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SEDITION Vocalist LANCE CROWDER Discusses Immediate Success, Wrestling, and Coming Up as a Hardcore Band in Ontario

Ottawa hardcore band, Sedition have only played a grand total of three live shows and are already causing quite the stir. We sat down with vocalist Lance Crowder to delve further into the group, and what has transpired in its short life span.

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For a local band getting started, the beginning can be daunting. Struggling to get people into your music, pay attention at shows. It’s rough. Luckily for Ottawa’s Sedition, they can’t relate to that problem. Having only played three shows in total, the immediate response they’ve received is very impressive. We sat down with vocalist Lance Crowder to get further insight into the band, what has transpired in its short life span, plus a whole lot more.

Hey Lance. Thanks for taking the time to chat.
Lance Crowder: No worries, man. Always glad to talk about the band.

To start things off, how was the recent show in Brampton?
Crowder: It was a really cool show. It was a mixed bill which I love, it’s similar to the shows I try to book in Ottawa. They’re really similar to what Brampton has got going on and it was good, all the bands were really great. Romancer was really cool and I had heard things about Single Wound and Perfect Limbs, so it was cool to see them live finally.

On the topic of mixed bills, you guys just got announced as an opener for Bearings’ album release show in Ottawa next month. Looking forward to that one?
Crowder: Yeah, it’s gonna be fun, I love those guys. I’ve played in a band with some of them before and it’s always been fun to play mixed crossover shows with them all through the time of that band being around. It’s cool that they reached out and asked us to jump on this one, especially with the lineup they were able to put together. When they first asked us, I thought it was going to be a sort of, release show you would expect Bearings to have and then us. I said I was down to do it because it was a hometown show but it’s gonna be weird but they have them, a rock band and a local rapper. It couldn’t be more diverse. It’s gonna be a good time!

Have a listen to the recently released Sedition track, “On Sight”.


Does Ottawa usually have mixed bills like this?
Crowder: Honestly, not really. It’s not like segregated based on genre, everybody supports each other. Like the members of Pine will roll out to a hardcore show, everybody supports Pine and Bearings. As far as support goes, there’s all sorts of crossovers but when it comes to actually playing together, there’s not a lot of it. I’ve always tried to do mixed bills in my life cycle of booking shows. I’ll always try to throw on at least one band that’s not weird to be on the show, but a little different just to add some variety to it.

It’s cool to see that becoming more of a thing lately and we’re currently working on doing a show with a DJ from up here. He’s friends with our buddy, Rehreh who is featured on a song of ours (“Price To Pay”), he’s a local hip-hop guy. We’re working on doing something like a crossover show with half heavy bands and half hip-hop and it’s just gonna be a party. Crossovers are always good. It’s how you get new kids into your stuff and it’s how you open up your following or friends to something else in the city. Ottawa is small, but it has a lot going on as far as music goes so it’s cool to be able to see that much crossover coming out lately.

Your Toronto show with Cold Shoulder back in November… Was that really only your second show?
Crowder: Yeah, and our first show was a week before that. It was at a festival in Ottawa called Streets Ahead that I booked, it’s a fundraiser thing we do up here. So, that was our first and then we got asked to play that show with Cold Shoulder during that weekend, we said yes and we went down to Toronto. It might’ve been two weeks after but yeah, we’ve only played live three times.

That’s what really struck me about you. I had heard that it was only your second show and then you started playing and I thought, “is this seriously only their second show?” The crowd went off for you guys as soon as you started. Hate5six filmed your set, Exclaim! has a piece on you, and as of yesterday, you are now Anthony Fantano-approved, congratulations on that one by the way. How have you taken the immediate support your band has gotten?
Crowder: It’s extremely humbling, it’s very cool to see. Given any member of the music scene in Canada, you’ll always see Canada be held at a different standard than the States or Europe. I don’t think the music industry here is any less strong than America, but I think there is a lot less opportunity, so a lot of bands that really deserve a lot of recognition don’t necessarily get it. That is not in any way to say that we deserve any of it, but I’m talking about bands like… For example, Pine. That’s a band that tours and works their asses off and not nearly enough people know about them. It’s not because of their skill level or the quantity or quality of the music, but because they’re from Canada.

I find any time you’re a Canadian band, it’s gonna be one of those things where people say, “Yeah they’re really good for a band in Canada.” It’s very cool to see people that are outside of my social group give a shit. Being around for as long as I have been, I started booking shows when I was 15, I’m 27 now, I expected that kind of support from friends and bands, but this is way past anything that we were expecting. Brad from Exclaim! is a good friend and it was really cool of him to do the first write up on us and then he wanted to put out our single and add us to this list. He far exceeded anything that he wasn’t obligated to do. It really goes into him really supporting us and what we do with the platform that he is lucky enough to have.

I feel the same way with Sunny from Hate5six filming us. He did film the other bands at that Toronto show and it was really cool of him to make the trip up, but he has kept in touch since. We’ll make small talk here and there and that’s cool because that guy is a low-key celebrity as far as heavy music goes. The Fantano shit was weird. For a while, it was just funny to tweet stuff at him. That’s just what we do. We’re in no way trying to get noticed by any of these people, we’ll just tweet at them. Like I’ll go on our Twitter and I’ll tweet at Ludacris just saying, “Hey, listen to us” or something stupid.

More often than not, it just pans out which is really weird. We also got a retweet and a follow from Bif Naked like… The internet is wild man. It’s definitely been beneficial and a big part of this. It’ll start with our friend making a meme about our band and then it snowballs to people we don’t know. It’s just cool to see because we’re just dudes from Ottawa that aren’t trying to do music full time but, I don’t know. People seem to dig it and that’s cool.

Prepare to be “Sentenced” with a stream for this other standout track.


To be completely honest with you, I found your band because of your Papa John call-out on Twitter. I heard it and I knew I had to go further into it.
Crowder: Man, the replies to that are so funny. I remember seeing one where it’s somebody like, “This is really funny. I wanna hear the full version of the song.” And we’re like, “No. We’re a real band and that’s just an outtake our friend did.” That wasn’t even for anything. Mike (guitarist for Sedition) was recording and he told me to go record a rant, callout, mosh call, etc… I can write lyrics but I’m not much of an improver. And then my roommate said he’d do it. He just started yelling about the weirdest, most obscure shit possible. That Papa John’s one is a part of a list of about 20 of these things he just yelled about and people lose their minds over it.

Thinking that he didn’t purposely do this to go after Papa John, which in itself is insane to call out a fast food chain. We just had a list of things that were going on at the time and that was one of them. Then Papa John’s put out that horrible apology tweet. Mike was just like, “Man, fuck that. Post it.” None of us knew that was happening. He just posted it to fuck with them and we saw the “likes” and replies it got and we just thought, “What the fuck?”

The internet is a weird, weird place. Shifting gears, what place do you find hardcore, which has noticeably grown in the past few years, plays in the current social climate?
Crowder: Any sort of heavy or alternative music to most extents is a way to blow off steam. Whether it’s all you listen to or what you listen to sometimes, I think that’s how a lot of people use music. Growing up, I’d get pissed off at my parents when I was ten years old and I’d go listen to Limp Bizkit or one of those ridiculous bands that were heavy and adjacent but on the radio because no kid that age could access their own music back then. It’s an outlet for a lot of people and I think now that people are coming more prepared to convey concerns and feelings regarding social issues.

Lyrics and music are getting smarter. It’s not just hardcore and mainstream music, but it is definitely becoming a thing where now people who come from a community where they may feel unrepresented or their voice isn’t heard, they can go start a band and they can yell about what they see as flawed in modern society. That’s not only therapeutic to themselves because they’re getting it off their chest, but it’s also putting that message out there so that like-minded people can snowball onto that, find that sense of belonging and understanding, which I think is very important in modern music.

I think it’s why anybody with anything going on in their life gravitates towards going to shows. I know that’s who a lot of my friends and myself got into music, whether it be personal life, upbringing, mental health, etc… Music has become very important and useful in pointing out what you see is wrong in the world, getting shit off your chest or sharing your message. A band I don’t like can write a song and I’ll respect it because that’s their point of view and what they feel and I feel like because they put that constructive energy into it, it’s more accessible and you can feel it more whether you agree with it or not whereas if you go on Twitter and someone is pissing and moaning about something constantly.

It takes little effort to bitch on the internet when you’re not faced with the repercussions, where I find it takes a lot of gull to go on stage and pick apart things you take issue with and put yourself out there for other people to critique and weigh in on. That was a bit of a tangent, I think I answered it.

“Lost Reality”? Just should set you straight….


Yeah, no worries. You got it perfectly. Going to your sound, it is reminiscent of that ‘90s metal, hardcore sound. That, on top of your whole presence, oddly reminded me of the Attitude-Era in WWE back in the day, if you’re a fan of wrestling. Have those things played a part in the band as well as you being a frontman?
Crowder: Man, I’m a huge wrestling guy. It does and it doesn’t. I got into music because it was the only thing to do in my hometown and most of the friends I made in high school were into music so I would tag along. My first band sounded nothing like the music that I liked. I just wanted to be in a band so I sang, every song was just a punk beat and that was fun. I played in a band called At Odds and our whole aesthetic was like that we like wrestling. We had a Raw Is War rip for merch. Whether the other members knew it or not, all our songs were inspired by wrestling, lyrically or name-wise without being over the top and obvious.

Then I had a band called Contempt which was just a metal band and I’ve always grown through those different bands since it’s been at different points in my life. Everybody changes and everybody gives a shit about different things at different times. If I wanted to join a band and talk specifically about what I wanted to talk about, it would be a punk band because none of my lyrics are about interpersonal drama or issues or anything petty. It’s always about stuff I genuinely feel are wrong with the world or are wrong with society or whatever, which is what punk bands usually sing about.

But with Sedition, Mike, who wrote everything, he had this album done and it was his studio band, had a different lineup and then showed me it and I liked it and then he asked me to sing on it. On stage, I am dialed up to 11, but in day to day conversation, I’m not as high-amped. I get to say my message but the music behind it is very much beefy, impactful, heavy and I can do cool things on the songs. For example, my flows are absolutely influenced by hip-hop and nu-metal, they’re not 4/4 structured like how you would expect a band to sing on a song like that.

I think that’s why I gravitated towards it because I could do whatever I wanted and it would still sound heavy because of the music so I had a lot more leeway whereas in my band, Contempt which was very death metal… I’m very much going for that sound because it fits the mold whereas on this, I’d record a part and I’d say a P.O.D. or Hatebreed part would be cool, so I really got to mix it up and do things I’ve never done while talking about stuff I care about.

It’s been really cool because the music is hype and that gives me energy to pop off about shit that I care about and not put on a show but have fun. That’s why I’ve enjoyed being in this band more than any band I’ve ever been in. Because the music is so over the top, we can have fun with it, but not be a joke band, but not be serious and have fun with it, but then Mike is super professional and everybody in that band is really talented. It’s like a weird collaboration of everything you would want to do in a band without any of it feeling forced and it’s just really fun.

What is the appropriate “Price to Pay” for good hardcore? You tell us!


I tried to get questions from people in the Greater Toronto Area’s hardcore scene and have two here. The first asking, “What noun would you use to describe Sedition. Example, Sweatpants metal, tall tee HC, etc…”
Crowder: I think the favourite way we’ve described it is like of course there’s that joke about it being dumb music, like meathead dumb music. It might have been No Echo or Exclaim! Basically, they said it was smart people writing dumb music or something.

Music made by smart people for dumb people
Crowder: Yeah, that’s it. Yeah, I love that. That’s probably it or attitude-era slam.

The second I have here is if you guys have any music outside of punk, metal or hardcore that you guys dig?
Crowder: Oh my god. So much. Our drummer literally listens to everything. He is an unapologetic nu-metal kid and all he listens to is hip-hop, nu-metal, pop, literally everything. I’m very much the same. If I went through my Spotify top artists, you might find one hardcore band and the rest is either hip-hop from the ‘90s or like Sum 41, who is probably my favorite band ever. I really like Ludacris. Don’t know why, don’t know what it is about him but I love his catalogue. I even like K-Pop. I like everything man, anything with a cool or groovy flow, I’ll listen to it.

Now this is something I was hoping on mentioning earlier but it must’ve slipped my mind. Going back to your Toronto show, what encouraged or inspired you to bring a set of nunchucks to the show?
Crowder: Oh no… Basically, I just had those. I have a lot of weird shit like that. Like katanas, nunchucks, wrestling belts and just a lot of weird shit. When we played our first show, our friend Alex from Toronto brought a folding chair, which I straight up was not aware of because somebody tried to say that and was like, “Oh you’re playing that?” and we were like, “No.” I had no idea and you can hear me in the video express my shock. He just started swinging a chair around. He didn’t hit anybody but he was popping off and it was wild. Then it became a joke amongst friends like what are we gonna do next?

It wasn’t gonna be a thing, like in Brampton we didn’t do anything stupid, it’’ not something we’re gonna be going forward with. I think it was the morning we were supposed to leave for Toronto where we got a message from Adam (drummer for Cold Shoulder). It was a message from the venue saying, “Don’t bring folding chairs.” So I agreed and packed some nunchucks as I was packing, but then I said I wouldn’t do it but ultimately thought it’d be funny so I brought them so I could just hold them. I don’t really think about what I’m going to do or say on stage so I was just gonna have them on my person, but then my friend Drew asked me to throw them at him, so I did.

This peaceful lot from Ottawa have ironically declared “War Against All”!


Is that the guy we see in the Hate5six video swinging them around in the pit?
Crowder: Yeah, that’s him. That’s another thing. A couple people were… not even mad but just like, “What are you doing?” To which I’m like, “No you’re absolutely right. It’s stupid.” But they were practice nunchucks and I threw them at my friend. I’m not here trying to get someone killed. I’m not about that at all. Sunny (of Hate5six) got a kick out of it and he’ll still occasionally post something about it. It was just meant to be a joke, but I guess I forgot that it wasn’t just going to be my friends there, but a lot of other people. I think most people got that it was just being ridiculous for the sake of being ridiculous, we’re not World of Pain trying to kill somebody.

It was just fun. I’m pissed, though, I didn’t even get them back. I went up to the guy to get them back and he was like “You brought nunchucks into the bar and now you want them back?” And I was like, “yeah.” After thinking about it, I just said never mind.

At least it made for good content.
Crowder: I think he’s hanging them up behind the bar. If you go to the Hard Luck, let me know. The security guard said he would put them up, saying we’d be famous and I’d be the guy that whipped out nunchucks, which doesn’t really make me feel good since I had to go to Barrie for those.

Last question. I know some of you guys have school, work etc… Is there an end goal for Sedition whether it be being a full-time band or just playing shows every now and again?
Crowder: Both if that makes sense. I’m 27 now and I don’t really wanna tour and play five small towns in a row and be broke, sleep on floors. But I also really enjoy being on stage. It’s probably the most fun I have. We definitely have stuff coming up and we’re working towards more. We’ll be playing with Typecaste in Montreal. We’re gonna play here and there, but I want there to be a reason to play. With Bearings, it’s our friends that put out a record and it’s not a normal show we’d play, so that’s cool, that hip-hop show is a weird collaboration so that’ll be fun and Montreal is my favorite place to play so we wanna do that.

We’ll play anything if it’s for a reason or worthwhile. We’re looking into getting visas but that’s where it gets foggy. It’s really expensive, but we have some opportunities in the States that I really wanna pursue. If it’s viable, we’ll do it, but right now it’s a lot of money to just drop a couple thousand, if not more, on visas to play a show here and there, but that’s a possibility. We’ll be putting out a reprint of our EP, War Against All, on tape with one single and then a cover that’s not announced yet, so we have new music coming soon. We’re gonna write more stuff, we might do a split, I don’t know. We just wanna have fun with it and do whatever really.

Beware the sounds emanating from “Site 117”!


It seems like that’s the beauty of hardcore. If you look at a lot of the bands coming out right now, they have jobs at home and tour on the side. It’s almost become the norm for these bands coming up.
Crowder: The odds of making it and becoming a full-time career band in heavy music are astronomical. Bands like Turnstile, Power Trip and Code Orange come to mind, but those bands worked really fucking hard to get to where they’re at and I just don’t wanna do that. It’s a lot. I love that they’re working to make hardcore a household name. No matter what anybody says, hardcore is not some secret underground thing anymore and that’s really cool because when I first started getting into hardcore in like 2008, it very much was. You try to explain it to someone and they assume it’s like punk, but it’s hard to explain. My little brother is 12 years old and one of his favorite bands is Power Trip because of NXT.

Right. Even Code Orange. Didn’t they perform live on NXT?
Crowder: Yeah, they did with Brandon from Incendiary for an Allister Black theme which was cool. To spiral back to your question, I don’t know about everybody else but that’s kinda what I wanna do. I wanna do stuff that I like doing outside of music through this band. We’re doing a theme song for a wrestler from the States. I love wrestling and I think about what I could do in wrestling. Like, I’m five feet tall so I’m not about to be a wrestler. We hit up this wrestler I follow on Twitter and he was down. We’ve been talking ever since and that’s been cool. I wanna play a wrestling show, that’d be sick.

Of course, an indie show, we’re not gonna play Wrestlemania, but to be a hardcore band that plays an indie show would be awesome. There’s so much crossover in our generation that anybody under 30 grew up liking the same shit for the most part. Like anime and comic books aren’t a weird, nerdy thing, heavy music, wrestling. For the most part, everything is mainstream now, one way or another, and it’s cool that there’s that much overlap now, so I wanna explore that and see where it takes us. I don’t see us doing month-long tours, but we’ll definitely do runs here and there.

You’ve already mentioned your upcoming shows, but is there anything else you’d like to add?
Crowder: Just thanks to anybody that’s listened, come out to a gig even though there’s only been a few. I’ve said it to my band and on Twitter but the coolest thing ever is that I can write a song like “Sentenced” which is about me growing up with a physical disability and there’s people that resonate with that whether they’re going through mental illness or whatever. The fact that we play that and there’s pile-ups of kids I don’t know singing along is really fucking cool and I’m really grateful for being a part of this band. Thanks to anybody that has booked us or is trying to book us, has picked up a shirt or anything like that. It’s all really humbling and it means a lot to myself and everybody else in the band.

Lance, thank you so much again for taking the time to chat.
Crowder: Thanks for having me. It was a good time.

As mentioned, Sedition have a couple shows coming up that you can check out below.

02/15 – 27 Club – Ottawa, ON w/ Bearings
03/17 – Piranha Bar – Montreal, QC w/ Typecaste

Alternative/Rock

The Stone Eye Singer and Guitarist Stephen Burdick Discusses His Band

The Stone Eye singer and guitarist Stephen Burdick discusses the band and their new album ‘Nothing Shall & By Any Means.’

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The Stone Eye, photo courtesy of The Stone Eye
The Stone Eye, photo courtesy of The Stone Eye

With a commendable work ethic and a certain lightheartedness, The Stone Eye has found its way to some impressive success. This year marks the tenth anniversary since the talented duo of drummer Jeremiah Bertin and singer-songwriter Stephen Burdick joined forces in their hometown of Philadelphia. Their approach to alternative rock is original and innovative. But there is also a satirical side to the band where they make sure not to take things too seriously. It’s reminiscent of the sound and general approach of Queens of the Stone Age, a band that can rock out but intermixes it with a certain level of weirdness.

The Stone Eye released their latest EP, Nothing Shall & By Any Means, last month via Electric Talon Records. In only four songs, they can deliver a compelling and diverse musical experience. The hooks are infectious, and the riffs of the powerhouse variety. It combines stoner and progressive rock with a certain vintage sludge, fuzzed-out sound reminiscent of the early ’90s. Bertin and Burdick approach their songwriting with a broad-minded approach. They are out to push musical boundaries and carry the torch of alternative rock forward, presenting classic influences to a new generation.

Today, we are joined by Stephen Burdick to discuss The Stone Eye, songwriting, being an independent artist, and more.

How would you describe your music?

Stephen Burdick: “I would describe The Stone Eye’s music as something that slides somewhere in the alternative rock realm of music. I grew up a massive grunge fan. When I first got into composing music, Alice in Chains were my demigods of how to do things. So naturally, we will always have that influence lingering. As we’ve all grown as musicians and individuals, our tastes have evolved and we are always trying to fit new influences in. So, anything from jazz fusion to electronic elements tend to find their way into our music. But at the heart of it, I would describe the music as alternative rock.”

What do you like most about playing music?

“What I like most about playing music is the emotional return, elated or depressive, that it provides when you stumble across something that makes your ears perk up, whether it be a song you listen to that blows you away, a riff you write, a great gig that you’re playing and you’re like ‘damn we are on fire,’ etc. Art in general, whether it be film, music, photography, etc, has a way of moving me, be it in a positive or negative way, that quite literally nothing else has and for that, I am very grateful.”

What’s the most dangerous thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows?

“The most dangerous thing that has ever happened to me at one of our gigs was totally my fault for being an egg-head. Essentially, we were having issues with one of our amps. The standby switch was faulty, and the amp was stuck in standby. I was trying to find a way to override the standby. And in all of my infinite wisdom, I kept the amp plugged in and powered on whilst I was poking around in the thing. Sure enough… zap. Receiving 250 volts or whatever is not fun, but thankfully, I was ok and the show went on without a hitch. I did, however, give up on the amp for the night and brought it to a repairman in Vegas a few days after the show. Trained professionals exist for a reason!”

Politics and Music. Yay, nay or what the hay?

“My answer is what the hay. I mean, I personally try to keep any political affiliation at bay when composing music. But music is all about what inspires you, right? So if you’re politically charged and are inspired by the current events of whatever’s going on… have at it! Sure, you may alienate a few people, but art has always been at the forefront of social discourse.

“My personal stance on composing my own politically charged pieces is… I’m not an expert on anything political, and there are a lot more informed people than myself out there. Hell, you are probably more informed than I am. So I tend to have the philosophy of letting the more-informed have the brighter spotlight.”

The Stone Eye “Nothing Shall’ & “By Any Means” single artwork

The Stone Eye “Nothing Shall’ & “By Any Means” single artwork

When you write, do you do so with the live setting in mind? Or do you write a song just for the song’s sake?

“So this is a tricky one as I tend to do both, or at least try to before my ambitions give in. I always have this, ‘ok we’re good, this is the song’ mentality going into the studio. Meaning, that what we play and sing in the rehearsal room is what I want the song to sound like on the final recordings… Meaning it is entirely composed for a seamless transition between a studio and a live setting. Then, however, I sit down in the studio, and the ideas start flowing out of me and I can’t help myself but add more to the existing formula. I mean, the DNA of the song stays the same, but I always find myself being like ‘Man… this sounds bare right here… maybe add a little harmonized riff? Or a little lick to round it out? Or this, or that?’ Everything fucking time.”

What is your writing process like?

“The writing process for us varies. Generally, it follows a proven formula that has been established over the past couple of years. Most tunes start as an idea that I formulate. This could be nothing more than a little riff to a completely structured tune that is 90 percent done. Then I pass the idea along to the fellas, get their feedback, and continue to shape the idea. Finally, after a bit of back and forth and refinement, we bring the tune into the rehearsal space and jam on it. Over these few hours of jamming, we may find that nothing changes, or that everything changes. Generally, though, by the end of this few hour-long rehearsal, the song is pretty much finished from an instrumentation standpoint.

“For the vocal side of things, that is a total crapshoot. Sometimes I am not done with the melody until I’m singing the tune in the studio. But sometimes the melody comes to me in the initial demo. It all depends, and there is no rhyme or reason to the vocals. One thing is for certain though, lyrics are always the absolute last piece of the pie. I never write lyrics before having everything in place.”

Tell us about your experience going it alone as an artist. How hard is it to get your music distributed, promoted, shared, etc?

“Throughout most of our career, we have been releasing music independently. We actually have had only one release that was not done internally (2021’s South of the Sun). Like anything else, releasing music independently is an evolutionary process that gets easier the more you do it as you gain more knowledge on the subject.

“When we released our first album in 2015, I can confidently say I had no idea what I was doing. I was doing what most artists do when starting out. Just throwing the tracks up online, making a few posts, sending a few terribly formatted emails to random bigshot publications, and hoping for the best. Naturally, though, you start picking up on the dos and don’ts of the industry, and start meeting individuals whose services coincide with your needs thus beginning working relationships. Nowadays, we have a little team assembled that makes everything happen. So it’s cool to see the evolution of the business side of things. It certainly makes things run smoother despite the operation being infinitely larger.”

Do you have anything you’d like to tell any fans reading right now?

“I’d like to tell our fans one thing: thank you! Without the support, we wouldn’t be able to do the things that we want to do and continuously find inspiration to work on our craft, tour, and release new music. Would we still be creatives without fans? Duh. But without your support, we would not be doing what we are doing right now. And for that, I owe all the gratitude in the world to each and every individual who supports us and our vision. Mwah!”

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Interviews

Dave Annable Discusses His Role as Zoe Saldaña’s Husband on ‘Special Ops: Lioness’

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Dave Annable
Dave Annable

From Academy Award nominee Taylor Sheridan, the espionage thriller features a star-studded cast, including series lead and executive producer Zoe Saldaña, Laysla De Oliveira, Emmy Award nominee Michael Kelly (whom we interview here), with Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman, and Academy Award winner and executive producer Nicole Kidman. Special Ops: Lioness, a series produced by MTV Entertainment Studios and 101 Studios, debuted on Paramount+ last summer as the streamer’s #1 most-watched global series premiere on launch day. Special Ops: Lioness is now available on Blu-ray™ and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment as a 3-disc set that includes all eight episodes and over 90 minutes of bonus content, including two new featurettes and behind-the-scenes of every episode!

Lioness is a show based on a real-life CIA program. It follows Cruz Manuelos (De Oliveira), a rough-around-the-edges but passionate young Marine recruited to join the CIA’s Lioness Engagement Team to help bring down a terrorist organization from within. Zoe Saldaña plays Joe, the station chief of the Lioness program tasked with training, managing, and leading her female undercover operatives. The series is astounding and ranks amongst the best of the year. Lioness also features series regulars Dave Annable, Jill Wagner, LaMonica Garrett, James Jordan, Austin Hébert, Jonah Wharton, Stephanie Nur, and Hannah Love Lanier.

Top surgeon Neal McNamara has little information about his wife Joe’s government job. Suffice it to say she shows up at home exhibiting various states of PTSD and visits her family for small increments of time before deployment to parts unknown. Joe is a team lead for the Lioness special operatives program, managing deep undercover female operatives attempting to get close to high-level foreign government targets. The series starts with a bang and never lets up. Special Ops: Lioness is the newest addition to Taylor Sheridan’s growing oeuvre of captivating television. Sheridan’s work includes Yellowstone, 1923, 1883, Mayor Of Kingstown, Tulsa King, and the upcoming series Lawman: Bass Reeves and Land Man.

Special Ops: Season 1 Special Features:

Go undercover with the stars of Special Ops: Lioness with a behind-the-scenes look into the heart of The Lioness program, inspired by an actual U.S. Military program. Special Ops: Lioness includes behind-the-scenes episodes and two brand-new featurettes. Dive into interviews with the star-studded cast, get an immersive glimpse into the intricate world of the Lioness program, and explore the rigorous training required to make the series as authentic as possible.

  • Embedded With Special Ops: Lioness
  • Battle Forged Calm: Tactics & Training

We thank Dave Annable for taking the time last week to field a few questions for V13 Media. The audio (on SoundCloud) and video are available here if you’d prefer to hear Dave’s answers in real-time.

Can you talk a little bit about what working on a Taylor Sheridan project is like?

Dave Annable: “Working on a Taylor show is incredible. My bread and butter has been doing television my whole career. And this is just a whole other level. The budgets, cast, and writing are top-notch in their particular fields. And coming together, it feels like this incredible circus to be a part of.

“And this show specifically, you know, when you got Nicole Kidman and Morgan Freeman, Zoe Saldaña and Michael Kelly, the stars kept coming, and you just felt the gravity of the show – the immenseness of the show. It was just incredible to be a part of; I love it. And it was cool because I only saw the family stuff. But then, when I was watching the show as a viewer, I was like, ‘Man, this is awesome – they’re crushing it.’ Everybody just was really involved in the story and the spy aspect of it. And then, of course, the spy’s got to come home! It was just incredible to be a part of it.”

Neal was my favourite character on the show. You brought a brevity to the show that was very different from what it was about. You grounded everything, and I applaud you for that.

“Oh, thank you. I read the pilot many years ago, and Taylor came to me with it and it was an obvious yes, no matter what. But, you know, Neal was only in three scenes in the pilot (3-4 scenes), and, you know, that character and other shows can be very one-dimensional. He could be, you know, the sounding board when she comes home from work, and he offers advice, and then that’s it, you know? I was blown away when I opened the script for the second episode, where we see Neal at work in the hospital, what he has to do, and what he is like.

“Taylor is just so good; He’s carving out this character. He’s showing that he’s a human being, and he’s going to have his issues that he’s got to deal with. And then, having a wife who’s a spy, they can’t talk at night about their jobs. And then having to deal with kids, the everyday stuff that a normal father would have to deal with. I was very blown away by Taylor’s writing; he crushed it.”

“Special Ops: Lioness” still

“Special Ops: Lioness” still

Neal’s scenes with his daughter, especially, hit home with me. Some of those speeches were just on point – so well done.

“Well, what’s funny is that we had a rehearsal before we started shooting, right? We were at Taylor’s ranch and had the cast around with Taylor. And he was sort of hand-picking scenes for the characters to read. And he chose that scene, Neal talking to his daughter after the car accident. You know, I was reading it out loud, and I came in sort of hot, you know, and I was like kind of pissed. And at the end, he goes, ‘No, no, no, Dave. Neal’s already lost. You’ve lost, right? No yelling is going to help her.’ And he’s like, ‘This is the softest you can be.’ And, you know, he was right. He was right.

“And I think, you know, I was taking notes. It was like, shit if my daughter’s in there? I want to talk like Neal. I don’t want to talk like Dave because I would get that wrong, you know? So he just nailed it. I’ve gotten a lot of love (specifically from a lot of men) that needs to be directed towards Taylor for that scene because that’s a very challenging thing, I’d imagine, to talk to your daughter like that. And my instincts were dead wrong, so don’t thank me!”

Were you cast early on in Lioness? Did you watch the crew kind of build up?

“It’s an interesting story because I was doing a flashback season four Yellowstone episode. At the time he called me to come back to that, he’s like, ‘There’s also this other show I want to talk to you about, playing Neal, the husband of Zoe Saldaña in a show called Lioness.’ and I said ‘I’m in.’ Then I read it, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh I’m even MORE in!’ Then, it went away for almost three years with COVID, scheduling, etc. Then somebody else took over Lioness, I believe. It wasn’t Taylor, and you know, a friend of mine was like, ‘Oh, my friend just went in to audition for Neal for Lioness.’ And I was like, ‘Wait, what?!’ I was like, wait a second?

“So Taylor had just taken it back over, and we reconnected, and he’s like, ‘you’ve always been the guy for me – you’re the guy. Would you come do it?’ ‘In a heartbeat!’ It was a wild ride. But here we are, and I’m just so grateful to be a part of a show I genuinely loved. You know, that doesn’t always happen, so this is really very cool for me.”

“Special Ops: Lioness” poster artwork

“Special Ops: Lioness” poster artwork

Can you talk about what it’s like working on a show with so much talent in it? Is there added pressure? Or is it easier because everybody’s just so good?

“I think both. Both things can exist. You feel it for sure. You know, it’s Taylor. When Yellowstone came out, Taylor was big, but he wasn’t, you know, Taylor-Sheridan-eight-shows-on-Paramount-Plus Taylor Sheridan. Right? So then this comes, and it’s Zoe and Nicole. And so, yeah, you feel it. But then when I specifically got on set, and you act across from these folks, you realize, ‘Oh, this is easy because they’re so good,’ right? Like a good actor is a given.

“And to be able to sort of play tennis back and forth with these superstars, it makes you better. And, you know, I was fortunate enough to be on Brothers and Sisters. It was my first real big job, and acting across from, you know, Sally Field and Calista Flockhart and Matthew Reese made me much better. You learn a lot from those actors. So, you know, I feel the same now.”

What memories come to mind when you walk on set for your first day? What sticks out for you?

“Well, it’s a funny story, Mike. Because our first day of shooting was actually the bedroom scenes with Zoe and I. We had met once, briefly, before that. So it was really, it was terrible, you know? Thankfully, we were able to sort of make jokes about it because it’s so weird and awkward. We’ve got a weird job. But it was like, ‘Hey, I’m Dave,’ you know? ‘Let’s hop in bed with a bunch of people watching!’ But I think it really did bring us together. And it got a lot of the awkwardness out, and we were just able to really sort of dive in and get gritty and play this real couple.”

“Special Ops: Lioness” still

“Special Ops: Lioness” still

Do you have a process that you like to adhere to when you’re prepping for a role, and do you find it changes from part to part?

“Yeah, my imagination can only get me so far, right? So it was very cool, specifically on this show. I got to sit and study with Dr. Russell Ward, who’s a surgical oncologist here in Texas. And he was inviting me into a surgery he was doing on a 12-year-old who fell out of a tree and broke his knee. So I was able to be in the room, experience it, talk to him about having to deliver bad news to parents and find out what that’s like.

“And more importantly, what is that like when you go home? Is that something that you bring to your conversations with your wife or your kids? All that stuff. So that was very eye-opening for me. Already having so much respect for medical professionals, it’s exponentially more when you see the day-to-day and you get to grind with them. Because we’re in and out usually, we see the doctor, and they fix us. But spending a day with them and seeing the patients and learning what their day really is and how hard it is – is my favourite part of my job, for sure. Learning about whatever job or relationship that the character is in.”

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Alternative/Rock

The Narcissist Cookbook Interview: Matt Johnston Takes Listeners Behind The Music

Matt Johnston, creative behind The Narcissist Cookbook, shares insight into their music, creative process, memorable moments, and more.

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The Narcissist Cookbook, photo by Regenweibchen Photography
The Narcissist Cookbook, photo by Regenweibchen Photography

Born and raised on the picturesque island of Arran off the west coast of Scotland, The Narcissist Cookbook, led by the enigmatic Matt Johnston, has carved a distinctive path in the music scene. Fully self-taught and driven by the rebellious spirit of punk, Johnston’s musical journey unfolded through busking, playing in bars, and navigating the complexities of life. However, a dark period, including the loss of their voice for nine months and a deep dive into substance abuse, spurred a transformation. Experimenting with spoken monologues inspired by diverse influences, The Narcissist Cookbook emerged, using the guitar to amplify the power of their words.

Their recent album, This Is How We Get Better, marked a turning point in The Narcissist Cookbook’s career. It helped propel them into the spotlight. With a devoted global fanbase and a sold-out UK tour, Johnston witnessed unforgettable moments. Venues were filled to capacity, and meet-and-greet lines stretched for hours. Their unapologetic approach to songwriting lends itself to listeners seeking honest, introspective, and fearless musical narratives. The core message revolves around self-acceptance and acknowledging the parts of oneself that may be deemed too scary or vulnerable. The Narcissist Cookbook encourages fans to embrace their fears through music and storytelling, believing that true healing comes from openness rather than hiding.

Looking ahead to 2024, The Narcissist Cookbook aims for international tours and the release of a 40-minute compilation album. It will feature the highly-requested “Courtney (Director’s Cut).” Johnston is also crafting a new album, MYTH. That album will explore codependency, fairytales, and a haunted children’s book-on-tape. V13 sat down with Johnston to dive deeper into who they are as an artist and what has shaped their career thus far.

For those not familiar with your band, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Matt Johnston: “My name is Matt Johnston (they/them); I’m a Scottish writer who fuses monologues and storytelling with songwriting. I’ve just finished a sold-out tour of the UK playing to ~1000 people across seven shows.”

What is the story behind your band/stage name?

“I lost my singing voice badly in 2015 for around nine months and started writing monologues and spoken pieces so I would have something to perform even when I couldn’t sing. But I had a bunch of voices – internal and external, telling me that it was preposterously self-involved to think anyone would be interested to hear me just talking. The name the Narcissist Cookbook was like a shield to protect myself from that criticism. I’m levelling the criticism I’m most afraid of at myself before anyone else can, you know?”

How would you describe your creative process?

“A lot of the time, my creative process is sitting down to write or record something and realizing I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing and treading water with the hope of something decent coming along to fish me out. A lot of the time my tracks are coming from pinpointing something I’m too scared to talk about. Then, I use the writing process to kick-start the emotional process of figuring out why I’m so scared to say the thing. Other times, I’m more like a frustrated painter. I see visuals, landscapes, characters in my head, but because I can’t draw to save my life, I’m left using the mediums I’m somewhat proficient at: songwriting and monologues to try and get those images out of my head.”

The Narcissist Cookbook ‘This Is How We Get Better’ album artwork

The Narcissist Cookbook ‘This Is How We Get Better’ album artwork

Who are your biggest influences?

“I love Sidney Gish’s songs. I actually managed to catch her live in the UK supporting some band or other last year after assuming she’d never make it over here. I think I was one of maybe ten people who were there exclusively to see her. The theatricality of Say Anything has been a huge influence; the way Max Bemis can squeeze meaning out of words through his performance always felt like it went beyond simply singing.

“I’m also a huge fan of both Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman, and in particular, the triple live album they put out was a massive influence on how I approach writing and recording and the bleeding line between storytelling and songwriting, behind the scenes and front of house.”

What’s the best criticism you’ve ever received about your music or performance?

“Oh wow. I did have someone tell me, and not early on into the Narcissist Cookbook project either, that they could tell that, on some level, I didn’t believe I should be on the stage performing this stuff. That got under my skin because, in a way, they were right. Maybe it’s strange, but the bigger the audiences have gotten, the harder I’ve needed to work before the shows to tell myself that people are here to see me, that they’re here to sing along and have a good time. It’s not quite stage fright; it’s something else.

“For someone who has spent a long time honing what they do to get people to pay attention when people did start paying attention, I found it hard to cope with. Most nights, I get past it easily. But there was one night in London in 2022 where I had a full-on panic attack on stage and barely held it together.”

What was the highlight of the last tour you went on?

“I can’t lie, going on stage every night and hearing the room sing my songs back to me, and recite my monologues along with me, I hadn’t gotten used to it by the end of the tour, and I doubt I’ll be used to it by the start of the next one. But beyond that, the meet and greet lines after the show often went on for an hour or more. I got to meet all these amazing people who had tattoos of my work or had made fan art or fan clothing, whole jackets with hand-stitched lyrics covering every inch of the fabric, too much to recount here. And all just the most wonderful, kind people. I’m wildly excited to get out there and see and meet more of them.”

What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows or on tour?

“My show in Berlin landed on Halloween, and so I brought along this insane costume I put together a few years earlier. A character called Beanman made up of a baked bean mask, a baked bean vest and baked bean sweatpants. It’s honestly horrifying to look at. It seems to set off the fight or flight response in about 20 percent of people who encounter it.

“Anyway, I dressed up as Beanman for the Berlin show, and when I went on stage, I got to hear the cheers slowly change to groans of discomfort as I walked into view. Excellent. Ten out of ten experience. Very funny for me, potentially traumatizing for everyone else. After that, I received a whole bunch of Beanman fanart, which now lives on my wall in my rehearsal space.”

What are you still trying to figure out?

“I’m always trying to figure out what the scariest thing I could do for my next project is. With my album MOTH (2017), I wanted to see if I could get away with an album where the second half is almost all spoken. For HYMN (2019), I had the terrifying idea to base an album around one song being rewritten and rewritten over and over again. On This Is How We Get Better (2021) I’d gotten worried that my albums would fall apart without a solid concept to tie them together, so I put out something much more freeform.

“On MYTH (coming 2024), I’m playing with an idea I’ve had for a few years. It’s doing things with album structure and storytelling that I’m not sure I can get away with, and that’s always the most exciting place for me to be.”

The Narcissist Cookbook by Regenweibchen Photography

The Narcissist Cookbook by Regenweibchen Photography

Politics and music. Yay, nay or what the hay?

“My music has been overtly political from the start. I can’t avoid it because that’s who I am. Is it cliche yet to say all art is political? I feel like that’s the stock answer. Anyway, it is. Unfortunately, for some artists, refusing to take a political stance is a political stance. I make music for me, music that makes me happy and which represents me, and so my audience unsurprisingly consists of people like me. Neurodiverse people, queer people, people who value compassion and are tired of society hurting their loved ones. I want those people to know I see them, that I respect them and want them to be happy. And the easiest way to do that, the way that is least ambiguous, is just to fucking say it and not hide behind fake nothing statements like Love Is Love.

“Conversely, I want people who don’t want what’s best for my people to know I don’t like them and don’t want them at my shows or in my community. Because them being there makes my people less safe in a very real way. So yeah, I don’t hide my politics. I feel like doing that is a disservice to people who are sometimes committing a courageous act just stepping out their front door, let alone into a music venue full of strangers.”

Share one thing about the band that has never before been revealed.

“I used a sample from an… adult film in one of my tracks. Not for any particularly perverse reasons, but because it fits surprisingly well in the original recording session. When I tried taking it out it made the track feel diminished. You almost certainly wouldn’t know it to hear it. To anyone reading this, no I will not clarify which track unless someone manages to pinpoint the exact clip from the exact video.”

Tell us about your experience going it alone as an artist. How hard is it to get your music distributed, promoted, shared, etc?

“In 2024, it’s easier than ever to put your music out there without a queue of middlemen making things unnecessarily convoluted and insisting on their cut. It used to be that you couldn’t get played on the radio or even get your music in physical stores without a distribution deal or a label behind you. Now, my music is in the same place as Bad Bunny and Taylor Swift, and the same place as the person who recorded an album on their iPhone and uploaded it through Routenote or wherever.

“We all share the same storefront now, and that is devastating to the traditional music business, which has historically relied on gatekeeping and other underhanded tactics to ringfence and protect their investments. I love being independent because I am in total control of the decisions I make, the music I write and record, how I promote it, how I portray myself on social media and live, what shows I take on, etc. I don’t have a team of people all looking to get paid. The only person I need to worry about pleasing is me. That’s a very comfortable place to be as a creator.”

What’s next for you?

“More touring, bigger shows, more people to meet and hug/shake hands with. I’ve got a new album coming out this year and a compilation vinyl that’s going to put one of my most requested songs, the full eight-minute version of my 2018 song ‘Courtney’ that I’ve been performing live for the past couple of years, on streaming services for the first time. And second season of the songwriting podcast Jam Mechanics, which I host with Bug Hunter.”

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