by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Columnist –
Five years ago they promised they’ll rock us to hell and back again – and as it seems, the Greek/American band Outloud doesn’t waste their breath! One of the best representatives of the younger generation in melodic rock return with a new album Let’s Get Serious set to be released in May. To find out more, Hardrock Haven chats with Chandler Mogel about the upcoming album – Outloud’s lead singer also talks the recent band’s line-up changes, post-MTV music video hegemony and their approach to Christmas albums … and more!
Hardrock Haven: It took you three years to complete and release Love Catastrophe’s full length follow-up Let’s Get Serious. Were you and your bandmates engaged in different music-related side projects during this time?
Chandler Mogel: Well, only two years really if you count our EP thrown in there (laughs) It was an interesting time. We had some issues with some of the members in the band, and our schedules were a problem as well. But we didn’t want to force anything, we knew that when the time was right we would start writing again. And we did in summer of 2013.
Hardrock Haven: In the meantime, some personal changes within the band’s line-up happened as well … What was the reason for them to happen?
Chandler Mogel: Well, Tony and Mark left for personal reasons, Mark’s main reason being that he moved to England and it was not feasible for him to stay in the band, as he was getting married and his son was being born as well. Tony’s reason was that he could really no longer commit to the band on the professional level that we were at. We tried to make it work but beyond what we already did he didn’t have the drive to take things to the next level. So we parted ways amicably. We wish both him and Mark the best in whatever they do.
Hardrock Haven: What’s the idea behind the new album’s title?
Chandler Mogel: It’s actually Bob’s idea and was something he would always say when we were working and joking around; “OK, now Let’s Get Serious”…..with a smile on his face ha ha. It also means that we are here to stay with this album, no more two-year breaks! (laughs)
Hardrock Haven: In terms of music, Let’s Get Serious focuses mostly on what’s been the essence of your previous albums – the majority of the album is melodic rock with big choruses and catchy melodies. The only exception is “Toy Soldiers” – was there any temptation to go heavier this time?
Chandler Mogel: Not a temptation, really – we just did what came naturally. If you listen to “Death Rock” there is some heaviness there but it’s not too much that it takes away from the melody. “Toy Soldiers” is like a tribute to Judas Priest. We’ve always had that stuff in our veins too.
Hardrock Haven: Yet about “Toy Soldiers”, how did you guys hook up with Mike Orlando (Adrenaline Mob) and what were the circumstances of his contribution in the studio?
Chandler Mogel: He’s a friend of mine from NY. He and I recorded some tracks together a couple of years ago with AJ Pero from Twisted Sister (who is in Adrenaline Mob now as well). I asked him to play a solo on the new Outloud album and he was into it. An amazing talent, it’s a pleasure to have him on our record. I’ve always been a big fan of his playing.
Hardrock Haven: Another special guest is George Kollias (Nile), who played all drums on the album. Please, tell us about his involvement in the third effort of yours.
Chandler Mogel: When Mark left, we needed a drummer who could fill his shoes. Bob and George were old friends, having played in the band Nightfall together. George was into it, recorded the album, but unfortunately he couldn’t commit beyond the recording due to his obligations with Nile. So Bob called Kostas Milonas who is another good friend and he is now our permanent drummer – amazing player!
Hardrock Haven: Differently from the well-worn ‘dozen-power-ballads-per-album’ formula, there isn’t many tear-jerkers on Outloud’s new record, apart from “It Really Doesn’t Matter”. Why?
Chandler Mogel: We figured we had enough of those for a while on the EP. We wanted to go “full on” and really show people we meant business this time with what Outloud is really all about: big, driving, punchy hook-laden songs. But Outloud is about good ballads too, as showcased here. But we felt we didn’t need any more than that – one ballad per album is usually enough.
Hardrock Haven: Why have you decided to include a cover version of OMD’s “Enola Gay” on the album?
Chandler Mogel: Bob had the arrangement and idea in fact. We made it our own and changed the key so it would sound more “Outloud!” Sometimes songs from another genre (in this case, synth-pop) translate really well into another one, almost like it was really made for that genre! (laughs)
Hardrock Haven: What do you think about recording cover versions, or the entire cover albums? Do you think one day Outloud may record one, too?
Chandler Mogel: It’s hard to say, but it’s not something that’s in the cards at this point. We’re only interested in covers if we can make them sound like our own. And it took a long time to find just one right song to cover on this album!
Hardrock Haven: Are there any stories behind the particular songs you’d like to share?
Chandler Mogel: I guess there is a story behind every one … (laughs) But yeah, one of the coolest concepts of the songs on the album is “A While To Go,” this came about with Bob having an idea (originally titled “Bedroom Warriors”) based on all of the kids and people who record videos in their bedrooms and post on YouTube… kind of a tribute to them… and this became this song. It’s loosely based on this idea, not entirely. The chorus could mean that they feel they have “A While To Go” before they hit the big stage or make the big time … but honestly, some of those people are amazing and could probably play a show at Madison Square Garden tomorrow if they wanted to!
Hardrock Haven: Now back to the newest release… As for the artwork, there’s a sultry lady in a black dress looking at us from Let’s Get Serious cover. Is there any idea behind this, apart from the obvious eye-candy factor and a rock ‘n’ roll cliché?
Chandler Mogel: Ha ha, yes actually, the style of it is done in a more “serious” light (going along with the album title) as opposed to the “wild” approach of the previous covers, but while still retaining the theme that our covers have (featuring a girl). This here is Bob’s beautiful girlfriend, Angelina. Believe it or not, she is just as, if not more, beautiful in person!
Hardrock Haven: What inspired the album in terms of lyrics?
Chandler Mogel: Well, different subjects for different songs of course, but overall lyrically I was in a bit of a different place since the last album, my lyrics were not so “deep” and “thought provoking” this time, I tried to write a bit more “simple” and “cliché” without being TOO cliché (laughs) We are not so much an ‘80s revival band but have our own sound and approach, but of course there is an element of “throwback” in our sound and I feel the lyrics are something that the listener can identify with that, so I tried to streamline the lyrics more with the overall direction of the band this time.
Hardrock Haven: Are there any recording session outtakes which you plan to release? Do you plan to follow the formula of More Catastrophe EP again, or will you hold us over until the next full length release?
Chandler Mogel: No EP this time, we’ll be going straight into writing the next album. We already have some nice ideas and demos. As for outtakes, no, with the exception of an alternate version of “Another Kind of Angel” as a bonus track on the Japanese release.
Hardrock Haven: Just recently you finished video shooting for “I Was So Blind” music video. Any comment on the video itself, or the process of making it?
Chandler Mogel: Yes – it was amazing! We had a bunch of friends and fans come out who will be in the video as well. It was directed by a very talented guy named Themis Fad who is one of the best in Greece. It’s being edited now and should be completed in a couple of weeks. I personally can’t wait to see it!
Hardrock Haven: Do you think the music videos are important now, with MTV’s glory days long gone?
Chandler Mogel: Most definitely. Obviously there is YouTube now, on which you can watch almost ANY video… but yes I think it’s important for a band to be able to depict its songs visually, as it takes the music to another level for the listener being able to associate a solid visual with the song. It’s also a good way for people to get acquainted with the band if they don’t know what we look like, style, etc.
Hardrock Haven: With you living in New York and the band being based in Greece, were there any difficulties during making this record? How did the songwriting and the recording process look in such circumstances, did you rely on online, or face-to-face communication more?
Chandler Mogel: Not at all, thanks to modern technology! This is actually the first time on an Outloud record for which I didn’t record over in Greece. I recorded at my engineer’s studio here in New Jersey, and we get a really good sound there. So then I just sent everything over and all was good. As far as the songwriting, Bob would send me music tracks and I would write over top of them, for most of the songs. There were a couple songs that we wrote together in Greece earlier on, and one where I had the initial melody idea … and even a song co-written with a famous Greek producer!
Hardrock Haven: A few years ago Outloud also happened to record a … holiday season song “The Last Days Of December”. Can we expect a band’s Christmas compilation to be released sometime in the future? Are the holiday season songs and albums as purely commercial efforts, or is there more to this?
Chandler Mogel: (laughs) Probably not, we just wanted to say we released a Christmas song, and that’s it (laughs) We’ll milk it for all it’s worth down the line… (laughs) This was actually one of my favorite Outloud songs and vocal performances of mine. It’s a great song.
I think most artists do the Christmas / holiday song thing as it’s a good way for them to generate extra income and exposure, if you are big enough that people will buy an entire Christmas album from you. If you are doing original Christmas songs, I believe there’s more opportunity there, as you can offer a bit of what you’re about artistically, and also capitalize on the seasonal market. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” is an original song and is the biggest selling Christmas song of all time!
Hardrock Haven: What are the band’s next plans?
Chandler Mogel: We are going for the Guinness World Record for “fastest drum beat on a hard rock song” – our song “Death Rock” is 220 bpm! (laughs) Well, getting the video out, on an immediate basis. Also booking some festivals this summer, then tour in the fall / winter – then getting right into the next album! Hope to see everyone at the shows this time around.
Hardrock Haven: Thank you so much for the interview! Is there anything you’d like to share with our readers?
Chandler Mogel: Our new album Let’s Get Serious comes out on May 23rd. We are really excited to be back in action and connecting with the fans again. It’s you guys who make this stuff real. We couldn’t do it without you! And if you’re hearing of us for the first time – thank you for checking us out! We hope we can offer each one of you something to make your time on Earth that much more enjoyable!
Read Outloud’s Let’s Get Serious CD Review: http://hardrockhaven.net/online/2014/04/outloud-lets-get-serious-cd-review/