Aly & AJ’s “Ten Years” Breakthrough

By Rhiannon Levengood

It has been ten very long years since we had a solid release from sister duo Aly & AJ, but the time has finally come as they debut their brand new, appropriately named EP Ten Years. This record features four tracks that give us an inside look at their new synthetic rock sound. And yes, in case you were wondering, ten years was definitely worth the wait.

Ten Years opens with Aly & AJ’s first single “Take Me”, a powerhouse theme that’s driven by a synthesized piano melody as the sisters demand attention from their unnamed subject. The vocals are reminiscent of their sophomore album Insomniatic, while the instrumentals push forth a new vibe entirely. They are not the same Disney Channel girls that we fell in love with back in 2005; and after this first track, you forgive them instantly for evolving.

The next two songs are much more serene. “I Know” and “Promises” are both powered by a beat laid out on keyboard. Their electronic sound is refined and elegantly produced, but with these songs specifically, the focus is more on their voices and lyrics. AJ’s best vocals on Ten Years come in “Promises”, giving the song a dreamy, light sensation with her soft falsetto voice. “I Know” touches on mental health in a gentle, compassionate way that easily makes this song one of my favorites. The very first verse holds my favorite lyrics on the whole EP:

“It’s a state of mind that’s bringing you down
So tell me what will get you out
You haven’t left your bed in days
And I know we’ve all seen better days.”

Ten Years concludes way too soon with another upbeat track entitled “The Distance.” Altogether, this EP embodies the right amount of nostalgia for long-time Aly & AJ fans and the right amount of growth to bring new listeners on the ride. It’s been ten years, but the girls hit the bullseye with this record. We can’t wait to see what else they’ve got up their sleeves.

 

VISTA Transcends with Sophomore EP ‘Long Live’

By Paula Araujo

Last month, up and coming rockers, VISTA released their sophomore EP Long Live. Fronted by Hope Vista alongside with Greg Almeida the two have created a refreshing and thrilling record that is far from any sophomore slump. The music dives in deep lyrically and the production is transcendent giving the listener a real vivid experience. If the title track of the record is any indication, VISTA is taking the idea of Long Live to heart and without a doubt making sure they’re heard. They’ve got a headlining tour starting later this week, that is not to be missed. The passion that is active in their music, amplifies when you see them live.

For tour dates, check out their website. For now, read on to find out more about the duo, how the EP came about, what they’re listening to these days and more!

Hello! Please introduce yourself and your role in the band.
Greg: Hi! I’m Greg, some call me Groogles. I play guitar, sing, and kind of put together a lot of the instruments and sounds for VISTA.
Hope: Hi! I’m Hope. Lead vocals. I also do the band’s press, booking, a lot of branding work, and write all the music with Greg!

How would you describe yourself and your music?
Greg: Straight up bipolar. I can write the most bubblegum pop tune, or the craziest darkest shit.
Hope: Yeah, his writing range is pretty extreme and very impressive. I’m naturally a pretty dark and weird writer, that’s what flows out naturally. But oddly enough I’m SUPER into late 90’s bubblegum pop culture and the boy bands from that era. Opposites attract, I guess!

How did you meet?
Greg: Me and Hope met via Facebook, then met up and jammed.
Hope: Super anti-climactic.

What was your favorite aspect of creating this EP “Long Live”?
Greg: I think it when it was done, being able to listen to it all. The back half of it was great.
Hope: Listening to it made me emotional, honestly. There was so much frustration when we made this and I came out of it tense and mentally drained, so getting to listen to it all from start to finish was the most relieving feeling everrrr.

How did you decide on the title for the EP?
Greg: To be honest, Hope just suggested the idea for it and I was like ‘That sounds great. Let’s do that.’
Hope: “Long Live” is just what popped into my head when I thought about what VISTA had experienced thus far and where we were headed. The EP title came first, before anything was even written or recorded. I had this original idea for a concept album called “Decay” first, we explored some topics for it and just scratched it all, it wasn’t working. And then I thought like, ‘what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of where VISTA currently stands.’ The words ‘long live’ just flashed in front of me and I was like…. Oh. This could be really cool if we create a whole concept based on these words and have some super strong branding.

Was this idea/theme of forming an allegiance and finding an ‘oasis’ among a dystopian society something that came together naturally?
Greg: Kind of. We really wanted to resonate with those who have felt pretty upset about today’s weird world that we live in. So we wanted to do it through music.
Hope: Yeah and like, that concept kinda just fell in line with the EP title. Greg and I have both felt affected by the current state of the world and society in general, so we made a conscious decision to write about it and explore the different sides of a dystopia. Which is really petrifying to think about, but it’s becoming more and more real.

Do you have a favorite song on the EP? Why is it your favorite?
Greg: Either ‘Long Live’ or ‘Hellbent’! Hellbent is just a kick in the teeth and it’s so fun, Long Live is a really good anthemic tune that came together so quickly.
Hope: Mine is definitely “Long Live.” I’m really emotionally attached to that song, it kicks me in the heart in a very powerful way. It ties together the whole record and truly describes what VISTA is and where we are. Long live VISTA, babyyyy.

What have you discovered about yourself throughout the process of creating this new music?
Greg: Sometimes, you just have to let go and wing it. It’s weird, but that’s how things work sometimes, and you can be happy with the results.
Hope: I need to try and not be so hypercritical of myself. I beat myself up in the studio time and time again whenever I’m doing vocals, even if it’s just the first try on something. I want everything to be the best it can be, so if I mess up somewhere on something, I’ll be the first to start beating myself up and criticizing myself. I had to figure out how to tone it down and try to keep my thoughts at bay, which was REALLLY hard!!

What is your favorite song to perform live?
Greg: So far it’s been Henchmen, but let’s see if that changes.
Hope: I always loved performing the original version of Dominance, so I’m stoked to do the new version, but I’m also biased on that one.

What are you most proud of so far in with your career?
Greg: Playing that Irving Plaza show with Against The Current. That was sick.
Hope: 100%.

What is your workflow like? What does a typical day/week look like?
Greg: Just me and Hope texting each other either not at all or rapidly about everything at once.
Hope: Yeah to be honest, Greg and I actually don’t really see each other that much. We’re both so busy individually, so we text a LOT, almost all the time honestly. If I don’t hear from Greg in a few hours I get concerned. Whenever one of us is really excited or really concerned about something, one or the other, it’s typically a phone call!

What has been the most challenging thing so far?
Greg: Just finding each other’s middle ground when writing. Seeing what ideas will work for VISTA, what ideas won’t. That sort of thing.
Hope: Oh yeah. We argued quite a bit when making this EP, we are both very headstrong and commanding, so it took a bit of time to get into a groove and find compromises on everything. There is a lot of compromise on this new record.

What do you want people to take away from your music?
Greg: We want people to feel inspired by the time they’re done with our EP. We want them to feel like there’s a fire inside of their chest.
Hope: I just love when people feel it. Like really, really feel it; whether that be emotionally or physically, like they feel the bass lines pumping through their blood. If we can make you feel, we’re accomplished. Especially with a record like “Long Live.”

What is your advice for other artists out there? What was the best advice you’ve been given?
Greg: Be social, be nice, be courteous, and don’t burn bridges. Just be nice.
Hope: It is so important to be able to identify and define your individual brand, what makes you unique from everyone else. And also wear whatever you want. Don’t put yourself in a box.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue music?
Greg: Probably when I was able to play Bamboozle in 2011 with my other band.
Hope: I knew when I was really, really young. Like age 3, it’s just something I felt in my bones and it’s hard to explain. But I have never passionately wanted to do anything besides makes this a career.

What new music/releases have you been listening to lately?
Greg: I’ve been listening to the new CHON and SZA albums on repeat. I just found out about this sick band called paris_monster today. I’ll probably listen to their stuff.
Hope: I’m addicted to this frickin new Shawn Mendes song right now, I haven’t listened to anything else for like the past 12 hours.

Lastly, Pancakes or waffles?
Greg: Not even a question. Waffles!
Hope: GREG WE AGREE ON SOMETHING, THIS IS PIVOTAL.

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Ilana Armida Blooms with ‘Iridescent Flower Child’

By Paula Araujo
Photo by Jeremy Hobbs

“Stay true to who you are” is the best advice aspiring pop/R&B artist Ilana Armida has been given. These wise words are something she wholeheartedly applies to her everyday life. In an industry that is known for its fabrication, Ilana confidently stands her ground and has no doubt about who she is or where she wants to go from here. Continue reading “Ilana Armida Blooms with ‘Iridescent Flower Child’”