Tag Archives: music

Interview with Imran Xhelili of Awake At Last

Photo by Tom Flynn
Photo by Tom Flynn

Listening to Awake At Last is like listening to a fusion of 2005 alternative, old school pop punk and a modern 2015 edge all tied together into one sonic boom of melodic energy.  When the five piece takes the stage at Staten Island’s esteemed underground venue, Hashtag Bar, a hush echoes over the audience as the entire stage turns dark, pausing to relieve the dramatic tension as the first few chords come in.  Cue spotlights.

Awake At Last are living proof that musicians can still bear their souls to a crowd, even in today’s world of manufactured media.  There’s nothing fake about AAL.  Whether it’s tracks like “Love You To Death” or an amped rock cover of  “Rude,” watching the five twenty-somethings on stage is one of the most honest performances you’ll ever come across.  “We definitely always bring our A-game as far as energy and stage presence,” explains guitarist Imran Xhelili.  “We’re really interactive with the crowd, getting in the crowd’s face, getting everyone excited while always trying to be as tight as possible with our set and having everything well played.”

Xhelili not only has one of the coolest last names out there, but also has one of the coolest jobs as a key part of Awake At Last’s rhythm section.  Brought in to Awake At Last after meeting vocalist Vince Torres through various shows with his previous band, Xhelili helped round out the group when Torres decided to move from rhythm guitar to just vocals.  This new lineup would eventually help saturate the overall visually aesthetic of the group’s live performance. “Awake At Last has a very high energy stage presence,” explains Xhelili. “We’re definitely rock at the core of it and there’s a lot of alternative and pop punk influences,  a lot of musicality behind it, but at the same time it’s very accessible and catchy to your ear.”

Greene (left) and Xhelili (right) live at the Hashtag Bar, photo by Taylor Markarian
Greene (left) and Xhelili (right) live at the Hashtag Bar, photo by Taylor Markarian

The five piece is known for their intimate club shows as they’ve been touring across the country spreading their sound with new and old fans alike. “Usually when we play there isn’t a barricade,” says Xhelili, “so we just get to be nice and up front with the fans.” Standing in the crowd, it’s always captivating to watch as Torres jumps into the crowd during the performance of the single, “King of the World.”  With Xhelili, bassist Tyler Greene and guitarist Eric Blackway owning the stage like they actually rule the world, “King of the World” is easily the fan favorite for best live track.

Though constantly touring, the guys in Awake At Last still find time to write as they are currently working on their next, still untitled release. “We’re doing a lot of writing for the new EP, a lot of demoing back and forth,” explains Xhelili.  “We each contribute to the writing process, so it comes from a lot of different perspectives.  There’s a lot of really cool musical stuff going on, but it’s still really punky and catchy. Then there’s some that’s more heavy, but still kind of pop-ier, so a little of everything sprinkled in.”

Awake At Last are proof that honest, hard work pays off and that there really is no need to sell out or ever compromise musical integrity in the music industry any longer.  “I feel like a lot of people like to complain about what’s currently going on in the music scene and have nostalgic feelings for like ten years ago or when record sales were going well, but there’s always going to be change and obviously CD sales aren’t strong now.  But I think there’s always going to be good live shows and you can definitely still build a fan base and do everything.  I just feel like there’s a lot more going on in 2015.  If you know what you’re doing, you can really just push your career forward and you have more tools than ever in 2015.”

With new music on the horizon for fans to look forward to blasting in their cars and seeing live, you can currently catch Awake At Last on the road this spring for their headlining King of the World Tour.  In the meantime, sit back, relax, and check out the group’s new video for “King of the World” right here!

Music Video Of The Week: The Ongoing Concept “Cover Girl”

“Who can tell me what the word ‘originality’ means?” is the question posed at the beginning of this video. And the answer? The Ongoing Concept can! The band play a killer set for a classroom of elementary school children in this music video for their song “Cover Girl,” a set up which is as hilarious as it is endearing. But it’s also didactic. The standout line, “Stop being the print of someone else’s painting,” puts us in the position of having something to learn as well as these adorable kids. The song itself is a lesson in originality, as the words ‘banjo’ and ‘hardcore’ typically aren’t found in the same sentence. So watch the video below and raise your hand if you wish these guys had come to your school as a kid.

Interview: Hawthorne Heights On Anniversary Tours and TLC

Photo by Natasha Van Duser

Hawthorne Heights have been a band for about a decade now, and like many other bands their age have decided to mark the achievement with a 10 Year Anniversary Tour of the record that started it all. Unlike other bands in the emo, punk, or post-hardcore genres, however, we made them celebrate by dramatically reading TLC lyrics before the show. Ohio may be for lovers, but Staten Island is for interviewers who like to laugh at your expense. Watch the interview below to hear more from the band about DIY music making, whose first show was Nirvana and whose was New Kids On The Block, and why it’s all about the fans.

Church Tongue Guitarist Bursts Into Flames (On Purpose)

Photo Credit: Caleb Morin
Photo Credit: Caleb Morin

Being that HXC is a DIY magazine, there’s nothing we love more than DIY-touring. Well, except when a guitarist is intentionally set on fire mid-set. We may love that more.

Beartooth’s string of DIY midwest and southern tour dates began with a blaze last night in Indiana, where Church Tongue lit their guitarist, Chris Sawicki, aflame during one of their songs. Whoever says punk is dead clearly just can’t stand the heat, because this is punk-fucking-rock.

See the footage below.

Need-To-Know: Sworn In


Looking for the latest band you have to hear?  Well, search no more!  Today’s Need-To-Know band is Sworn In.  Hailing all the way from the suburbs of Illinois, comes this innovative metalcore band.  Okay, we know what you might be thinking: Metalcore all sounds the same. Well, hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong.  Sworn In is an amped up breath of fresh air.  Their debut full-length XIII (believe it or not, this is pronounced “Death Card,” and not “Thirteen”) combines chugging unclean vocals with their signature “blegh” aesthetic over melodic and diverse rhythmic patterns that fuel everything from a jazzy vibe to a straight up thrash dominance.

Upholding a self-proclaimed “Emotional” genre of music, Sworn In’s track “Snake Eyes” will give you one of the best summaries of their sound.  When that unconventional breakdown comes in towards the end, get ready.  The lines “Snake eyes rolling back into my head/Wishing I was dead/Wishing I was dead” will be stuck in your head all day. Who said metalcore couldn’t be catchy?

While the group typically upholds a sound reminiscent of basement thrash meets a 2002-era My Chemical Romance, Sworn In seems to now be expanding their sound as they introduce clean vocal melodies into their latest single, “I Don’t Really Love You.”  With their sophomore full-length set for release next month, Sworn In is a band you’re definitely going to want to follow.  Check out the video for “Snake Eyes” below and be on the look out for The Lovers/The Devil out on Razor & Tie April 7th!

Live Shots: Hawthorne Heights at Hashtag Bar

Hawthorne Heights took Staten Island for the first time in all their years as a band to play their first album, The Silence In Black And White, front to back. The band time traveled with this New York crowd back to 2004 with the record that sparked it all. Playing hits like “Niki FM” and “Silver Bullet” sent the room into an uproar of nostalgia, but the grand finale of “Ohio Is For Lovers” was what did away with the line between stage and floor.

Check out the live photos from last night’s show at the Hashtag Bar in the gallery below.

All photos by Natasha Van Duser.

Live Shots: Awake At Last at Hashtag Bar

Last night the five guys in Awake At Last took to the stage at Staten Island’s premiere venue Hashtag Bar.  A real punk gem in the making, Hashtag Bar hosts everything from a killer sound system to a snake habitat, and even has its own defunct air hockey table. But no one last night was there for snakes or games, just real up close and personal rock ‘n’ roll. Check out the gallery below to see some of our favorite snap shots from Awake At Last’s performance.

All photos by Taylor Markarian.

Music Video of the Week: letlive. “Younger”


This week’s music video pick is none other than “Younger”by letlive.  letive. is one of the major forces in the scene constantly pushing the boundaries of what can be done with music.  From their monumental record, The Blackest Beautiful, one of the few records in existence that sonicly captures the energy and charisma of a live show, we get “Younger.”  Though “Younger” is one of the more toned down tracks on the album, its biting lyrics, catchy melodies, and dramatic flair carry the song as one of the best on the album.  Check out the video below to see a new side of vocalist Jason Butler in this whirlwind depiction of religious hypocrisy and cult followings.  This video is straight proof that Butler would also be fantastic as a maniac in any comic-book inspired thriller.  So take a look and let us know what you think of Butler’s visual interpretation of “Younger” in the comments below.

Review: Falling In Reverse – ‘Just Like You’

falling5 After Falling In Reverse’s entry into the music world and Ronnie Radke’s triumphant return with The Drug In Me Is You and their sophomore release, the electronic rapcore enigma that was Fashionably Late, it seemed unlikely that Radke would be able to top his two prior epics with a third full length.  While 2015’s Just Like You upholds the classic Radke aesthetic found within his early days of Escape The Fate, it doesn’t quite hold up to the innovative and controversial sounds that Falling In Reverse has become known for. Just Like You is the poster child of playing it safe. Tracks like “Chemical Prisoner” are catchy as hell and include the signature Jacky Vincent guitar solo FIR fans have grown to love.  Apart from directly quoting the line “Days go by” from Ronnie’s previous track with rapper B. Lay, the song is fun and energetic, but lacks the sonic bite that challenges the listener.  The same problems arise with tracks like “God, If You Are Above…” and “Wait and See.” As the album progresses, FIR attempt to tackle a heavier sound, most notably in “Guillotine IV (The Final Chapter).” FIR finally close the ongoing “Guillotine” song series, a series that originated on the first Escape The Fate full length and had two follow ups with Craig Mabbitt behind the vocals rather than Radke.  Somewhat overthought, the “Guillotine IV” feels more like a track made just because Radke could write it rather than to serve any real purpose apart from letting the new Escape The Fate get the last word. While tracks like “Brother” and “Get Me Out” feel dated and reminiscent of the height of the emo craze, singles like “Sexy Drug” and “Just Like You” capitalize on Radke’s snarky lyrical witticisms.  Just Like You‘s title track is a classic FIR song that lets the world know what we’ve all known for a while: Ronnie Radke is an asshole.  Though it’s a highly publicized fact, hearing Radke cleverly string together the words “I am aware that I am an asshole/I really don’t care about all of that though” in a catchy chorus is one of the major highlights that remind the listener this may be a safe play album for FIR, but as an album overall, it’s a solid effort.

3/5 stars.

Three Star Rating

Music Video of the Week: Sleeping With Sirens “Kick Me”


Here at HXC we believe that no artist should ever separate the audience from the show.  With barriers and crowd surfing bans constantly popping up in the scene, getting up close and personal with the music is an ever dwindling phenomenon.  Luckily, there are bands like Sleeping With Sirens who haven’t yet raised themselves onto that pretentious pedestal.  This week’s music video pick, therefore, is SWS’s first single off their upcoming record Madness, “Kick Me.” While SWS’s last record, Feel, felt like an overwrought montage of Kellin Quinn’s face, “Kick Me” represents the old school vibe of SWS that fans first fell in love with.  With a catchy chorus, emotionally charged vocals, and lyrics that actually have something to say, “Kick Me” is an anthem with a video to prove it.  For the first time in a long time, Quinn is not the central focus of the video, instead the band opted to bring out a bunch of diehard SWS fans and allow them to get their time to shine in the spotlight singing and jumping along with both the band and other diehards alike.  So check out this video and let us know if you like where the new Sleeping With Sirens is headed!