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Sometimes things catch fire. Just ask Dark Avenue. Originally formed as a side project to the Dallas/Fort Worth heavyweight Pistol Whippin Ike, three of the members began writing alternate jams for fun – and the project instantly sparked a wildfire. In a short amount of time the band established a reputation in the DFW area, performed with acts like Pop Evil, Queensrÿche, Red Sun Rising, Bobaflex, 36 Crazyfists, and launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to finance their first recordings. With the release of their debut album Illusions, Dark Avenue have bridged the gap between metal and hard rock – and Texan crowds have been drawn to their fulgent flame.
Formed in 2014, Dark Avenue is comprised of guitarists Barry Lorberbaum and Andrew Lewthwaite, bassist Alan Sauls, drummer Jeff Hathcock and vocalist Mario Cadena. The band’s first recording was Seasons Change, a five-song EP whose title track was the catalyst that ignited regional interest. It spurred a showcase during SXSW/Austin Music Week and a development deal with Breakout Artist Management, who fostered their growth and transcended them beyond the Dallas scene.
“The scene in Dallas is super vibrant,” explains Lorberbaum. “But there wasn’t anyone bridging the gap between heavy bands and the lighter bands. The heavy music crowds stuck to their bands, and the alterative/hard rock fans stuck to theirs. You did not see any crossover fans. That gap is bridged with our music. The metal fans get their heavy, and the alt-rock fans get their more mainstream sound, and all get songs they can relate and sing along to.”
That middle ground between heavy and light is where the nexus of creativity lies for Illusions. In the center of a Killswitch Engage/Imagine Dragons Venn diagram, the first single “Outside” is colossal and robust, yet driven by dynamic and melodic vocals. Perhaps that’s why it’s been featured on several nationally televised MMA events. Then there’s the song “Una Vez Mas,” the group’s first single in Spanish. Its overwhelming response prompted the band to track Spanish versions of their songs for a future deluxe release of Illusions. And let’s not forget the crowd favorite “Maybe Tomorrow.” It won Video of The Year at the 2016 Krave Music Awards and helped them take home the grand prize: Artist of The Year.
“I want people to leave listening to the album like they were right there with us,” says Cadena, “feeling what we were feeling, seeing what we were seeing, as if they were part of it.”
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Exposed Vocals: So tell us your story. Where did you grow up? What made you decide to become an artist?
Hi (Hola!) I'm Mario Cadena vocalist with Dark Avenue! I grew up in Acapulco Mexico. I come from a very musical family, especially my father, who was a singer. So it was a natural progression for me.
Exposed Vocals: Since everyone was a start-up once, can you give any smaller or local bands or artists looking to get gigs and airplay some tips?
Take whatever gigs you can get and get better at your craft, connect with new fans and stay on promoters, booking agents and in artists ears. Work at rising above the other bands around you by watching how the pros do little things - little things like getting to know the sound engineer and crew, and taking their advice on stage volume & set up, loading on and off quickly - little things like that to give you a professional edge go a long way, and venues take note of that. Learn your gear! That's one of the biggest mistakes we see young artist make - not knowing their gear well. Learn it, so that way if an issue arises on stage you can adapt quickly and carry on with the show!
Exposed Vocals: Do you ever make mistakes during performances? How do you handle that?
Hell yeah.! But the show must go on, we all make mistakes but it pushes you to get better. So you just move on... Never stop! Just carry on as nothing ever happened! And never make an issue about it during your performance. Most of the time, if you just carry on, no one ever knows you made a mistake..... well maybe your band-mates will, but laugh about it and learn from it!
Exposed Vocals: Do you tour? Anything interesting happen on tour that you think our readers would enjoy hearing about?
We are constantly playing new venues and city’s! We try to stay active constantly. Even if three is only a handful of people in a city you've never been too, if they like you, they're going to tell their friends about you, and that's new fans. I once was stopped by 4 different cops coming back from a gig separately from the band. As the band van was passing by me at 4 different stops they wondered "hey that is the same car Mario's in?....what the hell does someone have to do to get pulled over by 4 different cops?!" And to the bands surprise it really was me at each one of those traffic stops! I still don’t know why... I may have been going to fast... or looked suspicious.. take your guess! LOL I
Exposed Vocals: Any planned studio upgrades? What are you working with now?
Yes actually - we're about to upgrade to a Focusrite ISA 1 preamp to use on a few of our favorite vocal mics - we have a tube pre now that is really nice, and will continue to use, but we used an ISA 1 at a studio in Cleveland and it really was fantastic. It just really warms the so sound up well. It worked so nicely with the mics we use and with our style of vocals - its a perfect combo for our sound. We currently use ProTools 9. We have an Avid control surface for editing and mix-down. We have a Mackie SR40 console for inputs, going into PreSonus Firewire AD converters/pre's. We have a rack full of compressors, and outboard effects, but we have started to go "in the box" a bit more lately. We have a large library of plug-ins from Waves, IK, and many more that offer a lot of awesome production possibilities. And of course powered by a Mac.
Exposed Vocals: How do you find ways to promote your music? What works best for you?
In the ever changing music world, social media is must! Traditional and Internet radio stations - there are so many internet stations across the globe! Word of mouth..... nothing is better than that one-on-one communication... I guess whoever is willing to listen you make them! Ha! So guess we'll let one of our best secrets out of the bag here.... Download cards. Download cards are one of the least expensive means of sharing and promoting your music. What we do is have some "promo" download cards made - they have our album art, social media info, etc and a code to download music from a website. On our promo cards we give them one or maybe two songs - not the whole record - but enough to get them interested and then buy the whole record. We all carry these with us all the time. Meet someone on the train? Give them a card. At a show hanging out? Give out cards to the people you meet! It is a HUGELY successful way of interacting with potential fans. You've made a personal connection and that goes a long way these days. And DL cards are cheap! Its easy to get 1000 cards for $100-$150 including the hosting of the music.
Exposed Vocals: If you could perform anywhere and with any artists (Dead or Alive) where and who would it be with? Why?
Anywhere with Chris Cornell, he was my very first rock and vocal influence.
Exposed Vocals: So, what’s next? Any new upcoming projects that you want to talk about?
We are constantly working on new music, and at the moment we are in the process of recording a new album. to be released soon. But immediately coming up is the release of our single/video/awareness project The Light #thelight We released an advanced single - The Light - from our forthcoming album, and are about to release a music video for it as well. The song and video touch on depression, mental health, drug and alcohol issues and we are starting an awareness campaign with it. The hashtag #thelight will be used for it. We are speaking with several organizations to sponsor and promote it. The video is due out early December! Please look for and share #thelight
Exposed Vocals: If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
I guess I would explore creating a different type of art or writing. Is hard to imagine doing something else beside music. It's in me!
Exposed Vocals: What should fans look forward to in the next year or so?
More new music and videos! Hopefully coming to your city to share some live music with you! Get out there and requite us on your radio stations and at your venues! And of course please spread the word of Dark Avenue, tell people about us! #sharecommentlike!!! Heck - drop us a comment on our social pages, we love hearing from fans from all over the world!
Exposed Vocals: Any Shout-outs?
Yes! Obviously to my band-mates - Barry Lorberbaum, Jeff Hathcock, Andrew Lewthwaite and Alan Sauls. We have a lot of help behind the scenes, and want to acknowledge some of those important people - Kari Lorberbaum, Clint Leatherman, Brooke Lewthwaite, Yuri Kuster, Mindy Emmerick, and Todd Hyso And we must give a shout-out to some of our favorite bands that we've shared stages with: Innrcor, Red Sun Rising, This Day Forth Our management firm CB Entertainment and Chris Bianchi #cbentmusic And to two of the best Front of House engineers that make us sound great.... (clearly they have a "talent button" on their console! lol) Chad Lovel and Lee Russell