Sick Puppies

Even if you don't know Sydney, Australia modern rock trio Sick Puppies, you've probably seen their groundbreaking "Free Hugs," video, which has garnered more than 11 million views on YouTube.com since it started streaming on the site last year. The heartwarming clip chronicles the true life adventures of a man who walks around holding a billboard that reads "Free Hugs," the police who ban his humanitarian crusade, and the petition that earned him back the right to provide hugs to citizens in need.

The "Free Hugs" video, which accompanied the band's song "All The Same," earned Sick Puppies exposure on Oprah, Jay Leno, "60 Minutes" and CNN, and inspired people around the world to begin their own free hugs campaigns. It also propelled "All the Same" into a top-requested single at commercial radio stations across North America. But while the "Free Hugs" video helped spread the music and message of Sick Puppies, the band is anything but an overnight success.

Years before YouTube, Sick Puppies were winning prestigious commendations, including "Best Song" from Triple J Unearthed, and "Best Live Performance" from the Australian Live Music Awards. The Australian edition of Rolling Stone even called Sick Puppies "the most dynamic new band in the country."

The band's North American debut, Dressed Up As Life, validates the praise with a heartfelt collection of exultant rhythms, propulsive beats and choruses that span miles. It's the kind of record that captures the beauty, pain and endless possibilities of LIFE.

The aching vocals, melancholy acoustics and triumphant guitar swaths of the renowned "All the Same" transcend even without the video. "My World" pinpoints the moment where epiphany turns regret into acceptance by juxtaposing layered instrumentation with bare, simple arrangements. "Pitiful," combines start-stop blasts with brooding atmospherics, resulting in a song that's both angry and undeniable. And, "Asshole Father" is even more sweeping and multidimensional, intermingling serene vistas with stabs of animosity.

"The record is an honest reflection of what we were feeling and going through when we were making it," says singer and guitarist Shimon Moore. "There were times when we were really depressed and then suddenly we were happy. So these songs capture that whole rollercoaster ride."

"The songs are a combination of all of our influences, from Rage Against the Machine to Green day, mixed in with our own style," bassist Emma Anzai adds.

The origin of Sick Puppies dates back to 1997, when Moore and Anzai met in their high school music room. Moore was bashing away on the drums and Anzai walked in looking for someone to jam with. "She stared at me and asked if I knew all these songs by different bands, and I was like, 'Yeah,' and, we just started rocking," says Moore. "At the end of the week she said, 'You wanna start a band?' and we've been together ever since."

Moore stepped out from behind the kit and strapped on a guitar, and the two hired Chris Mileski to play drums. They started playing covers, then wrote their own material and booked local gigs. In 1999, Sick Puppies released their first Australian EP, Dog's Breakfast, and two years later, their song "Nothing Really Matters" won Triple J's Unearthed band competition. Their debut album, Welcome to the Real World came out later that year. After numerous tours across the country, Sick Puppies went on hiatus for a while so they could achieve their goal to record their North American debut.

Anzai got a job in telemarketing and Moore carried a billboard of a lollipop sign advertising two-for-one shoes at an outdoor shopping mall. It was there that he met Juan Mann, who came to the mall every Thursday with his "Free Hugs" sign. "We started talking and became really good friends," Moore recalls. "Then I asked if I could film him. But we never ended up doing anything with the footage until we came to Los Angeles."

Since Mileski was unable to come with them to the U.S., Sick puppies placed an advertisement on the Internet site Craig's List, looking for a new drummer. Soon, they hooked up with Mark Goodwin, whose hard-hitting style perfectly complimented the band's aggressive style. While they worked on the new album, Moore kept in touch with Mann, and during one of their phone calls, he learned that Mann's grandmother had died unexpectedly. To help cheer him up, Moore pulled his old footage off the shelf and edited together the "Free Hugs" video and sent it to Mann.

"It was meant just as a video get well card, and that's the only reason it got made," Moore says. "He saw it and said, 'Why don't you put it on YouTube.' I still have no idea how it got as big as it did."

Upon arriving in Los Angeles, the band signed a new recording contract with indie label RMR Music Group run by Paul Palmer, co-founder of Trauma Records (Bush, No Doubt). The tremendous success of the video piqued the interest of numerous record distributors, including Virgin Records, which signed Sick Puppies to a deal in 2006, right as their new album neared completion.

"It was far more difficult to make than we expected," Anzai says. "It was a lot of hard work and it basically took us a year to finish. We spent a lot of time discussing the style of the music and the arrangements, and we reworked the songs over and over until they felt right. So, it was definitely grueling, but it was character building as well."

In addition to learning to write better rhythms and melodies, Moore flexed his lyrical muscles and tapped into a new level of emotional poignancy. He penned songs about his fear of abandonment ("My World"), a desperate effort to save a crumbling relationship ("All The Same") and a freaky stalker ("Deliverance").

"I think the songwriters who really connect with people are the ones who are willing to release their deepest, darkest secrets," Moore explains. "So, I decided to bare my soul regardless of how embarrassing or frightening it might be. And I think when you give in to that, it can be very liberating."

With infectious tunes, a jaw-dropping stage show and equal doses of hits and hugs, Sick Puppies are striking a blow against the horde of faceless modern rock bands that are virtually all the same.

There's stubborn. And then there's Kaz stubborn. The singer-songwriter of Redlight King refused to take no for an answer when music business suits denied his request to sample a Neil Young classic, pressing relentlessly until he got a "yes." More importantly, Kaz held on to vanquish the inner demons that nearly wrecked him several years ago. Now, with "Something for the Pain," Redlight King's redemptive Hollywood Records debut album, Kaz relives both his darkest days and the turn-around, when he clawed his way back to the light.
A latticework of rock and hip hop, the album conjures old school sounds, thanks to Kaz and producers Wally Gagel and Xandy Barry, as well as the good vibes at Hollywood's TGG Studios (now called Wax Studios, whose alums include Jimi Hendrix, the Doors and, yes, Neil Young). "I'm all about mixing in the old sounds," Kaz says, "and giving it that warm, analog feel. There is sampling, hip hop grooves and beats, but I also wanted good old fashioned meat and potatoes: bass, guitar, drums."

The sound may be warm, but his songs revisit the cold climate of Kaz's native Hamilton, Ont., and the even chillier emotional landscape of his lost years. In the astonishing hip-hop flavored debut single, "Old Man," Kaz offers a reluctant salute to his father, a larger-than-life figure who taught school by day and raced stock cars at night ("The life he demanded/Kept us all in a struggle/When he ruled with his fist/It kept us all out of trouble"). "No father issues here," says Kaz with a laugh.

Hard-edged rockers like the blustery "Bullet in My Hand," "The Underground" and the title track take listeners on a vertical drop into an abyss Kaz once knew all too well. "Most of it was written while the feelings were still there," he recalls. "My songs are written about real issues, real experiences. I like to bring listeners in deep, and give them time to look around."

Kaz starts "digging six feet up" (as he puts it) on songs like "Comeback," "Built to Last" and the irresistibly melodic "Driving to Kalifornia." Collectively, they describe the hard labor of rebuilding a life, then hitting the road, with the wintry east receding in the rear view mirror. The album ends with the acoustic-flavored "Past the Gates" and "When the Dust Settles Down," the former a hope-filled forward glance, the latter a last look back. He may be whistling past the graveyard, but it's such a pretty tune.

Kaz grew up in Hamilton, Ont., once a booming steel center on the shores of Lake Ontario, and now struggling in the global economic meltdown. He grew up in middle class home where his parents "struggled to pay the bills." Like his dad, Kaz loved cars and drag racing (Redlight King is named for the light "tree" that signals the start of a race). As he grew, music also began to take hold. He loved Queen, Springsteen, Dylan and Lennon no less than A Tribe Called Quest, Rakim, Treach and Nas. He started writing early on, recording his first track at age 16. But in his teens, music took a back seat to judo. He was good enough for a shot at Canada's Olympic training center to prepare for the 2000 Games. But he didn't make the team -- a blow that would take a toll later.

Meanwhile, Kaz returned to music, landing a deal and releasing an album in Canada. That led to a Juno Award nomination for Best New Artist, but the affirmation wasn't enough to halt a steep slide. "You know why it's happening," he recalls of his struggle with substance abuse. "You don't know where the end is, you've lost all rationality. You're borderline insane. But in the end, you make a decision to start again, and the only way was to forgive myself for my mistakes."

It worked. Kaz came back strong, headed to California in a rebuilt '49 Mercury pick-up and converted his two-year nightmare into the song cycle that became "Something for the Pain." Says Kaz, "Writing songs when you're in a dark place is dangerous. The songs I wrote for this album I won't write again. I won't have to."

Just because he lives in Los Angeles now doesn't mean he's gone Hollywood. When the mood strikes, he takes his rebuilt 1950 Harley up the PCH, just to clear his head. Hot rodder that he is, Kaz is currently restoring a rare 1937 Lincoln Zephyr coupe, with plans to make "a film capturing the journey and process of bringing the car back to life," he says. "Hot rod culture runs deep in my roots."

Music runs even deeper, and with the release of "Something for the Pain," Kaz will take the show on the road very soon. He knows his music touches a raw nerve, but that's part of the appeal for him. "I hope people will be able to connect with it and take from it what they need," he says. "It's about the human condition. In the end, we're all the same."

The Bourgeois

The seeds of The Bourgeois (pronounced booj-wah) were originally sown in 2011 when Zachary Mobley entered the studio with veteran producer Steven Haigler (The Pixies, Brand New, Fuel, Local H) and recorded three of the five tracks that would later be featured on the band’s 2013 debut EP, "We're All In The Gutter, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Stars”. Upon returning home to Tulsa, several talented musicians filled in for brief stints with the band until Brennan McDonald (bass/bgv) and Ty Clark (drums) stepped in and claimed permanent spots in the lineup in 2012.

Musically, The Bourgeois draw inspiration from a wide variety of artists; the sonic rush of Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, the disenfranchised melodicism of indie rock stalwarts like The Smiths and Violent Femmes, and a dash of aural post-punk weirdness, a la The Talking Heads and Pixies, are all keys to the band’s signature sound. The band prides themselves on their ability to channel their influences without sounding antiquated or derivative.

Local radio station, Z104.5 The Edge, featured the songs "Perverting The American Dream" and "Mi Amor" on their 2011 and 2012 Homegroan CDs respectively, and the tracks received significant airplay on college radio as well. The Bourgeois have been featured by 97.5 KMOD, Kings of A&R, Ultimate-Guitar, Urban Tulsa, This Land Press, Jivewired, and The Tulsa World, among others.

The Bourgeois have steadily built a following through their energetic live performances; these have included showcases at SXSW, Rocklahoma, Norman Music Festival, and Center of the Universe Music Festival, to name a few. A Vine-inspire music video for the song “Be Your Own Machine” was voted by fans as Best Music Video at the 2013 Absolute Best of Tulsa Awards. The Bourgeois intend to release their first full length album later this year.

"Mobley's first single, "Perverting the American Dream" is an example of his new focus and direction. True, we've had our eye on Mobley for a few years now, but this looks like the project that could really open the doors for him to break loose on the music front." - Gary Hizer, Urban Tulsa

"The Bourgeois has become a Kings favorite. This alt rock band falls between Cage The Elephant and Social Distortion." - Dean, Kings of A&R

“As soon as I hear the opening riff to “Be Your Own Machine” by The Bourgeois, I have a hard time trying to get work done…” – Jivewired America

Adv $20, DoS $22, Door $24, Mezz $35

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Show :: 8:00pm (times subject to change)

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Sick Puppies with Redlight King, The Bourgeois

Monday, September 16 · 7:00 PM at Cain's Ballroom