks.com, and created a profile for myself. I haven’t been able to stop since I signed up!

8tracks tag line is, “Listen to handcrafted internet radio. Share your own mix online.” It’s as simple and complex as that. You can be a radio DJ from the comfort of your computer chair and use all of your favorite music.

I chose to go way deeper than that, which is why I can’t seem to stop. I create a mix by hand picking each song and how it will flow all together, then I choose one of my photographs as the album art, and finally I choose a title and create the album art.

People who aren’t familiar with this format way not quite understand how much work can go into just one mix. It can take me a week to finish just one. Stop by 8tracks and search for your favorite artist. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find!

This mix has gotten over 3000 plays:

http://8tracks.com/mixes/365611/player_v3 – “The Background to Your Life: Vol 2”

Coffee-Works: The Open Mic Steps into the New Age

While we zip in and out of each lane on our way to an open mic at Coffee-Works in Voorhees, New Jersey, Jesse Riddle sucks down his hand rolled cigarette.

“I’m going to bring back the ancient art of guitar solos,” he says in between drags. “Not me, myself, obviously. But, who ever I get to play in [Hey Market Riot].”Jesse has been writing music for years and I have had the pleasure of playing two shows with him as a lead guitarist. But tonight is just a solo act.

We pull up to Coffee Works as a swarm of hipster kids flood the street. It turns out that the Pop-Punk band, Man Overboard is playing a show inside Tunes. This has caused Tunes to become so packed that there is a river of scenesters spilling out into the street and screaming along to their favorite song.

Ignoring the kids, we head inside to sign up for the open mic. If you get there even 5 minutes late, you end up being one of the last performers for the night. I put our names on the list as well as Angela Weeks. She’s on her way and I don’t want her to be stuck playing too late.

After 13 other artists, I finally get called to the stage to introduce myself. Because it was my first time playing this open mic, I was ridiculed by Bob, the host for the night. I chose to cover a song by Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s for tonight’s show because I felt that at least one hip chick in the crowd would know it. No one did.

Me Covering Margot - Taken from Coffee-Works live stream

As I softly sing each somber note, I realized that thousands of people across the world are watching me play. Right next to Bob’s soundboard sits a little webcam. The entire open mic is streamed live on the internet every week. This tiny little web cam had just blown my mind in the midst of preforming. In the year 2011, even a little coffee shop can broadcast to the entire world.

While I was on stage playing, Jesse and Angela are outside chain-smoking cigarettes and talking with the regulars. Jesse has befriended a 15-year-old saxophone prodigy, Payton, and asks him and my friend Trent, to play with him tonight as he covers “Walking on the Sun” by Smash Mouth. “I bet you’ve never heard this song played this way before,” he exclaims as he steps on stage.

Jesse doesn’t know how to play lightly on an acoustic guitar. Every time I’ve seen him play a show he always breaks at least one string. Tonight is no exception. During his song, he breaks 2 strings and rips open 2 of his fingers on his right hand. Throughout his set his hand is bleeding all over his guitar but that doesn’t slow him down. Jesse was right, no one has ever heard Smash Mouth like this before and the crowd is digging it.

Jesse(left) plays with Trent(center) and Payton(right) - Taken from Coffee-Works live stream

After a few more artists play their tunes, Angela steps into the spotlight. As she began to play, I can only think of the conversation we had just had out front. I asked her where she gets her style from.

“When I was 8 years old, I saw Jewel’s music video for “Who Will Save Your Soul” on MTV. I had never heard of her and the video was the most confusing and bizarre thing I had ever seen; yet, for some reason I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. I loved the mystery in her lyrics and the sincerity in her voice. Immediately after watching it, I knew I HAD to become the next Jewel,” said Weeks.

Angela Weeks plays her original songs - Taken from Coffee-Works live stream

Her voice is reminiscent of Jewel but with more of an alternative style than a country twang. Weeks finishes her set as an eruption of audience applause ensues. After she steps off stage I asked her about her upcoming album but all she could say is that, “I am in negotiations for an album with the record label, AudioFilms Recording and Mic Inc Management. That’s all I am allowed to say publicly!”

After sticking around for a few more artists, Coffee Works Cafe in Voorhees seems more like a musicians haven than an open mic. So many talented artists, so little time. Stop by every Tuesday night for their vibrant open mic or, if you can’t make it, watch it online here!

The Early November is Back?

Back in 2003 I was just a kid aimlessly wandering through puberty, but while I was finding my niche, Ace Enders (Arthur Carl Enders III) had already found his. Enders’s band, The Early November, based out of Hammonton, New Jersey, has had a thriving musical career.

Throughout high school, to present day, TEN and Ace have been a major musical influence to me. Their music has touched so many and still continues to do so today. On March 13, 2007, after releasing two EPs and two full length albums on Drive Thru Records, TEN posted an announcement on their website that they “would be taking an indefinite hiatus”. They played two farewell shows, one of which I was lucky enough to be at in Philadelphia.

With TEN behind him, Ace has worked on many projects from I Can Make A Mess Like Nobodies Business to Ace Enders & A Million Different People to building his own recording studio and starting his own record label, Regular Music. I Can Make A Mess recently released an album called “Gold Rush” that you choose how much you want to pay for it. Also, their last tour was the same way, you choose how much you want to pay for your ticket.

TEN finally announced that they would be playing a reunion show on September 10, 2011 at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. I wasn’t fortunate enough to catch that show but my friend Bob did attend and shot this clip of “The Mountain Range In My Living Room”.

I’m not sure what the future holds for Ace or The Early November, but I can’t imagine a world without Ace’s voice humming in my ear. This just goes to show you, Jersey consistently pumps out great musicians!

“Ever So Sweet” – TEN

Ever So Sweet (Album Version) by The Early November

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