Ionia: conquered Wintour last week; next week, the world 

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Ionia should be your new favorite band. They support great causes and they don't do it for attention -- they do it because they know it's the right thing to do. Their blend of melodic punk and alternative rock is unique and so fresh to the ears. I spoke to vocalist Blaise Beyhan and it was honestly one of the most mentally stimulating interviews I've ever had. I wanted to go save the Earth after speaking with him. I've been searching for causes to support ever since Saturday; Ionia really affected me, their message really touched me in a way that I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.

NUVO: I know you guys went to Costa Rica for a concert series to raise money for handicapped kids; are there any more tours like that that you guys will be doing?

Blaise Beyhan: Well, when we played Warped Tour, we gave all of the money, all of the profits that we made to the Environmental Defense fund to help clean up the oil spill. So we always try to, like, base a certain amount of what we do on higher purposes besides just music and getting our rocks off, because that's what music is about; it's about social awareness to a certain extent. Everything that we've done has a lot to do with those kinds of things that are connected in some way to a purpose, if we can do that. After the Haiti earthquake, we threw a big benefit show, raised a bunch of money for funding for rebuilding houses, stuff like that.

NUVO: Are there any specific causes that you guys are involved in?

Beyhan: I mean, to a certain extent, I think that everyone should want to save the world, because if we were all that idealistic, maybe the world would be a better place, but there's definitely pointed issues that we all kind of line up on. I would say that environmental issues are really big for us, because we're all vegetarians or vegans and because we're in a band and that causes a lot of pollution itself, driving around all the time and creating a lot of waste, we try to be as aware of that as possible and try to push the boundaries as much as we can with that. We try to change the paradigm as much as we can to try to offset our carbon footprint. We print on organic materials and have our merch processed in ways that are less toxic for the soil and for the water shelf, things like that, you know, like using non-toxic inks, things like that.

But I also think that society issues in regards to this country as far as politics, and corruption in politics, and the way the lobbyist system works, and government, we have a real problem with that, in the sense that it's not necessarily a cause, but it's something that we can talk about, that we think could fix a lot of the problems that are kind of symptomatic of the way that the world is now and the way that 90 percent of the population in this country get stepped on and keeps getting poorer, while the other people keep getting richer. So those things are big for us right now.

NUVO: You mentioned Warped Tour; what was it like being on a tour of that magnitude?

Beyhan: I think that Warped Tour is kind of like a boot camp for bands. It's good, because we're a younger band and we actually haven't been around or active that long, only a couple of years. And because of that, we were really grateful to be on that. But it's like boot camp. It's like the Marine Corp for bands.

NUVO: I've heard it described as that before by bands. [Laughs]

Beyhan: It's 14 hour days, it's non-stop, everything's on a lottery system, and you've gotta be there and you've gotta work. Every single minute, you've gotta work. And because you're competing with so many bands, you're playing with, you know, 200-300 bands in one day, you know, you've gotta work hard to get people to get something out of what you're doing, you know? But it's good, it's a learning experience.

NUVO: You guys' message about non-conformity and free inquiry kind of reminds me of bands such as Rise Against, Black Flag, more politically charged punk bands. Are there any bands like that that you've drawn influence from?

Beyhan: I think that Rise Against and Black Flag are two influences as far as thematically, where they come from, I mean, they're coming from a very genuine place, and we believe that if we're going to do music, it should be music that's about something and though those bands, like, Rise Against is definitely a very real musical influence on this band, but, I'd say bands like, even before that, like, bands from the sixties and seventies like Bob Dylan, and protest music that used to exist, I think that was a really important role the music had before business kind of swallowed it up and turned everything into a product. And now saying something like, "I'm a non-conformist" is conforming, to a certain extent. Or even saying something like that is some kind of marketing ploy. So I don't even, like, being involved in that. Or even, you know, regardless of how cliché it is, encouraging people to be themselves and to seek knowledge outside of their small, advertising loop that they're stuck in is really, really important, because, you can't just believe everything that is spoon-fed to you by the environment, or by your parents, or your school, or by whatever it is, you know? You need to read, and figure out who you are and what is important to you. You need to take action, because if you don't, then you're not really even a human being.

NUVO: I love your view on things.

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Beyhan: Yeah, so, I would rather try to fight for something better, even if it seems idealistic and immature, than to just kind of go along with something and trying to make money. Otherwise, there are other things you can do to make money. And if capitalism is all that matters, then I don't even want to be a part of the system anyways.

NUVO: What kind of impact do you want to make; what's your ultimate goal as an artist?

Beyhan: I think if we can have the kind of influence and inspiration on people and on our generation and the next generation, and the next generation after that one, that has inspired us, and gotten us to stand up and do something, to create art and try to think for ourselves, if we can have that kind of influence on people, on any kind of monumental, non-monumental way, then that's a success, right there. That matters more than any kind of ego-driven thing, any kind of fame, or adoration from anybody. That matters more to us.

NUVO: Are there any plans for more music videos in the works?

Beyhan: Yeah, what's happening is actually, we've recorded a bunch of new material with Mike Sapone, who's a really, really cool producer, he did some Taking Back Sunday, all the Brand New stuff, a lot of bands we really like, Crime and Stereo. So we recorded a bunch of stuff with him and the plan is actually to make a sequel to 'Mutiny' (Editor's note: Mutiny is Ionia's first and currently only video released). And there's going to be a music video series. So there's going to be a sequel to that and then a sequel to that and you're going to follow these characters and the band and different people will play different characters in the videos. They will follow this stream of conscious-ness that's going to keep going from that place where my character walked out the door in that video and pick up right where that left off. That will be coming soon.

NUVO: I've seen different views on "Mutiny," asking if all of your characters died, or get out, like if your characters all died, how are you going to continue the story in another music video?

Beyhan: Well, that's the thing, in the video, I mean, it's open to interpretation, but the idea was that you make your own prison, and you make your own cells and we had created that in our own heads. We're all kind of sick, we're all kind of mentally ill in our own way and we all kind of do that, you know? So it's really a question of whatever you want it to be. And at the end, when you saw all of us standing there, when I opened the door, and I saw us standing there, that's what it was, we had created this prison and this horrible place, but this place, this country can be whatever you want it to be.

NUVO: You guys have toured with bands like the Cancer Bats, Alice in Chains, and Thursday. What are some lessons you've learned from those bands that have such a mainstay and such longevity?

Beyhan: I think we learn something from every band we play with. There's always something to pick up and it's always important to stay humble and to stay on a level where you can absorb stuff and where you're not egotistical about anything that you're doing. So, I could say from just watching those bands, because when we played with those bands, those were some of our first shows, so just watching those bands, and absorbing their attitudes and how they portray themselves and how they come off on stage and their performance ability was mountains of knowledge right there.

NUVO: I read you guys were "socially and economically conscious" and I didn't really understand that fully.

Beyhan: I think socially, it just means that we're trying to be about more than ourselves and that we're really trying to be sensitive to the environment and to humanity, you know? We trying to change that, to change the collective consciousness of that, you know? Economically, it just means, I don't even know who wrote that, to be honest with you, but economically, what I think it means, or my interpretation of that would be that we're just trying to be aware of how things affect everything else, you know? If we play a show and we say something irresponsible onstage or we act in a ridiculous way like a lot of bands do, that we've played with, I won't name any names, or act disrespectful to people or towards girls or towards homosexuality or whatever it may be, I think that's incredibly damaging to the evolution of society and it doesn't help anybody and it doesn't encourage anybody to feel relaxed or evolve in that environment, you know? So I think it just means being responsible for that and what's coming out of your mouth.

NUVO: It's kind of weird, I wrote a preview on you guys, and my first paragraph said, "You won't hear these guys doing that kind of stuff. Where all these bands are screaming to be looked at; it's nice to have a band be quietly amazing."

Beyhan: Well, thank you. I appreciate that [Laughs] I appreciate that. 'Quietly amazing,' I like that. We try, we would hope so. That's cool.

Ionia's show on Saturday at the Emerson Theater as part of Wintour 2013 was just as awe-inspiring as I hoped it would be. There weren't any lights directly on the band, so while they could see the crowd, they were shrouded in darkness. I didn't understand it at first, but midway through the first few songs, I got it. Ionia were saying, "Listen to the message, not who's delivering it. Adore the words and the feelings they inflict, not the band. See us as just like you, just fans of music in general." I loved it, but I know a lot of the crowd didn't understand it by the murmurs of confusion rippling through the audience.

Punk needs more bands like this. The world needs more bands like this. Ionia's not forcing change, they're inspiring it. They're not telling you what to do, they're helping you to see what you think you should do or would want to do. Their lyrics are very much like a mirror being held up to life, and asking, "What can I do to better myself, or the world around me?"

I just can't recommend them enough. Ionia is so positive and so suited to the feelings of right now that they should be on the covers of Rolling Stone or Revolver, but the best part is that they don't even care about fame; they just want to help people. How much better can you ask a band to get?

Joey Megan Harris is a 18-year-old student at Greenwood High School.

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