Monday, December 19, 2022

INTERVIEW | 'Dirty, Childish Thoughts Won Out in the End' - Detroit's Middle-Out Talk Band Beginnings, EP 'Bender' and 2023 Goals


This past year saw Middle-Out burst out as they released debut EP, Bender.

Based out of Detroit, the trio formed in 2021 and dropped the pounding release in September of this year. They're no strangers to the city music scene, each bringing their own experience and coming together with the goal of bringing a harder edge to the sound of this project.

They are Matt Fisher, DJ Liden and Dan Stover, and they took some time to talk about their beginnings, their debut release Bender and their plans for the new year.


You came together last year, with all three of you already being part of the Detroit scene through other bands. When did you meet and, ultimately, make the decision to form Middle-Out in 2021?

Dan: It’s hard to say exactly when we all met, but it would’ve been within the last 10 or so years. Going in and out of numerous projects, sharing stages in Detroit together, it all seems to happen so fast. We likely even all crossed paths at points in the mid 2000s, we just can’t exactly say for sure. It wasn’t until 2018 or so when Matt and I, playing in Break Anchor and Suburban Medicine respectively, started doing regular shows together for a while. Likewise, DJ, playing in Small Stresses, had been in the orbit as well. They had been making their rounds in Detroit and Michigan for a while.

Matt: The whole thing happened pretty naturally for us. I started writing a batch of songs during the initial Covid lockdown out of sheer boredom and sent them over to DJ to get his thoughts. There were a handful that stood out and we decided that we should do something with them and caught wind that Dan was open to be a part of what is now “Middle-Out”. From there we just started hanging out, rehearsing and writing.

Tell us about the name 'Middle-Out'. Where did that come from?

It's a reference to a scene from the show Silicon Valley. If you are unfamiliar with it, the phrase ‘Middle-Out’ is basically a math equation to figure how to … ‘satisfy’ a room full of men in the shortest amount of time possible. What can we say? Dirty, childish thoughts won out in the end

With varying schedules, how do you find that balance between Middle-Out, other creative ventures and general life?

That’s really the challenge with everyone in our position isn’t it? I guess you just have to want to do it. Once things start to feel like a tired obligation, you’d rather not partake, especially when you have the weight of other things like family, kids, work, etc. You have to find the right time and balance. As far as other creative projects go, it’s really fortunate for us that our other band mates aren’t the jealous type. Hell, it’s rare to find musicians in Detroit who are limited to strictly one band. We all know each other and have known each other for so many years, I think there’s an understanding among our community that everyone has ongoing obligations.

On Bender you bring relatability, dealing with songs about the melancholy of working to the reality of getting older. Was writing these songs cathartic in expressing those sorts of very real feelings? Did writing them come naturally?

Matt: Writing music is definitely cathartic. When I find myself in a moment of reflection with whatever is happening in life, the first thing I do is start writing, so yeah it all came out pretty naturally.

You recorded the EP at Drifting Sun Sound. What was the recording process like?

Drifting Sun Sound is owned and operated by our longtime friend, Chuck Huber. Dan has done several records and EPs with him and been friends for many years. So, coming into the environment was very comfortable. We’re all friends at the end of the day, working on a project together. Chuck is very professional, knowledgeable, and courteous. It’s studios like his that make you want to come back for the comradery alone.

For the release show for Bender, you had a 'Middle-Out Coffee Stout' brewed for the occassion by Dan. I love that. What spurred that sort of thinking outside the box promotion?

Dan has been homebrewing for many years, so it seemed like a natural fit to offer free beer at our release show. Most people we know do drink, so it just seemed like a fun added incentive. We also made Middle-Out Coffee Stout with Detroit Bold Coffee, which is roasted right in the city. Cross promote and keep it local!

Bender is just the start for you guys - you teased that you had '50 or so' new demos just a few weeks after its release! Is a LP already in the works?

DJ and Matt have several dozen songs demoed. We’ve basically whittled it down to 10-12 and will be in the studio to do an LP early in 2023, ideally have it released the same year. In our live set, half of the songs weren’t even on the Bender EP, so new stuff has been in rotation for quite some time. Just keep adding over time. We’re planning to hunker down the remainder of this year and January to get this LP into studio-ready condition.

What does 2023 look like for Middle-Out? What are your goals?

- Record and release an LP 

- Get label support for said LP 

- Continue on our streak of good shows, get out of state, hopefully get chosen for some festivals 

- Brew another beer for fan consumption 

I know that doesn’t look like a lot, but for anyone who has been in our position before, you know the amount of work that goes into everything.


Bender is out now.

Check out all things Middle-Out on their website.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

INTERVIEW | 'It's Nice to Be Able to Build a World' - Travels With Brindle Talks The Art of Cover Art and Christmas Music

Chelsea Spear (Photo: Susan Margot Ecker)

Meet Travels With Brindle.

Aka Chelsea Spear and her ukulele, Brindle. 

A music critic, radio host, show promoter, a video director...and, now, an artist doing what she always wanted to do and bringing a wonderful edge to her music with inspirations from literature and film. 

In time for the holidays, she just released Christmas single 'Rudolph's Ranch'. The song follows singles 'Ivan', 'Linden Street' and 'Something's Wrong', all four tracks serving as a tease of exciting things to come in 2023 for Chelsea.

I was fortunate enough to spend a Sunday evening chatting to her about cover art, Christmas and her inspirations. 


Hi Chelsea! Appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today! You've just released your Christmas song, 'Rudolph's Ranch' and, of course, the holidays are just around the corner. When you think about Christmas music, what does it mean to you?

I always associate Christmas with childhood. So many of the Christmas songs you love as a kid, you still hear as adults. I grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, and I still listen to that record every Christmas morning when opening our presents. My mom is Christian, and Peanuts and Charlie Brown is a good middleground between my musical interests and the religious music that she listens to. Vince Guaraldi was a jazz pianist. If you read about the making of A Charlie Brown Christmas, it was considered revolutionary that you would have this jazz pianist from San Francisco writing music for a kids TV show in the 1960s. So a lot of times I’ll listen to jazz and it’ll instantly sound Christmassy to me.

What really struck me about 'Rudolph's Ranch', and your other singles' is the artwork. They standout and there's a clear amount of thought and care about them...something that we're losing these days with streaming. What was your thought process behind them?

I tend to get in my head a lot when I write and release my work, and I have to pull myself out of my own head and try not to be pretentious. One of the big influences on this project, in general, as I’ve released three singles prior to ‘Rudolph’, is a movie called Shirkers. It’s a documentary about these teenage girls from Singapore who are trying to make a feature film in 1992 and what happened to that film and the footage they shot. The girl who wrote the screenplay, and eventually directed the documentary, used a lot of miniatures and toys and board games as imagery within the film. I was really drawn to that, and it was a good way of pulling myself out of my head.

If you look at the cover art for ‘Ivan’, ‘Linden’s Street’ and ‘Something’s Wrong’ and now ‘Rudolph’s Ranch’, I’ve used a lot of toy and miniature imagery. I was working with a graphic designer, Chance Brown. I was giving Chance a lot of direction about how I wanted it to look like this publisher or this book cover. ‘Ivan’ was supposed to look like a YA novel from the early 2000s. For ‘Linden Street’ I took a photo of this LEGO Widener Library and gave it to Chance, and gave him some pictures of this 1980s soft cover publisher called Vintage Contemporaries and said ‘I’d love it if you could use this and we could work on something that looks like a Vintage Contemporaries cover’. With ‘Something’s Wrong’, the video involved stop motion dolls, and we grabbed a screenshot from that and put a textbox on top to make it look like a New York Review of Books reissue book - out of the four that I have released, that one sounds the most vintage and tied to a specific time period.

With ‘Rudolph’s Ranch’, I wanted to have a Little Golden Book cover. I put up a notice on Facebook looking for Christmas toys I could use and one of my neighbors had a Playmobil reindeer set! I grabbed a blue dress, turned it inside out and positioned the toys on this piece of blue felt. We photographed it and I sent it to Chance. About an hour later he sent me a mock-up.

One of the things we have, that my mom still has and is part of the Christmas decor is this kids book about the Christmas tree at Rockefellar Centre in New York - she has it framed and we put it up every Christmas, near the tree. I was looking at it, and it instantly reminded me and took me back to being a little kid and reading it all the way through for the first time. I thought that this [single cover] was a good way that I could lead with some nostalgia and get people to feel nostalgic before they even hit play.

I love that, it really feels like a more overall experience as it has not just the music but also the visual side of things.

It’s nice to be able to build a world. With this project, I really wanted to build this world balancing academia, because the whole project is inspired by a novel about this woman’s disastrous first year at Harvard. I wanted to balance this world of academia and literature, so having book cover style cover art [and then] balance that with toys. It’s playful and unpretentious. 

I play the ukulele and a lot of people think of the ukulele as being a toy instrument, so it seemed like a good way to balance a lot of my interests. 

You describe the song as a 'sad Christmas bop' and I love that. Certainly listening to it, it feels so refreshing to have a change of pace. Why did you decide to take it that direction? 

One of the things with writing ‘Rudolph’s Ranch’...the inspiration for the song came from the book The Idiot by Elif Batuman. It’s about this woman who is a freshman at Harvard and her social mishaps in her first year of college. She is a linguistics scholar and they say you have to take a foreign language to be in linguistics - she takes Russian. In the Intro to Russian class, they give her this novel called Nina in Siberia and Nina, the protagonist, ends up working at a reindeer farm…you’re reading it through the perspective of the protagonist.

The imagery of snow and reindeer, you’re already leading with something that’s very Christmassy. A Charlie Brown Christmas is probably my favorite Christmas record, so I figured why don’t I take Nina in Siberia and make it into this sad Christmas song. I have a lot of feelings about Christmas music, I really like the jazz standards. But, if you listen to a lot of pop Christmas music, it feels like you’ve eaten a bunch of candy canes - you can feel the sugar in your windpipe. I wanted it to be more like something that, if I’m going with this food metaphor, that was more like having a sprig of mint - a nice palette cleanser before you jumped back in to the [sugary] kind. 

I’m really proud to do sadder Christmas songs. It can be a really isolating time of year. I think that this song, the circumstances in the text that inspired this…the character is isolated on this reindeer farm...I thought I’d lean into that because it’s going to stand out against all the sugary Christmas confections that are out there, on the radio.

'Rudolph's Ranch' was born out of a prompt from an online songwriter group. Was The Idiot and the inspiration you gained from that something that had always lingered in your mind for a song? Or was it a recent read you were still thinking about?

‘Ivan’ was the first song that I had written for this project. I played it at open mics, I played it for my friends and everyone was like ‘I really like that song, it gets stuck in my head and I wish I could sing along with it’. I thought this [song] was a good move.

I had gotten this other prompt, which was to write a song about a place. Elif Batuman was still pretty fresh in my mind and thought about Nina In Siberia because the place is very important to that story. I wondered, what was it like to work on a reindeer farm? I started to make a list of the things you would experience while working on one, and I was having a lot of fun writing it. I had also gotten another prompt from another songwriting group that was to write a song [with a] seventh chord. Seventh chords are jazz chords, jazz chords remind me of Christmas….you got snow, you got reindeer, you got jazz chords.

I’m acquainted with a couple of people who have written Chirstmas songs, and was aware that every Christmas they get a small payout *laughs* from their publishing because their songs are played - there’s all of these stations in the States that just play Christmas music. I thought it would be fun to have something that would get played every Christmas and would be part of people’s holiday - and where I could pay my expenses for a month *laughs*. Part of it was greed but part of it was that the story was already shaping up to be very festive because you have all of these things that just suggest Christmas. 

I started writing it and I didn’t have a chorus. My boyfriend and I were having dinner one night and I told him that I was doing research on reindeer farms. In the book, the farm is just called ‘Experimental Reindeer Farm’. I couldn't write a song called that, it just sounds incredibly boring. I entered ‘reindeer farm’ into Google and all I was getting was farms that had the name of the town they were in plus ‘reindeer farm’  - I wasn’t really getting a song title there. I talked to him and he very jokingly said ‘you’d think someone would call their farm, 'Rudolph’s Ranch'’.  He said it off the cuff but it had a really nice rhythm to it. It had that holiday feel. That was going to be the title of the song. 

You have the title, you have reindeer and snow…it can’t help but be a little festive. Why don’t I write this Christmas song? Surely it will resonate with someone out there.

I think this sing has done more than just resonate, it will help folk too as there's a wonderful charitable aspect to it with a portion of sales going towards Bread of Life Kitchen in Malden. What made you make that decision? Especially as an independent artist, donating single sales is a huge thing to do - and absolutely wonderful.

I had done a small crowdfund for this [which meant] I had a little more financial flexibility with it as all my finances had been paid for. I sent out free MP3s to everyone that had donated in the crowdfund.

I moved about a year ago [and] our apartment is around the corner from a food bank. You see people line up every Monday night and get these cardboxes that are full of food. My neighbors run it, you see it in the neighborhood and these are people that are doing a good deed. They run it out of a church, and I thought why don’t I donate the proceeds of first week sales to this church? It will benefit someone. You don’t expect to make money from your music to begin with, I really have nothing to lose. It made a lot of sense. You can see the families lined up, and you can see the money is going somewhere good. 

As you said, I’m an independent artist. I don’t have a huge following and it’s important to have people listening to my music. I thought this would be a good way for people to both have my single and give back to the community.

I thought I'd come back to your inspirations because you obviously immerse yourself in a lot of different media which, then, enriches your work. So, to close things off, what are you currently reading, watching or listening to?

That’s a great question! I’ve been picking up a lot more freelance writing and a lot of what I’m reading and watching and listening to has been tied to my writing. I just watched PT Anderson’s first three features - I’m working on an article about John Brion and the scores he wrote for [them]. It’s interesting to watch them and be thinking about how the scores work in [them] and about how aspects of John Brion’s personality and music are coming out and what aspects of PT Anderson’s aesthetics are coming out of that. 

I also worked on a big article about the film scores that Carly Simon wrote, in honor of her getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She’s someone that it feels like she’s everywhere. The way that I was describing it was my mom had a really nice Le Creuset pot that was always on our stove, and I don’t think I ever fully appreciated how good that Le Creuset pot was until I had to buy pots and pans from Target. You suddenly appreciate the craft that went into making that pot, and its kinda the same with Carly Simon - you hear her at the supermarket and you’re like ‘Carly Simon whatever’...then you sit down and listen to her music, really listen to it, and there’s a lot that goes into the way that she writes those songs. 

In terms of things that I’m listening to for myself, I rediscovered the album The Wishing Chair by 10,000 Maniacs. It feels like I’ve found a long lost relative, as a lot of their songs are about history in Western New York. The way that they write about [that] is very evocative in a way that I would like to be in my songwriting. I’m also reading the book Stay True by Hua Hsu, that’s been on a lot of Best Of lists this year. He’s about the same age that I am, and he has a similar asesthic. The way that he writes about this one very important friendship for him really hit home, and what happens to his friend really hit home - I’m finding myself nodding along. He has this great sense of humor that I giggle a lot when listening. So, yeah, that’s kinda my literary diet right now. Oh! And I’m also listening to a lot of music from the local traditional music organisaion, Revels, because they’re getting ready to put on their midwinter pageant. They do a lot of traditional British and Irish and Scottish music and that feels like a little bit of the music that I grew up with. It’s really lovely to hear it in this other context.

'Rudolph's Ranch' is out now.

For more on Travels With Brindle, visit her website.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

NEWS |Ashley Cooke Reflects On Whirlwind 2022 With 'it's been a year'

Rising country artist Ashley Cooke closes out her breakthrough year with a surprise drop of 'it's been a year', out everywhere now. 

Arriving just before year's end, 'it's been a year' serves as a sentimental rewind on her unprecedented 2022. 

Out today with a special video recap, the wistful ballad penned by Cooke, Brett Tyler, and Will Weatherly reflects on the dedication Cooke has put towards her craft – leading to a whole new level of success – with the consequence of time flashing before her eyes. 'It's been three hundred sixty-five of record lows and record highs / Loving and losing, fun and confusing, praying and shifting gears / For the minute you got, it's probably a lot, more than you wanna hear / So all I'll say is, 'it's been a year,' Cooke confesses.

'This year has been nothing short of a whirlwind. I inked my first deals, played bucket list stages, went on four major tours and a country-wide radio tour, met thousands of new people and even a few of my heroes, fell in and out of love and spent more nights sleeping on a van bench than in my bed,' shares Cooke. 'It held some good, some bad, and some of the greatest moments of my life so far - and I wouldn't trade a single minute of the last 365 days. Thank you all for being on this journey with me and cheers to many more.'

As her packed touring schedule comes to a close for the year, Cooke gears up to visit her UK fans for the first time to play the Spotlight Stage at the C2C: Country to Country music festival in London (March 10th) and Glasgow (March 11th). For tickets and additional information, click here.


For more about Ashley Cooke, visit her website.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

INTERVIEW | 'It's Been Nothing But Fun' - Protect Your Heart's DIY Journey to Releasing Debut LP '[re]Introduction'


This year saw pop-punk band Protect Your Heart finally drop [re]Introduction, their sizzling debut LP that had been years in the making, one that had seen the outfit's members shift genres to come together and push on through the pandemic to craft and produce all by themselves.

They are Jake Bratrude, Anthony Palazzole, Kean Bartelman and Matty McDonald, and their graft and grit culminated in a record packed with great songs and a greater amount of love, the epitome of Do-It-Yourself.

Matty, Kean and Anthony were kind enough to take some time out of their day (even while feeling under the weather) to talk about Protect Your Heart’s origins, goals and inspiring determination to get their music out into the world.


I find the origins of Protect Your Heart very interesting. You all had established backgrounds in the realms of dance but, here you are, a pop-punk band. How did that transition come to be? How did the band form?

Kean: We were trying to find something new and fun to do. We’d spent so much time in dance music producing and DJing and it’d got to this point where it felt more like a job than fun. The scene that we were involved in started to shift a bit, becoming more high school clique-y to a degree - if you weren’t in with the cool kids or crowd [then] opportunities kinda stopped opening up. 

We went to Warped Tour. We all started music in the punk or metal scene or some variation of it. On the way up there, seeing the show and on the way back, we were listening to all those bands and were like ‘it [would] be fun if we try this’. 

The day after we got back, Jake sent us an iMessage with two little riffs. Those riffs opened up Pandora’s Box. We switched gears that day. I finished up some of the dance music stuff I had sitting around, Anthony did as well, but I haven’t made any new dance music since we started working on this.  

Matt joined about two years into the process, after we’d written all the songs.

Matty: Fortunately, you guys were kind enough to not write any vocals so I had a clean slate. It was a breath of fresh air joining the band, not only because of the family that they’d created but for me, just like with Kean, music had become really transactional. It was a way to make income for the Covid years and, for the several years prior to that, it was how I paid most of my bills. Before that I was in a band, and the aspirations of that band…we had such pressure on us that [while] it had its fun moments, it felt like a job. I wanted to have fun again.

When I got the chance to get to know the guys, see the way that they worked and thought about the project, it just clicked. I had actually made a point of [how] I was never going to be in a band again. I didn’t want to be in a band, I was tired of band life. I didn’t want to put all this effort in if it felt like a job…I haven’t felt that at all since I joined this band. It’s been nothing but fun and entirely creative. 

Our motto is: make good shit with people we enjoy making good shit with. Fun is the most important thing. These guys gave me a complete clean slate to be who I wanted to be as an artist, and I love that freedom and trust. 

Kean: It’s really easy for us, as a band, to exist. Everyone individually is very talented in their own right and can function as a solo artist. The combination of everyone coming together with a common goal makes it very, very easy and a lot of fun. It doesn’t feel like there’s one lead songwriter, or that this person is the face of the band. It’s a collective. Everyone comes to the table with ideas and goals. [And] we’re just getting started.  

Matty: The very first time I met the guys, we all agreed on [some] things - never stop letting it be fun; don’t overthink anything; and whoever has the best idea wins. There’s no room for ego, and there’s no room for one person trying to take the lead. It has to be equal. We’ve done an excellent job of maintaining that. It’s been the most enjoyable working experience I’ve ever had in music.

What was it like for you then, Matty, to join the guys who had already embarked on this creative journey? Especially when it would, obviously unbeknown to yourselves at the time, ultimately be impacted by a worldwide pandemic? Did that make things harder as the new guy?  As a new band, too?

Matty: What’s funny is that the day that I met these guys, they were like ‘we have fifty-something instrumentals, let’s give you a Dropbox folder full of all of them and you pick and choose what [ones] inspire you the most’. That isn’t the first time that’s happened to me. When I joined my previous band, they gave me fifty-five instrumentals and said ‘Matt, we have to finish a record -  go pick your favorite eleven’. I had been through that ringer before but, this time, it was much different. I really feel they’re all really similar to me in the way we look at creating music. 

The Covid thing was interesting. We communicate very well, and it made the process really enjoyable. Most people would crumble under the circumstances and not communicate well and not push through. But it gave us the chance to focus on the writing. We didn’t get to do it in the same room together - we look forward to doing that more when we write our next batch of songs. Since we all work, we all prioritize our time well. We work in tandem and consistently make progress. Lockdown helped us finish writing the record faster than we may have otherwise.

Finishing vocals, I had complete freedom to be in my room alone. We were in lockdown, what else could I do besides write lyrics? I busted out the record, we all did, pretty quickly. I was pretty thankful for it, as depressing as it was. It actually also lent itself to some good lyrical content. Songs like ‘Take Control’, ‘Fall Apart’ and ‘Close To You’...‘Closer To The Grave’ is another one…a lot of those lyrics came during the height of my depressive episode during Covid and I’m really happy with the way that they turned out because of it.

Anthony: Thinking back on it, we did two days in the studio with Matty when we first met him. We then hung out for a third day, the day after we were in the studio. We were at a barbecue and listening to a bunch of ideas that Matty had put down over the tracks and we were all jamming to them as if they were finished songs and we knew all the words. As soon as lockdown happened that week, it seemed as if we had already been a band for a long time and knew what we had to do. 

Kean: All of us had a different reaction and dealt with it in a different way. It gave me more time to sit and work on stuff for us and compile it into things we could use later on. Logos, t-shirt designs, album art…all that kind of stuff. It actually gave us the ability to dedicate more focus to what we were trying to finish - well, start and finish.

With Matty joining, quite literally, right before the world shut down, when did you finally first perform together? When was your first show?

Matty: Our first show was in June, and our very first rehearsal was the day before. We crammed it all into one weekend. We’ve all performed for many years in several different capacities. It takes a little time to get your stage legs back and get into your same rhythm but, by show number two, I think we figured it all out. Show one was still great, we were still happy with it but it only got better with show two. It's only going to get better now that we’re getting regular reps in.

Kean: It was a great show, we couldn’t have asked for a better first show. Standing on stage, Jake and I, I don’t know if you guys felt the same, it felt like we were a spectacle rather than a band. We had so many people there, just watching what we were going to do and it felt kinda weird. The last show we played was a totally different vibe.

That rehearsal, we had booked it months in advance. Then a week or two before [the rehearsal] we got hit up to play that show and we were like ‘well, we’re going to find out the day before if we can actually play it’ *laughs* It was very much a trial by fire, but we survived.  

Something that really struck me about you guys, and something that I really like, is how visual Protect Your Heart is - your cover artwork is so different, so interesting. To circle back to what Kean mentioned earlier about designs, you're very hands on in that regard. Why is that so important to you? Is that an aspect you'll always want to be so firmly involved in?

Matty: No matter what happens, we always want to have a really strong connection with every piece of information, art, music, [and] anything in between that comes out of the band. We want listeners to feel that they’re part of the family too, to feel that there’s a human touch from us on everything we put out. It feels more authentic. I’m a little jaded because in some past music, I didn’t feel I was. Now that I have a chance to be that, I want to express it in the best way possible. People take notice, they notice a lot more than we think they do. They definitely know when there’s a special touch, and when we put our love and care into something.

Kean: Before Matt, keep in mind we were writing two years before we even met him, we had many conversations about keeping every part of this process in house as much as possible. That was always the goal. It was always meant to be a one-to-one reflection of who we are as individuals and as a collective. It helps that my professional background is branding, marketing, graphic design and, now, video production. Anthony is also in similar fields, specifically video production. We have the tangible skills to make all of the elements of this creative project. From our perspective, if you’re able to write and record the music, produce the music [and] also produce the merchandise, the album covers, the social media content, all of it…why would you pay someone else to create a representation of you? [They] aren’t going to care about it as much as you do, and maybe not do as good of a job because they don’t have skin in the game. 

The only way that we will stop being obsessively, compulsively hands-on [with] every piece of the puzzle is if we simply get so busy that we literally don’t have the hours.

If you look at all the single art then look at everything as a whole, there are easter eggs in every single thing that, unless you know us, they might just look like little pictures. The album artwork is representative of either a piece of this project or our Polaroids we took while we were writing the songs. Everything that is on everything has a meaning. Some of them are not for other people to figure out, but they are all meaningful to us.

Was making not just your music but also the art and, well, overall project meaningful and reflective and representative of y'all what you set out to do? Or did you find that it just came naturally as you worked on it?

Matty: There’s definitely intent behind it but I think that’s naturally what we wanted to achieve. For me personally, [I came] from spending many years of writing songs where everything was always rewritten twelve to twenty times to try to make it perfect to achieve radio placement or to make it so it wasn’t too much about me so that it [would] have a bigger reach…I always had to sacrifice personal touch, and always had to sacrifice lyrics that I really wanted for what the rest of the band wanted. With this, it’s intentionally the entire opposite. I’m sure many lyrics aren’t perfectly optimized to reach the greatest of the masses but that wasn’t our intent. Our intent was to be honest, let that live and be a snapshot in time.

Kean: We bailed on these other projects that had certain levels of success to pursue this, in search of this creative thing we could do that was wholly unique to us. Could I have looked at other bands in the scene and copied their artwork? Certainly. But what’s the point? Why? If we’re trying to break the mould from what we heard sonically, why would we want to fit the mould visually as well? That didn’t make sense.

Matty: Before joining these guys I didn’t have any intention of joining a band again. I can pretty strongly say that whatever Protect Your Heart does, this is probably the last time I go hardcore into being in a band. I want Protect Your Heart to be my full time career forever. I would not be interested in starting another project from scratch or joining another band. I want to give my hundred percent all and put my heart into it the way that I want to, I want it to be authentic and fun and not lose any of that.

Besides that, very welcome, authenticity that you're bringing to the table, what do you want listeners to take away from Protect Your Heart?

Kean: For me, the biggest thing is if you’re actually invested and dedicated to something, and committed to seeing it through no matter how difficult it is or how long it takes…you actually can do everything by yourself - this record is a testament to doing that, every element. Of course. we brought in people to collaborate with on a couple of the music videos to shoot the music videos because we only have two hands each--

Matty: Working on that!

Kean: It's hard to play an instrument and film yourself *laughs*. Everything you see and hear, every note and lyric on the record, every minuscule detail…is coming from one of our computers. I hope [people] enjoy it. It’s fun for us to make and I hope it’s fun to listen to. 

It’s an example of [how] when you genuinely want to pursue something, nothing should get in your way of doing that - the only person that can fuck you up is you.  


[re]Introduction is out now.

For all things Protect Your Heart, visit their website.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

NEWS | Promise Game Delivers Classic Pop Punk on 'Connecticut' Out Now

New Hampshire’s Promise Game have released their emotive new single 'Connecticut' today, reflecting on the struggles a touring band faces on the road.

'Connecticut', the 13th track recorded by Promise Game since forming in 2020, depicts the band's first-hand experience while on tour in May 2022. Day two of a three-day weekender with Driveways, Goalkeeper and Cheer Up Dusty had the band driving from Clementon, NJ after a sold-out night one. Cruising North with a ton of momentum, then the van hit Connecticut. What should have been a four-hour drive quickly turned into an ETA twice as long. That alone could ruin any trip to the next tour stop, but it's much worse when you're the venue's point person and you have no idea if you'll even make it the show based on the crazy traffic you're sitting in - with no end in sight.

'To make everything worse, phone rings and we are told the VRBO we booked for 10+ people was never actually available - we had nowhere to stay, and it just happened to be Yale's graduation day. Only option was an expensive hotel room that we knew wasn't really going to work out. At this point, the day is a total disaster.

However, once the van doors flung open at The Beeracks on Bradley St. in East Haven, we heard our buds Driveways running soundcheck and we were greeted with nothing but huge hugs and smiles from people who were ready to help flip the script and start the good vibes. That night turned out to be one of the best shows Promise Game has ever played, a night that'll never be forgotten and will forever live on through our current live set fan favorite 'Connecticut''.


For all things Promise Game, visit their website.

INTERVIEW | 'Songwriting Is The Ultimate Test of Vulnerability' - Samantha LaPorta

Songwriting is the ultimate test of vulnerability. That's what Samantha LaPorta believes, and it is something that shines though her mu...