Founded by high school friends, Kris Ahlquist (Bass) and Luke Sharp (Guitar) in Perth, Western Australia. In search of a bigger scene and looking to further their musical careers the two moved to North America. Here they found David Mari (drums) and Julian Comeau (Vocals). They headed into Adelaide Recording Studios, North Carolina in August 2014.
In September 2014 they released their first self-titled EP; a blend of rock, pop punk, post-hardcore and metal. From the fast paced vocal delivery, dual lead guitars and thumping low end through to the more melodic acoustic, piano and string elements the band covers a wide range of styles to create a sound all their own. We recently caught up with Cedar Boulevard for an exclusive interview.
- How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
Kris Ahlquist: I’ve been playing bass for about 7 years, after picking up a sporting injury, I had to stop playing sport, I was given a bass to play at the time and just kept playing it. Luke and some friends in High school later asked if I wanted to join the band they were in, I haven’t looked back since.
Julian Comeau: I started singing before I could talk, I remember my mom used to always tell me that I would hum Beatles melodies when I ate my broccoli. Singing was always a major part of my life, but I started taking it seriously when “So Wrong, It’s Right” came out. I wanted to sing all those songs and I used to try for 8 hours a day, at LEAST, and I guess that hard work paid off.
David Mari: I’ve been playing drums for 10 years. I got started in the 5th grade when a buddy of mine, who played guitar, wanted to start a band & needed a drummer. After my first couple of drum lessons I was immediately hooked.
Luke Sharp: I’ve been playing guitar for 8 years. First got started by wanting to be singer/guitarist until I realized I can’t sing that well so I decided to focus on guitar instead.
- Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
Kris Ahlquist: Michael Jackson or bands like Green day are an obvious for most and then bands like The Used, Avenged Sevenfold and Underoath really got me into the ‘heavier’ music scene.
Julian Comeau: My dad is a singer-songwriter, so I gotta say him. But the first band that got me into music was Fall Out Boy, I remember hearing Grand Theft Autumn and just being obsessed with it.
David Mari: Nirvana and Wolfmother were both two bands that influenced how I played from the very beginning. As far as drummers it would have to be Neil Peart from Rush.
Luke Sharp: Green Day is the first band that really got me hooked to an intense level.
- Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anybody you’d like to collaborate with?
Kris Ahlquist: Black Veil Brides new album, and One Ok Rock, A Day To Remember look fun to collaborate with.
Julian Comeau: I’m super into Beartooth right now, Caleb’s vocals are sick!
David Mari: Right now, I’m currently listening to The Word Alive. They’re all extremely talented musicians, especially Luke Holland and I’d definitely love to collaborate with them.
Luke Sharp: A lot classical (Bach, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky), nothing for a collaboration.
- Describe the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased. And which is the one piece of hardware or software you’re still looking to add to your collection now?
Kris Ahlquist: My first instrument was an Ibanez 5 String bass, it was on sale at a second hand store so I taught myself to play on a 5 string. I would one day love to own a Bechstein Grand Piano
Julian Comeau: The first instrument I got was my dad’s old guitar, but the first piece of actual equipment I bought was a CAD GLX2400. I love recording at home, so buying that mic really improved the quality over using the webcam microphone on my MacBook.
David Mari: I remember buying a practice pad and 2b drumsticks and they were too big in diameter and were really awkward to practice with. I am looking to acquire a new drum kit, preferably SJC.
Luke Sharp: My first guitar was a Fender Squire Stratocaster, the same guitar I think every kid has. I would love a Steve Lukather “Luke” guitar, for the name and cos they’re amazing.
- Tell us something about your current hardware/software and instrument setup?
Kris Ahlquist: I’m currently playing a 4 string Fender Deluxe Jazz series. I like a high action setup on my bass which a lot of people find strange and its currently setup for Drop D playing.
Julian Comeau: I still use my GXL2400 for my home recording projects, usually borrow my dad’s awesome Taylor for the acoustic stuff. As far as electrics go, I’ve got two that I use, a Minarik Lotus and a G&L ASAT.
David Mari: I currently play on a Ludwig kit with Sabian Cymbals. 14” AAX Freq Hi Hiats, 14” AAX Studio Crash, 10” AAX Splash, 20” XS20 Ride, 17” AAX X-Plosion Crash, and a Meinl Generation X 14” Thomas Lang Filter China.
Luke Sharp: I have 4 guitars, all Gibson and Epiphone, 2 Les Pauls and 2 SG’s. My main is a Les Paul with Seymour Duncan Invaders. I use a Blackstar HT 100 Head and Blackstar Series One Cab with Celestion V30’s.
- Studio work and music creation, or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
Kris Ahlquist: Personally I don’t prefer either, both are great, not only do I get to do something I love in making music, but at the same time I get to go out and perform it to people that love hearing it, it’s a win win.
Julian Comeau: Well, I’m an actor, so I’m definitely inclined to say live audience! Nothing beats the energy of having people watching and listening to what you’re doing on stage.
David Mari: I definitely prefer performing and interacting with a live audience. There’s no better feeling for me than the rush of feeding off other peoples energy.
Luke Sharp: Live audience for sure. It’s something I’m really looking forward to when we head out on tour.
- Which one of your original songs gets your adrenalin running the most, when performing in front of an audience?
Kris Ahlquist: For me it has to be “Shorelines & Shipwrecks”.
Julian Comeau: “Raven” is really challenging, but it’s also one of the most enjoyable songs to sing on the record. Wailing choruses and crazy key changes throughout just make for a good time.
David Mari: It’s tough to say. I get a good adrenaline rush from every one of our songs. But “A Raven Like A Writing Desk” is extremely fun to play.
Luke Sharp: I like “A Raven Like A Writing Desk”, its got lots of lead guitar parts for me and is just this grooving metal kinda track.
- On which one of your songs do you feel you delivered your personal best performance so far, from a technical point of view?
Kris Ahlquist: Oh that’s a tough one either “Shorelines & Shipwrecks” or “A Raven Like a Writing Desk”.
Julian Comeau: Eek! I had a rough time recording vocals, from a mixture of the stress and the jet lag, but I feel like All That I Wished For came out really solid. Fall Apart holds a pretty deep meaning to me, so I’m also really proud of that one.
David Mari: As far as best performance so far on the album, I’d have to say “Maybe” was pretty technical.
Luke Sharp: Again “Raven” is definitely that track for me. It’s got 2 guitar solo sections and a lead guitar intro. Really proud of it.
- Which ingredient (or trademark sound) do you think is most essential in making your music sound the way it does?
Kris Ahlquist: I think the combination of it all. The mixture we have of different genres.
Julian Comeau: My biggest concern when tracking vocals is to make sure that, overall, I capture the essence of what I’m singing about. Just about any singer can hit notes, so emotion is what really separates the good vocalists from the great ones. I hope that that comes through on my vocals.
David Mari: Our trademark blending of genres and sounds together.
Luke Sharp: Couldn’t pinpoint just one thing. I think it’s the mix of melody and heavy that we blend.
- If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?
Kris Ahlquist: I think the passion, it is what makes it enjoyable and fun and hanging out with your friends and writing music all the time is something I love.
Julian Comeau: Passion. This is all I want to do, and you can be sure I’ll put my all into it.
David Mari: Definitely passion. I would and am always ready to drop anything and everything for music. Passion is what keeps me going.
Luke Sharp: Passion definitely, its the passion that I have for music that has lead me to this point, it’s the passion that will keep me going.
- Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
Kris Ahlquist: You are able to control what you make musically, you have no limitations and not forced to produce something you’re not 100% on. That’s what can sometimes discourage a lot of people I know they are asked to make something a particular way.
Julian Comeau: Being an independent band gives us basically unlimited creative control, and that’s something that I think we can really thrive off of. But the lack of distribution and funds can really get someone down, we’re lucky to have some really vocal fans on social media and their efforts combined with our own have really been paying off.
David Mari: What excites me most is being able to express my all my emotions into my drum playing and production of our new music. What discourages me most is being new to the industry and not knowing what to expect.
Luke Sharp: The one on one feeling with fans is the most exciting and the lack of support or backing would probably be the only discouraging thing.
- Tell us something about your songwriting, recording and production processes. Who does what, and where?
Group: We all really contribute our own parts respectively. We’re all coming up with ideas and then bouncing things back and forth to get the final product. For this record, Luke and Kris had most of the rough tracks already planned out. Later, David came in and solidified the drum tracks, and Julian came in. Julian had written Fall Apart and we all agreed that it would really help round out the EP and give it some dynamics.
- How involved are you in any of the the recording, producing, mastering and marketing processes of your music in general. Do you outsource any of these processes?
Group: We outsourced recording, production, and mastering. We decided to go with Shawn Milke and Neil Engle because they seemed like the best fit, and they were really eager to help us out. Marketing is all grass roots, we’re on social media all the time, constantly trying to reach out and spread our music.
- The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
Kris Ahlquist: Follow your dreams is the best advice I took, best advice I didn’t take is practice. more.haha you can never practice too much
Julian Comeau: Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given in general really applies to this business. Sitting in the side lines and talking about your dreams won’t get you anywhere. If you want something, you have go out and do it. If you never try, you’ll never succeed.
David Mari: The best piece of advice I followed was to follow my passion. And I am currently doing that right now.
Luke Sharp: Best Advice; “don’t give up”, persistence is the key to most things. Advice we should have followed we probably be hiring a PR agent. Knowledge and connections to people is definitely a valuable asset we underestimated.
- At this point, as an independent artist, which is the one factor you desire most, and feel will undeniably benefit your future (for example increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, bigger live gigs etc…)?
Kris Ahlquist: I think the more media exposure, every person that seems to hear our EP are giving such great reviews and feedback, so the more people that hear it, I can only imagine it will make us bigger and allow us to play at bigger shows and have a larger fan base for future recordings.
Julian Comeau: All of the above! If I had to pick one, I would say distribution. I’m confident that we’re all really solid musicians, we just need people to listen to it so we that can find the people who want to hear us. Quality, media exposure, huge tours, those can all come down the line. Right now, we want people to give us a chance and see that we can do this.
David Mari: I feel that one factor we desire most that will benefit our future is playing bigger live gigs. Once we get more people to see us live, things will drastically change for the better.
Luke Sharp: At this stage, media exposure. Everyone who hears the tunes loves them, we just need to put it in peoples faces.
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
Kris Ahlquist: Social media websites do help to expand your following, its another way of reaching new fans all over the world.
Julian Comeau: We know that the “copy-and-paste” method is annoying, so we really make an effort to connect with each and every fan who gets back to us.
David Mari: I think that a lot of “copy-and-paste” artists have definitely flooded the web because of this. But I also think that over the last few years, really good artists have emerged because of this.
Luke Sharp: I think “real talent” usually tends to shine through. There have always been mediocre bands, even before the internet, but the truly unique bands will always still stand out.
- Is the music you produced on your self-titled EP exactly how you expect your sound to be right now? Or in retrospect, would you change anything on, or about the album in anyway?
Kris Ahlquist: I think with our budget and being our first release I like it, it gives a nice range to listeners of what our future music will sound like and what they can look forward to.
Julian Comeau: Overall, we’re happy with the EP. Considering how much time and money we had, we did good job. However I know the sound will definitely evolve more as we grow as a band.
David Mari: Personally I didn’t have any major expectation for what the EP would sound like, but I had a general idea. I wouldn’t change anything about the EP only because I believe we set the bar pretty high as far as coming out with our next album.
Luke Sharp: I think I would give ourselves more time to further develop the songs, I think that would change them slightly, but I don’t know how much. I think every group has afterthoughts when they look back at a release though.
- What do you think is the biggest barrier you have to face and overcome as an indie alternative punk-rock band, in your quest to achieve your goals and wider-spread success?
Kris Ahlquist: I think it’s getting our music out there and getting it heard, so we are not restricted audience wise.
Julian Comeau: I think its distribution. Right now, we have no way to really spread the music besides social media. We’re being very steadfast in our current forms of distribution, but there’s only so much that social media can do.
David Mari: I think the biggest barrier I have to face is being almost like the “new kid on the block.” Not knowing what the business is like is definitely an obstacle we’ll have to face.
Luke Sharp: Getting people to hear the music, we feel like we have some awesome tunes. We really just need to get it out to people. That really is just a time factor mostly.
- Let’s imagine that Cedar Boulevard doesn’t exist and you were given the opportunity to be in any world-famous band of your choice, who would that band be, and why?
Kris Ahlquist: Probably Rush, tour the world, fill stadiums and get to play awesome bass lines.
Julian Comeau: I’d love to sing in Issues, actually. The vocal parts that Tyler is writing for Issues right now are right in my range and style, maybe I can fill in for him if he gets sick one day, haha!
David Mari: If Cedar Boulevard didn’t exists and I was given that opportunity, I’d want to be in Avenged Sevenfold. I’ve been listening to them since Waking The Fallen and I know how to play every single one of their songs.
Luke Sharp: Avenged Sevenfold, they are probably my favorite band, they are just amazing songwriters and seem like great dudes.
- What is the ONE thing you are NOT ever willing or prepared to do, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
Kris Ahlquist: Sell out……. I’ll always stay true to who I am, my beliefs and always write music that I enjoy.
Julian Comeau: I’m not interested in having other people write songs for me, I want to always be a major part in the writing process. I don’t want to sing lyrics that someone just hands to me and says, “Go!”
David Mari: I am never ever willing to let someone, or a label, tell me or my band what music to play. Period.
Luke Sharp: Compromise my ideals or “sell out” so to speak. I won’t write something because it will be more commercially accepted. If I’m not feeling the music I won’t do it.