VOTE: Whose Spring Album Are You Most Excited About?

It's no secret this year is already promising some of the biggest album releases, with some of the biggest names returning for highly anticipated new LPs. While it's only January, and this list will only continue to grow, we want to know whose album you're particularly looking forward to this year.

Variance 2013 Reader Survey

It's the beginning of a brand new year, and we want to make Variance better for you! As we mentioned in our latest issue, without you, we simply don't exist. Your feedback, your suggestions and your submissions are critical to what we do. In order for us to maintain a focus on The Sights and Sounds You Love, we're asking readers to take this short survey to improve the site and our content.

Opinion: Chet Faker, Alt-J Should Collaborate

Two up-and-comers of 2012 are still a couple of our favorites heading into the new year, but wouldn't you agree that maybe next year alt-J and Chet Faker should collaborate? Britain's Mercury Prize-winning quartet alt-J and Melbourne, Australia electronic soul artist Chet Faker have been featured on the same bill opening for The Temper Trap, so perhaps a joint musical effort isn't out of the question. What do you think?

'Nashville's' Tilky Jones Talks 'Glossiness' of Show

Photo by Blake Pellenberg

Tilky Jones may not yet be a household name, but his star is definitely on the rise. Following prominent roles on One Tree Hill and Pretty Little Liars, the 31-year-old actor-musician is back in the spotlight, recently joining ABC’s top freshman drama Nashville as Sean Butler, the new love interest for Juliette Barnes (Hayden Paynettiere).

As evidenced in last week’s episode, Jones’s character is having quite the impact on Juliette—the country starlet originally paired up with Sean for good PR. Now, the football charmer—a “Tim Tebow type,” according to Jones—is all wrapped up in the sudsy mess that is “Music City,” albeit a fictionalized version.

Gotye, Kimbra, Temper Trap Big ARIA Award Winners

Gotye, Kimbra and The Temper Trap took the glory Thursday night at the ARIA Awards, between them collecting most of the big honors.

The Australian record industry's flagship awards ceremony is a showcase of the Australian success stories over the previous year. Though on this occasion, the most deafening screams were reserved for the "internationals" on the show, who included Taylor Swift (performing her electro-pop hit "I Knew You Were Trouble"), English comedian and presenter Russell Brand and U.K. boyband One Direction, who weren't even in the house.

Do We Really Need to See Rihanna On 'SNL' Again This Year?

Earlier Wednesday, Saturday Night Live announced updates to its schedule for the current season, adding Anne Hathaway as host for Nov. 10 with musical guest Rihanna, as well as first-time host Jeremy Renner on Nov. 17 with music by Maroon 5. Hathaway has previously hosted the NBC comedy show and garnered high marks from critics and fans, but this will mark the fourth time for performances by Rihanna and The Adam Levine Band.

EXCLUSIVE: The Script's Danny O'Donoghue Talks New Album, New Sounds

Photo: Kevin Westenberg

It’s been more than four years since a rock band by the name of The Script topped charts worldwide with their eponymous debut album. The Irish-born trio, which has produced a number of hits over two albums, returns this month with its third full-length effort, appropriately named #3.

Fans have certainly become familiar with the band’s signature sound over the last few years, but according to frontman Danny O’Donoghue, there are some changes in the new set.

“[It is] a lot more hip-hop orientated,” O’Donoghue revealed in a new interview with Variance. “With the first album, we would write the verses and then we would also add melody to those verses, and that’s how we made our own kind of style [with] ‘We Cry’ and songs like that. I guess on #3, instead of adding melody, we just said, ‘You know what, let's leave melody away from it, let's just actually have a vocal word or rap.’”

First Things First

Over the last two years, something incredible has happened within the music and entertainment industries. They have become more social, more interactive. The voice of the people--that’s you!--has become more powerful. And all along, Variance has been here.

As the world becomes a smaller place, Twitter and the blogosphere have become the new town square, where people share their opinions and speak their mind. We’ve been listening and doing our best to give you a voice.

We’ve tried our hardest to read every tweet, every Facebook post, every e-mail and every blog comment. Top 40 radio not your thing? We get it. You’re a fan of the underdogs and undiscovered talent. We are, too. As we celebrate our second birthday, your voice is the most important element about Variance.

We’re proud to have featured many of your favorite musicians, actors, writers and other creatives. We’ve brought you stories from The All-American Rejects, Ben Rector, the guys from MTV’s The Buried Life, The Civil Wars (pre-Grammys), Dev, Eric Hutchinson, Explosions in the Sky, fun. (before and after their explosive rise), Gavin DeGraw, Gotye, Gym Class Heroes, Ingrid Michaelson, New Girl’s Jake Johnson, best-selling author Jon Acuff, Karmin, Kate Voegele, Kristin Chenoweth, Lights, Mat Kearney, Mayer Hawthorne, Miike Snow, MUTEMATH, The Naked and Famous, Patrick Stump, Phantogram, Switchfoot, and Viddy (before it became the hottest video app on the planet).

Many of those stories were driven by you, the readers. You asked, you suggested, you demanded, because it’s your magazine. The stories that show up on our website? They’re driven heavily by the things you’ve told us you care about. And with this new issue, we’re excited to feature someone of the people you’ve requested most, starting with the cover.

EXCLUSIVE: U.K.'s Morning Parade Arrives in U.S.

by Jonathan Robles

Morning Parade, the 90s dance-infused rock band from Essex, England, has been garnering much attention lately as the band prepares for its upcoming U.S. debut with the self-titled album releasing June 19. Following a successful six-show stint at this year’s SXSW, the group is now on tour with indie rockers Walk the Moon, a band that only recently opened for Young the Giant.

“We’ve been so lucky,” says frontman Steve Sparrow before taking the stage at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Okla. “It’s still unbelievable. We go from our normal lives and our everyday jobs to this sort of Hollywood experience. It’s like mindf--- sometimes.”
While being somewhat new to the spotlight can have its downside, Sparrow and the band seem to be handling it well, trying to glean from others and learn as much as possible along the way.
“At first when you’re new and 'green' it can be different,” he admits. “One of the first people I met was Kylie Minogue. We were at a party and there were about 70 people. A month before I had been working on a construction site and just paying bills and putting gas in the van, and then I’m meeting Kylie Minogue. After a while you start to realize that they’re just bands, they’re just people, and they all started out in the same place. They all started out doing something they love, and some people are more fortunate than others, and they’ve had greater success, but we all share the common interest in that we love music.”
While some of the best advice the band has received has come from other musicians they have performed with (such as Coldplay, The Kooks and 30 Seconds to Mars), Sparrow, who plays piano and guitar in addition to supplying lead vocals, says they take everything with a grain of salt. He also has his own advice: “Some bands think the music industry is just a game, and success is about how well you play the game. To some extent I agree but I don’t really believe that. I believe it’s about making great songs and having a great team. The harder you work, the luckier you get. Just keep working. Bands come and go--fad bands come and go--but bands will with real songs, they can impact people’s lives.”
The band’s fan base continues to grow as they criss-cross the country with the guys of Walk the Moon, which is based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Performing their hit songs such as “Us and Ourselves” and “Under the Stars,” along with the lead single in the U.S., “Headlights,” Morning Parade knows how to fill a venue with energy and excitement stemming from their layer-driven anthems, proving to be as much artists as entertainers.
While the album may have released in the U.K. in March, it has been delayed in the U.S., something Sparrow wasn’t too thrilled about at first. In hindsight, it may be have been a blessing in disguise, as the singer admits. "I think a lot of the time it’s about where you can be. If you’re releasing an album, you need to be there, touring and promoting it as a band. It doesn’t make much sense for a band that’s trying to grow its fan base to release an album and not be able to go out and promote their own album. We spent a lot of the last two years touring in Europe, and it shows. We sell so many more tickets in Europe than we do in the U.K. That’s where we spent our time physically."
Now that the band is physically in the U.S., the stage is set for similar success in North America. Morning Parade puts on a brilliant live show, something that will prove valuable as the band continues to promote the new release.
"American audiences have been really good to us," says Sparrow. "And despite their theatrical warmups, [Walk the Moon] has been great to us, too. They're a lot of fun. We're excited to be in the States."
His one complaint about the U.S.? "There's Taco Bell and Burger King along every interstate, but what about vegetables?"
Welcome to America.
For more information on Morning Parade, go to the band's website. The self-titled debut album releases June 19 in the U.S. and Canada, and it will be available physically and digitally.
Watch the video for the band's lead single, "Headlights."

EXCLUSIVE: Relient K Album Update + Acoustic Performance

Interview by John Mouser
Photos/Video by Gustavo Pacheco

We recently sat down with Matt Thiessen and Matt Hoopes, founding members of Relient K, to discuss the album they are currently recording, as well as their other current projects. PLUS: Watch an exclusive video of Thiessen and Hoopes performing "Forget and Not Slow Down" below.

Variance Magazine: How is the writing panning out for you guys right now?

Thiessen: It's good. I think that we are just trying to be a little adventurous with this next record, and not necessarily in an experimental way, but just doing something different for us. We are just trying to figure out what we can do that people won't necessarily expect and how to do it without alienating everyone that might already like what we do now. So that is the crux of it. In our opinion, we aren't really worried. If we do what we feel right now and then if it doesn't work, then we will do another record. It's our seventh one, so we can't try and repeat the fourth, the fifth or the sixth and recycle our material. We are just trying to do something fresh.

Hoopes: I think that has been the most exciting thing because it does feel like starting over in some ways. In the same ways that it is kind of challenging, it also makes it exciting to play music on this basic level. I told Matt that working on some of these new songs is giving me this feeling that I haven't had since we were in high school together, writing new songs. It's fun, and it's fun to push the boundaries of what we are comfortable with--not just do whatever comes easiest.

VM: I'm excited to hear then new stuff. Something that I have always admired about you guys is that you make significant changes from record to record. So would you say that the new songs are more than the "normal" Relient K change?

Thiessen: Yeah, that's the thing. How do people even interpret songs these day? It used to be, "this band is in this genre," but now I think it is more like, "how good is the melody? How good are the lyrics and do I like it, or do I not?" These songs have catchy melodies and decent lyrics hopefully, so we are just going to mess around with the rest of it and see what happens.

VM: I know that it is difficult to put labels on music these days, but what direction do you feel these new songs are leaning towards?

Thiessen: Just pop I guess? We are trying to be more "urban," if we can be?

Hoopes: …Yeah if anything.

VM: What kind of projects do you guys have going on, other than focusing on writing and recording the new album? Mono vs. Stereo?

Hoopes: Yeah, we've got the label thing that we are doing and just focusing on Deas Vail. At least for the time being, Relient K will be on the label. We really like working with those guys, and it has been a fun thing to try and do. As frustrating as it can get sometimes, trying to be a record label in a time when record labels don't really make sense as a business model. I am really excited about Deas Vail. I think that they have a great record and they are very talented. They are just about to start up some touring for the new record, and I am excited to see what they can do with it.

VM: Are you guys actively looking for artists for Mono vs. Stereo?

Hoopes: Not incredibly. Right now, we are just trying to do everything that we can for Deas Vail, Relient K and Farewell Flight.

Thiessen: Until people start physically supporting those bands, and making it to where on paper they are selling records and stuff, it doesn't make sense for a label to pick up any more.

Hoopes: Unless the right thing comes along. There was a band called Mike Mains and the Branches that we felt very strong about. He was a great friend and singer, but it ended up not working out on the business side of things. Something like that would have to come along, where I feel like we could go out and sell half-a-million records. That kind of thinking. We aren't going to go out and sign ten bands and try to break all their careers. We just want to do the best job for the bands that we have right now. Working with a limited roster and limited budget, we are trying to be smart about it and get those boys on tour.

VM: What are you up to, Thiessen?

Thiessen: I've been working with Owl City a little bit more. He is about to put out a new record…

VM: Wow, he's a machine…

Thiessen: Yeah, that's the thing. He just wanted to do a third record right away. So that has been fun. Our manager will be like, "hey, this week you are going to try and write Relient K songs. Okay, now get out of that and go write with Owl City. Okay, now get out of that and go write with this girl from The Voice." Sometimes you get taken from place to place, so it is tough to stay on track.

VM: Do you feel like the projects are bleeding together?

Thiessen: I mean, I feel like Owl City and Relient K naturally have an overlap as far as melodies and stuff. I found myself becoming an Owl City fan, after I met him (Adam) and then I don't know if that affected the way that I write. Sometimes I will write something and I'm like “that sounds like something Adam would write!" But yeah, it is weird that everyday a new song comes up and it's like "what do you do with it? Where do you put it?"

VM: Who was the girl that you were working with from The Voice?

Thiessen: Oh, that happened and she didn't cut the song--Dia Framptom. It was a good song, and she wrote most of the song and lyrics. She did a great job, so I was a little bit bummed that she didn't cut it.

VM: Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down--what are you listening to?

Thiessen: Paul Simon's "Born At the Right Time."

Hoopes: I don't know what my "classic" one is, but the only thing that I want to listen to right now is this band called Now,Now. It is like the first time in a long time that I want to listen to every song on a record, over and over again. It has a cool energy, a great female singer and a lot of "Death Cab-isms" to it. And [their album] is really well-written.

Watch Relient K "Forget and Not Slow Down" here.