Archive | August, 2011

The Sounds @ The U.S. Open

14 Aug

The Sounds frontwoman, Maja Ivarsson, is a rockstar in every sense of the word. She marches onstage as the band starts playing, clapping her hands to the beat, and you’re instantly compelled to follow her lead. The crowd brims with anticipation as the claps get more intense, when suddenly, she opens her mouth and the lyrics finally come out.

With shaggy platinum blonde hair, a black leather jacket, matching heels, and a dangerously short romper, Maja epitomizes the female take on rock n’ roll and has the attitude to match. The Swedish babe riles up the crowd throughout the show, kicking her legs high in the air or dropping to the floor – wherever the music takes her.

In between songs she’ll grab a cigarette and puff away or take a few sips from her mysterious plastic cup. She drops f-bombs the way Valley girls say ‘like’ and she’ll call out the crowd if they aren’t rocking out hard enough.

She sticks with her post-punk indie-rock roots, though the sound of their latest album Something to Die For is much more electronic. It’s not surprising that three fans were arrested during last week’s free show at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach.

When the first crazed fan ran onstage, bolting for Maja, she gave the star a hug and tried for a kiss but was dragged offstage – fighting back the whole way. But when the same fan somehow snuck onstage again, this time with a friend, Maja was noticeably freaked out and gracefully ran from the kooky girls without compromising the song.

The show must go on, as they say.

And it did: complete with more ballsy fans stage diving and crowd surfers wearing nothing but skimpy bathing suits.

The Sounds wrapped up their set with “Living in America” off their 2002 debut album of the same name and Maja said they’d be back in the fall doing a tour, but the fans were not satisfied. From the moment the song ended, they chanted, “One more song!” and were disgusted when the wannabe-‘E!’-network-hosts came onstage to announce the winners of the Invisalign Teen ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ award.

Everyone booed and irritated fans started leaving. The obviously inexperienced hosts didn’t know how to handle the crowd and one of them screamed, “Relax, we got you. Jesus! I want ya’ll loud when these people get their awards or I’m telling The Sounds to go home.”

The opposing crowd finally gave up and feigned interest as the kids ran onstage to grab their checks.

The things we’ll put up with for a free concert.

When the Sounds finally made their way back onstage, the energy between the musicians and the crowd was as strong as when the set opened and the fans’ patience was awarded with two songs: “Tony The Beat” and “Hope You’re Happy Now.”

When the songs were over, Maja proclaimed, “Thank you. The Sounds love you and we’ll be back in the fall!”

Check back on OCMM for Orange County tour dates.

(Originally published in OC Music Magazine)

Kinski Gallo: The Interview

4 Aug

Monte Negro is a bilingual Spanish/English rock band that is currently on their six-week, 47-stop, cross-country ‘Longest Day Tour.’ OCMM caught up with the LA-based band, who describe their sound as world beat with splashes of eclecticism, as they rode in their tour van on the way to their next gig.

Lead singer and songwriter, Kinski Gallo, tells us about the difficulties of being in a genre that has yet to become mainstream, what life is like on the road, and how music has affected his life from its very beginning.

A: Where are you guys right now?

K: We are actually an hour away from Atlanta. We play a show there tonight.

A: So far, how does this tour compare to previous tours?

K: Well for one, we have a new drummer but in general, I think that every tour we try to learn from our past mistakes, like, what works for you and what works for everybody. A tour is so taxing so you try to create an environment of harmony because everybody needs their space.

This tour to me, so far, is a little more mellow. There’s no drama, even though it’s been crazy. We’ve had a flow to everything. We’ve played at a lot of places for the first time and it’s great because you play for new people, new fans, and you’re sort of challenged.

A: How is it different from your previous tours?

K: It’s more intense, but more organized, so it’s the best of both worlds. The other tour we did was three weeks, this is six weeks, so it’s a lot more cities to cover. And additionally we are playing more shows.

We have two days off every week and we play four gigs straight, so it’s definitely more intense in terms of playing more regularly, almost everyday. It can get pretty taxing for the soul and the body, especially the way we perform.

A: What do you do on your days off to recoup for the next set of shows?

K: Mostly we sleep and read and really just do mindless things – go for a walk. The kinds of things where you don’t have to deal with anyone, you sort of just turn it all off.

A: What would you say has been the highlight so far?

K: I think the highlight has been the Congress show in Chicago. There were 4,000 people and major screens, and it was just a proper rock show. It sort of sounds louder, it’s rock n’ roll, there’s moshing, and it’s beautiful.

A: How do you deal with homesickness? Or do you even get homesick?

K: Of course, you’re in a different place everyday, in a different hotel, and there’s no stability to it. And some of us are married.

Just getting out of your own space is a beautiful thing but it’s a commodity that you take for granted. We’re like everyone else but after you’ve done so many tours, you learn to surrender to the honor of it.

A: What’s your favorite thing about touring?

K: I love performing different songs to different people everyday. We try to change it around so that if people go to our shows two days in a row, they’ll experience a different show. Everything is just being able to have that chemistry between the people and the band. It becomes a well-oiled machine that’s very comforting. You enjoy it because they enjoy it, and it’s beautiful.

A: Can you tell me a little bit about how Monte Negro formed and the process that it’s taken to get to this point?

K: Monte Negro formed 12 years ago, and Rodax is my brother. He’s the bass player. We just kind of met randomly through one of my ex-girlfriend’s brothers who told me about [guitarist] Jason and said, “You’ve got to come see this kid play.” So I went to see him and the rest is just kind of history.

We signed to Sony Records, Epic Records, and then we were intensely touring the next three, four years going to Puerto Rico, Mexico, all over the U.S., and we went to Canada.

A: How has your sound evolved over time?

K: We were doing a lot of heavier stuff back in the day. We were doing the Warped Tour and after maybe four or five years, we realized the music we were doing was kind of one-dimensional and we wanted to make it more eclectic. So we started combining reggae, alternative – just everything we liked about music. And then we started becoming bilingual rather than just playing English and I think it was then that we came into our sound.

We always challenge each other and I think the beauty of it is that even though we try to stick to our ideas, we’re always very open and I think that as long as we have that in ourselves, we can continue to create and compromise.

A: Do you think that it’s hard being a bilingual rock band? That it’s maybe affected how mainstream you are?

K: Yes and no. I think that in general, good things take a while – like a good soup. In the United States, people are speaking in half-Spanish and half-English but I think in general, sometimes people feel threatened by another language. I believe though that when people begin to discover us, there’s a lot less resistance to listening to us. Those doors of stereotypes are broken down because I think music is universal. I listen to a lot of French music and African music, and I don’t necessarily understand it, but I think it creates a unanimous feeling.

I think it’s harder [being a bilingual band], but I think it’s a lot more rewarding because you realize that little by little, more people are coming that don’t even speak Spanish.

When I was little, the way we learned English was just listening to American music. I didn’t understand the words, but I could pronounce them.

A: I’ve actually heard that from a lot of bilingual or trilingual people – that growing up to listening music from other countries helped them build their language skills.

K: It’s definitely more enjoyable. You can sing along with it and you can get better pronunciation because you’re hearing it from a native.

I was born in Mexico, where my mother was from, but my father was from the United States so it’s one of those things where neither culture is better to me. They each have a lot of greatness to them and I’ve just picked the best of both worlds and applied them. I write in English and in Spanish and I think every language has a very poetic nature to it. That’s what’s always interested me about language, so I try to write in a serious manner.

A: What’s next for Monte Negro after this tour?

K: We are contemplating releasing a compilation record, and we have plans to go to Mexico in November. There’s another tour coming up there, and then we’re going to do another three-week tour in the States. After that, we’re going to Canada, and then I go to Paris for a while to do some shows out there, and Jason is going to Guatemala. He’s trying to learn more Spanish. Then it’s just more work – flowing with the constant motion and never really relaxing.

A: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

K: I would say thank you for listening and keeping open-minded. Keep listening and keep finding music that excites you.

(Originally published in OC Music Magazine)

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