Friday, September 3, 2010

American Diary, An Anthem for Real This Time

Warped Tour is always a fun event to go to, and for those of you who do go, you definitely know what I'm talking about. For those of you guys who haven't been though (and don't feel left out, since Warped Tour 2010 was my first one ever), one thing that you might not expect is just how many bands are there that aren't on the bill. I was expecting a few here and there who might be passing out CD's or T-shirts for their bands, but I definitely didn't expect there to be such an overflow of talent that wasn't playing. It definitely says a lot about a group or an artist when they're willing to follow a traveling tour that they aren't even playing on just for the chance to promote their music. Total DIY ethic, and something that shows that someone's doing it for the love of their band and not for any get-rich-quick fantasies.
I ran into one such group at Warped Tour this year. In fact, I was waiting for Sum 41 to take the stage when this guy came up to me with a set of headphones and asked if I might take a few minutes and listen to a song of his band's CD. Well what kind of music lover and journalist would I be if I said 'no'? As the first chords came through the wires and right into my brain, I was immediately struck by the sound of this band: a back-to-basics approach to pop-punk that I haven't heard in a long time. I asked the guy the name of his band. His answer? American Diary, and right then I knew I'd be checking out these guys the minute I got home. Suffice it to say last month I went through a bit of an electronic/acoustic phase, but these guys have been on my list ever since Warp, and now I'm just feeling their groove all inside my head.
Out of Baltimore, Maryland, American Diary is a power-trio along the lines of Green Day, Blink-182, and Koopa (all of whom they seem to draw many influences from) comprising members Brandon Ingley (lead vocals and bass), Mikey Clark (guitar and backing vocals) and Todd Wallace (drums). I later learned when I got home and looked at their Myspace that it was Mikey Clark who I'd talked to at Warp, and the minute the 'Play' button was hit on their Myspace, I was way psyched that he'd come up to me. Right from the start, American Diary hits me with their classic pop-punk sound, and their clever lyrics of love and growing up seem a certain throwback to Sum 41 and Lit.
With their 2008 album The Brightest Colors topping in at over 14,000 copies sold, it's not hard to see why American Diary are poised for a pop-punk takeover of the alternative scene. With their new album Theodore in hand, these guys are gonna hit it big, first underground and then right on through to the mainstream.
Right from the start of "To You, It's You," the first song on their setlist on their Myspace page, I know I hear something new and different with these guys. Ingley's vocals are smooth and a sureshot in the dark, owing to a mixed influence of Blink and Busted. Clark's part is a seminal one of the song, becoming something more than just the typical punk guitar sound, but less than the pretentious, over-the-top virtuoso. His chords are simple, choppy, and yet oh so smooth and perfectly fitting in a way that is curious and wondrous. But I abandon all questioning of tradition and musicality when he hits of a solo prompted by his riff-driven choruses. Wallace's drums are basic, garage-rock inspired, but that only makes his out-of-left-field fills and drum rolls that much more impressive and entertaining. This song is brilliant in its simplicity and nostalgic approach to growing up. One which I absolutely love.
Ingley immediately outdoes himself again on "Cee4our," this time with his bass. His bass intro screams influence by Blink-182's "Carousel," and starts the song off with a bang. I love the vocal interplay here between Clark and Ingley, and as Wallace leans more towards a cymbal approach this time, Ingley's bass lines are clear and strong underneath the skins. Part of the cleverness of this song are Clark's chords. A metasonic mix of technical prowess and punk creativity, Clark's solo this time brings to mind a Good Charlotte/Zebrahead influence, while his stop/start palm-mutes and chords hint to me a flavor the reeks of palm-mute geniuses Lit. If ever there was a song that captures the awkwardness and bullshit of adolescence, this is it.
While I love the bass and clever lyrics on "You Know Dat's Right!," I'm really pulled into "Anthem (For Real... This Time)." Wallace breaks this one through with drumming that sets an energetic stage for Clark's and Ingley's guitars. I'm swept away in Clark's double-layed guitars as they string out an intro that seems to be pensive and deep. But then Ingley breaks it all down, and I'm left with a brilliantly crafted punk song that boasts clever DIY lyrics, vocals that pump you up, and guitar bursts that punch you hard and fast. Hopscotching between rhythm and lead guitar, Clark sets out to drive you harder and faster as Ingley's bass skips playfully and powerfully throughout the background. An audio maelstrom of rhythm and melody, "Anthem (For Real... This Time)" is one of the must-hear tracks on this album.
Though I'd love to pack up and go home, and let you guys discover the rest of American Diary for yourselves, there's one song on their setlist I just can't go without saying something about. An acoustic ballad reminiscent of the deeper Good Charlotte and Sum 41 songs, "Knew Song" showcases American Diary's versatility as writers and composers. Ingley's vocals are soft and introspective, and Clark's sparse chords contribute to the overall depth of the song.
American Diary have more than impressed me here, and I'd bet anything that they'll be impressing others and turning heads very soon. These guys exude creativity and drive, and you can tell through their music that even they know big things are in store for them. They say that 90% of life is showing up, and if that's true, these guys are ready. American Diary is here, and nothing, it seems, is gonna drive them away.

Sounds Like: Blink-182, Busted, Lit, Koopa, Zebrahead

Key Tracks from Theodore: "Anthem (For Real... This Time)," "Cee4our," "To You, It's You," "Knew Song," "You Know Dat's Right!"

Check out American Diary more at: and

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