To maybe two dozen people, opening band Viola Beach take to the stage and do their best to engage the room and warm them up ahead of the main event. The drum beat and instrumentation is sharp and catchy and largely the best thing about the group as they move around the tiny space, so it’s a shame that the vocals are often lost in the sea of noise. There’s a hint of The ‘early years’ Fratellis about the band, and that in itself is a good thing, although the reception they receive after each number is far quieter than what they had likely hoped for. The long winded instrumentals performed at the end of some of their tracks is unnecessary as are the guitarists seeming to think they’re members of legendary rock bands such as Motley Crue as they all but hack at their instruments. Closing number and new single ‘Swings And Waterslides’ is quite possibly the best number in their set but regardless, they exit to polite, subdued applause and a growing crowd eager for the headliners to put in an appearance.
The LaFontaines, hailing from Scotland, fare much better, despite it being almost impossible to make out the lyrics to EVERY song they perform. Front-man Kerr Okan regular interacts with the audience, which proves hugely beneficial as within minutes, he has the crowd in the palm of his hand, getting them to clap and jump around at his instruction. Also putting in a strong effort is Mike Cassidy, who is standing in for absent bassist and vocalist John Gerrard – with only twelve hours under his belt as a member of the group, he plays like he’s been with them from the beginning; not an easy thing to do but he pulls it off with aplomb. The only thing that doesn’t work so well is Okan calling for people to get down low (which in fairness they do), and then jump up again – it’s something bands such as Thirty Seconds To Mars have done in the past much better and tonight, it just doesn’t fit with the group or their set. Despite this, they are cheered and applauded warmly as they exit.
By the time Eliza And The Bear make their way on stage, the small venue is packed and the excitement level has reached fever pitch. They begin with ‘Lion Heart’ and proceed to deliver a set which is energetic, poppy, catchy and downright fun to watch and sing along to. ‘Light It Up’ and ‘Brother’s Boat’ maintain the fun, upbeat style of things, while the crowd who have since edged forward, eager to get as close to the group as they can, smile, dance in whatever small space they can find, and thoroughly enjoy themselves.
The announcement that their self-titled debut album will be released in February of next year is met with wild applause and cheers and the band proceed to perform a number of tracks from the upcoming collection including ‘Make It On My Own’ which moves away from the cheery kind of songs the band are known for and instead shows off the more serious, gritty side to their music. It makes a refreshing break in the set and goes down particularly well. Meanwhile, ‘Talk’ proves just how far the band have come during their time together as the song highlights how they have matured in terms of their musicianship and song-writing – here are a band who are determined to get bigger and better, and tonight they do a really, really good job of it.
“You know how this works,” says front-man James Kellegher. “We’re going to walk off after this song, you’re going to go mental and within two seconds we’ll be back.” The song he refers to is called ‘Cruel’ and is the most balladesque the band deliver which isn’t surprising as it was originally written to be played acoustically, but tonight, it’s played out full band style and it’s the highlight of the night by far. Sure enough, the band disappear off stage and the crowd erupts into cheers and shouts for them to return, which they quickly do to close out the night with two final numbers, ‘Friends’ and ‘It Gets Cold’. By the time the final note echoes around the tiny room, the crowd are cheering and whistling their appreciation and there’s no doubt Eliza And The Bear have put on a great show.
Having already earned himself coverage from the likes of The Huffington Post among others, it’s fair to say that Matt LeGrand’s career is steadily on the rise. His latest single “12.00AM” was released in July and while already working on his big plans for 2019, Matt spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about being inspired by Ed Sheeran and his one big goal for the future.
TITL: How would you sum yourself and your music up in 4 words?
Matt LeGrand: Lord. Of. The. Rings.
TITL: What would you say makes you different from all your artistic counterparts?
MLG: Simply just me being me. I know that always sounds like a broken record but it’s true! Out of the 7 and a half billion people in this world, no one has the same DNA or fingerprint. No one can unlock my iPhone but me! So many of us try and be like others. We constantly compare ourselves to others and I guess it’s normal. I do it all the time and I think it’s a necessary part of the self-discovery process. The important part is to always come back to yourself while you take a little from everything you’ve experienced. That is how I believe a character is built.
TITL: Which one artist are you personally and professionally most influenced and inspired by and how does their music impact your own?
A: I’m very inspired by Ed Sheeran. The honesty in his art is what I find the most incredible. He isn’t hiding behind anything. You can tell that he is fully present and has compassion towards everything that he does, whether it’s performing or an interview. He cares about his audience and he doesn’t let nonsense interfere with the responsibility he has every time he gets up on that stage. Ed Sheeran has inspired me to write music that means something to me.
TITL: You were discovered by Bryant Reid, the man responsible for launching the careers of Usher and Toni Braxton. How did the two of you come to meet and how have Bryant’s connections and his career in the industry impacted your own career so far?
MLG: Bryant and I met in Chicago when I was stuck in a little bit of a mess. I did not have the right people surrounding me and there were way too many “cooks in the kitchen.” Bryant got me out of it and now has taken full control as we get ready to go full force. When I met Bryant, he cared so much for the project and still cares about it the same way today. More importantly he cares about my family and me. Life has gotten a whole lot easier now and I have everything I need to get to where I need to be.
TITL: Is there a story behind your latest track “12:00AM”?
MLG: This song was a collaboration with a team down in Atlanta. It only took about 5 hours to write and record it to completion. It’s a really simple song about wanting to see a person that you miss. The song’s title, “12:00 am”, is really more than just a point in time but a feeling of exhilaration that takes over you. It’s about that feeling of getting to see that person after a long day.
TITL: You’ve so far had your music featured on the likes of Huffington Post and MTV-U among others. Of all the comments and support you’ve received so far, is their one media feature/blog post that stands out most prominently?
MLG: Yes! I released a Christmas cover last year and it was written up in the Huffington Post the day after Thanksgiving. Seeing my face on an article on one of the biggest commercial days of the year was really something!
TITL: What would be the nicest and best thing a media outlet or fan could say about you and your music?
MLG: That I helped people to be themselves and just have a good time.
TITL: We’re a few months away from the end of the year – what’s in store for you up until that point, and have you started planning for 2019 yet?
MLG: I am closing out the year with an album and more videos. We are planning to hit the ground running even before 2019!
TITL: Finally then, as your career continues to build traction and support, what’s the ultimate goal? Where do you want to be 5-10 years from now and what would you like your musical legacy to be?
MLG: The ultimate goal is to grow my brand enough so I can start to do the work that is most important to me. That is to expand MXM Entertainment. We’d like to create safe social settings that people can creatively express themselves in any way they’d like. We’d like to work with individuals and coach them through their journey of making their dreams come to life. The goal is to serve others and give back.
Check out the video for “12.00AM” below and for more information on Matt LeGrand, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.
Having first been noticed while performing at the Sugar Bar in New York, Kristine Elezaj has grown considerably both personally and professionally over the last couple of years, with such growth being displayed most evidently through her music. The video for her new track “Over & Over” has already amassed hundreds of thousands of views, and she chatted to ThisIsTheLatest about artistic inspiration, her dreams of playing MSG and her excitement about the future.
TITL: For those who have yet to discover you and your music, who is Kristine Elazaj in a few words?
Kristine Elezaj: I’m a passionate and curious person who has never stopped dreaming. I never stopped wanting to soak in everything life has to show me and put it into my art.
TITL: Which artists have you been most inspired by throughout your life and how do those inspirations filter through to the music you make?
KE: When you love music, you are inspired by every artist in some way. Growing up and with my dance background, Janet Jackson was always one of my idols. I love to be able to create music but also have the ability to bring it to life through dance. Through movement, I’m able to add another layer to the story, and that is very inspiring to me.
TITL: You first started out at the Sugar Bar in NYC, where you were discovered by hit song-writing duo Ashford and Simpson as you performed Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” Looking back on that time from where you are now, did you ever imagine a single performance like that could change your life so drastically?
KE: At the time, I didn’t know when I started that performance that night that Nick and Valerie were actually in the audience. Not knowing that they were there helped my performance because my stage fright might have kicked in. I would have felt the weight of the performance even more. Looking back on it and just some other things that have happened, it’s really important to live in the present moment and to realize how precious each moment is. You never know what’s around the corner for you. It was a small intimate venue, performing that evening, started one of the greatest ripple effects of my life and I’m forever grateful.
TITL: You then came to more public attention in 2016 when you placed within the top 20 of Macy’s iHeart Radio Rising Star contest. How much of a boost in confidence, and also in your audience/fan base, did your involvement in that contest give you?
KE: The Macy’s iHeart contest was a huge boost in confidence for me! I was coming out of a place where my career had tested my soul. It was reassuring to know that I was still on the right path and have people appreciate the art I was making. It wasn’t about winning; just being noticed was a win enough. I had another chance to be on a platform to do what I love and hopefully inspire others a little. Even more special, it inspired me all over again!
TITL: You’ve been referred to by Billboard as a cross between Britney and Rihanna. Would you say that’s a fair comment, or would you like to be seen more as an artist in your own right?
KE: Of course you want to be seen as an artist in your own right. I have my own life experiences and point of views that I want to give to the world, and I didn’t take that article in a bad light. They are two of the most successful female artists and I saw it as a compliment to be thought of as being able to be at the same level.
TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing?
KE: It might sound simple but for me, just really living my life, and trying to be as much in the moment is the biggest inspiration for writing. Even if I’m going through a hard time, it’s a blessing to be able to try to witness all of my emotions and feel them completely. I’ve loved that my sessions have become a safe place for me and my team. All of them start out as just conversations with a core group that I trust. It has been the best environment for creating music because it’s pure raw emotion.
TITL: The video for your new single “Over and Over” has already had close to half million views since its release. What do you think it is about the visuals in particular that have drawn people in to watch it?
KE: I’m so excited about this video; it’s been the first one in my career to be growing in the way that it has. I think it has a lot to do with the energy and space that I’m in. I have such a great relationship with my team, I’m able to just be myself and create authentically. I have a team that supports my visions and that’s so inspiring for me! I believe my fans can sense that with my music this time around. I’m not trying to create a character, I’m just being myself, showing people what I think is beautiful. In the pop culture world, especially today, I think that is hugely important and is what’s making the difference for me.
TITL: The director of the video, Jose Omar Hernandez, is perhaps best known for his work with Justin Bieber on the likes of “Purpose”, so how did the two of you come together? How did you find collaborating with him to shoot the clip?
KE: I’ve known Jose for years, actually back to the start of my career. Jose wasn’t even directing then. He’s an incredible dancer and has worked with all of the top artists. He’s been a part of many live stage and music video performances. I later found out that he had a passion for directing and was shooting things on the side. Jose’s background and knowledge of dance plays a major role in how he shoots and edits his videos. His style of shooting inspired me to want to work with him. We first collaborated on my song, “Echo” and creatively fed off of each other. From then on, I knew I wanted to grow with him when it came down to all my visual content. Since then, we’ve done four videos together. Every time it gives me the same feeling I had when I was a little girl just having fun with the arts. I’m so grateful for him as a collaborator and more importantly as a dear friend.
TITL: Do you have any upcoming performances you can tell me about and are there any plans for you to head across the water to Europe?
KE: There are not hard dates set right now for performances but that is definitely on the agenda for the near future! My focus has been to engage more with my fans outside of the states. Some of my most loyal fans who have been with me since the beginning are overseas. I’d like to go out there and give back all the love they have shown me over the years. There are some remixes in the works as we speak which I’m really excited about.
TITL: Which one venue, anywhere in the world, would you most like to play and why?
KE: I think every artist dreams of performing at Madison Square Garden. I’m a native New Yorker so that would be incredible. I’m not greedy though. Just being able to perform anywhere someone cares enough to go see you is a blessing, especially considering how hard this business is.
TITL: With the year inching ever nearer to a close, what have been your biggest highlight so far, and what are you still hoping to achieve in the remaining 3 months?
KE: I’ve learned a lot this year. The biggest highlight for me has been how amazing my team is. I just feel that for the first, time I’m in a really good and safe place. I’m watching that result in how my work is being received. I’m excited to see how that energy keeps me growing artistically. In the next three months, I’m looking to have more new music finished and release new singles as well as show dates to share.
TITL: Looking further ahead, what are your artistic and personal goals? What one or two things would you have to achieve for you to look in the mirror and say ‘I’ve made it?’ or do you already feel that way?
KE: The biggest thing for me as an artist is being able to voice my opinion without being scared when it comes to my career. I feel like I have that now. It sounds easy but that is a big hurtle. Now that those doors are open, I’m excited to see where that takes me and how far I can really push myself now. Whatever comes from that space comes and that’s what I’m most excited about because I’m at peace.
Check out the video for “Over & Over” below and for more information on Kristine Elezaj, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.