The Bands That Rock playlist and profile series reviews rock bands, often DIY or under-the-radar, whose talents should not go unnoticed. Most of the bands in this series – as with many other of our playlist series – sent their music in for review. In fact, we receive close to, or more than, a hundred submissions a month. In the past, the Bands that Rock series has been popular with IRC readers, and this marks the seventh installment of this particular series, highlighting the bands Tsar, Dreamers, Eight Feet Deep, The Bitter Roots and The New Self Defense.
Tsar – Los Angeles
Los Angeles rock, punk and glam band Tsar have been a fixture of LA’s underground rock scene for 15 years. Last fall the band dropped a new EP last fall titled The Dark Stuff, featuring the two blistering tracks below. Over all the years – and 15 years is a long time for a band – Tsar’s line-up has remained intact from the beginning, featuring Jeff Whalen (vocals, guitar), Dan Kern (guitar, vocals), Jeff Solomon (bass), and Steve Coulter (drums).
From the moment they broke out on the LA scene in 1998, they were quickly signed to Aderra Records. We were not unaware of Tsar; in fact, years ago we saw them play in LA and we were rocked to the core by their blazing, guttural sound. Over time, like so many bands, we had lost track of them. So, it was a pleasant surprise to see the band pop up on our radar again with a couple of fresh tracks they had sent in to for review. The Dark Stuff EP is the band’s first release of new material in seven years.
The lead single, “Police Station,” comes blazing out of the gates from start with lively kinetic energy of blazing guitar riffs and bombastic drumming. Over the years, Tsar have shared the stage with bands like Jet, The Walkmen, Marvelous 3, Eve 6, New York Dolls, Duran Duran, and Social Distortion. Their major musical influences include T. Rex, The Pooh Sticks, MGMT, The Replacements, The Hives, David Bowie, The Stooges, and the New York Dolls.
“Police Station” – Tsar from The Dark Stuff EP
“Punctual Alcoholic” – Tsar from The Dark Stuff EP
Dreamers – Warwick, Rhode Island
Highly regarded for their firey and energetic live shows throughout New England and the New York metro area, Rhode Island DIY powerhouse rockers Dreamers have been on repeated rotation in our DIY bands playlist (that includes hundreds of unsigned bands) for a few months, and are a perfect fit for IRC’s Bands That Rock series. Lead singer and guitarist Christian Shields has quite a range to his voice, as demonstrated in the screaming rocker, “Way It Feels,” an edgy screecher and tribute to a 350 Chevy, packed with blistering, yet melodic hooks, crunchy power chords, head-banging beats, and rapid-fire bass playing. The second track the band submitted, “Live For Today,” is a hard rock ballad, and perhaps the most standout – and radio-ready – track on Dreamers’ debut LP, Turn It Up.
Dreamers has been mixing metal, pop and rock since their humble beginnings in 2010, and have become a local favorite throughout Rhode Island pretty much from the get-go; they’ve even garnered praise in blogs, newspapers and magazines throughout the New York metropolitan area. The band was started by brothers, Christian and Nathan Shields, who were both former members of Last One Standing. They’ve also shared the stage with artists like All That Remains, Burn Halo, Candlebox, Firewind, Hawthorne Heights, Hollywood Undead, Lynch Mob, Saliva and Saving Abel. Not surprisingly, Dreamers, which isn’t exactly a name that matches their hard rock sound, count among their top musical influences bands such as Kiss, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Motley Crue, Senses Fail, Ratt, and Cinderella.
“Way it Feels” – Dreamers from Turn It Up
“Live For Today” – Dreamers from Turn It Up
Eight Feet Deep – Sayville, New York
Formed in 2010, Eight Feet Deep is a DIY progressive rock project of musician, songwriter and singer Billy ‘Pills’ Fridrich from Sayville, New York. Last year, he released EFD’s self-titled debut EP, even though we only learned about it recently when Fridrich sent us in a couple of singles from the EP to listen to. In addition to songwriting and singing (with backup vocals from Mike DiMeo), Fridrich also plays all of the instruments (except for programmed drum beats), including guitars and bass. Fridrich is well-known in the Long Island music scene as a rocker with a melodic voice and keen songwriting abilities for his work as the frontman for bands like Celestial and Heavysurf. He also has another musical side project – No Excuses – performing 90’s cover songs.
Fridrich’s musical influences include Led Zeppelin, King’s X, Sevendust, Alter Bridge, and Pink Floyd. It is apparent in the songs he sent in that Fridrich also draws inspiration from classic late 80’s and early 90’s rock bands like Soundgarden, Candlebox, White Lion and Van Halen. If you’re interested in hearing other songs from the EP, you can do so on Spotify. We’re not exactly sure that the two tracks he sent in are the best from the EP, especially based on sampling some of the others, and reading reviews of the EP from a couple of blogs.
“Forbidden Fruit” – Eight Feet Deep from Eight Feet Deep
“Judgment Day” – Eight Feet Deep from Eight Feet Deep
The Bitter Roots – Seattle, Washington
Seattle rock duo The Bitter Roots, formed in 2007, recently released a new album, Chiaroscuro that pays tribute to their musical heroes, and influences, including, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Carlos Santana, Bob Marley, Jane’s Addiction, U2, The Smiths, and The Cure, among others. The duo features Jeff Stetson and Ben Koostra. Their music has been heard on 50 radio stations from coast to coast and throughout Canada, Austrailia and The Netherlands. The duo only record live to analog tape, and make a point of stating that they do not use Auto Tune, Click Track, samples, programmed drum beats or employ other “short cuts” of modern recording. Combining elements of soul and rock, the duo focus on tight rhythms, driving beats and vocal harmonies. Stetson is the former lead singer of manSaveman, a fairly well-known Seattle band that were active in the early to mid 2000s. Stetson also played in the band Chiseler and Into the March. Koostra is a multi-instrumentalist and was the original drummer for the bands Ein Heit and Silkworm.
“For King and Country” – The Bitter Roots from Chiaroscuro
“Family Ties” – The Bitter Roots from Chiaroscuro
The New Self Defense – New York, New York
It took us a few spins of the album, Meet Me Overboard, before we warmed up to New York post-hardcore, alternative rock band The New Self Defense. The band, originally formed in 2003, have been working for a decade on producing songs with blazing rock chords, heavy bass lines, and energetic drumming. The band formed out of the breakup of the New Jersey-based band Prevent Falls, and have opened for artists like Hey Mercedes, Shades Apart, New Beard, Vs. Antelope, and Damn This Desert Air. The NSD has written and collaborated with artists like Tim Brennan (Dropkick Murphys), Brian Carley (Penfold) and Alf Bartone (Damn This Desert Air, The Fire Still Burns and Ex Number Five).
They cite musical influences as Helmet, The Police, Quicksand, Peter Gabriel, Refused, and Glassjaw. The band’s music has been described before as “Quicksand/Helmet meets The Police on meth.” The band’s lead singer and guitarist, Jeff Carter, said: “Indie rock is the relentless and eternal battle against what MTV did to commercialize and otherwise gut the rock music scene.” So true.
“Loose Noose” – The New Self Defense from Meet Me Overboard
“The Dragon” – The New Self Defense from Meet Me Overboard