by Deborah J. Draisin
This surprisingly talented foursome of polished teenagers was formed in Redwood City, CA when they were merely twelve years old in 2005. Things have moved pretty quickly for them since them. They placed highly in two KFOX competitions, earning them an opening spot with the Doobie Brothers. They were also offered slots on both the 2008 Projekt Revolution, the 2009 Vans Warped Tours and the 2009 Pac Sun Tour (opening up for Saosin,) and just recently opened up for Alesana. They also took away the coveted “Best Breakout Bay Area Artist” award, courtesy of the VMAs.
Don’t be fooled by their rather goofy appearance on myspace – this band is deadly serious about their art, and it shows; the songs are kickass.
Picture Me Broken is vocalist Layla Brooklyn Allman (yes, THAT Allman, but I gave her a chance to address that right out of the gate,) lead guitarist Nick Loiacono, bassist Austin Dunn and drummer Connor Lung. I had the privilege of sitting down and talking to Layla amidst this flurry of awesome (and very well-deserved) stuff happening to them.
Q: Awesome to meet you, Layla - congratulations on your VMA win!
LA: Nice to meet you, too, and thank you!
Q: All obvious talent aside (which is definitely not always the case with those who have known musicians in the family,) what do you say to critics who accuse you of capitalizing off nepotism, because I’m sure that happens.
LA: You know, our music is so far from the genre of my Dad’s - a kid at Warped Tour is not going to know (or care) who the Allman Brothers Band is. It really has nothing to do with us, we’re going our own way with our own style of music. I think that it’s very ignorant of people to draw the conclusion that I’m all off of my Dad.
Q: That’s fair – good answer! You’ve described yourselves as a healthy blend of Paramore, Heart, Flyleaf, blessthefall and Scary Kids Scaring Kids.
LA: (both laugh) Yes.
Q: To be honest with you, you’re really none of the above – you guys are pretty original.
LA: Thank you so much!
Q: You’re welcome; do you think that having artists for parents bled through into your own art maybe a little more than you realized?
LA: Definitely not. My Dad hasn’t had a big influence on my music. A lot of people think “Oh, your Dad taught you” and really, he hasn’t. I only see him like a couple of times a year, basically, so it really has no effect on me.
Q: I actually read that. I have a child who is a musician like his father, as well – maybe it just sort of runs in the blood?
LA: Yeah, I do feel like my Dad’s influence only goes as far as his DNA.
Q: I think it does travel in the DNA – it’s weird, but it does. My son is sixteen, like yourselves.
LA: Oh, that’s cool!
Q: He’s finding it difficult to compete out there. How would you advise him to stick it out, and how do you balance out career and school?
LA: It’s really tough. If you’re going to be in a band, you need to make sure that you have four people who are equally as involved as you are - it’s so much work, it’s not just a bunch of friends hanging out. You’ve got to pay your dues, play every show you get offered, even if it’s like an annoying little church festival. You have to climb your way up and commit to it fully. I feel really lucky to have met my band.
Q: I’ve been telling him that over and over again - that he has to find people who are committed as he is. My God, you guys were twelve when you get started!
LA: (both laugh) Yeah.
Q: Most people don’t even have any focus at twelve.
LA: (chuckling) We went to elementary school together. We’ve always had a good level of commitment to this, since we were eight years old. Of course, we started out doing it once a week for fun, but we progressed into a more serious band.
Q: You guys sound incredible, even your demos.
LA: (giggling) Thank you.
Q: Who can we credit with the absolutely flawless recording?
LA: We actually have a couple of different producers. The producer for “Dearest” was Aaron Hellman – he records a lot of local San Francisco bands – and he’s so fast! We had drum tracks done in thirty minutes with him; he was, like, pressing buttons furiously, and it just came out sounding perfect. We went to L.A. to finish out the EP with Mudrock; it was a really exciting experience working with him.
Q: How do you go about attracting people to your project?
LA: We just look for people who are enthusiastic about working with us and will put more into it. We of course look at who they’ve worked with, and when we saw that Mudrock had worked with Avenged Sevenfold, we jumped right on that.
Q: I would be stoked too! So you’re finding that it’s just a matter of networking to bring people to you?
LA: It’s a combination of a lot of things. My mom’s actually been managing us since we were little, and we also have another manager named Dan, who does a lot of the networking. Social networking sites also bring people to us, and then just playing shows and getting out there.
Q: You guys probably don’t even remember what it was like to have to promote without the help of the internet, but let me tell you, it was a lot more difficult! You used to have to sit there and press your own cds and mail them out, have people sign sheets at gigs.
LA: (both laugh) I do not remember!
Q: Is it harder to get gigs when you’re underage?
LA: It’s actually not – there’s a pretty lively music scene here in the Bay Area, and they have a lot of All Ages venues. We do have some that are strictly 21 and over, but they’ll host the occasional All Ages show, so it’s really not a problem.
Q: How was your first Warped Tour?
LA: Yeah, that was exciting. It was the perfect exposure for us, because a lot of the kids there are into our genre of music and they seem really psyched. It was an amazing environment, being with all these bands that we look up to.
Q: You’ve made some pretty good connections already – you’re opening for Alesana in a few days.
LA: I am stoked for that! Also on the tour are From First To Last, Asking Alexandria, The Word Alive, Memphis May Fire and Raelin – a bunch of bands that we love.
Q: That’s a crowd too that’s going to love what you’re doing; these are your people.
LA: It’s the right genre, with bands that we’ve been influenced by, so I hope it’ll be the right audience for us.
Q: It’s all about collecting more fans – how do you keep in touch with everybody? I know twitter helps.
LA: Twitter’s great, and myspace, of course. I have my AIM up on our myspace, so I talk to people all the time.\
Q: You kind of have to say “Well, possible strange people be damned, we need to network!”
LA: (both laugh) They’re really nice, though!
Q: You guys have over 16,000 friends on myspace – you’re getting attention. The VMA was definitely nice – you don’t usually see something like that happen for someone so young.
LA: That was the best thing that’s ever happened to us. The week that we were aired on MTV, we had so many kids coming to our page saying “I love you guys; I feel like I can be on MTV because of you guys.”
Q: MTV hasn’t paid attention the Hard Rock genre in a while, so you’re in a good place right now.
LA: It’s all rap and reality shows now.
Q: (both laugh) So true; it is almost one hundred percent reality T.V. now; it wasn’t like this when it got started.
LA: I still remember when it was strictly music videos.
Q: And good ones!
LA: Yeah, now we’re being played in between Robin Thicke and Jack Ashton.
Q: A common problem for most female leads, you’ve stated that the Paramore comparison annoys you.
LA: (laughing) Oh yeah!
Q: Do you find yourself getting boxed in because you’re a female?
LA: Completely! They were the first band with a female singer to break out this decade, so I guess they sort of paved the way for us.
Q: But Paramore’s like pop music, that’s not the same thing at all.
LA: I don’t really see any similarities, but apparently other people do. It’s like “Oh, girl singer, Paramore.”
Q: In terms of groundbreakers, I would look at somebody like Lita Ford before I would look at Paramore.
LA: Ah, there you go!
Q: That labeling must make it difficult for you to market yourselves.
LA: There really are no other bands in our genre with a female singer, so we try to market ourselves with the band in our own genre, yet it still leads us right back to Paramore because of the “girl” thing.
Q: That’s got to be frustrating – it’s hard enough for us to play in a mostly man’s world.
LA: It is, yeah.
Q: You’ve accomplished some pretty sweet goals already – what are you looking toward next for yourselves?
LA: We’re going to begin recording our first full-length album in January, hopefully be released in the spring, and we’re looking to hop on some tours as well.
Q: Any prospects yet?
LA: It’ll be in the summertime – possibly Warped Tour again – definitely around the country, so we can reach everyone.
Q: The whole tour would be spectacular; I hope you get it!
LA: It would be amazing, yes.
Q: Are people supportive out there or are they discouraging?
LA: We’ve had more support than discouragement; it’s been a good experience for us so far.
Q: Well, keep at it; I love what you’re doing, and I’m looking forward to catching you on tour this summer. Thank you for your time, Layla!
LA: Thank you!
READ UP, LISTEN UP, WATCH A VID:
CATCH THEM LIVE:
January 3, 2010 @ 7:00 p.m. - Blakes On Telegraph Berkeley
March 13, 2010 @ 7:00 p.m. - Senator Theater W/ Jamie’s Elsewhere Chico, California