There are so many music festivals these days that your eyes are bound roll back into your head when you read a lineup flyer announcement. As a lover of rock music, Bottlerock had a particularly great mixture of bands from emerging to headliners and everything in between. If you are a fan of all the off-shoot genres of rock–from folk rock, to alt rock, to pop rock–then Bottlerock was the place to be.
Other festival highlights included: The JamPad, a sponsored tent for all attendees where artists like Gavin Degraw and Judah and the Lion played short acoustic sets for smaller groups of fans; a culinary stage where band members like Green Day’s Mike Dirnt discussed his Oakland Coffee Company; and even a limited edition Foo Fighters wine by Blackbird Vineyards. The VIP area featured acoustic sets by Fitz and The Tantrums, and the main stage included emerging acts like The Helmets–a rock band of 12-year-olds whose bass player is the son of Metallica bass player, Robert Trujillo.
Bottlerock is one of the most exciting places to find emerging bands, hear your faves like Maroon 5, and keep your mouth full of delicious Napa area restaurants and wines all at once. According to Dave Graham, CEO of Latitude 38 Entertainment who helps to choose the line-up, “Our challenge is to create a lineup that appeals to a large demographic and spans a variety of genres. From our headliners to our emerging acts, we are proud that people of all ages can attend together and not only hear long time favorites, but can discover new bands that have a wide appeal. It makes for one of the most diverse lineups in the festival industry.“
Besides the one major scheduling fail–the fact that The Roots’ set time was at the exact same time as The Foo Fighters–the festival lineup was one of the best this year. Below, we’ve interviewed some of the best of the emerging acts that appeared at Bottlerock: Saint Mesa, Corey Harper, SWMRS, The Heydaze, James Hersey, Hippo Campus, and A R I Z O N A.
Saint Mesa’s sound, at least on paper, is described as “alt pop”–but just one listen to “Jungle” and “Beads” will have you questioning if there is an actual genre that Danny McCook, A.K.A. Saint Mesa, fits into. With influences all the way from Childish Gambino to the Backstreet Boys, Danny’s sound is anything but generic. His fashion is just as much part of his performance as his music, as you may confuse him with a young Johnny Depp who rolled around in a whole bunch of Gucci and then showed up to sing you songs. With a new single called “Maderas” dropping today, Saint Mesa is a live performer you don’t want to miss should you have the chance to see him.
Describe your genre.
Danny: The stuff that I’m writing leans more toward experimental pop—it’s got pop roots, but then the writing and production is more experimental-inspired. I’m just trying to establish who I am sonically, but maintain an identity lyrically and tonally.
Name your musical Influences.
Danny: I’ve been listening to really random references, Backstreet Boys—the Millennium album or whatever. It goes hard. What’s really cool about it is they were starting to discover the extent you can go with digital recording, so everything is isolated and made perfect. It’s fun to pull influences from things that are not within my genre.
What is your ultimate music festival lineup?
Danny: I would’ve loved to have seen Coldplay like five years ago. I’ve also never seen Radiohead live.
Danny: I’ve written like 30 songs, so probably an album. I have a single coming out on June 2nd, “Maderas,” a song that I wrote when I took a writing trip out to Nicaragua for a couple weeks. The area was called Maderas.”
For more on Saint Mesa:
At first listen, you may actually confuse Corey Harper’s perfect tone and pitch for a young John Mayer. When you see him, you may question if he’s actually John Mayer’s younger brother and then after talking to him, you’ll realize that Corey is the more charming, hilarious, sarcastic, better-looking rock star that John Mayer probably wishes he was. Though Corey gives off those California surfer vibes with both his music and his sun-kissed hair, Corey is originally from Portland, Oregon—claiming that all the references about California in his music are due to being in Portland and wishing it would stop raining. Also, the simple fact that “California is a great word. It has great cadence.” He adds, “Have you ever said it like a lot of times?” After hearing a sneak peak of an unreleased song called “No Good Alone” via Corey’s iPhone, rest assured that more of those California vibe-y acoustics are on their way.
Describe your genre.
Corey: It’s like going to a house party, and your friend hands you the AUX chord in the Uber on the way, and there’s a girl there that you kind of kissed once and you’re kind of excited to see her but you only kissed weirdly once. That’s the genre.
What are your thoughts on being called “John Mayer’s younger brother?”
Corey: I’m alright with it because I know he felt the same way about Stevie Ray, and so it’s kind of a natural thing to be idolizing someone and to want to do their music so bad that you want to get on the same kind of wavelengths as them. And then you fail, because you can’t be them. You can’t do what they do, but you can try to put yourself together in a way that’s going to represent the style that they were inspired by, and then your failure at trying to sound like that becomes your own style.
What’s an interesting fact about you and your music?
Corey: I was too scared to play in front of anyone, so I didn’t play for anyone until I was 19. No one knew I played guitar. I played soccer and I surfed. Everyone thought I was going to be a pro surfer, even though I suck at surfing. I’ve put in a lot of work, hit the grindstone and been humbled a lot of times [with music]. Having moments like playing the main stage at BottleRock and then moments like, sometimes I go home and play by myself and I can’t even figure out a simple chord progression.
What is your fave music festival memory?
Corey: I think seeing my mom in the crowd yesterday [at Sasquatch]. I was pretty emotional about it. But seeing her in the audience wearing a Corey Harper merch t-shirt with my brother jumping up and down. [At Bottlerock], it was a bunch of different kind of moments for me. For that 45 minute moment, it all comes together and exists as a frequency out to the crowd. It’s like your mind and your instrument are all kind of working together, and it creates a really cool memory for people.
Corey: I’m doing another tour in the south with New Belgium. Florida, New Orleans, St. Petersburg, Atlanta, Dallas, Austin and Bonnaroo.
For more on Corey Harper:
Being a rock star who is the child of a rock star may always carry the comparison between kin and parent–but luckily for SWMRS, it works in their favor. If you happen to have been a pop-punk fan in the Blink 182 and Green Day heyday, then SWMRS will definitely be your jam. Drummer Joey Armstrong is the son of Green Day frontman Billie Joe, and lead singer Cole Becker, guitarist Max Becker, and bassist Sebastian Mueller have known Billie for years, and will even be joining Green Day on tour later this summer. But these guys aren’t riding on anyone’s coat tails, that’s for sure–just check out their LP, Drive North, recently re-released on the Fueled By Ramen label.
Why did you decide to re-release Drive North instead of releasing new music?
Seb: There was still life on that album.
Cole: I think we’d only been touring it like six months before we got talking to Fueled By [Ramen] and decided to re-release. People put so many albums out, and it’s not like all that music just has a life of a year and it should be forgotten and overshadowed by something else.
Describe what it’s like to see you play live?
Seb: We like to hit people with a wall of power and fucking energy; the thing that makes it interesting for us is the crowd. It’s so much about the symbiosis and the energy flow between the stage and the crowd for us. It’s all about getting to know the crowd and getting them to fucking react.
What are the rules for a SWMRS mosh pit?
Seb: No need to be overly aggressive. Mosh pits are about pushing around and having fun and jumping. It’s almost like being a little community. But then you get people that just take their aggression out in the mosh pits.
Cole: The problem is we’re middle ground between hardcore kids and pop punk.
Seb: What people have to realize is you can’t just crowd kill at a show like that because it’s diminishing the experience for everyone else.
What other bands would you have at your own festival?
Cole: We do have our own festival, it’s called Uncool Fest. And we do two different iterations of it; we do the festival, and we have Uncool Halloween, which is a Halloween party. I would really like to have some young bands headline, to get our friends’ bands, that’s what it’s all about: PartyBaby, No Parents, Bleached, Bully would be sick. White Reaper. Twin Peaks.”
Who would be the ultimate festival pop-in collab with SWMRS?
Cole: Kendrick Lamar. Like realistically if we could get to a point where we could co-headline with Kendrick Lamar, that would be sick.
Cole: A long time ago [we played as] Emily’s Army and opened for Blink 182, for their ten year anniversary. This tour [will be the] first time since then. I’m hyped! It will be cool [opening for Green Day at Hyde Park]; we waited a really long time because we already have a lot of people who draw the comparison. We’ve always wanted to play with Billie, and we love playing music with him. We’ve been waiting a long time until we have our own lane of success that we’ve carved out for ourselves.
For more on SWMRS:
The Heydaze started as a group of friends playing together in college, as most bands do–but these guys take comradery to the next level. Just try to have a conversation with them, and you’ll realize these dudes are more like brothers– but just as the level of understood sarcasm is high, so is the talent. While their two current singles, “Hurt Like Hell” and “New Religion,” sound vibe-y on the recording, expect a more amped up rock show at a live performance. Lead singer Jesse Fink will bring you the younger Adam Levine and Gavin Degraw vibes with his performance and vocals, but he isn’t afraid to share the spotlight with bassist Alexander Glantz–dubbed the “king of mashups” amongst the band–who will take over lead vocals for a song or two.
Describe your genre.
Jesse: We go back and forth between rocky and poppy and acoustic–we are kind of a mix between all of those so you’re going to see things all over the board.
Tyler: Soulful, anthemic rock music, with a poppy flair.
Alexander: It’ll fuck you right up, and it’ll fuck you right back down.
Describe what seeing you live is like?
Andrew: I think just end of the day we want to get everyone moving. You only get 40 minutes–and we’re gonna give it everything we got. It’s a little heavier than the recorded version, so even the way we play “Hurt Like Hell” live is rockier, because we want to bring that energy.
What made you decide to do live mashups and have other band mates sing?
Alexander: We like to catch people off guard and keep them on their toes–just get them going a little bit. We like to throw a few curve balls in the set just to throw people off. We change up what song it is.
Jesse: Stay tuned for Tyler hopping on the mic.
Tyler: Today was a drum solo — next time, an opera solo.
What is your favorite music festival memory?
Alexander: Best festival memory was at Hangout Fest. We got locked in a tent because there was a storm–I can’t tell you what happened next but we might tell you when you’re all grown up.
Jessie: It’s unforgivable.
Tyler: We did unspeakable things, but we survived.
Jesse: We have been spending time in the studio writing for the last year and a half or so–our plan is to record all summer, and be back on the road this fall.
For more on The Heydaze:
Multi-talented singer, musician, songwriter, and producer James Hersey hails from Vienna, Austria, and his influences range all the way from jazz guitar to punk band Flogging Molly. In fact, he used to hang out with Flogging Molly at the age of sixteen when he accidentally ran into them at one of his favorite hang outs. “I pulled out my journal. I was like, ‘Look, this is the cover I’m working on right now of you guys.’ They fell in love and they invited me to every show they did in Vienna.”
Perhaps that was his first foray into collabs–since he’s now known for his 129 million streams with “Coming Over,” a collab alongside EDM musician Dillon Francis, with other versions by Kygo and Filous. His live performance features a combination of live musicians and live looping, but you can always expect stellar lyrics no matter what the production is–as his songs often start as poems. With his new EP Pages out, James jokes that his future EP may be called Chapters, and a subsequent album may be called Book of James. For now, you’ll have to spin Pages on repeat until later this year, when James plans to release his second EP.
Describe your genre.
James: It’s like a progressive singer-songwriter–like modern folk because it’s really folk songs. It’s folk songs in the way that I structure everything; I love to produce as well and keep it up-to-date.
What were your thoughts on hearing the Dillon Francis version of “Coming Over?”
James: I like how those guys approach the track. They added a whole new part to it that sounded really big, and that opened a lot of doors for me. I come from Vienna, Austria. There’s no real industry there, and yet I’ve played Coachella twice with that song. Closing the stage with Dillon Francis and with Kygo two years before. When I’m at a party, I don’t put on my original.”
How does it feel to have millions of spins with one of your first singles?
James: What it means to me is just that people love to listen to the song. When Spotify hits us up they’re like, "It’s unbelievable how low your click through rate is. They can see all the statistics, people skipping the song. Nobody skips that song, because they want to hear it–it’s great that people love my writing.”
How do you go about writing your songs?
James: I studied jazz guitar for two years, and I learned really to improvise. The first instances don’t have lyrics. I’m just sitting there like looking for what fits in–bopping and scatting. First, I find out what’s the vibe of the song, what’s the vibe of the instrumental, and then start writing lyrics. The song “Pages” from the EP was a poem, that I turned into a song.
James: I just was working on some songs today, testing them out [at BottleRock] and seeing how people react. I wrote another EP that I’m going to release this year. Instead of doing one album, I wanted to do two EPs this year. I’m doing an album next year. I’ve written eight new songs, and something like five or six will go on the next EP. It’s all about lyrical aesthetic for me.
For more on James Hersey:
The very essence of Hippo Campus is like seeing the music video for Green Day’s “Walking Contradiction:” on the surface, they seem like a group of stoner kids who can barely hold in their sarcastic jokes, but really they’re highly trained jazz musicians who draw from deep metaphors and scientific theories like “the halocline.” Their music is mellow and vibe-y on a sonic level, but punk rock lyrically–as many of their songs are often about not wanting to “grow up” in the ways society says it should be done. Their biggest hit currently is “Suicide Saturday,” a song which lead guitarist Nathan Stocker says is about “doing your own thing, not worrying about feeling obligated to hang out with people.”
While most of their antics during conversations come off like the friendship of a group of frat boys, their live performance includes heavily melodic guitars and vocals that will make you wonder just how these four made it through music conservatory school without getting kicked out.
How do you describe your sound?
Nathan: Personally, I would describe it as a “floundering about” of sound. An exploration in the way that we do things, in the way that we operate. Both as individuals and in a relationship to each other in a band.
How would you describe your live performance?
Zach: I know I have fun and all of these guys have fun. I’ve heard the people in the audience have fun. No substantial proof that this is in any way true…
If there was a Hippo Campus wine or drink at a festival, what would it be?
Jake: Mezcal. But we don’t drink before shows.
Nathan: Tequila. After the show, we drink copious amounts of alcohol.
Jake: Playing drunk is not that great for anybody.
What would be your ultimate music festival line-up?
Nathan: Elephant Revival would be fun. The New Pornographers, Star Fucker, Stars, they’re great.
Whistler: We wouldn’t collectively have the same choices.
Since the fest has them scheduled at the same time, who would you choose: Foo Fighters or The Roots?
Zach: A thousand times, The Roots.
Nathan: I’m trying to buy a car.
Zach: I’m trying to buy a house.
Jake: I’m going to Disneyland.
We’re playing some festivals this summer, then in October we’re going over to Europe and we’re gonna play a bunch of shows over there.
Nathan:“We’re currently writing, trying to experiment with where we want to be at when the time comes for recording.
For more on Hippo Campus:
Tour dates: http://hippocampusband.com/shows/
A R I Z O N A
Originally a group of three producer friends from New Jersey, A R I Z O N A joked about becoming their own band–but the jokes on them, because according to their 9.5 million monthly visitors on Spotify, they’re apparently a really good band. Their debut album GALLERY was released earlier this year, and is literally a hook-filled jam fest with songs like “Electric Touch” and “Where I Want To Be”–just try to listen to one of their singles and NOT sing along. Though their album sounds pretty heavily produced with some cool synths and sounds, you can rely on their live show to be more of a loud, rock n’ roll, face-melting experience where sometimes the fans even start a mosh pit. These guys can go anywhere from acoustic to electric and everywhere in between, and they are no doubt a band you should experience both streaming and live to enjoy the extent of their talents.
Tell us a funny story about being on tour.
Zac: New York’s like a hometown for us, and we were going into that show with zero merch. We were completely out of shirts, and we were like, "How are we gonna go to a show with no merch?” So we went to Chinatown that morning and had a [bunch] embroidered.
Who were you most excited about seeing at BottleRock?
Nate: I went to go check out Modest Mouse. It was cool seeing Modest Mouse play the stage we played on. Modest Mouse is a band I’ve been listening to forever.
Zac: There’s no way I’m leaving before Foo Fighters.
Since The Roots and The Foo Fighters are set to play at the same time on different stages, who are you gonna go see?
Zac: It’s a sick joke. I’m torn, I might bounce back and forth…
Describe what seeing you live is like.
Zac: It starts with unicorns, and it ends with fireworks and rainbows. It’s interesting–a lot of people know us just from the studio records. I think most flattering things that people have come up to us and said after the show has be like, “Man, you guys sound better than your studio records.“ We want to make sure that live, when we play it, it feels like you’re at a concert, that you’re seeing a band. So, lots of headbanging.
Who would be your ultimate festival surprise pop-up collab to perform a song with you?
David: Kenny Loggins on the first song.
Zac: Because we’re from New Jersey, we love Jersey artists, so one of the jokes we always make is to have a Jersey show with us and Bleachers and Fetty Wap and all the Jersey cats.
Zac: We’re finishing up a tour with Coin right now, then we’ll be opening for Andrew McMahon in The Wilderness in July, and in September, we’re hitting up our own headliners. As tour starts to wind down, I don’t think we’re going to be wasting any time with getting back into creating cool visuals because we do all of our own visuals. Also jumping right back into the writing process; album two’s got to get done.
For More on A R I Z O N A: