The London based alternative rock duo, Plastic Barricades, have released their newest single, “Tunnel,” and it’s accompanying music video off their upcoming full length album, Self-Theories, due out later this year. Self-Theories is the follow up to their 2017 album, Mechanics of Life. The DIY music video for “Tunnel” was created by art director Elina Pasok and guitarist Dan Kert. It was made by using a digital microscope that had upwards of a thousand times magnification and the video features absolutely no computer graphics whatsoever. The duo wrote and recorded “Tunnel” in a studio located in a backyard in North-West London, and the track was mixed by vocalist and drummer Paul Love. Finally, the single was mastered by Andy Baldwin (Pet Shop Boys, The Who) at Metropolis Studios.
Musically, “Tunnel” is a pretty simple and straight forward tune. The track covers the topic of how life can feel like it’s a winding road that breaks off into many different tunnels and how uneasy, dark, and claustrophobic it can feel at certain times. However this path does not last forever; you will make it out eventually. The band is always experimenting with new styles, sounds, and approaches to their music. The band are inspired and influenced by a large range of bands such as Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Oasis, Coldplay, Muse, Death Cab for Cutie, Placebo, Snow Patrol, The Shins, Nirvana, to name a few, which are all evident in their own little ways within all of Plastic Barricade’s music past and present.
The Brazilian alternative rock trio, SOFIA, have released their much anticipated debut EP, Stories for the Sleepless. The trio who are now based out of Los Angeles, California have been releasing the EP’s five singles online the last few months beginning with the first on February 19, 2020 with the track, “Coconut.”
SOFIA is comprised of vocalist/bassist Leo Bomeny, guitarist Alex Novaes, and drummer Bruno Lamas. The band’s songwriting is inspired by many different subjects including, bedtime stories, fairy tales, science fiction, and fantasies. Musically, the band is influenced by a very diverse pool of bands such as Tame Impala, Muse, Mutemath, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Twenty One Pilots, and even the music off the original soundtrack for the motion picture, The Lord of the Rings. SOFIA strides with the hope their lyricism and the characters they write about are mixed together to give their listeners a sense of belonging and acceptance.
Stories for the Sleepless opens up with the band’s first single, “Coconut,” a song about finding acceptance and happiness in the little things, the joy in the madness, and the chaos of two complex, emotional, but different people. “I’m out of my mind / I’m so confused / But if my devil inside loves the angel in you / I’m happy.”
The track, “Sad,” tells the story of somebody who is frustrated they see their significant other’s self-destructive behaviors, but can’t do anything about it. Whereas the tune, “idontwannafuckthisup,” dives into the mind of someone who falls in love easily and tends to get carried away by their emotions. “Put your walls down / Shut the lights out / I don’t wanna fuck this up / Sorry if its all too much to take now / Take your time dear / I’ll be right here.”
Stories for the Sleepless’ last hurrah is the band’s latest single, “Stranger.” This particular track touches on the subject of your significant other becoming a stranger to you. This song’s story follows a person who is emotionally and psychologically trapped in a relationship that is seen as one sided. This person you were once familiar with, they’ve now became a stranger to you. “I’m scared to stay here alone / See the shape I’m in / Not like it’s a sin.”
Justin Furstenfeld is grateful to be alive and sober. It was quite a journey for the Blue October frontman to get to this point, and now Blue October have released their documentary, Get Back Up, showcasing Justin’s struggles with mental illness and drug addiction and his road to sobriety. The band is also gearing up to release their 10th studio album, This Is What I Live For, on September 18th. Justin and I spoke about both of these topics, as well as the past, present, and future of Blue October, and the creation of Justin’s new record label.
Get Back Up started from a simple place: Justin needed a way to stay sober after leaving rehab. “I said, you know what? I won’t get high if there’s camera crews around, so let’s make a documentary about what it takes to stay sober in the music business. And then it turned into something so much bigger than that, it was fucking outrageous.” The filming took place over seven years, and transformed Justin’s entire life throughout the process. “I stayed sober and life got better in a lot of ways. I started looking better, feeling better, my attitude wasn’t a little bitch anymore, it made me grateful, patient, held me accountable, and made me really love my life and not take anything for granted.”
Justin removed himself entirely from the creative process of the documentary. He didn’t want anything to do with it, and didn’t see a frame of it until a month before it premiered. He wasn’t allowed to give notes, and surrendered complete creative control to director Norry Niven. “It was scary, but afterwards, I was so glad that I did it because it was done so well. I couldn’t be more proud of it, the band, and everyone involved in it, because it’s a crazy amount of support they showed me and what the documentary overcomes.” So far, the reaction to Get Back Up has been extremely positive, and Justin is ecstatic that people are responding to the subject matter. Not only just for supporting Blue October, but for themselves as well. “It’s really doing what we wanted it to do, which is to show people that there is a solution outside of this disease of addiction and mental illness, it’s very, very, very important for people to hear these things. I’m just happy I’m able to share that through my experience, strength, and recovery.”
One thing that has made the personal struggles easier for Justin has been having his brother Jeremy in the band with him. “It’s such an important thing to be able to be around family, and he’s great…we run this whole thing together.” Justin and Jeremy are both comfortable in their roles in the band and know which of them is suited for a situation. “I’m the nice guy, I’m the guy who if you tell me, ‘I can’t pay you’, I’m like, ‘oh, that’s okay’, and my brother is the guy who is like, ‘fuck you, pay me,’ Justin says with a laugh. “He’s a very nice guy, just don’t mess with him. He’s very much like my wife that way, she’s the smart one, she’s the pit bull.” It’s undeniable that having the two of them by his side has allowed Justin the support he needs to stay sober. Family is very important to Justin, which is reflected in Get Back Up. “We see babies being born, getting held for the first time, we get to see these stories being told from a certain point of view,” Justin gushes.
All of this helped inspire the songwriting behind the new Blue October album, This Is What I Live For. Justin describes it as a sadder and darker album than their last few, but that it also rocks harder than anything in their previous catalogue. “It’s my sad rock album. I love it. It was incredibly hard because it was so sad and so romantic.” Justin played coy about the album’s subject matter, however. “I’ll sound like a fool,” he demurred. “It’s just about the things that go on inside your head, and trying to figure it all out. When you hear it, you’ll be like, ‘okay, I get why he didn’t tell me what it’s about.’ It’s just a really beautiful, romantic, rock album. If you like the ‘Hate Me’ stuff and the ‘Into The Ocean’ stuff, you’ll really like it. There’s just so much sadness, I love it.” Justin stops to consider that. “I’m such a happy guy, but I fucking love sad music. It’s kinda like how I like watching murder mysteries, because it makes me feel so alive seeing people die.” He muses with a laugh. Sadness is not in short supply on This Is What I Live For. Justin points out that two of his favorites- “Only Lost Is Found” and “Who Do You Run From”- are particularly sad. Another one of his favourites is, “Moving On,” a track that is on schedule to be the next single off the album.
We also talked about how Justin runs his new label with partners Paul Nugent and Mike Swinford. “Mike is the godfather, he’s the numbers guy. Paul is the guerrilla warfare guy; he’ll go out and get things done. I’m just the creative guy. It’s amazing. I get to run my own radio scene, my own agency, my own marketing team. I get to work my ass off and make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted.” He says enthusiastically. He compares it favourably to being on a major label, which allows him to budget everyone and make sure they stay within the budget, instead of hoping that people give you what you need to get yourself heard. “You gotta understand, major labels want to make money, and that’s good, because that’s what I wanna do too. I wanna make the money and profit off it, boom. That’s what I want. Anybody tells you differently, that they’re bloodsuckers or something, well then shut up. You’re either in it, or you’re not…I just want to make sure that we treat everyone with the utmost respect and I try to get everything done with my Texas charm and my gentleman quality, instead of having to gouge people.” Justin acknowledges the hard work his partners have put in, and calls them, “two of the smartest people in the industry.” Combined with his work ethic and songwriting, the three are aiming to bring their label to new heights.
Looking back over the course of Blue October’s career, Justin feels fulfilled that he has been able to share so much music and help people through their difficult moments. “The fans keep coming, and it keeps getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and it’s amazing. And the catalogue, it just keeps growing. Sometimes I look at it, and I’m like, it’s so special and so beautiful, where the hell did it come from?” He asks cheerfully. “There are people relying on me and there’s too much beauty in this freaking world to not create good art, and to put it out. Art is always timeless, maybe we aren’t able to tour right now, but you know what? We need to be there for the music community right now because they’ve always been there for us,” says Justin, regarding the state of the music industry being affected by COVID-19.
Justin never stops creating; while Blue October is gearing up for the new album and celebrating the release of Get Back Up, Justin continues to explore his art. “I never stop writing music…I’m also working on my second book. I just can’t stop doing stuff. My manager says, ‘that I’m no longer Justin the musician, I’m Justin the creator,’ and I love it! I do it because we only have one life to live, and only one shot to be the greatest we can be!”
You can check out a sample of what This Is What I Live For has to offer by streaming the album’s first two singles, “Oh My My” and the title track, “This Is What I Live For” now. Blue October’s 10th album will be out September 18th, and you can purchase Get Back Up now as well. Make sure you follow Justin Furstenfeld and the rest of Blue October as they continue to release powerful music.
The Midnight Echo are an alternative rock band hailing out of from Whitby, Ontario, and have returned with, Dichotomy, their follow up EP to their 2017 debut album, Voyager. The Midnight Echo’s influences range through a variety of different bands in the likes of 30 Seconds To Mars, Angels and Airwaves, Blink-182, The 1975, and early Fall Out Boy. However, The Midnight Echo have created their own niche in the alternative rock sound by blending these influences as one collective whole. On top of The Midnight Echo’s spin on the alternative rock sound, the band is full of passion, intensity, angst, and emotion, that is vastly on display on Dichotomy.
On the five tracks of Dichotomy, the group examines the concept of going through difficult life experiences with a sprinkle of optimism within. The title of the EP reflects life in general, and the importance of experiencing both sides of the spectrum, as the highs associated with the good would not feel the same without the bad.
The album opens with the highly infectious single, “Paris in 39” and dissects the dynamics of the different types of human relationships, and the balance that’s struck in between putting too little or too much into a relationship. In some form, everyone has experienced, or will experience a relationship at an impasse, and the band wanted to shine the importance and difficulty in solving that impasse can sometimes be.
“Carbon Copy” is the EP’s standard break up song, that touches on the feelings and emotions everyone goes through during those experiences that do occur at some point in one’s life. Track three, “Victim’s Mentality” is exactly what you may think it’s about. The band tackles the subject of an individual playing the victim card during a situation, and how damaging this type of mentality on display can be to any individual.
“How To Escape Reality” is a song that dives into the idea of art, and the expression of art. The band wanted to discuss how important the artistry in the world can be. Rather it’s from books, movies, video games, or most importantly, music. Everyday you may use any of these art forms as a way to escape reality, no matter how long the escape is, these type of outlets by consuming or creating are in most times beneficial to an individual. The fifth and final track, “Fever Dreams,” the band draws their experience and journey as musicians in an indie band, and work it into a piece of music. Specifically, The Midnight Echo wanted to highlight their constant struggle they’ve had to face a long the way and their continued drive to push forward through all the thick and thin. This is certainly not the end for The Midnight Echo.