Back in 1999, Hopeless Records began supporting non-profit organizations under the Sub City name with charitable tours, events and albums.
The basic idea was that if it gave bands and their fans an opportunity to connect their talent and passion with causes that were important to them, they could make a positive impact through music.
Sub City is now a registered 501(c)3 organization itself and over the past ten years has raised and donated almost $2 million to more than 50 non-profit organizations. The label and organization's signature event is the annual Take Action Tour, taking a handful of bands on the road in support of specific charities.
In past years, the tour has shed light on important issues like depression, suicide prevention and volunteerism. 2011 marks the tenth Take Action Tour with proceeds benefitting Sex, Etc. for teen sexuality education. As the teen focused program of Answer, an organization based out of Rutgers University, Sex Etc.'s mission is to improve teen sexual health information and resources across the country.
"Basically, it's a teen to teen sexuality initiative," said Elizabeth Schroeder, executive director of Answer. "Sex Etc. is a magazine written by teens for teens. It has a teen editorial staff that does all the writing and picks all of the topics. Of course, there are a few adults involved, but mostly that just to check and make sure everything is scientifically accurate and make a few grammatical and punctuation corrections."
Perhaps more importantly, the magazine also has a website, sexetc.org, which is still run by teens. The site includes articles, blogs, message boards and an FAQ section.
"The thing with the Internet is, there is a lot of information out there, but not all of it is correct," Schroeder said. "At sexetc.org, our information is scientifically accurate, but most of it comes from teen peers. You can ask a question without being judged negatively or getting a snarky answer.
"Occasionally we'll get a question come in that's pretty outlandish and over the top," she said, "but we still answer it directly and non-judgmentally, because some part of it might be serious."
Schroder said she's been most impressed with the bands on this year's Take Action Tour and how the musicians have taken an active interest in getting educated on the organization and its focus. One of those bands is headliner, Silverstein.
"Silverstein has been a band for 11 years and we did the Take Action Tour in 2006. We really enjoyed the tour, so we were happy to be invited to join it again this year," said lead singer Shane Told.
When Silverstein began, Told said nearly all its shows were benefit events raising money for women's shelters in Chiapas, Mexico, gigs to support local record stores.
"Back then, being a part of Take Action was great. Now that we're signed and working with Hopeless Records, it makes even more sense," he said. "And it's great to be on tour with Bayside, because they're probably our best friends in the world.
"The tour has a different feel this year, but it's not any less important," he continued. "With the age group our music targets, I think the awareness message needs to be there. With the Internet, there's a lot of wrong information out there, so I think what they're doing with Sex Etc. is important."
Of course, the tour is also about great music and Silverstein is out to support a new CD, Rescue, which just came out a few weeks ago. The band has always had a loyal following and has built its reputation around its live show, but this time out, the band's latest disc has a new energy coming from it.
"When you've been around this long, it's really a challenge. You have to set out to make the best record you've ever made," Told said of the new disc. "We really dug deep into ourselves this time and on parts we went by feel alone, whereas the last couple of times we were more into music theory.
"This time we went more by feel, like we did when we started out. Maybe it's a little less structured, but I think that's what makes it really stand out," he reflected. "It gets harder after you've written more records, because you don't want to repeat yourself. We tried to make this an exciting record to us and to our fans, as well as a fun album to play live."
The live show is one that everyone is looking forward to, fans and bands alike, as co-headliners Silverstein and Bayside are old friends that have toured together before and are always looking for a good opportunity to work together again.
Bay to Play.
Anthony Raneri, Bayside's lead singer and rhythm guitarist, said his band has been together for 10 years -- as long as the tour.
"We grew up going to the shows, so all these years later, it's pretty cool to be approached to be on the tour and compilation disc. We grew up with the cause, so we were all about it," he said.
Even though Silverstein and Bayside are close friends and share a similar audience, the two bands have different if somewhat complimentary styles. Whereas Silverstein follows more of a post-hardcore mold, Bayside channels a more punk oriented sound.
"Our influences are sort of older," Raneri said. "We grew up on The Descendents, NOFX and Bad Religion, but I think what really gives us out sound is the outside influences -- classic rock, a little pop and metal. In vibe, we're a punk band, but we pout more weight in our melodies."
That melodic element jumps out front and center on Bayside's latest disc and its fifth full-length disc, Killing Time. According to Raneri, that's at least partially because the band took its time with this record and didn't write it all on the road as it has been prone to do in the past.
"We got to work on these songs until they were perfect," he said. "This is our proudest moment and the record we wanted to make."
On the new disc, Bayside ranges from the aggressive tones and upbeat tempos of "Already Gone," "Sick, Sick, Sick" and "Killing Time" to the more reflective sentiments of "On Love, On Life." Nevertheless, the disc has the band's signature all over it.
"We're really happy with the sound of this record," Raneri shared. "I feel like we've figured out what Bayside is and what it sounds like and to grow we have to change, but the bog thing is to not change the formula too much."
To that extent, Bayside is dead on with its latest disc, moving the band forward with perhaps its strongest album to date, without losing sight of the band's distinct style and sound.
"This is our first tour with Killing Time out," Raneri pointed out, "so it's a great chance to hear the new songs live. Plus it's a great show with great bands and a great cause."
When asking Elizabeth Schroeder how Sex Etc. got involved with the Take Action Tour, she said that "They found us. Fortunately, we have a great internet presence, so when they found us and approached us it made perfect sense for both of us. The Take Action Tour and Hopeless Records have been like fairy godparents to us."
The Take Action Tour stops in Tulsa with a show at Cain's Ballroom this Saturday evening with Texas in July, The Swellers and Polar Bear Club opening the show before co-headliners Bayside and Silverstein wrap up the night. Doors open at 5:30pm for the 6:30pm show and tickets are $23.25, with 10 percent of all ticket sales for the tour going to Sex Etc., for teen sexuality awareness.
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