Interview: Scarlet Carson

lisa pikaard joins pop-break with a sit-down with the entire crew of the high octane jersey rock band…

Not many unsigned bands can say they’ve opened for Papa Roach, Buckcherry, Hellyeah, or the Blue Oyster Cult. Scarlet Carson has done all of that and more on their quest to take over the music scene. The New Jersey band has been creating and maintaining a buzz for over five years with their addictive dirty Jersey rock and roll sound and their intoxicating stage presence.

Scarlet Carson singer Santino Noir. Photo: RaLa Photography

Scarlet Carson takes over a room the minute they walk through the door. Lead singer Santino Noir has the power to hypnotize a venue as the band draws in the audience with a spellbinding power. Scarlet Carson entertains not only with their passion and music, but also by building a great rapport with any audience, something that a lot of up and coming bands just cannot do. When they step on stage, a party has no doubt begun. Their ability to win over an audience has come in handy over the years.

After winning just about every major music contest in the Jersey shore area, Scarlet Carson released their third album in September complete with hard-hitting rock songs, beautifully crafted lyrics, insane guitar riffs, and a lot of attitude. Their eclectic new album, Foreverless, spans every genre from rock, to metal, to rap and everything in between. There’s even a country vibe on one track thanks to a well placed slide guitar and a harmonica. Scarlet Carson is a group of five talented men with a broad spectrum of musical influences who give their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls to their music.

Pop-Break’s Lisa Pikaard was fortunate enough to spend time with all five members of Scarlet Carson in the rehearsal studio talking about the music scene, cover bands, contests, and where they go from here.

Pop-Break: First and foremost why should people listen to you guys?

Santino Noir: Because we’re awesome.
Tommy: I was going to say the same thing!

PB: But why are you guys awesome?

Raab: Because we just are.
Santino: Why are we awesome? Because we’re good, and there are not enough good bands out there. We’re good and everyone in this band put their time and effort into playing their instruments for a very long time; we’ve all been in the scene for a very long time. Every single person who has been in this band has been in more than one band. This isn’t new for us and … and because I’m the singer.

PB: So what makes you guys different from the other bands that are out there right now?

Mayhem/: Because we’re not just a band; we are an experience.
Santino: Tommy is the only reason. Tommy is the only thing that makes us different from everyone else because no one else has a legit crazy person in their band. Mike is Mayhem; that’s different. You know how people are just like half a bubble off center? He’s not even on the same scale. He’s like an earth off center. Just kidding — that’s a terrible answer.
Stone: That’s not a good answer. It’s diversity. We have a lot of different genres in our music and we try to put it all together. It goes from blues to metal to hard rock.
Santino: Like he said, diversity. We don’t write to fit into anything. We are just all coincidentally very different musically; we have very different musical backgrounds. We all came together and instead of trying to fit into anything we all just kind of throw our splash of what we’re into into it.

PB: Speaking of other bands on the scene, so many Jersey bands go cover. Why have you guys stayed so far away from that? I know you guys have done some cover songs.

Stone: Who wants to play someone else’s music?
Santino: For like a living? It pays good and that’s the only reason we’ve considered it. I had Joe from [New Jersey cover band] The Benjamins approach us the first year we were together and ask me to start a cover band. Don’t get me wrong, the money is there and we’ve thought about it because we’re broke but it’s not worth it. I don’t want to play other peoples’ music at little bars every night. I don’t care how good the money is. I’d rather spend that time rehearsing with these guys and playing shows, playing the stuff that comes to us naturally, not the stuff we have to force.
Mayhem/: And original talent gets better broads.
Tommy: That’s the answer, go with that!
Santino: Yeah that’s true. And we did a cover night once. It was a disaster. Epic disaster.Jenks?
Raab: The first one was alright.
Santino: The second one? Disaster!
Tommy: I think we’re lucky or we just work hard and we’re better at being an original band. We don’t care enough to be a cover band, ya know what I mean? We care enough to be an original band and that’s what we are.
Santino: We do covers once in a while because it’s fun and we enjoy it but not because we’re getting paid to do it. I want nothing to do with the cover band scene.
Mayhem/: I will be in a cover band when I’m 40 and done having a day job.

PB: Moving on! How did you guys get together? You said you guys were all in different bands.

Santino: Do you want this interview to end soon?

PB: Okay a quick summary.

Santino: Okay I got this I got this! Flyer, roadie, old bass player, Justin from End of an Era, I started it. Next question!
Mayhem/: You didn’t do it in order! You suck! Santino started in Florida. From Florida, he came to Jersey because he couldn’t find anyone in Florida. He put out a flyer; the first one that answered the flyer is this guy [Stone]! The two of them make man love and start this band together.
Santino: With a different drummer and a different bass player and a different guitar player.
Mayhem/: And then the drummer flakes out. TADA! [points to Raab]
Raab: and I come in at last minute
Mayhem/: Bass player flakes out- TADA!

PB: Okay, so how many contests have you guys won?

Scarlet Carson: ALL OF THEM!
Mayhem/: Wait what is a win?
Tommy: I can tell you what we didn’t win.
Mayhem/: We were one of three bands that wins [a spot on the] Warped Tour, then we came in, can I say second?
Santinio: The first year of The Break contest we came in second.
Mayhem/: We got to play on the main stage and it was really awesome and then we won the Crue Fest contest which was also the Rat Rock opening band.
Santino: It was the RatFest Band Search 2009. And then we won The Break contest the following year when we jumped in it, which they actually expanded into multiple states because they wanted to make our lives even harder. When we thought we won at the finals of the Pony, which every other year were the finals, they told us in six days we had to play another final round in New York City against the five other finalists.
Tommy: To date no one has sold that amount of tickets in The Break contest.
Santino: We got school buses and shuffled our fans up to New York.
Raab: After that we won the Jager Invitational for Buckcherry and Hellyeah, which was against a bunch of bands that we played with in the Rat contest and we played with them again.

PB: So you just beat ’em twice?

Raab: Yeah so there’s some jealousy in there!
Santino: There was an online contest that we were part of that Tommy was referring to before that was hosted by eventful.com and Guitar Center, and it was an online contest where we basically had to get a lot of votes and end up in the top five of this massive list.
Tommy: We ended up 4th but the bottom line is once you’re top 5 it doesn’t mean anything. You get reviewed.
Santino: It comes down to Guitar Center. They pick you. The Dirty Pearls were the ones who beat us. They are good guys and we’re friends with them. They’re awesome. They ended up winning and it worked out for them.

PB: So you guys have pretty much done it all [locally] — so what do you guys do now?

Santino: More!
Tommy: We’ve played with Crue and that’s enough and that’s cool. And we played with Papa Roach and we played with Buckcherry, but we haven’t played with Kiss yet! So we haven’t done it all!
Santino: No we’re in the middle of trying to put together the right team, so we need management, booking agent, pr. We’ve had some indie labels approach us but nothing. We’re in the middle of something. I can’t get into it but we’re in the middle of something that could potentially pan out for us pretty well but we’re just trying to get the right team together, and then get on the road more. Tour more, hopefully with some nationals and spread like a goddamn virus!
Mayhem/: I was going to say wildfire.
Santino: That works.

PB: Speaking of all of these bands that you guys have played with, I mean you guys have played with some really big bands, some really cool local bands. I mean Buckcherry, Papa Roach, and you’ve played with some cool local bands, End of an Era, Stillframe, The August Infinity, who are your favorite guys that you guys have played with?

Tommy: Papa Roach was awesome.
Santino: They were such nice guys! Super bob. They’re really good dudes. End of an Era of course. August Infinity, they are actually personal friends of mine too; I was out to eat with Josh not that long ago in the city. They’re good friends of ours.
Mayhem/: Mayhem squared.
Raab: You think Mike’s nuts? They [The August Infinity] have a guy that just takes Mike to another level. He’s like his evil twin.
Mayhem/: He’s Mayhem squared. He entered my suite after we headlined the Stone Pony and he brought a fire extinguisher in with him. And by the time we noticed, the tag was on the floor, he was aiming it, and his finger was on the trigger. Four of us had to hold him down to get it away from him.
Santino: He’s crazy. Peter’s awesome! There are a bunch of good bands around here. Stillframe. Life Without Warning, they’re good guys. Let me rephrase that; there are a handful of good bands. It is NOT like it used to be and that’s why, all the good bands around here, we’re probably friends with them because we probably played with them.
Raab: Or we were in a band with them at one point.

PB: Speaking of that, I know you, Santino, have a side project. Do any of you guys have one?

Raab: I work full time and I’m miserable. I come home and I drink to relieve my misery.
Stone: I have a side project; it’s called my phone, me and my guitar.
Santino: Mr. Stone, I will guarantee it, at some point in time or another, will end up releasing a blues record and he’s nasty with a blues guitar. Raab will never pick up a side project because that’s extra work. Tommy was the lead singer of Through the Gray for a minute so I wouldn’t be surprised if he picked up the microphone again.

PB: What about your side project?

Santino: I do hip hop/pop- hip hop anonymous- hip hip hop- Sorry! I do hip hop/pop dance music kind of stuff with some rock and roll splashed in there because that’s just how my voice is and it’s what I love.

PB: Random question- What is the one question you haven’t been asked that you wish someone would ask you?

Tommy: I got the one! What producer would you like to work with. I would personally love to work with Bob Ezrin. I think he would do so much for us.
Mayhem/: You know what question we should be asked? We each individually should be asked which member in the band we want to punch in the face once.

PB: I do not want to be responsible for instigating that!

Mayhem/: Four out of five members would probably say me.

PB: But then who would you hit because you can only hit one and they’re all hitting you!

Raab: He’s not hitting me back because after I hit him he’s hitting the ground!
Santino: Oh I got a good one. Who has the worst girl or girlfriend the band has been a part of.

PB: Back to the music. You guys have three albums out. What song do you wish you can take back and not have out there?

Mayhem/: Can we all say it at the same time!
Raab: “Daddy’s Little Girl!”
Santino: See I don’t agree with that!

PB: People love that song!

Raab: I know but I’m so sick of playing it!
Santino: I have one but I want to hear what Stone’s is first before I say it because I’m fairly certain it’s the same.
Stone: Why do I keep thinking about the first album
Santino: It’s only on the first album!
Stone: “Dressed to kill?”
Raab: Yeah I was going to say that! It’s corny but it’s so damn catchy.
Tommy: I’ve got the answer; we haven’t written that song yet.

PB: Okay so which song are you guys most proud of?

Live at Starland Ballroom. Photo: Jesse Lepore.

Santino: Proud? I don’t think anyone has ever worded it that way before.
Mayhem/: That’s a good question by the way for the one you asked before, that was good.
Santino: Yeah that’s the answer to the previous question, what’s a question that nobody has ever asked us that I’d like them to ask us, that was it. You win.

PB: Thank you!

Mayhem/: Most proud. I can answer that easily for me. For me it’s “American Outlaw.” I wedged in a freakin’ slap bass line that music master over there didn’t like at first and I had to win him over; then I got to scream.
Raab: I like the entire album Foreverless.
Tommy: I have a double sided answer. I love “West Coast.” I didn’t write the song but if it wasn’t for that song being written, I probably wouldn’t have joined the band.
Santino: But you have to say “Foreverless” though.
Tommy: No I don’t.
Santino: As far as what you wrote.
Tommy: I’m very proud of “Foreverless” but I don’t know, “Foreverless” is a good song but I have to go with “Scarlet Carson” because it showcases song lyrics, writing and good production.

PB: And vocal acrobatics…

Santino: Thank you!
Tommy: He hits the high F and his voice, yeah he sounds like Santino but right when he goes to the chorus he sounds like the chick from Lacuna Coil.
Santino: I mean like lyrically? “Armor of Art” off the first record. The lyrics in that, for where I was and how old I was; I still want to redo that song and I can’t say that about a whole lot. But “Come December,” “West Coast,” and “Safe from Silence.” I fought tooth and nail with Stone to keep the verses the way they were. That’s probably my favorite song to play but “Come December” I think was my proudest because I got to do a voice that I always wanted to do on a record. I pretty much got to stretch across everything I do in one track and I’m really happy with that and the lyrics and everything were really personal and important to me too.

PB: What about you Stone?

Stone: Ya know, there is a lot of songs because I don’t think of it like lyrics and stuff. I think of it more from the musical aspects. “Pandora” is cool because it’s got a really cool solo but “Come December,” like I sat in there while the kid was in there with the violin, but “Outlaw” was cool because I met the harmonica player and he was in town for two days. I was like we need a harmonica player! He’s like oh I can do it tomorrow at 10 am and his name was Will Scarlet.
Santino: What are the odds of that!
Stone: So that was cool and it was the first time I got to do slide guitar on an album.
Raab: Stone takes a lot of pride in his guitar playing.

PB: Rightfully so though. How long have you been playing?

Raab: Forever
Mayhem/: Less.
Stone: Well technically I’ve been playing for 13 years but I didn’t really play until I was 20 because I’d play then I’d stop for like five years. I would like dick around. I didn’t take it seriously.
Mayhem/: If dicking around doesn’t count then I haven’t played a lick in my life.
Raab: That’s why you’re called the bass player!

Stone: You know what song I’d take back? I’d take back “You” for not having a solo in it.
Tommy: That’s like Eddie Van Halen taking back “Pretty Woman” because it didn’t have a solo in it!

PB: The most recent album, it’s great because it covers so much. It’s all over the place in a great way. Who wrote all of it?

Stone: 95 percent of the music is written by me. Tom wrote “Foreverless.” Tom played a part in “Underdog,” Tom played a part in a couple other songs and that’s really about it.
Santino: And I’ve got all the vocals and lyrics.

PB: Any final messages?

Tommy: The new album is that good and that’s the bottom line. It’s that good because when bands put out albums, I’m not one to really listen to myself and I still listen to the record and it still holds up and the album has been out since September.
Santinio: To people who know us, thank you! Thank you for letting us do what we do. For the people who don’t…
Tommy: Go to ScarletCarson.com. You’re missing out!
Santino: Get to know us!
Tommy: Our records are on iTunes by the way, and Spotify. And check out the video!

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