Exclusive: Interview with There For Tomorrow


(Maika Maile, Me)

Fresh off the heals of their big win at the mtvU (MTV’s college channel) Woodie Awards for breakout artist of 2008, There For Tomorrow is currently on tour supporting the upcoming release of their debut full length record. Already having acquired die hard fans, the band will surely be eaten up by mainstream radio once it discovers their Boys Like Girls and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus inspired sound. Before their opening gig for We The Kings at the Crocodile Rock Café in Allentown, Pennsylvania, nineteen-year-old lead singer Maika Maile took me to a quiet pizzeria to discuss the band’s new album, inspirations, and dreams for the future – as well as why he believes being on tour is more beneficial than being in college.

Throughout the entire interview, there was a hurdle of 13-year-old girls on the sidelines, eagerly anticipating the moment they can ask the band’s front man for a picture and autograph. Maika was clearly nervous, fidgety and often incapable of making eye contact, proving how sudden these transitions to (almost) fame have been.

AN: So first of all, where did your band name, There For Tomorrow, come from?

MM: Well our bassist Jay actually came up with it. We just wanted something plain and simple that really defined what our band was about in the name itself. By saying that we’re “there for tomorrow,” we want our music to say something and for people to really relate to it so it has a longer lasting effect and stays around. We want to literally be there for tomorrow because the amount of passion we have for our music is a very certain thing so we will be there for tomorrow.

AN: You formed in 2003 when you were all extremely young and have pursuing your dreams ever since then. Has there ever been a time in the past six years where you doubted whether or not music is what you should be doing?

MM: Oh of course. You have doubts living. People just have doubts in general, always. Of course I had that. Everyone’s trying to find their spot in the world and where they fit in and that’s what we’re trying to find right now. By growing as musicians and a group, we’re trying to find our spot in rock and just music in general. We’ve gotten a lot of crap in the past for stuff we’ve released sounding unoriginal or like other stuff, but it takes time. I was sixteen when I wrote that so I’m not going to come out with all this crazy John Mayer stuff, because I’m sixteen years old, give me some time man! But all the doubt and the hate always just fuels us back and fuels our fire more so we can prove those people wrong and it always pays off in the end.

AN: What was it like for you winning the Woodie Award for breakout artist?

MM: It was an honor, it was really cool and very, very surprising – it was a shock for sure. We had no intentions of going up on that stage and receiving that award. It was cool to just be a part and have our video show up as a nomination. Yeah, so we came out winning it and I think it’s just because of the support that MTV has given us and they see the direction of our band and the steady build to it. You know, they really believe in us and that’s all we’re asking for: people to believe. Not fair-weather fans, but it’s about those loyal fans. We seen people here that we’ve seen five times already, all in this area, and it’s just great.

AN: Also nominated for this award were We The Kings, a band who incidentally you are opening up for on their current headlining tour. Has there been any tension or awkwardness on the road since you took home the trophy and they didn’t?

MM: No, not at all, that would be like the most immature thing ever if any of the other bands got awkward about it. All Time Low, for example, is very close to us, they’re our label mates. We The Kings and us kind of grew up in Florida not knowing each other, but knowing of each other. They were playing and building their careers as kids as we were, even back in the day. It’s very cool to see we’re all doing something now. We The Kings is on a great level, their album is doing really well and they’re on the radio and so they’re reaching a lot of people. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to say that about us too.

AN: In the past couple of years, you’ve released two EPs and are now gearing up towards the release of your debut full length album. Right off the bat, what are some new things to expect from your record that we didn’t hear on your previous releases?

MM: Definitely expect progress, because we’ve made progress and matured as individuals so that’s going to come across in our music. From day one we’ve always wanted to be true to the people we are and to portray that through our music. So if we’re saying something through our music, we’re saying it in a way we would in real life. We’re not pretending to be anyone else. You’re just going to hear true emotions and a wide range of different feels and vibes on the album. It’s good to get more tracks to cover different bases, because like, you can’t be putting out a ballad on a five song EP. This time though we really get to cover a lot of different bases so we’re excited. Hopefully everybody can really relate to the different kind of emotions that we’re trying to put into our music.

AN: And when exactly is it being released?

MM: Early summer. But I mean things can always change so I don’t want to put a date out there because it’ll probably just come back to smack me in the butt if I do.

AN: Have you thought of a title for it yet?

MM: Yeah, we do! Everyone will find that out as soon as we are able to share it because we’re excited, we’re very excited about everything happening.

AN: With the rising popularity of the pop/punk genre, what struggles do you have to face as a band to stand out amongst all the other acts that are currently out there?

MM: Well, it’s not like I’m trying to change the world with my lyrics and it’s not like the band is trying to change the world with our music. We’re trying to remind people of true emotions and true feelings that can be shown in lyrics. Back in the day, they used to write music just to free themselves from the world and now people are writing music just to get famous. It’s not like that for us. The only reason we’re trying to gain fame is just to reach more people through what we’re saying and through the release we get just playing the music. People have addresses us saying that they really get a release from the real world when they listen to our music and hopefully that keeps on happening. People say we’re pop/punk but to me, we’re nothing close to punk. Definitely pop/rock, I see the pop-iness in there because of the mainstream songwriting and stuff like that. We do try to stand out though because we’re kinda in that category with a lot of – excuse my French, but with a lot of bullshit. I mean I never try to knock anyone’s swagger or anything, everyone knows what they’re doing so it’s not my place to say what’s wrong or right, and I’m not saying we’re right or wrong. I’m just saying we’re trying to put out something else, a little bit different. You know, it’s not like we’re out there playing space music or something.

AN: Going off of that, your music has been compared to that of a lot of other bands such as Hit The Lights, Quietdrive, and Yellowcard. Who would you say your biggest musical influences are and why?

MM: As a band, we’re fans of music. We always have been that’s why we’ve connected so well and why we’re in a band together – it’s because of respect of so many different kinds of things. I mean, I blast Rascal Flatts in the van. Just last night we were listening to John Mayer. John Mayer is just an incredible artist. Today we were just blasting Kanye West, and he’s an incredible artist and an individual. We’re looking up to people like that to help us find our mark as well and guide our way. We just love music that connects with us because there’s a lot of stuff out there that’s cool to listen to but gets on the radio that you can only kind of relate to. Like the music hear on pop radio that they play at clubs is fun but you can only talk about the club so much. You’re only at the club for a couple of hours a week (if you’re into that), so like, there’s got to be more. Also it seems like with any music in general, love is such a huge issue with every artist, so most musicians are sensitive – I’m sensitive as well, so you’ll see some strengths and weaknesses with the music we put out. I mean, a lot of people say the same things the same way but we want to say what we’ve heard before and say it a different way, so I don’t know, we try to keep that in mind as well.

AN: You’ve played Warped Tour twice before and are hitting the road with them again this year. What is it about Warped Tour that makes you keep going back to it and what are you looking forward to the most while there this summer?

MM: Well, we actually haven’t had a real Warped Tour experience. The closest thing we’ve had is four consecutive dates, but it’s not like we’ve been on there road dogging before or anything. Warped Tour is something I’ve attended for the past couple years – I think the first time I went I was like thirteen. It’s definitely going to be an essential part of this summer, especially with the album release. There’s just so many people that are going to be there and so many outlets you have to just push your music. There’s a lot of talent on there so we always want to be included.

AN: You’ve toured with numerous bands such as All Time Low and Anberlin. If you could co-headline a tour with any band in the world, who would it be and why?

MM: Well I would say at the time we don’t want to co-headline a tour for a while because we’re just not there yet. We want to open up for other bands in the same vein with what they’re trying to do as well. One day though, hopefully we can really share the stage and co-headline with … I mean, I don’t know man … there’s just so many people … Ok, a dream tour would be with like The Foo Fighters or Jimmy Eat World. That’s the kind of stuff we look up to, those big, big artists who are there for a reason. We want to be there too so hopefully one day we can share the stage with them.

AN: You guys are all in your late teens and early 20’s and essentially grew up together, so how hard is it for you to be away from home in Florida for so long touring as much as you do?

MM: Well, all four of us in the band have different personalities. With me, I love stability so it’s hard for me to be away from my family. I was brought up in a very, very family oriented atmosphere. My childhood was great, I love being home, I love my friends – we have such a tight knit group. It’s hard to sacrifice those things but it’s what you have to do to do what we love. It’s good though, it’s really been working out perfect because the time we’re at right now we would be in college if we didn’t have this band. What you do at college is you experience stuff you haven’t experienced yet and we’re out on the road experiencing things we haven’t experienced yet, so we’re experiencing more than we would at college. We kind of have a one up on people our age and are excited about it.

AN: Speaking of young people, there was a record breaking number of youth involvement in this past presidential election. Teenagers and young adults from all over the country worked really hard to get their voices heard, which some argue is also the purpose of the music. How important then do you think it is for music to be able to have some sort of social impact and what kinds of messages are you trying to get out to the world through your music?

MM: I think there’s got to be something behind your music because meaningless things don’t last that long anymore. There’s just so much of it. You can only talk about being in someone else’s shoes for so long, but you can talk about being yourself for the longest time. I’m always trying to find myself so the longer I talk about my personal issues, I’m going to have things to talk about until I die because there’s always stuff I come across in the world. It’s not like we’re trying to change the world or anything, we’re just trying to put ourselves out there so people can relate to what we’re saying and take a deeper look into who I am. That way they can see I’m a regular guy and a regular person. I’m not like this big, crazy, perfect virtuoso kid, I’m just doing what I know. But yeah, there’s some of those huge bands out there that are having huge impacts – like U2, doing that thing with that red HIV thing, what’s it called? The red campaign? They’re doing inspirational things like that and are helping the world. Hopefully one day we can reach that level where we can make a difference, but right now we’re just going to try to put our music out there until we can get to that level and make a difference.

AN: So ideally, where do you see There For Tomorrow a year from now?

MM: A year from now? Just still growing. I don’t think there’s ever a limit to things, but you can only keep some parts of things, so hopefully we can just keep growing and outdo ourselves all the time. I hope everyone responds to what we come out with in a way that makes us want to do it more. But even if they don’t, we’ll always find a way around it. We’re just going to keep touring, going out there and meeting people, supporting bands, and doing the same old, same old.

AN: And for my last question – all four of you sport the traditional long “emo” haircuts. If you were all to shave your heads, put all the hair into a trash bag and then placed it on a scale, how much do you think it would cumulatively weigh?

MM: Oh man, I don’t know. I probably have the thickest hair, but we all have a lot of hair – except Jay, he just cut his hair pretty recently. I mean, it would weigh … it has to be close to at least ten pounds. We’re actually looking to cut our hair man, because these hairdos are kind of out but I’ve had it for so long I don’t know what to do with it. I’m pretty sure we’re all going to get our haircuts.

AN: Alright, well thank you so much. Good luck out there!

MM: Yeah man, thank you!

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Lily Allen Strikes Hard With "It’s Not Me, It’s You"

There’s nothing more appealing than a sassy British rock star who serves up attitude with a side of infectious pop. When Lily Allen released her debut album “Alright, Still” with its ruthless hit “Smile,” in 2006, a star was born. Her triumphant return to the music scene (after leading a very public and Perez Hilton dominated private life) comes in the form of “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” a dynamic new album full of more of the highly personal and opinionated songs that we fell in love with three years ago.

Developing a much more mature sound than that of her previous record, Allen’s album draws heavily on indie influences to incorporate a heavy dose of electronica. With a new musical style and lyrics that deliver a middle finger with a grin, Allen is proving she’s more than just tabloid fodder. In fact, she’s a rare gem among today’s insipid assortment of pop icons.

One of the things I respect most about Allen’s newest record is the fact that she did not go the safe route. Having already developed a name for herself, she could have easily hired guaranteed hit-making producers to write smash Katy Perry “Hot ‘N Cold”-esque hits for her. Instead, she decided to take her time and personally write an album that, even after the first listen, hits hard. It sounds like someone setting music to their diary.

On top of that, she decided to go for a brand new sound. Rather than testing it out on a few tracks, Allen blankets the entire record with electronica ala The Postal Service or The Bird And The Bee. This was a highly risky move since it might have alienated many fans. Clearly, however, Allen does not go to the recording studio to appeal to a specific fan base, but rather to grow as an artist and find the most genuine music to match the experiences her soothingly melodic voice croons about.

When it comes to traditional pop record themes, the album is divided between songs about being in love and being heartbroken. Cumulatively, they deliver an interesting narrative of what it is like to be emotionally invested in someone only to have your heart ripped out, giving you a perspective on how wrong you were in said relationship all along – a fact you never willingly realized until it was over.

Tracks such as the square dance/electronic violin hybrid “Not Fair,” the accordion amplified and gypsy folklore fused “Never Gonna Happen,” or The Blow inspired “I Could Say” take bitter and angry slashes at a failed lover. “Not Fair” serves as the counterpart to “Not Big” from Allen’s first album, both songs accusing her lover of not being sexually satisfying. “I Could Say,” on the other hand, acts as an anthem to the newfound freedom after a relationship is over: “And now you’ve gone it feels as if the world is my stage, and now you’ve gone it’s like I’ve been let out of my cage,” she proclaims, finding solace in her new single status.

Allen’s softer side comes across in songs such as “Who’d Of Known,” where we get a first-hand account of what it is like for an emotionally crippled girl to realize she is actually being cared for and falling in love. Although the lyrics make clear how awful her past relationships have been, the track puts a smile on the listener’s face by showing that she in fact does have the ability be happy.

Definitely the most romantically fueled song on the album, “Chinese” is both a raw and adorable look at Allen missing her lover while she is off on tour in faraway places. She sings about just wanting to come home to her boyfriend and do everyday things with him: “I don’t want anything more than to see your face when you open the door. You’ll make me beans on toast and a nice cup of tea and we’ll get Chinese and watch TV. Tomorrow we’ll take the dog for a walk and in the afternoon then maybe we’ll talk,” she daydreams.

The track’s pure endearing innocence makes the listener almost feel guilty for buying tickets to Allen’s concert because it’s causing her to be separated from her source of pleasure. Anyone who has experienced a long-distance relationship or been parted from someone they love will surely eat this song up since its honesty and sheer cuteness is bound to strike a chord.

The real standout tracks on the album, however, are not the ones motivated by love but by issues such as politics and religion. The song “Him,” for instance, serves as the 2009 version of the 90’s Joan Osbourne hit “What If God Was One Of Us.” In it, Allen equates the idea of God to a regular man, asking questions such as if he’s ever had financial problems, been suicidal, experimented with drugs or dealt with racism. “Ever since he can remember people have died in his good name. Long before that September, long before hijacking planes, he’s lost the will, he can’t decide, he doesn’t know who’s right or wrong. But there’s one thing that he’s sure of, this has been going on too long,” Allen muses. Interestingly, the word “him” is never used in the lyrics. Although she is not praising a higher power, Allen is also not rejecting the idea of its existence, which leads me to believe that “Him” is in fact a thinly veiled disguise for “hymn,” a word meaning a piece of music written in tribute to God.

The album’s most jaw-droppingly ferocious song comes in the form of “Fuck You,” an ode to former President George W. Bush. In it, the outspoken British songstress lets loose a series of attacks on Bush’s intelligence and humanity. “Do you get a little kick out of being small minded? You want to be like your father, his approval you’re after. Well that’s not how you’ll find it. Do you really enjoy living a life that’s so hateful? ‘Cuz there’s a hole where your soul should be,” Allen accuses.

Whether or not you agree with Allen’s views, it takes a lot of courage to release a song of such political magnitude on a mainstream album and that in itself deserves recognition. As someone who personally agrees with her sentiments about our former president, I wish the song had appeared on her first album instead when he was still in the White House. Now, it’s almost as though the song has lost some of its value and umph since Bush is no longer the Commander-in-Chief. Regardless, it is safe to say that the red states will not be Allen’s best selling market for this record.

Other socio-political tracks such as “The Fear” and “22,” songs about the societal conceptions of womanhood and celebrity, “Everyone’s At It,” which comments on the overwhelming addiction to prescription drugs, and “Kabul Shit,” with its self-explanatory anti-war title, tightly knit the record into what could easily be a musical version of an op-ed section of a newspaper. Allen has made it clear that she is an intelligent citizen of today’s world who is not afraid of using her public status as a podium to make her voice heard on what she deems to be important issues.

With “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” Lily Allen has outdone herself and created a record that will not only have you singing along to its catchy hooks, but will provide you with strong messages that will make this an unforgettable album for anyone who gives it the chance it properly deserves. Kudos to her for standing up for her beliefs and serving as an inspiration on so many different levels. Watch out America, the British musical invasion is making a comeback with a fearlessly saucy female leader ready to kick ass and conquer.

Album release date: February 10th, 2009 (Capitol)

Must have track: “The Fear”

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

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