I’ve been dwelling on this for some time now, but I have officially decided to no longer continue smflive.com, it has been one of my most serious projects but my heart and time is no longer invested like it was before and instead of drawing out an inevitable end, I’m choosing to finish it on a good note. I’ve met an incredible amount of people due to this project, and I’m so grateful to everyone that was a part of it. I’m closing this door, but many more creative opportunities lie ahead.

Thank you to SINEMA, Future Primitives – U.S., Ensul, Synical Deliverance,Avenue of the Giants, The Colossal Heads, Steels, American Pastime,Future Elevators, Black Willis Band, Chase Arrington, Ferguson & The Copper Dogs, Cahaba, The Syndicate Lounge, Zydeco, Saturn Birmingham, and many many more people that have supported me along the way.




Ferguson & The Copper Dogs


The beginning of The Copper Dogs began not too long ago in 2011 when singer/songwriter Sarah Ferguson and guitarist Dan Walker got together to begin writing songs. The duo lasted alone for a year together until they met drummer Michael Ray in Tuscaloosa’s own Green Bar during an open mic night, later to bring on bass player, Matt Young. The four piece group that we know as The Copper Dogs today began their embark in Tuscaloosa’s music scene officially in December of 2014 and have now reached the verge of out growing one city and have begun to run out into others, including Birmingham.

Ferguson and her fellow band mates wanted to dish out the “rawest” representation of their sound possible when recording their first EP, and in order to do so they reached out to Magnetic Audio. The band and well-known local studio together recorded the five-song EP that many in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham alike have come to listen to and enjoy. Listening to them, you can definitely feel the “old dirt country” aspects that come into play with other blues, old soul, and the right touch of unique elements that make the band stand out from anything else that had ever been done. Ferguson herself has a strong, feminine, voice that takes you back in time the best way possible while backing her is clean, perfectly rhythmic, music that complements her voice. Not to mention that Ray has built a reputation alone from offering consistently tight drumming that touches near perfection. Every member of this band is capable of standing alone in what they do, but the energy and collaboration between them together is what makes the group work so well. That’s been about a year or so now since the EP release, but they are reassuring that they’ll be beginning to work on their first full-length album once final recording decisions have been made official.

Personally not being all too familiar with Tuscaloosa, I couldn’t help but to wonder and question whether or not the band felt that being an original band in a cover-band college town was limiting to them or not.

” Compared to some other cities, yes. Especially with cities like Austin or [of course] major cities like New York or Los Angeles. Being in those places can create some opportunities that you can’t always find in smaller towns, especially college towns.” Offered Ray.

But other members agreed that being in such a diverse group of college students offers networking opportunities with other musicians from across the country. And, in fact, all agreed that there is a demand and market for original bands to have a place but lack of venues that will allow original artists. And the lack of support from a major group of the bars that make up Tuscaloosa is one of the most limiting factors of all, but with new projects in the work, it looks as though Tuscaloosa may be finally giving the original bands the space that they need by opening new breweries, bars, and other live music f1venues that feature live original bands, while alongside supporting and encouraging more outdoor festivals that would feature local talents.But despite all of these “limiting” factors that come into play at times, The Copper Dogs rise up against the odds to play their hearts out. And any band that has the guts and talent to do that, is a band I want to support.



Be sure to follow Ferguson and The Copper dogs via social media to keep up-to-date on upcoming shows and future albums!

Ferguson + The Copper Dogs Facebook

Find their music here

Future Elevators

I met Future Elevators’ front man, Michael Shackelford, a good deal before their self-titled current hit album  had been released, but I like so many other fans, friends, and loved ones could tell Future Elevators.pngthis band held a special talent unlike any other to touch Birmingham from the moment I heard them playing. Future Elevators ups the music game in Birmingham by offering us one of the most well recorded, visually stunning, and intricate albums that we’ve received with an inexpiable blend of retro and current pop sounds that against whatever odds, works, all the while Shackelford stands as the back bone to this near-masterpiece with singles like “Modern World” that has climbed to #13 on the Spotify Viral Hits Canada Playlist and #5 for the UK Viral 50. And once hearing them, it becomes very easy to understand how their single has made it that far given how each of the songs offer various seductive, original, music and lyrics to the listener. Future Elevators offers the world, let alone Birmingham, raw, undeniable, talent that consistently leaves asking “where the hell did this come from?” while begging for more. To get this album, Birmingham locals can find it at our very own Seasick Records on CD and/or Vinyl while those a little further out of town can find their very own copy here.

Blake and Adam Williamson (Black Willis/Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires)


I met Blake and Adam for the first time when they came in for lunch at the local restaurant I work at [insert a lovely image of myself here where I am surely sweaty and drained from my slightly less-than-glamorous day job] and instantly knew I recognized them from somewhere, when I decided to ask it turned out that they help their Mom run a shop she owns literally two store’s down from where I was. Duh. For months after I started my job everyone had mentioned the world-traveling brothers that I “just had to meet” and there they were! Trucker hats and all. Later on an off day I impulsively decided to go into the store and ask for a chance to talk to them for the website, and with a “sure, just come back around lunch time” we were set. To this day, if you ask me who some of the most welcoming and modest musicians that I’ve had the chance work with are, I will tell you the Williamson brothers without hesitation. To this day, if you ask me who some of the most talented and hard working musicians that I’ve had the chance to work with are, I will tell you the Williamson brothers without hesitation. Making music since they were kids, these guys have seemingly been through it all, and aren’t I the lucky one to know them well enough to hear them tell some of the tales in person? I love these guys. I love the music they make, their laid back attitudes, their professionalism, their friendship, hell I even love their significant others just as much as I do them… I love their Mom that owns one of the best looking store fronts in Historic Irondale for god sake! I did this interview a long time before I ever got here to type it for your viewing pleasure, and I’ve never received anything other than patience and kindness in return. I urge anyone who has yet to listen to the incredible music that comes from the glory fires to do so, and I urge anyone who has yet to make their way to see Black Willis live yet to do so as well. Not only is Black Willis made up of said brothers, but it’s also made up with the equally talented Ronnie Lee Gipson (The Golden Monica and NECRQNOMIKIDS) and Justin Colburn. I’ve seen Black Willis play live on a couple of occasions, and with confidence can tell you that I, nor anyone else I’ve been in an audience with, have left disappointed.

SMF Live: Lets start out with your personal history with music and how it has led you to where you are now.

Blake Williamson: Well, it’s been a long time. As of this past year we’ve been playing in a band now for twenty years in some shape or form. It started out as a band called Vesper, which was a band for a really long time, maybe the course of ten years and then sometime between 2003 or 2004 we had some members of that band who moved away, and our buddy Matt Patton, who plays with Drive By Truckers, started to play with us and we started a band called Black Willis.

Adam Williamson: And we still play.

BW: Yeah, Black Willis still plays and we’ve been a band for about ten years now, also. I actually started to play with Lee in the Spring of 2010, and he was in a band called Arkadelphia, who I was a fan of. I thought they were great. I guess he was trying to do something new and The Dexateens were in the flux. They were broken up and then they weren’t or they did a lot of touring then they didn’t do anything. So, Lee started his own side project and that’s what this band became. And I guess it’s about two or three years into it. Adam is a guitar player, but he made the transition to bass, so now we actually make up the rhythm section!

SMF: I know a few siblings that have music in common like that, but my brother and I are often just like night and day, so has it always just come naturally for you guys to be doing the same thing together?

AW: I’d say yes.

BW: It was pretty natural, as far as stylistically and the stuff we were into, we’ve always been into the same things.

SMF: Who’s older?

BW: Adam is older, so growing up and looking up to him, whatever he thought was cool I was like “Yeah, that’s cool!” There was always very small differences in musical taste. So, it worked [well] because it’s always easy for us to strike a happy medium.

SMF: How has the recording process been for your third album coming out?

BW: Really nice, actually. We record with a guy named Jeremy Ferguson in Nashville and he’s been really great. He records a lot of really good bands, so he has a home studio, it’s not the most “pro” thing, which makes it a comfortable environment. We’ve become friends with him and his family. Right now we play the new songs out on the road, because that’s the only way to get things how you want them, is through trial and error.


Photo Courtesy: Ann Sydney Taylor Photography

SMF: How has the Birmingham music scene been to you? Because you guys have been around long enough to have seen it big, fall, and then begin to re-build itself.

AW: It’s been strange, for the most part.

BW: It’s come and gone. It’s not that it’s been nothing, just the trends will change. As much as I hate to admit it, Birmingham has always been a very trendy city. So I’d say in the early 2000’s there were all of these “Art Rock” bands. They didn’t call it Indie Rock, which it totally was, it was this combination of R.E.M and some spaced out Pink Floyd sound or something.  There were a bunch of bands like that, and guess what? They all dropped off the face of the earth. There were a few bands that continued to play though all of it and that have been around forever like Teen Getaway, Nowhere Squares-

AW: That band Skeptic still plays a lot.

SMF: I think I just got a flyer for them playing a show at The Nick.

BW: They’re always playing at The Nick! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen them at The Nick, and I’m happy to see them every single time. I guess the first good spot that was for anybody to play was Cave 9, because they had big shows and small show…and it was kids! Anyone could get in. That’s a major thing, really, because we don’t have any of those places anymore. We’ve talked countless times about how there’s nowhere to play for younger people. We keep getting these Dad’s that come to our show. Dad age, like forty plus, seems to be the age range for a majority of our fan base. People identify us with this southern rock but somehow don’t understand that we aren’t rednecks…that’s now what our songs are about. Just because there’s been songs about all of that. I could personally care less if I heard a song about whiskey ever again. Unless it was creative, which it rarely is. Anyway, Birmingham has always been good to us, Bottletree was good to us, and The Nick has been good to us over the years.

SMF: I think everyone is still mourning the loss of Bottletree.

BW: And they should, because it was great.

AW: It was a great place to play.

BW: It was just unfortunate for the music scene here, bands get stuck sometimes, but now there are more bands hitting the road and touring and doing something-

AW: That’s cool to see. There used to be a huge problem of all these great bands that would play thirty shows in town and that’s about it, which is fine, but it’s nice to see them getting out and touring.

BW: They’re trying. That’s the whole issue with a band, is that when the same people hear your music over and over and over again none new is hearing it. Say you’re playing at Saturn this Saturday night and then next Saturday you’re playing at Parkside, well, you’re only two blocks away from where you were last week playing for the same people that were at your show last time you had one. There’s a fine line of over-saturating.

AW: With the past couple of years, we’ve played Birmingham maybe two or three times within a year. Just because it makes those shows better, and you might sell it out once you finally play back in town instead of playing ten shows where people are like “Oh, we’ll just catch the next show.” Well, it’ll be a year!

SMF: How is major traveling? You guys have been all over the place. Where’s the farthest you’ve gone so far?

BW: The farthest is Poland, probably.

AW: Poland.

BW: We’ve been to Scandinavia, like, three times to tour.

SMF: How do you even get to that point where you go overseas?

AW: It just builds.

BW: Someone will eventually contact you that’s like “We want to bring you over” so we’ll say “Okay, lets do it!” and usually that offer will just be for one show at first.

AW: It’ll be for a bigger show, like a festival, and you’ll build around that.

BW: You have to love travelling, though. If you don’t then it’s going to be hard for you. We had a guy that was in the band, a wonderful guitar player that is still one of my favorite people in the world, but-

AW: It just got him down.

BW: It did, it just got him down. It wasn’t satisfying him. It wasn’t stirrin’ his Kool-Aid is what we’re saying. So he’s in Tuscaloosa playing gigs all of the time, and that’s his element. And that’s what we were talking about before, to quote Sweet Dog from The Dexateens, “some people aren’t cut out for the front line” you have to- it’s a sacrifice, you know? You can’t be home all of the time, girlfriends get mad, relationships are hard to sustain, people have to look out for your pets and that sort of thing. You have to like the guys you’re in the band with and you have to be tolerant of people.

AW: You have to almost have a certain type of auto-pilot that you can go into because it’s hours and hours of time that you;re riding or waiting around. And a music venue in Colorado is no different from one in Denver or anywhere else. It’s all basically a bar with a stage. You get there and you’re like “Okay, here I am with six hours to kill.”

BW: I remember we were in Denver and I was talking to my girlfriend on the phone and she went “How is Denver, is it cool?” and I was like “Well, the bar we’re playing at is alright.” And once we’re gone we have to leave because it’s an eight and a half hour drive to Louisiana or something like that.

AW: You just have to focus on the task at hand.

BW: Which is playing the shows.

AW: Yeah, because that’s the only thing you can control, really, is your playing. Most of everything else is out of your hands. That and you can just…not be an asshole.

BW: Show up on time, play good, and be nice. That’s all you’ve got. There’s nothing else anyone can do to make it any better.

Black Willis Facebook

Future Primitives

Like many times before, Birmingham’s immense amount of talent never fails to impress me, and in this particular case I was blown away from a psychedelic indie group known as Future Primitives. Long time before meeting the group, I was able to catch a glimpse of what intensity every member of the band performs with, and seeing them live was nothing short of what I was expecting. It’s hard to give a single Primitives member the “front man” title due to the fact that everyone performs with the same amount of energy as the next. A singer fueled by the inspiration of early English rock, you say? Check. A keyboard player that puts on a show of his own? Check. I could go on for days, but the point is that this band works as a collective unit unlike any other I’ve witnessed. They’ve worked with countless greats from Birmingham’s music industry for years (counting back to early 2000’s?), and have since managed to build a large support group consisting of their “bad ass wives” (all except one member of the group is married with at least one kid, I know, sorry ladies!) to endless support from fellow musicians and music lovers from all over the southeast. Drawing musical inspiration from older legends like Led Zeppelin and current touring bands such as Tame Impala, Future Primitives has managed to combine this variety of sounds from several era’s and genres to form what is their very own.


SMF Live: Take me through your personal history with music and how it led you to where you are now.

Daniel Hargett: Well, me and Casey both pretty much grew up playing music with our Dad, and we grew up playing in church or stuff like that…that’s pretty much where it all started at. Then, obviously, as we got older we got into what [we play now].

Casey “Cosmo” Hargett: I was working at a construction site and I met this guy named Dewayne and he had a band called Low Flying Plane and asked me if I wanted to come play drums with him, and that’s where I met Shane, and I used to bring Daniel to practise with me but he never actually played.

Shane Wynn: He never said anything, either.

CH: No, he never said anything, he always just kind of sat in the corner. Me, Shane, Dewayne, and another guy named Clint – we didn’t have a bass player but Daniel came to every practise and he learned how to play all of the bass lines, and eventually we decided to make him the bass player for a while, then Dewayne decided he wanted to quit, so once he did that he took the Low Flying Plane name with him and everything. We decided to start a new group and that’s pretty much us three and that guy named Clint, and we started a band called White Heap and we played for maybe four years together. We never got too popular or anything like that, we were just kind of coming out when the punk scene was still going strong and we’d go to shows booked with all of these punk bands, and we were like the only psychedelic group it seemed like at the time. Eventually Clint quit because he had other things going on, and at that point it was just us there and we were like “Well, what are we going to do now?” We decided to try to keep it a three-piece for a little while until we decided we needed some more members. I was like “I’ll play the bass instead of being the drummer,” and Shane’s little brother Caleb started to play drums for us. Justin is really close with Caleb because they grew up together. He played keyboard and we needed someone to come in and give us that sound, so that’s how we got Justin in the band. We played like that for the longest time, I played bass for a while, and we eventually got to where Caleb couldn’t play with us anymore, so I went back to the drums, and we got with a bass player names Lance Hays who played with us for a very short time, but within that very short time that he played with us he got out name out there. That’s where it all started, really.

SW: That was in 2012.

CH: Yeah, that’s when we became Future Primitives.

DH: We owe a lot of credit to Lance Hays for helping us out. He just knows a lot of people, he worked at Bottletree for a long time.

Justin Todd: That’s where we got to know all of these people that decided to start helping us out.

SMF: Did you kind of start out at Bottletree then?

CH: We’ve only been playing Birmingham for thirteen or fourteen years.

JT: We did get bigger at Bottletree.

CH: Once we played there it started taking off. It was like all of a sudden there was this place where it was our kind of people that wanted to hear our kind of music.

SW: We had to work our way up, we had to play a bunch of those showcases that let us play, like, five songs.

JT: Yeah, we’ve definitely paid our dues. But, that’s how we became Future Primitives.

CH: Yeah, then we had Lance in the band for a while, but he decided to go tour with someone else. We met Lane because we went to record with Jeffrey Salter from Banditos and Lane was just hanging outside there.

Lane Smith: They called me and told me they had this bad ass band that had bad ass fuzz guitar and that I needed to come check it out. So, I did, and then that was when I met them. Lance and I have similar personalities, so we hit it off and I called him up one day out of the blue like “Hey Lance, what’s going on?” and he was like “Nothing, I’m moving.” So I went “What do you mean you’re moving? What about the band, what’s happening?” and that’s how I found out about everything.

CH: Daniel and Greg play in a band called The Great American Breakdown together.

Greg Henderson: In some form that band’s been around since 2003. We’re still going today but Great American Breakdown went on tour and we kind of took a break after that. I asked Dan if he would run it by the guys for me to come play guitar.

JT: I always thought Greg was the most bad ass guy. I’ve watched Greg play in Great American Breakdown for years. We had been looking for a guitar player and we needed somebody to come in and play that would know how to put the best licks in- Greg was that person. Greg could put the sickest licks into these moments, and so does Lane, when Lane came in his bass was thumpin’. Our band has evolved and evolved, like right when you think we’re fucked, we get even better.

DH: I forgot to say I think Greg was in White Heap for a hot minute.


SMF: How have your personal influences gone into Future Primitives’ sound, because it’s very unique.

JT: Each of us are inspired by different things.

DH: First of all, Shane is a really big fan of The Who. And Guided Voices, which of where he gets a lot of his influence from. He writes his vocals and, in general, that’s the way he presents himself in his live act. Me personally, and I can speak for Greg too, we’re both really into Led Zeppelin, and that’s where a lot of those rock and roll roots come from. Casey is really into The Beatles, so we get some pop-ey elements into it.

LS: I listen to a lot of softer music, when I’m at home especially, it just puts me in this chill mood.

GH: Some new artists that we all listen to together on tour are Tame Impala-

DH: Spiritualized.

JT: Black Angels.

SW: All of the different eras of rock are here, like prog rock, glam rock, psychedelic rock, and just everything. But there’s been a good rock record made for every year since 1953.

SMF: So what have come challenges been with releasing your latest album (“Erase The Future & Hope For Now”) compared to your other EP’s?

JT: The Evolution. There was this huge evolution. What we did was different because our last album was primarily written by Dan, Shane, and Casey.

GH: I wasn’t on that album, I hadn’t joined the band yet.

JT: With this album, I wrote two songs on it, Shane wrote two songs on it, Dan wrote some…Greg came in at the middle of it when we were all ready producing these songs, so he’s not on this one, but will be for the next album.

DH: Just trying to evolve, basically, when you’re trying to write an album people hear it so you want to keep up the genre and the style that you play because you know that’s what your certain crowd is into but also want to do something different every time to keep people on their toes.

JT: There’s a certain groove you have to get into, and finding that can be tough. We couldn’t do it without each other.

Want to keep up with Future Primitives? Good news, they’re on the road, so keep an eye out on these dates and catch a show near you!

9/28-Saturn, Birmingham, AL w/ The Glorious Sons
10/3- Syndicate Lounge Birmingham, AL. w/ Nerves Baddington 10/30-Humphrey’s Huntsville, AL. w/ The Van Allen Belt
10/31-Upsidedown Plaza Birmingham, AL. w/ The Van Allen Belt, TBA
11/21-Head On The Door Montgomery, AL. w/ TBA


Future Primitives Facebook

Great American Breakdown Facebook

The Colossal Heads


I met The Colossal Heads for the first time only a matter of months ago, but almost every time I catch myself talking to any one of the three members of the NOLA based desert punk grunge band, I feel as if I have known them for years. Despite the somewhat controversial name TCH has made for themselves, there is no denying the talent and captivating energy that radiates from them in person and on stage. It was by some twist of luck that I found myself introduced to TCH’s lead vocalist and guitar player, Tony Italiano, soon to be followed by fellow members Danny Lester (bass) and Kyle Carroll (drums) all asking the same question, “Are shows here always like this?” I may not remember exactly what I said, but it has always been hard building a defense for Birmingham’s music scene while looking into the face of a dead venue. The Colossal Heads was unfortunately given a bad first impression that left “a bitter taste” in everyone’s mouth, but I offered every redeeming quality that I could, thinking “There’s got to be something better than this,” and I was fortunate enough to convince them that the Birmingham I know, love, and live in was worth that second chance. That the Birmingham I knew offered a “better” that everyone was striving for. For so long I wondered how I could find this “better” and share that with hard-working bands such as TCH, and meeting incredibly talented individuals like Aaron Greene, owner of Birmingham’s Syndicate Lounge, has helped to put me one step closer to that. What was a previous show with all but two guests at the less-than-popular venue, suddenly grew to be a show of about thirty-two. Not as big as I was reaching for, but definitely a step towards the right direction. That night at The Syndicate Lounge I witnessed one of the best crowd reactions there that I had seen in quite some time. Musically, their sound is an undeniable art that is treated as such and incomparable to any other band I’ve heard thus far, drawing inspiration from various artists such as Oasis, My Morning Jacket, and The Strokes among many others to create the unique sound that is The Colossal Heads’ very own. The two days TCH had revisiting Birmingham were two days I struggled with personally due to completely unrelated circumstances, but through that they continued to show their unwavering friendship and patience as I struggled to maintain the level of professionalism I like to hold. But, despite those events, The Colossal Heads, Olyvia Kirk, and the amazing team at The Syndicate Lounge managed to be the glue that held me together. It’s hard to see people for who they really are when often they’re hidden behind walls of intoxicants, aggressive music, and public personas, but behind all of that I’ve been given some of the best relationship advice I could ever ask for, simple acts affection when I though nobody wanted to touch me, and stories I will forever cherish. The Colossal Heads is not just a band, The Syndicate Lounge is not just some venue in some city, and I am not just some young unknown writer, even though we all too often feel like we are “just” those exact things. We are people with meaning…meaningful histories and meaningful aspirations living and traveling in places and cities that people have shed blood and tears for. I, sometimes all too often, write on how I have found home in the music industry, but I can’t seem to say it enough. I love what I do and the people I work with, and I’m looking forward to building stronger shows and relationships based from that love. Tony, Kyle, Danny…you all know how to contact me, and if you ever need me, I’ll be there just as you all have been and I’m counting down the days to when you’ll be back.


SMF Live: What direction do you feel music is headed, and where do you fit in? 

Danny Lester: I feel that music is headed in a disastrous direction, and we are a reason for it to be headed in the right direction.

Tony Italiano: I don’t think the direction is awful, we’re not paying attention to the right things. The focus of the industry, especially for rock music, is a little diverted in everything. Radio seems to be getting worse and worse, which is no shock to anyone, we just have to do our part to fix that [by] writing very honestly and with high energy.

DL: I hope that once people get to see who we really are, what we do, and what we represent that it will inspire a lot of artist’s and a lot of musicians to come out and follow in the footsteps of creating music like we do. It’s something that is meaningful and passionate.

TI: It kills the weaker ones along the way.

DL: Yeah, we just want to put it back on the map where creating deep, meaningful, music is more of a part of life. Like back in the 90’s music used to inspire people, and now people are just creating music just to make a buck by writing one simple line down and singing it over and over. There’s more to that then just creating for the hell of it, you know?

SMF: A quote from Tony in our last interview- 

TI: Should I apologize in advance?

SMF: It says “Here’s to our first and last show in Birmingham.” What brought you back? 

DL: You.

TI: You did, first of all, but it’s the same way I feel about any venue or any promoter that doesn’t do their job…it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And as a touring band that’s something you have to deal with all too often. When you show up to a place with no flyers, no radio promotion, and with the other bands we hope that they bring whatever fans that they have…and it’s just a combination of things. I’m glad we came back. We were at The Syndicate Lounge last night. Very, very, cool place.

SMF: What is the music scene like in New Orleans and what differences have you noticed from across the country?

Kyle Carroll: The New Orleans music scene is very scattered, there’s a lot of different genre’s around New Orleans, a lot of people trying to do different things. I mean, for the most part, it’s brass and that native New Orleans music that kind of gets the pickin’s around the city.

DL: Like anywhere else, EDM is very prominent.

KL: Yeah, there’s pretty much an EDM scene anywhere you go now. As far as traveling and going different places, going out west- it felt really nice going out west because there was a lot of really talented bands that we ended up playing with in the same genre as us, and that’s reassuring that there’s still people out there still trying to do something real and [trying to] get rock music out.

TI: It’s an age-old battle fighting against music that’s been kind of grandfathered into the city itself. And I’ve said this before, I don’t have any hatred or malice against brass music, jazz, funk, or any of that traditional stuff. But, being in a rock band in that situation, especially an original rock band, that can go one of two very different ways. [You] can stick out and get noticed because you are so different, or you can be completely unaccepted. I feel like one has slowly turned into the other because we have been doing very well in New Orleans this last year, its been killer, and getting people just to pay attention and to see what you’re all about seems to be an art itself on top of your music.


SMF: You’re getting ready to release you new album, right? 

DL: Hell yeah, Mammoths.

SMF: So what can we expect from it, and what are your plans for touring? 

DL: I think we decided on releasing it in January, and what you’re going to get with that album is a diversity of music, but at the same time it all fits in with each other. We’ve played multiple shows where the promoters or people that just put the shows together get asked “Where did you find these guys?” Every song sounds like something different with different influences in each song that we play on the album. As much of our live sound will be in this album, or as much as we could, because that’s when we’re most dominant, is when we perform. People that liked our EP and that enjoy seeing us live are not going to be disappointed at all because we’re making sure that everything is perfect before we release it.

KC: As far as touring after the release, we haven’t been up too far the East Coast or up North, yet, so that might be something that we have in mind to do. We might still go back out West, we really don’t know yet.

DL: We made a lot of really great friends out West that really appreciate what we do.

KC: When you hit city’s for the first time, you really don’t know what to expect. You don’t know who you’re going to meet, but everything was pretty successful as far as our West Coast tour went, and as far as meeting cool bands and people that just knew what was going on around the city. It’s going to be pretty legit once we plan to get back out there.

SMF: Have you considered adding on a fourth member to the band or do you want to stay a three piece? 

DL: When we first started trying to get a grip and direction on our sound, we were thinking about adding a fourth member, but every time we tried-

KC: The chemistry with people that we pull in never really works out. I mean, obviously by now we’ve got it pretty down. We’ve played together, been around each other enough…pissed off one another enough to where we know each other enough to work together.

TI: When you spend enough time in small confines together, you’re bound to see everyone’s real colors. I’ve always said that you never truly know someone until you live with them, same antithetic. But also, like I said, the rate at which we write good music seems to escalate the more we’re together and adding anyone else into that pot would kind of hinder us at this point. And, another thing is, it doesn’t seem necessary right now. I don’t know what we would truly gain by adding another person.

DL:  We have enough material to release two albums at this point, honestly, but when we get together and we jam and create, it’s just this chemistry. It’s just there, like he said, and if we did end up pulling anyone else in then it would hinder what we can do ourselves. I feel like we get done as much as we need to get done.

TI: I feel like we’d just know when we’d need to add somebody, we’re not just going out to go out and look for them, it would just happen.

SMF: Obviously, having a solid support system at home is important for any touring band, but I’ve found that it’s almost equally important for them to find that support, and to build connections, with people from other city’s. How has it been building those relationships, and what are some good and bad things that have come from them? 

TI: In some ways, it’s been easy, and in some ways it hasn’t been easy at all. A lot of it depends on where we’re going, first of all, in some towns it’s like we haven’t done enough research to even try and play [there]. It may just not be the right time, or there may just not be a scene there, really, or none there will have that interest in music. But that’s what touring is all about, it’s this giant trial and error. It’s been a real eye-opener. There are some city’s I thought would be a lot better than others, and you’ll get big surprises. That’s what I’ve gained from this tour, what to do and what not to do.

DL: New Mexico and Tucson may not be huge music city’s, but at the same time we’ve met people there that care and that care about the direction that music is going. We’ve met people that support us and have shown that they support us. It’s really inspiring to me when you go to those places and you meet those people that want the same things that you do.

SMF: I feel like you have to put a lot of trust into people. 

DL: Yeah, exactly.

KC: It kind of sucks that you have to do that though, because I feel like if you want to get something done, that you have to do it yourself. But, a lot of the time you have to rely on people to get stuff done for you.

DL: There’s a lot of factors that go into it, and trusting people in different city’s is a major part of that because you don’t know anything about that city, all you can go off of is what they say will help you in that city. Sometimes it bites you in the ass, sometimes it works out for you. Like Tony said, it’s all trial and error.

SMF: Where do you gather song inspiration, is there method to the madness, and have you struggled with getting what’s in your head on to paper? 

DL: We’ve hit brick walls many times when we’re writing.

KC: Some of the songs we have were written in five minutes. Musically, it came together with a whole structure. We record every practice that we have, so we’ll come up with something and be like “All right, cool!” They’re actually really good at remembering what they do in the middle of jams and stuff like that so we can just put it on the back burner. There might be something like a different part that ends up being all we needed to make another song.

DL: There’s been countless times where we’ve written songs and something else that we think will be a cool song that we put on the back burner and it fits perfectly into another song we’re trying to finish. It’s funny how things will come back full circle.

TI: When I’m writing lyrics there really is no set method for how it happens, they’re my sort of metaphorical observations of any sort of situation I’ve been in or something that’s happened to me personally. I’m a big fan of a metaphor because A, It opens up my writing to a lot of intricate word play and B, I mean, anybody can just say something, but I try to say it in a way that racks people’s brains a little bit.

DL: To say something that means something…that’s kind of the point of the whole process.

TI: And to still have it be entertaining.

SMF: Based off of the fact that you’re willing to sleep on someone’s floor for the sake of touring, what are you looking to gain from touring other than basic exposure? 

DL: Making connections.

KC: Just experience in general.

DL: There’s no getting around sleeping on floors unless you want to spend every dollar you make on a hotel room. Which, we’ve learned, is not the way to go.

KC: It sucks that your touring has to evolve around your budget so much, but it’s just kind of the way it goes.

DL: When you’re not on a label, and you’re doing it all yourself, it’s imperative to meet people that will let you stay with them. As uncomfortable as it may be, it’s still a roof over your head. We’ve had some delightful experiences, and we’ve had come not-so-delightful experiences.

TI: Again though, it gets better every time, you learn a little bit.

KC: You build better connections with people so you know that no matter what, or no matter when you show up, you’ll always have a place to crash. That’s just been an improvement since we first started out-of-town shows.

TI: If you truly believe in something, and you do it as best as you can, and you simply refuse to quit then eventually somebody, somewhere, is going to notice what you’re doing and extend a hand to you. Whether that be a record label, or a venue, or a crowd, or even someone just coming up to buy a t-shirt and poster. But that’s it, it’s a game, it’s like the industry is testing out how much shit you can take before you either just walk away-

DL: Walking away is just not an option. We’re all too passionate about what we do to let it inhibit our drive.

TI: I feel stupid doing something else besides this.








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I Prevail


It’s been difficult putting into words what it was like meeting the Michigan based band, I Prevail, but to make things simpler I’ll start from the beginning. Birmingham offers a blooming music scene containing great, and ever-growing, bands such as Meadows, a local “post-rock influenced melodic-hardcore” band, that announced the news of opening up for I Prevail at ZYDECO. I remembered I Prevail from a video of their cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” that, simply, blew me away. But once listening to their original work from their latest EP “Heart vs Mind” I realized I was listening to hit-you-in-the-face, undeniable, rock.

We met the band at Jim N’ Nicks, where we sat to talk with Lee Runestad (Drums) and Eric Vanlerberghe (Vocals) about their journey from playing barn shows in Michigan to their first headlining tour. They were continuously humble through our time with them before and after their incredible, energetic, performance. I Prevail offered encouragement to their opening acts by remaining in the crowd to interact with the fans and even start a circle pit for Meadows. I have endless respect to the members of that band for being so encouraging and kind to fans, band mates, and friends alike.

SMF: How did you guys choose your band name? 

Lee Runestad: We were tossing around some different ideas and then, I remember, the word “prevail” came out as a strong word. Steve said it best when he was saying the other day that Detroit, or Michigan in general, is at a tough place financially and we wanted something in our hometown and community to see and kind of latch onto. So, I Prevail stands for a message we wanted to portray.

Eric Vanlerberghe: Once you hear “I Prevail” it puts you in that positive mindset.

SMF: Speaking of Michigan, have people back at home been supportive? What is the music scene like there? 

EV: It’s kind of funny, most of us played in smaller bands for years prior to this, but while we were doing that we formed this band in secrecy. We went into hiding and recorded our entire album and launched it, really without any warning, because this is before we did social media or anything like that. It’s friends and family and the local scene that we have- the one’s in that scene and that saw us for years with that struggle, those are the ones that really supported it. The only ones that are hesitant are the ones that always say “Oh, they just got lucky,”  when they just don’t know a lot of the scene back home is a lot of pop punk bands influenced by Citizen, Story So Far, and a lot of those bands.

SMF: What has changed since signing with Fearless Records? How has it been like adjusting to major promotion and touring? 

LR: Well, there’s more hands now to help out. There’s a lot more people helping us put together more pieces of the puzzle. So we have more time to concentrate on what we’re doing with the music. We can tour without the headache of keeping the business side up, so that’s nice.

EV: It helped pave the road for us, but first of all, it’s just a dream come true just to be a touring band on top of being signed with one of the biggest labels for our genre. He said it [directed to Lee], it helps relieve some of the headache and we don’t have to worry about the finances as much. We do have to worry about our money going in and out, but we have advisers helping us with that. We don’t have to constantly juggle twenty things, now it’s just like eighteen.

LR: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it!

SMF: What/when was your first performance and how did that go? How did it feel to officially start putting your music out there? 

LR: Our first performance was in November, right?

EV: Of 2014, yeah.

SMF: Wow, so it hasn’t been very long then. 

EV: As this group, we just finished our EP, and right before we went to launch and go on social media, we played this really small show in a barn just to be able to see how an audience would feel about our stage presence. When we released the album we wanted to have it figured out to where we’d know the best way the crowd could receive us and work off of that. Then our first show was in Pittsburgh, March eighteenth.

LR: We had a little dry spell there for a while.

EV: It was our first show, and first headlining tour, so it’s been pretty awesome.

SMF: Obviously everyone grows up with music surrounding them, what type of music did you hear the most back then? How does it differ from what you listen to now? 

EV: For me, when I was young, I listened to Linkin Park.

LR: That’s how I started too, Linkin Park, and then I liked Blink 182.

EV: Me too!

LR: Then, once I was about fifteen, I got heavy into Slipknot. Then I went into Underoath, which is what I’m still into now, along with Bring Me to the Horizon and A Day to Remember. There’s just a whole bunch of shit other than that.

EV: For me, it was finally getting into System of A Down, A Day to Remember, Slipknot, and White Chapel. Until I started listening to more acoustic stuff so my iPod went from City and Colour to White Chapel.


SMF: Who are your idols and why? 

LR: Mike Fuentes of Pierce The Veil, that dude is a huge idol for me right now. Travis Barker, just because I’ve looked up to them for a long time. I want to drum like them even though I never will. But, I don’t know, to get away from drummers for a second I think Oli Sykes for the lyrics he comes up with.

EV: For me vocalist wise, I’d say Jeremy McKinnon from A Day to Remember, was a big influence. Michael Bohn, who is now of Issues, but back then he was with Woe, is Me. Chester Bennington, for me he’s number one, because he was the first one I heard yell into a song and I remember thinking “Wow, this is cool!” But lyrical inspirations are bands like La Dispute, Listener, and just a lot of spoken word. Basically a lot of poetry, and I love that.

SMF: Any hobbies outside of music? 

LR: We’re all into sports.

EV: Sports was going to be my go-to.

SMF: Watching or playing? 

EV: A little bit of both, I played baseball in college, from a kid [all of the way] to college it was baseball but I’ve always loved reading and writing. For all of us though, video games or sports, we brought a little t.v. on the bus with our XBox to hook that up. We’ve been playing NHL for a little while now.

LR: That’s probably as far as it goes though.

EV: We’re not that deep!

LR: No time for hobbies right now.

SMF: How would you describe your music to people and what does that mean to you? 

EV: Post-hardcore is the term we’ve kind of rolling with right now.

LR: I think a good way to describe us would be when we write we want people to be able to take something away. We write a lot of lyrics together but we always try to write in a way that people can relate to it. We don’t just go the easy route, but we also don’t want something that’s going to go right over someone’s head. We just try to write what comes from the heart.

EV: To go into depth on that, when you’re writing lyrics, you don’t want to blatantly tell someone what to do, or put how you feel blatantly, but we try our best. We’re no masters at this at all. If we write lyrics that are difficult to understand then we’ll try to throw a metaphor in there, but if it’s something a bit generic we try to make it as colorful and descriptive as possible. I think that’s what we have to try to make our music stand out a little bit. Thought behind the lyrics but basic enough for anyone to relate to.

SMF: Did you expect the Taylor Swift thing to blow up like it did? 

Both: No!

EV: Everyone in the band was expecting five, or maybe ten-thousand, views for the first month, but after the first day hitting ten-thousand every day after, that was us jumping in Brian’s apartment holding hands.

LR: I remember literally doing cartwheels around his apartment like “Holy shit, we just hit fifteen-thousand views!”

EV: So, we had no idea, and I don’t think Lee had any idea that he would have to change his number after giving it out at the end of the video.

LR: I gave my actual phone number out, and was getting hundreds of phone calls and text messages, daily. It cuts off at the end but people just guessed, which was cool talking to everyone and being like “Hey, where are you from?” It’s cool for, like, two months then I was like “All right, I’m changing my number.”

SMF: And Taylor never called?

LR: No, I never got anything out of that, except that I got to talk to a bunch of cool people.

EV: It’s cool. It’s all been a dream come true.

Sinema: The Road to Cleveland

Sinema, a four piece rock band, has continuously made their bold mark both on Alabama and SMF Live Birmingham with endless commitment to their work and passion. I last met with the full band alongside my friend and coworker, Olyvia Kirk, back in December but the new year has brought new opportunities leaving some members unavailable for the latest interview. But, none-the-less, in a solo effort I manage to meet with front man Ryan Sayn and drummer Andrew Bobulinski, to discuss upcoming events, specifically the upcoming Motionless In White show at ZYDECO April 23rd where you may possibly catch me over-enthusiastically selling Sinema merchandise while getting to see one amazing show at one of Birmingham’s favorite venues.


SMF Live: We’ve been trying to get this for a while now. But, finally, here we are! 

Ryan Sayn (Lead Vocals and Guitar): I’m late to everything.

SMF: Only like…a couple of months late, so anyway,  Motionless In White! 

RS: Yeah!

SMF: Holy crap this show! Go ahead and start on that because that’s super exciting! 

RS: Well, we saw that the show was coming up, reached out to the promoter, and they responded really quickly! We’ve been trying to get in more with promoters in the Birmingham area. We did the Reaction show and this is a Magic City Booking show.

Andrew Bobulinski (Drums): I think we’re finally going to get a chance to play in front of a lot of people that haven’t had a chance to see our show before, or people that haven’t even heard of us, so I’m looking forward to possibly gaining more fans and meeting new people.

SMF: Will this be the biggest show you guys have played so far? 

RS: I think so. They only sent us thirty tickets and those are almost gone.

SMF: The last time I talked to Sinema was in December, so what has been going on since then? 

RS: A lot of song creation. We’ve been working on a lot of new material. It’s much heavier than “High Times” but people can still listen to it and say “This is kind of a throw back.”

AB: Definitely.

RS: It’s really good stuff though.

SMF: So is that what you were working on before I got here or when will you be begin recording? 

RS: We’ll probably start recording the demos this weekend. For the full length we plan on doing it towards the end of May. We’re going up to Cleveland!

SMF: How did you get to that point? 

RS: Well, I haven’t really-

[Long pause]

Nathan and Cody will be okay with this decision to put this out there. I had actually talked to Chad Kowel, a member of Farewell My Love, and I said how I thought that they were doing great with the tour since signing with Stand By Records. We ended up where we were talking about Craig [Mabbitt], because Craig  was in the video, so he said “Escape The Fate is great and we’ve been trying to get in touch with these guys forever.” So I said, “Really? Because we’ve been trying to get in touch with Stand By forever.” But he goes “Oh, I submitted you guys to Stand By two weeks ago!” So then, they posted to Facebook status saying “Bands out there, we’re looking for new submissions.” We emailed them and they got back to us within an hour and said “Hey, we think we’ve sent you a message before, but if you want to come record then come record!” They’ve offered us lodging and everything while we’re there.

SMF: So how long will you be there for? 

RS: Two weeks.

AB: The last week of May and then the first week of June. We’re going to be working ten hour days, probably seven days a week, on this record.

SMF: This will be your first full length album, so what is it going to be called? 

RS: That’s a good question.

AB: We’re still figuring it out.

RS: Well, the song creating is still happening.


SMF: Who’s been writing most of the songs? 

RS: Lyrically, me, but Cody came in and wrote the last verse for “Best friends for Never” so I have no problem with people coming in and writing on the new songs that will be made.

SMF: I was talking to Cody the other day about him possibly coming in and singing more, is that a possibility? 

AB: Personally I think your voice with Cody’s has a really good contrast. I think that it would be something cool to employ in a few songs.

RS: It’s something I’m…open to.

AB: You’re still number one Ryan.

SMF: Or maybe if he was even just screaming to your singing? 

RS: It would have to be right. The song would just have to be right.

AB: We’ll see what happens, there’s no telling at this point.

RS: We’re evolving every day because, as we continue to grow as musicians, our music taste evolves every day. But I’ve always said that I’ll be singing while I still can sing, until my voice is gone, then I’ll start screaming.

[A loud bang comes from outside of the house]

RS: What the fuck was that, a gun or something?

SMF: I thought it was a car door.

AB: No, sometimes over at that football stadium they shoot off fireworks, I have no clue why they do that.

RS: Okay, for a moment there I thought our time had come with North Korea.

SMF: That’s it. This is how we die, all sitting here in Andrew’s house. 

AB: It would at least make for a more interesting interview!

SMF: When our time comes, the only thing that’s going to be left on this planet will be Keith Richards, Betty White, and cockroaches. 

RS: God I love Keith Richards.

With a bit of continuous conversation about Keith Richards, a new upcoming website for the band, and Ryan’s unexplained hate for Nirvana, we continue to make our way downstairs where I’ve luckily talked the guys into playing for me. Another successful Sinema interview is in the books.

“Stop being such a diva.”