In a modern world fraught with the grandeur of wizards, warlocks, witches, Hobbits, hobgoblins, vampires, teen wolves, maenads, faeries, zombies, the Supernatural, the Illuminati and The Secret Circle, many minds divine the fantastical kind.
It's all light-hearted fun, for sure, but as we inch closer to the much-ballyhooed prophecy that the world will end on December 21, 2012, it provides pause to reflect; Are we nearly dead or about to become Fully Alive?
Will the Earth be presented with a new flyleaf, signaling its next chapter of history?
According to Ancient Maya's Long Count Calendar, Earth entered a new "creation cycle" on August 11, 3114 BC. This cycle is 1,872,000 days long, and when the Mayan World Age ends on 12-21-2012, it will herald a New Age of spiritual enlightenment.
In prose, it sounds like the modern world is Breaking Dawn somewhere over the rainbow as a beckon of newfound glory begins to ebb the Twilight of the mid Mayan sky.
Pandering to search terms makes me hungry. I'm envisioning a delicious BLT, but please hold the Bacon. Instead, lettuce entertain you with a salacious wedge of Six degrees of Cassadee...
Because when an ordinary sandwich of pleasant pop culture clichés does not satisfy your craving, it's time to spice things up by peppering your mind with zesty wordplay of a different kind.
You say Ta-May-Toe, I say Ta-Mah-Toe. You like white bread. I like Pumpernickel.
Last year at about this time, word broke that a band I had been casually following for several years was about to go on hiatus. Ceremoniously releasing a Christmas Ep, Hey Monday, fronted by singer Cassadee Pope, called it a day. I was mildly disappointed but more interested in what would follow for Ms Pope.
Soon thereafter, Cass announced that she would embark on a solo tour in January hitting the Key Club in LA. Opening the tour would be a female-fronted pop-rock band out of Nashville called Darling Parade???
Hello Google. Hello link to YouTube. Curious how that works like a charm every time. I press play and am listening / watching. Pretty good. Before the song ends, my eye subverts to a phrase in the right column of thumbnails...
It SCREAMS at me... ZOMBIE MUSIC VIDEO!
By some band called The Nearly Deads! Clever use of tagging. I click thru and press play.
My musical life was flattened while my sense of time flatlined. Who WAS this band? Who is THIS BAND! Did time just slow down?!? Am I in a space-time continuum??
I've been in the music business for my entire career and hear so many things that are pretty good that it's hard to differentiate sometimes, but then, every once in a while, Lightning in a Bottle appears before your very eyes, your steaming ears...and you savor the elixir as if ingesting sacred nectar from the Gods.
Potent enough to enrapture The Walking Dead with a slice of the sublime. And oceanic enough to never jump the shark.
Hailing from Tampa, FL (their moniker inspired by the Floridian catchphrase "Land of Newlyweds and Nearly Deads"), the quintet are currently based in Nash-Vegas. Comprised of singer/ keyboardist/ melody maker Theresa Jeane (aka TJ), guitarists Brandon Barnes and Steven Tobi, bassist Kevin Koelsch and drummer Cory Walen, the band had a banner year in 2012.
While amassing over 3.5 million views on YouTube, they rocked the masses on Warped Tour, partnered with Journey Shoes, and steadily built the foundation of their Zombie Nation.
Poised for a big-time break-thru in twenty thirteen, TND are currently holed up with producer Jon King, working on what one writer (ok, this writer) believes will be the Greatest Debut Album EVER!
That said, I had an epiphany of a different sort a few nights ago as I, once again, watched the majestic brilliance of SoCal ska-rockers No Doubt as they electrified the Gibson Amphitheater, night six of seven sold-out shows. 43,000 tickets sold (overall) at roughly $100 a ticket. The math is easy. Mucho dinero.
I saw No Doubt on the Tragic Kingdom tour and they were good. Really really good. Overflowing with energy and attitude. That was a sweaty night in the pit. I was in Milrockee. Rock roils all zip codes.
But now, 15 years later, the band seems to just be hitting their stride.
Maybe because they took a break and haven't been slogging it out for album cycle after album cycle but they were phenomenal. Bursting with self-assured confidence yet still displaying that spontaneous spark that ignited them to superstardom, the band was as tip-top tight as a naval ship and Gwen's vocal range was scary good, but at the heart of it all, it just seemed like a gang of close-knit friends having just as much fun giving as we were having receiving and vice versa.
We felt a lot of love and joy...and, ok, ear-piercing screams.
And while the gorgeous chorus of 'Underneath It All' rang through my head, I thought to myself, "The Nearly Deads ARE this generation's "No Doubt"...
Generational icons. Role models. Spokespeople. Fashion models. Cultural soothsayers. Dragon slayers. Difference makers.
Of course, they still have some Spiderwebs to weave, molehills to climb and hit records to make, but, I truly believe this will transpire.
Mind you, subsequent thoughts envision TJ's brief hiatus from the band to pursue a hugely successful solo career, an ensuing clothing line and a branded cosmetic line... TJ by Urban Decay.
Yes, The Nearly Deads are a band but Theresa Jeane is its turbine engine. Lead vocalist, yes, but much more.
She can write a melody/hook like nobody's business and pens lyrics that speak to universal truths, both for herself and for listeners to contemplate / adopt as their own. She has a penchant for eliciting phrases that are the cornerstones of modern day anthems.
When she belts out, "I CAN'T get back the price I paid, you CAN'T escape the mess you made. I've had enough. Now I'm AWAKE. You'll always be my WORST mistake" on the song "Reasons," it stops you in your tracks every time.
She's feeling this as if her very life / livelihood depends on it. You feel it too! Its urgency makes you examine your own life / thoughts / feelings.
And then there's The Voice.
Aye Chihuahua! Cómo es esto bueno?
Yes, Born This Way since uttering the word Gaga...but, there's something more, underneath it all.
Perhaps it's that rare mix of emotional vulnerability, a heightened sense of evolving self-awarenss coupled with a wry sense of humor? Or maybe it's that her favorite color is gray, designating that she's pre-destined to write achingly poignant music? Her feline intuition parlayed by cat-like reflection?
Or maybe it's because she believes Caturday follows Friday? Ok, so I made that last part up, but it's my purr-ogative to do so.
At the beginning of the year, I wrote an open letter to The Nearly Deads. Based upon readership, it ascended to our #1 story in the springtime and following a brief bump to #2 by Pantera (20th Anniversary of Vulgar Display of Power was a big deal!), it quickly regained its pole position and has held steady at #1 for the past seven months.
You say Ta-May-Toe. I say Way-Tah-Go!
So many questions, so little thyme to rhyme. Best to ask MissJeane44 direct. Graciously taking time before laying down vox for said opus maximus, Miss Jeane was kind enough to take a leisurely stroll on the wily side...
1. When I first discovered TND back in January by watching the Zombie Music Video for “Never Look Back,” You Tube plays were at about 11,000. April 20th (a 4-20 shout-out), NLB passed 500,000 plays and now eight months later, you’re at 3.5 MILLION views! It’s totally cray cray in a good way! Have you pinched yourself lately? Did the band celebrate when you made your first million? Will there be a Zombie sequel so Cory can bust out The Zombie Survival Guide once again?
2. Your self-titled six-song Ep is my favorite release of the year... A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!! “Reasons” is a monster hit waiting to happen! The songs are so well-constructed, the urgent vocals envelope the listener, the lyrics are universal, yet insightful and revelatory, and the production is outstanding...you can hear every instrument at once as if the band is standing a few feet away. You’re back into the studio with producer Jon King. Have any of the songs been mapped out? Will your mad clarinet skillz make a cameo? Will any of the songs from the Not Nearly Enough Ep get a re-do?
TJ: We've been playing many of the new songs live, and we wore them out this summer! We want them to be as natural and raw as possible for the new CD. So far we have played around with the idea of a full-length that will feature songs from the EP as well as new material.
3. I’m a huge Paramore fan and it’s inevitable that you’ll get compared to them along the way...especially given the Nashville connection. I can understand why that might happen but I don’t hear it one bit. If anything, I hear Regina Spektor fronting a dynamic rock band. Simply put, I hear smartly written big chorus pop songs that will stand the test of time. Your piano melodies are the heart and soul of the music. “Fact & Friction” is a tour-du-force anchored by the beauty of 88 keys. What is your writing process and how does that cohabitate with Jon’s production expertise?
TJ: First of all, thank you for the compliment! We think Paramore are great, and we want our fans to know that it's OK to like us both. We are very different musically, but we are also somewhat flattered that we can be compared to such a successful band. It's not a negative thing for us. We know we are different enough to stand out. My writing process is all over the place.
With Fact and Friction, it started out with a simple piano melody, then the whole song came together very quickly. I was in a state of mind at the time where I was questioning everything. My future, my beliefs, the beliefs of others and what that means to me and society. That's where the line "I believe what's in front of me" comes from. Jon, Steven Tobi (lead guitarist) and I worked on the song and polished it up. I can't believe how powerful it sounds on the record based on my original idea. It turned out great!
TJ: I brought my Doc Marten boots which I wear with everything from skirts to shorts with tights. I shop at Hot Topic, Tilly's, and Forever 21 for most of my clothes. However, the most important thing I am bringing is lots and lots of hairspray, my teasing comb, and my TIGI styling products. My hair is my thing.
TJ: As far as bands, I was really excited to see Taking Back Sunday every night. They are one of my favorite bands, and now that they're back with the original line-up, the shows were just madness.
5. “Well how about a straight answer...”
Midnight snack? Popcorn
Adult beverage? Jack Daniels or PBR. or Fireball. (hey, I did used to be a bartender)
Phone app? Instagram
Brand of lipstick/make-up? Origins and Urban Decay
Travel destination? New York City
Singers? Gerard Way and Bert McCracken.
Musical key? E
Team Tyler (Durden) or Team Edward (Norton)? Trick question! They are the same person. haha
6. Singing competitions have dominated our airwaves for the past decade. Given the choice to have a celebrity judge from any of the seasons of American Idol, The Voice, Nashville Star, Next Big Star or X Factor (shout-out to Britney Spears!) be your mentor, whom would it be and why?
TJ: Christina Aguileria, hands down. When I was just a teenager, I would sit at home alone and belt out along to her record, trying to perfect every run, every note. She is my biggest inspiration.
7. Ok, you get to front one of your all-time favorite bands for an encore. What band would it be, what song would you sing and what city would you be in?
TJ: Taking Back Sunday, Cute without the E, any city!
8. You used to dance while working at Coyote Ugly, have bust moves to J. Dash “Wop” on You Tube and have covered “Material Girl” by dance music goddess Madonna...is this all leading to an electro tinged Nearly Deads number that might require a full-blown choreographed dance routine? A Zombie-fueled dance dance revolution set to electrify the nation? Is Thriller part two on the horizon? Instead of MJ, it’ll be TJ!
TJ: I think it would be awesome to do some choreography. If Skrillex or Deadmau5 ever do a remix, I'll make sure the video kicks ass!
(Editor's note: while Deadmau5 and Skrillex are two of my favorite producers, might I also suggest a remix by a death-defying LA producer who does his dirty work as KillaGraham)
9. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein enlisted a neighborhood cat named Kevin to join their newly branded band Cat Nap on an episode of Portlandia. Given that your kitty McFly helped with your mtvU Freshman video voting campaign, is there a possibility of a future gig with The Nearly Deads? Background vocalist on “The Purrfect Cure”? Xylophone player? Spiritual advisor? Green room catering?
TJ: His nickname is "Flea" so I would expect he would play bass on the next album.
10. Armed with a discretionary $1888 in cold hard cash to splurge wantonly, how would you spend the dolla billz?
TJ: I'd love to say I'd give it to charity, but let's be real. I'm poor. I would buy clothes. Pay rent.
11. Are there any charities or organizations that you support that you like to give a shout-out to?
TJ: Keep A Breast - I love boobies!
12. If you could spend a day with anyone (living or dead), whom would it be and why?
TJ: My Grandpa. He died when I was young, I never got to hear his war stories!