Onward, Soldiers is an indie rock band from Wilmington, NC. Known for their high energy live performances, the current line-up includes: Sean Thomas Gerard (vocals, guitar, piano), Lincoln Morris (lead guitar, vocals), Jarett Dorman (Drums, Vocals), and Tripp Cox (Bass, Vocals). Onward has steadily toured the country over the last three years and has released two full length albums on Winoca Records.
Critically celebrated, 2010's "Ghosts In This Town" is a compelling blend of unadulterated rock and haunting prose. Written and recorded throughout 2009, "Ghosts" includes performances by a bevy of local ILM musicians.
Their second album, “Monsters”, released in February 2012, is a more refined version of the same raw yet melodic spirit Onward, Soldiers posses, and delivers the unexpected twists and turns of cleverly-crafted musicianship mixed with devilish style and endearing lyricism.
Growing interest presented the band with many opportunities including: festival showcases at SXSW, CMJ, Hopscotch, Bele Chere and 35 Denton among others, a compilation CD titled “Gasoline Rainbows” by Vagrant Records, and a feature on Nashville's Music City Roots. Actress Sophia Bush named Onward, Soldiers one of her favorite bands which led to a feature on One Tree Hill (Warner Brothers) with their first single 'Stick to your Guns', and an acoustic performance by STG for the song "Monsters" on the show in 2010. The band can also be seen on PBS's Sun Sessions, filmed at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.
Sean Thomas Gerard - Vocals, keyboard, acoustic and electric guitars
Lincoln Morris - Vocals, Electric Guitar
Jarett Dorman - Vocals, Drums.
Tripp Cox - Bass & Vocals
"Monsters" Onward, Soldiers 2012
"Ghosts in This Town" Onwards, Soldiers 2010
"Let The Time Roll By" Single for Radio 2010
"Stick To Your Guns" Single for Radio and Television 2010
"Gasoline Rainbows" (Vagrant Records compilation 2010)
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Onward, Soldiers on "Gasoline Rainbows" Compilation album.
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-- Phoenix, LCD Soundsystem, Vampire Weekend, the National, the Black Keys, Passion Pit, Surfer Bloo...-- Phoenix, LCD Soundsystem, Vampire Weekend, the National, the Black Keys, Passion Pit, Surfer Blood, and more contribute tracks for to the benefit compilation Gasoline Rainbows, out November 30 on Roark. Proceeds go to communities affected by the gulf oil spill via the charity Global Green USA.
NEW BENEFIT ALBUM: GASOLINE RAINBOWS – TO BENEFIT COMMUNITIES AFFECTED BY GULF OIL SPILL
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When it comes to providing help to those in need, you can always count on musicians to do their part...When it comes to providing help to those in need, you can always count on musicians to do their part. To help communities impacted by the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, some of today’s hottest bands have joined together with Global Green USA to release a benefit compilation entitled Gasoline Rainbows, out on November 30ththrough Roark Records. Gasoline Rainbows will be available exclusively as a digital download.
Gasoline Rainbows, a Compilation Featuring Music by Phoenix, The Black Keys, Vampire Weekend, and more, to be Released on November 30
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When it comes to providing help to those in need, you can always count on musicians to do their part...When it comes to providing help to those in need, you can always count on musicians to do their part. To help communities impacted by the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, some of today's hottest bands have joined together with Global Green USA to release a benefit compilation entitled Gasoline Rainbows, out on November 30th through Roark Records. Gasoline Rainbows will be available exclusively as a digital download.
Onward, Soldiers in the New York Post
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PW: Music is an essential component of running for me, is it for you? Sophia Bush: Music is the bi...PW: Music is an essential component of running for me, is it for you?
Sophia Bush: Music is the biggest motivator for me. Right now the band that has taken over my life is this group called Onward Soldiers – one of the coolest new bands I’ve heard. They’re Kings of Leon meets the Avett Brothers with a little Mumford & Sons in them. They’re so amazingly talented, it’s one of the best live shows I’ve seen this year.
Singer Gerard adds unique edge to Onward, Soldiers' familiar rock sound
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His band's new album is called “Ghosts In This Town” because when he wrote its songs, Sean Thomas Ge...His band's new album is called “Ghosts In This Town” because when he wrote its songs, Sean Thomas Gerard, the frontman for Wilmington rockers Onward, Soldiers, felt like a stranger in a strange land.
A native of Pittsburgh who'd left his hometown to attend UNCW – “I was going to major in marine biology, which didn't work out,” he said – Gerard moved back to The Steel City but then decided to return to Wilmington.
“I thought it was kind of conducive to, at the time, being pretty much a nobody around here,” Gerard said of the title of the album, which will be released during a concert Friday at the Soapbox. “Maybe I'll be somebody next year, maybe I won't.”
Based on the strength of his band's songs, and his incendiary performances of them, Gerard is definitely somebody. Onward, Soldiers played a remarkable Wilmington “Super Unplugged” set at public radio station WHQR's gallery in December, and crowds at their Wilmington gigs have steadily grown in recent weeks and months.
Whether Onward, Soldiers can parlay that local success into regional recognition or something more remains to be seen, but “Ghosts In This Town” – which is filled with memorable songs that can be dark, moody and mysterious or more upbeat, catchy and rockin' – is nothing if not an impressive work of art.
Hanging out with his bandmates – guitarist Jim Palumbo, bassist Jarett Michael “J.D” Dorman and drummer/keyboardist Kevin Rhodes – one weekday afternoon at the compound of fledgling Wilmington label Winoca Records, which is releasing “Ghosts In This Town,” the baby-faced Gerard appears, as always, relaxed, self-assured and mature beyond his 22 years.
“My parents were huge James Taylor fans, Jackson Browne and, of course, The Beatles,” Gerard said, name-dropping The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan in the same breath and citing as his biggest influence the band Pink Floyd. “I think my style comes from a blending of all that, and current music as well.”
Onward, Soldiers' sound mines familiar rock territory but is made distinct in part by Gerard's knockout voice, which can range from a wavery tremble to a throaty scream while maintaining an organic edginess that fits a variety of styles and moods.
“Ghosts In This Town,” which was produced by Wilmington guitarist and Winoca Records partner Lincoln Morris, kicks off with “Stick To Your Guns,” a haunting, down-tempo rocker with lyrics that are inscrutable but fascinating (“We are fair but we lie/ To get you on our side”). “Alright By Me” adopts a Southern rock, Allman Brothers-type sound, while “The Past” adds a layer of moodiness to its roll-along feel and forget-about-it lyrics (“It was a favorite time when the sun would shine/ But the past don't matter now”). The songs “Relic” and “Plans” show Gerard's flair for rhythmic vocal cadences, while “Let the Time Roll By,” which has gotten airplay on Wilmington radio station The Penguin 106.7 FM and is being touted as the album's first single, is perhaps the biggest sonic anomaly with its super-folky sound.
“I hate that song,” Gerard said with a laugh of “Let the Time Roll By.” “I don't like catchy music that much, and I know that it's catchy. People will walk up to me and just start singin' it and I'm like, ‘Give me a break.'?”
The album's themes are hard to pin down, but they seem to revolve around the passage of time and the feelings – from melancholy to ecstatic – evoked by either rootlessness or not knowing where one fits into the world.
Like Dylan, Gerard tends to use words as placeholders rather than being explicit. Therefore, the many references to soldiers aren't necessarily referring to soldiers, which tends to make Gerard's words all the more poetic and artful. (As for the band's name, Gerard has his mom to thank: “I grew up Catholic and my mom, almost every time we were leaving the house, would say, ‘Onward, Christian soldiers,'” Gerard said.)
The songs are “either about a lot of things at one time or about completely nothing,” Gerard said. “Sometimes I'll wake up and jot down a dream I had or whatever, and that'll spark a song or two.”
“I've asked (Sean) before, what's this, and (he'll) be like, ‘I don't know,'?” Rhodes said. “People listen and they take their own meaning from it.”
One of the band's most recent songs, “Cinderblocks,” isn't on the new record, but it's one of the band's best. With a catchy chorus, compelling lyrics (“Darling, your cinderblock eyes/ They put me in a coma”) and an arena rock feel, the song combines all of Gerard's and Onward Soldiers' strengths into one potent package.
It's a package that Winoca Records is trying to push beyond the confines of Wilmington. A recent road trip to Greenville had mixed results. The band scored an interview on East Carolina University's student station, WZMB, which played a couple of their songs and recorded three more for a future broadcast. But only a half-dozen or so people showed up to watch the band play at The Tipsy Teapot, a bookstore/coffeehouse/bar in downtown Greenville. (“I would imagine we're not getting paid this evening,” one band member quipped as they packed up their equipment.)
Despite the low turnout, the band sucked it up and gave it their all; musically, they were at the top of their game whether anybody was there to hear them or not.
It's a fate the band hopes to avoid at upcoming April shows in Durham, Greensboro and Raleigh to promote the new album.
“I've been making plans/ Big plans,” Gerard sings on “Plans,” and it's a lyric that belies the epic nature of the songs of Onward, Soldiers, as does a poignant, telling line from that tune Gerard claims to hate: “Oh my love/ If tomorrow never comes/ Can we make the best of what we have today?”
No matter what the future holds for Onward, Soldiers, Gerard's not a ghost in this town anymore.
Songs For Getting Lost and Found
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There has been much romantic lure for the road since Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was published in 195...There has been much romantic lure for the road since Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was published in 1957. The hypnotic white lines, the motory rhythm of music from the radio and the surreal light of the late night diner on desolate stretches of landscape all combine to create a crispy poetic prose. For more than 50 years now, people from all walks of life have crossed America, searching for something that may be missing in their everyday life and taking whatever the road gives them. All of this imagery and allure spiritually bonds many of us forever with Kerouac, but especially musicians whose trade requires them to seek new audiences and inspiration out there.
"There is something hypnotic about riding in a car for long stretches of time," reflects Wilmington songwriter Sean Gerard. Gerard, a native of Pittsburgh, has traveled the north-south lanes of Interstate 77 enough times to know first hand. To him, there is no better place to listen to music than from the driver’s seat, looking out from behind the windshield of his late-model car. When driving long distances, exhaustion and the faceless landscapes can fade quickly when accompanied by the perfect piece of music.
"The road is where I listen and get inspired to write a lot of my music," he explains.
Gerard grew up in a house full of music lovers. Although his mother tried for years to get him to take piano lessons, Sean had other ideas. Although initially drawn to the electric guitar and punk rock, by his mid-teens Gerard had developed a deep love for acoustic music. At the age of 16, he gained in-depth exposure to a variety of different musical styles when he joined and started performing at the Pittsburgh songwriters’ guild showcases. "I was terrified when I started playing at those showcases," he remembers. "But it was good. I was exposed to a lot of older musicians and different music, especial country blues. I learned a lot about songwriting and what not to do with my songs."
In 2005, after graduating from high school, Gerard chose to attend UNCW and enroll in the marine biology program. "We use to take family vacations to the Florida Keys, and I love the water and all that it represented, so it made perfect sense for me to follow this path and move to Wilmington," he states.
But college life introduced him to much more than an academic future; it presented him the opportunity to explore his songwriting and performance in another town. "I began playing open mic nights and meeting other like-minded artists and soon became a bit distracted with ‘higher learning’," he says with a smile. For Gerard exploring his musical path was more important.
Returning to Pittsburgh, Gerard immersed himself into his songwriting and a few classes at a community college but soon returned to Wilmington in 2007. Following his instincts, he felt there was a sense of unfinished business here. Performing his songs whenever he could, Gerard soon gained the attention of musician Kevin Rhodes.
"His roommate approached me with a disc that Sean had recorded in his bedroom," recalls Rhodes. "I like the passion that I heard from his songs and thought I could assist him with arrangements and such. I got him to perform at the monthly unplugged and immediately knew from his powerful vocal delivery and confident guitar playing that I wanted to work with him and record his songs."
Ghost in This Town is the result: A nine-song collection recorded at Rhodes studio with a host of local players. The CD, which took four months to track, was a great learning process for Gerard. A prolific writer, he now could immerse himself in the recording process to create the imagery of the road that so inspired his songs.
"To me, writing songs and recording them is as much about finding the right tones for the instruments as good lyrics," he confesses. "I believe this enables the listener to separate the moods in the music."
They say you never really know someone until you travel with them, and there’s nothing like a road trip to reveal someone’s true nature. Sean Gerard has nothing to hide. Like an old traveling companion, his music and life are right there on his sleeve. Both are full of texture and tempo. Never editing his lyrics once they are committed to paper, Gerard likens the process to that of a being on the road discovering the world and in turn, the world discovering him. Like the glow of lights from a distant town, his music is giving all who travel with him an anticipation of the future coming into focus.
Onward, Soldiers and Edge of Urge
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Most days, our featured musician interviews are quite informal. They take place during the photo sho...Most days, our featured musician interviews are quite informal. They take place during the photo shoot, generally between glasses of wine or champagne, with lots of music, chatter and people in the background. Or, it is not even an interview in any sense, but more of a night or two out on the town, wandering in the ILM, that gets summed up in a couple of paragraphs. But this was not our usual interview. First off, it was not during the shoot. (No matter how much I wanted to eat Britt's donuts on the boardwalk, someone had to be here at the shop.) And secondly, there was no wine or champagne. This was going to be an honest to goodness interview. Weird.
But, ever the professionals, we knew that we needed at least a couple of words from the band, so we did what we had to do and brought front man Sean Thomas Gerard upstairs to our offices to seduce him. Wait, no, I meant interview him. To interview him...
We say our initial hellos, and after the first thoughts of how much we loved his Ramones muscle-tee and black china slippers, it was time to get to work and start asking some questions.
Katie - I really like your video for "Let the Time Roll By". Did you fall at all while you were filming it?
Sean Thomas Gerard - No.
K- Really? Not at all?
STG - I did run into a plant on one take, but I didn't actually fall, no.
So, there you go. He has super human powers above and beyond his impressive singing and songwriting skills. Seriously, he must've walked around at least a million times per shoot. And he was singing, and playing the guitar. And he had sunglasses on. Inside. And there were obstacles like people and pianos. That is pretty darn cool.
The title of Onward, Soldiers! new album, ghosts in this town, references Gerard’s feelings of being a stranger in the town he lived. But, after sitting down with Gerard at my desk, I can't see him as a stranger to anyone. He is a cuter, cooler, much nicer version of Ryan Adams that makes you wonder which little starlet he is going to end up marrying. Such effortless charm and young, self effacing
talent is rarely seen. This combination, propelled by the marketing and ambition of Kevin Rhodes, multi-instrumental band mate and co-founder of O,S!, and fostered by, Jim Palumbo on guitar and Jarett Michael on bass, will prove to be one of the largest factors in the band's sure to be rapid ascent. (They gonna get real big real quick like.)
And, they are already gaining widespread attention. As well as fans from places as far as Norway, they also count Sophia Bush as a fan, and have even had a song on that show she is on... Y'all might have heard of it, One Tree Hill?
And there is no wonder that is so. The music is infinitely listenable, the whole band friendly, fun and outgoing, and the live shows have an abundance of energy that makes it impossible to sit still while watching. They are always entertaining their audience, whether by having balloons fall from the ceiling during the show, or Gerard's willingness to participate in some spur of the moment guerilla street art downtown with us. That is until Jessie said he had a show that night and if we got him arrested, we might not be able to bail him out in time. (And usually I'm the one that plays mom around here.)
So, listen to the streaming tracks, check out the pics, and know that what you are getting is not only the free downloads, but also we are giving you the gift of being able to say 'I knew them when'.
Onward, Soldiers: Just Play Music
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If you are in Wilmington, NC, and you are, in anyway, musically inclined whatsoever, you better know...If you are in Wilmington, NC, and you are, in anyway, musically inclined whatsoever, you better know someone at Winoca Records. Or at least know co-founders Lincoln Morris or Kevin Rhodes.
Unfortunately, I don't consider myself a talented musician of any kind, more of a maven of that music, created by the talented musicians, in which I attempt to share with any music enthusiast willing to give me a second of their time.
What brought me to Winoca Records this afternoon you ask..the very talented ( drum roll please) boys of Onward, Soldiers, a Wilmington based rock and roll band
With Sean Thomas Gerrard, ( great name right?) as their front man, he contributes with his songwriting and lead vocals. Not only does he have a very distinguished, different sound when he opens up to sing, but this kid can write a song; very intoxicating to ears. Maybe too intoxicating, since according to drummer Kevin Rhodes, Sean stays close on the trails of his lady friends. I suppose that now would be a great time to share that Kevin is at least a decade older than Sean, which hasn't effected the band much except for Sean stealing all the women and Kevin being grumpy and not being able to keep up in the partying department.
Lincoln Morris, shredder of the electric guitar, and co-founder of Winoca, adds his fair share of excellent riffs to their sound, also does the quite/almost silent JD, taking care of the bass.
To me, its quite obviously that you aren't a rock band, a folk band, a pop band, or an anything band, I said to them.
"Correct, we don't play any one style or genre of music. We really don't even think like that. We just play music," Sean replied, ever so smoothly.
This is just one of those bands you can't really classify into any one genre, which is awesome. People are always too stuck on classifying stuff all the dam time, if you ask me. Some songs are a bit folk, others a bit psychedelic, ( they all claim Pink Floyd as an early musical influence), one straight up rock, and then after listening in on their practice after our interview, I hear some electronic dance loops mixed in with some mandolin. I dig it.
All classifications aside, Onward, Soldiers are a great band, that creates great music. Keep on playing soldier.
Personally, there are very few music videos out there that still, tickle my fancy, per se. Batting a cool 100%, these guys are 2/2 in my book so far. With videos for both "Alright by me" and "Let the Time Roll", they have two pure, fresh, pretty good music videos, that are.. guess what? About music still! They actually belong on MTV.. from the 80's, when Sean, and myself for that matter, were nothing more than thoughts, vision, the future; much like what was before Kevin and Sean teamed up to create Onward, Soldiers. Good for you. Bad for MTV.
I have faith in these guys to take their music far. True musicians, they began playing only seconds after 'interview' was declared 'over', cant keep the real ones away from music, no matter the scenario. The tunes started to pour from Sean's guitar and Justin's mandolin, in perfect, bliss, harmon. Justin was in house for a 6 0'clock jam sesh/band practice, Justin also plays in band Charlie the Horse, (more about them to come).
I sat in on the beginning of practice, pretty neat, Justin was really going on his trumpet.
The Soldiers are on the move, about to start a north bound tour hitting Pittsburgh and NYC, among other cities.
They are playing the 3-day Troika Music Festival in Durham, NC on November 5th. Look at that, Odessa Record's, Americans In France will be there too. Durham, here I come.
A new song off their second CD will be on an upcoming episode of TVs "One Tree Hill", which is filmed in town. Sean will also be making a cameo on the show, so check that ish out yo.
Winoca Records will be putting together "Take the Lake Music Festival", Halloween weekend, at Green Field Lake Amphitheater, a great outdoor venue near downtown Wilmington. Obviously headlining will be our very own Onward, Soldiers, joined by Charlie The Horse, Mandolin ORange, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Dirty Bourbon River Show, The Kingston Springs, and Rayland Baxter.
Check out www.winocarecords.com for more info, a very very sweet website actually. If you like the designs, maybe for some project you are working on yourself, I can easily get you in contact with the artist, oozing talent and pizazz.
They will be playing alongside, Acoustic Syndicate, this weekend, 10/15 at Beer Fest, also at Green Field Lake Amphitheater in Wilmington.
one tree hill connection no. 120
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One Tree Hill is back with episode one of season eight. The One Tree Hill Podcast opens with and int...One Tree Hill is back with episode one of season eight. The One Tree Hill Podcast opens with and interview with Wilmington, N.C. based, where One Tree Hill is filmed, Onward Solders. The band had their song “Stick to Your Guns” on the premiere.
A Collection of Genres: Onward, Soldiers release new CD, appeal to the masses
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*Over the last couple of years, Onward, Soldiers has become one of Wilmington’s most interesting new...*Over the last couple of years, Onward, Soldiers has become one of Wilmington’s most interesting new rock outfits. Born out of the friendship of area newcomer Sean Thomas Gerard and longtime resident Kevin Rhodes, the band combines Gerard’s talents as a young and dynamic songwriter with Rhodes’ experience and guidance as a seasoned musician and mentor. The result is a musical partnership, along with contributions from several others, which provides the core of the band’s sound on Ghost in This Town: intelligently written and layered American music, offering depth, soul and complexity.
Wilmington Exchange: All-encompassing arts festival takes place May 21st-25th
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*For singer/songwriter Sean Thomas Gerard, creating great music is as much about originality as it i...*For singer/songwriter Sean Thomas Gerard, creating great music is as much about originality as it is musicianship. The secret, it seems, is surrounding himself with the right people with a common vision, and everything else sort of takes care of itself. His newest band, Onward, Soldiers, has managed to do all of this and more in its first year of existence on our local music scene; not an easy task in a community that’s still relatively small.
Musical Miscellany: Two very different groups bare their souls at The Whiskey
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*In eight short months, Sean has put together a new band, Onward, Soldiers, and has created a lot of...*In eight short months, Sean has put together a new band, Onward, Soldiers, and has created a lot of buzz and excitement in a music scene struggling with stagnation and freshness.
*And in his relatively short career as a musician, Sean has already made his mark with his songs, and is hopeful for the future, both in terms of Onward, Soldier’s potential and in his place as a songwriter and artist.
Sophia Bush & Austin Nichols: Compilation CD for Global Green!
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Sophia Bush and Austin Nichols are continuing their efforts to help Global Green USA with the releas...Sophia Bush and Austin Nichols are continuing their efforts to help Global Green USA with the release of Gasoline Rainbows, a compilation album!
Gasoline Rainbows, out November 30 exclusively on iTunes, features all new songs by Damien Rice, Amy Kuney and City and Colour as well as music by Phoenix, Passion Pit and Vampire Weekend.
100% of the proceeds will go toward Global Green’s oil spill response program.
"Gasoline Rainbows," A Compilation Featuring Music By Phoenix, The Black Keys, Vampire Weekend, And More, To Be Released
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When it comes to providing help to those in need, you can always count on musicians to do their part...When it comes to providing help to those in need, you can always count on musicians to do their part. To help communities impacted by the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, some of today's hottest bands have joined together with Global Green USA to release a benefit compilation entitled "Gasoline Rainbows," out on November 30th through Roark Records. "Gasoline Rainbows" will be available exclusively as a digital download.
The compilation was brought together by actress Sophia Bush and actor Austin Nichols, most well known for their roles on the television show One Tree Hill. Sophia and Austin travelled, with Global Green, to Grand Isle, Louisiana, to visit the beaches and see the devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon spill first hand. Moved by the stretches of oil along the once-beautiful beaches, as well as the devastation to the wildlife, they decided to help in whatever way they could, and this compilation is a direct result of that.
100% of the artist and label proceeds from "Gasoline Rainbows" will be used for Global Green's oil spill response to directly assist the communities, people, and ecosystems impacted by the BP Oil Spill, educate the public, push for more regulation (to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again) and advocate for a greener, cleaner economy.
"Gasoline Rainbows" will include material by some of the most popular names in music, alongside new up-and-coming talents. The compilation will include music by LCD Soundsystem, Phoenix, Silversun Pickups, Vampire Weekend, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, amongst others.
Not only will the compilation feature incredible tracks by the aforementioned artists, but it will contain three brand new, previously unreleased tracks as well. Singer-songwriters Amy Kuney, Damien Rice and City and Colour will all be providing never before heard material for the compilation.
Onward, Soldiers' new album is scary good
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GO Who: Onward, Soldiers (album release show for "Monsters"), with Hammer No More the Fingers and...GO
Who: Onward, Soldiers (album release show for "Monsters"), with Hammer No More the Fingers and Jon Lindsay
When: 8 p.m. doors, 9 p.m. show, Friday, Feb. 3
Where: The Soapbox, 255 N. Front St., downtown Wilmington
Tickets: $10 admission, or $15 for admission and copy of "Monsters"
Details: 251-8500, www.SoapboxLaundroLounge.com or www.WinocaRecords.com
Sitting out back of the Winoca Records compound with the members of Wilmington rock band Onward, Soldiers, it'd be easy to think that not much has changed with the group in the last year or so.
Things certainly look familiar on the porch that leads into the mini-label's recording studio and the home of singer/percussionist Kevin Rhodes, who's just as antsy and talkative as ever. Onward, Soldiers' frontman, Sean Thomas Gerard, is still reserved, polite and thoughtful. Guitarist Lincoln Morris remains funny and self-deprecating, and bassist Jarret Dorman is, as usual, mostly silent.
But even though everything might seem more or less the same, one listen to the band's extraordinary new album, "Monsters," which hits the streets locally on Friday night during a release show at the Soapbox, is proof that things are likely to be very different for Onward, Soldiers in 2012 as they embark on a tour promoting the new record.
Featuring a handful of standout tracks and a clean but compelling sound that encompasses classic rock, country, blue-eyed soul and even, on a couple of songs, jazz, "Monsters" sounds like a piece of work that could catapult the band to bigger things.
"This was more of a collective effort from the four of us," Gerard said of "Monsters," looking around at his bandmates. "The first record" – 2010's "Ghosts in this Town" – "we had, what, eight different guitar players?"
Having similar elements on most songs, including piano, 12-string guitar and the pedal steel of Wilmington musician Bill Ladd, helped as well, as did "having the same bass player on every song," Gerard said, looking over at Dorman. "This is a true testament to what we can sound like when we want to."
Which is to say, the album sounds a lot like Onward, Soldiers' stellar live shows, which have raised the band's profile not only locally but regionally, especially in the competitive music market of Raleigh and the Triangle. There, the respected Independent Weekly called the band's music "roots rock with a Southern soul and a restless heart," while the IndyWeek's guide to the massive, prestigious Hopscotch Music Festival, which the band played in September, praised Gerard's poetic, Dylan-esque lyrics, saying his "quick wit chases itself in captivating circles."
The band chose Raleigh as the location for its first album release show last week ("Monsters" has an official release date of Feb. 21 nationally) and there was a healthy crowd at the Pour House for the show, including returning Raleigh fans Gerard termed "repeat offenders."
The appeal of Onward, Soldiers – which formed in Wilmington in 2009 – stems from the strength of Gerard's songs, which he sings in a distinctive warble, sharpening his words as if on a knife's edge. His tunes sound familiar – like a classic rock or country tune whose title and artist you just can't recall – until you realize that they're all originals.
"Telling Nobody," the album's first single, is a soulful number with a bouncy melody that gives ways to lyrics that might be about young love gone wrong. "Cinder Blocks," a local favorite, is a driving rocker with an unforgettable chorus: "Darling cinder block eyes/ You put me in a coma." "Cry," the only pure country song on the album, sounds like a hit from yesteryear that your granddaddy used to sing to you.
And while some songs are clearly love songs, or lost love songs, or road songs, Gerard's lyrics are anything but direct. On "Living on the Run," a dark shuffler that builds into a haunting rocker, he sings, "If the stars are all you need/ Why'd you go and sail the seven seas?/ Living on the run."
Calling his stream-of-consciousness style "the best and worst feature of my songwriting," Gerard admits, with a laugh, that, "I kind of write these songs sometimes and they don't even make sense to me till later."
If anything, Gerard's lyrics seem wise beyond his years (he's in his mid-20s), which might be why he and Dorman, another twentysomething, make such a good, if unlikely, team with Rhodes and Morris, who are in their 40s. Morris' quality guitar solos and Rhodes delicate background vocals and impeccable drumming add a lot of texture to the band's sound while adding a curious visual element to live shows – two young guys playing with two old(er) guys. (Morris also produced, recorded and engineered the album, which was mixed by the Memphis-based Matt Ross-Spang, who the band met while on tour last year during a session at the famed Sun Studios.)
"Monsters" – which features wild album art from Wilmington's Michelle Connolly, who gets the weirdly jazzy and psychedelic vibe of the title track just right – ends with its newest song, "Leap Year." It's a bit of a new sound for Onward, Soldiers, strong but laid-back, a classic rock ballad with a soul/folk edge. With a new team surrounding the band – for the first time, they've got a booker, a publicist and people promoting them on social media – the song's title could portend a leap forward for the band in 2012.
"I think we're as focused as we've even been," Gerard said. "We're all very proud of (‘Monsters') and we all see lots of potential."
John Staton: 343-2343
On Twitter: @Statonator
Hitting the road with Wilmington-based rock band Onward, Soldiers
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Wilmington band Onward, Soldiers – frontman and songwriter Sean Gerard, guitarist Lincoln Morris, pe...Wilmington band Onward, Soldiers – frontman and songwriter Sean Gerard, guitarist Lincoln Morris, percussionist Kevin Rhodes and bassist J.D. Dorman – has been doing a lot of marching lately. Weaving a tight web regionally, the Americana rock act has become a staple of Southeastern festivals while collecting club dates from North Carolina to Memphis, New Orleans to Texas.
I rode along during a recent run north, curious to track their progress.
Day One: Piano's, NYC
We arrive at the club, in the SoHo district, and are lucky to find parking right in front. Check that: There's enough curb space for the van and trailer, but right under a No Standing sign. It's the hottest day of the year. The stylish SoHo set is barely dressed, and Rhodes, who's spent the afternoon on foot around Manhattan, has sweated through his clothes completely. Luckily, he has a change.
Clubs like Piano's are the music venue equivalent of a greasy spoon diner, designed to turn and burn multiple bands in a night. It's a starter gig in New York, but Onward deftly manages despite having to use backline gear (in-house drums and amplifiers). They play as naturally as if they'd come from just up the block rather than 800-some miles the night before.
This is the band's second visit to Piano's this year and they see a couple of familiar faces while meeting new fans who'd heard them on the "Gasoline Rainbows" compilation alongside big-timers like The Black Keys and LCD Soundsystem. And they win a few more ears, too. When a guy shells out a wrinkly $5 for your seven-inch single – a guy who looks like he might need that fiver for food – you know you're doing something right.
Day Two: Norwalk Town Hall, Conn.
The next gig couldn't be more opposite. A former Wilmington resident and a friend of the band, Ron Blomgren of Big Ears Productions, has booked Onward for a charity event. The concert boasts blues rock legend Johnny Winter as its headliner.
Talk about a 180. One night the band was embedded in a cavalcade of acts scrapping for a spotlight, and the next they're in an acoustically pristine hall, playing for well-fed white collars who will drop $100 for a VIP ticket and a chance to meet the bands.
Onward rises to the occasion, nailing road-tested tunes like "Let the Time Roll By" and "Stick to Your Guns" as well as new tracks like their latest single, "Monsters," and the bossa-tinged "Nighttime Sky." The closing one-two punch of "Watery Grave," a dark and visceral workout, and "Cinderblocks," kind of a ballad with momentum, brings some of the audience to their feet. Given the stoic nature of the mostly upper-crust seat-warmers in attendance, this is no small triumph.
"It's a testament to (Onward, Soldiers') integrity and soul," explains Blomgren, our host for the weekend, over coffee the following morning. Blomgren asserts that the audience in that neck of New England isn't exactly on the lookout for new and original artists.
"It's mostly cover bands and jam bands, bands who are kind of rehashing proven aesthetics," he said. "Onward, Soldiers, on the other hand, refreshes the kind of honest and no-frills rock ‘n' roll that will always deliver, and they present it in such a way that's original and infectious. I mean, I can't see any reason why these guys aren't on the radio and the entire country isn't singing along already."
Day Three: Private party, Weston, Conn.
People who are singing along already include Sasa Mahr-Batuz, who first heard Onward when Big Ears booked them for Festival 5, a Cinco de Mayo throw-down at Sasa's BarTaco restaurant in Port Chester, N.Y. When Mahr-Batuz learned they were returning to the area, he organized a party.
Not some cheap keg and Dixie cup party. We're talking pizza fired in a brick oven, tall as his house, on Mahr-Batuz's patio, gourmet burgers and apps, a whole roasted hog. Many of the 150 or so party-goers were already familiar with the group due to Mahr-Batuz's electric enthusiasm. One guy is almost apologetic toward Gerard as he explains how he'd pirated "Let the Time Roll By" off YouTube so he could send it to friends. Quite a few people sing every word to that song like it's been on repeat for weeks.
The rally for merchandise in between the band's sets is especially rewarding. Not just financially, but in the sense that these aren't just fair weather fans. People are genuinely interested in supporting the band.
"A couple people told me that they were going to buy record players just so they can listen to the seven-inch," Geard said, beaming.
Tonight, especially, is the most unhinged I've ever seen the band. Morris channels his inner Marc Ribot and tears up his guitar like I've never heard. Dorman smiles the whole time. Rhodes and Gerard are more animated than ever. There's no doubt from anyone, least of all Mahr-Batuz, who envisions them "on MTV and at the Beacon Theatre," that they're witnessing something special.
Day Four: Port Chester, N.Y., and Stamford, Conn.
Mahr-Batuz hooks up the band again with an afternoon gig at his restaurant. Rain's been spotty all day and there's a little indecision about whether or not Onward will play. It's a deck set-up, and even a small chance of gear getting wet is unsavory. But the clouds clear and they decide to go for it. It's a humid, scaled-down show during a busy, low-volume late lunch. Before long there's a gathering near the merch area and Rhodes instructs people just to "throw the cash in the box and take one" from behind his drums in between songs.
Later, Blomgren invites Gerard and Dorman to do an acoustic set at the tapas bar where he works in Stamford. Morris retires to Blomgren's apartment to rest up for the long drive home in the morning, and Rhodes and I sample the menu. Gerard and Dorman serenade patrons for about an hour and, though tired, charm the room.
- Bill Donovan
Two local bands make it into Raleigh’s prestigious Hopscotch Music Festival
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Tickets for the Hopscotch Music Festival, the massive sonic shindig that debuted in Raleigh last yea...Tickets for the Hopscotch Music Festival, the massive sonic shindig that debuted in Raleigh last year, went on sale this morning, the same day that the full Hopscotch lineup was announced.
And while the band names on everyone’s lips are the the festival headliners — The Flaming Lips, Guided By Voices, The Drive-By Truckers and North Carolina’s own Superchunk — some Wilmington bands, and bands with Wilmington connections, are in the mix as well.
Making their way into Hopscotch, which runs Sept. 8-10 and features about 132 acts from all over the country, are two full-fledged Wilmington bands.
Onward, Soldiers, which is fronted by Sean Thomas Gerard, has gradually raised its profile since forming in Wilmington a couple of years ago. They’ve got a strong local following and are getting out there and touring more and more. “You’d be hard pressed to find a more convincing (or satisfying) country rocker in any corner of the Tar Heel State,” writes Jordan Lawrence of Gerard in Hopscotch’s official festival guide.
Also making the cut is Wilmington chip rock duo D&D Sluggers–Tim White and Dustin Overcash – who perform poppy dance rock using a Nintendo Gameboy and a Nintendo DS. In the festival guide, Bryan Reed praises the band’s “chirpy synths … percussive pulses … and deep bass grooves.”
The selection of Onward and DDS doubles last year’s showing of Wilmington bands in Hopscotch, when doom metal lords Weedeater were the only representatives.
More abundant this year are acts with local connections. Nicolay, producer of the hip-hop/R&B duo The Foreign Exchange lives in Wilmington; The Love Language, performing at Hopscotch for the second straight year, were based in Wilmington when they started to become popular; and Heather McEntire of Mount Moriah, whose band Bellafea used to be Wilmington-based, attended UNCW.
Other acts who aren’t based in Wilmington but who play here somewhat regularly include Jon Lindsay, Gross Ghost, Future Islands, Dylan Gilbert, Lonnie Walker and Mandolin Orange.
Just off Southern tour, ILM's Onward, Soldiers are ready to rock for hometown crowd
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A month ago, rootsy Wilmington rock band Onward, Soldiers packed the house at downtown club The Whis...A month ago, rootsy Wilmington rock band Onward, Soldiers packed the house at downtown club The Whiskey the night before they went out on tour.
Who: Onward, Soldiers at the Azalea Festival Street Fair's main stage
When: 3 p.m. Sunday, April 10
Where: Water Street parking deck, downtown Wilmington
Onward, as they're sometimes called, just got back a few days ago, so their performance Sunday on the Azalea Festival's main stage will be a homecoming concert of sorts.
"We haven't gotten booed off stage yet," joked the group's young frontman, Sean Thomas Gerard, when asked how the tour went. No doubt they'll keep that un-booed streak intact this weekend.
Thanks to Gerard's compelling stage presence and throaty vocals, his memorable songs, evocative lyrics and the band's musical chops – guitarist Lincoln Morris and percussionist/keyboardist Kevin Rhodes are elder statesmen of the local rock scene – Onward, Soldiers find themselves in an interesting position. Having established a local fan base with frequent shows and a solid debut album, "Ghosts in This Town" (Winoca Records), they continue to push for regional recognition.
"The idea is just to play as much as possible," Gerard said. "We've just been sitting here in Wilmington for the last couple years, and all I keep hearing is, ‘You've gotta play, you've gotta play.'"
They certainly did that on their recent tour with shows all over the South, even playing four times outdoors in Austin, Texas, during the SXSW music conference, just trying to get noticed.
Now they're trying to make inroads into The Triangle's music scene. They've already been accepted to play the much-ballyhooed Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh in September, and they've got an upcoming slew of shows in Durham and elsewhere.
The second Onward, Soldiers album, "Monsters," will be released this summer.
John Staton: 343-2343
On Twitter: @Statonator
7 Bands Are Ready To Take The Lake
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Fall is traditionally the time for harvest festivals, but when it comes to the Take the Lake Music F...Fall is traditionally the time for harvest festivals, but when it comes to the Take the Lake Music Festival, Wilmington is reaping a big musical bounty.
Want to go?
What: Take the Lake Music Festival
When: Noon (gates) until 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30
Where: Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, 1941 Amphitheater Drive (take Carolina Beach Road to Tennessee Avenue to the amphitheater)
Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 at the gate, free for children 15 and under
The day-long festival, which takes place at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater on Saturday, will feature seven regional and local acts along with food, drink and an eye (or an ear) toward creating a minimal carbon footprint. Along with Wilmington acts Onward, Soldiers and Charlie the Horse, artists from Nashville (Rayland Baxter, The Kingston Springs), New Orleans (Dirty Bourbon River Show), Chapel Hill (Mandolin Orange) and Greensboro (Holy Ghost Tent Revival) will perform.
In a way, it's the culmination of the work that a number of arts groups – including Wilmington Unplugged, which has introduced the area to several of the bands listed above – have been putting into the local music scene for the past year or two.
“Everything we've been doing has been leading up to this,” said festival co-organizer Kevin Rhodes. “This is the time to shine.”
Rhodes, a multi-instrumentalist who plays with Onward, Soldiers, is also a co-founder of Wilmington label Winoca Records. True to his intense and ambitious form, Rhodes wasn't content just to put on a typical “beer and bands” festival.
“There's more to life than just beer and bands,” Rhodes said. “We're going to do that, but (Take the Lake is) kind of an awakening of wanting to give back a little bit.”
Rather than serving “Mountain Dew and Chick Fil-A,” Rhodes said, he enlisted Lovey's Organic Market of Wilmington to provide food and Kinston's Mother Earth Brewery to provide beverages. (There will be non-alcoholic drinks as well.)
Organizers decided to spend a bit more on sound and lights – Rhodes said the entire event will cost about $10,000 to produce – partly as a way of making Take the Lake more environmentally friendly (power will be provided largely by solar-powered generators) but also as a way of enhancing the overall experience.
In addition, Rhodes said, “We're going to pull the least power of any show that's been done out there.”
Rhodes is also hiring, as event staffers, workers provided by Leading Into New Communities, Inc., a nonprofit group that helps those with criminal histories, or youth at risk of becoming serious offenders, reconnect with society in a positive way. They'll help with Rhodes' goal of recycling or composting as much of the festival's waste as possible.
In addition to Wilmington Unplugged and Winoca Records, Rhodes identified local arts groups MixGrotto, Dance for Liberation and www.Cwilmington.com as having assisted in putting on Take the Lake. They're also giving booth space to nearly two dozen local nonprofit groups so that they can showcase their activities.
It's important, he said, that the festival isn't just one group putting on a concert all by itself.
“Wilmington's got a lot of stuff going on, but what are we lacking?” Rhodes said. “Maybe it's cohesiveness.”
John Staton: 343-2343
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Only a few short months ago the local men of Onward, Soldiers released their sophomore album, “Monst...Only a few short months ago the local men of Onward, Soldiers released their sophomore album, “Monsters,” to illustrious reviews. The catchy and charming single “Telling Nobody” earned the interest of iTunes, as the music giant selected it as a featured song. The band took off on a vigorous two-month tour, laced with shows at festivals like 35 Denton in Texas and venues like the Fox Theatre in Colorado. Of course their trip began here at home on the cozy stage of Soapbox Laundro-Lounge. It’s the same scene in which we can welcome them back, as they’ll bring their upbeat, unpredictable Americana to Soapbox on Friday, April 27th.
“The tour was great, a learning experience both musically and personally,” drummer Kevin Rhodes expresses. “We are proud to be North Carolina artists out there representing. We were well received and [we’re] grateful for that.”
The band—completed by bassist Jarrett Michael Dorman, lead guitarist Lincoln Morris, and the undeniable and alluring vocals of young Sean Thomas Gerard—will focus on the eastern part of the nation during its summer tour. Before they take off again, Onward, Soldiers will be joined by two captivating groups in their own right: Mount Moriah and The Great Book of John.
Folks may remember Heather McEntire from her days with Bellafea, a three-piece grunge/punk outfit that uprooted from Wilmington to Chapel Hill last decade. Renowned then for her formidable but always magnificent vocals, she now fronts the duo Mount Moriah. Along with guitarist Jenks Miller (and sometimes utilizing the musical talents of friends), they produce folk-rock sprinkled with a dash of gospel and soul.
The song “Lament” from their self-titled album/DVD, released April 2011, receives air time on Penguin 98.3, and they’ve even performed it live on 89.3 The Current in Minnesota. In fact, NPR featured the irrevocably haunting tune as a song of the week last fall. Its lyrics, spawned from McEntire who studied poetry at UNCW, harp both angelically and bewitchingly on heartache. “A mouthful of bees/Couldn’t stop me/From whispering/‘I don’t love you.’”
This show will be the second in an extremely long list of concerts during Mount Moriah’s spring tour, including a stop in Nashville for the first time. “I love traveling and performing, so touring is really enjoyable for me,” McEntire shares. “It’s hard work, but it’s crucial to tour and get your name out there. And I feel like we [are] sonically really different live than on record, so that’s fun.”
Hailing all the way from Birmingham, Alabama, The Great Book of John is an exciting four-piece with many layers of sound. The instrumentation is dramatic, earning the band reviews which have likened it to Radiohead and Wilco. “You can hear our backgrounds in soul, our folk undertones and even classic rock,” vocalist Bekah Fox explains. “There’s attention paid to the lows of Gillian Welch, solos of Hendrix and emotional energy of Cobain.”
Filled out by Taylor Shaw (lead vocals, guitar), Alex Mitchell (upright bass) and Chip Kilpatrick (drums), the group released their mostly acoustic debut record, “Yves’ Blues,” in 2008. From that point, they pursued working with well-known executives to create their most recent, self-titled release. Jeffrey Cain, producer and musician of Remy Zero fame, Grammy Award-winning engineer Darrell Thorp (Radiohead, Outkast), and Paul Logus (Jimmy Page, Beyonce) lent the group their talents. From “Yves’ Blues” to “The Great Book of band, too.”
A trifecta of sounds isn’t all Onward, Soldiers has up its sleeves for Friday. Rhodes also invited his friend, Kayne Darrell of Stop Titan Action Network (STAN), to the concert to share info about the nonprofit and local environmental consciousness. Last spring, Titan filed a lawsuit against the local mother and a pediatrician, Dr. David Hill, for statements made about the effects our area would endure should the corporation build along the Cape Fear River. The claim of slander was dropped earlier this month, but the two still oppose the cement plant coming to our community.
“Life is bigger than rock ‘n’ roll,” Rhodes says. “Positive and lasting change begins with each one of us. STAN is a group of regular people who [stand] up for us to ensure our rights to clean air and water. This issue is still active, and it’s important to get the facts on how we can help. Anywhere community gathers is a chance to spread good ideas—to share, to learn.”
Unleash the Monsters
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TThe lead singer for indie rock outfit Onward, Soldiers is somewhat of a fortune-teller. At least, o...TThe lead singer for indie rock outfit Onward, Soldiers is somewhat of a fortune-teller. At least, one would think as much is true, given the tremendous amount of accolades racked up since their debut release “Ghosts in This Town,” on local label Winoca Records. Frontman Sean Thomas Gerard seems well-aware of things to come; his clairvoyance can be pinpointed even in childhood.
“My mom would shout, ‘onward, soldiers’ before leaving the house,” he remembers. “I just thought this was a great message to have as a band. ‘Onward and upward,’ we say—with music and with life.”
It’s no joke that the band has been forging a road for itself, trucking on with no sign of brake lights since “Ghosts” came out two years ago. On the album, Gerard and drummer Kevin Rhodes worked with varying instrumentalists, but hadn’t yet found their solid crew. “We had several guitar players—call it seven,” Gerard muses.
Since, they acquired bassist Jarrett Michael Dorman and lead guitarist Lincoln Morris, all of whom form the lineup today. “Since I’ve started playing music with these guys, things have constantly been headed in an upwards direction,” Gerard says.
Onward, Soldiers played CMJ Music Marathon in New York City, Bele Chere Festival in Asheville, and Hop Scotch Music Festival in Raleigh last year, among an incessant touring schedule. “Playing festivals like this are just about as good as it gets,” Gerard boasts. “It’s a beautiful thing. You can feel all the positive energy going around. Hopscotch has been my favorite so far—I went from watching the Flaming Lips circus to running to play my set in front of a packed house. It’s a musical wonderland.”
They also filmed a show for PBS’ “Sun Sessions” at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, which will air this fall. It’s something Gerard stamps as the greatest inclusion in his infant career. After all, how many other bands have played on the same stage as the likes of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Howlin’ Wolf? “They all performed there,” Gerard says, still starry eyed. “And some of the greatest records ever were recorded there—in that tiny room.”
2012 is off to a good start, too, for the band as they prepare the release of their sophomore album, “Monsters.” Again released on Winoca, which was co-founded by bands members, Rhodes and Morris. the first single, “Telling Nobody,” already has garnered a following. iTunes made it a select feature on its home page just last week.
“We had great help from Bill Ladd on pedal steel and Justin Lacy on trumpet,” Gerard notes. “But this album, unlike the last, is a true testament to what the four of us collectively sound like.”
Hearing “Monsters” transports a listener into his or her favorite place. For instance, when “Carolina” came seeping through my speakers, I was no longer in a bland workspace but on a boat, swaying with the rhythm of the waves, the sun browning my skin, enraptured by the scent of salt air. The guitar beckons listeners into a relaxing state of mind while the piano frolics about, whimsically arresting the heart. It’s music to admire and appreciate—the kind that forces you somewhere, good or bad, beyond your control; the kind that commandeers your emotions.
The band’s sounds evolve on “Monsters” because of the addition of piano. “[It] gave [the songs] some breathing room,” Gerard explains. “Sometimes with acoustic guitar, it’s all jangly and rhythmic. When you take that out of the equation, it leaves room to come up with other ideas—to experiment with sounds and textures.”
In the same vein, Gerard’s lyricism seems to have grown since “Ghosts.” He claims “Leap Year” very personal, a song which truly strikes an inner chord. Although, he rarely performs it live.
“It’s about love and life, and holding onto that while on the road,” he details. “But we always come home, no matter how long we’ve been gone, and that’s something to remember: The circus always ends, and [it’s] back to real life. This song kind of keeps me grounded I guess.”
“Monsters” sounds more cohesive than “Ghosts”; yet, it doesn’t detract from the group’s characteristic array of genres. Its title song and “Nighttime Sky” offer strange, unprecedented and eccentric musicality.
“I’m not sure if we will ever have a solid sound,” the frontman admits. “I think [the song] ‘Monsters’ is the future, because I see us writing weirder, more experimental songs in the years to come. This was a big step in a different direction for us.”
Though the album doesn’t succumb to a theme, it doesn’t bow to being completely schizophrenic either. Gerard’s hope for Onward, Soldiers is to remain ever-evolving—a band that never creates filler just to fit a mold.
“I’m tired of hearing bands that sound so similar,” he asserts. “I like the unexpected, and I don’t want someone to pick up the next Onward record already knowing how it’s going to sound.”
The band will celebrate the release of “Monsters” this Friday, February 3rd at Soapbox Laundro-Lounge, along with openers Hammer No More the Fingers and Jon Lindsay. The show will kick off the group’s two-month tour, as they travel to Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, among other states. “We’ve got some great shows including 35 Denton and The Fox [Theatre] in Boulder,” he notes. Support for the local darlings is mandated this weekend, in honor of “Monsters,” which will be available for purchase.
Onward, Soldiers 'Monsters' Review
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You can't be everything to everyone: It's a cliché, sure, but as a platitude, it's only as overused ...You can't be everything to everyone: It's a cliché, sure, but as a platitude, it's only as overused as it is useful and true. For the latest evidence, see Monsters, the sometimes great and sometimes dreadful sophomore effort from Wilmington's Onward, Soldiers.
Two years ago, the quartet sprang forward as a revved-up folk outfit with a taste for Southern rock. They paired frenetic acoustic structures with swampy electrified riffs, turning in anthems that were ramshackle, charming and effective.
It would be unfair to say that Monsters isn't a step forward. The band plays with a polish that outshines anything they've done in the past. The problem is that they can't figure out in which direction they want to take that new gleam. Opener "Telling Nobody" is a jaunty slice of piano pop with a bouncing gait ready-made for the next iPod commercial. But track two, "Nighttime Sky," switches to desert rock complete with bongos, warbling guitar lines and mariachi-style horns. Sean Thomas Gerard adapts his gruff pipes to these opposing tasks with an enviable seamlessness.
Both songs open up possibilities that demand further exploration. But rather than tap these parallel veins, the band rushes through a series of scattershot ideas, many of which fail miserably. The title track pushes pitifully through dark funk, the bass line fumbling through a regurgitated groove, the guitar settling for lifeless fills. "Leap Year" is worse still. The band expects dramatic, reverb-drenched drumming to salvage a poorly penned piano ballad. It's only a boring, overwrought mess.
On Monsters, Onward, Soldiers' restlessness is their worst enemy. Failing to take their time, many of their new songs end up slapdash and unsatisfying. Their talent is clear, but their focus is not.
Wilmington's Onward, Soldiers are an unlikely Southern rock band
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Sean Thomas Gerard says the word "well" in the most charming way. The vowel seeps out nice and slow,...Sean Thomas Gerard says the word "well" in the most charming way. The vowel seeps out nice and slow, so that by the time it leaves his lips, it's a disarmingly soft and twangy "a," not the more direct and proper "e." It's an unmistakably Southern trait, one most folks in North Carolina either share or hear daily.
Speaking from his Wilmington home on a Friday afternoon, Gerard—who leads the genre-tweaking folk-rock band Onward, Soldiers—starts almost every answer to almost every question with that pronunciation. But Sean is not a Southerner. He actually grew up in Pennsylvania.
"Moving to the South, especially from Pittsburgh, where it's kind of a fast place to live, kind of gave me a new perspective, not just on songwriting, but on life," says the 24-year-old musician. "When I moved down here, everyone seemed so relaxed. There's just a whole different vibe going on down here."
That accent could either be a projection of Gerard's feelings toward his new home, or simply a coincidence. Either way, it's a fitting expression of the regional facets he's come to embrace, including the Southern-ness that now pervades his music. Moving with the laid-back rollick of The Marshall Tucker Band and the swaggering electric chomp of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Onward, Soldiers funnels Gerard's words through old, shuffling rhythms and bursts of rock aggression. This is roots rock with a Southern soul and a restless heart.
That shiftiness stems directly from Gerard. He first ventured south about six years ago to attend the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. He took all the classes to become a marine biologist, but music was a constant distraction. He'd played guitar since age 12, singing in church and school choirs before that. At school, he longed for some creative stimulus, which he finally found when he moved back to Pittsburgh at the end of his first year in Wilmington. He and a friend put songs to tape on an eight-track. After two more years of school and musical tinkering in Pittsburgh, he again felt the urge to leave, moving back to Wilmington to give music an honest shot. He had finally relented to the only activity that seemed to let his mind constantly wander.
"A lot of people have said that to me," he laughs, talking about his inability to be still. "You don't really notice that until somebody points it out to you I guess. I'm pretty restless, and that would explain a lot of the way I write and the way we perform."
This is clear on Ghosts in This Town, Onward, Soldiers' 2010 debut. One moment, Gerard's leading his band through an agile Allman-esque slice of riff-rock called "Alright by Me"; the next, he's writhing among the briars of "The Past," an alt-country tune that prickles with emotion. Gerard jumps around even more lyrically. On "Let the Time Roll By," for instance, he ricochets between one-liners, finding sufficient adhesive in his wry, down-home populism. "Nothing changes in the past but opinions, and not the facts," he offers in Dylan-like salvos. "When war was all that you absorbed, but you can't find what we're fighting for, you got to bring the boys on back." His helter-skelter points bounce along on a potent click-clack of banjo and piano, all punctuated by choice guitar solos. The momentum sweeps the song to an irresistible chorus. "Chase my blues away," Gerard encourages a lover.
This Onward, Soldiers song, like several others, depends on the music to make Gerard's grab-bag approach cohere. This likeable, yet richly layered Americana comes courtesy of a band whose members are divided by a substantial age gap. While Gerard and bassist Jarett Michael Dorman are both in their 20s, drummer Kevin Rhodes and guitarist/ producer Lincoln Morris are in their 40s. That gap might hinder many bands from blocking off time for recording or simply getting along; after all, as Gerard notes, the band's elder statesmen have been making music for longer than he's been alive. For Onward, Soldiers, though, that age gap means a fluid mix of experience and vitality that allows Gerard to follow his wayfaring musical impulses without slipping off the map.
"It's just playing music," Rhodes says. "Music to me is ageless. There's plenty of people we know older than us who are still killing it. But I think Sean also has kind of an old soul. I don't think about it a whole lot. It does strike me when they pass out earlier than I do, and I get up earlier as well."
That just-go-with-it mentality—or solving problems simply by pushing past them—seems to be Onward, Soldiers' special attribute, whether that means the young Northerner leading the older Southern rock band or the band's haberdasher approach to songwriting. It's a resolve that's tied up in the band's name, a saying Gerard borrowed from his mom.
"As we were packing up to leave the house, she would say, 'Onward, soldiers,'" he remembers. "A lot of people get a lot of different meanings out of it, but that's really all there is to it. It's really just moving, moving onward, onward with life despite circumstances."
Album review: Onward, Soldiers’ ‘Monsters’
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When it comes to youth and experience, it’s usually an either/or situation. With Wilmington rock ...When it comes to youth and experience, it’s usually an either/or situation.
With Wilmington rock band Onward, Soldiers, it’s a package deal. On the band’s latest album, “Monsters” (released Feb. 21 on Winoca Records), young frontman Sean Thomas Gerard delivers a cache of vital songs burnished to a fine polish with the help of the elder statesmen of the group, drummer/vocalist Kevin Rhodes and guitarist Lincoln Morris, both in their 40s, as well as bassist Jarett Dorman, who, like Gerard, is in his 20s.
The band pairs Gerard’s memorable melodies and hatchet-sharp vocals with a variety of styles, from ‘70s-era blue-eyed soul and arena rock to straight-up country. But what’s more impressive is how Onward, Soldiers fully inhabits these styles in an original way that results in familiar-sounding songs that are actually true originals.
Onward, Soldiers, has been out touring the country for the last two months, but they’ll be back in town on Friday for a homecoming show at the Soapbox with burgeoning Triangle band Mount Moriah (featuring former Wilmingtonian Heather McEntire) and The Great Book of John.
In a lot of ways, the album showcases Gerard as an original young voice. He’s a got a choppy, warbly way of singing that smoothes out nicely, and while his lyrics aren’t exactly straightforward, certain themes eventually surface, doomed love and living as a stranger in a strange land among them.
The bouncy rock floater “Telling Nobody,” driven by a totally ‘70s piano line and Gerard’s whoa-a-whoa-ohs, relates the story of an ill-fated first love affair while dropping Dylan-esque bits of lyrical wisdom: “Only cheaters/ Pay the meters on the fly.”
“Nighttime Sky” is darker and more driving, while the rootsy “Living on the Run” features shuffly rhythms and spooky backing vocals.
“Highway Calling” features shimmery keyboardss before kicking into gear Jackson Browne-style. “Cry” is a country barn-dancer that segues into something more subtle. And “Carolina” – there are lots of references to Carolina, maybe a couple too many – has nice guitar solo from Morris as well as a touch of Pink Floyd; in some ways, it feels like a more fleshed-out cousin to “Stick to Your Guns,” one of the band’s early songs.
If “Monsters” has a song for the ages, it’s not the title track, which sounds like a psychedelic cartoon from Hunter S. Thompson with its thumping drums, jazzed-out guitars and ghosty backing vocals.
Rather, the standout, as I hear it, is the driving, unforgettable rocker “Cinder Blocks,” which is one of the best songs to come out of Wilmington, period. What its chorus means –”Darling cinder block eyes/ You put me in a coma” – is anybody’s guess, but when Gerard sings, “I can’t think my thoughts to myself/ My head’s entirely open,” he speaks for songwriters everywhere.
The album ends on anticlimactic note with the lovely but unremarkable “Leap Year,” but the lack of a punchy closer doesn’t detract much from “Monsters.” Whether it catapults the band beyond the confines of Wilmington remains to be seen, but as a piece of art, it doesn’t leave much to be desired.
Details: Onward, Soldiers, with Mount Moriah and the Great Book of John. 9 p.m. doors, 10 p.m. show, Friday, April 27. The Soapbox, 255 N. Front St., downtown Wilmington. $8 in advance, $10 day of show, $11 and $14 for those under 21. 251-8500 or www.OnwardSoldiers.net
Music Review: Onward, Soldiers
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Acclaimed artists are often known to create a certain chronic style — a recognizable feeling or atti...Acclaimed artists are often known to create a certain chronic style — a recognizable feeling or attitude that their work cultivates.
Wilmington’s Onward, Soldiers began to develop a catchy signature sound with its 2010 debut, Ghost in this Town. It was raw in its instrumentation, lyricism and emotion. With this organic and fluid introduction in mind, Onward, Soldiers’ latest album, Monsters, is perplexing.
Monsters’ nine tracks are difficult to classify as a group, even in broad terms. Some, such as “Living on the Run” and “Highway Calling,” might exist under the alt-country umbrella. Others, like “Cinder Blocks,” exhibit more of a rock ‘n’ roll sound. There’s pop, funk and tango, too.
This genre inconsistency is not in itself the album’s downfall. Rather, it highlights the disparity between the band’s’ strengths on the record versus stage. The title track is a circus of sound that would make sense in a live setting. But its heavily layered and exaggerated style sounds hokey in a recorded setting, deviating from what made its past straightforward approach so attractive.
On the other hand, the steady and soulful “Highway Calling” gives a taste of the band in its element. Without the background cooing and piano riffs that belong more readily in musical theater, the standout track is coherent and holistically satisfying without necessitating a live performance. Here and in other simply orchestrated tracks like “Carolina,” Sean Thomas Gerard’s vocals are more personal than showy.
Onward, Soldiers has made the next step toward finding a stylistic balance. With clear musicianship and definite strong points, Monsters might just lay the groundwork for future success.
Onward, Soldiers - Monsters - Album Review
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Sometimes music takes me inside a television show I haven't seen in two decades. Not that I really r...Sometimes music takes me inside a television show I haven't seen in two decades. Not that I really remember much about the show itself, I remember Corky and I remember that chick's glasses (also what I wanted to put on those glasses), and I think I remember the opening song. But the show Life Goes On isn't memorable insofar as story lines or specific situations the chick with the glasses or Corky got into, but there was a definite feel to the muthafucker. Like life was a shitload simpler than we made it out to be.
If life was a show on prime time television from the 90s, everyone would potentially have a train chugging through their house, a brother with a learning disability, and the potential to have two dads. None of that has anything to do with how it feels to think about how it felt to think about thinking about feeling like you're in a 90s sitcom. But Fuck you, you're the poopie butt reading this.
Onward, Soldiers is the band that wrote and recorded 54% of sitcom theme songs during my childhood it seems.
The album Monsters from Onward, Soldiers feels like a fucking 90s primetime television show. It's got a bit of everything from singalong vocals, to rusty twangy guitars, vamping piano, galloping drums, dashes of Shakedown Street-esque swank, what I assume are Mick Jagger-like facial expressions while singing, and songwriting that is comfortable and familiar. Monsters doesn't necessarily break any musical boundaries, but it does have that loveable, near-country, I wear flannel because it's practical nostalgic feeling of the music I remember other people listening to when I was a kid.
Then again, on two occasions I thought I was listening to one of the newer Arctic Monkeys albums, but I wasn't. Onward, Soldiers has the feel of the old in someone else's ears, but the feel of the new in mine.
The two tracks I fucking love the fucking most are Carolina, and opening track Telling Nobody. Telling Nobody for it's similarity to those Gap commercial songs that you act like you don't hear, but you sing while folding sweaters using a plastic folding tool. It's got potential to be one of the songs you know you won't be able to fucking stand after a while, but you milk the shit out of it while it's still fresh. Carolina is the stare out the train car door while petting your huskie song, and you can almost feel yourself move in place (or it's just amazing opium). Home is where you're sleeping tonite is such a fucking perfect slow song lyric, it's almost cliche. But I fucking love it.
While I kept going back to just three out of the nine tracks, I have yet to hit the next button to skip anything in particular. I have a feeling Onward, Soldiers is going to latch on to my testicles when I'm singing one of their songs while changing the oil on my Corsica, and then I'll make a mad pantsless dash to the manpod to reunite with these pricks leaving oily fingerprints and semen stains all over the davenport in the basement.
Album Stream: Onward, Soldiers - Monsters
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North Carolina’s Onward, Soldiers will release its second album, Monsters, this coming Tuesday, Feb....North Carolina’s Onward, Soldiers will release its second album, Monsters, this coming Tuesday, Feb. 21 via Winoca Records.
The project began in 2007, when singer/songwriter Sean Thomas Gerard moved from Pittsburgh, Pa. to Wilmington, N.C. and fortuitously met drummer Kevin Rhodes, who also happened to be the co-founder of Winoca Records. The two recruited several local musicians to help write and record Onward, Soldiers’ debut album Ghost in the Town in 2009.
That album got some good exposure, too, with tracks appearing on the teen drama One Tree Hill and a benefit album for Gulf-communities affected by the BP oil spill called Gasoline Rainbows.
Onward, Soldiers added guitarist Lincoln Morris and bassist Jarett Dorman to round out its lineup and now, the alternative-Americana quartet is ready to release its sophomore album. To coincide with their upcoming appearance at SXSW, Onward, Soldiers will set off on a U.S. tour. Check out those dates and stream Monsters below.
Album Review: Onward, Soldiers - Monsters
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As would be expected from a band with a name implying forward motion, Wilmington's Onward, Soldier...
As would be expected from a band with a name implying forward motion, Wilmington's Onward, Soldiers breaks new ground on its second album, Monsters.
As the record kicks off with "Telling Nobody," the first thing that jumps out is how open the sound is. Percussion and keyboard drives the songs on Monsters rather than guitar. This frees the guitar to play more melodic lines and allows the sound to resonate more.
"Telling Nobody" is a buoyant, bouncy pop song and it's followed up with the flamenco styling of "Nighttime Sky." This isn't even the most jarring style jump. The funky groves of "Monster" lead into the bright twang of "Cry." It sounds like everyone in a disco all of the sudden started line dancing.
There's also plenty here for fans of Onward, Soldiers catchy brand of southern rock. "Living on the Run" would make a great road trip song with its driving drums and lonely steel guitar and harmonica. The somber "Carolina" is a smoldering ballad and a welcome addition to the collection of Carolina songs.
Monsters can pull off these style shifts because its songs are all anchored with enjoyable melodies and the band is precise in its execution.
Onward, Soldiers are experimenting and still forming their identity as a band, but on Monsters it makes sure that its audience can enjoy the process.
Monsters will be available on February 21. Onward, Soldiers is celebrating the release of Monsters with Hammer No More The Fingers at The Pour House in Raleigh on January 26.
Onward, Soldiers: Monsters- Popmatters
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Monsters could have been a disaster. When from song to song I’m wondering what exactly the band is a...Monsters could have been a disaster. When from song to song I’m wondering what exactly the band is aiming at, I would ordinarily classify the album as scattershot. To some extent, Monsters is; the album opens with jaunty piano pop, then goes into typical rock, then into alt-country, then into country, then into piano balladry. It’s a very sorted affair, and it gives the impression that Onward, Soldiers think genre-hopping for the sake of genre-hopping is a good thing. On most albums it wouldn’t be, but on Monsters the band pull it off. Nearly every track will have you come back for a second listen; even when the lyrics are strange, like on “Cinder Blocks” (“Darling cinder block eyes you put me in a corner”... what?), the hook is so good that you just give up on wondering what they mean and sing along.
The one unifying genre running through the album is country; the snare drum-led outlaw ballad “Living on the Run” and “Cry” are typically country, whereas they veer more towards alt-country on “Carolina.” This does provide some unity to the album’s diversified sounds, but this isn’t a country album with a couple of pop and rock tracks thrown in for good measure. Monsters is an experiment in multiple genres; it plays out like an album comprised of nine great singles. Every track here is memorable, and the album lends itself to multiple spins in the stereo. With a little more focus, Onward, Soldiers could be onto something truly excellent.
Onward, Soldiers Monsters Review
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The Alpha Site has had a copy of Monsters in my car for a few weeks now, and when we were driving ho...The Alpha Site has had a copy of Monsters in my car for a few weeks now, and when we were driving home from somewhere last week, we were talking about why it’s good. It’s not original, shep. said, but they also don’t sound like anybody else, which is why they’re good. Which was the best description of the Wilmington, NC, quartet that I could have thought of myself; taken individually every slice of music on this record isn’t necessarily new. But Onward, Soldiers either puts them together in a new way, or a surprising way, or the song that lies over the familiar music is sharp and clever. Sean Gerard Thomas is one of the best songwriters in the state of North Carolina, and his writing, which was catchy and interesting on debut LP Ghosts In This Town is visibly more adult and subtle on this disc.
It’s the variety of sound that pulls me in, after Thomas’s lyrics; opener “Telling Nobody” is fiercely dark and full of lush piano runs, while “Cinder Blocks” is lyrically heartwrenching against a chorus that will stay in your head for days, with your brain unaware of just how sad the song is, at its heart. It’s an album about moving on, and loss, and where on some songs that’s evident, the best — like “Cinder Blocks” — are the songs where you almost can’t tell the song is devastating under its hook-filled guitars and driving drums. “Highway Calling” has a cowpunk feel to it; “Monsters” is a sweetly noir-pop love song, in a strange way. “Cry” is as close to country as Onward, Soldiers gets. No two songs sound alike; no two sets of lyrics are similar in content or structure, except for that run of loss.
It is, by far, my favorite album that has been released in 2012, by about a mile. If you’re in the Triangle, Onward, Soldiers celebrates the release with Hammer No More The Fingers and J Kutchma this Thursday, 1/26, at the Pour House. Doors 8PM, show 9PM. $10. Be there.
Album Review: Onward, Soldiers- Monsters
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Onward, Soldiers released their sophomore album Monsters on February 21, 2012. Their first album Gho...Onward, Soldiers released their sophomore album Monsters on February 21, 2012. Their first album Ghost In This Town was released in 2009, which received a lot of praise and play on television shows like One Tree Hill. Since then they have played all over the country in showcases like at NYC’s CMJ Music Festival, Raleigh's Hopscotch Music Festival and Asheville's Bele Chere.
There are 9 tracks on Monsters, and none of the tracks are really similar in style. There are a variety of genres displayed here, but the best way to describe Monsters overall is probably southern leaning indy rock. The opening track “Telling Nobody” is the most appealing on the album, being a commercially friendly piano pop song. Its definitely a track that can, and should, be played on alternative stations all over the country. Track two, “Nighttime Sky” goes in a completely different direction, with a variety of instruments being featured such as horns and bongo drums. There are changes like this all over the album, with everything from upbeat catchy pop songs, slow piano ballads, funk and country music represented.
Video: Telling Nobody
Some would find the use of so many genres somewhat disjoined, but somehow it all sort of comes together and works for them. Perhaps they should focus on a more clear direction in sound for the future, but because of the variety of genres they cover on this album there is really a song on here for everyone. The band has clearly grown since Ghost In This Town, and with a more focused musical direction they are sure to continue their success.
Onward, Soldiers is currently on tour and has shows scheduled all over the country. Right now there are no dates posted for our area, but they should add some soon, so check their website for updates. In the meantime, you can check out Monsters, which is currently streaming on Paste Magazine’s website, or buy it through iTunes.
ON THE RECORD: Onward, Soldiers
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A chance meeting between singer-songwriter and Pittsburgh, PA, native Sean Thomas Gerard and Wilming...A chance meeting between singer-songwriter and Pittsburgh, PA, native Sean Thomas Gerard and Wilmington, NC-based Winoca Records label owner and intrepid percussionist Kevin Rhodes is what led to the unique musical chemistry and partnership of Onward, Soldiers. With the addition of Lincoln Morris and Jarett Dorman, the Tar Heel group recorded a fine sophomore album, Monsters, in Rhodes’ Wilmington-based studio and office. And the album was released in February to solid reviews.
On 2009’s Ghost In This Town, the band’s debut release, Onward, Soldiers played with folk and roots-rock melodies solely driven by acoustic songwriting. But on Monsters, this sound is refined and expounded upon through the use of piano and horns. Even more interestingly, the group explores different song structures altogether, creating a more versatile and open-sounding pop record. Monsters is raw yet refined, and the band’s blend of rock ‘n’ roll with classic pop and down-home Carolina aesthetics is reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Steely Dan, and Jackson Browne. Yet it still sounds robust and new. EasternSurf.com caught up with the band at their home recording studio in the Winoca Records office in Wilmington, NC, to talk about inspiration old and new, Monsters’ accessibility, and Pink Floyd.
ESM: So how did Onward, Soldiers come together?
Sean Thomas Gerard: When I moved down here two years ago, I was making demos on GarageBand like most aspiring musicians and gave a stack to Folks Café up the street. Kevin got one, and he was overseeing Wilmington Unplugged at the time, so I went down and played a couple of songs. I think by the time the second song I played was over, well, he had joined [in] on drums. Lincoln was there too, and all of a sudden there was a band thing starting to happen. We just started picking up shows because Wilmington is home to Winoca. Maybe it’s the cost of living or our own personal ties that keep us all here. I came from a struggling working-class family and that’s a lot of what I’ve written about.
Kevin Rhodes: Onward, Soldiers is this band that is against all odds, fighting the good fight, positive hooks. It’s hard out there. This is a labor of love. It isn’t about us — it’s about everyone. We’re all soldiers — we’re all struggling. There’s nothing better than being able to play for people and see them happy and give them some hope. It’s all about family and taking care of people.
ESM: How does the age difference between all of you affect your music?
STG: I think it definitely works in our favor. We all listen to a lot of different things. I know growing up I listened to a lot of my parents’ music, and Kevin and Lincoln were probably listening to the same thing. We all have a shared interest in the Laurel Canyon songwriters and we’ve been trying to work on harmonies a lot more, especially on the new album, which is sort of the Crosby, Stills, & Nash formula. Lincoln listens to a bunch of weird shit too, though, like Deerhoof. We all listen to our own stuff on the side, so when we were writing the songs for this new record, we changed scales and it sort of blended generations. We’d all like to sound more like Tom Waits, though.
ESM: So it’s more like a collective?
STG: We all love good pop music, too, so we put a lot of thought into hooks and things for people to relate to. If people aren’t singing those lyrics back to you or
the guitar hooks aren’t there, people aren’t going to remember you.
ESM: That’s definitely reflected on Monsters.
STG: Yeah, there’s no comparison between [that and 2009’s] Ghosts In This Town, which felt cluttered. There’s more range and genre jumping. It’s also poppier and even maybe a little dancier. We still do some Americana tunes — we’ve got a Gram Parsons-sounding song, a little psychedelia and swirling guitar solos — but the quality is just better. The engineer from Sun Studio came and engineered it, so it just sounds way better.
KR: Sean sat down at the piano, which I was bugging him to do, and the songs are poppier because of it. It’s got a good beat, it’s easy to dance to… it’s all about girls.
STG: There’s more of an absence of the acoustic guitar on this one and I think piano is the foundation for over half the record. The songs are built around the bass and drums after that. Someone said our first record lacked sonic weight or something like that and I think this one definitely doesn’t. There’s more energy.
KR: There’s some straight up rock ‘n’ roll on there, too.
ESM: Listening to your lyrics, it sounds like they’re coming from an old soul. What inspiration do you draw from to write?
STG: A lot of songs are dream-inspired and I talk in other people’s perspectives as if they were my own. It might seem like I know what I’m talking about, but I usually don’t. I write a lot of songs that never happen. I usually try to write a song a day, but now I’m more focused on keeping them hooky. There are fewer lyrics on this album.
KR: That sort of defines the song. People can draw from it what they want.
ESM: On the first record it seems like you guys pulled from Americana artists like The Grateful Dead, Ryan Adams, Exile On Main Street-era Rolling Stones, and folk. How about Monsters?
Lincoln Morris: I really draw from old classic rock stuff. Stuff my dad listened too.
KR: It’s way earlier than Ryan Adams. More like Neil Young, Gram Parsons, Elton John, and Jackson Browne.
STG: [Laughs] Yeah, I don’t listen to Ryan Adams. Jackson Browne is really what got me into country sounds. Exile On Main Street is also one of the greatest records of all time and that definitely comes through on this one.
ESM: I threw the Ryan Adams comparison in there just to see how you guys would react.
STG: We’re always getting compared to newer bands; someone said we sounded like Kings Of Leon meets Mumford & Sons, and I was like, “We don’t listen to either of those bands.”
KR: Well, there’s a little of that sing-along vibe on this record, and the songs are different from one song to the next. But there’s a flow to it.
STG: Yeah, it’s a weird mix and it took us a while to figure out the order.
ESM: What’s been the pinnacle moment for the band so far?
STG: We’ve had a few cool moments this year. We opened for Johnny Winter, who played at Woodstock. We also went to Nashville and played Music City Roots in a barn with Jim Lauderdale as the host.
KR: Man, Downtown Sundown in Wilmington last summer was pretty rad, probably our biggest show here with like 2,500 people. CMJ Music Conference [in New York], too. It was kind of big time, actually, and we played a set for this luncheon in a conference room with some execs. The weirdest set ever, but I think we did the best we could have done for not having done anything like that before.
STG: They applauded. They weren’t on their laptops. I think that was a good sign.
ESM: If you could pick any artists from any era, whom would you play with?
STG: Pink Floyd in the mid-‘60s right as Syd Barrett was losing it. Being able to dress like that in public would be great.
KR: I’ll go with that.
For all things Onward, Soldiers, visit www.OnwardSoldiers.net
Onward, Soldiers debut Sun Studio Sessions video
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The intro to Onward, Soldiers‘ performance for the series Sun Studio Sessions quotes a passage that ...The intro to Onward, Soldiers‘ performance for the series Sun Studio Sessions quotes a passage that refers to Memphis as the Jerusalem of music and Sun Studio as its most precious shrine. It’s a troublesome quotation, mainly because considering Memphis as the most holy place in all of music disregards pretty much every genre other than rock ‘n’ roll and the blues, but it is a fitting filter through which to look at the Wilmington rock band. On their most recent outing, the hit-and-miss Monsters, the band draws from all over the rock ‘n’ roll spectrum, trying on a slew of styles, some of which they pull off, while others chafe in the wrong places.
Luckily, they perform one of the better songs here. “Nobody Knows” is a jaunty bit of laid-back, old-school piano balladry, a feisty, fetching expression of pop exuberance. The band’s performance here holds up as well. Sean Thomas Gerrard unleashes a satisfyingly rough croon as the band accentuates the song’s already irresistible groove with a more powerful low end. The assertion that Sun Studio is the most important shrine in all of music is debatable, but it’s safe to say that Onward, Soldiers’ performance lives up to the storied locale. Check out the video below. —Jordan Lawrence
Wilmington’s Onward, Soldiers talk new LP, coastal isolation
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Wilmington’s Onward, Soldiers are the kind of eclectic rock band that isn’t happy unless it’s being ...Wilmington’s Onward, Soldiers are the kind of eclectic rock band that isn’t happy unless it’s being at least a half dozen things at once. On their 2010 debut, Ghosts in this Town, they were a frenetic Southern rock band, finding connections between bluegrass, country and blues and mining them for all they’re worth. The quartet returns with sophomore LP Monsters, due from Winoca Records on Feb. 21. It’s a more mature outing, opting for dense, modern-leaning folk rock over the ragged approach of their first outing. In addition, Onward, Soldiers are striving to be more than just a Wilmington band, booking a release show at Raleigh’s Pour House on Jan. 26 in addition to a hometown celebration at the Soapbox on Feb. 3.
Shuffle‘s Jordan Lawrence caught up with singer and songwriter Sean Thomas Gerard to discuss the new record and the band’s ambition to break out of their hometown.
Shuffle: Tell me about the recording process for Monsters. Where’d you go? How long did it take?
Sean Thomas Gerard: Like the first album, we recorded Monsters ourselves at Winoca Studios aka Kevin Rhodes’, our drummer’s, house. We started recording over a year ago. Because we recorded ourselves, we had the freedom to experiment with any and all ideas and sounds with each song. You can attribute the mix of styles on the record to the amount of time we had to record and mix. We had plenty of time to let the songs grow and change throughout the recordings. We definitely added a few instruments that made this record: pedal steel, 12-string Rickenbacker, trumpets, and piano. This record is the epitome of music to me. It’s got a little bit of something for everybody. Or at least i hope it does.
Shuffle: It’s a lot more high-fidelity than the last outing. Was that something you wanted?
STG: We were fortunate to use a couple of really nice microphones for the recordings. We also had our friend Matt Ross-Spang, the engineer at Sun Studio in Memphis, do the final mixes of the album. I think between those two elements, and Lincoln’s (Morris, guitar) endless editing work, they really made the difference in quality on this record. I know the mics took my vocals to another level, and the drums and bass are much more present. Overall, it’s just a cleaner sound. I think it works for these songs.
Shuffle: The arrangements here are a little more dense, less about rock intensity and more about melodic intrigue. Was that just a gradual shift or something you were going for?
STG: Half of this record I wrote on the piano. I think that was what changed my songwriting melodically. I started thinking more about melodies and less about big electric guitars. Lincoln’s guitar playing also meshed well with the vocal parts. He’s good about weaving in between vocal lines. I don’t think melodic intrigue was intentional, I think it’s something that happened with the songs during the recording process. We really wanted these songs to be memorable, timeless. I’m hopeful that this record is going to be just as appealing in 20 years.
Shuffle: You’ve got release parties set up for Raleigh and Wilmington. Trying to break into new markets?
STG: We’ve spent the last year working the Triangle area at least a couple times a month. We played Hopscotch last fall and were fortunate to have a great crowd. We feel like we have a growing crowd in the region and we want to embrace that with dual record release shows. We felt like playing at the Pour House would give people from all over the Triangle an opportunity to see us play before we leave for tour, and give them an early opportunity to get the new record. Of course, we are planning a big event in Wilmington too. We tend to play our best shows around here.
Shuffle: Is that a tough thing, trying to branch out from the coast inland? Do the scenes feel disconnected or closer together?
STG: The Triangle and Wilmington’s music scenes definitely feel a little disconnected. We’re just a little too far away to have mixing scenes. There aren’t that many Wilmington bands that branch out enough. And Wilmington doesn’t offer nearly the live venues the Triangle has: more venues, more bands, more opportunities. We love our hometown, but we are trying to play in other markets as often as possible. We are leaving for a lengthy tour in February and playing places throughout TN, AK, TX, CO, LA, NM, OK. Throughout the US, the Triangle has a great reputation for music, which is why it’s so important to us to be a part of it.
Shuffle: Monsters is a pretty menacing title. How’d you settle on it?
STG: “Monsters” is the song on the album that I think is the most abstract. When we were thinking about album titles, we were discussing the theme of the album, what title could tie it all together. The songs were written over a two-year span and are so different lyrically and stylistically. I thought on this for a while and couldn’t come up with a solution, other than naming the album after the song that was the most different. I think this symbolizes continued change in our music, for this record and beyond. When I met with Michelle Connolly, the artist who designed the cover, we were looking through characters she had cut out of paper, and it just seemed to fit right. We weren’t trying to convey that WE are monsters. These things aren’t to be taken too literally. It’s definitely a far happier album than the last.
Onward, Soldiers at Sun Studio
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Last Friday, Onward, Soldiers had an album release show for their new CD, “Monsters,” at The Soapbox...Last Friday, Onward, Soldiers had an album release show for their new CD, “Monsters,” at The Soapbox and then hit the road. In late 2011 the band was in Memphis and performed at the famous Sun Studio where great musicians like B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and bands like U2 have recorded. It was part of a television show that airs on PBS and is now in its third season.
Sun Studio is more than a famed space; it’s a recording studio that musicians have said lends a specific sound to what artists put down. I went there in the ’90s and in lieu of taking the tour my friends and I got to sit in on a band that performed and was broadcast to the UK. It’s not a huge place as I recall, and seems a little lost in time. From the look of the OS video it looks very much the same.
Like CBGB’s, Muscle Shoals or Motown, 706 Union Avenue is an important part of American music history and OS getting to play there is a real treat. When Stephen Kellogg performed here recently he spoke of playing at Sun and getting the chance to go back and record music.
“We walk in and it’s Sun Studios. They (say) you should have about eight tunes ready. Then we found out this was for a TV show and (stayed) in Sun most of the night recording songs, chatting and doing all this cool stuff. We stayed in touch and went back (later on) and recorded. It was one of those things where I thought we were walking in there to say hi and then eight hours later we’d been recording songs all night and doing interviews and it ended up on PBS.”
Onward, Soldiers performed their song “Telling Nobody’ and there’s brief interviews from Kevin Rhodes and Sean Thomas Gerard for the piece that aired on Sun Studio Sessions. The video is below. Enjoy and congrats to the band.
1. Stick To Your Guns
2. The Past
3. Alright By Me
4. Let The Time Roll By
6. Watery Grave
7. Nighttime Sky
9. Cinder Blocks
1. Telling Nobody
2. Living on The Run
3. Highway Calling
8. Gentle Man
9. Under The Radar
10. All In It For Love
|Jul 26, 2013 Friday||6:00 PM||Jack beagles||Charlotte, NC, US|
|RECESS FEST Onward, Soldiers Lilac Shadows Can't kids Zach Mexico|
|Aug 24, 2013 Saturday||2:00 PM||316 n academy st||Cary, NC, US|
|Laze Daze in Downtown Cary|