DEBUT EP BETTER “BELATED.” THAN NEVER

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WORDS BY JOE FITZPATRICK AND TIM FOGG

PHOTOS BY JESSICA BRYCE AND BILLY SOURS

How do you take your emo pop? BELATED. prefers it “acoustic driven.”

In the driver’s seat is Jordon Ronan, the former vocalist of SHARP SLEEVES, a Blacksburg-based pop punk band previously known as HERO TO HUMAN.  In February 2016, in between college classes and writing music, Ronan drafted Tim Fogg from the Richmond punk band A COLLEGIATE AFFAIR to play lead guitar.

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UPROOTING THEIR JAM BAND INFLUENCES, THE SHACK BAND PURSUE A SONG-DRIVEN DIRECTION WITH THEIR LATEST ALBUM, AMERICA

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY THE SHACK BAND

Formed in 2009 as “an organic, impromptu and free-flowing collection of musicians,” THE SHACK BAND began jamming together in a renovated shack in Blacksburg, Va. The following year, the band members relocated to Richmond to focus on their music and build a career around the band. Once a lineup was solidified, which includes vocalist and keyboard player Andrew Gillespie, bassist/vocalist Mason Owen, guitarist/vocalist Hunter Pease, saxophonist Josh Crowley, and drummer Bobby Hudson, the band began an ambitious touring schedule. Since 2012, they have been playing upwards of 250 shows or more each year both up and down the east coast, and as far west as Chicago. Currently they are on tour promoting the release of their new album America and the new musical direction they have decided to pursue.

How is your current tour going?

It’s going great. We’re currently in the green room at The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Md., and we’re opening for MOON TAXI tonight. Then we will be heading on to Wilmington and Greenville, N.C., and Clinton, S.C. this week. We just put out a new album in September so we’re touring in support of that album, which has been really great. We’ve had a couple cool things fall in line with getting a new booking agency and putting out the CD, and having a good PR agency to work with. We’re running on all cylinders right now.

What booking agency are you working with?

Our booking agency is Nimblestick [Entertainment] out of Athens, Ga., and our PR agency is Serge [Media Group] out of Atlanta. We have a lot of folks working with us in the Georgia area.

Your most recent album is titled America. Why did you decide to name it that?

“America” is the name of the title track on that CD, and it kind of marks a different direction for us as a song-driven band, which is a departure from what we used to do with our roots being in the jam rock scene. This CD is driven entirely by songs so you aren’t going to hear a lot of guitar solos or saxophone solos on it, but you’re gonna hear some really good songs with some jam band elements.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE SHACK BAND'S NEW ALBUM

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE SHACK BAND’S NEW ALBUM

With your new musical direction, how did the writing process for America compare to your previous EP Born & Raised?

First of all, we’re really lucky to have a great songwriter that fronts our band. He is very prolific, so we had basically two and a half albums of material going into the studio, and we narrowed that down to our favorite 13 tracks, which is a great spot to be in when you are narrowing down tracks. This record is kind of about the state of America and how we’re treating our world around us, and it is also kind of about wading through life in your 20s.

I was browsing your band’s Instagram page, and I saw one of your more recent posts about the Ebola hot tub at the Howard Johnson in Charlotte, N.C., and personally, I think “Tourbola” should be the name of your next tour. What do you think?

Sometimes it feels like we have Ebola on tour (laughs). It’s kind of rough on the body.

What is one of your personal favorite memories from a previous tour?

A year or so we were playing a frat party down in South Carolina, and me and our guitarist were interviewing all the drunk frat boys with a microphone that wasn’t plugged in. We ran around campus for about an hour interviewing all of these drunk frat boys for a fake TV show (laughs). That was pretty good because they thought there were going to be interviewed but didn’t realize we weren’t pointing a real camera at them.

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Did you have a name for your fake TV show?

We didn’t even need to come up with a name (laughs). We were just shouting questions in their face and putting the microphone in their mouth.

As the year is winding down, which festivals did you enjoy playing the most this year?

We did a great run of festivals this summer. All of them were great including Mad Tea Party and Camp Barefoot, and FloydFest was a big standout for us. We had great crowds, and it is in Floyd, Va., which is not too far from our home base. That was great because we got a to see a lot of great acts like THE THIEVERY CORPORATION, THE SOUTHERN BELLES, and TALK. So that was exciting for us, and we got to meet and interact with a lot of new people that were into the band and people that we’ve seen out at shows subsequently.

I saw on your website that one of your goals for 2014 was playing over 200 shows. Do you know if you hit your goal this year?

We have a spreadsheet with all of our show info, but I haven’t looked at it lately. I think we’re on track for maybe the 150-160 range as we wind up the year, which is a great year. That translates to us traveling with 150 shows maybe 170 or 180 days this year, which Is a lot. We’re really lucky to be able to play that many shows in support of our original music. It’s not something that a lot of people can do, and we’re real happy to be able to do that and support ourselves playing our original music.

What are your goals as a band for 2015?

We’re gonna start making our new record, and we also have some plans in the pipeline for doing a YouTube series and some more videos, and I’m gonna be doing some more blogging for the band so people can get a little insight into the process it takes in writing songs and what it’s like being out on the road. Not every tour is like a MOTLEY CRUE tour. Most of the time it’s you trying to keep yourself healthy and trying to not eat as much McDonald’s as your last run.

So are you going to provide some health tips for touring?

Potentially (laughs). I’ve been doing yoga trying to keep my body right on the road because if you don’t feel good, you don’t play good. So less McDonald’s, more yoga, and better living this year.

For more updates on THE SHACK BAND, be sure to visit their website, “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Reverbnation, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and check out their music on Bandcamp.

THE BAND CONCORD DRAW INSPIRATION FROM THE AVETT BROTHERS FOR THEIR UNIQUE BLEND OF FOLK POP

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INTERVIEW BY SHELBY BAKER

PHOTOS AND VIDEO PROVIDED BY THE BAND CONCORD

Although they hail from multiple areas of Virginia, THE BAND CONCORD has come together due to their love of folk music. The band has been together since September 2012 after meeting as Virginia Tech students in Blacksburg. It was at that very campus where they debuted as a band during the university’s annual Soundfest during the spring of last year. Since then, they have opened for acts such as THE MAINE and have been featured on THE AVETT BROTHERS Facebook, who are one of the many bands that inspired them to create folk music. I spoke with guitarist Spencer Pugh and vocalist Andrew Steger about the band’s origins, their future plans to release new music, and their goal to perform at more festivals in the near future while further representing and redefining the folk scene of Virginia.

How did your band come about?

Spencer: We lived next to each other during our freshmen year, and we played music together just for fun. We wanted to play “Rock the Blocks”, and we had to have an official page and everything. We sort of went with it.

What inspired the band name?

Andrew: I had the name thought out sort of a little beforehand. I knew that I wanted to be in a band during college, and it came from a friend. We were thinking about life and how, more or less, life is sort of always a balance and “concord” means harmony.

Is there a meaning behind the scales in your band logo?

Andrew: The scales go along with the “concord” theme of balance and harmony. There’s supposed to be a balance of life, and we wanted to symbolize that.

Spencer: There’s a lot of balance in our lyrics. Concord just sort of fit, and then the scales worked as the image.

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You guys played at Virginia Tech’s SoundFest during the spring of last year. Are there any plans for other festival performances?

Andrew: We are right now working with “Rock the Blocks”, which is a festival in Blacksburg, and were doing a pre-festival showcase down here. We’re [also] playing the Tom Tom festival in Charlottesville.

Spencer: I’d like to do SoundFest again.

Is there any festival you would like to play in particular?

Spencer: I would love to play FloydFest. I’m from Roanoke, and that’s sort of the main festival in that area and a lot of big names came from there. Also, Tom Tom; I’ve heard a lot of good things.

Andrew: I agree with both of those. I’m excited for Tom Tom. They support the local arts, and it helps out and a lot of other bands.

What artist or musician inspired you to become a musician yourself?

Spencer: JACK JOHNSON was my main first guy. He inspired me to play guitar. From him, I moved to the folk scene. I really fell in love with THE AVETT BROTHERS–both as musicians and people.

Andrew: Those that got me into the string instruments were DAVE MATTHEWS and THE AVETT BROTHERS. Basically, the same thing. They’re awesome guys and really down-to-earth.

Are you guys currently working on new material?

Andrew: We just got out of the studio three weekends ago. We just recorded 11 tracks, and our producer is working on them now. He’ll be sending them before March, and then from there, we hope to release a single within a week of April, if we can.

Folk-Pop is sort of on the rise with acts like MUMFORD AND SONS and THE LUMINEERS. What do you think sets your band and/or sound apart from other folk acts?

Andrew: It’s more of the genre just happened to hit. It definitely is a big influence. We wouldn’t have written the same way if it hadn’t come through.

Spencer: I love that the pop folk scene came about, and I’ve seen a lot of bands take that [route] to become successful. I never thought to change our music to do that. I personally am trying to do the opposite of that. I just like the genre, and want to go on our own way. I just keep writing how I want, and a lot of people in the band have different tastes. Whatever comes out, comes out.

For more updates on THE BAND CONCORD, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, subscribe to their YouTube channel, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, and visit their website.

PYRO, OHIO STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD IN THE POST-HARDCORE SCENE

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INTERVIEW BY SHELBY BAKER

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY GLORIA KANG AND MARISSA STRAW

Although their name suggests otherwise, PYRO, OHIO is an up-and-coming post-hardcore band from the cities of Christiansburg and Blacksburg. Consisting of vocalist Peter Verity, bassist Luke Brugh, drummer Mike McGrady, and guitarists Stephen Noel and Jake Whalen, the band came together about two years ago and have been on a constant flow ever since. For the 2012 Vans Warped Tour, they were chosen to play on the Ernie Ball stage as a part of their Battle of the Bands competition after having received roughly 13,000 votes. They’ve developed a fan base, affectionately called “Pyromaniacs”, and have released two EP’s–Welcome to Pyro, Ohio and Before the Sun Sets… through At Your Command Records. In addition, their new single is to be recorded soon and will be released next year.  Musically, the band is influenced by a range of bands from A SKYLIT DRIVE to INCUBUS, but they have created their own distinctive sound. I was fortunate to talk with the band for a quick interview about their history together, their musical influences, and where they stand in the post-hardcore scene.

What inspired your name?

Stephen: Right from the beginning we knew this band was different than anything we had ever done before. We wanted a band name that reflected our unique sound and that also embodied our determination to make this band work. We ended up with our name PYRO, OHIO, and it has a lot of meaning to me personally. The meaning I point to the most is the literal meanings of the words “Pyro” and “Ohio” and their juxtaposition. To me, this band is about the burning desire to find your passion and make a life out of it (hence being a “Pyro”) and the struggles of trying to stand out in this particular lifestyle/career (“Ohio” is derived from a word meaning “the great river”).

How did your band get started?

Luke: Stephen and I played together for like 10 years in various bands. About two and a half years ago after some time apart, we started this band with Peter and our original drummer George. Within 4 months we recorded our first EP which helped us earn a spot on the 2012 Vans Warped Tour

Who are your biggest influences?

Luke: TOOL.

Jake: DEATH.

Peter: BLINK 182.

Mike: A SKYLIT DRIVE.

Stephen: INCUBUS.

Peter: We’ve got a lot of different genres (laughs).

What inspired the symbol of the man with flames for a head?

Stephen: When the band was about two months old I was trying to make logos. I was thinking what could I do, and I thought about the little man that was on the bathroom stall signs. I thought that someone would be able to recognize that and added a flame on his head. We then had an artist do the logo.

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What do you guys hope to bring the post-hardcore scene?

Jake: Just like a fresh sound. I feel like we’re a little different from the current sound out there. Our current sound is like on the total opposite spectrum. It’s more than just breakdown, chorus, breakdown chorus.

Stephen: We have backgrounds in playing anywhere from progressive metal to pop punk. The result is something that is classified as post-hardcore, but we don’t strictly conform to the structures or tendencies in that or any genre. We just write what triggers strong emotions in us. That is the kind of music we enjoy.

Are there any Virginia artists that you recommend?

Stephen: We’re good friends with FOR THE BROKEN and THE NORTH. Also, HONOUR CREST just got signed to Rise Records, which is awesome. HONOUR CREST are hard-working, kind guys who deserve that success. Those are just the bands that we have hung out with. BLOOD OF THE MARTYRS, CONDITIONS, and LAMB OF GOD are pretty sweet as well.

For more information on PYRO, OHIO, visit their website, follow them on Twitter, and be sure to “like” their Facebook page.