Thursday, March 27, 2008

Exclusive: Interview with The Veronicas

(Christopher Alvaro, Myself, Lisa & Jessica - a.k.a. The Veronicas)

Gearing up for the first show to promote the U.S. release of their critically acclaimed sophomore album, “Hook Me Up,” at the Hiro Ballroom in New York City, twin sisters Lisa and Jessica Origliasso are full of energy and in high spirits. Even at the age of 23, the girls play around and tease each other, behaving like any two girls attached at the hip would be expected to. When they hit the stage as Australian pop sensation The Veronicas, however, they are no longer average, but forces to be reckoned with on the verge of exploding into international icons. Taking a break from the road of redefining the American music scene, the girls took the time out to give me the lowdown on both themselves and their new record.

AN: So first of all, your names are Lisa and Jessica. Why do you go by the name The Veronicas?
LO: I guess when we were thinking of a band name we kind of wanted something that wasn’t too obvious. We didn’t want to just be Lisa and Jessica, and because we’re twins we didn’t want anything twin like. The name The Veronicas came from the Archie comics, because Veronica had dark hair and we kind of related to her – she was always sharp and her rival was Betty who was blonde, so we kind of thought she had it going on (laughs).

AN: For your sophomore album, “Hook Me Up,” you changed your sound to electro rock, incorporating elements of techno and 80’s influences as well as the pop punk sound of your first album. What made you decide to revamp your style to create this dance record rather than staying with the initial style that put you on the map?
LO: I guess for us creatively it was a natural progression. It’s been two years since the last record, so we just kind of naturally evolved. The music we were listening to over the years was slowly changing and we were living in different parts of the world. We spent a lot of time in LA and got into a little bit of the electro pop kind of rock band, so that definitely influenced us when it came time to write the record. So yeah, it’s just kind of a natural progression, growing up and getting into different music.

AN: What was the main goal you sought out to achieve when you recorded this album?
JO: I mean I guess the goal was to make a record we were really proud of and happy with, you know, we wanted to be 100% happy with every song. You’ve got a lot of artists who maybe don’t like a couple of songs from their records and then they just kind of got lazy or got rushed and have a couple bad songs on there, whereas we definitely wanted every song to tell a story and be a great song in itself. All goals like those, Alex, all goals like those (laughs).

AN: One thing that makes your album so unique is how versatile it is. There are songs that are fun and sarcastic like “Popular,” along with songs of sadness, betrayal, and regret such as “Revenge Is Sweeter Than You Ever Were,” as well as songs that are just purely dance numbers. How did you structure the record and what is your personal favorite track on it?
JO: Oh gosh, my favorite song? It’s kind of hard to say. I really love all the uptempo ones like “Take Me On The Floor,” I love performing “Popular,” I love doing “Hook Me Up,” and I love, love, love “Untouched.” I also love “In Another Life” because it’s a very personal song about a situation that happened to me, so when I was writing and recording it, it kind of took me back to that place every time I listened to it, so I really love it. I guess we just wrote a lot of songs and kind of picked the album to tell a story and not have anything be the same, we really wanted a good mix. I’m really glad you think it’s so versatile, that’s really cool, that makes me really happy because that’s definitely what we were trying to achieve – just to have a story with the songs, and different emotions, so yeah.

AN: Now that the record has achieved multi-platinum success in Australia and is being released in the United States in May, are you ready to conquer the American airwaves?
LO: Yeah man, we’re ready to rock. We have had a lot of success in Australia with this record so obviously that gives us a lot of confidence and yeah, we’ve just been having a lot of fun rocking out. We’re just jumping on tours over here, and so we’re very excited about releasing music over here and embracing the American music scene.

AN: You’ve toured America a couple of times before, alongside artists such as Ashlee Simpson, Ryan Cabrera, The Jonas Brothers, The Click Five, and Ashley Parker Angel. This month you are playing two small shows in support of the release of “Hook Me Up,” one in New York and one in Los Angeles. Are you planning on doing a full tour in the States after the record is released?
JO: We are actually. We’re jumping on the Verizon Tour with Natasha Bedingfield and Kate Voegele in mid-May. I’m so, so, so excited because it’ll be venues like the House of Blues, those size venues. It’s just going to be a really fun tour. We can’t wait to get back on the road and reconnect with our American fans and just get out there and meet everyone again. You know, America’s one of those places where you kind of have to be out and doing it a lot and since we’ve been gone for a year, we just can’t wait to get back out there again.

AN: What have you found to be the main difference between playing large arenas in Australia and smaller venues in America?
JO: I mean we play the really big venues in Australia, all the arenas, and it’s that kind of thing where you can’t actually touch the fans because there are massive barricades up and it’s got to be a huge live show for all the people in the back, we have big screens up and stuff. It’s really cool to be back doing American tours again right now, to have the audience totally up close and intimate. It’s just such a cool, different interaction because it’s more about the music then the live show with the big screens. I mean one way or another it’s going to be great when we finally get to do the big shows here as well, but it’s nice to be able to go back to that and reconnect with our fans that way.

AN: As well as being performers, you also write all of your lyrics yourselves. Some of your songs have even been recorded by other artists, such as Cascada, t.A.T.u, and Everlife. Do you write songs separately for these other artists or do you just sell demos that did not make it on any of your records?
LO: To tell you the truth, all the songs we write is stuff that we love so we always write it for ourselves. But yeah, the songs we haven’t used on our records have been picked up by a lot of other artists which is quite a cool thing, and a lot of them stay true to the original demos which is also quite cool. We do write the songs for our own kind of music and stuff that we love, not specifically for someone in particular, but in the future we look into doing that just as songwriters.

AN: Are you planning on releasing any of these demos, such as “Faded” or “Did Ya Think” on any future albums or compilations?
LO: I mean you never know. We’re constantly writing new stuff so more than likely we get more excited about stuff that’s a bit more new and current. But you know there are times when we look back on an idea that we had, and think we can revamp that or look at that sort of thing, so we never rule that out.

AN: I’ve read that identical twins have a much deeper understanding and connection with each other than most people will ever have in their lifetime with anybody else. That being said, how do you two fuel off of one another? In other words, how do you feed off one another to create your heavily emotional and personal lyrics?
JO: I think it’s just that we know everything about each other. The way Lisa and I write is pretty much from life experiences, so we always know what’s going on in each other’s lives. We know the emotions the other one’s feeling, and we have no troubles discussing anything because we’re each other’s best friends. There’s a song on the record about a guy that was in her life and I could totally channel her energy and want to get revenge because I could feel the pain she went through. I’m not trying to sound dramatic, but it was true at the time. It’s like a heightened sense of being together and channeling each other. I guess it feels normal for me to have someone that close. I wouldn’t know what it was like to not have someone up in face and in my business all the time, but it definitely helps with our songwriting together.

AN: A lot of successful figures in the modern mainstream media such as Keith Urban, Missy Higgins, Nicole Kidman, and Russell Crowe come from Australia. What about growing up Down Under do you think produces such superstars, and how do you feel about being grouped with such successful industry champions?
JO: You know what, it’s a real honor to be grouped with such people, so thank you. Obviously Australia is our number one supportive audience and fans. Everything has done so well over there, like our music and clothing line. I think around the world people love Australians, and growing up in Australia I can say it’s a very laid back and grounded country. We have a lot of successful actors, actresses, musicians, and it’s like a big support team when you meet an Australian overseas. Everyone embraces Australians I think, and it’s just a really good vibe.

AN: And for my last question, what is the best advice anyone has ever given you about pursuing your dreams of becoming musicians and how did it inspire you to push forward?
JO: Our parents were and still are extremely supportive. I remember our dad said to us quite young, he said “be nice to everyone on the way up because you’re going to want them to be nice to you on the way down.” He’s just a very realist person and you know, it’s so, so true. In this industry one minute you could be hot, one minute you’re not. It just pays to be grounded and nice to everyone and you know, just do your thing because we’re lucky to be given the opportunity to get our music out there and do this, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted for one minute.

AN: Well thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me ladies.
JO: Of course! It was lovely talking to you!
LO: Yeah, it was really lovely talking to you.
AN: Oh well thank you, it was really lovely talking to you as well. I’m really looking forward to the show!
LO: Yeah we’re so excited, I hope you have an awesome time!
JO: Come on and grab us afterwards!
AN: Yeah, of course, I definitely will! Thanks again so much!
JO: Thank you!
LO: Bye!
JO: Bye!
AN: Bye!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Exclusive: Interview with Megan McCauley

(Myself, Megan McCauley)

With yellow, purple, and red highlighting her nearly waist length brown hair, it is hard to believe that at 19, Megan McCauley has not been a rock star her entire life. She wears big fake lashes, and flashes a smile that shows off her lip and chin piercings, as well as her custom chiseled vampire fang teeth. Doused from head to toe in leather and metal studs, as well as a self promoting tour T-Shirt, she takes a break from hanging out with her band before her final stint at New York City’s Arlene’s Grocery to talk with me for a little bit about herself, her music, and her plans to overrule Madonna.

AN: You started out a very early age performing country music, and even self – released two country albums before Wind-Up records signed you in 2005. What made you make the switch from country to rock?
MM: I got sick and tired of slide guitars and not being able to say “fuck.”

AN: You received your first national exposure as a featured artist on the soundtracks to comic book movies “Elektra” and “Fantastic Four,” both in the same year. What was it like for you, an unknown artist at the time, to be making your debut and be part of such huge compilations alongside bands such as Taking Back Sunday, Velvet Revolver, and Hawthorne Heights?
MM: Well “Fantastic 4” kind of sucked because they didn’t actually use my song in the movie, just on the soundtrack. “Elektra” was cool, especially because I always liked Elektra because I do martial arts myself, and I use the same weapons she does. It was awesome because she’s always been my favorite comic book hero and then when I heard the song play at the end, I yelled at people when they got up to leave, I was just like “Sit down!” And they were like “who’s this crazy bitch yelling at us? We’ll do what she says.” I got a tattoo in commemoration of that (turns around and lifts up shirt to reveal lower back tattoo of “Elektra” logo). It says “assassin” which is what her arm band says in the movie. I have a lot of tattoos (laughs).

AN: How many do you have?
MM: Ten, one of which I did myself. I’m telling you I do the strangest things when I’m bored.

AN: Which one’s your favorite?
MM: I don’t know. I really like my panther, and I have one of Jessica Rabbit on my hip. My favorite one is probably this one on my arm though. It says “Forever 27” because all the great rock starts died at 27 – Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrisson. I figured by getting it tattooed to my arm, I probably won’t fall subject to it because how much of a fucked up coincidence would that be? (laughs)

AN: You released your debut album, “Better Than Blood,” last September. Can you tell me the inspiration for the album title and the meaning behind it?
MM: If I told you I’d have to kill you. Everybody asks that - it’s just such a common thing, you can take it however you want. Blood is a term for whatever you want it to be. It can mean family, it can mean the essence of life, it can mean a lot of things. So really, “better than blood” can be read how you want to read it. For example, it can be “better than what people think of me because of who I’ve been brought up as”. I believe it was Type O Negative that once said “blood is so sexy because it is the essence of life. Without it, there’d be nothing, without it we’d be dead.” In that case, it would mean “better than an anything in the whole world”. No matter how you look at it, everybody draws their own meaning from it. Neither one of those are the story behind how the title was born, but that’s how it was the selling point of the title when we came up with it. That was a very good question, but like I said, if I told you I’d have to kill you. My own mother doesn’t know the story behind it - just know it’s very comical, it’s not as serious as it sounds.

AN: One thing your fans really admire about you is the fact that you’re not afraid to be yourself at all – meaning you don’t censor yourself, in your look or through your music. You’re not afraid of exposing yourself or your emotions too much, and your lyrics can really take people places and when they do, they take them there hard. What do you think the benefit of putting yourself out there the way you do is, and why do you think that so many of today’s artists are afraid to do so?
MM: You know, I’ve always said a good musician will flirt with the line between genius and insanity, a great musician will walk it, and only the best will cross it. That’s what I try and do. I try and be as open and rash as possible, say things that people might not necessarily want to hear but it’s the truth, it’s honesty, why lie? Really, why lie? What’s the point? If you’re in any career where you can say anything in the world, rock star is the way to go. That’s how I know I’m doing the right damn thing, because I sure as hell can’t do anything else with my mouth (laughs).

AN: I find it really interesting that a musician such as yourself, who has such strong vocals and can play numerous instruments like the piano, guitar, cello, bass, harmonica, and flute, is in fact not able to read music and instead composes and plays all of her songs by ear. What is the biggest challenge you face when doing so, and now that you are a successful artist, are you planning on taking any type of lessons to learn how to read music?
MM: I cannot read music to save my damn life. It just looks like dots on a bunch of lines to me. I’m not playing anything on stage this go around but who knows, maybe in the future I might, so right now my band is taking over the music side. I’ve got so much else to worry about, so I tell my drummer Mark to handle that stuff. I’ll come in with my creative two cents but that’s about it.

AN: Your music incorporates a large number of very clear influences, ranging from Janis Joplin to Rasputina. Who would you say was your biggest influence was in the writing and recording of your album?
MM: Brian Neno. I think the work that he did on the “Velvet Goldmine” soundtrack was really good. That soundtrack got it for me, turned me onto his music. Bowie is another one, who’s another very big, huge influence. Of course Janis, and then I listen to a lot of old blues. But really, if it’s in the Rock Hall of Fame, it’s been an influence. I grew up going there a lot so every single artist in there has something in there I like to incorporate.

AN: Your entire album has a flow to it, but there’s one song that doesn’t seem to fit the mold of the rest of the CD. While most of the album is either angry or sad, “Tap That” stands out as a fun, party song to dance to. What made you decide to break away from the themes of the rest of the record to include this song?
MM: I want to kill that song. I had too much to drink one night and decided to do something crazy. I sent the song in to Wind-Up as a joke, and I thought they were going to send it back being like “what kind of crack have you been smoking?” I did it with the same producer who wrote “U + Ur Hand” by Pink, and I didn’t realize how similar they were because they both got written and released at the same time. It’s not like me and Pink know each other and could be like “Oh, no you take the song, I’ll do another one.” Now I get all excited when I hear Pink on the radio because I think it’s “Tap That.” Then The Veronicas come on and again I think it’s “Tap That” and then it’s not. Just that similarity drives me insane. The whole song is, I don’t know, fun. It’s definitely one side of me, however, not exactly the side I am most of the time. That’s the side I am when I’ve had too much to drink (laughs).

AN: Now that you are out on tour and your music is beginning to receive heavier rotation, where do you see yourself a year from now?
MM: I hope to see myself on top of the world duct taping Madonna to a chair and saying “Say my name bitch!” I mean that. If this album doesn’t do it, then hopefully the second one can.

AN: Are you working on a follow-up record yet?
MM: I already am. I actually just got done writing a song for it this morning that I have to record. One of my issues with this album was that so many tracks that had already been released that by the time we released the album, half the people who were fans from the beginning were already sick of it. I already started working on that second album a very long time ago.

AN: Are you planning on releasing it this year?
MM: I don’t know, it’s up to Wind-Up. What they say goes.

AN: In a world where female pop rock is more common than it used to be, with artists such as Paramore, Evanescence, and Flyleaf dominating the radio, how do you separate your sound from what’s on the TRL countdown right now?
MM: First off, I can actually sing. Second off, my music just sounds a little grungier and rawer to me. I think a lot of the newer pop rock bands that are female are just so overly processed. I did like Avril Lavigne when she first came out, then she went all crazy on me with the blonde hair and dance routines. I was just like “No, what happened to you, you poor child? I want to hug you, calm you down, and give you a bottle of Jack and tell you to get back into the rock.” I don’t know much about Paramore or Flyleaf, but as far as I know with Avril Lavigne and Evanescence, my music is more raw and less opera choir backgrounds and corsets - but not a real one, one from Hot Topic (laughs).

AN: Alright, well thanks so much and good luck!
MM: Thank you! See you at the show!

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