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Monday, Jun 17, 2013
It's taken four years but Nico Vega stands poised to revive all things rock with its long-awaited sophomore album Lead to Light later this year. Until you get the chance to hear those songs, however, there's always PopMatters' "20 Questions" series to have your back.

For those of you who think rock is dead, I give you two words: Nico Vega. The band built its reputation through a series of EP releases before finally getting the opportunity to release an epic, self-titled debut LP in 2009. Since then the group has toured with everyone from Gavin Rossdale and Neon Trees to Metric and Imagine Dragons, showcasing Aja Volkman’s description-defying vocals and the band’s unique ability to merge memorable hooks with songs built upon pounding percussion and emotionally charged riffs. Their song “Beast” received prominent placement in Bioshock: Infinite‘s massive press campaign, and with a new groundswell of support, their forthcoming full-length Lead to Light is currently being readied as a force to truly reckon with.


The band’s unique blend of rock, pop, and modern alternative sounds helps set it apart, but Volkman’s lyrics definitely put Nico Vega in a different league from their genre contemporaries. “It’s important to me that music evokes emotion”, she’s said in the past. “Lyrics have to be honest and true for me.” In that vein, the group has built up the Nico Vega persona to symbolize the warrior within, representing unity and the battle against ego. The band’s passion for exploring all things art and politics has helped fuel songs like “Beast”, which has become all but ubiquitous when the band’s name is spoken: “Stand tall for the people of America, lay down like a naked dead body”, Volkman sing-screams. “Keep it real for the people working overtime ... we are free in the land of America, we ain’t going down like this!”


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Tuesday, Jun 11, 2013
They're already known as one of Australian alternative's rising stars, but there's no better time to dive into their blend of electro-pop if you haven't yet heard A Is For Alpine. Or you can read this first and get to know them on an eHarmony level!

This Melbourne six-piece electro-pop dream team makes the best sunshine-fueled blend of hook-candy you’ll hear this side of Tegan & Sara or the Knife, and they’re definitely on the move. Last month Alpine was featured in Time‘s online “Band to Watch” column, and A Is For Alpine already won iTunes’ Australian Alternative Album of the Year honors. Their album being chock full of hit material, it’s hard to focus in on just one track worthy of repeated spins, but the two-part “Lovers” stands out as the best “sing it out loud” track since Tegan and Sara’s “Walking With A Ghost”, while “Gasoline”, the band’s lead single, definitely gives Best Coast a run for their money.


Let’s just say it clearly—if you haven’t heard the band, there’s no better time than now to dive into A Is For Alpine and learn what the rest of the world’s already talking about. But first, dueling singers Lou James and Phoebe Baker sat down with PopMatters for a round of 20 Questions. So maybe you should read this first so you’ll know them at eHarmony-esque levels before you listen, at which point you’ll be primed to spread the word. For as they sing on “In The Wild”: “North, south, east, west, take me there!” Wherever you wind up, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more interesting pop act.


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Tuesday, Apr 16, 2013
With over three decades of classics behind them and a new album (their 14th) out this year, Curt Kirkwood talks to PopMatters about The Wizard of Oz, the art on chili cans, and the eternal wisdom of Popeye...

Sometimes it’s funny how fame works in the music industry. You start out as a critically beloved act who influence a whole generation of rock bands, and when one of them blows up and invites you to be players on its MTV Unplugged special, suddenly you’re on everyone’s radar.


Yet while it’s easy to quickly associate the career of the legendary Meat Puppets with that of their successful progeny Nirvana, the truth of the matter is that the Meat Puppets’ career is one of the most compelling in all of rock music, stretching across 13 epic albums with a 14th—Rat Farm—out this year.


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Tuesday, Apr 9, 2013
How do you prove your salt when you're an energetic Jam & Lewis-referencing modern-day funk band? By going on the Vans Warped Tour, of course. Now the Bad Rabbits are touring with Kendrick Lamar, have a new album out, and a fresh set of 20 Questions answers in tow...

What do you do when you’re an energetic R&B/funk group really looking to make a name for yourself in these modern times? Why, you go tour with punk rockers, of course.


While it may seem like an odd pairing, a few years ago the Bad Rabbits did just that. The core group (which consists of Fredua Boakye on vocals, Salim Akram and Santiago Araujo on guitar, Graham Masser on bass, and Sheel Davé on drums) have been carefully honing on their own upbeat brand of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis-inspired funk for years, and in order to prove themselves as both a must-see live act and a musical force to be reckoned with, the band wound up joining the Vans Warped Tour, the annual tour of non-stop punk and rock acts. Not only did the Rabbits hold their own, they also wound up earning the kudos of the other performers on tour, multiple rockers calling them out in interviews as the hands-down best act at the event.


Now, after the release of a highly-regarded EP, the band is finally putting out their long-in-the-works debut full-length American Love out to stores and touring it across the nation, starting with Karmaloop’s Verge Campus Tour sponsored by Neff Headwear and powered by eMuze, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Steve Aoki. To celebrate these events, Sheel Davé sat down with PopMatters’ 20 Questions, and reveals how he’s a proud first generation American, holds Glassjaw and Michael Jackson in equal regard, and how he broke one of his band member’s ankles…


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Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013
Their band broke up three weeks before a recording session with super-producer Dave Newfeld, so this trio formed On An On out of their ashes and recorded with him anyways. The result? One of the best debuts of 2013 and a fascinating 20 Questions to boot (drunk bike riding highly encouraged).

So, imagine this scenario: your rock group has not only booked studio time, but you’ve also booked it with legendary Broken Social Scene producer Dave Newfeld, who has had a great hand in crafting some of the most memorable records in the Arts & Crafts label catalog. Then, three weeks prior to actually recording ... your band breaks up. With the money already spent booking the super-producer, what are you to do?


Well the answer is simple: Nate Eiesland, Alissa Ricci, and Ryne Estwing decided to continue as a trio, and with Newfeld’s assistance, On An On were born. Borrowing the moods and melodies from dream-pop greats while infusing them with a more direct, visceral indie-rock style, it’s obvious that with their quite-excellent debut, Give In, they have uncovered quite the unique sound. Just listen to the extraordinary first single “Ghosts”, with its rattling percussion, emotional guitar riffs, and loads of atmosphere: it already stands as one of 2013’s freshest debuts.


Thus, while the band is using tracks like the surging “War is Gone” to win over the rock kids and positively atmospheric album closer “I Wanted to Say More” to bring in the indie fringe while on tour, Nate Eiesland decided to give a run on PopMatters’ 20 Questions, here revealing that the band all aspire to be magicians one day, apparently require oxygen to live, and why drunken bike rides at night are simply the best ...


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