HOUSE SHOWS & TACO TRUCKS: BRICK TOP DROPS NEW EP

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY CHRIS BAKER

What do you get when you combine the grunge of Dave Grohl, a bunch of tacos, and four guys that have an affinity for 90’s punk and stoner rock? None other than BRICK TOP. Initially formed at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., the band includes guitarist and lead vocalist Chris Issa, drummer Rob Seaver, bassist Matt Carrier, and guitarist Chris Baker. In nearly two years, three-quarters of the band have moved to their  home base in the Washington, D.C. metro area, while Baker remains rooted in Richmond. Despite the distance, their friendship and love for music keeps them connected.

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NO LONGER THE UNDERDOGS OF VIRGINIA POP PUNK

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY DEVOTER VISUALS AND THROUGH IT ALL PHOTOGRAPHY

VIDEO BY TD WEHLE

Since forming in summer 2014, UNDERDOG CHAMPS have been grinding hard to gain notoriety in the local scene and beyond. They released their debut EP Picked Last on May 30, 2015, and they have opened for some of the biggest names in pop punk and alternative music. It’s safe to say that these guys aren’t underdogs any longer.

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AMERICAN TELEVISION: MATURE POP PUNK WITH OPTIMISM

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY STEVE ROVERY

Though the pop punk genre is typically associated with the youth, the guys in AMERICAN TELEVISION prove that even 30 year olds can rock just as hard and be just as posi. Based in the Washington, D.C. metro area, the young band recently released their debut EP, Let’s Play Two, featuring a couple energetic songs that will get you moving. The band has been busy writing and playing shows around the area, supporting other bands, and spreading their love for the Baltimore Orioles.

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FRIENDS WITH MONSTERS DEBUT “HANDSOME AMERICA”

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ALBUM REVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

Usually these days when people think of pop punk, the word generic frequently comes to mind, which was my first thought when I heard the opening riffs of FRIENDS WITH MONSTERS debut EP Handsome America. However, when the band broke into chorus, I was struck by the catchy melody of vocalist Brian Pursel alongside the more aggressive guitars and bass of his band mates. The song made me feel nostalgic of simpler times when I was younger when I didn’t have a care in the world other than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, pizza parties, and Street Sharks.

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RICHMOND’S BOMBSHELL ON THE VERGE OF RELEASING EXPLOSIVE DEBUT ALBUM

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INTERVIEW BY MATT WALKER

PHOTOS BY JENNIFER LOTTIE

On April 30, 2015, one of Richmond’s latest bands riding the pop punk party wave dropped their debut single on the scene. Collectively known as BOMBSHELL, their sound on “You Wanted Honesty” is as explosive with energy as their name implies. Individually, they are comprised of vocalist Gregory, guitarists Rory and Hugo, and drummer Jacob. They are on the verge of releasing their debut album, and they will be performing at The National on July 11. We spoke with Gregory and Hugo about how their band fits into the growing pop punk scene in Virginia.

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ALBUM REVIEW: PUSHIN’ MONGO BY CENTERFOLDS

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Pushin’ Mongo by CENTERFOLDS

https://centerfoldsva.bandcamp.com

ALBUM REVIEW BY MATT WALKER

CENTERFOLDS, one of the premiere bands in the crop of pop punk acts hailing from Richmond, Va., will release their latest EP Pushin’ Mongo on May 7, 2015.  Continuing to prove that pop punk is truly not dead, CENTERFOLDS has maintained the sound that any NEW FOUND GLORY nut longs for. They continue that sound on Pushin’ Mongo, which I have been listening to for the past two hours straight.

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UNDERDOG CHAMPS COMBINES MULTIPLE GENRES TO FORM MELODIC POP PUNK “SUPER BAND” WITH PLANS FOR A THREE-SONG EP TO BE RELEASED LATER THIS YEAR

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITAPATRICK

PHOTOS BY TYLER MAZZA AND AGNES OWUSU

VIDEO BY JOEY CATHEY

Formed by current and former members of some of Northern Virginia’s top bands, UNDERDOG CHAMPS are one of the latest pop punk bands that have “posi-jumped” into the growing scene in the DMV area. Initially, the band began as a solo project of lead vocalist Mark “Blackhawk” Bradley. With support from guitarist and backing vocalist Nick Jones, as well as guitarist Tyler Mazza, bassist Justin Mason, and drummer Josh Bailey, the band has expanded to be something new entirely, combining each band member’s past experiences in indie rock, metalcore, pop punk, and alternative music genres to form one cohesive sound.

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE BACKWARDS EP BY ALBATROSS COUNTY

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The Backwards EP by ALBATROSS COUNTY

https://albatrosscountyrva.bandcamp.com/album/the-backwards-ep

ALBUM REVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

Based in Chesterfield, Va., ALBATROSS COUNTY comes off as the epitome of your standard pop punk band; however, they are much more diverse than their opening track leads the listener to believe. With catchy hooks and a simple harmony, this four-piece delivers quality, tongue-in-cheek tunes on their third release. The album is a play on their debut self-titled EP, with backwards album art, but the EP features four fresh tracks and a cover. The opening track, “Hastily Forgotten,” is a toe-tapping start that might get you pogo jumping, if you are into that type of thing. Though the vocals seem slightly out of key at times, it is angsty, and I like it. The following track, “Can We Not,” is a nostalgic ska song that takes the listener back to better times — the 90’s. Though this song is fun and upbeat, it is also a little chaotic. The album then takes a strange turn on the fifth track, “This Curse,” which is a mellow, R&B inspired song with a drum track and autotuned vocals. It’s a bit out of place and unexpected if you ask me. The EP closes on a much heavier note with the band’s cover of RIFF RAFF’s song “Versace Python,” which is a combination of rap, punk, and alternative rock. It’s clear that ALBATROSS COUNTY’s influences are very diverse, which is represented well on the EP. However, I’m not sure how cohesive it is.

ELEVATED BY EXPERIENCE IN PREVIOUS POP PUNK BANDS, SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS OF VIRGINIA BEACH ARE IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN ON THEIR DEBUT EP, TORN UP

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY NEW SONG PHOTOGRAPHY AND SYDNI ELIZABETH PHOTOGRAPHY

One of the rising stars in Virginia’s pop punk scene is the five-piece SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS, which is based in the Virginia Beach area. Formed in May 2014, the band’s lineup includes vocalist Bryant Leary, guitarists Jason Schneider and Tyler Kishbaugh, drummer Dan Sykes, and bassist Matt Watson. Though they are no strangers to the pop punk genre, having played in successful bands previous to forming SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS, the members are clearly elevated in their musical prowess and capabilities. In January 2015, the band released their debut EP Torn Up and have already set their sights on evolving their sound to be bigger and better on their next record.

Who is the biggest fan of THE POSTAL SERVICE in the band?

Jason: I’ll have to take the cake on that one.

SGH 3Can you tell me why you chose SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS as your band name?

Jason: We were looking for a name that would really describe and give a visual to our music. We wanted something that was more of a positive vibe with definitely not a negative connotation but more of a positive connotation that took the listener automatically to a positive place. We definitely want to take this beyond anything musical that any of us have done before, and SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS was just an obvious name. When it dawned on us, it was the obvious choice is everyone’s eyes.

Tyler: We love to keep people elevated and ourselves elevated. So SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS is a perfect name for that.

In May 2014, you guys started your band with only four members and since then have solidified your lineup to include five guys and released a stellar EP. In your opinion, in what ways has your band progressed over the last nine months to where you are today?

Jason: It’s been quite a wild ride. Tyler was the member that you mentioned that joined with us, and really our lineup wasn’t complete until he [joined the band]. Even though we did a lot of the work before he was there, we [didn’t] really see ourselves as complete before he [joined]. It’s really been the most fun journey that we’ve been on, and releasing this album has been a dream come true for us. I think, musically, a lot of us accomplished what we really wanted to so far and also set sight for bigger and better things in the future.

Tyler: When I joined the band, it was definitely a different experience. There wasn’t that stress of “Who are these guys? What am I gonna be playing? Am I good enough?” It kind of just all flowed naturally, and since I’ve joined, we’ve been playing shows and putting out this EP. We’ve all really grown together and definitely have an awesome vision for the future with what we are producing. The music is definitely keeping us all together and keeping us growing.

Are you all locals of Virginia Beach?

Tyler: I’ve been here since I was three, so I would definitely consider everything that I’m conscious of as a human being to be what I know of Virginia Beach. It’s where it’s at. This is where we stay, and this is where we are from.

Bryant: I would have to agree. I’ve been here for about 17 years, and I would say, as far as me and Tyler, both of us are originally from Virginia Beach.

Jason: I was born and raised on the west coast until I was about 16, and our bass player Matt, who is in Bahrain on deployment right now, is from the west coast as well. He came out to Virginia with the [U.S.] Navy, but he and I are actually from the same town in California. We didn’t know each other there, but it’s kind of ironic that we are both from the same little town in Lancaster.SGH 2

I know that your band includes former member of ADDISON and BROADSIDE. Are any of your other bandmates alumni of other well-known bands in this area?

Jason: Dan, our drummer, and I were both in ADDISON, and I used to be in SAM’S THE HERO as well.

Tyler: Me and Matt, our bass player, actually came from the same band called AS ONE. Theyre not as well known in the area. but when SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS reached out to Matt and I, that’s when we all came together.

In January 2015, you guys released your EP Torn Up, which has lots of typical pop punk riffs, as well as some elements people might find unexpected. What do you feel are some of the greatest strengths of this record?

Tyler: For me, at least, I definitely love the vocals as what is being said lyrically and how they are being portrayed through the melodies, and also the guitar work how everything fuses together really well. It also goes over well live playing songs off the record. The guitars sound really, really well together. I really like it. It’s really strong.

Jason: One of the areas that I see strengths with kind of goes along with what Tyler said. It’s a really powerful record. It’s got a little bit of everything, and I think that’s one of the strengths. There’s parts where it is extremely fast; there’s parts where it is extremely soft and there’s a lot of build up. I think it has got a beautiful flow up and down. My dad is a musician and the number one thing he has always taught me was it’s not about the notes but the space between them, and I kind of live by that as a musician. I think that comes across really well in this record.

Personally, I love the easycore element of your band, which you don’t hear too often anymore. It was more so present in the late 90s to early 2000s. Is this a path you will continue to pursue on future records in the foreseeable future?

 Jason: I would say, as of right now, yes. You’re gonna hear a lot more of everything you’ve heard. It’s gonna get more aggressive and more melodic; it’s gonna get prettier and dirtier. It’s just going to be more of everything. I think it’s gonna be more new, but I don’t think we’ll ever lose that nostalgic 2000s feel.

Tyler:  Don’t forget that music evolves just like we do, and it’s always gonna change. It’s never gonna be the same. We’re very excited for what is going to be coming up.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS

Do you guys have any plans to tour later this year in promotion of this record?

Bryant: Me and my bassist Matt, and all of us, have been talking about it, and we’re getting some stuff together along with new music as well. We are hoping to be booking a couple shows either down south or up north sometime in summer or fall.

Since you mentioned new music, do you already have another record in the works?

Jason: We have already begun working towards it. Kind of the philosophy that all five of us approached was you shouldn’t ever not be writing music, even if you are not writing for an album. As a musician and as a band, you should always be writing new music. So immediately after Torn Up came out, we jumped back to our favorite thing to do, and that is getting to the studio or getting to the practice space and asking what ideas everyone has been sitting on since the last time we did this. So far, we’ve gotten a little bit into it, and we are absolutely in love with it.

What would you say are the most important values of SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS?

Tyler: I think one of our values is definitely to make a positive impact.

Jason: I think definitely a value we hold is just being true to yourself. A lot of what we bring to the table is just to not be afraid to bring an idea, musically or whatever.

Bryant: Just having fun. Meeting new people and getting the word around. Honestly that’s what I feel it’s all about, although I do agree with Tyler and Jason’s statements.

For more updates on SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS, be sure to “like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, and listen to Torn Up on Bandcamp.

CURRENTLY RECORDING THEIR SOPHOMORE ALBUM, POP PUNK BAND SUNBOX REFLECT ON THEIR BEGINNINGS AS AN ACOUSTIC BAND

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INTERVIEW BY SHELBY BAKER

PHOTOS PROVDED BY JOEY SAUCIER AND BRANDON HAMBRIGHT

Having fun and feeling good is the core driving-force for Richmond-based pop punk act SUNBOX. They want listeners to enjoy listening and seeing their music live, just as much as they enjoy playing it. This has served them well, as they’ve been featured on local radio stations and festivals, and have even opened for NEW POLITICS. We had the opportunity to talk with frontman Sam McCoig about the band’s evolution since forming in June 2010 and the new music they are writing with their current lineup.

How did you guys form the band?

When I was 13 and a freshman in high school, I started playing acoustic shows. Then, I found people to jam with me, and we turned into an acoustic band. A year ago, I lost four members. At the time, there were a lot of shows coming up, and I didn’t want to just drop them. So, I asked [the current members] who were in a band previous to this one who weren’t playing anymore. Drew [Selequini, bassist] joined — I got him to join first — and then I got the other guys. We’ve known each other since high school. We joined up together and basically from then on, we’ve been a band.

sunbox 2What do you hope listeners take away from your music?

When they listen to [our music], I want it to sound really fun and something that makes them feel good. Something that they’re like, “Wow, we’d like to see this live.” What I want them to take away is that our music is a lot of fun to play, and to listen to live.

How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?

It’s evolved a lot. When we started, we were acoustic and played JACK JOHNSON and sunbox 3JASON MRAZ covers. … From there, it’s gone from full band electric, to pop punk, and now our music has been on iTunes. The music we have now has evolved to a more poppy side and then a punk side. At first, I wrote a lot of the music, and its all combined writing now.

What is the meaning behind your band name?

Sam: It’s kind of stupid, but my sister was the one who came up with it. It’s from a box-shaped sun room.

sunbox 4Could you briefly describe the music making process? 

Sam: It all starts with either a lyric line, or guitar riff, or a guitar lick since it’s easy. I’m the one who usually does lyrics, but [the other band members] send me ideas that they have. Then I’ll write it on an acoustic guitar, and I’ll record it on my phone. [After that], we’ll try to piece it together. … Once everyone puts there own piece to it it becomes something everyone likes and likes to play.

Are you guys working on new material?

Absolutely, we are so excited for our new stuff. We’ve been working on new music for about two months now. We had a little time when we were really busy. We were playing the same five songs from our old EP. They were fun songs, but it was so repetitive. They were made by two of the past members. These new songs have been written by the members that are in the band right now. We’ve finished three new songs, and we have another song out now. We are going to record a bunch soon, and we’re going to be playing them at the next few shows. We have shows in March and May, and it’s going to be a bit of time until it’s online for people to listen to.

For more updates on SUNBOX, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and check out their music on Reverbnation.