Words by me, music and production by John Russo from the band Reverse Order.
These songs of mine never actually sell much, but any proceeds I do garner will be donated to John’s non-profit organization Reverse The Trend, which brings anti-bullying and self-esteem programming to schools around the country. Please check out their page if you’d like to book the program for your school or if you’d just like to donate to a worthy cause. You can also help them by turning your Amazon page into a SmileAmazon page and setting “Reverse The Trend” as your charity of choice. The great thing about that program is: you shop the way you normally do, and Amazon donates to your choice charity.
In the past year, I’ve had the privilege of co-writing two songs with two wonderful songwriters. In both cases, I wrote the lyrics, and my collaborator provided the music and melody. (Anything I learned about music theory from Bernadette Castronovo back in Mahopac High School, I have long since forgotten. She was a great teacher; I was not a great student.)
After much encouragement from many friends, I finally started a Bandcamp page to get this music out there. I’d still love to film videos for these songs one of these days, but for now at least the music is out there.
Well, at least one of the songs is. We’re still doing a little bit of editing on the song I co-wrote with Barry Mangione, “Someday,” (tracking some extra guitars and drums into it for a fuller sound). But the song I co-wrote with John Russo of Reverse Order, “Gravity Don’t Care,” is up on the Bandcamp page now, and I’ve decided that all proceeds from this will be donated to the American Cancer Society.
As promised, today we reveal the front and back covers for The Many Tortures of Anthony Cardno. Bear Weiter (who is also an author in the anthology) donated a load of hours formatting the book, designing the interior (which includes artwork by his lovely wife Marlyse Comte) and creating and tweaking the covers. I cannot thank him enough for his encouragement and his help over the past two months.
I also have to thank Michelle Moklebust and Lee Bloom for the photography on which the cover and interior illustrations were based. On Easter Saturday, we spent a good four hours and took several hundred photos — close-ups with all kinds of facial expressions, as well as “marionette” style photos for a possible different cover idea — so that I’d have a ton of material for Bear to work with. Michelle (also an author in the anthology) and Lee are to me, and while we worked, my niece Renee, Michelle’s son BJ and her nephew and niece Jake and Amanda laughed at us, offered ideas (especially Jake) and talked Doctor Who and other geeky fun. Thanks to all of you.
And now, without further ado … the front cover:
And the back cover:
UPDATE: The book is now available in print form from Amazon. Kindle edition is coming forthwith, and the print version will be available via Barnes & Noble and other outlets soon as well (and non-Kindle ebook format should follow shortly too).
You may have noticed things have been a bit quiet here on www.anthonycardno.com for a while now. I’ve been taking some time away from interviewing and signal-boosting for actors, singers and writers in order to concentrate on my own writing. I’ve been working on some new short stories (and submitting them to markets), I’ve co-written a song (with at least one, and possibly two or three more on the way), I’ve been attending to personal and family life matters, and I’ve of course still be on the road for my day job.
I’ve also been editing the charity anthology I’ve mentioned here before. The project has finally come together and is in the final stages before release, so it’s time to start making some announcements.
THE MANY TORTURES OF ANTHONY CARDNO is a gathering of 20 short stories and two sets of song lyrics, in which the main character is, well … me. Or some variation of me. The stories range from science fiction to literary and hit pretty much all points in between. In them, I’m an egotistical actor, a beleaguered husband, a scared young boy, an orphan, a randy college student, an alcoholic, a serial killer, a nice guy in the wrong place. In every single story, the authors find a way to tweak one of my real personality or physical traits to give us these alternate …. Multiversal, if you will … versions of me.
This isn’t just a vanity project. All of the authors donated their words to this project, to help raise money for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, which focuses on providing support to cancer patients and their loved ones. I’m a cancer survivor, as are several of the other authors in the book; most of the rest have first-hand experience with a loved one’s battle with the disease. And of course, just this past month we lost Jay Lake to colon cancer.
It’s my pleasure today to reveal the complete Table of Contents for the book, which will be available in print and e-formats within the next few weeks. About a week from now, we’ll also have the reveal of the cover, being crafted by the fantastic Bear Weiter.
So, without further ado: The Table of Contents for THE MANY TORTURES OF ANTHONY CARDNO:
Foreword: I’m NOT A Nice Guy! by Anthony R. Cardno
Introduction: Who IS Anthony Cardno? by Brian White
Temperance by Christie Yant
Anthony Takes The Stairs by Eric S. Bauman
The Antics of Anton Ardno (A Todd Gleason Crime Story) by Joseph Pittman
I Have A Question by Neal Bailey
The Bar at The End of the World by Sabrina Vourvoulias
With A Flick of the Wrist by Michelle Moklebust
Scarred by Damien Angelica Walters
The Hand of God (A Davi Rhii story) by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
The Old Suit by Bear Weiter
The Optimist by Kaaron Warren
The Story Teller by Dennis R. Miller
The White Phoenix Feather: a tale of cuisine and ninjas by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Ballad of Anthony Cardno by Barry Mangione and the Musical Geniuses
Why, Anthony, Why by Frank Dixon
When The Waters Recede… by Day Al-Mohamed
The Chase by Jen Ryan
Three on a Match by Steve Berman
Brutal and Simple by Adam P. Knave
The Zombie Shortage by David Lee Summers
With Dust Their Glittering Towers: A Fly-Leaves Story by Christopher Paul Carey
Canopus by Anthony R. Cardno
Cold Statues by Jay Lake
I’m flattered by how many authors were willing to donate their work to help raise money for ACS, and I thank all of them once again. I’m particularly humbled to be presenting what I think is one of the last stories Jay Lake wrote before his untimely passing; he created this story for me in the midst of heavy chemotherapy over a year ago.
Check back next week for the cover reveal, and after that for news of the actual publication date!
A few months back my pal Cruise Russo turned 21 and his band Reverse Order played a Birthday Show for him at The Architekt in Butler NJ. A bunch of bands I wasn’t familiar with were on the bill, including a New England based quartet called The Go To. They impressed me with their energy and stage presence and the sound of their originals, and they did a pretty damned fine cover of Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks.” I contacted their manager, set up an email interview, got their answers … and finally, a month later, I’m posting the interview here. Hopefully, the new music they talk about in this interview will be available for purchase soon. Meantime, here’s our chat.
ANTHONY: Hi guys! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Let’s start with the usual: how long has the band been together and how did you form?
MAT: Hey! The current line-up of TGT (Mat, Austin, Cory and Alex) has been together a little under a year now, but TGT has been around about a year and some change. I have been writing music and performing for such a long time, and then Austin and I started jamming around three years ago. We just decided that we wanted to bring what we were doing the public, so that’s really where the heart of TGT began. Then we found Cory on YouTube playing a RHCP song on bass and knew we had to have him, and also met Alex around that same time. Ever since the four of us started playing, it just clicked and we knew that this is the band we wanted to take to the top. ANTHONY: I know you were asked this question at the show where I first saw you, so I have to ask: how many times have Mat and Cory been asked if they’re brothers?
MAT: Haha, well it seems like every time we play a show in a new area to people who haven’t seen us live yet we get asked that, so I’d say at least a thousand times by this point.
CORY: I’m asked at least once every show if I’m Mat’s brother. It’s gotta be at least 50 times.
ANTHONY: And honestly, how many times has Mat been told he looks like (and has the stage presence of) a young Ricky Martin?
MAT: This is the first time anyone has actually given us that comparison… But now everyone is on to me.
ANTHONY: For a while you were posting bi-weekly cover song videos on Youtube. The first cover video you did in that project was “Everybody Talks” by Neon Trees, which I saw you do live at The Architekt. It struck me that song really fits your style and Mat’s voice and stage presence, better than almost any other song you’ve covered. How do you guys decide which songs you’re going to cover, and is there any song you absolutely would never cover?
MAT: As a band we have a tendency to obsess over certain songs together. It’s almost like every week we’re all running around each other singing a new song, old or now, non-stop. Like right now we’re currently hung up on Rap God off Eminem’s new album, but like a month ago Wrecking Ball was the newest one haha! I guess our method to picking songs to cover is which ever non TGT has gotten our total intention. As for songs we’d never cover, I guess you can say we’d cover anything we possibly could. I mean, just this past weekend we playing a Johnny Cash (Cocaine Blues) cover to a packed room at Pearl Street in Northampton MA. It was a total fake out before our on encore, but it still counts!
ALEX: We pretty much just all throw out song suggestions until we all agree on the best one, and we are pretty open to our cover suggestions.
CORY: Usually during practice if we need a new cover, well all throw out ideas. Other times we might hear a song we all love and just need to cover it. I don’t think Mat would EVER do a one direction song because of how often he gets compared to Harry.
ANTHONY: Okay, of all the singers Mat reminded me of, Harry Styles didn’t come to mind at all! Will you be doing more cover videos, and what songs can we expect?
MAT: Right now since we’ve released the “Too Sore” music video, most of our YouTube efforts are being out into promote that, but we plan on doing some higher quality cover videos soon, and also releasing some great live footage. Just gotta stay tuned. 😉
ANTHONY: Your self-titled EP has been out for a while. The five songs on it are all originals. What was the song-writing process like for those songs?
MAT: It’s funny, most of the songs on the EP are songs I had written a long time ago and finally got the chance to start sharing so I jumped on those first. Back then I would simply grab my guitar and a note pad and scribble down lyrics and chord changes and commit it all to memory. Now my process is much different because I record ton and tons of demos on my iPad with all the instruments I have in mind, and send them to the band. They get a few every week! ANTHONY: I like the whole EP, but “Me Oh My” and “Too Sore” are probably my favorites. As a writer, I hate when people ask me the “where do you get your ideas from” question, so I won’t ask that. But I am curious how extensively you draw from life experiences versus just thinking “hey, that would be a great story to tell.” (I always tease my family and friends: be careful what you say, or you’ll end up in a story.)
MAY: I draw a lot from my personal life! Sometimes I tell stories of things I’ve gone through, or elaborate on a certain emotion. An example of the latter is one of our new songs “Upside Down” which is a song I wrote totally on the idea of feeling like I was watching the world from the outside in. But on the other hand, another new song “Conundrum” is me singing about dealing with a relationship when one person has moved on and the other is still hung up on it, which is something I personally was going through at the time.
Alex, Mat, Austin, Cory
ANTHONY: The “Too Sore” video has hit 21,000 views (which is about 20,700 more than either of my cover videos). Congrats on that. Are you planning videos for any of the other songs on the EP?
MAT: Most likely not from the EP, but we are working on some new tunes and have a pretty cool game plan coming up that may entail another video!
ALEX: We haven’t quite decided if we are going to do another video from the EP yet but we are definitely going to be shooting a video for one of our newer songs hopefully in the near future.
ANTHONY: I know you’re answering these questions during a weekend in the studio, so what can you tell me about the new stuff you’re working on. With one EP under your belts, has the songwriting process changed at all? How about your sound?
MAT: As I stated before, I have a home studio that I used to record demos and such to send to the band, but this has also opened me up as a song writer. I have the ability to add as many instruments and experiment with new sounds. It’s so great, and it’s much more expressive then some of the older stuff. However, it’s still just as catchy, and hopefully you’ll still be singing all the new ones too!
AUSTIN: Our sound has matured incredibly in the past few months! The only way I can prove this is by telling you to come out to a live show. It’ll change the way you look at us. I can almost promise you that.
ALEX: The new songs that we are working on sound incredible! They are very strong and catchy tunes. And as far as sound goes, since our first EP dropped our music has matured into more of a Rock feel with that little bit of a pop feel still there. ANTHONY: How extensively have you toured, and when are you headed back on the road?
MAT: Actually, TGT has never done any extensive touring, but have played ALL OVER the north east! We do have some plans for the summer though… But that’s all I can say.
ALEX: We are hoping to go on our very first tour very soon. We have been working very hard to get to where we are now.
CORY: We’ve gone out to New York, Cape Cod, Connecticut and a few other states around here but we haven’t gone on a full blown tour yet.
ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: Since I’m a writer, I’m always curious to know — what is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?
Mat: I’m actually a huge fan of Stephen King, and my favorite book is “Pet Semetery”. Crazy book, man. That’s all I can say, don’t want to spoil it at all.
A few months back, Braden Barrie and I ended up following each other on Twitter. I can remember now if Twitter recommended him to me or vice versa, but we connected and I started listening to his music, which led to this interview. To quote his Facebook page: “SayWeCanFly is a one man acoustic act from Ontario, Canada. Frontman Braden Barrie has devoted his teenage years to playing shows across Canada and the US, building his following and writing relatable music for his fan base. Growing up in a small town and feeling a sense of abandonment, he shows listeners that no matter what struggles we face, we always have the power to make it through. Braden writes lyrics based around the belief that the world is lacking a connection between humans on an emotional level, and wants to re-establish that bond through his art.”
ANTHONY: Let’s start with an easy one: Where does the name “Say We Can Fly” come from?
BRADEN: I was 14 years old, trying to decide what to name my YouTube channel. I was literally laying on my bed for hours, trying to come up with something that sounded cool, and SayWeCanFly popped into my head. This was before I had actually started writing and recording, but it stuck with me and eventually made more sense.
ANTHONY: I feel like we’re seeing more and more solo acts taking on band names instead of performing under their own name. Timmy Rasmussen, who I’ll be interviewing soon, does it as 7 Minutes In Heaven, but the first person I can remember doing it was John Andrusik performing as Five For Fighting. What are the advantages/disadvantages of using a band name even though you write and perform solo?
BRADEN: I think it’s great to be able to use a band name, because in my opinion it is much easier to create a brand, logo, and throw meaning behind it. I have a lot of people who assume that I have a full band, and it’s always nice to be able to tell them that it’s just me, because I think it’s somewhat of a shocker sometimes. Using a band name also gives my fans room to invest themselves in something, get creative, and feel like they are a part of it.
ANTHONY: When did you first start performing, and what was your first instrument?
BRADEN: I started playing when I was just a young guy, I think about 8 years old. The first instrument I ever picked up was a violin, but it didn’t quite cut it for me. Guitar was always what fascinated me most.
ANTHONY: When did you write your first original song, and what was it?
BRADEN: I wrote my first song the year before I started high school. It was called “Feels Like Rain”, and it was all about Jesus. I was raised in a Christian school so it was what was going through my mind at the time.
ANTHONY: You’ve got an extensive back-catalog on iTunes, an EP a year since 2011. How would you say your sound has changed from HOME through DANDELION NECKLACE to the current HEAVEN IS HELL?
BRADEN: Sometimes it’s crazy to listen to my old stuff, and hear how I have progressed. I think my voice has become stronger, and I always notice a little more power in it at this point. Lyrically, I think I have maintained the same style. I find that I still write about the same types of things, just from a different angle. I definitely feel that adding in drums, electric guitar, etc., on my new album has given me more of an edge than ever before.
Braden Barrie in a thoughtful moment
ANTHONY: What’s your songwriting process like? Do you sit down with a firm idea and then put it to music, does the music come first and then lyrics?
BRADEN: It’s honestly different almost every time. Generally though, I come up with a cool melody and maybe one or two lines of lyrics, then I grab my guitar and start from there. Sometimes I like to just play the same chords for hours until I come up with a vocal melody.
ANTHONY: Do you collaborate with anyone, or write everything solo?
BRADEN: I always write my songs on my own. I’ve tried to collaborate with people before, but for some reason I have a really hard time doing it. I’ve had a couple people sing with me, and featured another vocalist on one of my tracks, but at the end of the day I really like to do it solo when it comes to the actual writing.
ANTHONY: How much does a song change from your first draft to the final product in the studio, if at all?
BRADEN: Strangely enough, it barely changes at all. The core of the song is always the same, the only thing that changes are the instruments I add to it in the studio.
ANTHONY: You’re working on new music now, right? Having had the chance to hear some of it, I have to say I really like both “Stacy’s Song” and “Sparks.” When will we get to hear the new music?
BRADEN: I produced a little acoustic EP for my fans to make up for not being able to make it across the border for tour. I released that album a few weeks ago, and it’s available on my soundcloud. (www.soundcloud.com/saywecanfly).
ANTHONY: When are you headed back out on tour?
BRADEN: I am planning to hit the road again in March and April, hoping to do a whole bunch of Canadian dates, and see where I am at after that. I want to hit the US as well whenever makes most sense.
ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who has never read it to convince them that they should?
BRADEN: One of my favourite books is called “The Tao Of Pooh”. It takes the cartoon Pooh Bear, and breaks down a whole bunch of life lessons, morals, and values that were taught by all of the characters in a way that makes sense. I used to love that show when I was a kid, and it’s crazy the things I actually must have learned from it, and brought them with me through my life.
The Role Call is another band I first came across on Twitter, and got to build a connection with. They’ve been featured here before, in a guest post they wrote about the Kickstarter they did for their most recent EP. We finally connected for an interview. Hailing from Minneapolis, MN, The Role Call consists of Joey Russ on drums, Kristoff Druva on bass, Joe Jorde on guitar, Max Young on guitar, and Steve Zerwas, who answered these questions, on vocals. I really enjoy their sound, especially this most recent EP.
ANTHONY: Hello, The Role Call! The last time you visited, it was in a guest post to promote the Kickstarter for your second EP. So let’s start there: how much did the Kickstarter raise, and how quickly were you able to start on the new EP?
THE ROLE CALL: Hey! The Kickstarter raised a little over $2,500 for us which was amazing and helped us put together such an amazing EP. We were actually able to start recording it a couple months later!
ANTHONY: What differences are there between the first EP and the new one?
TRC: The first EP was more of a safe bet, it had some diversity in it but overall it had the same sound and was more of an older feel to it. The new EP hits all sorts of bases with each song being completely different than the one before it. “Like I Do” is filled with songs that almost everyone can enjoy.
ANTHONY: Let’s talk about your songwriting process for a moment. How do you approach songwriting, either individually or a group?
TRC: It’s kind of a combination of both, we will write on our own and then come to practice and lay down the idea’s we’ve come up with and see what we can come up with working on that idea as a team. This was the writing process from our last EP and we might do something new this year when we go to write new music. We are a growing band both in fans but also in how we work together so the way we do things is definitely subject to change as we learn more about how each other works.
ANTHONY: Who brings what to the table, both in songwriting and in production?
TRC: We all bring a little bit of everything to the table. Each person is equally capable of writing instrumentals or saying “this would sound cool here” both in production and recording. I’m (Steven) also perfectly fine with suggestions as to the direction of a song lyrically or suggestions of lines that they like as well. A band is more than just one person so the music should be writing by more than one person, ya know?
ANTHONY: You’ve had some membership changes since the first EP, correct? Tell us about the new line-up.
TRC: Yes we have! Zach our old guitarist had left (on very good terms) to pursue other things and we fully support that. Since his departure we picked up Joe Jorde on leads and have been playing with him since. He’s a pretty unique guitarist, he actually never uses a pick and I thought that was really interesting!
ANTHONY: I wonder how many of the musicians I’ve interviewed can say that. The first single and video off of the new EP is “She’s All I Think About.” Where and when was the video filmed?
TRC: It was filmed partly in a studio in a suburb of Minneapolis and then the performance part was a filmed in a studio at the University of Minnesota. It was all filmed in a couple days. One in March and the other in April!
ANTHONY: The new EP also features “Indestructible” (perhaps my favorite track, tied with “Like I Do”), which features guest vocals from the incomparable Sam Miller of Paradise Fears. How did that collaboration come about?
TRC: We have known Paradise Fears for a long time and as we were writing the song in Nashville we decided it would be amazing to have some guest vocals on it. We started talking about who and then Sam Miller came up and we stopped thinking of anyone else because we knew he would be perfect. We sent it over to Sam and he was happy to do it!
ANTHONY: Is there a tour in the near future? Another video? What’s coming up for The Role Call?
TRC: We are definitely planning on going out on tour very soon because it’s been a little while since the last one. We are planning on coming out with all sorts of videos, so be sure to look out for those in the future! Other than that, we are planning on writing a new EP and probably touring on that within the next year.
ANTHONY: I’m looking forward to all of that, and you guys are always welcome back here to chat and promote. Now for my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who has never read it to convince them that they should
TRC: My favorite book (Steven) is The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it’s definitely a must read. The characters are all amazing and it’s a very interesting book. I don’t read very often but that book captivated me.
Anson Li is a singer-songwriter who grew up in New York City and has only recently made the move to Los Angeles. I became aware of him, as I tend to do, through Twitter and finally had the chance to meet up with him in person at the JerseyStock festival earlier this summer. This interview was conducted there before Anson completed his tour, so I edited a couple of questions to reflect that … because I just couldn’t bring myself to cut out all the nice things he said about his tour manager.
Anthony: So let’s start out with a basic question: when did you start performing? When did you realize that this was what you wanted to do?
Anson: Oh, wow. I’ve been playing guitar since I was five, and it’s kind of been my third arm ever since. I realized I wanted to become a performer when I played a lot of talent shows when I was in middle school, and it just hit me when I was maybe ten or twelve that I wanted to do this for a living. I always feel like I belong on the stage. You feel very connected with everything and it feels nice.
Anthony: And you’re how old now?
Anson: I just turned twenty.
Anthony: I always forget that. I know it, and then I forget. Because you have a much younger face.
Anson: Yeah, I look … I have the youth genes. I like it.
Anthony: So your new EP (“This Is Love”) came out how long ago?
Anson: It came out in May.
Anthony: How’s the response been?
Anson: Oh, it’s been fantastic. I think the first four days we sold 1,000 copies of it which is ridiculous. And thank you guys, if you’re reading this, for grabbing it, it means a lot. It’s been going good. I love the new songs, I think they’re definitely more mature and definitely going in a direction I want them to go in, so over time… I’m actually writing the next record right now, trying to figure out everything.
Anthony: Let’s talk a little bit about your songwriting process. How do you approach writing new songs? I hate to ask the question “where do your ideas come from,” because as a writer, that one really annoys me.
Anson: Yeah. It kind of just comes. Honestly, I don’t just sit down and say “I’m gonna write a song today.” I could be in the subway or the grocery and just walking around and I have to just run home and write it. It does depend on the room in my house. I’ve actually noticed this, it depends on the space I write in. For a smaller room, I write sadder songs and in a bigger room I write poppier songs. And it also depends on how well-lit they are. I have this thing that I think rooms have their own aura, and I write my songs based on that. I don’t really sit down “Oh, I’m gonna write a song.” It just comes.
Anthony: The earlier EP, “Go My Way,” which is I think the first time I heard your music, (and man, “I Swear” still pops into my head unexpectedly and I find myself bopping along to it), was a bit more pop-oriented.
Anson: Yeah, well, on the new EP there’s still some pop songs like “My Leading Lady,” “All Night,” they’re pop-py. I grew up listening to bands like punk-rock like Yellowcard and I’ve been into that scene, and I always wanted to be in a band, but I just never found the right people. I left a band to do my solo stuff, and I was like “I’m just gonna do what makes me happy, I’m gonna do it myself” because I had the ideas and I knew where I was going to go. I’m not saying I don’t like my pop stuff. I love my pop stuff. But I think over time, it will get darker, but I think there’s always going to be gem of pop stuff coming in there.
Anthony: I think the terminology, I’m kind of melding it a little bit, it’s not that your newer stuff isn’t pop, or popular, it’s that your lyrics are taking a darker sense. I get that My Chemical Romance sense, The Black Parade, all about death and yet it’s a great popular song, people love it.
Anson: Exactly! I just wanted to write some stuff that was a little more to the heart, like last time it was like “First Kiss” and they’re cool songs, but they’re on the surface of things. They’re about things that happened in my life, but they’re a little more like when I was on the fourteen or fifteen side of things, and I just wanted to … you look at songs like “Press and Release,” and I wanted to talk about things that I haven’t talked about before. Because people have given me the criticism of “you write all songs about girls,” and I’m like “It’s true, but that’s been what my life’s been …” I mean, not like I’m a player or anything, but you go through relationships and you write about them. It’s all about relationships in life. Even “Every Time” is about my parents’ relationship with me. It’s … it’s about life and what you go through. I write about what happens in my life.
Anthony: Do you, and I’ve asked other artists this who have gone through changes in their style, do you feel or fear that you’re going to lose some of your older fans because they’re used to you being the “Sing About Girls” Anson and now we’re getting the “Sing About Life” Anson?
Anson: I don’t think so, to be honest. There’s still some ‘hit’ pop songs on the record. So I’m not really discouraged about that, and my live set is usually a mix between both of them. I kinda want to do what Bruno Mars does. If you listen to Bruno Mars, he does all those hit songs but if you listen to his actual records, it’s like gospel. It’s not “God,” I don’t know really how to put it…
Anthony: It is. He’s very gospel-inflected, but does cover more serious subjects than “The Lazy Song.”
Anson: Exactly, and it has such a fantastic vibe to it, so I like that kind of idea. Having those hit pop songs that everyone sings along to, and then there’s other life songs.
Anthony: Okay, Devin wanted me to ask you…
Anson: Hello, Devin!
Anthony: Devin from Abnormal Interviews, for those who don’t know her. She wanted me to ask you … I love her questions … “If you were to be a penguin for an entire day, what would you do with your day?”
Anson: I’d eat so much fish. I’d eat SO much fish. And I’d go swimming. Honestly, I wonder what it would feel like to go swimming as a penguin, you’d probably go so quick because of like the flubber and all that stuff.
Anthony: I’d have a problem with the seafood side of things, because I don’t eat it. So I don’t think I could be a penguin.
Anson: I love sushi, so no problem there.
Anthony: So you just finished a cross-country tour.
Anson: I ended in Los Angeles.
Anthony: Just you and your guitar…
Anson: And my tour manager!
Anthony: Who has been posting pics to your Facebook page.
Anson: Yeah, He’s been fantastic, he’s a cool dude. I wanted to bring him along because .. he doesn’t listen to the same music as me, he listens to more punk music, but we both have such a passion for music, it’s one of those things where it doesn’t really matter what music we listen to, it’s just the vibe and the creativity. I really enjoy working with him.
Anthony: It’s great to have someone on tour with you that you can share that sensibility with.
Anson: Exactly. He talks an earful to me about punk music, I talk to him about pop. We’re just intrigued with each other and it’s fantastic. Lots to talk about on tour.
Anthony: Since you mentioned pop music and punk, who are your biggest influences, and has that changed at all?
Anson: Yellowcard. Mayday Parade. Taylor Swift. Paramour. Suzanne Vega, which a random one, 1980’s folk-pop. I actually hung out with her, she played a free show at Madison Square Park, thousands of people, ridiculous. She’s kind of what I want to be later in my life because she’s been doing this for over 35 years, she has a kid, I’m friends with her kid, and she has a very stable life. And that’s what I want, I want to be able to do this for the rest of my life. So she’s a huge inspiration. Yellowcard was the very first CD I purchased and the sad thing is I only purchased it because it was so shiny. That was actually my reason. And then they turned out to be my favorite music.
Anthony: Sometimes you discover great music just by going to the store and saying “well, that cover looks cool.”
Anson: Those are the bands I grew up with, but everything’s inspirational. It doesn’t matter, because you take things from any genre, from any performance, and learn something.
Anthony: I find the same thing with writing. I write mostly science fiction and fantasy, but I read all over because it all influences.
Anson: I love science fiction and fantasy.
Anthony: And that’s probably as good a lead-in as I’ve ever had with a musician for the last question I always ask, which is: What’s your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?
Anson: Since we mentioned science fiction, I’m going to pick a science fiction book. Ender’s Game, which is coming out as a movie soon. It’s by Orson Scott Card. He’s a little kooky, but I like his writing. It’s about a boy named Ender Wiggin and he fights these aliens called the Buggers. It’s a great book. You have to read it.
The New Royalty is another up-and-coming band hailing from the New Brunswick area of New Jersey. Comprised of twins Nick (guitar) and Brittany (Bree, vocals) Iafelice, Ricky Joyce (drums) and Kyle Davis (bass), the band has opened for Big Time Rush and played venues with Kicking Daisies, Anson Li and more. I caught up with them, for one of my rare live interviews, at the JerseyStock music festival in late June.
ANTHONY: Let’s start with an easy question. How did the band come together?
BREE: We all met at a music school about, how many years ago? Five? Almost six. They were here originally, Nick and Kyle, I joined soon after because Nick’s my twin, you know. I went to a few of his shows and I really liked and got along with everyone. Really well, and ever since then we’ve been best friends.
ANTHONY: Do you feel like your style has changed over the past five or six years? You know, bands grow and mature?
BREE: We’ve changed a hell of a lot. Everyone does from the ages of like twelve to nineteen or twenty. We first started out as a cover band, and we really enjoyed all the songs. It helped us grow as artists. And then we started writing our own stuff and since then I guess we’ve changed a lot.
RICKY: We haven’t put anything out since 2010. So we’ve had a lot of time to work together and get tight as a band, understand how each other approaches music, and we’ve been writing together and then we’re going to be recording our first original stuff since 2010 this month. We’ve had a lot of time together to understand each other which helps a lot in the writing process.
Anthony: So let’s talk about that, that’s a perfect lead-in. How do you approach writing the new material?
RICKY: We all have different strengths. And we all know that. So, Bree’s really good at melodies, and Kyle and I work well at arranging, taking someone else’s idea and arranging it from a rhythm section point of view, and Nick is really good at all-around just throwing a really good guitar part on top of everything, like the icing on top.
BREE: We all have our different strengths, but…
RICKY: It all depends on who comes to the table with something first. She’ll come in with something…
BREE: It’s always different.
ANTHONY: So it’s a more organic method, it’s not one person is the lyrics, one person is the melody.
BREE: We all have those strengths, but we try…
RICKY: Like, I’ll try to contribute lyrics, and it’ll be a disaster. And I know that before we start.
BREE: Yeah, but it always helps. (Ricky laughs)
KYLE: I write music every day, whether it’s on piano, or bass or guitar, and even if it sounds like crap, I’ll write it out on paper for later. And recently I’ve been working with Bree on lyrics. But honestly, it’s up to her to make the melody. That’s not my strength.
ANTHONY: In high school I took a music theory class senior year with Mrs. Castronovo and … I’ve forgotten everything I learned. And now I find when I try to write lyrics, I look down and I’m like “well, that’s a really nice poem.” No musicality whatsoever. So I can sympathise, Kyle. Now, you guys are going back into the studio in August … but you’ve been playing some of the new stuff live, though. The song you played today, and I’m really bad at titles…
BREE: Not This Time.
ANTHONY: Is that going to be part of the new album?
BREE: We’re hoping. We all really like that song. It connects well with the audience.
ANTHONY: Yeah, it seemed to get a really strong reaction from the audience. I was standing at the back and the energy was strong. When I come to shows like this, I tend to hang back and let the screaming girls be up front. (Something Dan Geraghty from Hollywood Ending still teases me about.) But if you can sell it to me at the back and get me moving … it’s strong.
ANTHONY: Do you have any performances coming up in August or September?
RICKY: I’m so bad with dates.
BREE: We don’t have much because we’re really focused on writing and getting the new EP out. We’re playing the new stuff live, but we want to share it with our friends online. And we do have friends now in South America who love us, and we want to do it with them.
RICKY: I forget the dates, but in September I think we’re doing a benefit for Autism.
BREE: We love charities.
RICKY: The woman who is putting it together got Kicking Daisies…
KYLE: Oh, that’s in October in Montclair.
RICKY: I know it’s us, Kicking Daisies, she’s trying to get Hollywood Ending… And then there’s another one in November, another benefit for a company I work for. We’re doing like three benefits in October and November.
ANTHONY: Keep me posted and I’ll tweet and post about it.
RICKY: Thanks. Oh! We were selected to be on a Doors tribute album. So there’s two albums. One is just bands. The last time we heard, it sounded like the possibility that the Flaming Lips were also going to be on it. That might not be current. So we did “Break On Through.”
BREE: And it’s kicking!
RICKY: It’ll be on iTunes and maybe in stores in September.
BREE: Keep an eye out for it!
RICKY: And, it’s like … you know Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist, just passed away, and this was all in the works before that. So now it’s like this weird coincidence that he passed and now this tribute album is coming out. And the second album is all famous keyboardists of the classic rock era to play the keyboard parts. So there’s Rick Wakeman of YES and the guy from Asia. So it’s going to be a big deal.
ANTHONY: Sounds like it. I’ll watch for it. Hopefully they’ll release it as a set and you’ll be out there with Rick Wakeman!
NICK: We also have the Christmas album. Our second one! We’re releasing another Christmas album. For some reason.
ANTHONY: Christmas music is popular. I wrote a Christmas book, The Firflake, about the first snowflake of Christmas and how the elves met Santa, and it sells a little bit every year.
RICKY: But, you know, every year it’s instantly marketable.
BREE: And it’s kinda helping us discover what we want to do, because you know, we’re covering songs that have been done several, several times. So we put our own twists on them, and it kind shows what direction we’ll be going into.
KYLE: Our creativity, you know, it really puts us on the spot.
Kyle Davis (photo by www.andreawilsonphotography.com)
ANTHONY: How can you take something that’s been done a million times and still sound like yourselves. You mentioned being really into charities, and that’s something I’m into, too, so let’s talk about what charities you support and how people can help you support them.
BREE: I personally support food pantries and stuff like that. And To Write Love On Their Arms.
NICK: We also used to work with this anti-bullying company called…
KYLE: Kicking It.
NICK: Kicking It. Trying to get kids aware of the harmful things that come from bullying. And there’s a bunch of stuff we do. There’s this thing called The Pajama Program, donating pajamas to kids who need them. We’ve done Make A Wish Foundation.
BREE: We donated, how much was it … $10,000…
RICKY: We were part of a big even that collectively raised like $10,000.
NICK: Our last charity was actually our CD release party for our last album. We donated all the money we took in to a middle school to help them keep their music program.
KYLE: It was actually my middle school, so that was kind of cool.
ANTHONY: Feels good to give back, right? I go back every year, I grew up in Mahopac, NY, and I do the American Cancer Society Relay For Life. And, you know, I could do events here in NJ because I’ve lived here for 17 years now, but it feels right to back and honor my parents, who died from different types of cancer, and my friends and family.
BREE: We did a show with the Cancer Society.
RICKY: We did a walk, yeah.
BREE: We’ve all been affected by cancer in our own way, so it’s something that’s important to us.
ANTHONY: Well, as a cancer survivor, thank you for helping out! Okay, the last question I ask in every interview: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?
RICKY: Holy crap. That’s a tough one.
BREE: I have one. And it’s not Twilight. (Band laughs) It’s still like a mystical kind of thing. I read a whole series called The Fallen. I think it’s good because it’s unexpected. I didn’t see the ending coming.
RICKY: I’m not a huge book person, so it took me a minute, but I remember reading this book called Mind Blindness. It’s a book about the perspective of someone who has autism, and the stereotypes and the labels attached with autism are not what they appear to be if you’re looking through the eyes of someone with autism, as far as what they’re capable of. It inspired me to go into special education, so yeah, it was an eye-opener.
ANTHONY: A life-changing book, then. Cool.
KYLE: I read when I have to. So in high school, I guess…
ANTHONY: By the way, comic books are also an acceptable answer. Just throwing that out there as a comic book fan.
KYLE: (laughs) I actually read this book, it was really interesting, Brave New World. It’s a futuristic book, and one kid is like from like a totally different culture and he really has to work, to hunt, to survive. And this other person who comes from a world where he doesn’t have to do anything. So they’re at different levels. And there’s “orgy-porgies” in there somewhere, so I’ll just leave you with that.
NICK: What, what did you call it?
KYLE: Orgy-porgy! It was very interesting!
NICK: I love it. (pauses) Oh, shit, it’s my turn. Uhm … Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess. It was really an eye-opener.
ANTHONY: You didn’t see the ending coming.
NICK: It made me interested in trying other foods, now I don’t knock other foods when I see people eating it. Made me more open to other people’s eating habits…
ANTHONY: Dan from Hollywood Ending’s answer to this question was Hop On Pop, so you’re in good company. Can’t go wrong with Dr. Suess. Thanks for chatting, guys. Can’t wait to hear the new music!
I had the chance earlier this week to sit down with John Russo, the lead singer of one of my favorite up-and-coming bands, Reverse Order. The rest of the band had other obligations (probably a good thing; the interview might have been an hour long if they’d all be there), but John filled me in on their upcoming tour, new music, a new video, and even answered a fan’s Twitter question.
Cruise, John, Drew and Frank: Reverse Order
Reverse Order came together in 2008 and consists of brothers John (vocals, guitars) and Cruise Russo (vocals and drums), bassist Frank Spangler and guitarist Drew Katsock. They’ve opened for Action Item, Allstar Weekend and others, and through Twitter and Youtube their fan-base is growing nationally. You may have seen them on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT last season, and that’s where our chat started:
ANTHONY: So the last time I interviewed you, via email, was before you were on America’s Got Talent.
JOHN: Okay, That was a while ago.
ANTHONY: Yeah. What did you guys learn from that experience and how did you apply it moving forward?
JOHN: That’s definitely an interesting question. That’s the first time that’s been asked. I mean, being on America’s Got Talent, you have to be very professional, very punctual, things were a lot more complicated than people think they are; you have be there 9 days beforehand, every single day you’re training with music directors, different vocal coaches, you’ve got b-roll taping, all the different cameras are outlined, they place you along the whole thing, you practice your exact positions you have to move into because there’s like 100 cameras programmed around the stage that you have to hit your marks at the right times because the cameras are programmed to switch. I mean, I guess it was more just learning more professionalism in that kind of environment. So that was definitely a good thing for us.
ANTHONY: And I remember Howard was not as impressed as we hoped he would be.
ANTHONY: So how did you respond to the criticisms? There were little snippets of post-interview with you guys, but now that you have some perspective on it?
JOHN: Yeah, I mean the best – the only thing you can really do is take what they say and try to apply it as much as you can. Certain things you just kind of ignore (smiles) because you really don’t connect with what they’re saying, but other things you try to apply to yourself and at least do something to better yourself.
ANTHONY: True. So let’s talk about the new music. When is it coming out?
JOHN: We’re trying a new approach this time. Instead of just releasing one cd at a time … because we’ve found, nowadays at least, when you release a cd, everyone’s really into it for about a month, they’re really excited about it, and then the rest of the year, you don’t have anything to offer them. What we’re doing this time is we have about six songs recorded but we’re going to release them slowly. We’re going to release them maybe once a month. So this month people will be into this song, next month they’ll be looking for something new, we’ll release another song. So that’s kind of how we’re doing it. Three of the songs were recorded with Rob Freeman who did a lot of production on like Warped Tour bands, he was in a band called Hidden In Plain View, he produced Hit The Lights, he on “Stereo Hearts” by Adam Levine and Gym Class Heroes, so he’s doing some songs. There’s a guy in Staten Island named Armando who’s doing a song for us; a guy named Mike Lisa and a guy named Kevin Kumetz. Kevin is actually the guy who recorded our last cd, so we’re working with him again. The music’s … for the most part it’s still rock, it’s still alternative rock but it’s slightly different from what we’ve done before. Right now, there’s a lot of our stuff that is very pop-punk and then there’s some pop-dance and there’s like keyboard and stuff like that. This is more alternative rock, you know, Fall Out Boy, One Republic, The Fray, so it’s more Top 40 alternative rock than like Top 40 Pop. So it should it be good.
ANTHONY: So you’re doing away with keyboards and stuff like that? Stripping it down to the basic instruments, or..?
JOHN: No, we have the keyboards and synthesizers and stuff, but whereas like Save For … is a dance song, synths in that respect, it’s going to be more synths and keyboards in the respect of like One Republic, big sound arena rock, or like The Killers, kind of like that.
ANTHONY: It’s funny, the other band I talk about a lot, The Dalliance, who are guys I went to high school with, that’s how they released their music. It was almost a year’s worth of “a song a month,” and then they culled from that to release the album they released last year, and rerecorded some stuff. I don’t know if they’re going to do the same thing with this next EP.
JOHN: They put all the same songs together on one EP at the end?
ANTHONY: Yeah, although they did remaster and retrack some stuff.
JOHN: That’s what we’re planning to do, put it all together on cd at the end.
ANTHONY: And that way, people who wanted a physical CD could still get one at their cd release party or later. And yeah, that seems to be the way lots of bands are doing it now. Seems to be the smarter marketing.
JOHN: Plus it gives you more time, while you’re working on other stuff, to still fix some stuff. You know, all the big bands on the radio, they have the luxury of having other people write their stuff so they can tour, release, tour, release, tour, release. Where we don’t have that luxury so you have to time it out.
ANTHONY: Exactly. So, the video you’ve been working on. Let’s talk about that.
JOHN: Yes. The video we actually recorded in February. A friend of mine who I met years ago in California goes to film school so he decided to film us a video. And it’s just taking long to edit because he lives in California and I live in NJ, so we’re at that point in the communication where he sends me an email and it takes me five days to get back to him, so… The video is actually for “Go,” so we’re really hoping to get that video out before we release any new songs. It looks weird releasing a new song then releasing a video for an old song, so we’re trying to do that. I’ve seen it, there’s only three small things that need to be edited.
ANTHONY: When it comes out, I’ll come back to this interview and add a link or embed it.
ANTHONY: Okay, so you’re about to leave on tour.
JOHN: Yep. We are leaving … our first date in June 25th, so we’re leaving June 24th and it’s essentially a full month so we should be coming back home around the end of July. We’re going to the Mid-west and the South. Our route: we start out in New Jersey, obviously; we’re going to hit Pennsylvania, like the Pittsburgh area; then [zig-zagging back and forth through] Ohio, Illinios, Indiana, and Michigan; and then on to Saint Louis, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Delaware, and then once we get back home the regular New Jersey and PA and New York shows again.
We actually have a show in New York though, before we leave, it’s our last local show June 15th at The Vibe Lounge in Long Island. We’re excited to hit the road. We’re going to a lot of places we’ve been to before, venue-wise, and some places we haven’t. We’re playing at a bunch of Six Flags, a bunch of regular venues, “concerts in the parks” that some towns throw where they have like big bands and stuff. A nice mix of shows, doing some nightclubs here and there since we have some nights off.
ANTHONY: And then living room shows.
JOHN: Oh yeah, we always leave time for the living room shows when people are interested. So we’re doing all of that, and the show on Long Island before we leave, and then the Stage-It show on June 2nd.
ANTHONY: Perfect lead-in. Let’s talk about that. How did that come together? I’ve seen a couple of things on Stage-It and they seem to be wildly variable in quality.
JOHN: Yeah. I’m going to try to make ours be quality. I have professional microphones upstairs just because we record our own demos here. So I’m going to see if I can work that into the computer without accidentally muting the volume, because that would be terrible. But a friend of ours … we’re friends with a band called Before You Exit and they had done one and they were telling us about it and we always try to do different things to keep our fans interested and they suggested this. It’s no cost for us to do, why not try it? So we figured we’d do a very small concert, limited to a small amount of people, try it out. It’s kind of a cool way for us to do a show for all those people that – you know, we have fans in Canada and Brazil and other places who can never see us, so it’s a way for them to see us, and I’m hoping it’s good. We’ve never done one before so it’s new for us.
ANTHONY: How do people connect with the Stage-It?
JOHN: They can search for it through the Stage-It site, but there is an actual link, and it’s on our Facebook right now.
ANTHONY: And I’ll post that link right here. So people reading, click here: REVERSE ORDER – LIVE FROM OUR LIVING ROOM and buy a ticket for Reverse Order’s Stage-It. The show starts at 7:30pm, on your computer, at that link.
I have a question for you from Twitter, from a fan in Houston, Texas.
ANTHONY: Yeah, I think she knows of you guys because she’s a big Before You Exit and Hollywood Ending fan, and she knows you’ve played with both of them. So when I asked on Twitter if anyone had any questions for you, she wanted me to ask you how you went from playing in the garage to the venues you’re playing, and any advice you might have for a singer-songwriter, who is also a teenager, as far as getting into playing the local venues, opening for bigger acts, etc.
JOHN: It’s a lot of work. (laughs) I mean, every local venue now, they want you to sell twenty tickets to play a show. Our first thing was school talent shows, school Battle of the Bands. You kind of have to just go to a local venue, for us it was Croc Rock in Allentown, that’s where we got our start opening and playing bigger shows, ask the promoter “we’re a local band, do you have any shows coming up that we can get on,” and they’ll start you out with shows that are like five local bands in one night, no big headliners and they build you up from there. They say “sell twenty tickets,” well the first show, you’re going to be selling those to Mom, Dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents. But from that show, maybe you’ll get five fans from another band, and the next show you play maybe fifteen are family and five are fans, and you kind of build that way. It’s a long building process, and it takes a while but you gotta do it.
ANTHONY: If Cruise had been here tonight, I was going to end the interview with a “dueling super-heroes” thing. You know, “who would win…” Since like me you’re both big comic book fans.
JOHN: Marvel, clearly. We actually have a thing we’re doing with a guy who just graduated from the Kubert School. Right now he’s submitting to DC and Marvel, we met him at Free Comic Book Day and he did like four of the covers I have upstairs. Probably the best artist I’ve ever met. But he’s actually drawn us individual trading cards, like Pokemon cards but in super-hero uniforms. He’s going to do a card for each of us but then blend the background so they merge into one big card. So he’s drawing that for us and since it’s like Pokemon we’ll have like cheesy power moves and stuff, how much Damage we do, etc. And we’ll have them at the shows, the only way to be able to get them will be from us.
ANTHONY: Pretty soon we’ll be able to play the Reverse Order Game. You’ll need arch-enemies, though, so you’ll have to work on that.