Honor By August

For acclaimed modern rock quartet Honor By August there is a lot in a name. The “August” in the Washington, D.C.-based band’s name refers to another interpretation of the word: to inspire awe or admiration. Taken as a whole, “Honor By August” means gaining honor by doing something admirable or awe-inspiring. “The name informs our music in several ways. We all believe in doing things the right way, with integrity, and making music that comes from a place of true inspiration,” says lead vocalist/guitarist Michael Pearsall. On their latest release, the stunning Monuments To Progress, out April 23, 2013, the band does just that. Honor By August delves soulfully deep and delivers its finest collection of emotionally charged contemporary rock.

Honor By August’s poetic sincerity and infectious blend of mesmerizing atmospherics with anthemic choruses have drawn favorable comparisons to U2, Kings of Leon, Snow Patrol and Bruce Springsteen. The Washington Post has called the quartet “one of the most promising new talents on the East Coast.” Recently, the band won Billboard’s “World Song Contest.” The group has shared stages with such diverse artists as Bon Jovi, Imagine Dragons, Third Eye Blind, Switchfoot, Hanson and Parachute. As a main attraction, Honor By August has pulled over 900 into DC’s esteemed 9:30 Club. The group’s music has been broadcast to millions many times over on ESPN, E! and popular MTV shows, and Honor By August has worked with Grammy-winning producers, mixers and engineers including Jack Joseph Puig (U2, Snow Patrol, Rolling Stones), Paul David Hager (Goo Goo Dolls), Jeff Juliano (John Mayer, O.A.R, Lifehouse), Toby Wright (Third Eye Blind) and Jim Ebert (Butch Walker, Meredith Brooks).

Honor By August formed in 2005 and is Michael Pearsall, lead vocals/guitar; Evan Field, guitar/piano/backing vocals; Chris Rafetto bass/piano/backing vocals; and Brian Shanley drums/percussion. The brave emotionality in its music reflects the band’s commitment to writing honestly about life. “We hope that our music finds a place in people’s lives wherever they may be on the spectrum of life’s highs and lows,” Pearsall says. “If you’re going through a tough time, hopefully one of our songs will help you through it. If you’re having a great time, hopefully one of our songs can enhance that experience. Life is what we make of it so why not try to make the most of it?”

Monuments To Progress benefits from a period of fluid creativity within the band. “The writing process was much more collaborative in nature this time around. Everybody contributed songs and/or lyrical ideas so there’s a real sense of collective ownership,” Pearsall reveals. Letting the songwriting process flow organically has enabled the band to write its strongest material. The upliftingly introspective “Last Chance” is the album’s lead single. It’s a gorgeously cathartic track with a nuanced and shimmering verse exploding into a soaring chorus hook. The song’s immediacy and messaging is refreshingly empowering. “It’s about that moment where you feel like things are falling apart around you but you’re not quite ready to throw in the towel,” Pearsall says. “The song is about recognizing that you have a chance to turn it around.”

Other standouts are “Believe” and the propulsive “Already Yours.” “Believe,” the track that gave the album its title, builds from stately acoustics to a walk-on-the-clouds climax, its sweeping dynamics perfectly tailored to suit powerfully introspective lyrics like “working so hard to build these monuments to progress, though we may never see tomorrow.” “That lyric represents a theme threaded throughout the record,” Pearsall says. “Whether it’s something as serious as faith in yourself and your ability to love and care for another person or something as simple as pursuing happiness in the moment...All we do in our lives makes us who we are. All these things are monuments to progress.” “Already Yours” is boldly romantic. “It is a song about putting up a fight for love,” Pearsall says. “It’s also an invitation for someone to love you. It’s saying, ‘I’m here…All you have to do is step up and give me some sign that you’re ready to take a chance on us.’”

Monuments To Progress was recorded at Cue Recording in Falls Church, VA, and produced by Jim Ebert (Butch Walker, Meredith Brooks). This time the band went for a richer sonic tapestry than their previous releases, opting for a fuller sound and a variety of elegantly subtle textures. The recording was fan-funded through a tremendously successful Kickstarter campaign. “It was encouraging and humbling to see how much people believed in us and wanted to hear more music from Honor By August,” Pearsall says.

“We’ve met a lot of great bands and made a lot of great fans on the road. We’ve seen more of this beautiful country in a few years than most people see in a lifetime,” Pearsall says, reflecting on the band’s 8-year history. “Up until recently we’ve done it all without much help from anyone in the industry. Thanks to our fans, families and friends, as well as our continued belief in ourselves, we’ve been able to share what we love to do with a small part of the world. We hope this record allows us to continue that journey and share our music with even more people all over the world.”

MELODIME is a rock band that grew up performing music in the hayloft of their horse farm in Northern Virginia. Their sound is heavily influenced by an appreciation for the past, while keeping it rootsy, catchy, and original. "One thing you never question about a MELODIME song is whether they put their all into it. Each one is not just musically addictive, but is fit to bursting with the emotion and energy the artists have infused into it; it's not commercial, it's better: it's art" (The Trades).

Over the past 5 years, MELODIME has worked extremely hard to continuously release new music to fans nationwide and build their brand from the ground up without the help of a record label. You can see them live at some of the premier music venues and colleges east of the Mississippi. Their live show is commonly praised as being full and refined -- even better than the album! Energetic pianos play an integral role in their cross-genre, southern rock sound, which is "both modern, and yet nostalgic, just begging to climb the pop charts where they well and truly belong" (JamSphere Magazine).

MELODIME’s newest project includes a brand new full length album produced by Rick Beato (NEEDTOBREATHE, Shinedown, Charlie Mars, Decyfer Down, and many others) that will be released early in fall 2013. The band is taking a very unique approach with this next album. The band is donating 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this record to benefit children in their own community and around the world that have a desire to play an instrument but are not afforded the opportunity to chase that dream. The band was inspired to start this foundation based on the generosity of one individual that provided the very first instruments that eventually led to the musical beginnings of MELODIME. If you’d like to learn more or help support this effort, connect with the band on social media or contact their team at management@melodime.com.

25-year-old, Philly-bred singer-songwriter Jesse Ruben freely confides that he’s done a bit of “obsessing” over his second album, The Ones That Matter.

Not that such anxiety is evident on the highly accomplished disc, the follow-up to Ruben’s self-released 2008 debut, Aiming for Honesty. Adding full-band accompaniment to his lush, soulful pop-rock, Ruben also stretches impressively as a writer on The Ones That Matter, achieving a near-novelistic sense of character and setting on finely hewn tracks like “A Lack of Armor,” “Bleeker and Sixth,” and “Unbreakable.” His relentless attention to detail pays off handsomely.

He makes no apology for meticulously fine-tuning all aspects of his work and presentation. “Every time you create something you have an opportunity to say something new – or at least something honest,” he says. “I take that opportunity seriously.”

Ruben’s expansive and deeply compassionate point of view has resonated strongly with an ever-growing audience, whom the performer has cultivated with virtually nonstop touring and persistent online networking; as a result, he’s sold some 5,000 copies of Honesty on his own.

He often receives emotional messages from fans declaring that his songs have crystallized their feelings, commemorated milestones in their lives and even helped repair broken bonds. “One woman wrote to me and said she and her daughter didn’t get along, but when she drives the girl to school every day they listen to my music – and it’s the only time they don’t fight,” he marvels. “The songs I wrote in my basement helped her relationship with her daughter. How could I ask for more than that?” Indeed, his compositions have connected so powerfully with listeners that several cover versions have been posted on YouTube.

Such moments of connection helped inspire the title of The Ones That Matter. Ruben had compiled a list of some 80 candidates, but it was in the aftermath of the recording process that he realized what the disc should be called.

“I was on an epic road trip,” he remembers of this epiphany. “I realized that as much as this album is about music, it’s ultimately a representation of who I am – and all that amounts to is all the incredible people I’ve surrounded myself with, and the places I’ve spent time, and the stories and jokes that came out of those experiences with those people. That’s when I understood that the only logical name for the album was The Ones That Matter.”

Recorded during a record-breaking snowstorm in Charlottesville, Virginia – where producer Chris Keup (Jason Mraz, OAR, Parachute) and partner Stewart Myers (Mraz, Lifehouse, Rachel Yamagata, Mandy Moore) have their studio – the disc afforded Ruben a chance to fully appreciate the devotion of his pals. “I had some of my best friends in the world come down to help me finish the record,” he relates. Other players on the disc include drummer Brian Jones (Mraz, Yamagata, Moore); and keyboardist Daniel Clark (Ryan Adams, kd lang, Moore). Meyers handled bass on several tracks.

The profound gratitude Ruben felt upon finishing the album snowballed in the coming days. “I wanted the title of this record to express my thanks to everyone who mattered – not just my friends who worked on the record, but their friends. The people who gave me a couch to crash on, made me dinner, drove me to the train station. Everyone who came to my shows, and walked up to tell me what the songs meant to them. I’m thanking them all with this record.”

Ruben’s story begins in the heart of a musical family. His father and grandfather were both professional musicians, performing at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, corporate events and other gatherings in Philadelphia and its environs. Ruben recalls watching in awe as his dad’s band rehearsed rock, pop and R&B hits. He began taking piano lessons, but lost interest during his adolescence. “I had told myself I couldn’t play guitar because that was my dad’s instrument,” he notes. “Then I realized how stupid that was.” His father bought him a cheap guitar with the promise of a better instrument if he made progress; the guitar felt right in Jesse’s hands, and by age 16 he was writing songs.

The artist cites singer-songwriters like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor as his greatest influences, but also admits a fondness for the standards penned by Cole Porter and the Gershwins. While he’s loath to compare himself to his idols, he says he takes courage in their stories. “Paul Simon wasn’t always hailed as a genius,” he points out. “At first, he was a 20-year-old kid with a guitar who dreamed up these incredibly ambitious songs. Realizing that helped me give myself permission to write what I wanted to write.”

He only applied to one college: Berklee College of Music in Boston. His first year there was a struggle, as he plunked out rudimentary solos in guitar classes filled with fusion-shredding virtuosos. But once he was able to focus on songwriting, Ruben blossomed; regular gigging soon followed. “By the time I graduated,” he points out, “I was on the road pretty much every weekend.”

As a live performer he racked up odd experiences like playing backyard barbecues, singing at a daytime Sweet 16 party, and even serenading a couple of fans on their anniversary (he showed up in their kitchen with his guitar, at the woman’s bidding, to surprise her boyfriend). The gigs gradually got bigger, and soon Ruben was paying his rent with engagements across the East Coast – becoming adept at getting around by commuter rail, booking cheap flights, promoting his shows and maintaining contact with fans via Facebook, his blog and the comments on his YouTube video posts.

The online community also came in handy when he was recording his debut album. “I had no money, and five of my friends held a Facebook fundraiser for me,” he reports. “They presented me with a giant check for $2,500 on my twenty-first birthday.” And though elements of this initial effort seem distant to him now, Ruben credits Honesty with giving him a leg up in building his audience; in addition to the brisk sales of his debut, he continues to enjoy rapturous fan feedback about its songs.

Upon graduating from Berklee in 2008, Ruben was already living out of a suitcase in his battle-tested Toyota. “If I had my choice, I’d be touring all the time,” he volunteers. “I love the lifestyle – sleeping late and getting up and driving and playing and meeting a bunch of people and doing the same thing the next day. I love not having to worry about cleaning my room or doing dishes; I’m cool with living out of a suitcase; I’m just working toward the day when I can trade the Greyhound for a bus of my own.”

“I’m staying out of New York for a while,” Ruben sings in “A Lack of Armor,” although that self-imposed exile may soon be coming to an end, as the singer-songwriter plans a move to the Empire State from his temporary base in Nashville. But for the time being, Ruben’s true home is the road – where he’ll no doubt continue to touch lives, have offbeat adventures and add new names to the ever-growing list of The Ones That Matter.

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Honor By August with MELODIME, Jesse Ruben

Friday, May 24 · 8:00 PM at 9:30 Club