Don’t let Hayley Williams’ age fool you. She may only be 16-years-old but when you hear her behind the mike, she sounds like a seasoned vocalist with incredible range. Williams is the voice of Paramore, a Tennessee based power rock/pop act fresh from releasing their debut album, All We Know Is Falling, on Fueled by Ramen. Armed with youth, Paramore are grabbing attention from coast to coast. They have already played the Vans Warped Tour and have shared the stage with the likes of Less Than Jake and Copeland- it is hard to believe that this band is just getting started.
Williams recently took some time to explain to Sound the Sirens the growing pains of being young and in a band, using youth to draw inspiration, and how life on the road for a young 16-year-old is really like.
At the age of 13, Paramore began to take shape. How did things come together from the eyes of a 13-year-old?
Williams: I met Josh and Zac at my school and we all became friends and learned that we shared the same passion. Back then, I guess we were all thinking, after school we’ll go to the house and practice. It was what we loved to do for fun, and still do! I don’t think any of us really knew this would turn out to be what it’s become.
Did you grow up taking voice lessons and were you involved in musical projects in some capacity?
Williams: I started taking lessons from Brett Manning, the best in the world, around the time that I moved to Franklin [Tennessee]. Growing up, I did the normal stuff like school plays and little things like that.
Who were some of the musicians/artists you looked up to?
Williams: [Laughter] *NSync! I also loved The Temptations. I actually listened to a lot of soul and R&B music before I got into the type of music that we play. It’s good stuff.
You are 16-years young and have incredible vocal range.
Williams: I don’t know … I mean, I get comments about it quite a lot but I think the biggest asset I have, and that all of us have in the band is each other. We are each other’s biggest assets.
Your developing voice, how hard is it to deal with?
Williams: My voice developed pretty quickly into what it is now. Even though it will most likely become more mature sounding I won’t have to worry about it cracking or anything close to what a lot of young guys have to deal with. That would be embarrassing.
Where do you draw your inspiration when writing lyrics?
Williams: Just life. Things that happen to me or the people I love. I actually think being young is inspiration in itself for our band. We are learning a lot of things for the first time and all kinds of emotions come from learning. They are important emotions to express and I think a lot of people can relate to the honesty.
Do you ever feel you are missing out on every day 16-year-old things? You have to wonder what some of your life would be like if you were attending high school everyday.
Williams: I don’t think I would do well in public high school- with all the drama, the social ranking and everything. We all miss home sometimes and wonder what we’d be doing if we weren’t sitting in a van traveling to the next venue, but at the same time, some kid might be sitting in class wondering how it would be to be sitting in a van traveling to the next venue. We are all doing what we love and don’t regret any of it.
Are you furthering your education at all or is it all strictly music right now?
Williams: Yes, both Zac and I are doing an over the internet home school program. We just started this school year, so hopefully it won’t get to stressful.
What is the road life like for a 16-year old girl touring the country and playing shows night after night?
Williams: The greatest gift and most wonderful opportunity anyone could ask for. It’s like a dream. Not to say that it’s never hard, but it’s wonderful.
But is it tough being the only girl in a band full of guys?
Williams: There are tough moments, as with anything, but I always know that the guys are my best friends in the world. They are extremely patient with me when I act like a bratty little girl, and for that I am eternally indebted. We all love each other.
I’ve noticed that some people are lumping you into a category with Avril Lavigne and Ashlee Simpson- a gimmick type band on a punk label like Fueled by Ramen. Does that bother you at all?
Williams: Yeah it does, but people love hearing themselves talk and everyone knows that. So we all just try to be patient with it and understand that not every part of this job is awesome. If people want to know us and get the truth about us, they’ll come to see us play and get the truth.
And your personal opinions on artists like Ashlee and Avril?
Williams: Well, they do their thing and if that’s working for them why should they change?
Significant advantages or disadvantages to being a female artist in a rock band?
Williams: Even though in reality we are a female fronted rock band, we all see this as a regular band and nothing else. I think because of that we rid ourselves of the limitations we may otherwise have.
We all hear about the groupies flocking over the boy bands but what about for you, do the boys go nuts for you and what is that like for you getting that type of attention night after night?
Williams: We aren’t The Beatles or anything, but the people who come out to our shows are dedicated and are always so much fun to be around. Most of the people coming out to the shows seem much more interested in the music and what we do, rather than what I’m wearing and how I look … and that’s such a great feeling for all of us.
Over the summer, your band released its debut full-length album, All We Know Is Falling. What was the recording process like the first time around for you?
Williams: We learned a ton. We recorded demos in Nashville before, the ones that John Janick [founder of Fueled by Ramen] heard, so we had an idea of what it would be like and how it would go. But working with such amazing producers like James Wisner and Mike Green had a lot to do with how much we grew as a band during the recording process of this record.
Does the album have a personal side to it that relates to your life experiences?
Williams: Of course. Our songs can’t help but reflect all the things we go through. The first song on the record, “All We Know,” was written in our rehearsal space in Orlando just two days after Jeremy, our original bass player left us. That song is one of the most obvious songs on the record. It’s like a letter to Jeremy telling him that we’ll never forget him. The whole record has little stories like that.
What is your writing process like? Do you sit down and just write songs whenever you feel like it or what?
Williams: Josh pretty much always initiates the writing of a song. He comes up with such great stuff. How we normally like to do it is he will have music and sometimes a lyric idea or a vocal line, and he’ll bring it to me. From there, I come up with more words and melodic ideas and we just build off of each other. We think a lot alike, but have different strengths. I think we make a really good team. After that we bring what we have to the rest of the guys and work out arrangements, transitions, intros or outros. It’s worked great so far.
Where do you see your future in music heading to?
Williams: What I do as an individual depends on Paramore. Paramore is something we’ve all committed to. Who knows where this next year or two will take us. Whether we are playing clubs for a couple hundred kids or playing on big tours in front of much bigger crowds … we will be playing.
San Diego’s Best Dancers: An interview with Allweather
San Diego’s rich punk history continues its next chapter with Allweather
San Diego’s alternative music history will forever be intertwined with punk’s mainstream rise through the 90s. While Los Angeles and the Bay Area took much of the attention, San Diego quietly produced a few bands that would ultimately rise to the top of mainstream punk. Now more than 20 years later, San Diego continues to produce as many excellent bands as it does excellent burrito joints. We are unsure whether it has anything to do with the sunny locale, or the food, or the proximity to coastal bliss, but San Diego punk is thriving. But don’t just take our word for it, just listen to the current crop of punk bands that call the area home.
Allweather are one of the newest on the scene, but their members have a long history amongst Southern California’s punk underground. They’ve just released their debut full-length Through the Floor; 10 songs of hard-hitting, melodic punk that at times throws it back to Lifetime’s emotionally charged output.
We spoke to Allweather guitarist and vocalist Tim Putnam.
Thanks for taking the time guys- new full-length in the books- how does everyone feel?
We are so stoked that this thing is finally out. It took about a year and a half to put this all together, what with full-time jobs and other adult-y obligations; but now we’re ready to share it with the world and it feels awesome. Definitely a labor of love with this one.
I really enjoyed the record. You’ve gotten some great feedback?
Everyone has been super receptive. Maybe they’re just being nice and telling us what we want to hear. But if so, they’re doing a great job! They’re saying some nice things!
I spent the first few listens trying to figure out that “sound”— because the album got me like a record did so many years ago. It took a few good listens but to me, it reminds me of Lifetime’s Hello Bastards and Jersey’s Best Dancers. At least that’s how it made me feel. I love those two records and I felt the same when I listened to yours. What are your thoughts on the different interpretations of the record or how it can make people feel many different things?
That’s awesome that you say that. I honestly love everything Dr. Dan Yemin has been involved with: Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, Armalite, Paint it Black. Contrasting dark vocal delivery and lyrical themes with more melodic/upbeat instrumentation is something I think we try to emulate from those bands. I’m hoping that makes for a record that everyone can take something away from, whether you want to just bop around to some pop punk songs or delve deeper into the bummer-ass lyrical content and see what exactly this dude is yelling about.
Who produced it and how did the writing and recording go?
So, that gets a little messy. The majority of engineering was done by our lead guitarist, Tony Estrada, who was our guitarist at the beginning of this recording quest. Tony left the band in the process of recording the record so Todd Allen, of Paper Street Cuts fame, stepped in to engineer what was left of the project. Mixing and mastering was done by Paul Miner at Buzzbomb Studios. All music was written collectively by the band.
It’s a personal record- songs about day-to-day life, ups and downs?
For the most part, I’m a fairly upbeat kind of guy. That’s because I have music as an outlet to compartmentalize any sad or angry thought I might have. This record is a collection of all our anger and sadness for the last two years. That’s pretty heavy. We’ve got songs about heartbreak, death of friends, and questioning the purpose of human existence. More ups than downs I guess.
You guys are relatively new as a band. Can you share with us a little Allweather history and how you got started?
I’ve known Aaron and Manny since we were teenagers. We all grew up about an hour and a half east of San Diego in a small town called El Centro, California. It’s basically the default decision when you’re old enough to move from El Centro to San Diego because it’s a larger city close to home. Aaron, Manny and I all ended up in San Diego by this logic and all played in bands together when we were younger in El Centro and just decided to jam to see what might come out. And Allweather was born. Tyson is the newest addition to the family, having joined our ranks on lead guitar almost a year ago, and the dude is a prodigy. He brings a lot of songwriting to the table and is going to be huge in shaping what Allweather is going to sound like moving forward.
What got you all into into punk and the music that became Allweather?
I think coming of age in the late 90s/early 2000s, punk was somewhat accessible. At least gateway-punk. It was very easy to get into Green Day and Blink-182 by seeing them on MTV, then hop on the internet and get sucked into the rabbit hole that is punk rock. Before you know it you’re on Limewire giving your computer AIDS so you can pirate “Maxwell Murder” at 20 kbps. 2 days later you listen to it and you’re like “Welp, I guess I’m a punk now.” Also, growing up in a small town like El Centro, you were just bored and had to entertain yourself. You started garage bands and booked backyard shows because it was something to do.
Let’s talk about the stop-motion video for “Life Vest”- looked like a fun video, but it looked like a lot of work. How was that to shoot? Why stop-motion?
Almost 1000 individual photos. 18 hours straight of shooting. For a 2-minute music video. SO WORTH IT. We had about a hundred dollars to spend on the video and stop motion seemed like a good way to add some class to our cardboard-prop-level budget. Luckily, Tyson took the reigns, figured out the math behind the whole thing and hopped in the director’s chair. All in all, we’re super proud of the finished product.
The vinyl/CD is out through Paper Street Cuts- how did you guys connect with Paper Street Cuts?
I’ve been playing local shows with Todd of Paper Street Cuts in San Diego for the last 9 years. In that time, Todd has become a real friend of mine and the band’s. This year Todd started making handmade lathe cut records for limited release through his label, Paper Street Cuts. No… like he cuts his own records. By hand. WHAT? Not to mention he’s an incredible human being. So, when Todd approached us about having our record be the first LP available through Paper Street Cuts, we jumped on it.
You had a record release show June 14. What are you guys up to next- back on the road?
We are going to be heading out for a West Coast USA tour at the end of July. It’s our first time touring and we’re pumped. More info on that shortly.
What are some of the things I should check out next time I’m in San Diego- food, music- cool record stores?
San Diego is the self-proclaimed burrito capital of the world. But it’s true. Best burritos anywhere. And where do you go to get one? Throw a rock in any direction and you’ll probably hit a taco shop. Some of our favorites though are Colima’s, Roberto’s, Rigaberto’s, Alberto’s…basically anything with the -berto’s suffix will be a win. For live music, our headquarters is Tower Bar in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego. Honorable mention goes to Til Two Club, the Casbah, and Soda Bar. Tons of rad record stores but our recs go to Red Brontosaurus Records and Re-Animated Records.
The Down and Dirty: An interview with The Aggrolites
We chat to “dirty reggae” kings The Aggrolites about their new record Reggae Now!
It’s been a long time between records for Los Angeles reggae band The Aggrolites. 8 years to be exact. After countless albums and endless days on the road, the band felt like it was the right time to step away from the grind of writing, recording, touring. But the extended break between records meant the band just had time to get some air, recuperate and find the charge that would ignite that next spark. That next spark ended up becoming Reggae Now!, a collection of the band’s signature “dirty reggae” sound, packed with life-affirming songs about hope and positivity. And while the album isn’t afraid to challenge and question the current landscape we find ourselves in, it doesn’t shy away from having a good time.
The record has received some lavish praise, with noted filmmaker, DJ, and Big Audio Dynamite co-founder Don Letts saying; “Their tunes perfectly echo the human chemistry you can hear in those early Jamaican productions. The band’s old-school analog sound totally captures the spirit of the music I grew up on“. While Specials vocalist/guitarist Lynval Golding has said; “This is THE album.“
It’s easy to say that one of the most influential bands of modern American reggae is back. But the truth is, they never left. In between stops of their current North American tour, we had a chance to chat with vocalist and guitarist Jesse Wagner about Reggae Now!, how it feels to have written the record on their own time, and the significance of reggae music in America.
Congrats on the new record; how does feel now that it’s out?
It feels awesome. We are beyond stoked to see how positive the vibes are coming from all the fans old and new.
It was a long time between records- 8 years. It was the right time to take a break after 2011?
We felt so. We were going hard on the road for a good decade. I think 250 days a year can wear anyone out. We never quit though. We just needed some time to do our own thing with our families and friends back at home.
How did Reggae Now! come together- was there a spark that got you guys back into the writing process?
It just felt like the right time. We had talked about it for a while and when it happened it just worked.
Was this the first time you had the chance to write and record an album without the pressure of label deadlines? How did it feel that you could just write Reggae Now! on your own time- the way you want to 100%?
Yes it was. And it felt really chill and relaxing knowing that time was on our side. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
How did you connect and end up working with Pirates Press Records? It seems like a great fit- plus their roster of artists is incredible.
I’ve known Skippy for a long time now and have been a fan of what he has been doing with Pirates Press for years. Playing the style of music we play isn’t necessarily an easy target to market. We knew Skippy and Pirates Press would know exactly what to do with our album and are all grateful for them.
For those who may not be too familiar with the Aggrolites- share with us a little bit of your history and how the band came to be?
We’ve been around since 2002. We all pretty much come from the same scene in Los Angeles and all have the same love and passion for old school Jamaican music. With that passion, the band has managed to keep it going ever since.
How has the tour been so far? You guys are hitting cities all across the US until August; how is touring and getting to meet and perform for the fans now than, say, back in 2002?
It’s been an amazing run so far. If anything, things are getting better. I think with the internet it’s easier for people to find out about certain genres of music. We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback.
I love the video for “Pound for Pound”- where did you shoot it? How was it?
It was filmed in the San Fernando Valley at an equipment rental spot called Zio. Our friend Josh Rousch was the director and mastermind behind the whole thing. We had a blast filming it. So much fun and we were stoked to have some Aggro fans involved in the video also. That was a first.
Let’s talk about reggae- because it’s such an important genre of music (in my view) and I think some people only see it in one color. But there’s a lot of history and culture- how did you discover reggae and what are some of the most important aspects of the music and culture to you and the band?
I found out about reggae probably like the majority of the American youth from the early 1990s; punk rock and Two-Tone. The thing that got me stuck on it was how tuff of a sound it is, but at the same time so beautiful. It is by far the most interesting music I’ve ever gotten into. I love how they sang about social issues going down on their small Island, but how powerful the lyrics would be in relating to people all over the world.
Reggae, and ska and rocksteady seem to have a close relationship with punk. You guys have toured with and are close to many punk bands; what is it about the two genres that make sense and connects?
I believed it all goes back to the late 1960s when reggae became popular with the working class in the UK. It’s music for the people. Songs about struggle and overcoming it. Very rebellious music also. I believe Don Letts said it best that reggae was the soundtrack to the punk rock scene throughout the late 1970s.
How important do you think music of good vibes is in today’s world? I think maybe the world could use a little more Reggae Now.
I thank you for saying that and agree 100%. We’ve always said we are “Feel Good” music. Sometimes it’s nice to just play a record and have a good time. Especially in this day and age. There is a lot of corruption going on and hopefully, we can ease people’s minds from negativity with our album.
The Aggrolites’ new album, Reggae Now!, is available via Pirates Press Records.