Hailing all the way from Sydney, Australia, feisty fivesome Tonight Alive are ready to attack the U.S. with their irrepressible, female-fronted power pop-punk. Lead by Jenna McDougall, their 19 year old ingénue-with-attitude, Tonight Alive has already taken their native scene by storm, developing a rabid young fanbase enthralled by the band’s ebullient, fist-pumping anthemery, arena-sized hooks and high-voltage live performances. Signing a North American deal with Fearless Records in fall 2011, the band is ready to take on the country – as well as the world - with their debut album What Are You So Scared Of?
Their story goes something like this…
Guitarist Whakaio Taahi and his compadre bass player, Cameron Adler, needed a frontman for a rock project. Scrap that. Frontwoman. Enter Jenna McDougall – as soon as the sixteen-year-old songstress’ soaring contralto and sweet strains took the mic to their songs, something clicked. Already onboard, rhythm axeman Jake Hardy and new recruit, drummer Matt Best – a childhood buddy of Whakaio’s. One jam later, the writing was on the wall. Tonight Alive were up and running, pedal to the metal.
The band stepped up, and fast. Songs honed, stagecraft already a dead cert, they entered Sydney’s subterranean circuit of metalcore and heavy bands, playing their own brand of catchy-as-all-hell pop-punk… and promptly took the scene by storm, developing a rabid young fanbase in thrall to the band’s ebullient, fist-pumping anthemery, arena-sized hooks and high-voltage live performances.
Right from word-go, it was clear Tonight Alive were going somewhere.
A year on, courted by labels and management secured, with two stellar EPs (which were combined to form the Consider This EP for North American release) under their belts, a demo of Tonight Alive’s new material landed on producer-extraordinaire Mark Trombino’s (Blink 182, Jimmy Eat World, The Starting Line) desk. He rang the band immediately, wanting in.
“For him to contact us, and say he was interested, was a big deal,” says Jenna, now 19. “We couldn’t believe he’d put himself out like that. He’s amazing. Mark created the albums we all grew up listening to – the albums that launched the careers of all these great bands.
Whakaio weighs in. “Yeah, it felt right that he do our first album, that he be the one to kick-start us off. As soon as we got over there, we found Mark felt the same.”
Recorded at LA’s infamous NRG Studios over two months, Trombino’s personal interest in the project played out in other fortuitous ways. “Nothing was left to editing or over Pro-Tooling,” notes Whakaio. “Jenna sang every line until it was right. I played every guitar part. The drum sound is natural and not heavily sampled. There was no copy-pasting. That was really important to us, as well as Mark. That it sound real. Natural.”
“It was great because it made us really step up as musicians,” says Jenna. “I know I definitely came back from the experience a better singer.”
What Are You So Scared Of? is the inspired result of that auspicious partnership between a bunch of Aussie kids and an auteur with a canon of classic records already to his name. From the charging powerchords, chiming verseline and rattlesnake high-hats of Breaking & Entering, Tonight Alive make their intent known with this instant torch song. Like serving up straight red cordial shots to a bunch of Ritalin-deprived delinquents. Like scooping up a surging circle-pit and slamdunking into a kids’ jumping castle. Like a surly prom queen setting her school afire as the So-Cal styled band plays on, What Are You So Scared Of? is a veritable barnstormer of a debut album. Bouncey, infectious and thrilling.
What really lifts Tonight Alive above another female-fronted pop-rock band is their muscular musicality, a deft sense of dynamic, a way of shifting seamlessly from the big riffs and breakdowns, to allow space and the sensibility of Jenna’s sweetly sung melodies to shine through.
When it comes to fronting Tonight Alive, Jenna is all heart and zero artifice – plus, this gal’s got one helluva set of lungs on her. Equal parts sugar and spit, honey and husk, vamp, vitriol and vulnerability, she belts it out, hell for leather. “The weird thing is, even though as a band, we all grew up on bands like Thrice, Sum 41 and Something Corporate, I think what influenced me most, vocally, was stuff as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Missy Higgins, Avril Lavrigne and Fall Out Boy,” says Jenna. “Plus I listen to tons of metal, where there’s a lot of screaming. I really dig the aggression.”
So, why the title What Are You So Scared Of? “It’s the only question I can ever ask myself where I’ll always have an answer,” explains Jenna. “Asking myself, ‘what are you so scared of?’ has always helped me pass through any personal fear or doubt. And it’s summed up the last year for us as a band – we’ve broken new boundaries, stepped up into another league.
“What Are You So Scared Of? is our mission statement, if you like – we’re moving forward, dissolving old barriers or blocks.”
She’s no blonde bombshell, that’s for sure, but Jenna and her band may very well be the bomb: Tonight Alive are gonna blow up big-time. Prepare yourself, people. Tonight Alive are here, and they’re on fire.