Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Virginia's The Influence Releases Album, Prepares for National Tour

Virginia is known for producing outstanding musical talent. The latest to join the list is the Commonwealth's rising star band, The Influence.  The RC Blog has been working with this band for the past several years to help them get the level of attention and fandom they deserve.  The future is now here....

This five-member band out of Virginia Beach is about to embark on a national tour in early 2011 and its newly released album (Falling Objects) is getting national exposure.  The lead single from their new album is "Slippin'" (to check out video, click here). 

Here is a good background piece on the band from the latest issue of Magazine 33 out of Richmond (written by Elaine Main):

Virginia Beach - A five-piece rock band from Virginia Beach blending elements of 90s alternative and college rock while adding their own style of modern day indie, the Influence creates an integrated sound that’s been turning peoples heads and ears for the past five years. Originally formed as an acoustic trio, the music has evolved into a band of talented musicians who each bring their own diverse approach into their sound.

It all began in 2004, when lead singer Matthew Archer Stephenson made his way back to Virginia Beach after living in El Salvador. Upon his return, Matt met up with long time friends Will Clarke and John Zontini. The three of them shared similar musical backgrounds as well as the intense drive to make music. Soon they formed an acoustic trio originally known as Plan B. The trio played their first gig together at Abbey Road in Virginia Beach. After playing a few gigs together, the guys realized there was something missing...so they went in search of their missing piece(s).

They found drummer, Collin Cogan, by posting fliers at the Old Dominion University campus in Norfolk, seeking a “young motivated drummer.” When Collin responded to the post, no one knew just how much of the gap would be filled. Bringing not only the refined rhythm to their sound, Collin added his vocals to create a powerful harmony.

It was through serendipity (and a mutual friend) that Chris Tully first met the guys of Plan B. He came to an open mic night at the Hilltop Brewery and listened intently to what would soon become the first step in a new direction. Little did they all know that magic was in the air that night and they had found their ultimate missing piece and new bassist. Tully (as well all know and love him by) completed the sound of the Influence with his smooth bass riffs and deep vocals.

Once the band was complete, they wrote and recorded their first album The Influence of Music. At that time, guitarists John and Will were playing strictly acoustic, which gave the album a softer sound. Each member of the band contributed to vocals in a few tracks. It was clear from the beginning that these five guys possessed talent that would take them far.

By the time they recorded their second album Pig Radio, the band had become more advanced and had introduced the electric guitar to their sound as well as stronger vocals and harmonies. Pig Radio proved that the band was well on their way to evolving into something greater than anticipated. Since the release of their second album, the band has toured extensively, working hard to make a lasting impression on all of their listeners. The Influence put their eclectic touch into their live shows, making each one memorable and unique. Along with their unforgettable tour bus powered by veggie oil and their signature mascot, Ken Horse (may he rest in peace), the band gained a fan base that was strong and diverse, spanning up and down the east coast and stretching across the nation. As a direct result from extensive touring, it was inevitable that the sound would again change, and this time it would evolve into the current-sound of the Influence. Which brings us to the long anticipated third album…

Falling Objects, released September 24, 2010, brings change and new sound. Feeling confident with their enhanced and matured sound, the band was dedicated to taking on the next step in their career. In pursuit of creating a ”record label-ready” album, the group teamed up with producer Ted Comerford, and in Charlotte, North Carolina, Ted came together with the band at Low Watt Studio where Ted came to help shape the new album. Ted wanted to record the new album using what he considered the best songs from the two previous albums as well as four new songs the band had written. Together they restructured a few select tracks and matched them to the sound into which they had evolved. After a long and “very meticulous production,” Falling Objects was finally complete and ready to be released into the world.

When asked how the new album compares to the first, Collin stated, “It's COMPLETELY different! It’s a rock album. I wouldn’t call our first album a rock album. It’s a very polished record. Falling Objects is completely electric versus the first album which was completely acoustic.” Along with their progression into a more refined rock sound, there are various instruments that can be heard in the tracks such as a banjo, keyboards and an organ. Not only is there a new sound with the rock edge and assorted instruments added, the album itself was recorded on vintage gear. Singer Matt stated, “I’m not a gear head, but it really does make a difference in sound when you record with vintage equipment used in like the 60s. It gives the album a 'worn' sound."

Another major change the band experienced was the loss of a member. Very shortly after the album was completed, guitarist John Zontini decided to break away and leave the band. It was difficult for everyone dealing with the sudden change, but the band knew they couldn’t fall behind on the progression they had already achieved. Turning to their long time friend, Chris Kendrick was invited to step in and join them on their journey. Chris had been a member of another local band, Counterfeit Molly, and had played as a guest musician with the Influence for around two years on keyboards and even filling in on drums one evening. Chris was excited to join the band and said, “It’s a little overwhelming, but I feel like I walked into a really good situation.” States Tully, “He’s always been a really good friend and a part of the operation for years."

Matt continues, “We didn’t replace a member, a member left and we chose Chris to step in.” Chris Kendrick is also featured on the brand new track "Old Bones". I asked Chris how he felt about touring/playing with the Influence. “I really enjoy it…I mean, the van smells sometimes but, ya know, it’s fun.”

Throughout the duration of the recording process, the band had experienced several changes and really felt that there was something more for them. Realizing their potential and wanting more control over their career, the band decided to take yet another turn and take on a new challenge - creating their own record label. “We went with a studio where we worked our asses off to make a record that we’re really proud of, and in the process we also learned that we don’t really want to be on a major label. That’s why we formed Flying Eye Records out of it…strange we went in with the exact opposite idea of what we’re doing now. We own our own record label now, we don’t have to have day jobs anymore, and we can go out and play for how long we want. We’re completely in control of it…”

In the past, much of the Influence’s album artwork, t-shirt designs, poster layouts and other art forms have been the design of its members. When asked about the album cover for Falling Objects, Matt replied, “I was looking for a reference for the idea of falling objects and typed in "falling objects” on Flickr, and a picture of hay bales in a field popped up, and I thought, huh, that’s weird. So I took the image of the hay bales and floated them.” (A typical representation of how Matt’s mind works.) Matt contacted the artist named Black Rose who lives in Finland, and by using Babelfish on the internet, communicated with her to get the rights to use the photograph.

Their CD release party was September 24th at the Jewish Mother. When asked how they felt about their favorite venue closing (date set to be the beginning of October), Matt responded, “It really just makes me happy that we can draw on the walls again. They brought the crayons back! That’s been going on since August, so by the time we play our last show there the walls will be covered, so it’ll be like the first time we ever played there.”

Beginning in October, Matt and Will are doing a radio promotion tour along the east coast and spanning to the Midwest. A few dates have been planned for the band to start touring in late October. They’ll be playing from east to west coast and hope to take their tour to Europe by next year.

With the as much dedication and persistence as the band has shown, they’re continually working on their artistry. The band has already written five new songs that they plan to record on the following album. “We’re writing considerably heavier songs right now,” says Matt. Will continues, “We’re starting to write music that’s closer to music that we actually listen to. I really love our first album, but I don’t really listen to music that sounds like that. And I do listen to music that sounds like this.”
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