One of the great things about Phoenix bands is that they constantly pump the local scene.
Local hardcore/death metal at Ella Kaye reinforced this with their recent EP release Comas Collide on February 8. It's a collaborative effort; meant to showcase metal variety and musicians having a damn good time, rather than celebrate the local band that actually came up with the idea.
First off, the band's EP features eight signed musicians and 12 total artists -- on just five tracks. Ella Kaye's founder and vocalist, Justin Chard, and guitarist, Michael Martin, are the only two band members involved in the making of the record. Album guests include Matt Good (From First To Last), Jared Warth (blessthefall), and David Sanders (The Attitude), Eric Lambert (blessthefall), Michael Barr (Volumes), Alexia Rodriguez (Eyes Set To Kill), Tony Pizzuti (The Word Alive), Aaron Matts (Betraying The Martyrs), Tony Pizzuti, and Zack Hansen (solo) (The Word Alive).
"People are fans of the album's guests rather than my band [Ella Kaye], so it's a cool story," admits lead vocalist and founder, Justin Chard. He decided to make an album with all his favorite musicians, and by a mix of pure serendipity and great connections, the people he asked agreed and came together.
With drums by Sean Whiteman (Keep Your Distance) and Mark Gray (Apparitions), the album's appeal to collaborators was largely in part to producer Matt Good's input on the album. While Ella Kaye is a solid local act that has played a good amount of shows and festivals, there's still a lot to learn. And Chard is hellbent on bringing things up a notch.
The idea for the album as a sort of a "phoenix rising from the ashes" situation. Basically, Ella Kaye disbanded, but Chard felt that he had put so much time and effort into promoting the band that he wanted to keep the name and continue to make music.
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"Awhile back Matt Good pulled me aside and said he wanted to write metal and do something different, that he would enjoy it. Once the band broke up, I really thought about it and felt he could do something great, so I called him back," says Chard.
The result was playing live (along with Ella Kaye's older material) at RockBar Sunday night in Scottsdale to a packed house. The band didn't go on until close to 11 p.m., but the crowd was pumped and adrenaline was running high. Or maybe it was just the fog machine overload choking me out. Ether way, the multiple screens in the bar lit up brightly with the band's logo, and, oddly enough, the Will Smith song "Men in Black" crackled over the stereo as the band members started to dance in the foggy midnight-lit darkness while donning sunglasses.
I was a bit confused, but a mere moment late my confusion became sheer metal joy when the band launched into its first song, all smiles and full-force energy.
Halfway through the seven-song set, Chard thanked Good before launching into the band's newer material, and the producer nodded proudly from within the crowd, with those surrounding him slapping his back in congratulations. Chard continued to look over the crowd and comment on how he couldn't believe how many people were present.
The sound was good, but at times the vocals needed to be turned up a notch. However, the band gave ample time to the various musicians on stage, from the bassist and two guitarists standing side-by-side in front, shredding together, Chard sharing the spotlight with guests vocalists, including Zack Hansen and Brendan Cahill (North of Paris), hopping onto the opposite bar with a second microphone and running above the crowd.
Four songs into the set, the band jumped into their new material from Comas Collide.
"Everyone was doing something that whatever they wanted to do outside their own band and mindset. It became the context for the title," explains Chard.
The band played "Elysium Configuration" and went into jams including "Horrorscopes" and "Suicide Blondes." The latter two bring some great breakdowns and catchy choruses to the table, which were a major part of Ella Kaye's repertoire in the past. As Chard explains it, Ash Avildsen, the founder of Sumerian Records (who signed such local bands as City in the Sea) ripped the band's first album apart, which helped them realize what they needed to improve upon.
"He said the songs all end with nothing memorable," says Chard. "And that we needed lyrics, hooks, riffs, and breakdowns that make it stands out. I kept that in mind while writing this EP, to make sure they were structured well, and toned down the technicality."
Well, this EP does just that. And while the band is currently focused on promoting the EP, Chard says he's already anxious to get back out on the road.
"I'm at that point in my life where I didn't make that album to get signed or tour, I just wanted to keep making music," he says. "But playing these shows live now I'm reconsidering and thinking I'd love to tour again eventually and put out a full release album and do the label thing. I will take this as far as it will go, whether it's playing local or going bigger.
"I might send this back to Ash at Sumerian and see what feedback he provides. Either way, I just made this to have fun and make music."
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