Spotlight: Meet Emo/Pop-Punk Band Castlefield

Photo credit: Brandon Dacosta

The first time I heard Castlefield, I was driving home alone from therapy, mentally and physically drained. It was dark outside, and I tried to drown out my own thoughts with my music.

I’d created a playlist to shuffle whenever I felt down, and wanting to branch out for once, I decided to give my “playlist radio” a shot. That’s when “Broken High School Mascot” came on.

Immediately, I was addicted.

You know those songs that strike a chord in you from the start? You don’t even need to listen for more than five seconds to know it’s your new favorite track. I felt that connection right away.

I judge bands based off the amount of chills on my arms while listening to them. So, when I shuffled their other two songs at the time, “Lifted” and “Good Job, Rover,” I knew I’d discovered a special group.

It wasn’t just the profound guitar licks or powerful build-ups; it was the honest lyrics and raw emotion I could hear in every beat, in every note. It was the way each instrument meshed, crafting art so heavy I felt it in both my bones and my heart.

When I reached out for a potential interview with the band, I didn’t expect them to give me the time of day. I mean, they’re these successful musicians who clearly deserve more than an abandoned pop-punk blog previously created as a college project.

But they agreed anyway. In fact, they even expressed gratitude.

Castlefield consists of four members: Ryan Fitz, 19 years old, on the guitar and vocals; Connor Neilson, 20, lead guitar; Jonathan Reid, 20, drums; and Matt Spafford, 18, bass.

The guys have been making music since high school, each highly involved in their local scene in Ottawa, Canada, where they met. Their name inspiration actually came from the street they grew up around, where they spent much time writing and playing music.

“Castlefield is a project that is always growing in different ways, and I guess the jams I had on Castlefield Ave. remind me of humble beginnings in a place where I would dream of doing exactly what we are doing now,” Fitz told me.

Growing up in such a tight-knit music community allowed them to develop both as individuals and artists. They adopted their own tastes, eventually merging their preferences and uniting as a diverse band.

“I personally listen to a lot of the usual emo and pop-punk stuff, and the furthest I really stray away from that is some more ‘sad’ indie rock and a little bit of hardcore,” Fitz said. “I really just find comfort in those genres, so when I am writing the base of a song, it starts out pretty generic and then starts to flourish once I bring it to the rest of the guys.”

Adding to the mix, Reid is passionate about technical and experimental music, like Radiohead and The Contortionist; Neilson grew up with punk music, like Rancid and Black Flag; and Spafford, though a “pop punk kid at heart,” might just be Kendrick Lamar’s No. 1 fan.

“We draw influence from all over the place and try to not put any limits on what we write, so that really helps our creative process,” Fitz said. “At the end of the day, we just write according to how we feel and for what we want to listen to.”

Fitz writes most of the lyrics, previously with their old bassist, Dexter, who was a great soundboard to him.

Castlefield’s lyrics are what attracted me in the first place. They’re not afraid to bare their scars for the sake of a song, and that’s what makes true artists. Every line feels like a confession, an explanation that begs forgiveness and empathy.

“Everything we write is from real-life experiences because I really like using writing as a way to cope with my mental health, and other hardships that come along and aside,” Fitz said. “It’s a form of therapy that I feel really blessed to be able to use to help myself and to potentially help others.”

For instance, “Joyless,” their top song on Spotify right now, is packed with gut-wrenching lines stemming from Fitz’s personal adversities.

“‘Joyless’ … is about a very specific point in my life where I felt really overwhelmed with everything and put it all into one song with complete honesty,” Fitz said. “It’s about falling in love for the first time while struggling to graduate high school because of a lot of anxiety and pressure about the future, mixed with using some pretty unhealthy ways to cope with it.”

Castlefield’s most recent EP, “Tunnel Vision,” includes four unique tracks. But possibly the most harrowing is “Escape,” the song’s rhythm matching its intense lyrics:

I can see the look in your eyes
Never been the one to fight, just fly
They say my wounds can heal if I take my time
But in the end, I’m not worried about mine

“‘Escape’ is about being in a relationship that you aren’t happy in, but you feel stuck because you don’t want to hurt the other person,” Fitz explained. “It’s by far our best live song and one of the most emotional in the set.”

Fitz added that performing such personal, evocative tracks, though difficult at times, often helps him cope.

“If lots of people are singing along and having a good time, singing those emotional songs make me feel better than ever. It’s really a day-to-day thing, but when it is hard, I just remember that everything I’m singing about is in the past now and … I don’t specifically have to feel that way anymore.”

When asked about the future as a band, Fitz said they simply want to play as many shows as possible while creating new music.

“I feel like doing these DIY tours and releasing music we like is already everything we’ve dreamed of, and anyone can do it if they want to put the work [in].”

Though they’re only in their late teens/early 20s, they’ve accomplished their goals by simply being themselves and following their passions. From here, they’ll continue doing what they do best: making music, performing, and inspiring others to do the same.

“It’s never too early or late to start a band or learn an instrument,” Fitz said. “And if that’s not your thing, it’s never too late to learn how to shoot photos for bands, tour manage, run merch, etc. Life’s too short, so just go out there and play the shows with your buddies and have fun.”

While I might’ve assumed Castlefield was a hotshot band who wouldn’t dare be bothered with a writer who cries to their music twice a day…I was clearly wrong. They’re much more awesome than that.

“We’re really just a bunch of awkward kids from Ottawa who like to riff.”

Advertisements

Spotlight: The Fillmore Philly

Have you ever been to a venue for a concert and just felt entirely at home, like you’re exactly where you belong with people who share the same interests and perspectives? That’s The Fillmore Philadelphia to me.

The Philadelphia Magazine named the concert hall the Best New Music Venue. Located at 29 East Allen Street in Philadelphia, it is a former World War II munitions factory that offers a unique experience.

The first band I saw there was SafetySuit, one of my favorite rock bands; and I was so close that I could practically touch the stage. I even got a picture with the lead singer, Douglas Brown.

FullSizeRender (7)
Basically tore Douglas Brown’s arm out of its socket for this photo with him at the Foundry. Worth it!

The venue is actually two clubs in one — the Fillmore (main hall) and the Foundry (top floor, smaller club for developing and local artists.) Though different sizes, they both provide that up-close-and-personal feel.

Having seen shows in both, I prefer the Foundry to the Fillmore because it’s much easier to connect with the band. Of course, for concerts with larger crowds, it’s not so easy to hold too many people in that size room. However, I personally enjoy shows that aren’t as packed, ones where you can hang by the gate and make eye contact with the lead singer. It’s an awesome feeling.

FullSizeRender (6)
I was super close to SafetySuit at Foundry.

Garret Kennel, 21-year-old Rowan University student, gave his opinion on the main venue at the Fillmore after seeing Simple Plan there this March. “I really like the set up, how there were bars and open areas outside of the stage area while also having bars in the stage area. The thing that stood out from other venues is that it kinda felt like just a giant house party,” he said.

Since the band was touring for their 15th anniversary, Simple Plan drew quite an audience and performed in the more spacious room. “It was just good vibes all around,” Kennel stated.

IMG_3393
Simple Plan performing their anniversary concert at the Fillmore.

Not only do you get to enjoy the concert, you can also order food and alcohol at the bar to accompany you during the show. Maybe that’s why this is my favorite concert hall — food, alcohol, AND live music? I might as well move in.

I’m not the only one who fancies the notion of booze and tunes. Nicolette Cerminaro, student at University of Sciences in Philadelphia, gushed about how the venue is “much bigger than Electric Factory in terms of moving around room and accessibility to the bar from the general admission areas.” Cerminaro saw Tegan and Sara around Halloween, and they sold themed drinks for the holiday. How festive?!

Denis Conrad, 23 of Westmont, New Jersey, was also impressed after his recent experience there. “It had a real cool atmosphere and the sound carried well. Beer wasn’t horribly expensive compared to normal concert prices, not cheap but not eight bucks for a Bud Light or anything.”

On a historical note, this 25,000-square-foot venue maintains the values of the original Fillmore, which opened in San Francisco in 1965 and is essentially a legend. In fact, according to the venue info on their site, “The Fillmore was the focal point for the psychedelic music scene during the 1960s and ’70s, helping to launch the careers of acts such as The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Santana, The Doors, Hot Tuna and many, many others which helped it grow into the legend it is today.”

Any time I return to concert hall, I immediately feed off the passion and excitement of everyone in the room. There are rarely seats unless you’re in VIP, so the crowd packs together to celebrate the art of music, laughing and jumping around like old friends.

Shannon Gausepohl, Rowan alumn, told me about her escapade seeing her all-time favorite band at the Fillmore this March. “I saw Thursday there. It was so chill. The Thursday shows I’m used to attending are a little wild and it’s very possible I was the wildest there,” she said. “The staff was friendly, it’s in a great spot for bars and there are a lot of great lineups. I would definitely go back.”

And after the concert, as suggest by Conrad, you can walk over to Fishtown’s main stretch for some more fun.

Check out additional pictures of the venue below!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Band Practice with Hello Japan

Hey, pop-punks! Last week I got to sit down and talk to an upcoming band, Hello Japan. The members, Jim Pizappi, Ryan Aubrey, and Kenny Kotala, all go to Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. Though they’re just starting out, they already have their journey mapped out, with aspirations set high and dedication to rise up.

Check out their interview to get a glimpse of who they are — you won’t want to forget their names.

Photo credit: Adam Badalamenti

Song Review: “Parking Lot” And “Misery” From Blink 182’s “California” Deluxe Edition

I was driving around with my older brother this weekend when he mentioned that Blink 182 released two new songs off their upcoming deluxe edition of their recent album, “California.” My jaw hanging open and eyes wide, I told him to put them on immediately, nearly squirming out of my seat. Blink 182 was my childhood — the start of my pop-punk obsession.

I loved both songs instantly. I have to say, I really enjoy Mark Hoppus and Matt Skiba’s singing. Of course, Mark’s always impressed me; but I find Matt to be the perfect new band member (though no one will ever replace Tom DeLonge…you broke us, man.)

These two songs are much like “California,” but I find them to be a bit heavier and more like modernized pop-punk. Sure, I totally miss their old content, like that of “Dude Ranch” and “Enema of the State,” but their progression is respected and admired. They are, in fact, nearly 25 years old.

Maybe my soft spot for Blink is much thanks to Travis Barker, whose drumming can make any song sound epic. Regardless, this band will always have my heart. Here’s what I thought about “Parking Lot” and “Misery” — which you need to listen to ASAP!

“Parking Lot”

This song had me hooked from the first second, with its heavy guitar line and modern pop-punk sound. I love the fast-paced melody; sitting in the car, I pictured myself jumping ’90s style at their concert on the outskirts of a mosh pit.

The lyrics are also relevant and reminiscent, which I think is an important characteristic of any song in this genre. My favorite verse is:

I can’t wait ’til I’m off of work
I’ll meet my friends at the Target curb
I rolled my ankle, Matt just broke his wrist
I climbed through your window at 3am
We listened to The Smiths and The Violent Femmes
Yeah, we both sang, “Why can’t I get one kiss?”

Okay, anyone else instantly think HIGH SCHOOL, because I totally did. There’s an innocence in this passage, a reflective voice that begs society to stop stripping today’s youth of a childhood, to quit tearing down and urbanizing places that were once a child’s sanctuary for creating memories. I actually thought they based their chorus of the song “Big Yellow Taxi.” I think Blink is attempting to relay the same message — only in a more satirical manner.

Also, they brought back their infamous “na-na’s,” like in “All The Small Things.” Major props, guys. No criticism from me on that one.

“Misery”

Okay. I’m a writer. You already knew that. So you probably won’t be surprised to hear me say that these lyrics are everything. I’d choose a favorite line, but I’m afraid I’d be quoting the entire song. There’s some raw emotion in the words of “Misery,” which I’m concluding is about a breakup of two people really only make each other miserable.

I’m a sucker for sad songs, and this one covers that need for me while still hyping me up with a quicker chorus. This piece is definitely my favorite of the two. The verses are personal, the chorus is full of passion and pain, and the bridge just downright breaks my heart:

Fifteen times a night, when the sun’s gone down
In the dark awake, and you’re not around
And the closest thought is the edge of oblivion
Fifteen times a day when you check your phone
And I won’t be there and you’re all alone
‘Cause we always lived on the edge of oblivion
Left to find our way through a Hitchcock film
In an empty bed with an hour to kill
‘Cause it’s only fun on the edge of oblivion (oblivion)

Dammit, Mark. Your voice made that even more excruciating — in the best way, of course.

I’m not the only one who’s captivated by these lines. Nicolette Wescott of Medford, 21-year-old Rowan student and fellow pop-punk, gushed about her love for this song. “It’s kind of different…I really like the guitar and the lyrics!” she said.

Well there you have it — mere opinions of these two pieces. It’s up to you to decide now; what do YOU think about them?

“California” deluxe edition will be released on May 19! Mark your calendar!

(Photo from Pexels.)

Spotlight: Lois Shearing of “In Punk We Trust”

The awesome part about music is that it connects people from all across the world. There are countless bloggers covering the pop-punk scene, but one specific writer caught my attention: Lois Shearing, author of In Punk We Trust.

Shearing, age 22, grew up in Eastbourne, England and studied journalism in Bournemouth. She now lives in London and maintains her music blog, which she created in July of last year. “I started it because I wanted a new blogging project as I left uni and pop punk/hardcore music was something I knew I could talk/write about for a long time without getting bored,” she told me in an email interview.

Though she posts articles at least once a week, from interviews to reviews, she admits to experiencing challenges along the way. “Blogging can be very time consuming if you want to post regularly and it can be hard to find the time to sit down and research and actually write,” she stated.

But despite the fact that she also works, Shearing still finds time to share valuable content quite frequently — because she enjoys doing so. “For me the most exciting part is interviewing bands and musicians. I love talking to people about something they’re so passionate about and that they spend so much time on,” she explained. “It’s really exciting to feel a part of a scene that I feel so connected to.”

Blogging is more than just a hobby — it’s an important part of journalism that’s advancing right along with technology. According to Shearing, “as media and magazines become more monopolised [sic], readers like having a face and a personality behind what they are being recommended and promoted.” However, blogs will most likely never replace professional news sources due to lack of resources, as stated by Shearing. That’s not to say that blogs do not play a vital role in journalism, however, offering unique information on an online platform.

When asked what she’d recommend to others starting a beat blog, Shearing advised that the more specific the better in order to have a hook. “Pick a subject you already have a lot of knowledge about and write what you would want to read!”

10 Pop-Punk Lyrics that will Give you Serious Chills

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of becoming engulfed by an emotional song. For some reason, certain songs just resonate with me so deeply that I can’t stop thinking about every line, singing it in my head until I can finally listen again on repeat.

This happens often. As someone who finds comfort in music, and as a writer myself, I often search for songs with the most haunting and powerful words. Hearing a musician sing of their darkest thoughts and most raw feelings is like crying on their shoulder for an hour as they assure you that you’re not alone — you never are.

I created a list of my favorite lyrics from songs in the pop-punk genre that are sure to give you all the feels:

1. “Damn it’s hard to find sustenance when all I had was love for this, and now you don’t / Now I just abuse substances to drown out your accomplishments, however few” – The Story So Far (Navy Blue)

Hungover, unreciprocated love makes for a long and distressing journey. It’s never easy to move past someone who you built memories with, someone who once looked at you like you were the sun but now rather shields their eyes or focuses on the moon. TSSF paints this pain with anecdotes and pure sorrow. The honesty behind these lyrics, revealing weaknesses and downfalls due to heartache, is pure and captivating.

2. “I write songs about you all the time / I bet I don’t run through your mind” – Real Friends (I’ve Given Up on You)

Another go-to breakup song, this piece and these particular lyrics alone describe the process of letting go and trying to move on from a person who just doesn’t care anymore. It can be an isolating time, but RF offers comfort by assuring you that you are not alone — even rock stars get dumped sometimes.

3. “I spent this year as a ghost and I’m not sure what I’m looking for / I’m a voice on a phone that you rarely answer anymore” – The Wonder Years (Came Out Swinging)

Confusion. Solitude. Exhaustion. This song, these lyrics, touch on nearly every possible negative emotion or state of existence you can experience. Despite your age or relationship status, there will be moments in your life when you question what you really want, who you really are, if you’re really happy — TWY addresses this doubt in a way in which anyone can relate.

4. “I’ve been much better but at least I’m healing / You know I haven’t slept since you left but for me that’s progress” – Knuckle Puck (Untitled)

After losing someone you love, it often feels like you need all of the time and energy in the world to get back on your feet. Love can break you; the side effects of heartbreak often begin as acute and progress into dull yet chronic pain. Knuckle Puck acknowledges the daunting aftermath; any type of progress counts, even if it’s just lying in bed at night and merely existing.

5. “And if you were with me tonight, I’d sing to you just one more time / A song for a heart so big, God wouldn’t let it live” – Jimmy Eat World (Hear You Me)

This one’s a tear-jerker for sure. Whenever I listen to this song and read these specific lyrics, I automatically want to hold my loved ones close and reach out to old friends to tell them how much I care about them. You never know what can happen in life; and as JEW points out, there are many things you’ll wish you did/could do with the person who passed away — but it’ll be too late by then. Thank them, love them, and tell them everything you want them to know while you can.

6. “I’ll bet he gets the nerve to walk the floor and ask my girl to dance, and she’ll say yes / Because these words were never easier for me to say or her to second guess / But I guess that I can live without you but without you I’ll be miserable at best” – Mayday Parade (Miserable at Best)

Wow. Okay, these lyrics kill me every time. Nothing hurts like watching the person you love, love someone else. It truly is a miserable feeling, one that consumes your attention and hinders your happiness.

7. “I see them everyday / We get along so why can’t they? / If this is what he wants, and it’s what she wants, then why is there so much pain?” – Blink 182 (Stay Together for the Kids)

Divorce sucks. Not just for the people ending their marriage, but for everyone involved — especially if they have children. Watching your parents, your main example of what love should look like, fight every day and fall out of love is probably one of the toughest things to do. Just because splitting up may be best for them, as Blink points out, it doesn’t mean there’s no pain.

8. “Like my father’s come to pass / Seven years has gone so fast / Wake me up when September ends” – Green Day (Wake Me Up When September Ends)

Another severely emotional one for me. I can’t even imagine losing my dad, my best friend; so these lyrics cut deep. Even after seven years of his father gone, GD singer Billie Joe Armstrong expresses the amount of distress it causes with each passing day. His father actually passed from cancer, making it an even more depressing song, knowing it’s something he really experienced. He wants to sleep through the entire month of September, the same month his dad died, and forget it ever happened — but he can’t.

9. “I was falling for a girl who would ask me to come over just for a day, when her parents were away / Now all I can do is lay in my room, fall asleep, dream of you / Then wake up and do nothing about it” – Neck Deep Ft. Laura Whiteside (A Part of Me)

It’s shitty — being invested in someone who just doesn’t feel the same way. There’s nothing you can do to alter the situation, as much as you want to. ND channels this desperation, the obsessive thinking, the desire, the pure love, and the lack of ability to change that person’s mind.

10. “And if this is what it takes just to lie in my mistakes / And live with what I did to you and all the hell I put you through / I always catch the clock, it’s 11:11, and now you want to talk / It’s not hard to dream / You’ll always be my Konstantine” – Something Corporate (Konstantine)

This is such a beautiful love song — and it’s nearly ten minutes long. I love every second of it, but these lyrics are my absolute favorite. They’re filled with so much regret and respect for the girl that I can actually feel Andrew McMahon’s grief over his “Konstantine,” the one person he will always love but can never actually have again.

If these lyrics don’t break your heart, you likely don’t have one…

(Photo from Pexels)

Spotlight: Meet Hope Vista of Anthem Rock Band VISTA

Hope Vista, Rowan alumni, has embarked on a successful musical career post-graduation. As lead vocalist of the anthem rock band VISTA, she’s found herself writing new singles, performing at different venues and even opening for well known pop band Against The Current.

I got to speak with Hope via an email interview, covering topics from her personal life to the band. Check out her responses!

Q: Have you always wanted to be a singer?

A: Oh yeah, I’ve been singing since I was two or three. I’d just run around the house singing, my grandparents would film me on a video camera giving ‘concerts.’ I honestly can’t think of anything else I’ve ever wanted to do.

Q: Do you also write lyrics or play instruments?

A: I write most of VISTA’s lyrics, and I play guitar too! I used to be pretty solid at they keys but I’ve lost touch over the past few years because I haven’t played. I play guitar pretty much every day, I think I got my first one when I was seven or eight.

Q: What genre of music influences you most?

A: Mine are all super opposite of each other. I’ve always been really inspired by 90’s pop because that’s the generation I grew up in. That music is obviously very different than ours, but I was always really invested in the performance quality of that era instead. 70’s classic rock and the modern Warped scene are two of mine as well, I try to find inspiration in many areas instead of staying within one niche and getting stuck.

Q: Are there any particular adversities that you’ve experienced along your journey as a musician, either personal or professional?

A: Oh yeah. Losing my dad was the worst, that was hands down the most difficult adversity to push through. Losing band mates is always hard, losing anything in general is hard. But things don’t go as planned in this industry. I think you kind of always have to prepare for disaster or for something just to not go as you planned it. Backup plans and being able to think on your toes is how you overcome any hardship in the music industry.

Q: How do you think your experience at Rowan helped you get this far in your music career?

A: I graduated in 2015, so I’ve been out for a while. Being at Rowan for all four years straight taught me a lot about the quality of work and patience. I was a Writing Arts major, so I was consistently writing papers, I was always working on multiple papers at a time, so my work always had to be correct. It had to be correct grammatically, I had deadlines. But more importantly I had to make sure I was getting my thoughts out effectively, and that crosses over directly into music, writing lyrics, being a publicist, and also just communicating properly with industry professionals. If I didn’t know how to talk to people, I wouldn’t be in a band at all, I’d be curled up in a bed somewhere. And I can definitely credit a lot of those communication skills to my education at Rowan. Granted I skipped class a ton because I wanted to write music in my apartment, but I still learned a lot.

Q: When and how did the band get together?

A: This isn’t the original lineup of VISTA, the first one was put together about a year and a half ago. I knew our current guitarist Greg through other people, we have many mutual friends. I was looking for a new guitarist last summer, and he just messaged me out of the blue asking me about what I was looking for, we noticed we had the same goals in mind and a similar work ethic, and it just fit from that point on!

Hope Vista1.jpg
Hope Vista with VISTA’s guitarist, Greg Almeida.

Q: What exactly is anthem rock, and what made you choose this genre? (It’s definitely one that interested in listening to!)

A: We originally wanted to build a sub genre from the ground up instead of sticking ourselves in one tight bubble. So we’re just basically exploring what the word ‘anthem’ means. What elements does that include? What type of guitar tones? We have heavy use of the bass drum, thick bass lines, pulsing guitar strumming patterns. It’s really just a combination of what we feel resonates with the word ‘anthem.’

Q: What are your goals as VISTA?

A: Greg and I both have the same goals, which is great because that means we’re both consistently on the same page. Warped Tour, break into the European/Asian touring markets, record deal, Billboard charting album. Those are the main ones right now, long way to go, but I like to see consistent momentum. It keeps me alive.

(Photo credit for both images: Holly Turner)