New York City, 2008.
A string player from California.
A singer-songwriter form Scotland.
A drummer/producer from Detroit.
Two Seconds To Midnight is born.
Blending brooding strings, intricate rhythms and the brutally honest lyrics of Scottish front man Zig Payton that effortlessly morph from hear-a-pin-drop intimacy to soaring through-the-roof-and-beyond codas, comparisons have been drawn to the likes of Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Mogwai and The Frames but even the band themselves admit to not really planning where the music can go next, leaving a vast frontier in front of them. That’s the way they like it.
It started as a acoustic ‘side-project’ between Zig Payton and Hannah Hens-Piazza to pass time between other projects, rehearsing in a wine bar in Queens before the bar opened its doors to the public. They toiled away on Zig’s songs of messy love, longing and bad hangovers. Josh Moyer soon joined the fold and took things to the next level, adding his unique rhythms and soon after, with the help of some local musician friends to round out the sound, they released their debut 'Architecture' in 2010.
A stroke of luck hit when HBO caught wind of the song 'Opt1m1sm' from that album and used it in the worldwide promo campaign for the second season of Boardwalk Empire.
Since then they have been working on their much anticipated follow up with legendary drummer/producer Joey Waronker (Beck, Atoms For Peace, REM) in the co-production and mixing seat, due for release in 2013.
Zig Payton - Vocals, Guitar
Hannah Hens-Piazza - Violin, Viola, Glockenspeil
Josh Moyer - Drums, programming, Percussion
This Is How The World Ends (LP - 2013 tba)
Architecture (LP - 2010)
Opt1m1sm (Single) featured as the music for the worldwide promo campaign for the second season of HBO's Boardwalk Empire.
Featured artist on 'Sound Opinions' (Chicago Public Radio).
No Surf Music Review 8/10
[+ Show ]
(excerpt) "Architecture is particularly complex and vivid for a debut album, and a solid work that a...(excerpt) "Architecture is particularly complex and vivid for a debut album, and a solid work that any rock fan should explore, especially one that enjoys sounds on the more experimental side. What’s most intriguing, however, is that it’s just the start."
Mike Lopez (head of programming, VH1 Classic) On Two Seconds To Midnight's Debut Album 'Architecture'.
[+ Show ]
Two Seconds To Midnight carries the torch passed on by the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain and Rad...Two Seconds To Midnight carries the torch passed on by the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain and Radiohead. Their first album, “Architecture”, 8 tracks long, features aggressive guitars, ethereal strings and pounding drums that will at times make you dance and other times make you weep.
Their live shows are where the band really shines, though. Their intensity adds extra punch to album standouts “The Forgotten” and “Feeding Frenzy”, and new songs like “Survivor Guilt Anthem” will leave you wanting for more.
- Mike Lopez (head of programming VH1 Classic/MTV Networks)
Time Well Spent With Two Seconds To Midnight
[+ Show ]
So much can be said about the evolution of a band. Over 50 years ago, for example, a teenaged duo...So much can be said about the evolution of a band.
Over 50 years ago, for example, a teenaged duo called The Quarrymen would one day become a foursome known as The Beatles, with their music going from the cutesy "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to the trippy "I Am the Walrus." Sure, that's an extreme example using the most famous band in music history, but the case has been made -- a case which holds true with the Astoria-based, six-member band Two Seconds to Midnight.
With that in mind, there's an obvious history lesson to be learned about Two Seconds to Midnight's constituents before we get to the music they produce.
Years ago, when Oasis was one of the hottest bands around, a young lad in Perthshire, Scotland named Zig Payton had become inspired to pick up a guitar and learn some of their songs. By learning E, A and D chords, Payton wasn't just inspired -- he was playing Oasis tunes in no time. "That was the beautiful thing about Oasis: they were so simple, at least in their early days. I learned three chords and could play half of their back catalogue," admits Payton, with a chuckle. From there, he would spend some of his free time learning the ins and outs of songwriting and production technique.
"The Forgotten" by Two Seconds to Midnight
Although he had teenage aspirations of becoming an actor, a career path which was a longtime top priority, he became disenchanted with the idea and switched his focus to music. Looking back, Payton says, "I found that doing music was a lot more gratifying than acting because it was a lot more on my terms. If I went up there and did a show that was bad, it was entirely my fault. It wasn't like, 'oh, the director was terrible.' I was completely in control of my own destiny, and that was a lot more interesting for me."
Nine years ago, at age 20, Zig Payton would leave the UK and come to New York for acting school. A year later, acting fell by the wayside and music came to the forefront.
Payton's first band on American soil was aaron and Mordechai, primarily composed of friends he made in acting school. While proud of the music the band produced and enriched by the overall experience, Payton wasn't thrilled with the band's direction. "We had good musicians in the band...but they were actors who were doing music as a sideline thing; having fun. But it taught me how to be in a band; how to communicate with people musically and in a rehearsal without hurting feelings or egos."
It also taught him that his music would have a flair for the dramatic, in the form of a string section.
Not long before the time Payton was settling into America, a couple of talented young ladies named Hannah Hens-Piazza and Emily Snow were attending NYU. During their sophomore year, the two became friends while playing in a string quartet together -- Hans-Piazza on the viola and Snow on violin. They would go on to graduate with music performance degrees, entirely classically based, with almost no idea they would one day end up in a rock band together. The impetus for such, however, might be blamed on Hens-Piazza, who always had a taste for music that went way beyond Bach and Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn. Says Hans-Piazza, "I like classical music, but I don't put it on in the background. I've always liked other music."
That taste for "other music" would essentially bring Hannah Hens-Piazza and Zig Payton together.
Not long before the demise of aaron and Mordechai, the resident violinist, Sylvia Milo, had to miss a couple of gigs. Sylvia would then introduce her friend Hannah Hens-Piazza, who also happened to be a fan of the band, to Zig Payton, so as to have her fill in on those gigs. That introduction would change everything. Payton and Hens-Piazza's friendship flourished as aaron and Mordechai perished, but the connection between the two would lead to much bigger things. Not long after the disbanding, while attending a party together, Zig Payton would suggest that he and Hannah Hens-Piazza start a band together -- just a duo of guitar and viola.
With that, Two Seconds to Midnight was born.
The pieces fell into place pretty rapidly thereafter. Hens-Piazza suggested bringing her friend Emily Snow, now married and going by Emily Long, into the band. Two Seconds to Midnight was suddenly a trio, composed of a singer/guitarist, a viola and a violin. Explains Payton, "the first nine months of the band was the three of us jamming out, with occasional help from other musicians." During this time, the band's chemistry grew along with their catalogue. "Hannah and Emily had been friends for so long and we all got along so well...it became so organic," says Payton. The time had come for the band to play their first real gig.
Although still going through growing pains and feeling out their own sound, Two Seconds to Midnight would perform several solid gigs. It was a particular performance at Astoria's Hell Gate Social, however, which was solid enough that it would change the band's dynamic for good. In attendance that night were drummer Josh Moyer and bassist Michael Borenstein, both of whom would be members of the band before the night was through. After some prodding, Zig Payton convinced Moyer to be their drummer while Borenstein instantly fell in love with the band's sound, referring to it as "golden." According to Borenstein, "Zig's roommate would occasionally play bass for them...but he was not a bass player. So I told Zig, 'you guys are really good, but you need a bass player.'" With that, he was in the band. Soon thereafter came the addition of guitarist Mathew Snow and what was once a duo had suddenly become an almost orchestral six-piece band; a tour de force of sound and talent with an obvious UK feel and undertones of Radiohead.
Although it was preordained that Mathew Snow wouldn't be in the band forever, he lasted long enough to partake in the band's recording of their debut album, Architecture. As to be expected, there were nerves going into the studio. Much to their surprise, however, the process was almost simple. Chiming in together, Hannah Hens-Piazza and Emily Long agreed, "recording was really easy. It was fun." That feeling resonated throughout the entire band, as they managed to put forth eight solid tracks with relative ease. "We had an ongoing competition with each other to see who wouldn't mess up the first take," laughs Borenstein, with Payton laughing right along with him.
That kind of chemistry is one of the keys to what makes this band so special and so, six months later, Architecture was mixed and complete.
As expected, Mathew Snow had left Two Seconds to Midnight once the record was finished. Taking his place would be virtuosic guitarist, band journeyman and close friend of Mike Borenstein, Tommy Gallo, whose first live performance with the band just so happened to be their album release party in May of 2010 at Fort Useless in Brooklyn. To those in attendance, it seemed as if he'd been there all along. According to Payton, "Tommy came in and tore it up. He had me flabbergasted." According to Tommy, however, "it's fun. At this point in my life, this is the kind of band I want to be in." As Emily Long so eloquently put it, "this band has really come together. It's a great collaboration of people."
Now that the band is fully assembled, the album is out, gigs are being played and new music is being created, Two Seconds to Midnight is operating as a well-oiled machine; a truly cohesive unit.
Two years after their fateful Hell Gate Social gig, the band played there again -- but the difference those two years made is incomprehensible.
"When we first got together, we played songs that I had written acoustically and just kept building on that. Now, it's not like every song has to start with me on guitar," says Zig Payton. "It can be like, how about Moyer does a drum beat? How about the girls play something and the guitars come later? We don't all have to play at the same time, and I think that comes with the maturity of a band. Everyone is contributing." They're also including a lot of electronics, mostly at the hands of Josh Moyer. As Payton explains about Moyer, "Josh has really stepped up. He's not just our drummer anymore. I don't even know what to call him. I just say, 'you're a genius...thanks man!'"
So what does the future hold for this multifaceted, talented six-some? "I have no idea, and that's what I love about it," says Payton. Although Architecture is a solid first album for a group of mostly studio-neophytes, with such great tunes as "The Forgotten" and "Opt1m1sm," the best is clearly yet to come. Like a proud father, Zig Payton gushes, "We have a really special team right now. I feel like, with the tools we have and the weapons we have, we can aim towards the stars and really go for it."
For a band which has evolved so dramatically over a relatively short period of time, first-time listeners and long-time fans have a lot to look forward to.
Admitting that the convergence of the band has been unpredictable, Payton knows one thing for sure: "If, for some reason, a few years down the line, it ends up just being me and Hannah... We'll still be Two Seconds to Midnight."
So goes the evolution of a great band.
Featured Track on Sound Opinions
Opt1m1sm (Single) featured on 'Sound Opinions' (Chicago Public Radio) Episode #248
Varies depending on gig venue/type