By Craig A. Stebbins 2018
This year unlike last, I chose to focus on just a few local bands rather than attempt to cover 30+ acts. Believing in musical versatility, my decision to focus upon as well as promote both Defining 13 and Saints In Chains, without a moment’s hesitation proved to exceed even my critical expectations!
First off is a hard-driving yet blues oriented heavy metal band out of Cortland New York (30 minutes south of Syracuse) hailing as Defining 13. Self described as “Stoner Rock With Attitude”, this trio comprised of Don Hinshaw on lead guitar/vox, Kevin Little on a thunderous bass/vox and the tight yet explosive hammering of Pat Nadge on the kit display a unique style that emulates from influences of such greats as Black Sabbath, Corrosion Of Conformity, Black Label Society and Alice In Chains. Although all three members went to high school together, it wasn’t until the fruitful year of 2015 when they decided the timing was perfect and hence Defining 13 evolved, with the common goal(s) of writing, recording and performing all original music. And by all indications, they’ve done just that…and then some. With a self-recoded/released ep in 2016, Defining 13 brought their un-harnessed heavy metal with one of my favorites “Bloodmoon” and their single “Inner” (their first video available for viewing on their YouTube site – https://youtu.be/ZGNMDwzWiuw ). While these Cortland County cats have performed throughout New York State area, their ambitious nature has their sights already locked on playing other venues/festivals along the east coast (recently booking gigs in Atlantic City New Jersey) as well as work their musical magic at locations out on the west coast…which I have absolutely no doubt that these three artists/close friends will do whatever it takes to materialize this journey. Defining 13 has shared stages with acts such as Krash Karma, Vajra, Kellen Heller and the imfamous Texas Hippy Coalition to name just a few. My advice to all reading this review is simple: If Defining 13 comes to a venue/festival near you, it’s in your best interest to purchase tickets immediately as they’ll sell out shortly after announced!
Next up, on nearly the opposite end of the musical spectrum is Saints In Chains, a metal-rap trio located in Endicott New York (Just minutes west of Binghamton) comprised of the phenominal vocals of Ethan Bond, Seth Hargrove and Matthew Lynch. I recently caught up with these guys and was granted a few minutes from their hectic schedule to answer a few questions I had:
GVM: “How did you three get interested in music?”
Ethan: “That’s a hard one. I believe we’re all naturally interested in music from the day we’re born. Music is so fundamental to people, and their cultures, in almost every stage of life. Music helps us to learn, communicate, grow and express our true selves. When I realized how important music was to me it made me eager to have a more intimate relationship with it. I believe creating it yourself is as intimate as you can get. I focus myself on the lyrical side of music even though I do know how to play a variety of instruments. I believe music on an instrumental basis is universal but lyrics, to me, give it a voice, a language and a touch of humanity. The more I write the deeper the connection I’ll have with a piece and the more Iunderstand myself. The more I understand myself the better I write, which makes me even more eager to keep writing, and then the process just repeats itself. Every song feels like a new discovery. I’ve been writing lyrics since I was 8 years old and I never plan to stop.”
Seth: “I have always wanted a career in music for a long time. I’ve been inspired by what music can make you feel since I can remember. I’d probably say around 5 or 6 I’ve wanted music to be my life. I really fell in love with music around 9 or so, when I started suffering from depression. At the time, family life wasn’t great, and my brother fell ill with a condition called Steven Johnson Syndrome at 11 years old, which the doctor taking care of him at the time told me and my family that could be it for him. He was laid up in Geisinger Children’s Hospital for a bit over 2 months, and I just remember trying to escape. So I listened to music. The Foo Fighters, Rise Against, Nirvana, Puddle Of Mud…I used a lot of it to pick me up when I was down and keep on swinging. Whenever I thought “this might be it for him.”, I started wondering what I would do if it was, where that would push me…but, when I thought that, I would put on music, and get lost for a bit. It got me through it and, thank goodness, he pulled through too.”
Matthew: “My main focus in music is singing. I dabbled in drumming as a young teen, tried piano and even guitar, but singing always called me back. I do write lyrics but our primary writer and rightfully so is our lead vocalist Ethan Bond. His words have taken us so far and so fast. Being a part of this band is not only an honor and a privilege but to me it’s a dream come true. Getting out there and performing with my brothers has helped give me a direction and focus that I never thought possible. I’m so grateful for every moment of it.”
GVM: “What are some of your inspirations in music?”
Ethan: “I learned very quickly as a lyricist that (almost) anything can inspire a piece. I’ve found that anything from emotions, to events, to reading, to observing, to listening, to hearing conversations and even the weather outside can inspire me. If things like these, and many more, all contributed to the basis of a musical formula then humanity will never run out of music and no two songs would be identical. Musically I can find inspiration almost anywhere as well. The more raw the emotional content is the better. I find when listening to music that the entertainment value of the song means little to me. It’s how the words are written and formed that gives value to my soul and that really inspires me. If I had to list bands as inspirations I suppose I’d list bands such as Metallica, Powerwolf, Sabaton, Manowar, and Warlock. There are so many performers to derive inspiration from that there is just too many to list!”
GVM: “How did you become Saints In Chains?”
Ethan: “That’s a story that varies by perspective. For me the name of the band was used to describe how we all felt deep inside. All three of us (As many people have) have had to do things we weren’t proud of or put ourselves into situations that led to some bad decisions. This led to a feeling that the goodness within us was almost suppressed at times, or in chains. There was actually only myself and Matthew in the band when we decided on the band name. We were trying to come up with a name that reflected how we felt inside and something that just felt right at the same time. We all have a superb love for metal music but we wanted to do something a bit different. I think we wanted as much metal/rock influence as possible while trying to create a blend that mixed well and I think that influenced the name as well. Shortly after deciding on a name we reached out to Seth Hargrove who immediately fell in love with not only our passion and our name, but also our determination not to let it fall apart again. Thus the Saints were born. It’s already been a hell of a ride for all of us and it’s only the beginning of the story.”
Matthew: “How we came to be as a band is a different tale and journey for each of us. I had tried to form bands before but time and time again it fell through due to lack of dedication. I wrote and sang solo for a long time and I was even working on a musical at one point. I moved away and all but gave up on my dream of being in a band. After some tragedy I decided to move back and start over. I doing so I met back up with Ethan. We sat and had a discussion that ended up lasting over 10 hours straight. It was about our music dreams and goals. That’s where it all began and after gaining Seth back we completed our trio for what is now Saints In Chains and for us.. The beginning of our future.”
Seth: “We started working on rap, I built beats and served as a technician, while he wrote and performed. It was a good thing! But…life happened, we added some people on, lost some…eventually, he introduced me to Matt. Matt worked with us for a bit on our first attempt at rap, but, unfortunately, he jumped on at a rough patch…a falling out between me and Ethan eventually lead to me becoming distant, and thusly uninvolved with our music dream. We went our separate ways for a few months after I moved out, (I lived with Ethan for about 2 years) but one day, I got a snapchat from Ethan…(still don’t know how he got my snap…) and it was Matt preforming a part from one of the songs we recorded before I moved out! So, naturally, I was like “no way, buddy.” And reached out to him. I said we should meet back up and chill. After going to a bar and getting in a bit of trouble, me, Matt and Ethan all eventually went back to Ethan’s house, where Matt was now living, shared a few stories of how life was going…and then they showed me the sound system they were planning on playing some bars with. They preformed some songs they were working on while I was away, and then…I was hooked! We all started meeting up and working on a joint effort, one more big push!.It was about 2 months later, we finished our first album of 13 songs, and we eventually met Craig Stebbins through a friend of a friend. He showed interest in promoting our music and said that he wanted to get us into an Ny- local music festival called Nikstock. We got into some on and off talks, both sides got a bit busy, and me, Matt and Ethan thought it might be a no-go. Well, we decided one night that instead of recording another song, we would throw our hats in the ring and Email the Nikstock show runner, Nick Fuoco, and see if we couldn’t secure a spot. Well, much to our surprise, we did! And he called us the very next day with the details. Our first live show ever was Saturday August 11th, 2018. It was like a fire just started burning in us. It really was a dream come true! We got there, played our asses off, (and our voices gone…) and, despite the small crowd, got them cheering! There, we talked to Craig, met some other bands and even lined up more shows! It was great! At the end of the day, we are 3 metalhead rappers who just wanted our voices heard, and so far, it’s happening! And we’re loving every minute of it.”
On a side note: It wasn’t until our group at Nikstock got a chance to chill out with these guys as well as their entourage at our campsite, and pick their brains etc, when they revealed something to all present that basically left us not only speachless but jaws dropped too I’m sure. It was Matthew (I believe) who leaned sideways in his camping chair, and told me that they went from playing/rehearsing in their basement to their first live performance earlier in the day! Simply Amazing!! We’d have never known, had we not been told. I’m also proud to say that because of their spectacular performance at Nikstock 2018, they booked a gis as well down in Atlantic City. Way To Go Guys!!
More Nikstock 2018 Photos
All photos by Craig Stebbins