what's happening with McKenna Grace

McKenna Grace Releases Another New Melancholy Banger

Releasing her first track since her live performance on the Today Show, actress, singer, and songwriter McKenna Grace is back with another excellent new track: Ugly Crier. The track is another fun pop single that rides the wake of the current meta, full of powerful choruses and youthful angst. Similar to her songs Self-Dysmorphia and Post Party Trauma, Grace explores the woes and self-deprecation of being a teenage girl in the internet age.

Check out the newest release from McKenna Grace here:

what's happening with half alive

INTERVIEW: half•alive on “Conditions of a Punk” and Their New Tour

Alternative pop trio half•alive, known for their complex contemporary choreography and invigorated modern takes on time-honored alternative traditions, recently announced their upcoming tour for their recently released masterpiece Conditions of a Punk. We got the chance to chat with J Tyler, Josh, and Brett ahead of all of their upcoming exploits.

How are you feeling about the reception to Conditions of a Punk so far?

J Tyler: We were excited to get this body of work out that we’ve held onto so closely for the last couple years. We knew it was going to be a lengthy release that really show’d where we are at as a band. The reception to it has been very good and encouraging, we put it all out there, and our fans are really meeting us in it.

Was there a moment that inspired the change in plans from Give Me Your Shoulders, Part 2 to Conditions of a Punk? How early on did you know that COAP was the project you would release as opposed to GMYS2?

J Tyler: There was a moment post-[Give Me Your Shoulders, Part 1] where we sat down and had a meeting about where the songs were headed and how our fans were reacting to part 1 of GMYS. After that meeting we felt like the batch of songs we had felt bigger than just a “part 2” and we needed to explore what that looked like.

You said in the post announcing the cancellation of GMYS2 that you needed “something beyond it.” What parts of COAP do you feel are beyond the original vision for GMYS2?

J Tyler: GYMS Part 2 put us in a lane that was complimenting to where Part 1 had been. Opening up the album outside those restrictions- to be longer, more expansive musically & lyrically allowed us to push ourselves to find different sounds that led to different songs that felt a little more fearless.

Y’all are known for your intricate choreography present across the whole of your discography. When you’re songwriting, how much does this visual aspect play into that creative process, and how does that process influence your live performance?

Josh: Choreography is a part of the music creation process but more in an unconscious way. I’m not dancing & then making music to match the dance, but I am feeling where the music can go based on how my body wants to move to it. Movement is very front of mind as we create the visual side of the live show with JA collective, our creative collaborators & choreographers. How the show moves as a whole is choreography in itself. How the music rises and falls, what movement happens on stage, etc.

What has been the biggest change in the creative process between Now, Not Yet and COAP? You described Now, Not Yet as more “cerebral”, and COAP as more “emotional.” Would you say that these themes overlap at all between your freshman and sophomore releases, and if so, where do they overlap?

Josh: The biggest different in the creation of the two records is that we put every song we had at the time on Now, Not Yet. With Conditions, we spent 2 years writing, so we ended up with about 50 songs to choose from, similar to how the creation of the 3 EP & the genesis of the band. The other giant lyrical difference is that those 2 years of writing were a really influential time in my relational life. I processed the things of the heart in those 2 years, vs the things of the head in the time of writing Now, Not Yet. The crossover between the head and heart is probably the more introspective songs, like Conditions of a Punk, or I’ll Stop, or Did I Make You Up? – all of which we wrote later in the record making process.

You posted an appreciation post for all the hands that touched COAP. Who do you feel amongst all of those producers and songwriters added some of the most unique and interesting touches to an album that is so sonically complex? What made these contributions so unique?

Josh: Oh, thats a really hard question to answer. Theres so many people who worked on the record & almost every song has someone different to added something so instrumental to the overall shape of the record. The only common thread tying the whole record together is the 3 of us working on each track, in the writing and producing stages. So technically I guess I would say it’s us. But I will say – early in the record process the production duo Ojivolta were very influential in our trajectory. They helped us sift through a giant pile of songs we had in a tangle of genres helping us decide what the second half•alive record wanted to be. Which was really a lot of deciding what is wasn’t. They were also influential in how we manipulate our instruments, how to destroy things & give character to sounds.

What is the biggest thing you learned from touring with the Takeover Tour and then subsequently touring GMYS? What weren’t you expecting from those tours that ended up surprising you?

Brett: Touring with the Takeover Tour had so many takeaways for us, it’s difficult to pick just one. Watching these shows night after night showed us the depth and scale that twenty one pilots pours into their show -we found ourselves being inspired to approach our shows with the same intention and felt that our GMYS tour was filled with new energy because of our time on the takeover tour. One surprising thing was the experience of playing a small venue, to medium venue, and ending with a huge venue in each city. Each show felt like a new environment and we enjoyed the challenge of having to level up in each venue.

Are you anticipating a monumental difference between the GMYS tour and the upcoming COAP tour? If so, why?

Brett: Yes. COAP was not only an extension of GMYS but rather a new world that GMYS was paving the way for. We’re excited to bring that same vision to our live show and already feel that this upcoming tour will be our best yet.

Any last messages for half alive fans before you guys hit the road in February?

Can’t wait to see you soon! We’re excited to experience these songs with you.

You can stream their new record Conditions of a Punk here:

what's happening with Natalie Claro
Natalie Claro

Natalie Claro’s New Single Is An Alt-Rock Masterclass

Nashville based alt-rocker Natalie Claro is back with another killer single, Cracked Pepper after the release of her 2021 single When Alcohol Tastes Like Juice. If you think you’ve heard the name, you probably have. Claro has toured with bands such as the Plain White T’s and GrizfolkCracked Pepper is a force-to-be-contained that centers around a thrashing guitar riff and unhinged ambience. Claro’s soulful voice sinks into the mix and creates an authentic rocking experience. Even more impressive, Claro is the sole instrumentalist on all of her tracks, including this one. This high-energy track is sure to impress, and is a great illustration of Claro’s natural talent. 

Stream the new single here!

what's happening with half alive

ALBUM REVIEW: half•alive’s jaw-dropping new record ‘Conditions of A Punk’

This is an album you cannot miss. 

Hailing from Long Beach, California, Half Alive (stylized as half•alive) are an alt-pop trio known for their complex contemporary choreography and invigorated modern takes on time-honored alternative traditions. Made up of lead vocalist Josh Taylor, bassist J. Tyler Johnson, and drummer Brett Kramer, the band has been working hard since their first EP, released in 2017, titled 3. They’ve slowly garnered a larger and more cultish fanbase through the release of their first studio album Now, Not Yet, second EP Give Me Your Shoulders, Part 1, and their subsequent tours, including opening for twenty one pilots on much of the Takeover Tour. Now, half•alive has released the newest gem in their discography: Conditions of A Punk. 

The history of Conditions of A Punk is surprisingly complex. This album is the release immediately following the release and tour of Give Me Your Shoulders, Part 1. Up until the announcement of the album, many fans were expecting the next release to be the second part to GMYS. That is until September 9th and 10th, when the band released two videos on Instagram showing the defacement of any apparent “part two” (the first video reveals the band crossing “Give Me Your Shoulders, Part 2” off of Taylor’s back, and the second shows the band burning a flag emblazoned with “Give Me Your Shoulders, Part 2” in an oil drum). On September 12th, half•alive’s Instagram posted a cryptic video with the caption: “… we didn’t need Part 2, we needed something beyond it.” Lo and behold, on October 14th, the band announced the title of the new record. And, without a doubt, fans definitely got something beyond a “part two.”

Conditions of A Punk is an 18-track escapade into the ups and downs and desires of love. As Josh Taylor puts it in his post to the band’s Instagram account on December 2nd, “…it’s the breaking and mending of a heart, it’s the realigning of a soul… loving requires a very painful and ongoing death of ego.” He says that if Now, Not Yet was more “cerebral,” then their sophomore release is more “emotional.” Conditions of a Punk is a project that simultaneously deals with corporeal love between people, but also the more metaphysical love that one can have for themselves, for humanity, and, in Taylor’s case, for God. Capital “L” Love. 

Interestingly, Conditions of A Punk is not disconnected from Give Me Your Shoulders, Part 1. You don’t have to be an eagle-eyed fan to notice that all of the tracks from GMYS make it onto the COAP tracklist. The placement of these tracks is seemingly random, however, on a more thorough analysis, they are not. The band reposted one fan to their story who said “[this album had] home and adventure.” Indeed, that’s what this interpolation of older material accomplishes; just as love and emotions can at times feel completely foreign, and at other times feel intimately and unrelentingly familiar, the feelings conjured by the older tracks feel much more recognizable than the feelings that the new tracks invoke, no matter if those feelings are positive or negative. Instead of plastering the new album on the front or back half of GMYS, half•alive leaves long-time fans constantly wondering whether the next song or feeling they experience will be something brand new or something they’ve experienced along with the band 1000 times.

Musically, this album sets a new bar for half•alive, as it is easily their most sonically mature and interesting album. Just when you might begin to think that their shtick of dance-heavy and uncanny alt-pop is getting predictable, the band is able to flip everything you expect on its head. This album explores some of the loudest and softest, slowest and fastest moments that half•alive’s discography has to offer. This album, full of rocking, gritty basslines on songs like Everything Machine, subdued synthesizers on songs like High Up, and drumming in ⅞ time on Move Me is as pleasing to the ear as it is to the brain and heart. 

Conditions of A Punk is an album centered around its lyrics and story. As previously detailed, it’s, in the simplest terms, an album about love. However, the subject matter is infinitely more complex. COAP delves into the delicacy and enigma of desire, the space between love and lust and desperation. The lyrics themselves mirror the rawness and vulnerability with which a human being can love; the songs don’t shy away from giving into corporeal fervor with Hot Tea or unabashed yearning with Move Me, both tracks that originated on GMYS. Taylor, Johnson, and Kramer are able to explore so many facets of what it means to be both in and out of a relationship, existing emotionally in purgatory, heaven, and hell, all at the same time. 

If you’re looking for an album to dance to, to feel to, to sing along to, and, most importantly, to unseat whatever project you think is the best album of 2022, then check out Conditions of A Punk, the newest album from half•alive

what's happening with McKenna Grace

McKenna Grace Dips Back Into Pop With ‘Self-Dysmorphia’

Known for her roles in The Handmaid’s Tale and Ghostbusters Afterlife, actress and rising star McKenna Grace is back with another single in her growing discography: Self Dysmorphia. The track is a change from her most recent pop-ballad Post Party Trauma or her pop-punk escapade You Ruined Nirvana. With every release, McKenna Grace sounds like she’s honing in on her own sound more and more, and the latest is no different. Self Dysmorphia is a track built off its explosive 21st-century chorus, and its juxtaposition with the subdued and introspective verses. The track is without a doubt ear-candy that will keep you hooked. 

Stream Self Dysmorphia here!

what's happening with Twenty One Pilots

CONCERT REVIEW: Twenty One Pilots’ The Icy Tour At Madison Square Garden

On Tuesday, August 23rd, legendary alt-rock duo twenty one pilots performed at the historic Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, New York, for a stop on their North American Icy Tour. It. Was. Incredible. (This article describes the setlist and visuals for the Icy Tour in depth. This is your spoiler warning.)

Before I delve into the excellency of the mainstage, an applause to the opener: Peter McPoland. McPoland opened the night with an energy unmatched by any performer I’ve ever seen. He performed cornerstones of his discography, including Shit Show and Romeo and Juliet, and between his songs, wherein he seemed as though he was possessed by his own creations, he talked back to the crowd with a comfortability and humility that made the entire performance refreshing and enjoyable. It was impossible not to smile and jam during his set.

The main event opened with a brand new opening-visual, featuring lead singer Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun as they explore an icy wasteland, and eventually encounter a blue door floating in the sky. The duo are sucked into this blue door in the video, and seamlessly exit a blue door on the floor in the real-life mainstage. The set opened the same as their Takeover Tour, which traversed across the U.S. in late 2021, with a performance of Scaled and Icy’s Billy-Joel-esque opening track Good Day transitioning into the heavy-hitting alt-rap chant No Chances. The third song to make its way to the stage was a surprise: Guns for Hands, a 2011 release off of Regional At Best that was later remastered for 2013’s Vessel. Guns for Hands has been notably absent in live performance since the mid 2010s, and has made its way back to the stage following the release of Scaled and Icy, being played at the small-club shows for the Takeover Tour. More twenty one pilots mainstay live moments ensued, such as the Holding Onto You flip and the Lane Boy intro and mosh.

On B-stage, Tyler led the crowd through a Mulberry Street phone-flashlight light-show, instructing the crowd when to hold up their flashlights. It was a wonder to see: 10,000 people all perfectly and simultaneously leading a feat of live visual effects. After Mulberry Street, Tyler, alone on the B-stage, performed a medley of one song from each album, including Addict with a Pen, Forest, Ode to Sleep, Hometown, Bandito, and Choker.
Tyler transitioned back to the mainstage and performed a familiar campfire set with the backing band and Josh. Since the release of Scaled and Icy, the band’s live performances have included acoustic covers of songs, as the boys and their post-2021 backing band sit around a campfire.
After the campfire, the band transitioned into rapid-fire twenty one pilots classics, including Jumpsuit with a transition directly into Heavydirtysoul, My Blood with a transition directly into Saturday, and featuring a Josh Dun drum-crowd-ride. (If you can’t imagine what that looks like, Google it.) A few songs later, Car Radio transitioned directly into Billboard-topper Stressed Out, which featured a fun live-moment new to the Skeleton Clique: Tyler Joseph crowd-surfing an air mattress from the B-stage all the way back to the mainstage.

The show concluded, as all twenty one pilots shows do, with an electric performance of Trees, ultimately ending with the boys crowd-standing with bass drums and shooting confetti all the way to Brooklyn. Tyler and Josh climbed back onto the stage and hit-it-home with their time-honored phrase: “We’re twenty one pilots and so are you. We’ll see you next time. Peace.”

Before I begin the final paragraph of praise for all the performers, I can’t write about this show without mentioning the ugly. Many fans were left with a sour taste in their mouth after The Garden failed on many accounts to properly accommodate and communicate with disabled fans. It is an unfortunate reality that, often out of the public-eye, disabled fans still often struggle to have the same enjoyable concert experiences as able-bodied individuals.

Overall, though, the Icy Tour at Madison Square Garden was an incredible show, all the way from Peter McPoland’s high energy and explosive passion to the Clique throwing up their three fingers. As always, twenty one pilots is a show you never want to miss. Catch them in your city here: https://www.twentyonepilots.com/tour