Music Premiere: J. Alan Schneider Takes us on a Journey with "The State Line"

 
Photo courtesy of Derek Springsteen

Photo courtesy of Derek Springsteen

New York City is home to one of the most diverse areas in the world, and if you're a native, then you already know I'm talking about Queens. It is a borough overflowing with culture, culinary expertise, and most important of all, some of the worlds best music. It was here that indie-folk artist J. Alan Schneider debuted his first album Lo & Behold which was written and recorded alongside other Queens-bred musicians. We're not surprised that J. Alan has chosen to follow suit and bring his brand new EP On Precipice to fruition in the same way. Prior to the long-awaited release arriving soon on October 27th, 2017, Alan has released its first single, "The State Line", which gives us a small taste of what's to come on his second major record. 

The slow, earnest, guitar riffs convey a melancholic melody; it evokes a story of someone lost in their thoughts eager to find a path, but may never. "The State Line" is a haunting take on an artist searching the world to find himself yet never needing to leave the confines of his own mind. With raw lyrics such as, "Colorado's fucked since everyone's moved there / And she's been in a rut since November of '16", Alan not only has the rare ability to tell us a story, but to take us along on his journey. There is no doubt that this latest single adds much to the indie-folk catalog, and leaves us impatiently waiting for the full EP release later this month.

Until then, read our exclusive interview with the man himself below. Get to know his thoughts on being an independent artist in New York City, the creative process behind his latest single, and where to get the best bourbon-glazed bacon tots in Queens. We'll try and save you some. 

J. Alan performing live at Pianos in NYC. Photo courtesy of Angelo Santoro

J. Alan performing live at Pianos in NYC. Photo courtesy of Angelo Santoro

- How did you first get into music, what was your inspiration?

Music started, for me, as the piano lessons I trudged to my next door neighbor's house for (she was a piano teacher). It became the thing I was pretty good at when I took up clarinet in the Middle School band, and the passion I became pretty proficient at when I won regional chamber competitions and joined All State and All Eastern bands on clarinet and string bass. In my adult life it has morphed into something that occupies space in my brain that people normally reserve for faith. Songwriting is what I turn to when I'm anxious, down, or generally directionless. I first started writing songs in the pop-punk band I played in in Junior High, and I've never put that pen down.

- Being from New York City, is it easier or harder to build a career as an artist?

That's a double edged sword. On the one hand there is so much noise in this city that it's sometimes hard to get people to stop and listen, let alone care and make a connection. On the other hand, I have access to some of the best venues in the world for my level of music career, and I can legit play at them. I can take meetings with journalists, or go to music industry events. Hell, every night of the week there's even an open mic night that would pass in any other market as a perfectly serviceable singer-songwriter show. Beyond that, in NYC, you don't really look at the city -- as a whole -- as a scene. In the 90s, you had alt pop/rock in the East Village... before that it was punk. The scene is segmented. I live in Astoria -- a hip neighborhood in Queens -- and between the local breweries and the roots-blues-themed brunch spots, you can find a lot of local passion just in my neighborhood alone.

- As an independent artist, do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?

I'm not sure I'm at the level to give advice to aspiring musicians, but I think one thing that I struggle with even myself is to stay focused on what's important and what it is I love about this -- the music. It's easy to look left and right at other musicians in your network who get achievements that you want. It's easy to feel that jealousy and wonder what you can do to get on that playlist or get that press coverage. But, while hustling and staying motivated and promoting the hell out of yourself is important, it's arguably more important to remember that sitting down to write a song, arrange it, and record it in a way that perfectly expresses your mind is really what it's all about. Stay focused and you'll stay determined.

J. Alan performing live at Rockwood Music Hall. Photo courtesy of Derek Springsteen.

J. Alan performing live at Rockwood Music Hall. Photo courtesy of Derek Springsteen.

- Can you tell us about your creative method behind your latest EP single, “The State Line”?

As with pretty much every song I record, "The State Line" was produced and laid down entirely in my home studio in Queens, NY. I record all of my music around the guitar and vocal tracks. The piano and keyboards were done after, the electric guitar was done to add texture (I had one of my good friends Tory Mance lay some down for me). But beyond production, the song is sort of a warm, dark take on fate. As humans, we can't necessarily control everything in our lives, and grappling with that can be hard to reconcile when you have goals. That's what the lyrics are loosely based on.

- What tone can we expect from the upcoming EP?

That theme of accepting and adapting to fate is kind of what the EP is about in a nutshell. This album will probably be a good bit darker and a little rougher around the edges than my last record. Lo & Behold (which I released in July of last year) was an attempt to show the world what kind of music I can make with just a full, bright-sounding acoustic guitar and my voice. On Precipice is going to bring in more electric guitar, rougher-feeling acoustic tracks, and lyrics that are less contained in one song, and more related from song-to-song.

- Each musician has a unique writing process, how do you define your artistry?

After being asked this question numerous times by friends and other journalists (both for this project and my previous indie rock band Jet Black Sunrise), I've decided that I honestly don't know how the hell a song comes about. For me, there's no way to plan it. Sometimes I'll start a song that I think I love, and then find out the next day that I hate it. And from there I'll have to pick what I like about it (the lyrics? the chord progression? the weird specific riff-hook I started with?) and spend days and days just chipping away at it, deciding if a good song is in there. Sometimes, I'll get a new guitar, or a new pedal, and I'll sit there with the guitar, maybe noodling as I'm watching TV or something, and stumble on a vibe/hook that speaks to me, and then I build on that and finish a whole song in one night. Some of my best songs have been written on nights I hadn't even planned on writing. It's weird when that happens, but there is something really cool knowing that something tangible like a song does actually come from a really intangible place.

- Which artists are you listening to today, anyone you'd recommend?

I have my go-to artists that I keep coming back to year after year (Bon Iver and Tallest Man On Earth to name a couple), but on a monthly basis, there's a revolving door of new albums I'm listening to non-stop. This month I'm spinning Pinegrove's latest record, the newest release from Jason Isbell, and Haim's LP. They're all great and you should give them a try!

Photo courtesy of Derek Springsteen

Photo courtesy of Derek Springsteen

- What's the best concert you've attended, and if you could perform onstage with anyone - who?

It's hard to pinpoint a best concert, but a few that come to mind: Mutemath at The Met in Pawtucket, RI (the most energy I've seen at a concert, ever, I think), Bon Iver in Port Chester, NY, and Tallest Man On Earth at Newport Folk Festival. If I could perform with anyone on stage it would probably be Phil Cook --he used to play in Justin Vernon's band and now has his own records and performs with Hiss Golden Messenger. This dude is a serious keys and guitar player who knows the best way to service a song. And I think it would be a huge inspiration to play with him.

- If you could eat at one restaurant for the rest of your life - where would it be and why?

There's a spot in Astoria, NY called the Sandwich Bar that isn't particularly big, nor is it particularly notable in the larger NYC restaurant scene. But between their bourbon-glazed bacon tots at brunch, and their house-roasted chicken grilled cheese, their food is some that I don't think I'd ever get tired of. They also have a really killer tap list.

- When is the EP set to release, and what can we expect after?

On Precipice will hit digital shelves on October 27th of this year, and you can expect a release show in NYC, plus a short run of northeast dates to support it. From there, I'll just see where the momentum takes -- you never know how a record is going to be received, and like I said up there, I can't expect anything. All I can do is put out music I love and hope other people love it, too.

 

"The State Line" is available now and keep up with J. Alan below!

J. Alan Schneider

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Music Premiere: "Vibe" with Fly By Midnight in our Exclusive Interview

 
Slavo (L) and Justin Bryte (R) of Fly By Midnight.

Slavo (L) and Justin Bryte (R) of Fly By Midnight.

It was a warm Wednesday night last week and as we walked the streets of New York City, the Lower West Side was alive and buzzing with the promise of a good time. We were heading to the swanky Soho House, known for it's vintage decadence, beautifully constructed menus, and mixologists with enough flair to shake a room and enough talent to pour a drink you'd never forget. New York-based, Retro-Pop duo, Fly By Midnight was hosting a secret show at The Vinyl Room and we were the last lucky few to get a glimpse of their musical energy in action. 

The stage was blue-lit, warm, and set up for an hour and a half of music that would soon capture a performance few could forget. Fly By Midnights' Justin Bryte and Slavo even having just touched down from a London tour one day prior were full of excitement and absolutely ready to not only embrace the mics, but showcase their brand new single: "Vibe". With electricity in the air and the crowd buzzing, the duo leaped onstage and got to work showing those in attendance the results of their hard work.

With Justin on the keys and Slavo on guitar, their vibrant sounds merged perfectly as their combined vocals told stories of young love, the pitfalls of modern dating, and how exciting it is finding that special vibe with someone new. The audience couldn't help dancing to every single track; a live showcase turned into a full party once the retro-pop team jumped off-stage and sang among the crowd. In all, Fly By Midnight is a brilliant duo that not only commands a stage but also make their passion for music shine brightly in each track. From the retro head-bobbing beats, catchy pop hooks, and lyrics that anyone can relate to, we can all agree that these guys will undoubtedly make a mark in music.

Before you run off to listen to their latest track, "Vibe", read our interview below with Justin and Slavo to get an exclusive inside look into their inspiration behind the music, touring advice for artists, and most importantly, who their favorite super heroes are.

Slavo (L) and Justin Bryte (R) of Fly By Midnight.

Slavo (L) and Justin Bryte (R) of Fly By Midnight.

- How did you both get into music and how did Fly By Midnight start?

J: Fly By Midnight has really been a culmination of both of our journeys building our craft as artists. I started off in a theatrical background. I was cast in plays like Pippin, Crazy For You and a handful of others. Mid high school years I had uploaded my first YouTube cover that caught way more attention than I had expected. From there I began listening to all genres of music and really fell in love with songwriting. It's always been to me about continuing to grow and learn more and that's the best part of Fly By Midnight. We're constantly pushing each other to be better and take our music in new & exciting directions.

S: I began playing guitar when I was 10 years old and made it an immediate goal to become good enough to play in my older brothers band. After about a year of playing my Fender Squire Strat non stop he let me join one of their band practices and I fell in love. I moved to New York from Florida (my hometown) about 4 years ago on my 19th birthday to pursue an engineering/producer apprenticeship at Chung King Studios. After that program ended, I needed a new reason to stay in NY and I found that in Fly By Midnight.  

- What were some of your favorite collaborations early on?

J: I think one of the best collaborations still has to be our cover of "We Don't Talk Anymore" with Nicole Medoro & Nicolette Mare. We had filmed it right before hopping on a flight to perform in China. The video was super simple & we genuinely had fun shooting it. I think that genuineness is what really sells these days and was a huge factor behind it performing as well as it did.

S: My favorite collab was probably the one we did before Fly By Midnight was technically a thing. The cover we did of “I Really Like You” by Carly Rae Jepsen was a lot of fun and laid the groundwork for what was to come of this duo. That collab was pivotal to surfacing the potential of our combined creativity.

Slavo on Guitar at Soho House. Photo courtesy of Kevin Vallejos.

Slavo on Guitar at Soho House. Photo courtesy of Kevin Vallejos.

- What drew you to cover Charlie Puths' “We Don't Talk Anymore”, did you expect it to go viral?

J: We didn't expect it to go viral at all. Even the song choice was a bit out of the box for us being that it wasn't a single at the time. Slavo and I just thought it was the strongest song on his album so we brought in the girls and just vibed out.

S: That was early on in the Fly By Midnight project if I’m not mistaken and at that time I don’t think we had any expectations. Starting a new project requires a lot of trial and error to discover what excites you and what excites your audience and this was one of those where we discovered something special.

- What’s life like being on tour? Do you have any advice for artists looking to hit the road?

J: It's been such a fun ride. We love meeting new and old fans alike. Whether it's acoustic sessions at colleges or full blown festivals. My advice would be to always make it a point to meet as many people as you can after the shows. Take the time to make that connection. It's gone a really long way for us.

S: It’s one thing to make music that people enjoy, but when you get to physically see people react to something you’ve created night after night in unfamiliar places it’s truly special. I would second what Justin said. There’s nothing like making genuine human interaction with new fans/friends.

Justin on vocals at Soho House. Photo courtesy of Kevin Vallejos.

Justin on vocals at Soho House. Photo courtesy of Kevin Vallejos.

- Who are your favorite artists today?

J: I've been really digging the throwback sounds of Computer Games & Fickle Friends. Imagine Dragons new album was so dope as well!

S: With music being so accessible I feel like my “favorite” artist is constantly changing. Right now I would say I’m really into Khalid and Thomas Rhett’s new album.

- If you could perform in any city or country, where would it be and why?

J: We definitely want to tour the whole world, but knowing how strong our influence is in the Philippines & Hong Kong  that would be on another level. We get so many comments from overseas and to meet those fans would be super rewarding.

S: I’ve always wanted to go to Australia. I know getting there would be brutal, but it’s always been on the top of my list. We actually have a cool little following down there as well.

Justin (L) and Slavo (R) onstage at The Vinyl Room. Photo courtesy of Kevin Vallejos.

Justin (L) and Slavo (R) onstage at The Vinyl Room. Photo courtesy of Kevin Vallejos.

- Who's your favorite superhero? What's better: DC or Marvel Comics?

S: I’ve never been big into superheros, but I’ll have to go with Batman. I think it’s dope how he doesn’t technically have any powers, but he still manages to kick a**. With that being said I suppose I’m team DC.

J: Well I’m obsessed with superheros so it’s hard to just choose one. I’d say Marvel wise definitely Spiderman. I actually dressed up in a full costume to see the latest movie in theaters (geek alert). DC wise, probably Shazam. Love the idea of this young boy becoming this super powerful man by saying one word. I can’t choose one, ah!

- Can you tell us about your inspiration behind your latest track, “Vibe”?

S: “Vibe” was a track inspired by the word itself. The chorus and the concept came pretty easy, to be honest the verse and the pre chorus required the most effort. Once we had it all finished in front of us though, we knew it was something different and special for us.

J: It’s a song purely about attraction. The fun adventure of exploring feelings for someone new.

 

- What can we expect from Fly By Midnight in the future?

S: We’re constantly writing/producing/touring and building our platform. One thing we’ve always wanted to release was a body of work. Whether it be an EP or a full length album. Right now it’s all about timing, but that’s definitely in our near future.

J: I second that. Slavo & I are obsessed with creating and taking as much new material as we can on the road. We want to give the world a body of work that is Fly By Midnight. It’s only the beginning and that’s truly the exciting part.

 

Listen to the latest single "Vibe" now and be sure to follow them below!

Fly By Midnight

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Indie-Rock Artist Vagabon Lands Front-Page on Pitchfork's "Rising" Series

 

We at TFAK want to congratulate our friends at Vagabon for their front-page editorial on Pitchfork's "Rising" Series! Please check out their interview with Laetitia Tamko to learn more about her music, influences, and how she's grown as an artist living in New York City. 

Watch their music video for The Embers below, and follow them on social media today.

 

Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud

 

Article: Matthew Schnipper / Photo: Ebru Yildiz / All Credits To Pitchfork