From Amely to Sovereign Soldiers: Marching To A Different Beat

After a brief tenure with Fearless Records, Amely decided to regroup and a new entity has marched into battle.  3 of the members have formed Sovereign Soldiers, delivering an indie rock sound that is much closer to the hearts of what the remaining band members wish to achieve.  New music is already beginning to emerge from the Sovereign Soldiers camp.  And as a fond farewell to their long time fans, Amely has issued a final recording entitled The Raleigh Sessions – which are demos for what would have been their debut full length recording for Fearless.  In this indepth interview, lead vocalist Petie Pizarro discusses a band in transition, offers advice to unsigned groups seeking a label deal, discusses lyrical content, cover songs, and many other topics of interest.  Read on…

First of all, how did The Raleigh Sessions come about, and could you give me any background information behind these sessions?
We went to Raleigh for the first time in January. Our friend lives there, and she has a really nice, big house that we were able to stay at – and pretty much set up our camp there. We built out a little studio there. We were planning on just recording demos for what was going to be our first full length album under Fearless. So that’s what we started to do. We bought a couple of mics – just started recording for the demos – and we’d send the demos to our manager and our label. And that’s pretty much where the songs came from. They’re songs that we were writing and demoing out that were going to be on our full length before we split from Fearless, and then we decided to call it quits with the band.

Since Amely has begun to make a name for themselves, why stop doing the band and why part with the name?
There was a lot of struggle with the band. We were signed for a year and a half, and during that time, it was really hard. It was a lot harder than anticipated to get tours. We really didn’t get a lot of tour opportunities. And that’s all that we really wanted to do – to go out there, play in front of fans, make new fans. We love touring and promoting our record and the band. Once our record came out, we didn’t have a tour around the record. The record was supposed to come out in May, but it was pushed back all the way until September because we couldn’t get tours. And even when it came it out in September, we didn’t get a tour around the record – which was the whole point of waiting, so it kind of defeated that purpose and we kind of lost out on 2010. We did two tours at the end of the year that were relatively small and short – just like two weeks. We tried going for tours, and for some reason, it just never ended up working out. We weren’t really getting anywhere with that. We were trying to do things musically. Once you reveal yourself as a certain thing – we did start as a pop rock band, and we wanted to be more alternative pop rock and not so boy bandish. People started to be against that, and everybody always has that first impression stuff in their head – so that was another reason we kind of decided to split from the name. That way, everyone could get a fresh start on what they’re doing.

Are you still on good terms with Fearless Records?
Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s an amazing thing to be able to split from a label on good terms. We weren’t dropped from the label. We kindly requested that it’s the end of the band and for them to drop their terms, and they were amazing enough to let us do that and agree with our vision. They really took a chance on us, and we’re glad that they were able to work with us on that.

Select two songs from The Raleigh Sessions and what inspired the lyrics.
Back To Love is the first track, and that’s actually the first song we wrote while we were trying to write songs for our first full length on the demo we recorded. I’m sure a lot of people go through a time when they break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend – and they go for a long time without dating anyone else because they just think they can’t love anymore – they can’t even like anyone. It’s kind of like a weird situation. But then you find that one person that kind of changes your mind. It could be months or years later. In my case, it was three years later I found someone else that changed my mind and started getting me thinking that I could have a new relationship. And that’s kind of where the lyrics come from. A lot of the lyrics in Back To Love are really dark, and that represents that dark time when you’re single and lonely – and once you find someone to bring you to life, it’s Back To Love. Sell Your Alibi is the third track on the EP. For me, it’s about that relationship that ended. It’s kind of like riding the ups and downs of a relationship. You’re with someone that’s kind of tearing you apart, yet for some reason you’re staying with them. A lot of people are in really destructive relationships, and they can’t figure out why they can’t just end it with that person – so they continue to be in this destructive relationship. And that’s kind of what Sell Your Alibi is about – someone that you just keep sticking with, no matter how much they are hurting you or your life.

How will the music from your new band Sovereign Soldiers compare to Amely?
The music is a lot different. We’re aiming to create a true alternative rock band. It’s not really like a pop band. We’ll be releasing a song by the end of the year. The influence that we took for the new band is all music that we actually listen to. We wanted to form a band around music that we would actually listen to and music that we’d want to play – as opposed to trying to fit into anything. We’re just trying to make the songs that we want to make, and hopefully have a strong online presence and have that be the base of the band. So the music will be a lot more rock and a lot bigger sounding – just a little heavier and not so pop based.

Have you had any vocal training at all? Your vocals are pretty amazing, especially on the later material.
Thank you! Yeah, I took classical vocal lessons for a year – it was five or six years ago. I go back every once in a while and take a lesson or two with my vocal coach. It was just during high school, and that’s how I learned to sing really. She gave me my voice and taught me how to do different things – so yeah, that’s how I did it. I’m a strong believer in the fact that anyone can sing – just because I went to not being able to sing at all and really trying hard and just sucking really bad to be honest. And she taught me some things, and now I’m able to sing. And I think that anybody could learn how to do that. If I could do it from how bad I was, I think that anyone can.

The H.I.M. cover you did (In Venere Veritas) and the video is really dramatic. What made you decide to cover that song, and has anyone from H.I.M. heard it yet?
It kind of like one of those videos I put up and it didn’t get a lot of attention – at least not as much as some of my other cover songs – just because it’s not Lady Gaga – it’s not Adele – who are some of the top recording artists. It’s just H.I.M. – which is definitely one of my favorite bands of all time. And that goes back to what I was saying about music that I listen to that I want to play. I do listen to all kinds of music though.

Speaking of H.I.M., how gothic of a person would you say you are and why?
Well, back in high school – in 9th and 10th grade actually – I was (full) blown – I had the parachute pants and the whole deal. I had the hair dyed black and everything like that. It’s like funny how people can grow and change, but really, at heart, I think I’m still there. I still listen to a lot of the same music that I used to. I don’t know. I think I’m like an 80’s child – I was supposed to be born a little earlier to live my time through the 80’s. It’s really weird. I wish I would have been there. There’s was a lot of dark, gothic stuff going on then. Now, I mean I don’t know. The other day I saw my ex-girlfriend in a bar, and she told me I was a Hot Topic Kid, so you know…

As far as you know, has Lady Gaga heard your cover of The Edge Of Glory, and what made you cover that song?
You know, I really love that song too. Lady Gaga is a huge inspiration, for being as big as she is for as strange as a performer as she is. I think she really took her craft really far. I don’t think she’s heard it – probably not. I know one of her dancers – he said he was going to show her the video, so you never know. Maybe…

What advice would you give a new band reading this right now who is looking for a record label deal?
Uh, don’t do it! Look, here’s the thing. A lot of bands – everyone is under the impression that you get signed and then you’re a lot bigger and you’re able to have a lot of these new opportunities. And through my experience and through everything that I’ve learned from seeing the industry from the inside, is that it’s just not how it works anymore. That’s the old morale and the old theory, but it just doesn’t apply to today, being that the digital age has really taken over. You know, the artists getting the most attention and the most popularity are through sites like YouTube and stuff like that. That’s where artists are really being discovered – even major labels nowadays, they don’t sign artists who are small and work them from the ground up. That rarely happens now. They find artists that are insanely successful on YouTube with millions and millions of hits who already have millions of fans. And they just take that and sign it. It’s almost like you’re better off doing it on your own if you could find the right team – the right management. I think the most important thing for a new band starting up is not to focus on trying to sell themselves to a label. That’s only going to hinder their progress. I think they really need to find who they are as a band. And the most important thing, if you want to be a touring band, is to find your booking agent first. That’s absolutely all you need. If you’re in an unsigned band and you’re creating great music – I think if you find a great booking agent, you could be playing tours and playing shows in front of hundreds of people. You really need music videos, cover songs, stuff like that – at least what I’ve learned – a lot of that stuff is all happening online. As long as you’re good with the social networking stuff, then you don’t need a label. Really, all the labels are going under and they’ve lost their advantage in today’s music economy.

Is there any story behind the name Sovereign Soldiers and why you went with that name for the project?
Even during The Raleigh Sessions, we started to write a couple more alternative songs and started to drift in that direction – at least Nate, Patrick and I. Being that we continued to record all of these Sovereign Soldiers songs ourselves, we kind of started to discover the fact that we really didn’t need anyone else. This goes along what what we’ve been saying – you don’t need a label – you don’t even need a manager – you don’t need anything. If you’re being self productive, you’re basically ruling over everything yourself. And I think that’s where the name Sovereign Soldiers comes from. It just like we’re the absolute power in creating our music and we’re able to do with it what we want. And I think that anyone can be a Sovereign Soldier of their own agenda. Your own ruler – your own boss at that point. And that’s where the name comes from. We’re fighting for independence from whatever force may hold us down.

What is the name of the first song you’re planning on releasing?
The first song is called Goodbye To Yesterday, which I think is appropriate for the start of a new band. We’re trying to start this band from the ground up. We didn’t change the name on our Twitter and Facebook to just swap them over to instantly have fans. This is a brand new band. We’re really trying to emphasis the fact that it doesn’t have any ties to Amely – besides the band members. The music is all pretty different. The singing style is different. People can expect a new kind of vocal approach from me. It’s just me, Nate and Patrick and we’re gonna see how that goes.

Will there be a final Amely show?
You know, we haven’t had a final show. The last show we played was in May on the Let’s Be Animals Tour with The Downtown Fiction. To be honest, a couple of us are spread out throughout the country. We’re not all in the same city, so it’s kind of hard to get together and decide that. I mean, it’s a possibility. I would love for that to happen, just for closure and a final farewell, but I don’t know. There’s no guarantees. It may or may not happen.

Do you have any messages for your fans who have stuck with you over the last couple of years?
Absolutely. I personally have people that followed me even from my first band ever that I started in high school, and people that found some of my older covers from 2004 and 2005. It’s really cool to be able to see these people still stick with it and discover my new band and my new cover songs. I guess my message for them is to hopefully continue to support me and to follow me in my musical journey. And hopefully they enjoy Sovereign Soldiers, which is my latest approach. And yeah, just stick with it and always follow us online.

(Interview by Kenneth Morton)

Amely on Facebook
Sovereign Soldiers on Facebook
Petie Pizarro Music on Facebook

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