Matt Hires, Paradise Fears
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
This event is all ages
For the members of Mercury Records group Parachute, the name of their third album, Overnight, could well be a sly commentary on the hard work and commitment it’s taken for them to experience the success that’s been building over the last four years and first two albums. Their 2009 debut Losing Sleep featured the Top 15 single, “She is Love” (boasting more than 6.5 million views), while 2011’s The Way It Was included the #1 iTunes Rock Song “Kiss Me Slowly” (co-written with Lady Antebellum) and the Top 15 hit “Something to Believe In.”
Or it could refer to the late evenings put in by chief songwriter Will Anderson, burning the midnight oil, writing in his new Nashville base, after moving from the band’s hometown of Charlottesville, VA (where they were discovered and signed to Dave Matthews Band’s Red Light Management out of college). Anderson composed more than 50 songs for the album with a variety of collaborators, including Ryan Tedder (the first single, “Can’t Help”), as well as Grammy winner Chris DeStefano [Kelly Clarkson] and Ashley Gorley [Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban] on the title track.
“Even though there’s plenty of pressure to break through on your third album, the actual recording process was much less stressful,” says Will about the band’s sessions at Ocean Way in Nashville with producer Oren Yoel, a young contemporary who has worked with hip-hop phenom Asher Roth as well as Miley Cyrus, among others. “All of us were on the same wavelength. We all kind of knew exactly what we wanted without having to say it out loud. There was a weird sense of peace that we knew where we were going and where we needed to be.”
From the pop fervor of “Can’t Help” and the powerful simplicity of “Hurricane,” composed on acoustic guitar by Will after a long frustrating day, to the ‘80s Phil Collins-meets-U2 flair of “Waiting for that Call” and the slow Peter Gabriel/John Mayer jam of “The Other Side,” Parachute prove adept at combining guitarist Nate McFarland’s Edge-influenced arena-rock guitar licks with Will’s melodic sense of what will resonate with their passionate fan base.
It’s no surprise for anyone who has followed the band’s history. Will has been playing with drummer Johnny Stubblefield, bassist Alex Hargrave and saxophone/keyboardist Kit French since they were high school classmates in Charlottesville almost 10 years ago. Anderson met Nate while attending University of Virginia together, and the guitarist joined the band six years ago.
“We’re just now getting to know one another as musicians as well as we know each other as people,” says Will. “We wanted to capture a sound in the studio that reflected us as a band. And we all know which parts each of us had to play to get that sound.”
The band’s stylistic palette can run the range from old-school legends like Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen to newer acts like U2, Coldplay, Weezer, Ben Folds, Maroon 5 and John Mayer.
With producer Yoel, the band has even begun to stretch the boundaries, with Will’s spoken word vocals adding almost a hip-hop flavor to a new song called “Didn’t See It Coming,” about an actress friend of theirs in Hollywood excited to land a gig, only to discover it was an X-rated feature.
“That’s probably the catchiest song I’ve ever written,” he says. “I just laid down this spoken-word track, thinking we’d replace it later, but everyone loved it so much, we kept it on.”
Anderson is most proud of “Hurricane,” a song he wrote before going to sleep by strumming an acoustic guitar.
“It’s like the feeling you get when you think you’re never going to be able to write another song,” explains Will. “Once I started, it all came spilling out.”
Anderson credits guitarist Nate with creating parts that were “just perfect” for each song. “He really nailed it, with a unique spin to every song that made them epic, but at the same time, within a pop framework. That’s something we’ve always tried to do, melding his rock guitar to my sensibilities, making it work both for the arena and within the melodic sense of strong hooks. I think we really nailed it this time.”
Having played more than 400 shows over the last few years, touring around the country with everyone from NeedtoBreathe to Andy Grammer, Parachute’s live show continues to grow and impress. They’ve also played before several million at a New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, as well as appearing on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, ABC’s Good Morning America and Jimmy Kimmel Live and CBS’ The Early Show. The band’s songs have been featured on MTV’s The City along with CW’s One Tree Hill, Vampire Diaries and 90210.
“It’s so nice to have three albums’ worth of material to choose from in concert,” says Will, while the band has always played an eclectic variety of covers, from Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Loving” to vintage tracks from Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, the Commodores and Motown. “We’re just now hitting our stride as a live band. We’re better musicians who have come to trust one another. We all have our pocket and fill it. But we still have a long way to go.”
Overnight has a little something for everyone. Longtime fans will recognize their favorite band, with a fresh sound bound to intrigue newcomers.
“The last album was like taking a brand-new car straight off the lot,” says Will. “This album is just as fun to drive, but it’s like a vintage Mustang, a little more muscle and grittier, built to last.”
On their third Mercury Records album, Parachute is firmly in the driver’s seat.
On his debut album, Matt Hires emerged as a golden-voiced troubadour with a penchant for setting heart-on-sleeve lyrics to sweetly infectious melody. Now, on his sophomore release entitled This World Won't Last Forever, But Tonight We Can Pretend, Hires weaves in grander arrangements, brighter hooks, and a more richly textured sound to assert himself as a formidable new force in the singer-songwriter realm.
“My favorite artists are the ones who keep making records that give you something different from what came before, but still hold onto their own unique sound overall,” says the 27-year-old Tampa-based singer/guitarist. “With this album, I pushed into the direction of making music that’s more fun and pop-oriented but also retains that sense of honesty that I’ve always valued as a songwriter.”
Indeed, the album offers up more than its share of sing-along-worthy melodies and sunny harmonies, all while elegantly showcasing Hires’s warm yet masterful vocal work. At the same time, the album bears a bigger, more bombastic energy that reveals the deep-seated influence of rock-and-roll heroes like The Band and Bruce Springsteen. And all throughout the album (the follow-up to 2008’s Take Us To The Start), Hires delivers delicately rendered lyrics that shift between sharp-eyed social commentary and strikingly intimate storytelling. “Even though I broke out of the traditional singer-songwriter mold, there are still some songs that are very confessional,” Hires notes. “At heart, I’m still that guy strumming an acoustic guitar in his bedroom.”
For help in reshaping and expanding his sound, Hires reunited with Eric Rosse (producer on Take Us To The Start, as well as Tori Amos’s Little Earthquakes and Grammy-nominated Under the Pink). To shake up his song-crafting approach, he also teamed up with songwriters like Alex Dezen (singer/guitarist for The Damnwells) and Busbee (who’s previously worked with artists ranging from Kid Cudi and Katy Perry to Liz Phair and Lady Antebellum). “When you get into a groove with another songwriter, it’s the most fun thing in the world,” says Hires. “With every co-write I’ve done, I’ve taken away something from my collaborators and used that to develop my own writing.”
Right from the opening track, the album radiates with a shimmering intensity that reflects both sophistication in songwriting and purity of spirit. Pairing tender harmonies with tense, urgent strings, “Forever” captures the bittersweet longing to freeze time and preserve a perfect moment with the one you love (“I wish that we could lay right here and never think about our fears forever,” sings Hires). On the flipside of that starry-eyed love song is “Restless Heart,” a bright and bouncy folk-pop pastiche fueled by chiming guitars and a barrage of kiss-off lyrics (“Pretty girls come from the ugliest places/You come from the worst of them all/Heartbreakers like you are hard to erase/You lift me up just so I’ll fall”). “It’s about a girl most of us have met, the heartbreaker who wants to get you to fall for her and then just move on to the next guy,” explains Hires of “Restless Heart, an ultimately triumphant track featuring “I won’t let you break my heart” as its coda. “It’s sort of an anti-love-song, telling that girl ‘You’re not gonna get it from me,’” he adds.
Elsewhere on the album, Hires takes on weightier material while maintaining a defiantly hopeful mood. On the slow-building, piano-laced epic “I Am Not Here,” for instance, he sorrowfully serenades “ex-girlfriends and kids with guns” before acknowledging that “Things are getting better/Better late than never.” (“That’s a searching sort of song,” says Hires. “It’s for anyone trying to figure out where they fit into the world.”) And on “When I Was Young” (“the best song I’ve ever written,” according to Hires), he turns a melancholy, midtempo melody into a soaring tribute to reclaiming youthful optimism and “living this life like I’m never gonna die.”
For Hires, striking the balance between heady emotionalism and killer hooks stemmed in part from years of studying a diversity of songwriting styles. “When I was 16 and first started writing songs, I was mostly into bands like Dashboard Confessional and all their angsty songs about falling in love and getting your heart broken,” says Hires, who learned to play music on a handmade guitar given to him by his father. “From there I moved on to the musicians who influenced the artists I loved, which is how I discovered Bob Dylan, especially his early acoustic solo work.”
An ardent fan of legendary songsmiths like The Beatles, The Byrds, and Tom Petty, Hires also found inspiration in the earnest, earthy alt-rock of contemporary artists like Wilco and Coldplay. He channeled that inspiration into his first band, Brer, then struck out on his own as a solo artist—and, at age 23, released his first album for F-Stop/Atlantic Records. Shooting to the top 10 on iTunes’ overall “Top Singer/Songwriters Albums” chart, Take Us To The Start instantly announced Hires as an uncommonly authentic pop-rock phenom.
It wasn’t until recently that a happy accident led Hires to explore his poppier side. “About a year ago, the CD player in my car broke, so I started listening to a lot of pop radio,” says Hires, who identifies himself as a newfound fan of Bruno Mars. “From there I began to incorporate some of those pop elements into my own songs, like those simple and catchy melodies.”
But no matter how melodic and tuneful the tracks on the new album, Hires remains first and foremost devoted to infusing his songs with an unwavering honesty. “I always go into it thinking that I just want to write the best song that I can,” he says. “I just do my best to let a song be what it wants to be, rather than try to force it into something that isn’t genuine.” And as he continues to hone his songwriting chops, Hires adds, upholding that genuineness becomes more and more empowering. “It’s scary to tell the truth in your lyrics, to get up and sing about things that you’re afraid to talk about in the day to day,” he says. “But the more songs I write, the more honest I’m able to be. And as long as I do this on my own terms, I know I’ll be able to keep on telling stories and making something meaningful with my music.”
June 14, 2010 was a big day for six high school/ college students in Vermillion, South Dakota.
June 14, 2011 will be a bigger day.
On the former, they decided to put off the next year of college, giving themselves 365 days to make a career out of rock n' roll.
On the latter, Paradise Fears will release "Yours Truly," their debut full-length album, as one of the most potent and rapidly-growing young pop rock acts in the country.
In July 2010, just months after the majority of the band's high school graduation, they released Make Them Believe EP, produced by Jordan Schmidt (All Time Low, Sing it Loud). In just 8 months, the album has sold several thousand copies nation-wide, and the band's career has taken off. They've completed nation-wide tours with Quietdrive and Floral Terrace across 32 different states, and have shared the stage with acts like Stereo Skyline, The Audition, and You, Me, and Everyone We Know.
Coming from a town of 3,000 year round residents in a state noted for its lack of a music scene, nothing has come easy. But these six kids grew up fast. "It's been an entirely self taught process...with a very steep learning curve. We've had to teach ourselves how to promote, how to book shows, how to tour, how to record, everythingâ€¦but it gives us a very unique approach, because in our area, what we're doing is so unprecedented that we haven't fallen victim the generic, cookie-cutter career path, and instead we've received a tremendous amount of support from our home town." explained lead singer Sam Miller.
Though they may be young, Paradise Fears has several things going for them:
First, an incredibly energetic and engaging live show that can win over even the most uninterested bystander, described by one Battle of the Bands judge as "N'Sync meets a UFC cage match." They were crowned champions of a 65-band, Midwest-wide Battle of the Bands in October, sponsored by Rawkzilla magazine, scoring them $14,000 in endorsements, equipment, and cash. Their performance, described by Paul Pederson (Prince, Steve Miller band), was "absolutely spectacular, one in a million, and completely breath-taking."
Second, an arsenal of infectiously catchy and musically developed rock-pop songs, some of which received airplay on top 40 radio stations throughout the Midwest. David Hooper of Music Business Radio described Make Them Believe as "catchy and remarkably polished, particularly given the age [of the members.]"
Third, an incredibly loyal internet following of all different ages. In just 8 months, their Facebook, Twitter, and social networking profiles have acquired tens of thousands of fans/ followers, and are still rapidly expanding by hundreds daily. "One of the best parts about our style of music has always been that it's not limited - it's the kind of music that someone can appreciate with their 12-year-old sister or their 70-year-old grandmother," said keyboard-player Michael Walker.
Finally, and most importantly, an insatiable drive for success. Paradise Fears is constantly touring or recording, and when they aren't, they're exploring new and creative ways of expanding their fan base. Most recently, the band split into three teams, racing around the country following large tours in a competition to meet the most potential listeners. 50,000 miles, 10,000 demos, and 5,000 CDs later, their "Amazing Race" has created both hundreds of fans and a Paradise Fears buzz in every major market in the United States.
The large-scale release of a full-length album will be a huge step forward in the band's career. Recording time for "Yours Truly" was split between Schmidt and Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount (Mayday Parade, Cartel). It will feature 11 new songs, tremendously evolved in music and lyrics. "It's a new found maturity for us...these songs are real. We wrote songs about people we love, songs about people we hate, songs that tell storiesâ€¦it's an album full of songs we really love," described guitarist Cole Andre.
But why so independent? Says Miller, "That's the way we want to do it, and the dream we've always envisioned. We're financing it, we're writing it, we're releasing it, we're promoting it. It started out as just the six of us, and come good or come bad, we've still always got that. We're committed to being able to make it ourselves."