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The Academy Is… at Syracuse University’s Bandersnatch Series: “We just want to make the album of our career. I guess that’s where we are right now.” by 20watts
William Beckett of The Academy Is... at Syracuse University

William Beckett of The Academy Is... at Syracuse University

It’s not often you find a band  that makes a tiny underground venue feel like massive arena.  But University Union found such a band in the second concert of its Bandersnatch series: Chicago pop-rockers The Academy Is… headlined an energetic and mesmerizing set on Tuesday night, backed by Hot Chelle Rae and local opener Fazeshift (see photos here).

20 Watts’ Irina Dvalidze sat down with frontman William Beckett and bassist Adam Siska before the show.  She knew they’d talk about fame and touring — but she also got a glimpse into the weirdly philosophical minds of these two well-adored musicians.

20 Watts: Could you describe your sound for those of our fans who are not really familiar with The Academy Is…?

Adam Siska: That’s probably my favorite question… no.

William Beckett: It’s impossible to describe your own sound, because what we think of our sound is not only what we have out right now, but what we want to be, what we are going to be, so its kind of hard to describe that. I would be weary of a band that can describe their sound right away, because it’s clear that they are going through something particularly that’s more planned out and calculated, contrived, as opposed to the band whose sound evolves naturally which I think our band does.

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Juice Jam 2009: Exclusive 20 Watts Freestyle by The Cool Kids by 20watts
September 14, 2009, 4:24 am
Filed under: Features, XCLUS!VES | Tags: , , , ,
The Cool Kids decided to freestyle for 20 Watts

The Cool Kids decided to freestyle for 20 Watts

DOWNLOAD: The Exclusive 20 Watts Freestyle Rap by The Cool Kids

Minutes before they took the Skytop stage at Syracuse University’s Juice Jam 2009, alternative hip-hop duo The Cool Kids invited 20 Watts into their tour bus for a quick interview. They talked a bit about the golden age of hip-hop, when we can expect their next album, and the current state of the music scene. They didn’t really get excited, however, until we asked them to freestyle an exclusive rap for 20 Watts.

— Irina Dvalidze

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Juice Jam 2009, featuring Girl Talk, Jack’s Mannequin and the Cool Kids, Only on 20 Watts by 20watts

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Juice Jam 2009: ‘Cuse Psychs Up and Gets Down to Girl Talk, Jack’s Mannequin and the Cool Kids by 20watts
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Not even the rain could stop the insanity on South Campus

Not even the threat of impending rain could keep Syracuse University music-lovers away from South Campus on Sunday.  Muggy, overcast and miserable as it was, several thousand students converged on Skytop for Juice Jam 2009, and no amount of drizzle or line-up cynicism could stop them from psyching up and getting down.

Although the show got off to an admittedly slow start — a problem that has plagued the annual concert in the past — Juice Jam succeeded on the strength of its headliner, Girl Talk, who stirred up over an hour of neon, confetti-filled mayhem on Sunday afternoon.

Chicago based hip-hop group The Cool Kids were the first to take the stage, though a great number of concert attendees seemed not to have noticed.  The crowd gathered in front of the stage was a relatively small group of loyal fans, which unfortunately can’t even be attributed to their early set time, as the line for a lame airbrushed hat was still a mile long.

Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish were still the ultimate flirts, emphasizing the number of pretty girls in the audience more than once before transitioning into “Bassment Party,” instructing, “if you ugly keep your hands by your side.”  This attitude stayed true after the performance, when Mikey and Chuck embraced adoring female fans.

Cool as they might have been, however, the hip-hop duo failed to attract the enthusiasm that greeted piano pop mainstay Jack’s Mannequin.  Seeing Jack’s perform was like a trip down memory lane — and judging by the crowd that gravitated towards the stage, others felt that way, too. Friends likely reminisced about high school as they danced in groups to Andrew McMahon’s piano melodies during “Holiday from Real.” The band played much of Everything in Transit, including  “The Mixed Tape,” “Dark Blue” and “La La Lie.”  Bassist Jonathan Sullivan helped to keep the high school theme alive with his arm warmers and emo-licious haircut.

After closing with Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” Andrew McMahon climbed atop his piano and stomped on the keys.  Although this move was relatively badass at the time, in comparison to the imminent mayhem, McMahon’s momentary awesomeness was as P.G. as it gets.

The transformation to said mayhem started gradually enough. Sorority girls clad in neon, eager to be Gregg Gillis’ one true love/grinding partner, searched for a way to get on stage. The masses followed suit.  Hints of marijuana filled the air. Antsy people anticipating the ultimate dance party muttered their frustration as Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger” blasting through the speakers to pass the time.

But the sunshine finally started to peek through the hazy sky and our host, Gregg “I’m Not a DJ” Gillis, stormed the stage to start the party.  Cue toilet paper.  Balloons.  Balls.  Confetti.  Gillis plays pop music for people with short attention spans and long memories: in his sets, pop music from the last 30 years resurfaces as a hook, a line or a beat, mixed into something entirely new.

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Juice Jam 2009: 20 Watts Asks The Cool Kids about Old School Hip-Hop, SU Frat Parties and their Upcoming Album by 20watts
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20 Watts talks old school hip-hop and SU frat parties with the Cool Kids

The Cool Kids have “cool beats, cool raps” — and if you don’t love them already, they sure think that you will soon.  The alternative hip-hop duo, comprised of Chicago native Antoine “Mikey Rocks” Reed and Detroit native Evan “Chuck Inglish” Ingersoll, opened Juice Jam 2009 at 12:30 on Sunday afternoon.  20 Watts’ Caitlin Dewey sat down for a quick interview with The Cool Kids just before they hit the stage.

20 Watts: A lot of our readers might not have heard Cool Kids before, so can you tell me who you guys are, what you’re all about, and what kind of music you’re putting out?

Mikey: I’m Michael Rocks…

Chuck: That’s a hard question, it’s usually other people’s opinions, ’cause we don’t know what we’re doing. But I’m C, we’re the Cool Kids. We rap about cool shit.

20W: That would make sense.

M: We have cool beats, cool raps. You’d like it. If you don’t know us you’d probably like it once you heard it. So, just check some of our stuff out.

20W: You guys met in a pretty weird way, could you tell me about that?

C: It’s kind of weird, but it’s not… We knew the same people, so it wasn’t like a chance finding while I was in Detroit and he was in Chicago. We were both in Chicago and we were both trying to do the same thing, and some people were like “yo.” They told him to hit me up cause I had beats that people were checking out on Myspace.  So around [then] everyone got to talking, ’cause that was when Myspace was brand new and people were still freaking out about it.  Like nobody had a page, it was like a couple of people on there.

M: Myspace was not even poppin’ yet.

C: [Laughs] It really wasn’t.

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Juice Jam 2009: “In Philadelphia, a couple had sex on stage, which is relatively insane.” by 20watts
September 12, 2009, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Features, Interviews, Juice Jam Preview | Tags: , , , , , , ,
Girl Talk tells 20 Watts

Girl Talk dishes on pop music, his first iPod and the craziest things that people have ever done at his infamous shows

You’ve seen the sweaty neon pictures.  You’ve heard the hyperactive pop culture collages that some naively call songs.  But chances are you’ve never sat down with Gregg Gillis, a.k.a. Girl Talk, to talk pop music, first iPods and the craziest sets in DJ history after one of his infamous party shows.

20 Watts’ Allison Polster caught up with Girl Talk after his show at the University of Rochester last year.

20 Watts: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?

Girl Talk: On a surface level, I usually tell parents and old people that I make new music out of old pop music. I’d say simply, I kind of just collage. It’s an audio collage. I collage together a bunch of sources, layer it, chop it up and just take a bunch of familiar songs and try to create new songs out of those.

20W: Is there a certain criteria you use for songs that you put in? Do you only use songs that you actually like or just songs that fit in best? How do you decide which songs to use?

GT: Everything I use I like. I try not to use anything ironically. I’m pretty sincere about all that. I try to keep it diverse. These days I mainly listen to pop music, but going back to high school and those days, I do listen to a lot more obscure music as well. And I specifically don’t include samples from that as much just cause I like the idea of taking a very familiar thing and then manipulating and kind of playing with people’s connection to that song.

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Free 4 All: 20W Magazine // Spring 09 Issue by Trevor Kiv

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