Interview with VanRiss

During the Mayfest festival, I was able to ask singer/songwriter, VanRiss (Jonathan Van Risseghem), a few questions after his set.

How long have you been making music?

I made my first album, released it in 2009. Spent all 2008 writing and recording it. So, ten years I guess.

What made you decide you wanted to do music?

I still remember the first day when I was 8 years old and wrote my first song. I have always liked art of any kind and music just really, no pun intended, just struck a chord with me. From there on, that was my central passion in life. I’ve been doing it ever since. My first song was a really high quality christian-rap song, so I have come a long way from then.

Is this your first project that you actually released music from?

I had a band in high school. I wasn’t the singer, I was kinda writing the songs and letting someone else do it. He didn’t show up for studio session and out of angst, I just started singing on the songs and I went home and played it for some people. ‘I did this. Spite this guy,’ and people were like ‘I actually think you are pretty good, I think you should keep doing this.’ That was my segue from being a guitar player in a local band to writing and recording my own stuff, so it was an interesting process. Happy accident. 

You played a song that wasn’t on either of your already released albums. Are there plans to release it?

There are plans to release it this fall. It is called “Chandelier Tree.” There is this really cool tree near the Silver Lake/Los Angeles area that has a ton of chandelier trees in it, literally a chandelier tree. I was playing some shows in Los Angels and my wife and I had just had our newborn, she was four or five months old, and we had a little bit of time afterwards and it was our first sandwiched in little moment of time together for the first time in a few months of sleeplessness so I wrote a song about it.

Where can they find you?

All the links are on VanRiss.com

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Ben Quad discuss ‘Star Wars’ and future plans

The band, Ben Quad, was nice enough to allow me to ask them just a few questions about how they got started, and the future of the band. Ben Quad consists of Jacob Rhinehart (Bass Guitar, Vocals), Edgar Viverous (Lead Guitar), Sam Wegrynski (Rhythm Guitar) and Isaac Young (Drums).

Where did the name “Ben Quad” come from?

We really wanted to play Norman Music Festival but we needed to come up with a name to put on the application. We thought Ben Quadinaros from Star Wars would be a good meme so we went with that. If you didn’t know, Ben Quadinaros was a character in Episode I whose podracer blew up before he could compete in the big race. Failing before you could even get started. It’s kind of a nice metaphor for our little crybaby band. After a few shows, we noticed people couldn’t remember or spell our name right so we just shortened it to Ben Quad.

How did you come together as a band and when did this happen?

Edgar responded to Jacob’s craigslist ad. He and Isaac had already been jamming together for a while. Jacob asked Sammy Boi to join after schedule things didn’t work out for our first bassist, Ben (no relation). We had our first practice as a solid band probably around December 2017 and played our first show in January 2018.

Where are your biggest influences?

Probably Three Days Grace, Shinedown, and Disturbed. A lot of people at our shows ask if we listen to Algernon Cadwallader, Marietta, Modern Baseball, or this weird thing called “midwestern emo”. Never heard of it.

What is your songwriting process?

Edgar usually writes a riff and the rest of the gang adds on to it at practice. Vocals get written last as a tradition at this point               .

What is your favorite song you all have made?

The first song we ever wrote, “Too bad that didn’t kill me,” has grown on us a lot. I think we’ve really made the song our own. We’ve been playing a new one that might take over as our favorite though. No title yet.

Any plans to release any new music soon?

The magic of Ben Quad is that we have absolutely no idea.

Where does this “rivalry” with CLIFFDIVER originate from?

I think we hurt their feelings once with a meme. They send us a jab (tickle at best) every once and a while so of course we have to respond with our sauce.

What are some things you are really into right now? (Movies, TV show, restaurants, anything)

Hella Magic the Gathering. As far as food goes, we’re just waiting til we play in OKC on 5/17, so we can eat at Lee’s Sandwiches.

Anything you want to add?

Follow us on all social media at @benquadok. Listen to our stuff on all streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, Pornhub, etc.). Don’t listen to the new Cliffdiver record when it comes out. It’ll probably suck and not blow your mind. 

Retrospective look at BRONCHO’S “Just Hip to Be Woman”

   With the release of their sophomore album, “Just Enough Hip to Be Woman,” BRONCHO obtained their first minor hit with “Class Historian.” This quintessential indie-rock song evokes the warm embrace of summer and coupled with an infectious melody, this track officially put the band on most people’s radar. As the album turns five this year, it seemed only fitting to look back at the release that brought this Norman band to the forefront.

   BRONCHO formed in 2010, releasing their debut album three years later. Titled “Can’t Get Past the Lips,” this album combined a pop-punk angst and fervor with the washed out guitar and hazy vocals of a more indie/alternative brand. The following year, “Just Enough Hip to Be Woman” was released.

   As previously stated, this album saw the band moving to embrace their indie-rock sound, although the more punk leaning side remained in the background.

    This album IS summer. The bright and sun-baked instrumentation with an echo-y and ambient vocal delivery. This theme of summer is even present in the album art, as a portion of it depicts a woman swimming. Everything about it brings a warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgic remembrance for the summer sun and pure bliss.

   Starting off the track list is “What,” a lyrically intriguing song, as it displays a narrator who hopes to “get it on,” while the woman ultimately rejects his advances. This song bounces back and forth between frustration and the desperate attempt to prove that the narrator is worth pursuing. While this song could be viewed as the band defending this sort of self-entitlement, the self-deprecation displayed by the narrator proves that they aim to make fun of this toxic ideal. Couple this with the bright sound that BRONCHO hopes to establish as their new sound, and this track becomes an instant standout.

   Following this is the break out hit for them, “Class Historian.” Instant recognition is gained through the “Du du du” styled intro. The track brings in some more humor, as it details the narrator returning to a class reunion and trying to get the phone numbers of one of the girls he had known in high school.

  With the introduction of this track, a point must be made for the catchy quality of this album. Each track has a melody that is very recognizable, even if just in a single section of the song. BRONCHO knows how to write a hook, and they do not let the audience forget it. “Deena,” “Stay Loose,” and “It’s On” all have that ear worm effect, easily lodging themselves into the conscious mind of the listener.

   One of the darker moments on this album comes in the form of “I’m Gonna Find out Where He’s At.” This track has a more minor tone, as the narrator details his mom’s boyfriend, who he seems to be less than satisfied with. As the title is repeated throughout the song, dread grows at what the fate may be for this boyfriend. The more sinister tone, both in the lyrics and in the music, make this song stick out in the track list. This being said, that is not a negative to the song, but rather something to break up the sunshine (musically speaking) that exudes through the rest of the album.

   BRONCHO’s sophomore album is a strong indie-rock project. With glistening guitars, infectious bass lines and a perfectly atmospheric vocal style, “Just Enough Hip to Be Woman” is an incredible release.

SATURN hits perfect balance in new EP

  Despite their smaller size, SATURN is a band that has been kicking since 2003, releasing two full length albums, with a follow-up EP in 2018. “Stomping Grounds” is a fascinating release that packs a bit more of a punch than their previous albums.

  SATURN is typically a fairly ominous band. Whether this is in the lyrics or the hazy, atmospheric musical landscape that they craft, most of every song has some kind of darkness layered into it. While this bleakness is omnipresent in “Stomping Grounds,”  the atmosphere is ditched for stronger guitar licks and more dynamic lead work. While this does stand out a little next to some of their past work, the sound continues to compliment their strengths and avoids ditching their old sound completely. In terms of a band’s evolution, this is the “Goldilocks Zone” that most bands would strive to achieve.

  To try and classify this release into a genre would typically land it somewhere in the alt-rock arena, but distinctive metal-inspired riffs flow through a few tracks. “August Heat” has this lead guitar that takes over the mix that sounds straight off a Black Sabbath album. The fuzzy hard-rock chords that flow through the title track further exemplify this idea.

   Despite the “metal” comments, a strange similarity can be drawn to Gorillaz. Vocally, the similarities are occasionally uncanny. The filter layered over Brett Fieldcamp’s vocals in “A City Split By A Mountain Range” is distinctly similar to what Damon Albarn has done in the past. Take this with the synthetic drum work, sweeping synthesizers, hollow production and cryptic lyrics and the likeness to Gorillaz is undeniable. This all being said, it never feels like a cheap rip-off. SATURN establish their own identity without truly sounding like copycats.

   The black tone of this album carries on to “Dorothy Gale,” a track that discusses a tornado, presumably one that hit the band’s hometown of Moore in 2013. Taking the title from the full name of the lead character in “The Wizard Of Oz,” the song discusses this Dorothy that comes and destroys everything in the narrators life. The literalness of this track can only come in the eye of the beholder.

   “Stomping Grounds” is a truly excellent EP that helps establish a new sound to these local veterans. Demonstrating their immense talent, this release is not one to be passed over.

The Classless release emotional, engaging EP

   From the opening moments of “Try Not to Panic, Pt. 2” by The Classless, there is an unquestionable sense of intrigue. A slow plucking acoustic guitar introduces the first track, “Hindsight,” a tale of running away with someone. As the music swells, the tale sours. The relationship seems to have gone south. Resentment and unhappiness builds, as  the narrator realizes this was a bad idea in hindsight.

   Creativity in storytelling and music creation defines The Classless’ indie rock/pop-punk sound. Released early 2019, part two of their “Try Not to Panic” EP series is pumped full of tracks as engaging as the opener.

   This songwriting works excellently in tandem with the stellar production.  Every song feels properly mastered and everything sounds clean and distinguished. When dissecting smaller artist, poor production is typically part of the package, not due to the band’s inability, but because of having a low overall budget. Yet here, this is not a problem. The guitars are crisp, the drums are punchy and the vocals sit in a perfect place in the mix. Not once do the vocals seem too washed out or overbearing.

   “Do What You Need To” is a bouncy sing-along that tackles the futile attempt to hold onto a dying relationship. “The version of us that I miss so much/gets further and further away” perfectly encapsulates the sentiment of this song. The direct contrast of a cleaner vocal style with a more strained delivery further demonstrates the turmoil that is being felt by the narrator.

   While each of the six tracks are well worth mentioning, one final highlight is the lead single for the EP, “20S and 30S.” A quintessential love song, pledging one’s life and soul to another. The narrator practically comes off masochistic, as details describes burning oneself and being a “dog tied up” by a significant other’s love are revealed. This intimate profession of passion feels personal, almost too personal to be hearing. Couple this with the dynamic instrumentation that swells as if the audience is there while the narrator tells their partner all of these things.

   Wrapping up on this track, both the narrator and the audience end emotionally tattered. Every second of “Try Not To Panic, Pt. 2” is skillful, introspective and powerful. A wonderful release all the way through.