Category Archives: Independent Hard Rock Bands

An inside look at how hard rock bands build an audience without the assistance of a record label.

Seasons After – “Lights Out”: Hard Rock Daddy Review

Seasons After Band Photo

Following up “So Long Goodbye” (the lead single off of their latest album – Calamity, Scars & Memoirs), Seasons After is back with “Lights Out,” a defiant anthem that showcases the band’s ability to persevere in the face of trying times.

There was a time when getting a major record label deal was the holy grail for aspiring artists.  Those days have long since passed.  Stories of artists returning to true independence have increased in recent times, especially since the Internet and social media have helped to level the playing field for DIY artists.  Seasons After is the latest hard rock act to take this approach, even going so far as to use their label conflict as inspiration for the Calamity, Scars & Memoirs album.

“A lot of bands go through the quote unquote music business horror stories, which is basically what happened to us.  But thankfully, we were able to come out the other side – and that is what the whole album is about,” states guitarist, Chris Dawson.

You have to give kudos to any artist that can not only embrace their freedom from the grips of a major label, but also write about it in a very powerful way without mincing words.

Given the inspiration for the song, it comes as no surprise that “Lights Out” comes across as intensely personal.  Seasons After channels their rage perfectly in this dynamic, melodic rocker that features impassioned vocals and guitars that ideally capture the meaning behind the lyrics.

To the average person who grinds out a living, it may seem like making a living playing music is all glory.  The truth of the matter is that, in today’s climate, most bands are working harder than most people just to make ends meet.  More often than not, the biggest benefit of making a living in music is pursuing a passion, not living a life of luxury.

If you are fan of great, melodic hard rock, and like to root for the underdog, check out the video for “Lights Out” below…

 

Hard Rock Bands Under The Radar: SEVENTRAIN

seventrain

In the fall of 2012, Seventrain first performed together at a memorial show for close friend, Vincent John Crudo (a.k.a. “Big Vinnie”), a sound technician and bass player from Southern California. The original intent of guitarist, Eric Horton, who played in the power metal band Cage, was to put together a group of well-respected local musicians to do some cover songs for the event.  An undeniable chemistry inspired the group to stay together and record the new material that Horton had been writing with vocalist, Jon Campos.

Seventrain is a relatively new five-piece hard rock outfit with a sound that can best be described as blues metal.  This eclectic band features seasoned veterans that have enjoyed varying degrees of success with previous bands.  In addition to Horton and Campos, the rest of the lineup features drummer Joel Maitoza (24/7 Spyz), guitarist Jef Poremba and bassist Steve (Dino) Andino.

After going into the studio to record last spring, Seventrain’s self-titled debut album was released this February.  The sound of the album is distinct not only because of the various backgrounds and influences of each member, but also because, unlike most modern hard rock recordings, it was tracked in analog with no use of auto tune or pro-tools, and only limited effects.  The end result is a stripped down rock record with a timeless sound that harkens back to the 70’s and early 80’s.

While there is no obvious single that necessarily stands out above the others, every song on Seventrain’s debut album is rock solid and features outstanding musicianship.  Every member of the band shines in their own right, which is something that isn’t very common nowadays.

Seventrain is bluesy metal at its best.  From gritty, powerful rhythms to guitar harmonies and shredding solos, Seventrain delivers a unique brand of eclectic hard rock.  Fans of great musicianship will not only appreciate the dynamic guitar offerings, but also the musicality of an impressive rhythm section whose contribution goes well beyond providing a solid foundation to build upon.

Campos’ vocals are ideally suited for Seventrain’s sound.  From the moody, slower moments to the powerful wails, Campos uses everything in his arsenal to capture the emotions of each song.

Fans of King’s X will instantly feel a connection to Seventrain from the first vocal harmony to the last.  While King’s X is the most obvious influence, fans of bands like Alter Bridge and Badlands will be drawn to Seventrain’s sound, as will those who are fans of guitarists like Zakk Wylde and Ritchie Blackmore.

Seventrain’s debut album is available on iTunes and Amazon.  If you are a fan of timeless hard rock music, take a ride on a musical journey with Seventrain.

DIGITAL SUMMER: The Ultimate Fan-Friendly Hard Rock Band

Digital Summer Merchandise

In today’s economy, hard rock music fans are often-times forced to make choices to stretch their limited budgets.  For some, that means choosing which band they will see when they come through town.  For others, it means forgoing a souvenir concert t-shirt because they simply cannot justify spending $30 – $40 for a keepsake item.  What if, for the same $30, you could get a band merch package consisting of:  a t-shirt, three autographed albums, a signed lithograph band photo, a coozie, a set of wristbands, two car decals and a sticker pack thrown in for good measure?  Sounds like a hoax, doesn’t it?  For many bands, it would be, but Digital Summer is offering this exact deal for the rest of August in celebration of the one-year anniversary of their latest album, Breaking Point.

For those of you who are thinking that the band must be crazy to offer a deal like this, please read the featured article on the band that appeared on Hard Rock Daddy a few months back – “Digital Summer:  Setting the Standard for Hard Rock Bands on the Rise”.  As an independent band, Digital Summer realizes that they must break from conventional wisdom and think outside the box.  If the band just broke even on this deal, it would still be worthwhile for a few reasons.

First and foremost, Digital Summer is giving back to the fans.  In the day and age of social media, goodwill like this will not be limited to those who take advantage of this incredible offer.  It will spread to the friends of those people and to their social media connections, thereby increasing exposure for the band and cementing them as the ultimate fan-friendly hard rock band around.

The other reason that it makes sense for the band to do this is because they are businessmen who understand the long-term value building a loyal fanbase.  Digital Summer is able to make an investment like this because each member of the band maintains a career beyond the stage.  To learn more about their approach, check out the interview with Jon Stephenson that recently appeared on Hard Rock Daddy.

To take advantage of the Breaking Point 1-Year Anniversary merch special, click here.

Please share this article with others via social media to give more exposure to an independent band that truly appreciates its fans!

Ra – “Supermegadubstep”: Hard Rock Daddy Review

Ra Supermegadubstep

For those that don’t know, and unfortunately, more are in that category than those that do know, the name of the band is not a typo.  It is simply Ra, a name derived from the ancient Egyptian solar deity…a sun god.  It is a fitting name given frontman Sahaj Ticotin’s sun fetish (many of Ra’s songs contain the word “sun” in the lyrics).  With a penchant for brevity, the title of their latest single – “Supermegadubstep” – seems a bit ironic.  Of course, Ra has always marched to the beat of their own drum, leaving their major record label in 2006 before the label had the chance to release them.  Their roller coaster ride of a career is largely due to the fickle nature of the record business, not their ability to write and produce quality hard rock songs.

Their major label days long behind them, it’s been a 4-year wait for a new Ra release.  “Supermegadubstep” is the first single off of their upcoming, self-produced album, Critical Mass.  Although the band is still something of a hidden gem, they still managed to raise $31,465 to record the new album through their Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign (more than doubling the goal amount).

With “Supermegadubstep,” Ra has delivered a great song with crunching power chords driving the verses and an infectious chorus that will have you singing the song all day long in your head.  One of the most intriguing aspects of Ra’s music is their dynamic approach to songwriting.  The shredding guitar solo and guitar harmonies at the beginning of the song set the tone for the heaviness that ensues, but then they pull it back before kicking into the chorus with guitar parts that are reminiscent of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”  Of course, the band has done a cover version of “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” so The Police influence is not a total surprise, just its placement in an otherwise heavy song.

If not for Ra’s trying times with the music industry, you would assume that the lyrics of “Supermegadubstep” were written about a failed romance, but in this case, these lyrics could just as easily be about their musical journey.  Regardless of whether the song is about a girl or the music business, one thing is clear…Ra is back with a vengeance, kicking ass and taking names.  Hopefully, this will be the record that elevates them to their rightful place in the hard rock community.

Independent Artist Spotlight: EVANS BLUE

Evans Blue Band Photo

The Independent Artist Spotlight is a behind-the-scenes look at what life is like for musicians who are building a career without the support of a record label. In this five-part series, you will learn about the pros and cons of being an independent artist directly from the bands themselves.

PART 5: Interview with Vlad Tanaskovic of EVANS BLUE.

The members of Evans Blue are located all over North America, with two in Canada and the others in St Louis and Dayton. The band’s four albums have collectively sold over a million records.

 

You guys are somewhat unique in that you started out your career on a major label and have transitioned into being independent. Tell us about what it is like to take the opposite course that many bands have taken…

There’s definitely more than one way to skin a cat.  As a band, you must take an approach that works for you at that specific point in your career. During 2006 and 2007, times were very bad in the music industry.  Rather than wait for the situation to correct itself, we saw an opportunity to take a different approach, so we took it. When you’re swimming in a river of shit, you try your hardest to get to the shore instead of waiting for the water to clear up on its own.

 

 

Funding is always an issue for independent artists. You guys have enjoyed commercial success before becoming an independent, but it’s different when the budget is tighter. How are you funding recording, touring, merchandising, etc.?

Everything must be done with a guerrilla-style approach. You make something out of nothing, and you become fucking Chuck Norris at it. It’s true that touring is done on a much smaller scale and less often, but instead of spreading yourself thin over places where you have limited exposure, you need to hit the markets where you are doing well as often as possible. Luckily there are always some people in the business who want to help the band just because they believe in the music.

 

 

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent compared to being signed to a label with deep pockets?

While I believe that being an independent artist is definitely the way of the future, I don’t think that future is here just yet. Whether you like it or not, traditional radio is still the dominant form of media when it comes to serving new music to a generation of listeners. Being limited in terms of exposure can definitely impact the success and growth of a band in a negative way.

On the other hand, the obvious advantage of being independent is total control of the creative process. There will always be music fans who will seek out new music on their own, and therein lies the hope for independent artists.

However, the majority of people rely on outside factors to shape their whole thought processes, whether that’s a hit song on the radio or a viral video on Youtube. It’s just how our brains are hardwired from birth, and there’s no way around it, at least not at our current level of mental evolution.

 

 

Your transition to being an independent happened during the social media era. Has the ability to connect with your fans through social media eased the transition for the band? If so, how?

I wasn’t involved in the social media much from the start, I’m a tinfoil hat-type by nature, and the background to that story is very long and complex. The rest of my bandmates, however, were (and still are) very active in connecting with the fans, so much so that we became real life friends with some of them. I believe that has created some lifelong fans for us…lots of good people, good drinking buddies, and you always need those.

 

 

Now that the band has experienced success as an independent, is there any temptation to return to a major label, or would you prefer to remain independent? Please explain your preference…

Nobody knows what the future holds.  I certainly can’t predict it. For now, I’m quite enjoying myself being at home, not even thinking about music, the business aspects or even being on the road.  There’s something very appealing about not being around other peoples farts and feet all the time.

To determine what the next step will be, one must think analytically, take all the variables we know from the current situation, and then factor those together in order to generate several possible outcomes. Even after all that logical thinking, we humans, being the descendants of amoebas, will still go with our gut feeling.

 

 

What advice would you give to other hard rock artists who want to remain independent?

I can’t advise anyone to go either major or independent. Instead, figure out whichever direction will help your band grow and expand your fanbase at the current point in your career.

There is no magic formula that guarantees success. Write good music, kick ass live and give all of yourself. There are no backup plans for greatness…you can either succeed or you can become a casualty!  Even if you fail, it’s still not a big deal at all.  In a hundred years no one will care anyway. Some day when future humans start digging our bones from the frozen wasteland, they won’t know or care whether you sold gold or platinum or whatever they’ve got these days.  Instead, they will be baffled by how preoccupied our lives were with things of minor significance.

Related Articles:

Independent Artist Spotlight: DIGITAL SUMMER

Independent Artist Spotlight: MADLIFE

Independent Artist Spotlight: POYNTE

Independent Artist Spotlight: THE INFINITE STAIRCASE

Independent Artist Spotlight: DIGITAL SUMMER

Digital Summer Band Photo

The Independent Artist Spotlight is a behind-the-scenes look at what life is like for musicians who are building a career without the support of a record label. In this five-part series, you will learn about the pros and cons of being an independent artist directly from the bands themselves.

PART 4: Interview with Jon Stephenson of DIGITAL SUMMER.

Digital Summer is not your “typical” rock band by a long shot. Along with being professional musicians, the members manage to maintain additional professional careers.  These additional careers are what drive the lyrical and emotional foundation of what Digital Summer’s music is about. From death and tragedy to passion and endurance, the songs on a Digital Summer album come from their real lives and their very own experiences.

 

You’ve had a lengthy career as an independent band, dating back to 2006 just before social media allowed bands to connect with fans.  How did you build a fanbase in the early days?

As cliché as it sounds, we did everything grass roots. We literally burned thousands and thousands of demo CDs, went to venues where national acts were playing, passed out CDs, flyers, etc. just to get our name out there. We had to repeat this a bunch of times, but eventually we started getting positive responses like “Hey, I remember you guys. I listened to that CD a while back and it was kick ass. Let me know when you guys play again.” From there, we would start promoting our own shows.

It was basically never losing sight of that mentality. When social media came into play, we did the same thing, just through digital mediums. You’ll NEVER see us not promoting things, not responding to tweets, emails, texts, calls, etc.. We wanted to establish a name for ourselves, and now we gotta keep it afloat!

 

 

Was it a conscious decision to remain an independent band?  If so, why did you choose not to go the label route?

Once we stepped onto the national circuit and started doing big tours across the country, we got a glimpse of how signed bands operated. It was really an eye opener to a lot of things. It was unreal to see bands that we’ve played with having #1 singles on the radio, yet still struggling financially. At the end of the day, we all have bills to pays, mouths to feed, etc.

The public perception is that “rock stars” are still living lavish lifestyles w/ fancy tour buses, endless booze and strippers, and fat bank accounts. Those days are long gone, but it’s sad to see talented musicians give up this financial & musical freedom just to be a “rock star” for a short period of time. We basically sat back and said to ourselves, “Hey, we can do all that. We may not have the full exposure that record labels can give to us, but at least we have freedom and full control of everything about this band.” As it turns out, we made a very wise decision. Nowadays, record labels are falling apart and rock artists are getting dropped left and right (and losing all rights to their music). It’s pretty cool to hear from big names in the industry, and also up-and-coming bands who say to us…“Man, we should’ve done what you guys are doing!”

 

 

Funding is always an issue for developing artists, but you guys are different than most independent bands because you all maintain careers outside of the band.  Is that how you have been able to fund recording, touring, merchandising, etc.?

Actually, no. We are 100% fan funded! We all hold career jobs to support ourselves, and that’s it. We have been fortunate enough to have our music and merchandise sell pretty well, so all of the money that we make goes right back into the band. It’s basically a machine running itself. However, our fans have helped us exponentially.  Over a year ago, we launched a Kickstarter campaign to release our latest album, “Breaking Point.” We set our fundraising goal at $25,000, and raised just over $51,000. That was a huge help! Our fans absolutely kick ass, and we owe all of our gratitude towards them!

 

 

How are you all able to maintain your careers and still find time for extensive touring?

It’s tough, but we make it work. Some of us have tenure at our career jobs, so it allows for flexible schedules, but others in the band basically make a choice… go on leave and hope you come back to a job, or don’t go and keep your job intact. Sometimes there is a balance where we do both. Ian (guitarist), for instance, will work 4-5 days in Phoenix, fly out to where we are on tour, play a series of shows on his days off, then fly back to work.

 

 

You’ve taken the business side to another level with Victim Entertainment.  Can you share a little bit about the company, its mission and how you have it structured as a band?

Victim Entertainment is our own label. We basically publish anything Digital Summer through this medium. We have a solid business model that we use, one that’s been proven to be effective. It would take forever to explain it, but I can sum it up like this…

We all have individual roles in the band that keeps the machine going.  We are ALWAYS on social media, and we respond to every fan interaction that we get.  The bottom line is that we hustle 24/7!

We’ve had a Grammy-winning artist (and many other bands) contact us about signing with Victim Entertainment. We are flattered to hear these kinds of things, but these people don’t realize that we are busy 24/7 just pushing Digital Summer alone, so taking on more artists would take away from that.

 

 

How are you leveraging social media and technology to increase your fanbase?

We are always on the lookout for new mediums of social media. There are so many potential fans out there that have never heard of us. We are constantly brainstorming on how to bridge that gap and tap into new resources and fanbases. We’ve got a pretty substantial social media following, and our fans’ word-of-mouth alone has brought us in tons of new fans.  Our social media presence brings in decent income from people buying albums and merchandise. With that, we are able to pay for advertising on different sites. It’s a huge spider-web with tons of weaving going on!

Our social media presence has been boosted by national radio play as well. I feel like we’ve gained a good bit of “online” fans from radio, but the majority of it comes from simply responding to people. It can really make someone’s day when they see that your band is verified on twitter, and they send a simple tweet like “You guys rock,” and you reply with “Thank you so much. You are awesome!” Little things like that are going to cause those fans to tell all their friends and family, and in turn, we have new followers/potential diehard fans.  This tends to lead to merchandise and ticket sales. Everything can work to your benefit if you think about the ultimate outcome.

 

 

You’ve shared the stage with a number of well-known hard rock acts.  How were you able to do accomplish this in the early days?

Stage presence and live performance played a huge role in this. You will often see bands with kick ass logos, poster designs, etc., but all that means nothing if you can’t sell yourself. First impressions are everything. If you promote a show or your band, and you can’t live up to the expectations or the hype you’ve provided the public, good luck getting that potential target audience interested again.

We put a lot of emphasis, and pride ourselves, on our live show. Everything is energetic…constant moving and super interaction with the crowd. Honestly, our live show is what gets people talking. The more people talk, the more attention you get! This, along with being good business people, has been very beneficial to us for landing national tours.

 

 

What advice would you give to other hard rock artists who want to remain independent?

Be ready to work your ass off!  The more you put in, the more you will get out. Never settle for promoting your shows on Facebook or text messages only. A lot people don’t check that shit anyway (especially with Facebook constantly changing). Spend a little bit of cash, get some decent flyers printed, record a decent quality demo, and get your ass out there on the street and physically hand stuff out! You meet a lot of cool and interesting people doing this too.  Just remember, not everyone is going to like it, and some may put it down, but at least you’re getting your name out there one step at a time.

Related Articles:

Independent Artist Spotlight: EVANS BLUE

Independent Artist Spotlight:  MADLIFE

Independent Artist Spotlight:  POYNTE

Independent Artist Spotlight:  THE INFINITE STAIRCASE

Independent Artist Spotlight: MADLIFE

Madlife Band Photo

The Independent Artist Spotlight is a behind-the-scenes look at what life is like for musicians who are building a career without the support of a record label. In this five-part series, you will learn about the pros and cons of being an independent artist directly from the bands themselves.

PART 3: Interview with Angry Phill of MADLIFE.

A four-piece hard rock band out of L.A. that incorporates elements of industrial and electronic music as a backdrop to their often-times angry lyrics.  While unique, their sound is accessible enough to appeal to all fans of today’s hard rock music.

 

You’ve had a lengthy career as an independent band, dating back to 2000…long before social media allowed bands to connect with fans.  How did you build a fanbase in the early days?

We did it the old fashioned way…standing on the corner handing out flyers and CDs in Hollywood.  We also toured five times across the country in any place that would have us.

 

 

How did you book and finance those tours?  

Our manager set up the shows with people that she knew in the industry.  We hopped in a van armed with a cooler full of bologna, cheese and peanut butter that she put together for us. Oh, and also something she referred to as a “stripper shower” (baby wipes and body spray).

Beyond that, we had to put our own hard earned cash into funding the tours.

We did hire a booking agent, but on the first tour, our manager had to fire the agent half way through, fly to where we were and help piece together shows to get us back from the East Coast to California. After that, we mostly went to places where we got love the first time around, where other bands wanted us and where we were getting radio play.

 

 

Was it a conscious decision to remain an independent band?  If so, why did you choose not to go the label route?

It was and it wasn’t.   We would love the backing of a big label to get us more attention, tours, fans, etc…but we also don’t want to change who we are and what we are about.

 

 

Funding is always an issue for developing artists.  How are you currently funding your recording, touring, merchandising, etc.?

Sometimes we get help from people who believe in us but mostly we bust our asses to make money to invest in the product we believe in the most…Madlife!

 

 

Do you have day jobs to make the money to invest in the band?

Yes, we don’t have a choice.  This takes a lot of sacrifice by us and our families.  Fortunately, we have people who stand behind us with lots of support, both financially and emotionally.

 

 

You’ve made inroads with your music into movies and television.  How did you go about getting this done?

Connections!  L.A. is all about who you know unfortunately.

 

 

How are you leveraging social media and technology to increase your fanbase?

We are finally able to reach out to fans outside of the US and Canada and that is a huge bonus.  Being Portuguese and Carlos (bass) being from Puerto Rico also allows us to communicate with fans from other countries on our own.  We are all about communicating with our fans.  We don’t have some employee who pretends to be us…it really is us!  The fans got us to where we are and will continue to take us where we need to go, so the least that we can do is create an avenue for them to get to know us.

 

 

You’ve shared the stage with a number of well-known hard rock and metal acts.  How were you able to do accomplish this in the early days?

LUCK!

 

 

Beyond “luck” how were you able to land opening slots with high profile artists?

It’s all about networking and having the right people in your camp.  From the beginning, we had an amazing manager who did a lot to help us.  Unfortunately, when she went on personal leave, we had a bunch of people come in who didn’t have our best interest at heart.  We have been very professional with every band that we have opened for, and very gracious for the opportunity that they gave to us. We hope to continue to find bands that believe in us and want us to play with them. We also hope to be big enough one day to pass that “luck” on to another struggling band.

 

 

What advice would you give to other hard rock artists who want to remain independent?

First, make a million dollars then do what you want (LOL).  But seriously, always stay true to yourself and your music and NEVER stop trying!

 

Related Articles:

Independent Artist Spotlight: EVANS BLUE

Independent Artist Spotlight: DIGITAL SUMMER

Independent Artist Spotlight:  POYNTE

Independent Artist Spotlight:  THE INFINITE STAIRCASE

Independent Artist Spotlight: POYNTE

Poynte Band Photo

The Independent Artist Spotlight is a behind-the-scenes look at what life is like for musicians who are building a career without the support of a record label. In this five-part series, you will learn about the pros and cons of being an independent artist directly from the bands themselves.

PART 2: Interview with Matt Bryant of POYNTE.

The five-piece hard rock band from Covington, GA formed in July of 2007.  They have won multiple high-level competitions, which has helped to put them on the radar of the industry and secure opening slots with well-known artists.

 

 

The band formed in 2007, right around the same time that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter started to gain traction.  When and how did you begin to incorporate social media to build a fanbase, and what other methods did you use beyond social media?

Social Media was one of the first tools we used to try and spread the word about our project. We, just like many bands, started out on MySpace. It was actually great! MySpace was geared towards allowing musicians spread their music in a very social manner. Since the death of MySpace, and the rise of the almighty Facebook, we have had to change our approach to online promotion quite a bit. Facebook makes it difficult for bands to share, and interact, with all of their fans, which makes it necessary to utilize multiple online platforms like Twitter, and Youtube.  We have seen a great response from our Twitter fanbase!  We will soon be breaking into the Youtube market with our debut music video that we hope to release this year.  We have handed out thousands of flyers and free demos, and plan to start promoting with free download cards in the very near future.

 

 

You’re currently working on your second release as an independent.  Can you describe what the recording process is like without the help of a label?

Well, we are lucky to have access to our own studio.  Our guitarist is a trained audio engineer, so we are able to cut costs by recording a lot of it ourselves. We still seek an outside ear on vocal production, mixing, and mastering. Recording without a label, manager, or assigned producer is quite nice.  It’s a great feeling to be able to be 100% creative without having the opinions of others weigh too much on you. It’s a sense of freedom. The new album has been a long time coming, and it is something we are all very proud of and excited to get in the hands of our fans, friends, and family!

 

 

You’ve shared the stage with a number of well-known hard rockacts.  How have you able to accomplish this as an independent?

We have a good working relationship with several venues, booking agents and promoters that see the hard work that we put into our project and do what they can to help us out. We have won several competitions, including ones where the grand prize gave us a chance to play with some of our favorite artists! From these shows we have made friends with several bands, and that helps too.

 

 

Funding is always an issue for developing artists.  How do you fund recording, touring, merchandising, etc.?

We play shows…lots of them! We have set up our merchandise so that when we make a sale we put back the money we need to re-order first.  The same goes for our tour expenses. We separate every dime we make into separate funds:  gas, van maintenance, new merchandise and an emergency back up fund in case something unexpected happens. Recording, video and PR has a fund of its own…one that seems to be a never ending pit!

 

 

There are obvious challenges to being an independent, but it also has its advantages.  What are some of the advantages that you feel that you have as an independent that you wouldn’t have if you were signed to a label?

To be honest, being an artist that does it all ourselves is very satisfying! To know that the things we are accomplishing are things we have all worked for and earned makes it that much better.  I’m not going to lie, it would be great to have a big budget to be able to do the things we want to do, but contrary to popular belief, everything does not revolve around money! It takes a lot less money to accomplish your goals, when a large percentage of  your hard work is not being skimmed from the top before you ever see a dime.

 

 

What advice would you give to other hard rock artists who want to go the independent route?

GET IT ON PAPER! Don’t accept what people say as a truth.  Always ask questions.  And never give up!

 

Related Articles:

Independent Artist Spotlight: EVANS BLUE

Independent Artist Spotlight: DIGITAL SUMMER

Independent Artist Spotlight: MADLIFE

Independent Artist Spotlight:  THE INFINITE STAIRCASE

Independent Artist Spotlight: THE INFINITE STAIRCASE

The Infinite Staircase

The Independent Artist Spotlight is a behind-the-scenes look at what life is like for musicians who are building a career without the support of a record label. In this five-part series, you will learn about the pros and cons of being an independent artist directly from the bands themselves.

PART 1: Interview with Jeff Cerzosie of The Infinite Staircase.

The band started to gain commercial recognition in 2012 with their song “The Pride” – a collaboration with Zakk Wylde, Morgan Rose (Sevendust), Kevin Martin (Candlebox) and John “JD” Deservio (Black Label Society).

 

 

You’ve had a lengthy career as an independent band, dating back to the early 2000’s, long before social media allowed bands to connect with fans.  How did you build a fanbase in the early days?

We did what every other band out there did, and still does. We played shows. It didn’t matter if it was a friend’s birthday party, a charity show at a VVA Hall, or the local dive bar. We played anything and everything, anywhere and everywhere. We promoted, made mailing lists, printed flyers and just networked our asses off. We were always the band getting other bands shows, trying to meet as many people as possible and just growing our network. If someone wanted us to learn a bunch of religious songs and play acoustically at their Bat Mitzvah, we did it!

 

 

The list of bands that you’ve toured and collaborated with would be impressive for any developing artist with label support, much less one without any help.  How have you managed to achieve this on your own?

Luck! (LOL)  No, we’ve been extremely fortunate and very blessed in our career.

The ball really got rolling for us though in 2005 when we were putting together a charity concert for Multiple Sclerosis. I was trying to get a headliner for the show, and I was always a huge Candlebox fan, as well as a fan of Kevin Martin (singer).  At the time, he was fronting a band called The Hiwatts. I heard that he personally ran his own MySpace Page, so I reached out to him to see if he would be interested in headlining the concert. My first email went unanswered. Around two weeks later, I decided to email him again.  This time he got back to me and said that if we can get them to New York, they would play the show.

We got sponsors and endorsements, so we were able to fly the band to New York.  Thanks to them, we raised almost $10,000! Kevin and the band were just amazing and we ended up becoming really good friends. The following year when Candlebox reunited, Kevin gave us the opportunity to open for them in New Jersey.  He was the one to first let us get our foot in the door.  We were hungry enough to really just kick the door down, working our asses off, playing shows, networking, etc.

I’ve spent YEARS of my life on the Internet – reading, researching, emailing, etc., always needing to know everything that’s going on in every facet of the music industry at all times. Luckily for me, while I was doing all of that, my brother was writing amazing songs (LOL).

 

 

Has it been a conscious decision to remain an independent band?  If so, why did you choose not to go the label route?

To be perfectly honest, we never got an offer. We’ve had meetings, entered contests and have definitely been considered by various people in the industry associated with all different levels of labels or similar entertainment companies, but we either never got the offer we were looking for or didn’t get it period.

At this point in time, we really don’t even need one per se’. I mean, if someone wants to put us on the road with Guns N’ Roses or Metallica or another major artist, then hey, we’re all ears! But now, we’re so invested, and I don’t just mean financially, although that is obviously a big part of our investment.  We’re also invested in other ways:  our time, emotions, lives, etc.

Any deal would have to be pretty amazing for us to take it at this point. Right now, we work with a good friend of ours, Dave Tedder, at Vanity Music Group. We put out “The Pride” through Vanity and he’s got a great thing going over there. So we work with him on some things, but it’s not exclusive. We work together when we want, and how we want and it’s great! Dave and I are always on the same page and it’s the easiest thing in the world to work with him.

We’re in a position now where we own EVERYTHING of ours. I mean, it’s not like owning everything is a goldmine or anything…at least not right now. But why would we GIVE a big label our master recordings when we can license them?  Like I said, we’re at a point where we’ve done so much on our own, that it would really have to be a great offer for us to NOT do everything ourselves anymore.

 

 

Funding is always an issue for developing artists.  How do you fund recording, touring, merchandising, etc.?

Well, this is always an issue, even for us. But we’ve been extremely fortunate with friends and family who support us and believe in us so much that when we’re backed in a corner, someone always has our back.

My brother and I will be debt for the rest of our lives (LOL), but we won’t have any regrets about following our dreams and our instincts. Here’s the thing, and for anyone with stars in their eyes reading this, if I haven’t crushed your dreams yet, please don’t continue reading…

This is a business. At the end of the day, that’s the bottom line. When you’re a kid you want to believe in the “rock and roll dream” and the “rock and roll lifestyle” – and that’s fine and dandy, as long as you have a clear cut understanding that it is still a business. And the sooner you recognize and come to terms with that, the better off you will be.

I could have been married and had my own house by now, but instead I went on tour, recorded albums, made merchandise, etc.  I invested in my business. And unfortunately, the music business doesn’t always pay off.  If it does, it takes a long time for most of us.

If you’re serious about doing this for the long haul then you have to be willing to make sacrifices and put every ounce of your soul into it. But be prepared for disappointment.

I remember, years ago my brother and I went to this panel discussion with representatives from all different record labels, and one of the speakers said “95% of this industry is disappointment,” and that’s the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I love what we do and am extremely proud of all that we’ve accomplished. But it has not been an easy road. Ok, you can put the violin down now (LOL).

 

 

Speaking of funding, you guys had a chance to cash in on your song “The Pride” but instead chose to donate 100% of the proceeds to those affected by Super Storm Sandy.  What inspired you to donate all of the proceeds instead of just a portion like many people do?

(LOL) You’re not the first person to ask us this! Seriously though, the idea of donating “a portion” never really crossed our minds. It was never about trying to make money for ourselves. The storm literally hit in our backyard. The day after the storm I was driving through Staten Island, trying to get to my girlfriend’s house and the devastation and destruction that I saw along the way was absolutely surreal. I felt like I was living in a movie. Donating 100% of the proceeds was just the right thing to do. We wanted people to know that this was completely organic and real. Nobody involved with the song got paid. Everyone had personal ties to the East Coast, and everyone knew someone who was personally affected by the storm. That’s a lot of what made the outcome so special and I think people knew that when they heard the song, watched the video or even just looked at the photos from the recording sessions.

 

 

“The Pride” has increased your exposure to hard rock music fans.  What are you doing to leverage this exposure through social media?

Well, we’re doing the best that we can! I mean, I actually sit at my computer and SEARCH for anyone who even mentions the slightest bit about our band or a song of ours or anything like that on Facebook, Twitter, message boards, etc., and I try to personally engage and interact with them. We want people to know how much we care, how much we take pride in our work and how much we appreciate every single ounce of support that we get. There have been many nights where I pulled all-nighters because I was just having conversations with fans, be it casual, diehard, new or old. We want people to feel like they are part of something, because they are.

We also try not to spam too much.  You know all of those phony automated messages you get from bands?  Fuck that! If you get a message from The Infinite Staircase, it’s FROM The Infinite Staircase. But if it’s from my brother, I apologize in advance (LOL).

 

 

Tell us about the band’s plans for the future…

We JUST released our new single and follow-up to “The Pride” called “The Things We’ve Done”.  It features more guest appearances:  Sevendust’s Lajon Witherspoon & Morgan Rose, Savatage/Trans-Siberian Orchestra guitar virtuoso Chris Caffery, and Cycle Of Pain keyboardist Troy Cromwell.  The song is now on iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, etc. It will continue to expand to all other digital retailers over the coming days and weeks. In addition, it will be going to radio any day now and we’re working on both a lyric video as well as an official music video.

This will all lead to the release of our new EP entitled “No Amends,” which will come out some time this fall. We’ve got some more great collaborations on this album in addition to the ones mentioned above:  Clint Lowery (Sevendust, Call Me No One), John “JD” DeServio (Black Label Society, Cycle Of Pain), Sean “Memphis” Hennesy (Candlebox, The Gracious Few) and of course, Morgan Rose who plays drums, sings backing vocals and produced the entire EP.

In addition to that, we’re hoping to release our covers EP that we recorded with JD DeServio by the end of this year. We’d like to record a few more songs and maybe around the holidays, we’ll able to give a little something extra to our fans this year.

Other than that, we’re hoping to get back on the road. But that’s a very tricky thing. We’re working on some things, but nothing is official just yet.

And me, I’m working on writing some books, but we’ll talk about that another time…

 

 

What advice would you give to other hard rock artists who want to remain independent?

Make sure you have a thick skin, a strong will and a true love for what you’re doing. Don’t have any delusions of grandeur and you might make it out alive (LOL).

Seriously though, you have to be willing to put in the work that’s required and prepare yourself for numerous nervous breakdowns (LOL).  And as cheesy and cliche’ as it sounds, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was “it doesn’t hurt to ask”. If you have the right attitude, treat people with respect and present yourself the right way, you’d be surprised how far you can get just by asking.

Remember, “We Sold Our Soul for Rock N’ Roll” is not just a Black Sabbath album.

I wish you all the best and hopefully we’ll see you on the road.

 

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Independent Artist Spotlight: DIGITAL SUMMER

Independent Artist Spotlight: MADLIFE

Independent Artist Spotlight:  POYNTE

July is INDEPENDENTS Month on Hard Rock Daddy

Hard Rock Daddy Independents Month

Since the official launch on March 1, 2013, Hard Rock Daddy has made a concerted effort to feature the music of Independent Hard Rock Bands on the site.  Throughout July, Hard Rock Daddy will be featuring stories about how these bands have managed to achieve varying degrees of success without the support of a record label.  You will see that their chosen path does have its challenges, but ultimately, these bands enjoy freedom that bands affiliated with labels do not.

In addition to interviews, Hard Rock Daddy will also be featuring music reviews of independent hard rock artists.

Tomorrow, Hard Rock Daddy will be celebrating the freedom that we all enjoy as Americans with a “Patriotic Hard Rock Songs” playlist.  Since the Fourth of July falls on a Thursday this year, this week’s Three For Thursday will feature a theme that is very appropriate for the occasion.  While this week’s Three For Thursday does not feature independent artists, the chosen songs include a hidden gem from a band that never got its due recognition and a bonus track that was only included on the remastered version of a classic hard rock album that is undoubtedly in the collection of most hard rock fans.

Please feel free to post links to any independent hard rock bands in the comment section of this post.