CD Review and Interview with … Seven Year Riot
CD Self Titled and released February 3, 2011
by Jade Sperry
Seven Year Riot are a band from Windsor ON. Formerly called Citizen Erased, this is a new life for the band with a new name and outlook. They have hard, kick ass music that immediately lops off your head while you wonder what just happened. The members of the band are Justin Forsyth (vocals), Jim O'Neil (guitars), Jeff Azar (drums and percussion) and Jarrod Oglan (bass).
One day in the recent past, I had some time to kill which doesn't happen often anymore these days. I was scouring the internet for new music and bands to write about, and I found this band on Supernova.com and contacted them to see if they were interested in some media.
And so here we are. What follows is a CD review and interview with links at the bottom of the page to where you can find the band and info on the band. I've also listed 4 shows the band is playing in the next 2 months for you to catch them:
Jade: What personal goals has the band as a whole achieved in the last year?
Justin: Well, to start, we FINALLY released our album. This was massive for us, because it seemed as if all the things we wanted to do were kind of hinging on the release of the disc. It was over a year in the making, and at times it felt like we would never get it done. So that was huge for us, as well as the overwhelming response we received from around the world.
Jade: What goals in relation to the band are you setting now to work towards over the next year?
Justin: We really are just trying to become a well known name. Radio rotation is a huge goal for us, because we want to reach the mainstream, and come out with a bang. Touring is also a goal, as we would love to break into the united states and begin touring there.
Jade: As a band, what has been the best thing that has happened, and the worst thing?
Justin: I think I can safely say that there really hasn’t been a “worst” occurrence for us. Sure, there have been ups and downs, but that comes with any band. As for the best things, we’ve been very fortunate to have been able to share the stage with a lot of big names and subsequently get great exposure so we’re very thankful for that. And I think I speak for us all when I say that the fans and the constant support have been and will continue to be the best part of what we do.
Jade: How do you see the current state of the Corporate Music Industry in Canada? And how do you see in comparison to the DIY band who puts out their own music independently? And, how do you feel that either (the music industry and DIY bands) help in the creativity within a band?
Justin: Hmm…well I know there is a lot of complaining about the state of the music industry today, and while I would like to see certain things done differently, the bottom line is that it’s all evolution. The internet was a MASSIVE game changer to the music industry, and certain people embraced it, others didn’t. I think the state of the industry right now is just a byproduct of the quickly evolving use of technology. It’s easier now more than ever for a DIY band to get their music heard without a label. We did it for a couple years and had success with it - you just have to embrace and use every avenue that's available to you. To answer the second part of the question, I think the state of the industry is actually HEALTHY for a DIY band, because it’s now imperative for a band to push their boundaries and attempt things that will get them noticed in an over-saturated sea of music.
Jade: Do you feel that the band have control over how your music reaches the fans? (IF yes) Why do you feel this way and what factors into that?
Justin: In the beginning, absolutely. Until you are signed to a major label that calls all the shots, I think it’s completely up to the band to decide how to get their music out there. As I mentioned above, there are SO many ways for music to be heard now, I think every band needs to jump on those outlets. We put our entire album up on our My Space page to listen for free, because we wanted people to get our music as easily as possible. As far as I see it, even if you’re with an indie label like we are, nothing is stopping you from getting music into the hands of people that want to hear it. Find a way, and do it.
Jade: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard the music before?
Justin: This is always a tough question, because I really hate to put labels on it. It’s hard rock with melody. I could say we sound like so and so, but I find that immediately puts an image in peoples’ minds. And if I say we sound like a band they don’t like, they won’t listen…you know? I’ll say this: We write rock music. It’s hard rock with a melodic edge. And as one venue owner put it, we have “Pop sensibility with Rock Credibility.”.
Jade: Who are the primary songwriters in the band? Collectively, how does the songwriting process go within the band?
Justin: The primary song writers are Jim (guitars) and myself (vocals), who write the music and lyrics respectively. Generally a songwriting process begins with Jim having a rough riff or chord progression and building from that. If we are writing as a duo we will spend time constructing the entire skeleton before bringing it to the band. If we’re writing as a band, it starts with the riff, and we kind of just see where it takes us. No song is ever done in a day, we always re-visit it, and make tweaks until it just sounds right. I will add lyrics as we go, finding words that sound right, getting the flow right, then I will sit down and craft the lyrics until they work for me.
Jade: How did you come up with the band name?
Justin: We basically spent a couple months compiling a giant list of names we liked…some were full band names, others were just cool words we thought would be cool IN a band name. It got to the point where we HAD to pick one. So we sat down at a pub, got a round of beers and vowed not to leave until we decided on a name and three hours, twenty-four beers, and eight shots of Jager later, Seven Year Riot was born.
Jade: What is your opinion on the current state of the East York/Toronto/Ontario music scene? Do you feel that there are enough venues for bands to book club shows, or, do you feel that there is competition for the club slots?
Justin: To be honest I am really not sure. I feel there are enough venues, but it feels that bands are striving for just the premiere venues and don't like exploring all their options. There is definitely competition for club slots, and that is bound to happen with an over-saturated market. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter where you play, as long as new faces see you, and your word spreads.
Jade: How has the new CD changed life for the band members?
Justin: Well, things are still pretty much the same for the time being, but becoming busier with every day. We’re all completely blown away by the response we’re getting, and I know Jarrod (bass) and I are spending more time than ever replying to fan questions and input. Things are moving up slowly but surely.
Jade: When you were in the studio recording the new CD, how was the overall experience for each member of the band? What were the best and worst times?
Justin: This was actually the first time we were hardly ever in the studio all together for the recording of something. Because we all still balance jobs and school for the time being, we recorded the entire album while working around everyone’s availabilities. It’s not the way I would have preferred things done, but it was unavoidable. So Jeff did his drums, then Jarrod did bass, then Jim did guitars, then I did vocals, and we pieced it together and made it happen. Using the technology at our hands however, we were able to always keep in contact. For example, our producer (Martin Bak at SLR studios) would email me the track that Jim completed that day, so I was able to offer input, etc. So it was as if we were all there anyways. I can only speak on my own behalf, but the worst times were those six to eight hour sessions in the vocal booth. I started to lose my mind.
Now onto the music of this band. This 10-song CD really stands above others in the hard rock with melodic edges realm that will definitely give Nickelback and Shinedown a run for the money in the near future. First off is the song “Victims (Aren't We All)”. With a melodic beginning of 40+ seconds that lulls you into thinking it's a ballad-type song, the band launch into the song full force and smack you in the head while screaming 'wake up!!'. Nice. Although I can hear influences of other bands' music, all members of Seven Year Riot are making that sound their own. Choppy, hard guitars with vocals that are strained and on the edge combined with the sublte foreboding sound of the drums and bass, this is a really good song. It's very well written with good time changes that makes this song very radio friendly. The second song “Stitched and Mended” is equally just as good and in some respects is better than the first. A steady drum beat that the guitars and bass follow to create a sound that is almost mesmerizing and the vocals float seamlessly on the melody of the song and beckons you to listen. That is great songwriting in the melodies folks. Both songs seem to speak of inner conflict, dark desires and evolutionary changes from within that are hidden in some ways to other people. The fourth song called “Headcase” is this writer's favorite song on the CD. Sarcastic and scathing lyrics, explosive and dangerous music that's on the edge and vocals that just sound so pissed off make for a great song. Other standout songs are “Close Your Eyes” which is a fast, head-banging song that speaks of taking whatever you can get; “Behind The Mask” which has hard and fast drumming and speaks of swallowing your pride and admitting defeat and of falling apart in some way; and the final song “Black Wedding Dress” which is a pure musical assault song in every way. This is one CD that you want to have in your collection if you like the musical styles of Shinedown, 30 Seconds to Mars and Muse. You can buy the CD here on iTunes for under $10 Canadian.
Seven Year Riot will be playing 2 upcoming shows in March in Toronto and a few shows in April:
March 13 – Cherry Cola's Rock and Roll Cabaret – Toronto ON (Canadian Music Fest Show)
March 18 – The Opera House – Toronto ON
April 10 – All Stars (an all ages show) – Brampton ON
April 30 – The El Mocambo – Toronto ON
You can find all this info and more on the bands' sites: