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Onward, Soldiers / Press

“Last Friday, Onward, Soldiers had an album release show for their new CD, “Monsters,” at The Soapbox and then hit the road. In late 2011 the band was in Memphis and performed at the famous Sun Studio where great musicians like B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and bands like U2 have recorded. It was part of a television show that airs on PBS and is now in its third season.”

“Wilmington’s Onward, Soldiers are the kind of eclectic rock band that isn’t happy unless it’s being at least a half dozen things at once. On their 2010 debut, Ghosts in this Town, they were a frenetic Southern rock band, finding connections between bluegrass, country and blues and mining them for all they’re worth. The quartet returns with sophomore LP Monsters, due from Winoca Records on Feb. 21. It’s a more mature outing, opting for dense, modern-leaning folk rock over the ragged approach of their first outing. In addition, Onward, Soldiers are striving to be more than just a Wilmington band, booking a release show at Raleigh’s Pour House on Jan. 26 in addition to a hometown celebration at the Soapbox on Feb. 3.”

“Luckily, they perform one of the better songs here. “Nobody Knows” is a jaunty bit of laid-back, old-school piano balladry, a feisty, fetching expression of pop exuberance. The band’s performance here holds up as well. Sean Thomas Gerrard unleashes a satisfyingly rough croon as the band accentuates the song’s already irresistible groove with a more powerful low end. The assertion that Sun Studio is the most important shrine in all of music is debatable, but it’s safe to say that Onward, Soldiers’ performance lives up to the storied locale.”

“On 2009’s Ghost In This Town, the band’s debut release, Onward, Soldiers played with folk and roots-rock melodies solely driven by acoustic songwriting. But on Monsters, this sound is refined and expounded upon through the use of piano and horns. Even more interestingly, the group explores different song structures altogether, creating a more versatile and open-sounding pop record. Monsters is raw yet refined, and the band’s blend of rock ‘n’ roll with classic pop and down-home Carolina aesthetics is reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Steely Dan, and Jackson Browne. Yet it still sounds robust and new. EasternSurf.com caught up with the band at their home recording studio in the Winoca Records office in Wilmington, NC, to talk about inspiration old and new, Monsters’ accessibility, and Pink Floyd.”

“Some would find the use of so many genres somewhat disjoined, but somehow it all sort of comes together and works for them. Perhaps they should focus on a more clear direction in sound for the future, but because of the variety of genres they cover on this album there is really a song on here for everyone. The band has clearly grown since Ghost In This Town, and with a more focused musical direction they are sure to continue their success.”

“The Alpha Site has had a copy of Monsters in my car for a few weeks now, and when we were driving home from somewhere last week, we were talking about why it’s good. It’s not original, shep. said, but they also don’t sound like anybody else, which is why they’re good. Which was the best description of the Wilmington, NC, quartet that I could have thought of myself; taken individually every slice of music on this record isn’t necessarily new. But Onward, Soldiers either puts them together in a new way, or a surprising way, or the song that lies over the familiar music is sharp and clever. Sean Gerard Thomas is one of the best songwriters in the state of North Carolina, and his writing, which was catchy and interesting on debut LP Ghosts In This Town is visibly more adult and subtle on this disc.”

“Monsters is an experiment in multiple genres; it plays out like an album comprised of nine great singles. Every track here is memorable, and the album lends itself to multiple spins in the stereo. With a little more focus, Onward, Soldiers could be onto something truly excellent. ”

“Monsters can pull off these style shifts because its songs are all anchored with enjoyable melodies and the band is precise in its execution. Onward, Soldiers are experimenting and still forming their identity as a band, but on Monsters it makes sure that its audience can enjoy the process.”

“North Carolina’s Onward, Soldiers will release its second album, Monsters, this coming Tuesday, Feb. 21 via Winoca Records. The project began in 2007, when singer/songwriter Sean Thomas Gerard moved from Pittsburgh, Pa. to Wilmington, N.C. and fortuitously met drummer Kevin Rhodes, who also happened to be the co-founder of Winoca Records. The two recruited several local musicians to help write and record Onward, Soldiers’ debut album Ghost in the Town in 2009. That album got some good exposure, too, with tracks appearing on the teen drama One Tree Hill and a benefit album for Gulf-communities affected by the BP oil spill called Gasoline Rainbows. Onward, Soldiers added guitarist Lincoln Morris and bassist Jarett Dorman to round out its lineup and now, the alternative-Americana quartet is ready to release its sophomore album. To coincide with their upcoming appearance at SXSW, Onward, Soldiers will set off on a U.S. tour. Check out those dates and stream Monsters below.”

“While I kept going back to just three out of the nine tracks, I have yet to hit the next button to skip anything in particular. I have a feeling Onward, Soldiers is going to latch on to my testicles when I'm singing one of their songs while changing the oil on my Corsica, and then I'll make a mad pantsless dash to the manpod to reunite with these pricks leaving oily fingerprints and semen stains all over the davenport in the basement.”

“Onward, Soldiers has made the next step toward finding a stylistic balance. With clear musicianship and definite strong points, Monsters might just lay the groundwork for future success.”

“When it comes to youth and experience, it’s usually an either/or situation. With Wilmington rock band Onward, Soldiers, it’s a package deal. On the band’s latest album, “Monsters” (released Feb. 21 on Winoca Records), young frontman Sean Thomas Gerard delivers a cache of vital songs burnished to a fine polish with the help of the elder statesmen of the group, drummer/vocalist Kevin Rhodes and guitarist Lincoln Morris, both in their 40s, as well as bassist Jarett Dorman, who, like Gerard, is in his 20s. The band pairs Gerard’s memorable melodies and hatchet-sharp vocals with a variety of styles, from ‘70s-era blue-eyed soul and arena rock to straight-up country. But what’s more impressive is how Onward, Soldiers fully inhabits these styles in an original way that results in familiar-sounding songs that are actually true originals.”

“This is clear on Ghosts in This Town, Onward, Soldiers' 2010 debut. One moment, Gerard's leading his band through an agile Allman-esque slice of riff-rock called "Alright by Me"; the next, he's writhing among the briars of "The Past," an alt-country tune that prickles with emotion. Gerard jumps around even more lyrically. On "Let the Time Roll By," for instance, he ricochets between one-liners, finding sufficient adhesive in his wry, down-home populism. "Nothing changes in the past but opinions, and not the facts," he offers in Dylan-like salvos. "When war was all that you absorbed, but you can't find what we're fighting for, you got to bring the boys on back." His helter-skelter points bounce along on a potent click-clack of banjo and piano, all punctuated by choice guitar solos. The momentum sweeps the song to an irresistible chorus. "Chase my blues away," Gerard encourages a lover.”

“It would be unfair to say that Monsters isn't a step forward. The band plays with a polish that outshines anything they've done in the past. The problem is that they can't figure out in which direction they want to take that new gleam. Opener "Telling Nobody" is a jaunty slice of piano pop with a bouncing gait ready-made for the next iPod commercial. But track two, "Nighttime Sky," switches to desert rock complete with bongos, warbling guitar lines and mariachi-style horns. Sean Thomas Gerard adapts his gruff pipes to these opposing tasks with an enviable seamlessness.”

“Hearing “Monsters” transports a listener into his or her favorite place. For instance, when “Carolina” came seeping through my speakers, I was no longer in a bland workspace but on a boat, swaying with the rhythm of the waves, the sun browning my skin, enraptured by the scent of salt air. The guitar beckons listeners into a relaxing state of mind while the piano frolics about, whimsically arresting the heart. It’s music to admire and appreciate—the kind that forces you somewhere, good or bad, beyond your control; the kind that commandeers your emotions.”

“Only a few short months ago the local men of Onward, Soldiers released their sophomore album, “Monsters,” to illustrious reviews. The catchy and charming single “Telling Nobody” earned the interest of iTunes, as the music giant selected it as a featured song. The band took off on a vigorous two-month tour, laced with shows at festivals like 35 Denton in Texas and venues like the Fox Theatre in Colorado. Of course their trip began here at home on the cozy stage of Soapbox Laundro-Lounge. It’s the same scene in which we can welcome them back, as they’ll bring their upbeat, unpredictable Americana to Soapbox on Friday, April 27th.”

“The day-long festival, which takes place at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater on Saturday, will feature seven regional and local acts along with food, drink and an eye (or an ear) toward creating a minimal carbon footprint. Along with Wilmington acts Onward, Soldiers and Charlie the Horse, artists from Nashville (Rayland Baxter, The Kingston Springs), New Orleans (Dirty Bourbon River Show), Chapel Hill (Mandolin Orange) and Greensboro (Holy Ghost Tent Revival) will perform.”

“Thanks to Gerard's compelling stage presence and throaty vocals, his memorable songs, evocative lyrics and the band's musical chops – guitarist Lincoln Morris and percussionist/keyboardist Kevin Rhodes are elder statesmen of the local rock scene – Onward, Soldiers find themselves in an interesting position. Having established a local fan base with frequent shows and a solid debut album, "Ghosts in This Town" (Winoca Records), they continue to push for regional recognition.”

“Onward, Soldiers, which is fronted by Sean Thomas Gerard, has gradually raised its profile since forming in Wilmington a couple of years ago. They’ve got a strong local following and are getting out there and touring more and more. “You’d be hard pressed to find a more convincing (or satisfying) country rocker in any corner of the Tar Heel State,” writes Jordan Lawrence of Gerard in Hopscotch’s official festival guide.”

“Wilmington band Onward, Soldiers – frontman and songwriter Sean Gerard, guitarist Lincoln Morris, percussionist Kevin Rhodes and bassist J.D. Dorman – has been doing a lot of marching lately. Weaving a tight web regionally, the Americana rock act has become a staple of Southeastern festivals while collecting club dates from North Carolina to Memphis, New Orleans to Texas. I rode along during a recent run north, curious to track their progress.”

“Which is to say, the album sounds a lot like Onward, Soldiers' stellar live shows, which have raised the band's profile not only locally but regionally, especially in the competitive music market of Raleigh and the Triangle. There, the respected Independent Weekly called the band's music "roots rock with a Southern soul and a restless heart," while the IndyWeek's guide to the massive, prestigious Hopscotch Music Festival, which the band played in September, praised Gerard's poetic, Dylan-esque lyrics, saying his "quick wit chases itself in captivating circles."”

“Singer Gerard adds unique edge to Onward, Soldiers' familiar rock sound. “I've been making plans/ Big plans,” Gerard sings on “Plans,” and it's a lyric that belies the epic nature of the songs of Onward, Soldiers, as does a poignant, telling line from that tune Gerard claims to hate: “Oh my love/ If tomorrow never comes/ Can we make the best of what we have today?” No matter what the future holds for Onward, Soldiers, Gerard's not a ghost in this town anymore.”

“Over the last couple of years, Onward, Soldiers has become one of Wilmington’s most interesting new rock outfits. Born out of the friendship of area newcomer Sean Thomas Gerard and longtime resident Kevin Rhodes, the band combines Gerard’s talents as a young and dynamic songwriter with Rhodes’ experience and guidance as a seasoned musician and mentor. The result is a musical partnership, along with contributions from several others, which provides the core of the band’s sound on Ghost in This Town: intelligently written and layered American music, offering depth, soul and complexity.”

"Songs For Getting Lost and Found" Writeup in The Beat Magazine. Click link to read full article...