Gabriel Kubanda (guitarist, backing vocals)
Tal Mir (lead vocals)
J. Mark Stanley (drums)
Jerry Morales (bass)
Produced by Sean O'Keefe
(Fall Out Boy, Plain White T's, Less Than Jake)
Number one unsigned band on Purevolume.com throughout Fall 2007
Multiple plays of single "Critic's Last Stand" on world famous KROQ 106.7 FM
Strong fan draw at top Los Angeles area music venues
Featured in Fox 11 Los Angeles news report on "scene" music
Live interview broadcast on Indie 103.1 FM
"What this band does best is present emotions musically. This approach makes Letters Burning one of the tightest bands you're likely to see."
-Music Connection Magazine
While it might be easier to mask emotions behind generalities or disguise anguish amidst vagueness, it takes courage to unveil remarkably vulnerable lyrics that set up story lines everyone on earth can undoubtedly relate to. Enter California-based rockers Letters Burning, whose sophomore EP Simple Thoughts and Tragedy comes across with such sheer emotion and honesty that listeners can't help but thrust themselves in the middle of each song's scenario, sing along at the top of their lungs and escape reality as long as they're in the band's captivating presence.
"Simple Thoughts and Tragedy represents how there is no way to escape all the intense drama in our lives," offers front man Tal Mir. "Because as hard as we try to think things through using our experiences or what we have been taught, we always end up making decisions based on our inner emotions."
Since forming in 2005, the band has yielded many impressive moments spread between concerts and resume building activities, tangibly enhancing the band's super-charged sounds that were first introduced on the debut EP Almost Midnight (recorded at Infrasonic Sound Studios, known for recent projects by The Mars Volta and Saosin). Between then and now, Letters Burning has played literally everywhere in the famed regional scene, including legendary Hollywood venues like The Whiskey, The Knitting Factory, The Key Club, and Anaheim's Chain Reaction, not to mention Indie 103.1 FM's Universal Citywalk Summer Concert Series (including a live radio interview with the band), also Music Connection Magazine's "Best Kept Secrets of L.A. Showcase" (which received overwhelming praise in the same publication) and a prominent appearance in a recent Fox 11 news special on "scene" music.
Additional attention came at a rapid pace, including multiple plays on the world famous rock radio station KROQ (a strong encourager of the band), airplay on over 100 podcasts and internet radio stations across the globe, being selected as a finalist on the Diskmakers IMWS contest (the band's single "California Song" was chosen for their compilation CD amongst thousands of entries) and work with charities such as Invisible Children and Stand Up For Kids (which presented the band an award for their involvement). Even Taco Bell has supported Letters Burning, providing hundreds of dollars of free food through their program which recognizes bands quickly on the rise; Red Bull has similarly provided free goods to the band and fans. Thanks to all the aforementioned, pre-release anticipation continues to mount for the fall 2007 release of Simple Thoughts and Tragedy, which has thus far amassed over 40,000 MySpace plays and cemented the number one unsigned band spot on Purevolume just from word of mouth by their growing fan base, featuring production by Gold record/Platinum download certified producer Sean O'Keefe (Fall Out Boy, Hawthorne Heights, Plain White T's: "Hey There Delilah" and Less Than Jake).
"My favorite band growing up was Nirvana, especially Nevermind and its producer Butch Vig," Tal reports, tracing the chain of events that led to the collaboration with Sean O'Keefe. "When we were thinking of our dream producers, Butch's name came up and we eventually got a hold of him. We weren't expecting to actually hear back, but he responded and offered us some really great words of encouragement. Though his schedule was ridiculously busy and he wasn't able to take on our project, he told us about Sean, who also happened to produce a lot of records we really like. We shot him our first EP, gave him a call and he liked what he heard so much that he officially came on board."
"We decided to raise the bar for ourselves with this latest EP," adds drummer J. Mark Stanley. "We have a very specific musical vision, and we knew Sean would be a great choice to help make that vision a reality. Most independent recordings we hear from other bands don't sound totally professional. We couldn't let our recording turn out that way. We put in lots of money, time and effort and came out with something that makes us all very proud."
The down-time in the studio was casually wrapped around the pleasantries of pranks and a generally low key demeanor, but when it came time for business, O'Keefe was extremely professional and methodical. Each vocal and instrumental track was carefully crafted to the utmost quality, while the percussion sounds in particular were chiseled with the ultimate precision.
"Sean fit in with us right away, he felt like another member of the band," states Mark as Tal adds: "He didn't try to change our sound, but pushed us to the absolute limit and we created something really special together. The day after the last session, he told us that our EP sounded amazing and that he wanted a final copy when it was released which was a real compliment, because he doesn't own any of his other recordings."
Several cases of musical merit are apparent, such as the foundation rattling "Critic's Last Stand," which took root when a reviewer of Letters Burning's previous project wrote he wouldn't be surprised if the guys got signed because of their accessible and catchy sound, calling the band "cookie cutter" in nature. Not only do the grinding guitar cries and unflinching words blow that unjustified theory right out of the water, but show which party really scored the final word. The tempo-shifting "Goodbye Love" switches gears completely to cover relationships, though the heartbreak of its dissolve is eventually ironed out by a healing analogy of cleaning out the attic of yesterday and moving forward. Additional perseverance can be traced throughout "Sheets of Red" (a potent concert closer) that addresses fame through the scenario of a band stepping onto a mammoth stage for the very first time (complete with all the ensuing emotions and physical intensity). "This song represents what every band feels like when they step out onto that stage and have their first glimmering thought of 'We've made it, we've finally arrived'," explains guitarist Gabriel Kubanda.
The band also stretches their musical prowess on "I'm Here and You're There (We're Getting Cut Again)", as the track opens with a calm, beautiful acoustic guitar and mellotron piano melody followed by a fierce wall of sound featuring heavy and dissonant distorted guitars, slamming drums, an ominous walk-up bass line adding to the building, epic scenario, (all layered with a beautifully crafted string section courtesy of a top New York cellist). The epic introduction transitions smoothly into a tight drum-and-bass groove, alongside syncopated guitar riffs that allow the vocals to cut through with confidence (continuously developed throughout exploding choruses and a climatic, string-soaked bridge). The lyrics warrant even further urgency, tracing a man who lost absolutely everything (including the love of his life) and feels like dying, but uses the anthemic words as a battle cry to press on in the face of distress.
"We don't go down in defeat or drown in our problems; we get them out in the open, deal with them and use what we've gone through to make the future that much better," Tal contends. "It's gotten us really close with our fans, who we seriously consider friends, and we definitely value each and every one of them because they're the ones who keep us going in the first place."
The band consistently breaks down barriers on and offstage, including personal responses to every fan's email, a continuous string of contests, including private shows to keep listeners constantly involved and anxiously counting down the days until the next show. The group also promotes at every pertinent local gig and regularly takes pictures with fans (who can find them posted on their professionally designed MySpace page). "We also take pride in everything attached to our band, from the illustrious CD artwork and conceptual photos (which impressed Diskmakers enough to want to use it as a sample in their advertisements) to the high quality merch, to utilizing stage props to enhance our shows," says bassist Jerry Morales.
"Pretty much every band believes they're gonna be huge, every band's got big dreams, but very few bands follow through and do all the hard work to make it happen," offers Mark. "We have a great time making music, but we're also disciplined and focused. Practically every hour we're building our fan base, writing new material, doing whatever it takes. We never back down, because we know we have something truly special, and our dedicated fans reflect that."