Blue Swan Records band Eidola released their new record To Speak, To Listen a few weeks ago and if you’re a post-hardcore or prog metal fan you need to check the record out. The album debuted at #10 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart and #11 on Hard Rock, so it’s safe to say it’s worth listening to. They’ve got an experimental vibe but they take care not to neglect their heavy side. If you like what you hear, they will be on tour with The Ongoing Concept later this summer.
The Ongoing Concept is, without a doubt, one of the most unique bands in the alternative/metal/hardcore music scene today. They are a band of brothers plus one—Dawson, Kyle, and Parker Scholz, along with friend TJ Nichols—who are a powerhouse of chaotic sound. Handmade proves that with every track.
“Amends” kicks off the album with attitude. Starting with snapping fingers and a sassy drum beat, the song lets you know you’re in for a ride with this record. Horns and a big band sound guide you from the very beginning, in addition to the aggressive guitars and vocals. The chorus makes you want to dance and the verse makes you want to start a fight. “Feel” is much like “Amends” in its feisty sound, and its chorus is another that makes you want to get down with your bad self and then some. These two tracks start the album off strong and are reflective of the unconventional sound of the record.
“Prisoner” has a more rock and roll vibe to it and, although still a great song, is not as fun as the first two that begin Handmade. “Melody”, one of the most eclectic songs on the album, is a depart from the screams and loud guitars. It projects a more folky, summer vibe with a catchy, sweet chorus: “Come back, come back to me/ Don’t turn your back on me/ Come back, come back to me.”
“Unwanted” is one that, after hearing, is hard to forget. The verse is belligerent, but the chorus is vivid, memorable, and definitely a sing-a-long. It switches back and forth between melodic and turbulent, much like the lyrics: “I wanna fall in love and I wanna fall in love with you/ You’re everything I’ve wanted/That’s it. I’m sick of it all. I can’t keep my mouth shut anymore/ I’m not your pawn. I’ll break your vice. I won’t idolize the unwanting.” It’s an emotional ride.
“Soul” is next on the record and is another rock anthem that catches you by the ear and doesn’t let you go. “I sold my soul to the devil”, the theme of the song repeated on a number of occasions, caters to the darker side of vices, temptation, and how far one is willing to go to get what he or she wants. “Falling” closes out the record with a passionate showcase and was definitely the right choice of song to end Handmade. With an amazing bridge full of emotion and powerful vocals, the end gave me goosebumps and, just like that, I fell in love with The Ongoing Concept.
by Kelly Fay
“Hey, where you going?”
If you had that conversation with someone, they would probably think you were being intentionally vague or even rude. But no, The Place is actually the name of a one of a kind venue in Brooklyn, NY. It’s the kind of place that, as Jack Sparrow would say, “can only be found by those who already know where it is”; or, by the signpost of kids in black band t-shirts standing outside.
To the unknowing eye, The Place is nothing more than a pizza joint/bar. If you’re a hardcore kid looking for a show, however, the employees will nod you through a door toward the hidden venue in the back, where DIY locals frequently go. The deep human-sized dents in the wall and the amount of bro hugs people give each other will tell you that this room has seen a lot of bands and a lot of familiar faces mosh through it. The wood floor and wood left wall will tell fans of The Ongoing Concept that it’s the perfect place for them to play some new tracks off their latest record, Handmade.
The album that takes DIY to a whole new level, Handmade is a title that describes the process of how TOC made their new work. In our interview with vocalist/guitarist Dawson Scholz, he tells the tale of how the band literally chopped down a tree to make all of the instruments by hand for their most recent tracks. It was in this room half made of wood with instruments entirely made of wood that The Ongoing Concept banged out new songs like “Unwanted” and “Soul” to something like 20 or 30 kids. The low body count was no matter, however, as the intimate number made for an up close and personal floor show. And for those of you who have never seen TOC live before (like I hadn’t), you don’t know up close and personal until Kyle Scholz is screaming wild-eyed two centimeters in front of your face with his shirt off and leaving a puddle of sweat at your feet. “I’m sorry if I sweat or spit on you,” he says calmly after a song. “I’m just trying to have fun.”
The band finished with crowd favorite “Cover Girl,” and the word “insane” does not adequately say all that needs to be said about these last few minutes with them. The whole room went berserk with kids unafraid of marching up to the mic and getting just as much in Kyle’s face as he was in theirs. The room reverberated with cries of “Stop being the print of someone else’s painting,” and the echoes of the end rang out.
As for the opening bands, Heroes and Outlands were two whose live performance stood out, showcasing great energy and crowd involvement. Heroes’ set brought the sense of community you crave when you think of local hardcore, while Outlands members bounced from wall to wall like an epic and chaotic game of pong. Despite having recently released a rather successful album, the energy dipped low and got pretty depressing during Dayseeker’s set. Lastly, on the whole, the attendance of bands whose sets had finished was rather spotty. There’s such a thing as show etiquette, folks. You stay for all the bands, not just one or two, and not just your own.
Overall, HXC Magazine‘s night at The Place was a fun reminder of why we became so dedicated to the hardcore scene in the first place. You don’t need a room with hundreds of people to make something special happen. You just need good people who aren’t afraid to get a little weird.
When you think “Do It Yourself,” you are probably thinking about self-promotion, self-production, and self-release. However, sometimes doing things yourself also can mean making it yourself, as was the case with The Ongoing Concept‘s second full-length release, Handmade. In one of the most unexpected and delightfully surprising moves in the contemporary scene, The Ongoing Concept broke ground when they announced they had physically handmade all of the instruments they used to record their latest record.
From cutting down trees, finding the perfect angles to shape a drum head, and writing a solid follow up to their debut, we caught up with vocalist and guitarist Dawson Scholz to get the inside scoop on all the handcrafted work that went into bringing about Handmade.
What was the mindset going into writing and recording Handmade?
We are always changing so I feel our mindset is never consistent, but I know we went into it wanting it to be something other than a Saloon 2.0. We wanted something raw, something from the ground up, and overall, we wanted something that was a concept without it being a typical “concept album” that involves some sort of lyrical or story type theme.
How did you plan to follow up after Saloon was so well received?
We didn’t really know to be honest. Saloon was years in the making. It felt like our life’s work and to follow up with any debut album is tough. We spent months and months writing. We weren’t going to submit an “OK” album so we were prepared to take longer than expected to get the record done. If we weren’t happy with the product, we weren’t going to release it.
What have been some other major musical influences you guys have had?
It might sound really cliché or even stupid to say this but for the past two records, my major musical influences hasn’t been music at all. I found that what influences me is not the music itself, but the drive, branding, or just the overall influence the artist who releases that music has on the culture or scene at that particular time. I have always wondered how certain songs become songs or even records we listen to for years and years after they are released and how others become a fad for a particular month or year. There is a way certain bands have captivated people with their records. They have made them works of art, something beautiful, something you think back on later and still go, “Wow, this album is still great.” I look at bands like Underoath, Bring Me The Horizon, or even Brand New. I don’t really even listen to these bands, but they have become huge influences of mine because they have left a huge imprint of what music is today.
So for this album you guys actually handmade the instruments you used to record with. What inspired this action?
We have always been a “do it yourself” type band. We are drawn to doing things we never thought we could do. We have always been into concepts (as our name kind of states). [Laughs] I love concept albums and how they bring about a story or an idea into something whole. I wanted to do a concept album, but I didn’t want to do an album that was a story or some lyrical concept that unfolded throughout ten songs. I wanted something beyond the actual music itself. I was looking up building a guitar one day and the whole handmade concept hit me. It seemed impossible at the time to pull something like that off and I think that in itself is what inspired me.
Do you guys have a background in wood shop or did you learn how to do all of this for the project?
We have built our own guitar cabs and stuff but no, no wood shop background class at all. Kyle [Scholz, vocals and keys] does a lot of construction so I guess that helped a lot. Most of it was trial and error though. It was a bit nerve-racking to be honest.
What was the most difficult thing you guys had to make?
Certain parts of the building process were a one chance don’t mess this up type deal, most notably the part where we routed the edge of the drum shells. Kyle had to do a ton of math and very articulate cuts to get that very fine slopped edge the drum head sits on to create the resonance of the drum shell. Messing that up would’ve meant the drum shell was basically not useable anymore. Kyle is kind of a genius so a lot of that went over my head and I have no idea how he accomplished it.
How many trees were cut down in the process of making this album?
Just one. It was a fairly large tree. We actually have a lot left over which we may use to make some cool little pre-order incentives!
What led you to want to do a video documentation of hand making these instruments?
In this day, people want proof of everything. Saying we built it all from hand is not good enough. We just wanted to actually show that all this happened. Also, there is a lot more that goes into making an instrument that can’t really be explained without some sort of visual. We wanted to show everything, even our mistakes.
You guys have such a fun album cover. What inspired the image you guys chose to use for the album?
Thank you! We tried out a few different album covers but ended up with that one. We were kind of wanting to go back to the classic rock type records. We feel bands have strayed away from album covers that incorporate the band itself. So many classic rock albums are iconic for that. I thought it would be a good way to promote the whole handmade concept.
What would you say are some of your favorite tracks on the album and why?
I think my favorite songs would be “Unwanted,” “Amends,” “Soul,” and even “Melody.” I feel those songs are our most poppy and mature songs so far.
Can we expect the return of a banjo on any of these upcoming tracks?
Ha! No, you won’t unfortunately. The banjo fit “Cover Girl” but there weren’t any songs on this new album that fit having a banjo again. Maybe you will see it again but we won’t put it in another song unless we feel it actually fits.
Do you guys have any music videos currently planned in support of Handmade?
We have two in the works right now. Be on the lookout for them!
This is your second record with Solid State Records after previously releasing two independent EPs. How has the transition been from self-releasing your work to having a label been the last few years?
Having a label behind you makes it much more of a business than a hobby. A lot more money is involved. Releasing those two EPs felt much more like a fun hobby than an actual job.
You guys have an upcoming tour with Dayseeker that was just announced. How are you guys preparing for those shows?
Kyle is actually getting married here in the next couple weeks so it’s been a bit hard to prepare. I think you can easily expect to see us play a few songs from the new album though!
What sets a show with The Ongoing Concept apart?
I feel we bring a really fun and memorable show. I don’t want our band to be that cool movie you saw in theaters but wasn’t quite good enough to pay the $10 to see it again. I feel each member brings something different and we try to keep the audience guessing.
Describe The Ongoing Concept in one word.
The Ongoing Concept broke the scene with their 2013 debut full-length Saloon and have been pushing the boundaries of hardcore, punk and metalcore ever since. Now preparing for the release of their second LP through Solid State Records, The Ongoing Concept have taken a different approach to getting around the high costs needed in making an album aptly titled Handmade–they’re hand making all of their instruments.
Over the last few weeks the quartet has been teasing various tracks from the record through their YouTube series in which they actually document the craftsmanship that went into bringing their instruments from trees to rock ‘n’ roll weapons. And now, finally, The Ongoing Concept is giving fans a chance to hear the first single off of their new record with the release of the music video for “Unwanted.” Continusously carrying out the DIY aesthetic implicated through the recording process of Handmade, the video for “Unwanted” follows suit as the band serves as the stars, directors, and even camera men for the video’s entirety.
Take a look at four guys rocking out with a giant camera in a hall of mirror for three and a half minutes and let us know what you think of The Ongoing Concept’s fun new approach to contemporary DIY.
If you want something done right, do it yourself; unless, of course, you can’t afford it.
The majority of hardcore and punk was founded on a DIY ethos, something that HXC has taken to heart and pursued itself. However, in a world filled with YouTube stars and not-so-independent indie labels, it’s kind of hard to remain loyally underground when you can Google a band’s Facebook page and follow them on Twitter. Everyone has an agenda, everyone has a way to be heard. That’s why people make music. That’s why people write. That’s why we put it on the internet, so people will find it. The most DIY thing you can do nowadays would ironically be to keep everything you do to yourself because otherwise you’re helping fund major industry ploys like various social media outlets as the internet continues its shameless take over.
Let’s look at DIY as the mindset of finding funding, promotions, gigs and profits all on your own in an attempt to 1.) avoid the corruption of your art by industry heads or 2.) because you simply don’t have the proper financial backing to pay for the industry established services you need. In the end, DIY keeps things local and directly in and of the scene they spawn from.
“My name’s Blurryface and I care what you think.”
This line is sung by Tyler Joseph of twenty one pilots on their latest single “Stressed Out.” While twenty one pilots is far from hardcore, from punk, and from being a band I’d ever admit to listening to regularly, this song has some serious significance in the modern music scene and beyond.
Beginning with the tell-tale tragedy of being incapable of making something original in modern music because every chord progression, lyrical concept, rhyme, and reason has been exhausted time and time again, Joseph extends his song’s meaning to life in general. We all begin as innocent, imaginative kids chasing our dreams only to get suffocated by the millennial dilemma of needing to make money just to survive. Can you really compromise your art for cash? Do you have to? The idea of “originality” is now determined simply by who can do what’s been done before better because we are no longer in an age of “do it yourself” but of “do it better.” And in the end, once we all get wrapped up in that school of thought, are we even the artists we started out as to begin with? “My name’s Blurryface and I care what you think.”
Perhaps “do it better,” or DIB, really is the future of music. DIY is now just a part of the major production of it all. We have seen multiple times how a DIY aesthetic can make or break a movement, early punk and hardcore being the most prominent flag ship examples. However, there are numerous other music realms that have greatly benefitted from the DIY momentum. EDM, dubstep, house, and basically the entirety of contemporary electronica is rooted in self-serving, SoundCloud blaring, warehouse playing DIY promotions. Who needs a label and a studio when you have a laptop, social media and a solid wifi connection? The same can be said of the major indie revival that has been taking over the airwaves these last five years. Many cool cats and Brooklynites have been able to get their sound out simply through connections and home studios, thus growing into their own, as we saw with Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear, among many, many others.
And of course, in the hardcore, metalcore and punk scenes of today, DIY is blazing through at rapid rates. Beartooth and Vanna are playing house shows. Terror is refusing to use a producer on their latest album, The 25th Hour. FrnkIero andthe Cellebration‘s debut record, Stomachaches, was recorded in a basement in full before a label ever saw it. The Ongoing Concept are hand making all of their instruments for their upcoming record aptly titled Handmade.
So is this the future of the music industry? Finding ways to bypass the enormous fees people lose from having to pay venues to play or sell merch? Finding ways to bypass the ridiculous costs of working in a studio? Finding ways to bypass the very nature of affording instruments (why not make ’em yourself)? Perhaps. And truly, I find this to be a rather endearing sentiment. But, naturally, there’s a catch. Major labels are picking up EDM artists. Grizzly Bear will remain decidedly broke if they simply bank off of their own touring and record sales for income. Vanna is playing house shows between dates of large venue tours. FrnkIero andthe Cellebration have the clout created by Frank Iero’s time in My Chemical Romance to get them noticed more. And in the end, these great sentiments and artistic routes are merely artists finding ways to do things better than the ways of the set systems, better in favor of the artist, not the labels or iTunes or Spotify, etc. Unfortunately, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other promotional platforms are benefiting and–in the vein of Facebook–profiting off of these promotions seemingly done on the artists’ own.
“When I grow up I’m going to be an artist and not a cover girl.”
–“Cover Girl” by The Ongoing Concept
“Out of student loans and tree house homes we all would take the latter.”
–“Stressed Out” by twenty one pilots
The major problem with going DIY in today’s world is expressed perfectly in these paralleled lyrics. The mentality and sentiment to be a true artist is stronger than ever, but so are financial pressures. Living in NYC, one of the major cultural hubs of the world is hella expensive. For $1,500 a month you can find yourself in an apartment the size of a closet with a job that allots only $30,000 a year before taxes. That math doesn’t quite add up. Student loans are increasingly sought after leaving art kids who have spent their whole lives being told to go to college in immense debt with nothing but low income, entry level jobs to look forward to in order to offset it. These financial realities are forcing the movements of various musical scenes out of major modern cultural hubs because no one can afford to actually be located in these places like they were back in 1979. The Bowery is now a hip and almost bourgeois section of Manhattan, no longer the artist slums of the city. Brooklyn is the most expensive neighborhood in America. To be DIY nowadays, you have to have a trust fund or those crappy minimum wage gigs in which you can actually fund all of the stuff your labelless music can’t and pay for people to see your band’s Facebook posts. You really have to suffer for your art or move somewhere cheaper yet less opportune.
Jay-Z’s catastrophic self-supporting streaming service, Tidal, is simply the latest example of a DIY facade in the industry. Instead of marketing Tidal to the artists who desperately needed that kind of self-serving support and funding, however, it immediately became an elitist platform. Madonna, Jack White and Beyonce were all names included on the promotional roster, however, bands like Vanna, The Ongoing Concept and FrnkIero andthe Cellebration were not. In fact, it would make more sense to see Gerard Way’s solo project appear on this streaming service’s campaign rather than Frank Iero’s simply because Way is backed by a bigger label and therefore is a bigger name in the modern media’s eye. (Staple Records vs. Warner Bros. Records; Warner Bros. will always win.) By carving out a niche hole, the entire notion that musicians can survive off of their work is still being dominated by the “giants” in the industry who feel they have some semblance of a say on who should and should not be promoted. Jay-Z is helping to create a hierarchy that will rule out any artist in need of a more profitable outlet than Spotify or Pandora.
So where do we go from here? Yes, in many instances, bands like twenty one pilots can be hated for their quick ascension and immediate backing by “scene-driven” powerhouses like Alternative Press and Fueled by Ramen, but at the same time, we are still watching people like Pete Wentz extend the grappling hook to struggling artists to make it big, to bring them up to a mainstream level instead of reaching out to names already on par with the pop culture greats of today, unlike Jay-Z’s actions. Without Wentz, the world wouldn’t have Panic! At The Disco the way they are known. There potentially wouldn’t be a surge in pop punk or as significant an emo revival. While this is still in a sense “selling out,” it is the lesser of two evils.
“Wake up you need to make money.”
–“Stressed Out” by twenty one pilots
“Don’t be the print of someone else’s painting.”
–“Cover Girl” by The Ongoing Concept
Is there a way to stay original and make money without selling out? Can you truly do it on your own in today’s world? While twenty one pilots may have been picked up by Fueled By Ramen, at least they were not completely overtaken by FBR’s parent label Atlantic Records. There still is a sense of obscurity around them, obscurity, however, in a way that is still boosting them to the tops of festival line-ups and tour bills. The Ongoing Concept, however, will go down in a history recorded by low budget bloggers and retrospective hardcore fanatics for making all of their instruments by hand, yet chances are they will not make it to radio play or ever grace magazine covers.
But then again, maybe there is hope. Kory Grow and Grayson Haver Currin over at Rolling Stone seem to like Beartooth and Marmozets, respectively, enough to have given them print coverage–even if it was in the form of a blurb. So where is the line drawn for acceptably selling out? Fall Out Boy was right when they said, “This ain’t a scene/It’s a goddamn arms race.” It all depends on what bands find the right weapons and how/if they choose to use them to get places. Until then, I’ll stay happy in my DIY realm with a bartending gig to fund my writing. The Ongoing Concept will continue to shine in their niche scene with their skills in both instrumentals and woodshop. FrnkIero andthe Cellebration will still have way more communal gigs in dingy basements than Gerard Way could ever hope to accomplish playing his large venue shows. twenty one pilots can continue to ride their wave and Jay-Z can make attempts to support his elite and shut himself off from the rest of the industry all together.
So I ask you, where did the DIY party truly go? I think I would like to be a member of that secret Facebook group.
“Who can tell me what the word ‘originality’ means?” is the question posed at the beginning of this video. And the answer? The Ongoing Concept can! The band play a killer set for a classroom of elementary school children in this music video for their song “Cover Girl,” a set up which is as hilarious as it is endearing. But it’s also didactic. The standout line, “Stop being the print of someone else’s painting,” puts us in the position of having something to learn as well as these adorable kids. The song itself is a lesson in originality, as the words ‘banjo’ and ‘hardcore’ typically aren’t found in the same sentence. So watch the video below and raise your hand if you wish these guys had come to your school as a kid.