For the hard rock quartet megaphone, the mission has been simple: Saving rock n’ roll from the machine, and bringing it back to where it should be – loud, catchy and in your face. That they’re succeeding with that mission is obvious; a huge draw in their native Orlando, Florida, extensive radio play, gigs opening for arena headliners and festival appearances. And with their new album, Exit Silent Mode, filled to the brim with unforgettable hooks, melodies and songs, megaphone is poised to take everything about their band to the next level.
Comprised of Matt Bloodwell on guitar, vocals and main songwriting duties, Paul Smith on lead guitar, James Woodrich on bass, and Scott Smith on drums, megaphone is a collection of some of the brightest rock and roll lights in Orlando music. The band formed in late 2004 when Bloodwell, formerly the drummer for Orlando band Precious, moved to guitar and decided to form a band around the songs that he had been writing. He explains, “I wanted to put together a real rock band with big guitars and big hooks.”
Bloodwell started the band, and then proceeded to recruit his favorite players in town. Paul Smith was a former touring guitarist for Seven Mary Three and a member of VonRay; James Woodrich was the former bassist for My Hotel Hear; and Scott Smith, the newest member of the band, having joined in 2007, had been the drummer for Cori Yarckin. “I was a fan of all these guys in their former bands,” says Matt, “It was a big deal to me that they were willing to take a chance with me out front and on guitar.”
megaphone’s debut full-length, For Crying Out Loud, released in the spring of 2005, immediately vaulted them into the upper echelon of Orlando bands, and earned them extensive radio play and touring opportunities, including their songs being featured on the MTV show “Made,” radio play on several central Florida stations, and gigs opening for artist like Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley of Kiss, Everclear, Edwin McCain, Seven Mary Three and more.
The album’s success was a blessing, sometimes a mixed one. As James recounts, “The first album got us a lot of gigs and attention; it really put us to work. We wanted to record a new one, but there was no urgency for it because For Crying Out Loud kept serving us so well and kept creating opportunities for us.” Matt adds, “The first album was kind of a blueprint of what megaphone would be. But Exit Silent Mode really reflects the amount of time we’ve been together as a band. It’s much more organic and represents the sound of the band as it truly is.”
Produced by Matt, Paul and Justin O’Neill, the guitarist in Cori Yarckin and a long-time friend of the band, and mixed by Pete Thornton (Paramore, Shinedown), the new album is a far more accurate reflection of the band. From the hard driving opener, “Write It Down,” megaphone has captured the combination of both anthemic and hook-filled rock that has been their trademark, with unforgettably strong choruses that pay off in spades.
“Gravitate” pulses with a muscular riff and is highlighted by Matt’s soaring hard rock vocals, hearkening back to a time when rock truly rocked, and it has quickly become a signature song among megaphone’s fans. Matt says, “It started as a tune that Paul had, and he trusted me enough to play around with it and change a few things. Once we had the final demo of it, we knew we had something. Paul adds, “It was the first time where Matt and I really collaborated, and we made it far more than the sum of the parts.” Indeed, the entire band shines on “Gravitate” – James on bass and Scott on drums drive the song powerfully and propulsively, both leading and lending support to Matt’s vocals and Paul’s wailing guitar.
“My Favorite New Disaster” is perhaps the song that best epitomizes the sheer catchiness of megaphone’s music, with its indelible hook and radiant sheen. Matt recalls, “We had to rewrite the melody right before we recorded. We had thought we had a good arrangement but the verse fell flat. In finalizing everything, we took it to a whole new level.” James adds, “The first time we played it live, the crowd reaction was amazing.”
Having had such a great experience recording, the band is already planning album number three. Matt says, “We have more ideas that we just didn’t get to on this record.” The band is also taking on much more of a DIY ethos. Matt elaborates, “Last time, I think we were trying to impress everyone in Orlando – press, radio, etc. But now we’re using a lot of the new technology to promote ourselves and go straight to the fans and bypass the so-called gatekeepers.”
Wherever they’ve gone, megaphone has attracted converts mesmerized by the sheer power of their songs and performances. They make straight-ahead, balls out rock and roll for an audience that has missed the real thing, or in some cases, are too young to have ever experienced it. On Exit Silent Mode the band has taken their vision of what rock can be to a new peak. As Matt concludes, “We don’t have an agenda. We just want to play and write the kind of music that we wish was available for us to buy. Fortunately for us and everyone else, we’ve found each other, and we all feel the same way about music.”