The music industry is constantly in flux and if bands aren’t able to adapt to the shifting landscape it’s easy for them to fall by the wayside. Traditional routes of signing with major record labels is simply not enough to guarantee success or artistic fulfillment. But when has it ever? With bands looking to take control of their careers, a number of them (Ben Folds Five, Protest the Hero, Amanda Palmer, among others) have successfully turned to crowdfunding in recent years as a means to finance and distribute their albums while maintaining creative control in the process. Motion Device, a Canadian hard rock band whose group members are barely old enough to drink, some not even yet, are looking to take similar control by crowdfunding their latest album, Wide Awake. With two weeks left to go in the campaign, they’ve already surpassed their funding goal.
Motion Device has never abided by the norms of the music industry. Fronted by 15-year-old Sara Menoudakis alongside her blood relatives, the band has been together since she was 9 years young. While they’ve received offers from major record labels, a dream come true for most young bands, they turned them down, knowing right away that wasn’t the route for them. Having crowdsourced their last album, they’re back at it again for their upcoming record, a double disk concept album that pays homage to some of their favorite rock bands.
Their young age and gender diversity gives them a fresh and unique perspective on the industry, one that doesn’t romanticize the rock and roll of the past. They’re taking DIY, punk rock ethics and applying it to the current music industry, allowing them to find success on their own terms.
Motion Device sat down with Outspeak to talk about their new album, embracing change in the music industry, and the importance of their fans.
Having a 15-year old girl as the singer of your hard rock band isn’t a common sight, and you have been doing this for six years now, since Sara was 9. Sara, how did you get into metal and hard rock, and how did the band form?
Sara Menoudakis: I was raised by parents who loved rock and metal. My mom is a huge Ozzy and Black Sabbath fan and my dad always liked the progressive rockers like Rush and Dream Theater. I started singing at a very young age and I knew that as I got older I would get more serious about it. I listen to all kinds of music not just rock and metal but my voice is really comfortable with the heavier stuff because it’s natural for me. I love singing the blues as well and there seems to be a lot of that influence in rock music.
Do you ever feel people don’t take Motion Device seriously because of your young age? What’s their reaction once they see you on stage?
Andrea Menoudakis: Many people believe in order to write and perform music at a high level you need to be an accomplished musician with years of experience and many life lessons learned. There’s many people who also believe that age is just a number. People are usually blown away when they see us on stage. They’re amazed that a band this young is able to write the music they’re hearing. We used to do a lot of covers and that’s what got all the attention at the beginning but as soon as we started to write our own material things really took off. Seeing the fans’ faces when we perform and reading the online comments always pushes us to become better every single day.
You’ve all grown up with the band, how do you feel your music has evolved to reflect the personal developments of the band members?
Josh Marrocco: Going back and listening to our first EP ‘Welcome to the Rock Revolution’ and comparing it to the new music that will be released on our next double album, you can definitely hear the development of a unique sound for Motion Device. As the band members grow and mature, so does the band as a whole, and as we become more familiar with our instruments and that unique sound, it plays a huge role in the development of our music.
Your new album, Wide Awake, is a double disk concept album. There’s a long history of concept albums in hard rock and metal. What made you want to tackle a project like this at this point in your career? How has the writing process differed from past albums? And what is the concept behind Wide Awake?
SM: We have always liked writing music with a deeper message. The songs you hear on the radio are fun to listen to but there’s something more about singing lyrics that really mean something and playing music that has a story to tell. As we started putting songs together for this album they all began to connect and then we thought why not make this whole album one big story. ‘Wide Awake’ is about life experiences and how they shape us into the people we become.
You’ve mentioned that you’ve spoken with big record labels in the past who were interested in signing Motion Device, but ultimately decided that was not the way to go for the band. So many bands dream of that moment, so what lead you to make that decision?
David Menoudakis: Simply put we want the freedom to make the music we want to write. The big record labels and music industry people often want to control and change who you are as a band. We didn’t want any part of being controlled and transformed into something we’re not. We’re young, we grow, we learn, and so does our sound and that’s a big part of what Motion Device is.
Obviously your band is too young to remember a time before music was easily available online. Do you still feel an affinity for physical music distribution like CDs and vinyl? How do you consume most of your music?
AM: I think vinyl is really cool to have as a keepsake. Just looking at the artwork and holding it in your hands feels wicked to me. CDs also give me that feeling but realistically, as everything becomes more digital and technology allows us instant and easy access to our favourite music, more people are going to want to download music rather than buy a hard copy, including myself – that’s just the world we live in. We just heard the biggest chain of music stores in Canada (HMV) is closing down so that tells you something.
The current music landscape feels like it’s shifting constantly with the advent of streaming services changing the way we consume and distribute music. How do you feel about the current state of the industry? What about services like Spotify and Bandcamp?
JM: As much as we are ingrained to resist change in our lives, services that provide the ability to download or stream music has made the distribution and consumption of music easier and available to a much larger audience. Streaming services such as Spotify and Bandcamp seem to be the trend in which fans want to listen to their music, and bands should be willing to provide their music to fans in ways they want it. Staying current with today’s technological changes is becoming more important for bands to stay relevant as the music industry enters a much more digital era.
There are other bands who have had success recently in self-distribution and crowdfunding, like Protest the Hero and De La Soul. Why do you think bands are looking for alternative routes right now?
SM: I think bands and musicians are just waking up! We want to be in control therefore we want to live out our musical journey the way we choose to do it. With so many crowd-funding options like Kickstarter and social media growing all the time, it’s possible to create and get our music out there like never before. All you need is the passion to make the music and the fans that believe in you.
Listening to your fans seems really important to your band. How has your fanbase influenced the music you make? Are you trying to make music for them, or always for yourself first?
JM: Fans follow a band because they fall in love with the band’s sound. When we create music, it is made for both our own enjoyment and the enjoyment of our fans. For us, songs can only be truly amazing if they are created with passion and emotion, and it’s that passion and emotion that gets radiated through the music to the fans. I wouldn’t ever describe Motion Device’s music as something that we ‘tried to make’ for anyone. Our music is created by feeling an energy, letting it take over you, and then shaping it into something that’s unique and amazing to both ourselves and the fans.
Check out Motion Device’s Kickstarter for updates on Wide Awake.