'Nation' Building: Huntington band built on love of thrash

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Photo: Mike Adkins

Nation (L-R: Jake Wegman, Dana White, Ryan Vickers, Bobby Midkiff, Bryan Patterson) formed out of its member’s friendships and love of thrash metal. The Huntington-based band will help open things up at Byzantine’s CD release show tonight at the V Club.

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

It wouldn’t be incorrect to describe Dana White’s new band as an exercise in “Nation” building. Except, in lieu of foundational concepts like democracy and liberty, the Huntington-based five-piece band Nation is built on the freedom to express themselves and pursue happiness -- as a thrash metal band.

Gathered at White’s house in Huntington for a Saturday rehearsal, White, guitarists Bryan Patterson and Ryan Vickers, and bassist Bobby Midkiff talked about the big ideas behind the birth of their own particular Nation.

Describing Nation as “way more thrash,” than his previous bands, Holden Caulfield and Heart Holds True/Black Seas, White said Nation, comprised of members of Holden Caulfield, Neutral Agreement and Deckard, formed quite organically through friendships developed over the years.

“I was excited about this band from the get go,” the singer said. “Bryan and I had been wanting to be in a band together for a long time, and we finally pulled it off.”

Nation performs at The V Club Saturday night, helping to open for Charleston metal band Byzantine, as they release their first record in five years.

Borrowing from a Holden Caulfield album title, White said after the popular hardcore band broke up he and X-Box buddy Midkiff agreed they “Can’t Stop Now.”

“When Holden Caulfield broke up, Bobby and I had already been talking about doing Heart Holds True, which had no name at that point. But Heart Holds/True Black Seas, which was basically the same band with a few changes here and there, that band never really got its momentum. And we hated that, because we enjoyed it and it was fun.”

It was entirely coincidental that Midkiff was moving back to West Virginia from Jacksonville, Florida, when Nation was being birthed.

“Well, Dana and I have been best friends for what, like, six or seven years now?” Midkiff asked as if to confirm it with the singer and his bandmates.

“Thirteen? Longer than that,” Patterson, who White said has written the majority of Nation’s songs, added to laughter from the guys.

“Yeah, a long time,” Midkiff said, continuing. “But I was in Florida, and had just moved back, and Dana said he needed a bass player for Nation. So I was like, ‘of course,’ it was like the perfect fit.

The bassist described how Patterson was pulled into orbit over the years.

“When I was in Holden Caulfield we played a lot of shows with Neutral Agreement, and Bryan was in Neutral Agreement. Actually, on the Holden Caulfield record “Can’t Stop Now,” Bryan came in and did some guest guitar work on two songs. Just playing shows with our bands, together over the years we’ve gotten to know each other that way.”

Patterson jumped in at this point to describe the band’s genesis, and their mutual love of thrash.

“Like Bobby hit on earlier; he, Dana and I have been crossing paths for years now. When I was in Neutral Agreement we’d play shows all the time. Dana was always really good about putting us on shows and supporting our band. Really just by playing shows together and hanging out at shows we became pretty good friends and we always tossed around the idea of playing together.

“We’ve always had a love of old school thrash, which is something that’s not around here, or surrounding areas too much,” Patterson added. “So we really liked the idea of going back and doing what got us into music to begin with: Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer, stuff like that.”

“We both love old school thrash, we all do,” Vickers added, describing the mutual interests he shares with Patterson and the rest of the guys. “He grew up with it, and me, I kind of ventured into heavier, heavier music. But we all still maintained that interest in thrash.”

Admitting he was excited for his band to have the opportunity to open for Byzantine and potentially reach new fans, White said when it comes to getting Nation’s music out in the digital age, just like playing out, it’s all about getting your music out there these days.

“As far as giving the music away, stuff like that, it’s hard to sell music these days, especially when you’re not the headlining band,” the singer said. “We just figure, ‘Hey, we’ll just give this away, and hopefully people will listen to it and we hope they like it,’ get to know it that way.”

Patterson said that, financial constraints aside, the band looks forward to recording a full-length follow-up to Nation’s 3-song E.P., released in September 2012, this year if possible.

White, asked about the likelihood of living out his admitted dream of having his band open for Anthrax, said he’s quite literally living the dream in Nation.

“It would be a dream come true to get to play with Anthrax,” White said.

“But at the same time, I’m so stoked to play any show that we can, even if there’s hardly anybody there, we’ll still be pumped to play because we’ll get to hang with each other, we’ll still get to meet a handful of new people, and we’re probably going to play a new venue that we’ve never played or been to.

“Being in a band is a privilege that some people, sadly, take for granted.”

“I agree with Dana,” Patterson said. “I’ve loved thrash metal for as long as I can remember. Going through my entire life and just now being able to be in a thrash band, it means the world to me to play the music I love, and play the music that influenced me.

“It’s icing on the cake that people come to watch it and people enjoy it.”

Byzantine CD Release show w/Nation, DeadFaceDown, Among The Dead
WHERE: The V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington (304) 781-0680
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 23
TIME: doors at 8 p.m., show at 10 p.m.
COST: $12 advance, $15 day of show
INFO: www.vclublive.com


The Devil vs. Chris Ojeda: Byzantine frontman talks about "Soul Eraser"

With lyrics about black tar lords, black teeth, and blacker souls, Byzantine’s new song “Soul Eraser,” and the official video for it, received thumbs up from fans online, and thumbs down from stations the band sent it to due its visceral, bleak, totally NSFW depiction of drug-ravaged West Virginia.

Byzantine singer-guitarist Chris “OJ” Ojeda here, in an excerpt from a phone interview with the Gazette, discusses the song, the video, and the response to both…

“That song is very close to our problem. As far as our band is concerned, we’ve had a lot of people very close to us get hooked on drugs. The whole song is kind of like a ‘Shame on you, West Virginia, for letting this pill problem, this prescription drug abuse problem, infiltrate this state and turn our whole generation into people dependent on something that’s killing them.’

“We wanted the video to portray how crappy it is, and it did.

“But with [“Soul Eraser,”] the subject matter being so dark, and so close to West Virginia, I’m hoping it’ll take off and be kind of an anthem, like “Jeremiad” was for us. We’ve had a lot of people tell us that “Jeremiad” got them through some dark times, because the song deals with suicide, and feeling alone, and just, like nobody cares about you

“So now, with drug abuse being so prevalent, maybe people can see the video and hear the lyrics and be like, ‘Maybe I need to get off my a--,’ and deal with it, you know?

“We submitted [the video] to all the stations, and every one of them said the same exact thing, ‘The song was fantastic, the video was fantastic, but it’s too graphic.’ And it’s like, ‘In this day and age?’ (laughs)

“But we were also able to do a casting call, and get our fans to come in and do the little mosh thing, which was cool. If I was a kid, and a local band that had some type of credibility was asking me to be in their video, I think that’d be the coolest thing. So as a way to say thanks, we did that for them.

“We had a blast doing it, and the kids had a blast doing it. It looked like they were trying to kill each other, but the reality was they were jumping around smiling. We had to stop that part like fifteen times because they were smiling too much.” (laughs)

Related: Byzantine is back with new album, new attitude (Charleston Gazette)


VIDEO: Sweet Life “Black Babylon”

Sweet Life - "Black Babylon" from Geoff Hoskinson on Vimeo.

Get into it now, before the Morgantown/Pittsburgh-based stoner rock dudes in Sweet Life release their Disenchanted EP Tuesday 2/19.

Geoff Hoskinson (of Geoff & Dallas Make Videos) helps turn a killer song from a local band into an amazing video -- again -- this time with “Black Babylon,” off the 7-song debut effort.

Sweet Life: Jason McCarty, Nick Leombruno, Evan Devine, Mike Roberts

Video: Geoff Hoskinson
Mixed: Ryan Hizer
Mastered: Dave Klug


Rockin' at the Arena: Shinedown comes to Huntington Saturday

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photo: John Stephens/Jonathan Lipking

Multi-platinum rockers and Atlantic Records recording artists Shinedown (L-R: Zach Myers, Brent Smith, Eric Bass, Barry Kerch) will perform at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington Saturday night with Three Days Grace and P.O.D.

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

Shinedown lead singer Brent Smith has “Your Pain Is A Gift” tattooed on his left hand.

“I’ve always told people that I write songs because it’s cheaper than therapy,” Smith said in all seriousness over the phone from his home in L.A.

Since forming in Jacksonville, Florida in 2001, the hard rock band, now with 17 number one rock radio singles and four studio albums under its belt, has indeed benefited from any anguish the 35-year old has channeled to spin into certified gold or platinum records.

Smith said work never stops in Shinedown, be it songwriting or touring. For him, that’s a good thing, and the overarching reason for the band’s success.

“We headed to Europe in October of last year, got off the road in November, and we’ve just been setting up touring. Now it’s 2013 and it’s time to get this show on the road.”

Shinedown will perform at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Saturday night as part of the second leg of its 2013 U.S. tour, with co-headliners Three Days Grace, itself breaking in a new singer, and P.O.D. The band released “I’ll Follow You,” the fourth single from its 2012 record, “Amaryllis,” (which topped the Billboard Hard Rock, Rock, and Alternative charts in 2012) to radio this week.

Smith said being in demand, having so many fans, can lead to some unfair expectations, especially from press types. Following up on “Amaryllis” apparently started not too long after its release in March of 2012. The singer recalled one particular hilarious ruse doing press promoting Shinedown’s fourth album.

“The reality is we wrote 33 songs when we were in the production stages of “Amaryllis” and we actually have, if you broke it down, we could release two more records if we wanted to.

“But the other songs were so good that, I was in an interview, and “Amaryllis” had just been out for like a month and a half, and they were asking about new material already. And so the guy said ‘Do you have a new record ready to go?’ And I was like ‘What are you talking about? We just released it!’

“It’s a running joke with us in the band, when we release a record. We bet on how long it will take for the first person to ask us if we have anything new written. So it didn’t take longer than a month. And I wasn’t trying to be mean or anything, but I was just like ‘You know what? We’ve already got like, another record done,” the singer said, laughing hard. “Which, technically, we could. We could release like two more records if we wanted.

“But the songs that made it to “Amaryllis” made it for a reason, because that’s one particular place in time for us, and that album has those songs on it purposefully.”

Saying he was “super, super stoked,” to get back out on the road, Smith said the band is continually seeking to top what it’s done before. “This is the biggest production that we’ve ever put together as a band, setting up for this tour. We’re ready to go and we hope everyone’s ready for us as well.”

In mid-January, as part of the constant process of moving Shinedown forward, Smith and lead guitarist Zach Myers played an acoustic set as part of the “Hometown Throwdown” in Myers’ hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Smith, a Knoxville native, noted that all those hit singles the band has start out on the acoustic, and said playing acoustic sets are a fun challenge.

“It’s always a lot more intimate, and a lot more scary to do it like that,” he said laughing. “We’ve played in front of one person, and we’ve played in front of one hundred thousand people. But being in a very, very small room in the middle of Memphis, with all of that heritage, it’s one of those elements where, there’s 1,200 people in front of you, and they’re right up on the stage, and you’re kind of under a microscope.

“It really pushes you to a level of, whether or not you really are a songwriter, and you deserve to be on that stage, let alone any other stage. But the fans always speak, and they spoke very, very loudly that night. It was actually hard for me to even sing the set because the audience sang it so loud I couldn’t even hear myself. That’s always a plus.”

Another plus is just living healthy lifestyles on and off the road. No clich├ęd rock star partying like you hear about. Smith, who admittedly kicked a bad drug problem, and lost roughly 70 pounds in recent years, said Shinedown’s fans deserve better.

“When we’re on the road, we’re working. I think a lot of people have the misconception that when you’re on the road it’s a huge party, day in and day out. That’s just not the case. We’re a business, and we’re an organization, and we’re a machine.

“The real goal is working smarter and learning how to work smarter on the road. Sometimes, you don’t have to play four months straight before you go home. You want to make sure that you’re rested, and that you’re healthy to be able to give the audience the show that they deserve.”

This leg of its 2013 U.S. tour will see Shinedown play 32 shows between Feb. 1 and March 30, a busy schedule indeed.

“As far as the separation between the time on the road and time at home, you’re still working for the same goal, which is to heighten who Shinedown is. And I’m only talking on a personal level, because I eat, breathe, and live everything that is Shinedown. But they are two totally different animals.

“I cherish the time that I have in California, though, because I’m able to be with my girlfriend, and when we have my son out here it’s very, very special for us. But, you have to separate the two; the road is one thing, and your life at home is another.”

Smith, summing up, said he attributes Shinedown’s success to hard work.

“That’s why we’ve had the longevity that we’ve had up until now, and why we’ll continue to keep going further. We’re never going to be complacent, we’re always going to try to outdo what we’ve already done. We’ve already proven that we can work really, really hard, and we’re going to continue to do that our entire career, as long as the fans give us a career.

“Sometimes, in this business, you will see someone else’s success, and, there’s this kind of evil jealousy that happens sometimes to people. And you have to squash that really, really early. Because the reality is, whoever is at the top of their game, a lot of times they worked for it. And it takes a lot of work to stay at that level.”

Hard work and honest songs; for Shinedown, a simple formula, really.

“People connect with this band, because they know that it’s honest. I think people see that about the band. Everything we talk about is something we’ve been through. I don’t think you could make it up. It has to be real.”

Shinedown, Three Days Grace, P.O.D.
WHERE: Big Sandy Superstore Arena, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Huntington
WHEN: 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9
COST: $23.00, $38.50 (plus fees: $34.28, $50.15)
INFO: (304) 696-5990
ONLINE: http://www.shinedown.com/


VIDEO: Rozwell Kid Behind the Scenes Exclusive: "Unmacho"

We’ve been waiting for it forever (actually we’ve had it for a while!) it seems like, but next week, Rozwell Kid releases Unmacho!

Recorded with all his bros at David Klug Studio, “Van Man” has been getting favorable thumbs from press types, and Jordan Hudkins has been caught talkin’ about the 10-song sophomore effort with various outlets.

Just thought we’d throw this up here for now -- more RK to come!


Morgantown jam band Fletcher’s Grove comes to Huntington with “Appalachian Reaction”


Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

Ryan Krofcheck will tell you he’s got what feels like an old soul.

This is an important piece to the story of how his band, Fletcher’s Grove, came to be. With its new 10-song sophomore record, “Appalachian Reaction,” Krofcheck will also tell you how important West Virginia is to what the Morgantown jam band hopes to project through its music.

Sure, there are the influences most jam bands will list; The Grateful Dead, and Phish, among other acts. But it was bonding over The Beatles and Led Zeppelin that set middle school friends Krofcheck and percussionist Matt Marion down the musical path that would later become Fletcher’s Grove.

Fletcher’s Grove performs at The V Club in Huntington Saturday, February 2.

Krofcheck, speaking over the phone from Morgantown, said the band’s origins trace back to being friends; Krofcheck and Marion at Hurricane, and lead guitarist Wes Hager and bassist Taylor Pratt at Winfield High School.

“I’ve always said being in a band is like having a girlfriend, and I’ve got four girlfriends, basically,” the singer and rhythm guitarist said, laughing hard.

“I was actually talking about this the other day, having a band from the same area, and having the same upbringing, I think it goes a long way in the end. You have those relationships built. Even our families know each other. Wes’ mom introduced me to my girlfriend, who I’ve been with for over five years now. There’s a lot of ties in there, definitely,” Krofcheck said.

“The emotions are more authentic; I like to write about folk stuff, one song on the new album is definitely the first folk song for Fletcher’s. But just to talk about stuff that happens in the region, it hits home for all of us, being from West Virginia.

“We are the Appalachian state. We want to represent West Virginia, be represented by West Virginia, and be proud to write about West Virginia. Being from the same place, wanting to write about it, sharing our influences, is exactly what we want to have with the CD and the title.”

Since forming for real around 2007, Fletcher’s Grove has become a staple on jam band festivals, and has developed a fan base that allows them to consecutively sell out venues like 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown.

As the discussion turned to his band’s new record, Krofcheck, mentioning his dad and uncles as big musical influences, talked about old ones.

“I’ve been collecting records, especially from my parents that they passed down. When I go home, if I go to Milton Flea Market, almost every time I’m like ‘I’m not going to get anything for myself,’ and end up walking out of there with fifty dollars worth of records,” he said laughing.

“The album, in its entirety, it died 40 years ago. There’s no such thing as a good album anymore, it’s all just a single. That’s one thing I love about my vinyl records. Now, when I listen to a record, I listen to an A side and a B side. And I feel like “Appalachian Reaction” is very A side, B side. The A side is the stuff we just put out, and the B side is the “Pepperoni Pizza” EP.”

While the new record may have two sides, Krofcheck said he likes the fact that Fletcher’s Grove can take on any number of genres.

“We would like to get to the point where we can play on it a little bit harder, to get to the point where we can do these full-on electronic shows, and then, the next night, do a traditional acoustic, bluegrass show. We’re definitely a genre-hopping band, and that’s something I want to continue to play on.”

He said the band takes their genre-hopping mix of funk, rock, jazz, bluegrass and folk seriously, and the guys work hard at their craft.

“We feel great. We’ve put a lot of hard work into the new CD. The first two years, we put out [“All the Way Home”] and we played that like crazy. And it’s great that those songs now are like, the classic songs. We only play one or two of those a night now. And whenever we do, everyone knows all the words, and everyone sings along. It’s great.”

That connection is amplified when playing in front of thousands of people at any of the big summer festivals the band has played over the past few years.

“I definitely think we’re a festival band,” Krofcheck admitted. “Our intentions with Fletcher’s Grove was to be a festival band. Around the same time we were forming into what we are now, we were all coming back from our first festivals.

“I was 15 when I went to my first Bonnaroo. And when I came back and realized there are hundreds of thousands of people just like me, who want to listen to music, who want to camp, and want to have a really good time. You don’t really see that all the time in Hurricane, especially when you’re in middle school or high school. You’re like, ‘Man, this sucks. I should’ve been born 40 years ago and went to Woodstock.’”

Krofcheck and the band had their own version of Woodstock a few years back at All Good, which saw their hard work pay off.

“Our goal originally, for like four years, was to be on All Good, especially since it was a West Virginia festival. We thought if we worked hard enough it would eventually happen, and it did. We got to hang out backstage with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, and there’s Les Claypool walking around, just unreal stuff.

“We’re very blessed to have the festival scene, to have all the different styles, which makes up our own music; the bluegrass, funk, jazz, the jamming and the rock. It’s a big melting pot of genres, and that allows us to play all the genres without too much criticism.”

It doesn’t seem like too many fans are complaining about Fletcher’s Grove these days. That some 20-somethings are able to capture and channel a vibe from a seemingly bygone era, and share it with fans young and old, makes it all the more sweet for Krofcheck.

“A lot of those people thought that atmosphere was dead, that it only existed in the 60’s and 70’s. We have fans who drive for hours and travel out of their way to come see us and stay for a whole weekend. That’s what everybody goes there for.”

Fletcher’s Grove w/InFormation
WHERE: The V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington (304) 781-0680
WHEN: 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2
COST: $10 (incl. copy of Appalachian Reaction)
INFO: www.vclublive.com


CD Review: "Appalachian Reaction"

CD: Appalachian Reaction

ARTIST: Fletcher’s Grove

Here at rockscene we have a healthy affection for jam bands and festivals. Not an unhealthy obsession, like our hatred of Charleston Daily Mail editorials, but a real soft spot exists for the vibes and seemingly enhanced connectivity between the fans and bands.

Morgantown jam band Fletcher’s Grove, a staple on said festival circuit, on its 10-song sophomore full-length Appalachian Reaction, presents a nice genre-hopping example of why we, and so many others, dig these kinda bands.

The album, the follow-up to 2009’s All the Way Home, and described by singer and rhythm guitarist Ryan Krofcheck in a recent interview with The Huntington Herald-Dispatch as “A.D.H.D.” and “…very ‘A’ side ‘B’ side,” is indeed a veritable smorgasbord of genres; from funk to folk, jazz, rock, and maybe a hint of bluegrass, the band (Krofcheck, Matt Marion, Wes Hager, Taylor Pratt, and Evan Lintz) unveils five new grooves in addition to hosting last summer’s Pepperoni Pizza EP on the second half of the record.

By this point you may be asking yourself ‘Could that be the biggest run-on sentence ever?’ And, ‘How does WVRockscene know what someone said in a phone interview with a newspaper, for an article that hasn’t ran yet? Are they friends with Piers Morgan or something?’

Yes to the former, and no to the latter.

Standout tracks, for us, include the ode to the Appalachian coal miner, “Faces of the Mine,” the soulful jam “Grapevine,” and “Pepperoni Pizza,” which has lead guitarist Hager absolutely shredding; FYI, he’s a badass. Throughout the record the talent and musicianship of each member is on display. Kudos to Tommy Bailey at Bebop Studios for capturing the rich sonic range of the band.

But it’s no wonder that so many people seem to love these guys. Whether it’s at their home away from home at 123 Pleasant Street, any number of festivals, or, The V Club Saturday, Fletcher’s Grove is definitely a trip.

--- Fletcher’s Grove plays The V Club in Huntington Saturday with InFormation. $10 cover gets you a copy of Appalachian Reaction.