bill bodkin speaks with Central Jersey rockers Audio Insight on the eve of their show at Bar Anticipation in Lake Como, N.J., and as they stand on the cusp of a bright future …
When you’re approached by someone you know to give “a local band a listen,” you’re often in store for an assault on your musical soul — poorly recorded albums edited on GarageBand that make your aural senses want to commit suicide with each passing second.
However, when it came to the Woodbridge, N.J.-born band Audio Insight, I was floored. This trio of Central Jersey teens have created a record, Dimensions, that harkens back to the best of early-’00s post-hardcore and good, old fashioned, muscular heavy metal. On this record, Audio Insight not only delivers the thunder, but they deliver an album that in terms of production, rivals any major release in last decade. Outside of production value, their sound is phenomenal — imagine the lead singer of Coheed & Cambria fronting Thursday. It’s explosive, bombastic, groove-laden hardness with tremendous vocals — it’s sweet solace to the soul of metal fans jaded and downtrodden by the long named, demonic, blood curdling screaming bands that rule their favorite genre.
Recently, I spoke with the entire band (Anthony Celi, Dan Sullivan and Mike Deverin), fresh off their performance at The Bamboozle Festival in East Rutherford, N.J., and on the eve of a summer that will see them competing to be on the Vans Warped Tour, at Six Flags Great Adventure and performing outside of their homes in the Garden State.
Pop-Break: Talk about how you guys came together as a band and why you decided to form the band that you formed.
Mike Deverin: Anthony and I met in high school and Dan I’ve known my entire life. So when Anthony and I met in high school, we found out he plays guitar and I play bass and my friend Dan was looking to play drums so we decided to get together and practice one year, our sophomore year of high school. We worked on some our early tracks like the song “Crucify” and “For The Corporations.” We realized we had some chemistry and we had a good thing going so we decided to keep practicing. Then we really came together as a band in our senior year of high, which was 2010.
PB: And what high school did you guys go to?
MD: We went to Woodbridge High School.
PB: Oh, Woodbridge High School, home of Richie Sambora.
MD: Oh yeah, Richie Sambora Way. He came to school and gave like $50,000 … not to the music program, but to the weight room! [The entire band laughs]. And the school named a small street on the side of the school Richie Sambora Way. Yeah, that was stupid.
PB: Kind of a silly question, but the name Audio Insight, why use that as your band name?
Anthony Celi: We had a few different names in the past. Our first name was The Celluloid Jam, which was taken from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That wasn’t working and then we had a few different names, but they were very random and generic. You could look [online] and find other bands with that same name. So, there was a week where we were trying to find a band name and this name — it’s literal and meaningful because that’s exactly what we are.
PB: Can you expound on that point?
AC: It’s meaningful in the sense of we’re making this progressive and experimental music that’s a little from what’s out there right now. When I’m writing the lyrics, I’m trying to give them a good meaning through the words and the music. We want to make a song feel alive.
PB: Your sound brings me back to my college days when Thursday was coming onto the scene. It has that explosive bass line, a certain combustibility to it. Also I can tell from the vocals that there’s a big Coheed & Cambria influence. Why go with this type of sound for Audio Insight. This isn’t mainstream anymore … mainstream music is more the folksy banjo sound of Mumford & Sons or in the metal world, screaming bloody murder banshee type bands. Why go with a kind of left of center approach to your sound?
AC: When we were writing stuff, as the guitarist, I usually write stuff and bring it to these guys. What I’ve brought to them is what I listen to and I got these guys into it. We definitely have been told we sound like Thursday before. There’s other influences, too. Coheed is one of the biggest, The Fall Of Troy, The Mars Volta, Tool and definitely Rush — just a lot of those progressive bands. I just admire what they do. You know they can do something that’s totally out of the mainstream but people love it. They’re doing exactly what they want to do and people love them for it.
PB: So, that ‘s the appeal to this sound, the expression of creativity? Is that why you’ve made this sound, in essence, your life’s work?
AC: Yeah, definitely. Dan always says the one good thing about progressive rock is that you have the freedom to do whatever you want. It’s not restricting you to a genre — progressive isn’t necessarily a sound, but it’s a way you present the sound. That’s why we have elements of traditional like proggy sounding things, then there’s some metal and some hard rock. It’s definitely expression — you can get the deepest stuff out of this.
PB: One of the biggest shows you guys have played in your brief career is The Bamboozle Fest in East Rutherford, N.J. However, leading up to Bamboozle, you participated in and won one of the Jersey Shore’s longest and most legendary battle of the bands contests — The Break. Reading in bio, you said you competed against hundreds of bands and artists. Can you take me round by round of The Break and tell me about the emotions you experienced?
Dan Sullivan: As we look it’s almost a month since we played Bamboozle, but we all clearly remember The Break. The first round, we weren’t worried, we were like, “Ah, let’s just play.” We had a really nice crowd that day, we weren’t really worried. But when we moved onto the second round the stress picked up — especially since we’re college. We’ve got classwork to worry about. And that’s when [coming into the second round], we started playing our Rush cover “Spirit Of Radio.” Two weeks before the second round, we found out we had to do a cover and we picked one of our favorite bands, Rush and we picked “Spirit Of Radio” because it’s a fun song. I thought we could do a lot with it, and we did. And that’s one of the reasons we shined above the other bands not because of our sound because of that cover.
The third round was the most hectic. We opened up the day first around noon. It was fresh, early enough for any band to play. We were on our game, brought about 100 people. The judges really liked it. We waited around the whole day ’till midnight when we found out we were going to play [The Bamboozle] and that’s when the stress was over.
It was a long four months, man.
PB: Now, The Bamboozle — it’s a massive festival, one of the biggest of the year. It featured acts like Taking Back Sunday, Lil’ Wayne, Motley Crue. It’s huge. Now you guys just fully got into your groove as a band in your senior year, which was last year. How did it feel being so young performing in front of such a crowd? And being that the festival was the first weekend of May, you guys were probably cramming for finals while performing.
DS: We played on Friday, April 29, so our following week were finals. We put our books away and let ourselves go. I mean, we did good on them. [On the day of the show], we had to wake up early, 8 a.m., very early, packing. It was a totally new experience — as great as it was to play, the experience [of being there] was great, too. We went through everything from seeing how to do merchandise at a festival, seeing all the different acts. Amongst the bands playing were some of idols, we played right before 30 Seconds To Mars, which is one of my favorite bands. It was amazing. We had a huge amount of people in our crowd [at The Break Stage].
PB: Let’s talk about your record, Dimensions. When did you guys record and release it?
AC: It was recorded in the summer of 2011. We started in July and we recorded and mixed and mastered and we [officially] released it on November 13 at Architekt LIVE in Butler, N.J. We recorded it at Back Room Studios in Rockaway, N.J., with Kevin Antreassian and Kevin Carafa.
PB: I have to say it sounded amazing, the quality, for a debut record was fantastic, completely professional. Let’s face it: Most indie debut records don’t sound that good.
AC: Thank you. We put a lot of time and effort into it. [Mike: AND MONEY!]. Kevin [Antreassian]’s close with all the guys in The Dillinger Escape Plan. His band toured with them and he’s a sound engineer and he’s worked with all those bands. Chris Penny, who’s now in Coheed and was in Dillinger, still has a room there and records with Kevin, so he [Kevin] definitely knows what he’s doing.
PB: Can you talk about what’s at the heart of Dimensions — the philosophical/ideological concept behind it?
AC: “Dimensions Part 1” and “Part 2” along with “Sheepskin,” those are my three favorite songs. [They represent] a the general idea of everything is more than it seems, there’s depth behind it … nothing’s black and white or two-dimensional. And also the idea, if you’re into philosophy, it’s relativism through rationalism. There is no wrong or right, it’s very existential. That’s “Dimensions I & II.” “Sheepskin” is right in the middle, track 5, it’s about unoriginal people. People who go along with their simple lives and not even looking deeper into things, they just choose to follow the mainstream. One lyric in there that’s very personal to me is: “Building a statue that scratches the sky but just skims the surface.” To me, it’s about working so hard at something and putting everything into but people don’t even care and they won’t listen to it so it means nothing.
PB: You guys are in heavy rotation on 89.5 WSOU, Seton Hall’s radio station, which is the premier station for hard rock and heavy metal. How does that feel, being just a year or so into being a band, that your sound is on such a legendary station?
MD: Yeah we had two interviews on there, one right before Bamboozle. Most of our songs are on there in official rotation. I don’t listen to radio much anymore. I mean, [92.3] K-Rock fell apart and WSOU is the only good heavy rock station out there. So being on a rotation on a station I listen to is awesome.
AC: I remember listening to WSOU when I was younger and I grew up on it and now I’m on it — it’s kinda crazy. When we did the interview we did a lot of giveaways and a lot of people called up. The phone lines were full multiple times with people all the way up in New York — it was awesome.
PB: What’s the end game for Audio Insight? Is this something you want to do for fun, a creative outlet, or is this the dream?
AC: I think we can all agree this is thing that we all enjoy the most in our lives. We go to school, but this is the more important. We hope that there is a point in the future where this all we have to do — to be creative and do all this music and get rewarded for. [We hope] people understand it and enjoy it as much as we do.
MD: We just want, even if this isn’t what we get to do [as a career], we want what we’ve done and what we’re going to do, to reach people and it can have meaning to them. We want people to get as much out of it as we’ve put into it.
DS: We’ve only been together a year and a half, but we’ve been soaring upwards. To be honest, booking out of the state has been a pain, but with a label on your back it’ll make things a lot easier for us to live the life we want to live. We need that extra help, but that’s the way we want to live our life.
UPCOMING AUDIO INSIGHT DATES:
June 2, 2011: Bar Anticipation, Lake Como, N.J. (8 p.m. — TBD)
June 4th, 2011: The Sixth Annual 282 Fest, Post 282, Harrison, N.J. (1 p.m. — TBD)
June 12, 2011: ‘The War for Warped Tour’, Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, N.J. (TBD)
June 24, 2011: ‘Live and Local Presents: Audio Insight, Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, N.J. (T.B.D)
July 2, 2011: The Saint, Asbury Park, N.J. (8:30 p.m. — TBD)
July 7, 2011: Bar East, New York (9 p.m.)
July 27, 2011: Big Mountain Entertainment Presents ‘Audio Insight’, Maxwells, Hoboken, N.J.
For more information on Audio Insight, please contact Jeremiah Sullivan at (732)-754-3772 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.