Soleima at Music Box

Denmark-based artist Soleima played an unforgettable performance at Music Box on Tuesday, February 25 to a sold out crowd.

I had the opportunity to head into the venue before the show and got to talk to Sarah, the singer of Soleima, about her music and what is coming up for her this year. Before the interview, I watched the soundcheck in an empty Music Box. This was like my own personal Soleima show, and it was such a cool experience. I got to hear two songs that she would later perform live.

What got you into creating music?

So I actually always have been around music. My family did music and I went to this music kind of high school. In this high school, some kids and I started a band together. It was a 7-piece hip hop band, actually. We must have been around 13 or something; it was me and 6 boys. In the beginning, obviously, it was for fun, but then we actually got a label deal in Denmark. We started doing it a bit, like not professionally, we never lifted from it. We earned money on it and we toured a lot in Denmark. So that was how I started to see it as just a bit more than a hobby. Then after that, I did a lot of other things. I have a bachelor in Anthropology and I did that for a while. Then, I was writing songs together with my friend actually. We wanted to be top liners, we wanted to write songs for others. One day, I realized that I was sitting with these songs and I really didn’t want to give them away. So that is when this project started.

What were your goals and ambitions for your music when you first started?

I think because it started out this way, I was just pretty, I don’t know surprised. I don’t know if that is the right word. I was pretty grateful that something good happened because it kind of came out of the blue. Or at least, that I was supposed to be an artist on my own. So I think in the beginning I was just very grateful and happy that I was able to do it. I guess the more you do it, the more your ambitions and your dreams around it grow. The biggest dream for me is to make the music, first of all, that I want to make, and not make something that people are trying to make me do. For people to hear it, to be able to come here and play 20 concerts in your country, and show my music to everyone. That is definitely my goal and my dream.

How has your music evolved since you first started?

I think, especially on this album that comes out in March, it’s my first full length album, I think that it has an aggressiveness to it that my previous writing has not had in it. I think it is very much about daring to be a bit more honest and maybe also showing some parts of my emotional life that maybe aren’t that flattering always. I haven’t really been daring to do that much earlier. So that is something I am very proud of on this album that I really want to keep working on, and keep being brave that way. It is also something that makes it more nerve wracking to show it to people because of that honesty. 

The song and music video for Roses came out about a month ago now, so what went into that song and video?

So that song is actually very much like a manifestation of exactly what I just said. I think I was at a place in my life where I had just signed a deal here in the states. I guess I was just thinking and worrying a bit too much about what people wanted me to make, or what they expected of me. Good songs don’t come from that. The song is a realization of that. It’s about setting boundaries and being able to say no and being able to reclaim your own creativity. It very much has this aggressiveness that I was just talking to you about. In the song, I am kind of singing to someone saying, “Do you think you could change me?”, a “what the fuck?” kind of thing. For me at least, it’s more than a song for someone else, it’s a song for myself being like, hey, people around you are always going to try to affect you, especially in a creative field. It has to be your job to be like, this is my space, this is my art. It’s going to be this way or it’s not going to be. In that way, it has kind of an almost therapeutic effect writing that song on me. It is an important song for me to write.

What is the most meaningful song you’ve created?

That’s a hard one. I think that always changes a bit because right now Roses is so important to me. It had a big meaning for me, it actually affected my life. Sometimes you feel that way with a song, sometimes it will change and you will write another one that is exactly about what you are going through at that moment. I recently wrote a song for my mom, and that means a lot to me. It is my first time writing that directly to someone from my family. That was pretty wild for me. 

Who would you consider your musical inspirations?

I have always listened to a lot of different music. Growing up I listened a lot to hip hop, especially older stuff like old school, like Pharcyde and Wu-Tang, and all of that stuff. We listened a lot to old R&B, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, all of that. Later on after listening to more pop stuff, right now I am listening a lot from a girl called Kali Uchis, it is super good. I see my music as very much a hybrid, it is a merge of a lot of different things. In the beginning when I started writing, I saw that as a disadvantage. It is so popular to be very conceptual and to have these very clean concepts around your art. I tried to do that, or I wanted to be more like that. I’m not that way. My music is very much a merge of a lot of things. I am seeing it more as a quality and I am really trying to embrace it and own it. 

How would you describe your sound?

That’s hard. One producer I work a lot with in Denmark, he once called it Garage Pop. I imagine me sitting there in my garage like hitting pots and pans and stuff. I thought it was such a fun description, avoiding to put it in a label. Especially because it is such a hybrid, Garage Pop sounds so cool. 

What is next for you and what do you want to accomplish in this upcoming year?

Releasing an album is such a big thing for me. I think in these single days, it is such a special thing to be able to release an album from a major label, to wanting to work a full album. A lot of songs, there isn’t singles, and would never have a life as a single. I think for me as an artist, that format is what I enjoy most, listening to them, and it’s what I want to make. It is a big thing for me, definitely. And then, I want to play a lot more. This has been my first time playing so many shows in a row. Just, both for me and my band to evolve is amazing. And to be so close to people with the music has been such a great experience. I think the music comes to life, and gets a whole new life in the meeting with someone who has never heard it before. That has been a big adventure. That is definitely one of my two pillars this year, to play as much as possible and to really focus on giving this album a good life. 

I got to spend the first three songs in the photo pit, which was an amazing experience. The first two songs, she spent jamming out, running all over the stage, always engaging the crowd. For the third song, she was behind the piano. She talked about how it was an experimental song that she was testing out. This song was incredible. It had the crowd going crazy. It merged all these different genres that we talked about in the interview. It was not like anything that I have ever heard before. 

Once I left the photo pit, I joined everyone else in the crowd. She performed the song Roses, which is my favorite song of hers. Everyone in the crowd was either dancing, had their hands up in the air, and there were some people singing along. You could really tell how much San Diego loves what Soleima is doing with her music. She kept interacting with the crowd, thanking everyone for being there, and talking about how crazy it is that she is playing in the United States. San Diego was the last date on the U.S. tour, after 30 days and 21 shows. Even though it was the end of tour, Soleima was still filled with so much energy and passion.

Soleima’s sound is so different than what other music is out there today. If you have never listened to her, this is your sign to do so.

You can watch the video for Roses here.

Written By: McCaeley O’Rourke
Photos By: McCaeley O’Rourke

Lennon Stella, 5 Seconds of Summer, and the Chainsmokers at Viejas Arena

Lennon Stella, 5 Seconds of Summer and the Chainsmokers put on a stellar performance at Viejas Arena on November 24th, 2019.

Lennon Stella

The opener for the show was Lennon Stella. I had absolutely no idea who she was before the show, so I decided to Google her. I learned that she and her sister Maisy were Maddie and Daphne Conrad in the show Nashville, and that is how they got their start. Lennon recently signed to RECORDS and Columbia Records. She then released her first solo EP last year, called Love Me, and also has done collaborations with  Jonas Blue, Liam Payne, and the Chainsmokers.

Lennon Stella had the crowd in awe when she came out. There was a single spotlight on her as she sang her first song. She performed a total of eight songs, including “Breakaway,” “Feelings,” “Bad,” “Kissing Other People,” “Like Everybody Else,” “Fortress,” “BITCH (takes one to know one)” and “La Di Da.” She moved from one side of the stage to the other, constantly engaging with the fans in the crowd. Her voice is breathtaking, and hearing her perform live was incredibly amazing. My favorite song of hers that she performed was “Kissing Other People.” If you have never listened to her music, please take this as a sign to do so!

5 Seconds of Summer

If you would have told me when I was 13 that at the age of 20, I would be photographing 5 Seconds of Summer, I, most likely, would have laughed in your face. But here I am, 20 years old, and doing something I never thought I would do. I was a die-hard fan of 5SOS in high school, and after seeing and shooting this show, it revived my love for them.

I sadly was not one of the lucky people who got to see 5SOS and One Direction perform on the same tour, and let me tell you why. At that point in my life, I was emo. I thought that I was too cool to go see One Direction perform. I missed out on the best tour of my life, and yes, I regret it every single day of my life. 

They performed a total of 15 songs, including “She Looks So Perfect,” “Easier,” “More,” “Valentine,” “If Walls Could Talk,” “Talk Fast,” “Moving Along,” “Ghost of You,” “Amnesia,” “Waste the Night,” “Why Won’t You Love Me,” “Jet Black Heart,” “Teeth,” “Want You Back,” and “Youngblood.”

Getting to hear “She Looks So Perfect” while being a mere few feet away from the band was just absolutely amazing. I am always the photographer in the photo pit that is singing along to every single word from behind my camera.

Once I left the photo pit, I got to watch the rest of their set from the crowd. Every single person in Viejas Arena was standing, dancing, and singing along. There were two moments of the show that were my favorite. The first being when Calum introduced every single member of the band. He went around introducing Ashton, then Luke, and then said, “and last but not least, I’m Calum.” He totally skipped over Michael, and it had the crowd laughing. Later in the show, Ashton decided to tell the crowd about, in what order, his favorite members of the band were for the night. This is apparently a thing that he has done at all the shows on this tour. He listed them in the following order: Calum, Luke, and then Michael. Again, Michael was put last, which made everyone in the crowd laugh. Ashton gave his spiel on why Michael was last, and it was because he felt like he had been giving Michael too much attention lately. Again, that made the crowd laugh.

This was my first time getting to see 5SOS, after being a fan since 2013. I had super high expectations for their show because I always hear amazing things about them. This show surpassed my expectations. Their music, somehow, sounds even more beautiful and raw live. The vocals, the instruments, the stage presence, everything. It was an amazing show, and if you were not there, you missed out.

The Chainsmokers

The headliner for the night was the Chainsmokers. Shooting this show was very different than what I am used to. It was a challenge, but it was a really fun challenge. For the Chainsmokers, all the photographers shot this portion of the show from the soundboard. To be quite honest, I have not used my long lens since I first purchased my camera almost seven years ago. This kind of set up really pushed me out of my comfort zone when it came to shooting the show, but I am very happy with the outcome.

The Chainsmokers sang a total of 30 songs, including “Takeaway” (which was performed with Lennon Stella), “Roses,” “Under the Bridge” (a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover), “Paris,” “Push My Luck,” “Cream,” “Call You Mine,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Shout” (a The Isley Brothers cover), “Mo Bamba” (a Sheck Wes cover), “Siren Get Ready for This” (a 2 Unlimited cover), “Everybody Hates Me.”

There was a break for an insane drum solo, then the songs continued with “Sick Boy,” “P.S. I Hope You’re Happy,” “Hope,” “Beach House,” “Split Say My Name” (a SAY MY NAME. cover), “Something Just Like This,” “The Grimm” (a John Christian cover), “Hard” (a Swen Weber & Jewelz cover), “Somebody,” “This Feeling,” “Kernkraft 400” (a Zombie Nation cover), “Olè” (a dabow cover), “Save Yourself,” “Who Do You Love” (which was performed with 5 Seconds of Summer), and “Closer.”

The stage set up for this show was so cool. There was the main stage, then a walkway connected that went all the way to the back of the stadium. It really allowed the band to connect with fans in every single part of the arena. The crowd was going absolutely wild for the Chainsmokers, dancing and moving along to every single song. This really was a concert you did not want to miss. 

Written by: McCaeley O’Rourke
Photos by: McCaeley O’Rourke

Charlotte Lawrence and Goody Grace at the House of Blues

Charlotte Lawrence and Goody Grace put on an electrifying show that had the crowd moving all night long at the House of Blues on November 21, 2019.

Before the show, KCR got to have a friendsgiving with both artists in our production studio. In this intimate setting, we all enjoyed a fully vegan Thanksgiving, screen printing reusable tote bags, and more! We also got to sit down and talk to Charlotte and Goody about their music, new songs, and their tour. They each performed an acoustic song, which you can watch both the interview and acoustic songs here

Goody Grace

I had never seen Goody Grace or Charlotte Lawrence live before, and this show absolutely blew me away. Goody Grace opened up the show, playing songs such as “Scumbag,” “Two Shots,” “Rest Your Eyes,” and more. There were some die hard fans in the crowd, singing along to every word and dancing their hearts out. For the people who had never heard of him before, they were still moving and dancing along to the songs.

After learning about the influences behind Goody Grace’s music earlier in the day, it really translated to his music. His music is a mix of all of the music he likes and listens to. You heard emo, pop punk, r&b, and rap influences in his music. They all merged together to create this very unique sound that is 100% Goody Grace. Since this show, I have had Goody Grace’s music on repeat, and you should too.

Charlotte Lawrence

Charlotte Lawrence headlined the show. She played a total of 14 songs: “Why Do You Love Me,” “Just The Same, Keep Me Up,” “I Bet,” “Stole Your Car,” “Young and Reckless,” “Everybody Loves You,” “You,” “Sin X Secret,” “Psychopath,” “Cowboys,” “Navy Blue,” “God Must Be Doing Cocaine,” and “Sleep Talking.”

The crowd was totally and fully engaged with her performance; Charlotte had so much energy on the stage, and was interacting with the crowd at all times. At one point during the show, she claimed that she is too tall to dance but her dance moves went perfectly with her music. This encouraged everyone in the audience to dance along too; not a single person in that crowd stood still.

I wish I had the proper words to describe how utterly gorgeous Charlotte’s voice is. It has the perfect mix of raw emotion and effortless talent. She hits these high notes and goes on these runs that are so beautiful, it genuinely does not sound real.

My favorite song of her performance was Stole Your Car, which has been on repeat since this show. This song in particular had everyone jumping in the air, and dancing. The vocals in this song are insane, and she executed them flawlessly.

Charlotte also performed her newest song, “God Must Be Doing Cocaine.” It calls attention to all the messed up things going on in our world today. It was a super stripped back and emotional performance, which the crowd stayed silent throughout the entire thing. The show was one you should not have missed!

You can listen to Goody Grace ft. Blink 182, “Scumbag,” here.

You can also listen to Charlotte Lawrence’s newest song, “God Must Be Doing Cocaine,” here.

Written By: McCaeley O’Rourke
Photos By: McCaeley O’Rourke

Cold War Kids at the Observatory North Park

Indie-rock quintet Cold War Kids sat down with KCR to talk music inspirations, the evolution of their sound, and the highs and lows of being a band before their show at the Observatory North Park on Friday, November 15.

Cold War Kids formed back in 2004 in Fullerton, California. As stated on their Facebook page, they, “began in August ’04 with friends, jangly guitar, hand claps, and a Harmony amp in a storage room atop Mulberry Street restaurant.” Their earliest releases came from an independent record label, Monarchy Music, but in 2006, they released their debut album, Robbers & Cowards, with their new label, Downtown/V2. They then went on to release Loyalty to Loyalty in 2008, and Mine Is Yours in 2011. CWK continued to release new music in 2013 and 2014 with, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts and Hold My Home. They then signed to Capitol Records and released L.A. Divine in 2017. Their most recent release from November 1, 2019, from AWAL is called New Age Norms 1. They have been on countless tours, and have been all over the world, but they, “strive to make honest songs about human experience in orchards and hotel rooms, laundromats and churches, sea ports and school halls.”

I got to sit down and talk to Nathan before the show. We talked about their newest album, music, and the band as a whole. 

What went into your album, New Age Norms 1, and what was your inspiration behind it?

“A lot of things were happening with us where we had done a live record that kinda took a lot of work, that I was really proud of. Then our old record label was bought and we had to contractually do a ‘best of’ thing that was also a lot of work. We had to kinda put a lot of songs onto it that had been unreleased to make it something special, so that wasn’t just the same old songs. It was a season of a lot of backward looking time, over the band, over the you know, so many records and so many songs. So now we have a new record label AWAL, which is like a different, and has much more of a sense of freedom in the new season of what we’re doing. I felt like we needed to explore and just kind of try things, think out of the box.

So yeah, the idea of doing three different records that are 8 songs each, and just being committed to that, I guess came like maybe a year ago. Yeah, we just wrote forever, approached it a lot of different ways. The first one is producer Lars, that we’ve done the last couple records with. The second one, that we’re finishing now and is going to come out next year, is with Shawn Everrett, a totally different producer, a totally different sound. A lot of it was just like choosing these different ways we worked and making a record around that sort of different writing approaches we had.

It’s interesting because you have to think that so much of the way that people have released music is bound to the way the music industry has worked, and the way that records get released. When we first started, we had three EP’s that we had kinda just done ourselves. We knew nothing about anything, so we had friends that recorded us, and we paid them a little bit of money. We just had Matt Maust, our bass player, doing all the art for them. It was the funnest time because it just felt like the final product, you know a record or cd or whatever, that we were making, that we would then sell at shows and everything, it still felt like it was brand new. It felt like this is not something we did a year ago, that we’ve been laboring over. It just felt like, ‘All right we recorded these songs that we’ve been playing live and it feels fresh and has that urgency.’

Then once you get into sort of like the professional world of record labels and all that stuff, you know I don’t want to like overemphasize. I sometimes hate when an artist overemphasizes the role of record labels because it shouldn’t be about that, regardless of even if you have, I don’t know. We’ve never been in a situation where we had a record label that was so restrictive with us. But that being said, the way that the schedule of it and how far out you have to plan a release, what it takes to get a team of people behind a release. So we did the last album, L.A Divine, with Capitol, and that was kind of the one major label experience we’ve had. Which was fine, it wasn’t really good or bad, it was just kind of like, ‘Okay this was okay.’ But like who we are and what we do, this isn’t really going to benefit us a whole lot. So we should just kind of go and do what we’ve always done.

So maybe that’s a long winded way of saying, it feels like the old days. We’ve just always sort of toured first and thought about recording and releasing music second. Which is very different than now, and in general. Years ago, the model of making a record in your home studio or on your laptop or whatever, with your friends and then waiting, sort of making something happen before there is a tour to go out too. That’s like a newer thing. For us, we get in the van and start finding places to play and let it grow and all that. So yeah, it feels like that.”

So how has your music evolved since the beginning?

“It’s funny, like, it’s a really good question. But like evolution is, in a lot of ways, it’s the same in some ways, and totally different in other ways. So the way of kind of like being 4 or 5 guys in a room, with their instruments in their hands, sort of waiting for something to spark all of us. That type of energy is really great, and that’s how we started, but I got really burned out on that way of working and just wanted to be more focused about writing slowly. Sort of not letting the lyrics be something that has to come together on my own time, but something that I could create the amount of time I want to write a song. Not just sort of have it be….It’s that thing, a balance, music and lyrics. Sometimes music can be too heavy on it and lyrics are an afterthought. Sometimes it can be the opposite.”

What is your favorite song to play live on this tour?

“I think ‘Complainer‘ is the song that is just the most unlike any other song that we have. I mean, it’s always the weirdest thing when you’re in the studio working on something and think like, ‘does this make sense with our music? Does this make sense with everything else in our setlist?’ And then you do it and it always does. ‘Complainer’ is just a little different. It’s strange that it’s actually hard to write a song that is unlike everything else that you’ve done. I would always think like, ‘What if this doesn’t sound like us?’ It always sounds like you in the end. It always comes from you, but it’s actually hard to do something that’s really different from what you normally do. “

What made you want to play music with your other bandmates?

“I just think it’s the funnest thing in the world. From the first time we started playing together, for me, the excitement and the feeling that anything is possible and just like living in that moment of, I don’t know, playing guitar, piano, or writing something. But just the feeling of being creative in that way, with a room full of people and being really vulnerable, it feels like kinda scary, and I like that. I didn’t grow up doing any sort of drama or any kind of creative stuff, at all really. I always grew up listening to a ton of music, and going to see bands and my friends were in bands. My friends were all in like punk and hardcore bands. I wanted to do something more soulful and kind of rock and roll. To my surroundings, there wasn’t really anything like that, there wasn’t a scene for anything like that. So I didn’t start a band, until kind of later. I was like 24, 25, when we started. Discovering that kind of like minded appreciation of music, and how special it is. Being able to share that is the best, it’s great.”

What is your ultimate goal as a band?

“I wish I knew. That is such a strange thing. We were actually in the van and driving from Phoenix to here today. We were just talking about how friends’ bands that have either you know, failed or gotten lost along the way of what they’re doing. Not having a goal that is like selling a certain amount of tickets or selling a certain amount of records, or being a certain big; looking at your life and saying, ‘Am I living the life I want to live? Am I happy doing the work that I’m doing? If so, I can keep doing it.’ For me, over the years, as we’ve had highs and lows, and even different members changing, and how really hard that can be. Of course, there’s always lots of moments of doubt, but I have always just loved it.”

Cold War Kids Live

On Friday, November 15th, Cold War Kids played a sold out show at the Observatory North Park. I have never seen Cold War Kids live, so I was very excited for the show! Their merch table was set up by the entrance, so it was the first thing I saw when I entered and I loved it all. It was super eye catching and different from what other bands are putting out right now. 

The crowd was filled with people of all ages, from kids to adults. I got to see the first three songs from the photo pit, as I was shooting the show. Along with that, I got to hear one of their most well known songs, “Hang Me Up To Dry,” from the photo pit. I turned around and saw how happy the crowd was, and how they sang every single word. The crowd was constantly moving, dancing, and vibing along to the music.

They played a mix of new and old songs, but a majority are off their new album. They played a total of 21 songs including: “Love Is Mystical,” “Miracle Mile,” “Hang Me Up to Dry,” “Complainer,” “Fine Fine Fine,” “Dirt in My Eyes,” “Calm Your Nerves,” “4th of July,” “Waiting for Your Love,” “Can We Hang On?,” “Mexican Dogs,” “Restless,” “Beyond the Pale,” “Drive Desperate,” “So Tied Up,” “Audience,” “We Used to Vacation,” “Hospital Beds,” “First,” “All This Could Be Yours,” and “Something Is Not Right With Me.” When talking to Nathan before the show, he mentioned how “Complainer” is his favorite song to perform live because it is so different from their other songs. After seeing it live, I completely understand why it is his favorite. The crowd was screaming along to the song.

Cold War Kids had so much energy on stage. They engaged and interacted with the crowd; the audience could not stand still, everyone was having an amazing time. The show was absolutely amazing, I did not want it to end.

If you have not listened to Cold War Kids, it is time to hop on the train. You can listen to their new album here.

Written by: McCaeley O’Rourke
Photos by: McCaeley O’Rourke