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Interview: The Dean’s List

2011 was a whirlwind of a year for hip-hop trio The Dean’s List, who found themselves overwhelmed by all the hype surrounding the release of The Drive In and instant-hits “Dear Professor” and “La Vie”. The trio, who are currently gearing up for their first official album Generation X with aveNUE Music, have been promoting their music heavily ever since, attempting to branch out from the college crowd that was first drawn to their music and spreading a message of youth and rebellion to their listeners. We chopped it up with MC Sonny Shotz and producers DJ Mendoza and Mik Beats, who talked about changes in the music scene since The Dean’s List first came together in 2010, their preparations for April’s Generation X (which will contain no samples and will have a music video accompanying each song), and even their upcoming clothing line.

You guys have come a long way since releasing 2010’s Undeclared. What’s been the biggest change for you guys in terms of your music career?

Definitely the release of The Drive In. That was our breaking point and took us to a new level. The buzz we got off of that, an average artist would get from two to three well-marketed mixtapes.

When we released The Drive In and followed it up with the Pledge To Rage tour we got a sense of the appreciation for the project and really connected with our audience. It’s been a lot more personal ever since.

How did you balance school and music when The Dean’s List really started picking up?

It was definitely late nights and a lot of work. Some of us were still working one or two full time jobs as well. We really had to prioritize things and there were late nights with homework and what not, but it came to the point where we started to make a living off The Dean’s List and that became a priority.

We didn’t feel that the courses we were taking were really teaching us the modern music industry and were learning more on our own so we figured we should go more in that direction.

How hard do you think it is to stand out as an artist nowadays, when anyone can pick up a mic or a computer and start making their own music?

It is definitely really tough. People try hard to emulate an artist they look up and that often leads to copying them. A lot of people lack original material and just become a mimic of their favorite artist. We think you have to listen to a lot of different music and make YOUR music. It’s important to stay true to what you want to do and not be phony or fake.

What are you guys listening to right now?

Right now we are definitely listening to a lot of Florence & The Machine, Kanye & Jay-Z, John Mayer, Jimi Hendrix, classical music, Bob Dylan, The Beatles… and we listen to this type of music because there is more that goes into it and that is what we are looking to develop with our sounds. It’s more evolved than a rapper rapping over a beat.

What’s your favorite Dean’s List song so far?

Mik: I would have to say “La Vie.” I worked really hard on the mix for that, a lot of these techno tracks we can do a lot of production but it’s the mix that really brings it together.

Sonny: My favorite song to date is “The Dream” because it’s the most honest, and a very self-motivating song to me.

Mendoza: I would say “Burn It All” or “Dear Professor,” they have great stories behind them and were big songs for us. They are always great to perform and people recognize the song as soon as it drops.

If your new album Generation X were a person, who would it be?

It would be a hybrid between Will Smith, Steve Jobs and JFK.

Why did you choose to name the album Generation X?

The album Generation X really stemmed from the fact that we had the generation before us and we are a product of them and those that came before them. The melting pot that leads to us.

You guys just recently released “Youth”. How did you guys decide on using that song as the lead single?

It really fits what we are trying to accomplish. A big thing we discuss and stand for is the youth of our generation. Not giving a fuck is a theme of Generation X and this song represents a few sides of that mentality.

Will there be any samples on the new record? “Dear Professor” found a lot of love when it was released.

There will be songs in there that sound like there might be samples but they are actually not. We manipulated things to make them more us. There will be no samples on the album!

I’ve heard that a Dean’s List clothing line is now in the works. Can you provide any details about that and what we can expect to see?

We’re working with a lot of different artists. One of the main ones we’re working with is called Bandulu as well as Mendoza’s grandfather, who is an artist in a New Mexico. We are going to put a stylish twist on our merchandise and not make it just a “band store,” but something that stands alone and makes a statement. The clothes will be something our fans can feel a part of and represents them.

What are your next plans for your music?

There will be a lot of music videos off of Generation X. It’s all about Gen X now! We plan to do a video for every song.

Thanks for taking the time to talk. Any last words?

Thank you for the interview and we appreciate all the support. Follow us on Twitter @followdeanslist and Facebook/itsthedeanslist and Generation X is out on April 3rd!

Interview: Sink Tapes

We recently got a chance to speak to Gabe Chilarello, lead vocals of Sink Tapes, an indie band based out of the Asbury area of New Jersey. We were able to learn a lot about the background of the band, their first album, Same Strange Dream, their upcoming sophomore album, what they’re all about, and what they’re about to bring to the plate.

LitS: So, Sink Tapes, many people are curious as to what the origin of your band name is. Could you tell us?

Sink Tapes: It’s probably better left unsaid. It’s kind of one of those things that no one will understand. It’s a name we decided to go with because we had already been called a few other things and we were forced to figure out what to call ourselves, and something just happened where we decided the name Sink Tapes. There’s no meaning to it, but we had people telling us we should be “sync” tapes, but we like NOT making sense so it makes it fun, just like how our songs are. Just fun.

LitS: When did Sink Tapes first form as a band?

Sink Tapes: We probably started playing about two summers ago as Sink Tapes with our original songs. We first met through friends; none of us go to the same schools and we just started seeing each other at shows in the Asbury area so we decided to jam together on covers and what not. Eventually, we played a backyard show with a few bands and since then we just kept playing. I don’t think we meant it to happen, but it slowly got serious yet fun, and now we’re working on our second album.

LitS: Are your current members the original members?

Sink Tapes: Yes, it’s just Alex, Ricky, Tom and I, just like it has always been. Alex goes to school in Maryland, which sucks, but whenever he comes home we make it a point to play shows as a four-piece.

LitS: So, when he’s not around, you still perform with just the three of you guys?

Sink Tapes: We don’t prefer to play with just the three of us because with Alex, we have a more complete sound, of course. But over a few months, we relearned how to play our songs as a three piece so we could continue to play while he was in Maryland so we don’t slow down and we’re able to keep process. When he goes to school in the fall, we definitely want to travel there and play a bunch of shows with him in his area. (more…)

Review: ‘Sucker Punch’ Soundtrack

Sucker Punch Soundtrack

Released: March 22nd, 2011
Label: WaterTower Music
Purchase: iTunes | Amazon

The Sucker Punch soundtrack was released about a month ago and has generated a large amount of buzz — and has brought itself to last week’s #1 spot on Billboard’s Soundtracks chart. It doesn’t surprise me that it climbed its way there in such a short amount of time; it is genius in the fact that the soundtrack is comprised of uniquely revamped classic covers. It is true that any artist can cover a song and put some of their own flavor into it, but the cover soundtrack made for Sucker Punch is filled with amazing new renditions of songs like, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This),” by Eurythmics and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” by The Beatles.

The soundtrack opens with film-star Emily Browning and her lullaby version of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”. Right away, I was immediately impressed with her vocal talent. How many times do you find that you have the main character of a film featured in various songs on the film’s soundtrack that can actually sing them well?

Then comes, “Army of Me (Sucker Punch Remix),” with Björk featuring Skunk Anansie, remade from her 1995 hit single off the album Post that seems to be mellow throughout but ends in shrills, heavy guitar and drums.

“White Rabbit,” covered by Emiliana Torrini, seems to describe being in a surreal universe similar to the plot of Alice In Wonderland; it’s no coincidence that critics describe Sucker Punch as similar to “Alice In Wonderland, but with machine guns.”

The fourth track is one of my favorites — a high-intensity mash-up of “I Want It All”/”We Will Rock You”, featuring the rock music staple Queen with Armageddon Aka Geddy. It is a great balance of hip-hop and rock that anyone could enjoy dancing to.

“Search and Destroy” brings back Skunk Anansie in this solo track with sweet guitar riffs and more of a late ‘80s, early ‘90s punk rock feel.

One of the more noted tracks comes next — a cover of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” by Alison Mosshard and Carla Azar, that sort of reminds me of “Army of Me”. This is because both tracks clock in at almost seven minutes long and have a more melodic, relaxing feel, but the tracks contrast because of the ending. Five minutes into “Tomorrow Never Knows”, the piano chimes in and then the break-down begins with heavy synths and drums.

Next, my personal favorite track of the album sweeps through. “Where Is My Mind?” by Yoav featuring Emily Browning begins the first verse and chorus with Yoav’s soft voice and then chimes with Browning for the second verse. For the second chorus, they harmonize together to produce a beautiful version of Eurythmics’ hit, and just when you think the track is over, everything speeds up to surprise the listener again; one thing this soundtrack does well.

Track eight, “Asleep,” is again performed by Browning; “Asleep” is another ‘lullaby,’ similar in style to her rendition of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”. Ballads are her strength because of her calming voice and she nails this track for sure.

The soundtrack closes with “Love Is the Drug” by Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaac, originally by Roxy Music, bringing a sexy vibe to Sucker Punch. Isaac throws soul into the track like it’s no task and Gugino reinforces that this is no ordinary cover.


Standout Tracks: “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Emily Browning, “I Want It All”/”We Will Rock You” Mash-Up by Queen with Armageddon Aka Geddy and “Where Is My Mind?” by Yoav featuring Emily Browning

Who Saw This Coming?

The whole cast of TV musical, Glee, has passed The Beatles in the number of appearances by a non-solo act on the Billboard. And now I feel bad for watching Glee…

Mark Chapman Reveals Motive

Mark Chapman, the man who murdered The Beatles‘ John Lennon, has explained why he shot Lennon in 1980.

“I felt that by killing John Lennon I would become somebody and instead of that I became a murderer, and murderers are not somebodies,” Chapman told the parole board of Attica Correctional Facility in New York.

[Via NME]