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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Ionia Rock With A Passion For The People
Thursday, February 26, 2015

At its very best, rock music can move a listener both physically, and emotionally. New York City rockers Ionia, with their hard driving music that can inspire raucousness, and socially aware lyrics that can inspire action, are a perfect of example of this.

The band recently released their latest EP, Post Cards from the Edge Chapter 1 Delta 32, and wanting to know more about it, I caught up with Ionia frontman Blaise Beyhan to find out where he draws his inspiration from. In addition to this, Beyhan also discussed the origins of his social awareness, the ways in which music can make a difference in the world, and the major upheaval he’d like to see happen to the American political system.

Adam Bernard: Let’s start by talking about the new EP, Post Cards from the Edge Chapter 1 Delta 32. What was going on in your life that inspired the album?

Blaise Beyhan: I’m constantly in transit, and writing. Because of that, I would say that different particles of things come up at different times, and it’s always kind of in flux, so I really think that, at least for me as a songwriter, everything is kind of vignettes. That’s how I see things, in little short stories, and that’s why I kind of look at our music in a cinematic format, to a certain extent, because every song is kind of a story song all to itself.

Adam Bernard: Even with that cinematic, and short story collection, theme, do you find there’s usually one overarching idea for each album?

Blaise Beyhan: I don’t think I, or the band, is far enough along in our evolution to honestly say that I see that that way. I would say that I try to think ahead to a certain extent about these things, about the things that we’re speaking about, because we are very grounded in these ideas of protest music, and that music should mean something, and that if you’re going to say something you have a responsibility to say something that’s thought provoking, or asks a question about the world around you, even if that’s unpopular to a certain extent.

So I would say, in a general theme sense of this one in particular, there was definitely a thought process behind that, and a thought process of those dynamics, but I don’t think that I could tell you right now that we have some mapped out idea.

I think that the more you over-think things, or the more you put things together in such an advanced sort of format, you end up sort of imprisoning yourself in these ideas, and take a certain amount of freedom away from yourself. The more you plan, the more you create a prison of how that’s supposed to look in your head.

Adam Bernard: You mentioned that music should mean something, and you’ve always been a very socially aware group. How young were you when you first became aware of social issues, and what were your first experiences with them?

Blaise Beyhan: When did I become aware of, in particular, my personal point of view?

Adam Bernard: Even before you developed your own personal point of view; when did you come to realize life isn’t perfect for a lot of folks?

Blaise Beyhan: I grew up in the woods in Alaska, sort of isolated from things. Because of that, and because I was brought up on a lot of protest music, and a lot of Bob Dylan, and a lot of liberal ideas, and socialist ideas, about the world, I think that once I actually started to experience the outside world I realized for myself that people weren’t generally very happy, and there was a lot of disparity that existed, and a lot of unsatisfied minds, and lonely people on the planet.

I’ve experienced quite a bit of that in the lower class, in poor communities, in growing up around that, and growing up being very aware of the massive amounts of disparity, and injustice, that exists between classes.

Adam Bernard: Being that this is a large aspect of your music, when was the first time you saw that you were affecting change through something you’ve written?

Blaise Beyhan: I don’t know if I would be as presumptuous to say that I have profoundly affected change, and then on the other hand, I don’t like to publicly out myself as a utopian optimist, or anything.

I think probably the first time I realized (our music was making an impact) was from playing shows, and hearing from people, and getting emails from people who enjoy our music, and them saying that my music had a profound effect on their lives, and that it changed their lives, or that it saved them. I’ve gotten countless emails like that, and people come up to me after shows and talk to me about that, and that’s incredibly gratifying, to have any kind of effect, and I think that any artist should be super grateful if they can have any effect on an individual, or a collective consciousness, in any way.

I do think art has an effect on the collective consciousness of culture, and of the evolution of mankind, I just think it sort of comes in ebbs and flows.

Adam Bernard: We are living in times where horrible things that happen on a daily basis. What kind, or how much, art is needed to fix the world today?

Blaise Beyhan: I don’t know. I think it would be pretty pretentious for anybody to measure out a certain amount of art, or culture, that could somehow create a peaceful environment in the depths of mankind, but I think that there’s a lot of things that go into that, and I think that what it really comes down to is communication and understanding between people, and realizing that we’re not all separate, and we’re not all different, and that we’re all in this together, and we’re all on this tiny blue dot.

I think a certain amount of communication comes from cultural ideas. Music is a big part of that because music transcends language, and it lets people express themselves.

I know when I listen to music, whether it’s in English or not, I can feel the emotions in it, because it’s very powerful, so for music, or for any kind of art, all of these things push us forward to a better understanding of each other, and the world around us.

I think that really what it comes down to is sooner or later we will communicate in a way where we’re able to have more understanding, and less anger, towards one another, and less frustration towards one another, and less separation in individuals, but I think that there are a lot of evolutionary steps that need to take place before we get away from wielding M-16s at each other, and blowing people’s heads off for no reason.

Adam Bernard: Maybe this is just my personal point of view, but I feel like the internet might be working in reverse of that. It seems like we’re being sectioned off more and more into smaller groups.

Blaise Beyhan: Totally, Adam. Take New York City. I live in the city and there are nine million people in this very small radius of land, and we’re all stacked up on top of each other, and we’re so close to each other, but we’re completely separate. We’re all inside of our little boxes, and people don’t look at each other, or say hello to each other when we pass each other in the street.

I think that the internet is a great tool, and can be used for a massive amount of good, but it can also create more paranoia, and create more separation, and create more alienation between people through propaganda, which is built through individuals.

There’s a saying that there are two wolves inside of us, one of them is courage, and one of them is fear. Which one takes over your life depends on which one you feed. If we keep feeding the fear, then that’s the wolf we become. Which one dies, and which one lives, really depends on us.

Me and you as males, there’s a certain amount of evolutionary violence built into us, and I don’t think it’s something you can ignore, or pretend that it’s not there, but you have to decide what you’re going to feed inside of you, and decide what you’re going to be OK with, because we have the cognitive ability to make a choice.

Adam Bernard: You mentioned that you now live in NYC, and you’re originally from small town Alaska. You’ve also toured all over the country. With that in mind, what’s the most lost, or out of your element, you’ve been away from home?

Blaise Beyhan: That’s an interesting question. I left home so early that I don’t ever really feel that I’m at home anywhere. I kind of feel more at home on the road. I’m always in flux, and because of that I feel more comfortable in a moving bus than I do anywhere else.

If I feel like I have a purpose, then I feel like I have a home.

Adam Bernard: So if you’re going to be a hitting a stage, then you’re at home.

Blaise Beyhan: Yeah, exactly, or in the studio, or out volunteering, and cooking for people, or whatever adventure, or thing, I’ve embarked on. If I have a purpose, I feel like I’m home.

Adam Bernard: You brought up volunteering. What are some of the causes that are closest to your heart right now?

Blaise Beyhan: During the holidays I usually volunteer at soup kitchens if I’m in the city. During Hurricane Sandy I volunteered, and cooked Thanksgiving for a bunch of people.

Volunteering, I think, is more about self-gratification for most people. Even for me, I think it’s a selfish thing. There’s some part of us that does it to feel good about ourselves, and I think that’s OK as long as you’re doing something that’s effective.

I think that a lot of volunteer work ends up being very ineffective, like a lot of aid money ends up being very ineffective, and not getting to where it actually needs to be, so there’s a certain amount of cynicism in me about doing stuff.

I like to do things that I can actually see results in, whether it’s washing dishes, or seeing money that I’ve raised get put to work somewhere. I guess it just depends on the situation, but for me, personally, I like to actually do some of the grunt work myself, because at least I know it got done.

Adam Bernard: Have you seen your volunteering affect your fans in such a way as that they’re letting you know they’re now volunteering?

Blaise Beyhan: No, I don’t think so, because it’s not something that I necessarily publicly talk about a lot, but I always encourage people to find things that they believe in, and fight for them, because I think that’s important, and I think that’s a lot of what life’s about.

Adam Bernard: Let’s make a hypothetical situation. Obama is almost out of office, let’s say you’re our next president. There might be an age issue, but ignoring that, what would your first order of business be?

Blaise Beyhan: My first order of business would be to eliminate the ability of lobbyists, put a cap on the amount of money that can be spent on campaigns, and make it possible for a third party to actually have a voice.

Adam Bernard: The one thing Republicans and Democrats always agree on is to not let another voice be heard.

Blaise Beyhan: Right. Exactly. To bury that other voice.

Adam Bernard: They might say stuff!

Blaise Beyhan: Yeah, they might say stuff that makes everybody uncomfortable.

I think as long as big money, and big companies, are involved in the politics, the country is really run by capitalism, and by big money, and not by individuals who care, even if certain individuals may care a little bit, they’re bought and sold.

Adam Bernard: It’s sad when you see the ones you know used to care.

Blaise Beyhan: Yeah, and then they got bought.

Adam Bernard: Let’s end this on a much lighter note. You tour a lot, which means you drive a lot. When you’re driving in your car, what’s the most unexpected thing someone might catch you singing along to?

Blaise Beyhan: Anything by Taylor Swift, or Bruno Mars. I’m pretty into both of them. They both have good songs that they write, and I’ll wear that with pride.

I think a good pop song is a good pop song. You put the right words together, and you make it catchy, and you make the melody good, and just familiar enough, but just new enough, you’re gonna be into it.

Interview originally ran on Arena.com.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 12:30 PM  
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