VISTA – Interview

Tuesday 12th June 2018

An electronically-tinged alternative rock band, NY-based outfit VISTA originally formed in late 2015. Comprised of lead vocalist Hope Vista and guitarist Greg Almeida, the band combines both modern alternative rock and electronic influences to create their unique anthemic sound. VISTA released their debut 4-track EP “VERSUS” shortly after their original inception, in which their debut single “On The Brink” debuted worldwide on idobi radio. Their name hasn’t been shy in the press, since; the band has garnered praise from outlets such as Alternative Press, Rock Sound, Substream, and AXS. Success has continued to rise, after VISTA recently dropped details of their upcoming 25-date Bloodlust Tour, following their surprise single “Witch Hunt,” which has already racked up over 20,000 streams within the first 18 days of release.

Photo Credit: Holly Turner

You released your new single “Witch Hunt” a couple of weeks ago. How are you finding the response to the track so far?

Hope: Really awesome. We’ve never really been able to figure out the Spotify puzzle, but “Witch Hunt” became our most-streamed song in just 10 days, I think. People on all social media grounds have been insanely kind to us about this release.

Greg: Yeah, I’m super stoked about that and how we’re finally starting to pick up traction with it. People have been so nice.

What was the decision behind deciding to surprise release the single, and what was the fan reaction to it? I notice you were putting out teasers on the lead up to it…

Hope: I don’t think we’re going to surprise release anything again, but we just wanted to try a different marketing approach. We hadn’t dropped something without warning before, so we just mapped out a plan and chose to announce our upcoming tour and “Witch Hunt” back to back. I think people were a bit confused at first, but once they realized it was music, it built up. Definitely an interesting thing to see, and a one time thing.

Greg: Yeah, I’m happy we did it though. Everything is a learning experience. Some stuff about the “vague” marketing techniques were cool. In the end I think it all worked out though.

What’s the story behind the single?

Hope: We were angry during our last tour about how things in modern media were unraveling in terms of both politics and figures in the entertainment industry. Not pinned on one person in event in particular, it’s a track about internally questioning who you can trust amongst universal chaos.

Greg: Yeah, honestly it’s just about that feeling of hysteria we got. It really feels weird having no one to trust or look up to sometimes.

Hope: And we have felt that a lot collectively as a unit, as VISTA. When you’re putting your trust, time, passion, and money into your business and career, feeling a lack of trust in your surroundings is one of the most frightening things there is.

Will there be an accompanying video to follow?

Hope: Yes, we just shot a music video for it a few weeks ago, but we haven’t announced the release date for it yet.

Are you looking to release an EP or album in the near future?

Hope: Nothing planned for another EP as of yet. We’re focusing on promoting this single, promoting The Bloodlust Tour, and releasing that video. Once all that’s complete, then we’ll start some conversations about what our next moves are. We moved very fast last year and did a lot back to back. So right now I think we’re just taking it one thing at a time, watching our pace.

Greg: Yaaa. We’re always scheming though.

You’re heading out on The Bloodlust Tour in less than a month now, and you’ll be performing 25 dates. How are you feeling about getting back out on the road?

Hope: Stressed, to say the least. It’s a long tour, our longest yet, so we’re still piecing together certain things and are crossing things off our to-do list. Once everything’s crossed off, I’ll feel a lot better. But either way, I’m excited to play a lot of shows, I also just love having content to post on social media, and meeting new people. I’m excited to go to new states I’ve never been to.

Greg: It is stressful but we are just trying to power through one thing on the checklist on the time. I love being on the road though.

Are there any venues in particular that you’re looking forward to playing at?

Hope: I’m excited to go to Texas, I’ve never been there. We’re doing Nashville again, which is one of my favorite cities ever. Potentially my favorite overall just to be in, breathe in. I’m also really stoked to play in Raleigh. My favorite show is set in North Carolina, One Tree Hill. So I’ve always just wanted to be in North Carolina.

Greg: I am very excited to play in all the new cities. That shit is my favorite. Other than that we’re going to hit our favorites like Nashville and Long Island. Back to Orlando too!

What can we expect from the tour, and will you be performing any more new material?

Hope: We’ve actually been playing “Witch Hunt” live since March, but nobody knew what it was. So we’ll be playing that every night, most of the “Long Live” EP. We have one other new song that isn’t released yet that we’ve also been playing since March, you’ll hear that every show. As always, our lighting rig. Just a ton of energy, nice flow, my weird stage outfits. We also have our Long Live 1 year anniversary show in our hometown on 7/19, that’ll be our longest set yet, I think like 12 songs?

You must be so excited to be performing at the Vans Warped Tour this year. That’s got to be an experience for any band, and even more so knowing it’s going to be their final year. How did the opportunity come about?

Hope: We had this on our band bucket list since the start, so we’re just excited to get the experience. It was honestly just timing, we knew the right person and made the connection, and he gave us the opportunity. You can catch us walking around the entire day with picket signs (I’m actually stoked to do this).

Greg: Yes! It’s gonna be so cool dude. Reminds me of when I played Bamboozle back in the day. We’re gonna make that set count for sure.

What do you get up to outside of music to help make ends meet as a band? I notice you’ve been appealing for donations to help with your upcoming tour and travelling costs.

Hope: We actually haven’t appealed for any donations; that would mean we’ve begged or urgently requested. We have always been very transparent about our financial situation, being a two-piece band with no financial backing, so we have made posts saying that if anybody would like to buy some merch, all of the money from merch sales will go directly to tour costs. Since we only ship in the US, we’ve also included our PayPal in the posts and said that if anybody would like to help us out, here is our direct PayPal link. But we’ve never asked or begged people to donate to us for tour; we have just put our info out there if anyone wants to help, and we’ve always made that very clear. All costs are on us, as we’re choosing to do this. It’s very difficult though. I work three jobs, six days a week and Greg does overnight shifts in the city. I also pay all of my own bills and live on my own, as well as meeting my half of the band cost split. It’s difficult, we don’t hide that, and if anyone has ever been willing to help, we appreciate that more than anything. But we also understand that the costs are our responsibility, which may eventually lead to not being able to do certain things because we just simply can’t afford it. I think it’s important to be transparent and honest with our audience about this type of thing so they understand all facets of being an unsigned band. The biggest challenge is building this while also trying to live comfortably.

Greg: Hope explained this very well. I’ve been very blessed to have a job with a super flexible schedule that pays well, and I essentially just call them when I want to work. I also get to see some pretty cool stuff at work too every now then. Anyways, yeah you have to budget everything to a T in order to make this work. It’s tough.

Connect with VISTA via their Website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Austel – Interview

Tuesday 17th April 2018

Having spent the majority of her time dedicating herself to music, Annie Rew Shaw learnt to play piano from the age of 5 and is also classically trained.  She was part of a jazz band at school and also spent time as part of a musical theatre group. Instead of going to University, Annie decided to move to London to continue to pursue her musical career further.  She has since gone on to perform at Glastonbury Festival and support artists such as Fleet Foxes and Rumour Cubes, to name a few. Now, working under her alias as Austel, sees Annie release her debut single “Crows”, a beautiful expressive track, which relates to the anxiety felt within the unknown.

Could you tell me a little bit about yourself? How did you become a singer/songwriter, and what made you decided to make a career out of music?

I started learning the piano when I was five and was classically trained in both piano and singing. Music has always been a huge part of my life – my parents are both musicians and it was a huge part of my childhood. I was in my school jazz band and went to a musical theatre group for years, so grew up on quite a healthy mix of genres. I always wrote little songs and poems growing up, but started thinking about them more seriously when I was around 12. I had quite a tough time at school and songwriting was a real release – a way to gather my thoughts and find my own way. I loved acting and writing at school, but music always had that extra pull for me. It’s always felt like a very natural part of who I am, and in that way I guess it was an inevitable path. Instead of going to university, I decided to move to London and make a go of it, and I’ve been here ever since! It’s not always easy finding the balance between making music and making rent, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.

How would you describe your music, and where do you take your inspiration from when writing your songs?

For most of my life, I’ve written songs on the piano or guitar, so they’ve often had that singer-songwriter, folky feel. However, in more recent years I’ve started to experiment with more electronic soundscapes and writing from bass lines and beats. So I think Austel is a real mixture of that – classic songwriting with dark, electro-pop vibes. I take a lot of inspiration from human emotion and relationships – not just those with people, but with ourselves and the world. I’ve always been quite a sensitive, empathetic person; I soak up a lot of what goes on around me. I also get really inspired by books, TV shows, art – anything that evokes a story or strong sense of relatability.

You released your single “Crows” a couple of weeks ago. How are you finding the response to your music so far?

It’s been amazing to release my own music after years of working on the sound and trying to find the right home for my songs. There’s been a great response to the single so far – some really lovely reviews in the press, which is nice to see. It feels great to get the ball rolling.

What’s the story behind the song?

I wrote ‘Crows’ with Adam Stark (my producer and bandmate) at the end of 2016, which was a year where I’d had to make some big personal decisions and change a lot of things in my life. The song felt like a new beginning; not for the project but also a mindset – that I could let go of the things that were holding me back.

There are only 5 lines to the song, which are repeated throughout. Was that intentional?

It’s designed to be a kind of mantra; ‘I don’t have to go where you go / I don’t have to speak when you don’t’ was a reminder to myself to seek inner strength and follow my own gut, rather than constantly seeking the validation of others.

The accompanying video is simple and effective, and works really well with the song. Who did you work with to create the video, and how did it feel seeing it finished?

Thank you! It was directed by my friend Dominique Croshaw, who’s a brilliant visual artist in her own right. We made it together in Kingston last year and it felt great to release it alongside the single. The video’s designed to represent the notion that sometimes you have to fall apart to put yourself back together again in the right way. It’s a continuous journey and about finding peace with the different parts of yourself.

Are you looking to release an EP or album in the near future?

Yep, there’s an EP on the way this summer! It’s called Unfold – I can’t wait to share it with you.

You have quite a background supporting other artists. Could you tell me more about your experiences and who you’ve enjoyed working with?

I moved to London a few days after my 19th birthday, only knowing two people in the city. That year, I played Glastonbury Festival as part of a project formed by Sam Duckworth (Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly), and it was through that that I met an amazing group of musicians (including Adam and Terry who both perform in Austel) and my other collaborations have all stemmed from there. I’ve had some amazing experiences – supporting Fleet Foxes last year with Lyla Foy, touring the UK with Rumour Cubes and Munro Fox, performing gigs of all shapes and sizes across the city. I love all of the projects I’ve been part of. They’ve helped me grow so much as a musician and a human being, and introduced me to some of my best friends.

What do you get up to when you’re not writing or performing, are there any particular hobbies that you enjoy?

I love writing and drawing – they’re both also pretty important creative outlets for me. Long walks listening to records. Reading. Art exhibitions, museums, gigs, theatre shows. Brunch. Can brunch be a hobby?

What’s your ultimate aim and where do you hope your music will take you?

I think my ultimate aim is to create music that makes people feel less alone. To create some sort of relatability – a connection. That’s what I personally love about it; how songs can lift you up out of the darkest places, wrap themselves around you or help you tap into feelings you can’t make sense of. In terms of where I hope music will take me, I would love to be able to travel and see more of the world. Meet more people, create amazing memories. Making music with people I love is the best thing for me and I’m very grateful to be able to do so.

Connect with Austel via her Website, Facebook and Twitter.

The Rah’s – Interview

Monday 11th September 2017

It’s fair to say that some of my most favourite discoveries over the years have come out of Scotland, so I was looking forward to checking out The Rah’s as they’ve spent a lot of time developing their sound.  Forming back in 2011, the band already have 2 EP’s under their belt, and with the recent addition of Chris on keys and backing vocals, and a fresh approach to their music; they’re back with their latest single “The Time Is Now.”  Labelled as ‘ranting rock’ we’re presented with a fresh approach to a single written a number of years ago. It certainly packs a punch and with a sold out hometown show, it’s already building up a lot of momentum.

For those just discovering you please could you tell me a bit more about yourselves?  Have you been in bands previously and what has drawn you to form The Rah’s?

We are 4 lads from a small seaside town called Prestonpans which is located on the outskirts of Edinburgh. We have a great passion for music, especially when playing it live. We have all been close friends from a very young age and decided to form a cover band (Feedback) to test our music skills and creativity. A decision was made to change our name to The Rah’s in 2011 as we began to write our own material and take things a little more serious.

Where did the name “The Rah’s” come from?

The name The Rah’s was a drunken idea that looked good on paper and sounded good… so we went with it! A ‘Rah’ is the complete opposite of us by the way, I know it’s stupid but we decided to research it after we had changed our name. Oops.

You’ve had a great run so far since forming in 2011, but have recently gone through some changes along the way.  How would you say you’ve developed as a band?

You could say we have matured both mentally and musically, some may disagree with the mentally part though. We’ve changed our sound a lot over the years but we all feel the music we are producing at this stage is by far our best.

How are you finding the response to your music so far?

The response is overwhelming really. Never thought us 4 young lads from Prestonpans would be travelling up and down the country playing our own music to thousands of music lovers.

What’s the story behind your latest single “The Time Is Now” and what inspired you to write the song?

It was wrote back in 2012/13 and we later dropped it from the set. We decided to give it a revisit last year as we missed playing it. It needed a bit more grit and drive to bring it up to standard so that’s what we gave it. We sent the demo to James Darkin in Dublin and his instant reply was “that’s the one”.

Could you tell me about your writing and recording process? How do you work to put a track together with each other’s skills?

Writing we do in many different ways, majority of the time it starts with a guitar riff or chord pattern and we basically make it up from there. Recently we have started writing the structure of the songs down on massive sheets of paper which we had never done before but I guess our brain cells are slowing melting away so there’s no other way! If anyone has any ideas we chuck them in, test them out and if they don’t work someone else has a shot.

Your music has been released through your own independent record label called “EH32 RECORDS.” What was the decision behind setting up a record label and how did it come about?

It was partly our managers decision. It looks a lot more professional I guess and hopefully attract bigger labels to swoop in.

Can we expect an EP or album release in the near future?

We are going to stick with singles for now, maybe an EP soon. Don’t want to rush ourselves into an album at this stage as there’s always room for improvement.

How far have you taken your music? You’ve picked up a good fan following in Scotland, but how are you finding the crowds further afield?

Furthest we’ve been from home is Ireland but hopefully that will change in the near future. The reaction to our live music from them the folks across the border has been superb, Ireland especially loved us… possibly due to the amount of drink we consumed with them. Our manager is based in Ireland so that helps a lot and now we are working with James Darkin who is based in Dublin, we have a right Irish connection you could say.

If you could pick a song by any artist past or present that you could say you wish you had written, what would it be and why?

Think I’ve been asked this one before and I said Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody… cos why not?

Connect with The Rah’s via their Website, Facebook and Twitter.