Riding to the Revolution with Madina Lake
By Andy Argyrakis
From the pages of Hear/Say Magazine
“Madina Lake is a band that isn’t motivated by money and we couldn’t care less about fame, celebrity, scenes, trends and clothes,” shouts front man Nathan Leone to a tightly packed Revolution Village stage audience at New Jersey’s PNC Bank Arts Center during the Projekt Revolution Tour. “The only think we care about, and I know we have this in common, is a passion for music. Music is subjective. You’re not supposed to like everything, but if you like something, you win. So don’t ever let anyone tell you what’s cool or uncool to listen to. They like music for the wrong reasons. Music is yours.”
Even though this particular city is home to tour’s upper classmen My Chemical Romance, not to mention the fact that anticipation is high for headliners Linkin Park, Madina Lake quickly backs up that insatiable passion for playing. Following a few confetti cannon blasts and the release of several massive beach balloons, Leone finds himself diving from the stage face first into the masses, body surfing his away across a surge of sunlit faces. On stage, his brother and the band’s bassist Matthew showcases additional intensity by spinning out of control, while guitarist Mateo Camargo unloads a surging solo and drummer Daniel Torelli is especially explosive at tying together the band’s tightly fused pop, punk and alternative rock rhythms.
Against the odds
It’s a pretty impressive scene, especially taking into consideration the Wednesday afternoon timeslot, but about 5,000 faithful either skipped class or work to catch the highly energetic warm up act on the marathon eleven band bill. Though the band’s had no trouble resonating on MTV2, Fuse and alt-rock radio with singles, such as the barreling “House of Cards” and current anthem “Here I Stand” (both from its Roadrunner Records debut From Them, Through Us, To You), the feverish turnout comes as a pleasant surprise.
“We were told to expect somewhere about 300 people at each show based on the numbers that were coming out that early on the last Projekt Revolution, so we anticipated a much lower turn out,” Matthew tells Hear/Say later that night during a twelve hour drive van ride to Noblesville, Indiana. “Being in a band, you never know what your perception is or what your value is, but in retrospect, if I had to assign [the attention] to something, I’d say we finally connected the dots between all the different mediums- TV, press, independent touring- and the Linkin Park camp can’t believe how many people came to see us.”
But long before a tour of this magnitude, an ensuring feature in Rolling Stone, scoring “Best International Newcomer” at the UK’s Kerrang! Awards and serving as MTV.com red carpet correspondents during this year’s Video Music Awards, the group had its fair share of significantly less desirable circumstances. There was the infamous show at a dive pizza parlor that didn’t draw a single fan, other nights when merely a dozen would show up (despite an all night drive with little to no pay) and plenty of frustration from shady management and production deals.
“We’ve always had a mindset where we knew something positive could come from everything no matter how bad it got and there’s a certain sense of adventure in being able to embrace and acknowledge that,” adds Nathan, popping open a window and puffing on a cigarette as the late night drive continues. “We’ve learned to adore even the worse moments because it’s all part of the roller coaster. But the key is to never fall asleep when you’re down at the bottom because you’re never going to get back up. If you keep going, you’re bound to get back up again.”
That mindset is particularly inspiring considering its catalyst came when Nathan and Matthew’s mother died after just tipping into the teen years. Not only did the two have to contend with the typical adolescent pressures, but heavy doses of grief frequently crept into the picture. “We were in a very unique situation because it shifted our value system and made us recognize what’s really important in life,” Matthew contends before Nathan interjects. “That experience helped shape who we were and realize at an early age bullshit like being popular didn’t matter the slightest bit and that family, friends and living life to the fullest was what really mattered.”
Bonds of brotherhood
Though Mateo and Daniel may not share the blood bonds of brotherhood, the foursome’s closeness is evident as the late evening turns into the wee hours of the morning. As the van pulls into a Holiday Inn somewhere in Indiana, the guys all pile into a single hotel room to catch a few hours of shut eye before starting all over again the next day. “We literally live on top of each other and it’s become a family thing,” Daniel quips. “You may have a fight at one point of the day, but want to hang out again 45 minutes later because you’ve shaken it off and love the shit out of one another.”
After only four hours of sleep, everyone’s still groggy, but channels that chemistry into packing up the van in less than five minutes for the venue where a mid-morning sound check awaits. A few thousand fans are already lined up outside the Verizon Wireless Music Center, many of whom run straight over to the second stage to see Madina Lake once doors officially open. The set was exactly the same as the day before, topping over with additional intensity as every second of the 25 minute set passes.
Aside from pleasing longtime listeners, it’s obvious the band made a lot of new fans (though the guys prefer to call them “friends”) and a subsequent autograph line wraps several times around the T-shirt booth. As fellow side stage act The Bled wraps up and Saosin takes the stage, Madina Lake signs autographs for literally two hours, hearing comments on all ends of the spectrum. “We get everyone from kids wanting to fill their autograph book to people who’ve supported us for a long time saying a lot more about what a song means to them,” Nathan shares after the signing. “We welcome all types with open arms, but it’s definitely a lot more rewarding when they have a personal story to share.”
Hanging out and having fun
Outside of fan interaction, the guys also take time to chill with the other bands throughout the day. Many of the Madina Lake guys can be found checking out other acts (Mateo is particularly awestruck of Linkin Park’s overpowering production and unceasing hit parade), while backstage barbeques abound (including everyone from crew members to the Mindless Self Indulgence and MCR casts).
However, that type of camaraderie multiples exponentially the next day in Tinley Park, Illinois, partially because it’s the final weekend show of the entire tour, but also being Madina Lake’s home state. Family members and friends flank the side of the stage at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre to cheer on the hometown heroes, who earn an even more explosive reception than the previous two shows. And while it might be the type of environment and fanfare to puff up the guys’ heads, their Midwestern centering seems to warrant the exact opposite. “We’re a blue collar, hard working band because that’s what our roots taught us,” Matthew verifies. “We’re always giving 1000%, which might make us worn out when the schedule is especially crazy, but we’re still going to go out to kill it every night on stage.”
The homecoming concert seems to fly by faster than any of the others simply because of all the meeting and greeting, plus a trip to the dressing room for the band to get haircuts and colors by their favorite local stylist. But as the post-show party in a tent propped alongside Madina Lake’s van comes to a close, it’s evident the foursome is sorry to see its inner circle head home and that Monday’s show in Colorado will indeed be Projekt Revolution’s 2007 finale.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience for us,” Nathan offers with a hint of sadness. “We’ve learned so much from being able to share the stage with so many amazing bands, to be inspired by them and hang out with them, plus we’ve had wonderful catering three times a day.” Daniel echoes a humble tone as the packing process continues, but in following the band’s unwavering adage, chooses to look on the bright side of the situation. “It would be really depressing if all we had to do was go home, but we’ve got some cool shit next, like tons of awesome traveling.”
The road ahead
Beyond a European stint throughout much of September (where the band just sold out a string of club shows after a successful run supporting Paramore earlier this year), Madina Lake returns to America in October for a headlining stint with Mayday Parade. The band promises a longer and more fleshed out set than the Projekt Revolution slots, complete with additional confetti and other explosive devices. Even so, the main goal remains refining the music, adding additional items of prominence to the resume and continuously connecting on a personal level with listeners.
“Our hope is to keep topping the last thing we did,” Nathan sums up. “I would sooner slap myself in the fact than put out a record that was worse than the last one or write a song worse than any of the ones we’ve previously written. It has to be better, more interesting and more dynamic. We want to keep evolving as musicians and friends and take this experience to as many cultures as we can.”
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