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"With his Life in Jersey bandmates, Carson Land seeks higher ground"

By Crystal K. Wiebe

Published on September 22, 2009 at 10:26am

I'm wading through a sea of self-proclaimed virgins at the Rock the Light music festival at Starlight Theatre September 5. The first familiar face I see beams a 1,000-watt smile and issues an order: "Go to the Time Warner stage at 2:45!"

From left: Beau-Gabriel Smith, Carson Land and David Willey.

It's Carson Land, the handsome blond frontman for the band with the most misleading name in Kansas City: Life in Jersey.
"Is that when you go on?" I yell.
"Yeah, you should be there."
He's lying. When I make it over to the temporary performance area constructed as far as possible from the side stage where I'd been camping beneath a nylon shade, Land's band isn't playing. Instead, it's his hyper, emo-rock friends Highland Fall, from Columbia. "We go on next," a grinning Land assures me.
Land and his bandmates, bassist David Willey and drummerBeau-Gabriel Smith, have been crisscrossing the festival grounds all day, trying to drum up support for Life in Jersey and Highland Fall. In previous years, Life in Jersey marched around carrying giant signs bearing the band's name — they say the tactic brought crowds of more than 1,000 and merch sales of more than a grand. But Rock the Light banned signs and handbills this year.
No matter. Life in Jersey is used to getting hassled by cops, security guards and even other bands for flagrant self-promotion.
"We have to create the hype," Land will tell me a couple of weeks later over drinks at the Foundry.
Like more than a few Kansas City rock acts past and present, Life in Jersey struggles with its identity when it comes to rock bars and the religious arm of the music scene. The band recoils from the "Christian band" label, yet it's just as willing to entertain a youth group as the RecordBar crowd. Land and Smith fit seamlessly into the latter, with their tattoo sleeves, affinity for beer, and the male coarseness that can creep into their conversations about women.
Yet, there's an undeniable imprint of something sacred in their songs, and that's what makes the band's new album, Plotted Points, so interesting.
To a non-Christian tuning into songs inspired by someone else's relationship with God, Land's honesty as a songwriter is necessarily disarming.
Like similarly faith-affected songwriters in national acts Brand New and Thrice, Land openly addresses his mounting religious frustrations. If everything I've wanted you can tell/If everything I've doubted you can prove/If I owe everything to you/Why can't you make me move? he pleads on the obvious single "A Sudden Change."
"I'm trying to reconcile with growing up in a tradition of faith and the fact that I may not believe a single word of it," he explains. "I never wanted to sound heavy-handed. I wanted [the album] just to ask a bunch of questions."
The best part: Land doesn't pretend to know all the answers. "I just wanted to leave it as — yeah, that's life."
Released officially last month, Plotted Points was the product of two months' recording with producer J. Hall, whose touch is evident in the polished finish of a collection that ranges from quiet instrumentals to hooky guitar rock with hardcore traces. Blessed with a gravelly voice, Land can't resist the occasional scream. Close listening reveals subtle aural cookies such as the sound of a dentist's drill on one track.
"I want people to listen to our music the way I listen to music — poring over the production and the lyric book," Land says.
Although Land considers the work to be his personal opus, the band sat on it for months. After label shopping didn't yield the preferred results, Life in Jersey decided to put it out on its own. But in a characteristic move, the band members picked a far-away release date and spent five months building anticipation until its August 1 party at RecordBar.
"We don't even want to play in town unless we can make it an event," Land says.
Back at Rock the Light, despite the band's lack of promotional tools, a few hundred people have gathered in front of the Time Warner stage by the time Life in Jersey starts chugging. In the midday heat, teenagers wearing crosses and T-shirts with sayings like "The Devil Is Stupid" pack in as close to the guys onstage as they can get.
Willey bangs his stylized mullet; Land leans into the faces of the first row, singing over power chords in a voice that sounds like sand is rubbing the back of his throat. The mass of people overflows into a shaded walkway. Afterward, fuss over the band peaks when kids ask for autographs from Land's wife.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the venue, a spiritually outspoken former member of Shiny Toy Guns, who's signed to a major label, panders to a small, tepid crowd.
Life in Jersey rocks its own light at Davey's Uptown on October 12.

- The Pitch KC

"Praise for "Plotted Points""

["Its upcoming album, Plotted Points, is the kind of thing you’d put on the shelf next to classic genre staples such as Weezer’s Pinkerton, Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary and The Get Up Kids’ On A Wire. The craftsmanship on this disc (i.e. how it’s composed and laid down) is remarkable for an indie band that promotes itself with cardboard signs on First Fridays. ...This twisting and ramming sonic-crescendo dynamic piles up song after song, each more tightly wound than Jack Torrance when he was bouncing a tennis ball off the wall in “The Shining.” The standout track is “Human Shield,” which isn’t just the best song on the album but one of the best songs from a KC band this year. Life in Jersey has rough, post-hardcore and experimental edge, which comes out in the vocals. Every now and then the guitar juts out from the rhythm in a surprising fashion a la Fugazi or Coalesce, only to fold in moments later. Land’s strained and pursed vocals give the disc a gritty tension, as if everything was clean and well-arranged, then got dragged into a muddy culvert.This gritty tension sets Life in Jersey apart from the band’s more produced and glossy cousins, such as My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy. Well, that, and Plotted Points will appeal to adults who like music for the sake of music." -Ink Magazine

"Shredded, angular guitar melodies and a crashing rhythm section; Carson comes in with vocals that are reminiscent The Get Up Kids, but only when Matt Pyror’s vocals are close to a beautiful scream"

"[LifeInJersey] has shed its skin ...and emerged with a more potent and powerful bite. An infinitely more layered, vastly more influenced, and all around better version of these high-voltage rocker’s sound." RadarBird,

"Getting that debut CD out after playing with some of the more recognizable names in Indie music today will help Life in Jersey gain a foothold in the ever-slippery performance industry. The band members will release Plotted Points in a matter of weeks, so the folks who have heard them live will be quite pleased. This is a “high voltage rock” trio, so don’t go to their CD expecting soothing, philosophical tunes that will set you thinking. Instead, songs such as “Repair” will do the opposite of sooth. However, these songs may make you think. Though young by most standards, the boys in this band – Carson, Dave and Beau – are not “wannabe” players by any stretch of the imagination. [There are] small touches that separate one tune from another. “Human Shield” is an intense song that shows off some fine string work and smashing drums. “Expand” gives the listener early hope for something less stressful and Life in Jersey delivers for a few bars. But then…" - Various


The Skeletons E.P. (2007)
1. The Other Side
2. Skeletons
3. The grey
4. See Everything
5. In Decibels

The single "skeletons" has been played regularly on 96.5 the Buzz Homegrown show as well as many other podcast radio programs including Pooch's Corner in Chicago.

"Plotted Points" 2009
1. Open Wide
2. A Sudden Change
3. Concede and Swallow
4. Human Shield
5. Expand
6. The War Rages On
7. Perfect Symmetry
8. Brand New Age
9. Queremos la Verdad
10. For Reference
11. Repair
12. You Make Sense

"A Sudden Change" is played on local and college radio stations in cities such as Omaha, Chicago, Iowa City, and Kansas City. "Brand New Age" was performed live in the studio on Kansas City's 96.5 morning show "Afentra's Big Fat Morning Buzz"



"Some where between the rehearsal space, the stage, and the studio LifeInJersey invaded my life and converted me into a rabid follower. I’m not really certain if it was the kung fu death grip these guys have on delivering a crushingly beautiful song or perhaps just all that charm. You cannot possibly be around them and have a bad time. I couldn’t have predicted working with a more solid band. They work harder then 95% of bands out there and it shows in their studio work and their live show. Between Carson’s poetic, yet aggressive vocals, countering guitar work, meticulous bass lines, and crushing drum beats, you’ll soon find yourself enveloped into something you haven’t quite heard before. A breath of fresh air amongst the stale gloom of the current rock n roll scene." -Producer/Engineer J. Hall

LifeInJersey have established themselves as the dominant force in the Kansas City music scene, and the numbers speak for themselves. After releasing the 5-song EP "Skeletons" in May of 2007, the band was selected to compete against five other bands for a spot next to the Used, Shiny Toy Guns, and Plain White T's at the annual Buzz Beach Ball sponsored by 96.5 The Buzz, and in a contest determined by listener voting, LifeInJersey won...... by 18,000 votes.

Since forming in 2006, LifeInJersey has already shared the stage with numerous national acts such as The Used, Story of the Year, Anberlin, Plain White T's, Perry Farrell's Satellite Party, Flobots, A Change of Pace, The Hush Shound, Armor For Sleep, Forever the Sickest Kids, Showbread and Never Shout Never to name a few. The band was also featured as one ofthe top 20 finalists (out of 2,000 + entrants) for Fuse TV's"getmeloaded" contest, and are consistantly featured as live guests on Kansas City's 96.5 the Buzz.

In the winter of 2008, LifeInJersey joined producer J. Hall again, this time for their debut full-length "Plotted Points", a matured and refreshing mix of 12 tracks ranging from hard-hitting rock, to spacious, ethereal interludes, to the more stripped down and acoustic-driven. LifeInJersey is set to release their opus August 1st, and have started taking their music to local, regional, and national markets without looking back.