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About Criteria

Criteria are a very loud band, but they’ve admittedly been quiet for a while. For the uninitiated, the band was formed by former Cursive guitarist Stephen Pedersen in 2003 after he moved back to his hometown of Omaha following his graduation from Duke University and the subsequent dissolution of his beloved North Carolina-based “college rock” act, The White Octave. After releasing their debut En Garde that same year on Initial Records, Criteria signed to Saddle Creek Records and put out When We Break in 2005. In support of the album, the act — which also includes bassist A.J. Mogis, guitarist Aaron Druery and drummer Mike Sweeney — toured with everyone from Jimmy Eat World to Minus The Bear and converted countless fans to their anthemic brand of post-hardcore. After two years on the road promoting the album, other priorities took precedent as Pedersen got engaged and focused on his law career while the rest of the band similarly transitioned into a phase of adulthood that wasn’t compatible with being a full-time touring act.

That said, Criteria never broke up and continued to play occasional shows as Pedersen struggled to find time to write new material outside of his domestic duties. In fact the drums for Years were recorded at Omaha’s ARC studios in January of 2014 and the album was intended to be finished five years ago, but the aforementioned professional and personal responsibilities forced it to languish on a hard drive a little bit longer. “I think calling the album Years is pretty self-explanatory but I also think there were probably full calendar years where nothing happened with it,” Pedersen jokes. Eventually the guitars and vocals were finished in Pedersen’s basement studio on the same console as every previous Criteria release. Finally the album was mixed once again by Mogis, whose production credits include everyone from Monsters Of Folk to Planes Mistaken For Stars. “There wasn’t any sense of urgency making this album, but we persisted and never gave up and eventually got it done and we are so excited with how it came together,” Pedersen adds.

While the band’s 2005 single “Prevent The World,” saw Pedersen grappling with his inability to reconcile his rockstar dreams with his law career, that conflict isn’t present on Years. Instead that tension has been replaced with the liberation of living in the moment free of external pressures, a realization that’s at the center of this collection of songs. From the syncopated post-hardcore groove of the opener “Agitate Resucsitate” to the Quicksand-inspired perfection of the closing riff of “We Pretend,” the album also sees the band stretching out while still retaining the arena-ready rock sound that’s become their hallmark. “‘We Pretend’ touches on the theme of being an immigrant or being in a wartorn country walking through landmines and this idea that there are millions of people living under circumstances I can’t even fathom and still finding joy and happiness in it,” Pedersen explains when asked of the broad lyrical scope of the album. “It’s just sort of this idea that you’ve got to break away from all that stuff before it kills you. Hence the line “break away before you break me down.’”

Years has its share of aggressive rock moments — most notably evident in Mogis’ distortion-drenched bass tone, which is so dirty it many require a post-listening shower — but Pedersen himself didn’t feel very angsty this time around. “ I'm in such a general state of contentment in my life that finding inspiration for agitation in my personal life at this phase of it was really tough,” he admits, adding that the personal struggles inherent on Criteria’s first two albums just isn’t a part of his life these days. “I didn't have that kind of tension relating to relationships or trying to balance the band with my career anymore,” he continues. “If anything maybe the thing that got me over the hump was Donald Trump and just being so embarrassed and frustrated with the state of the country that we would bring a man like that into The White House. That kind of crystalized some things for me and put a fire back in my belly,” he explains. It also catalyzed him to finally finish the album and get Criteria back on the road for a well-deserved victory lap.

In many ways, things are coming full-circle for Pedersen. Years is being released by 15 Passenger, a label owned and operated by his first band Cursive. Better yet, in January Criteria will celebrate the release of the album by heading out on a two-week West Coast tour opening for Cloud Nothings and Cursive, which will also mark the first time the band will be playing many of these songs together in the same room. “I think all of us are super excited because this is such a special opportunity to get to go on tour with two great bands, one which we have a ton of history, and get to do this again. It makes us feel very lucky,” Pedersen summarizes. In a world where life often feels unpredictable there’s something strangely comforting about a band like Criteria coming together to create something not for the sake of commerce but just simply because they love making music together. As Pedersen sings during one of Years’ most memorable moments, “This reign is ours.” Let’s bask in it for a minute.
Show More
Genres:
Emo, Post Hardcore, Post-punk, Indie Rock
Band Members:
Michael Sweeney, Aaron Druery, AJ Mogis, Stephen Pedersen
Hometown:
Omaha, Nebraska

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About Criteria

Criteria are a very loud band, but they’ve admittedly been quiet for a while. For the uninitiated, the band was formed by former Cursive guitarist Stephen Pedersen in 2003 after he moved back to his hometown of Omaha following his graduation from Duke University and the subsequent dissolution of his beloved North Carolina-based “college rock” act, The White Octave. After releasing their debut En Garde that same year on Initial Records, Criteria signed to Saddle Creek Records and put out When We Break in 2005. In support of the album, the act — which also includes bassist A.J. Mogis, guitarist Aaron Druery and drummer Mike Sweeney — toured with everyone from Jimmy Eat World to Minus The Bear and converted countless fans to their anthemic brand of post-hardcore. After two years on the road promoting the album, other priorities took precedent as Pedersen got engaged and focused on his law career while the rest of the band similarly transitioned into a phase of adulthood that wasn’t compatible with being a full-time touring act.

That said, Criteria never broke up and continued to play occasional shows as Pedersen struggled to find time to write new material outside of his domestic duties. In fact the drums for Years were recorded at Omaha’s ARC studios in January of 2014 and the album was intended to be finished five years ago, but the aforementioned professional and personal responsibilities forced it to languish on a hard drive a little bit longer. “I think calling the album Years is pretty self-explanatory but I also think there were probably full calendar years where nothing happened with it,” Pedersen jokes. Eventually the guitars and vocals were finished in Pedersen’s basement studio on the same console as every previous Criteria release. Finally the album was mixed once again by Mogis, whose production credits include everyone from Monsters Of Folk to Planes Mistaken For Stars. “There wasn’t any sense of urgency making this album, but we persisted and never gave up and eventually got it done and we are so excited with how it came together,” Pedersen adds.

While the band’s 2005 single “Prevent The World,” saw Pedersen grappling with his inability to reconcile his rockstar dreams with his law career, that conflict isn’t present on Years. Instead that tension has been replaced with the liberation of living in the moment free of external pressures, a realization that’s at the center of this collection of songs. From the syncopated post-hardcore groove of the opener “Agitate Resucsitate” to the Quicksand-inspired perfection of the closing riff of “We Pretend,” the album also sees the band stretching out while still retaining the arena-ready rock sound that’s become their hallmark. “‘We Pretend’ touches on the theme of being an immigrant or being in a wartorn country walking through landmines and this idea that there are millions of people living under circumstances I can’t even fathom and still finding joy and happiness in it,” Pedersen explains when asked of the broad lyrical scope of the album. “It’s just sort of this idea that you’ve got to break away from all that stuff before it kills you. Hence the line “break away before you break me down.’”

Years has its share of aggressive rock moments — most notably evident in Mogis’ distortion-drenched bass tone, which is so dirty it many require a post-listening shower — but Pedersen himself didn’t feel very angsty this time around. “ I'm in such a general state of contentment in my life that finding inspiration for agitation in my personal life at this phase of it was really tough,” he admits, adding that the personal struggles inherent on Criteria’s first two albums just isn’t a part of his life these days. “I didn't have that kind of tension relating to relationships or trying to balance the band with my career anymore,” he continues. “If anything maybe the thing that got me over the hump was Donald Trump and just being so embarrassed and frustrated with the state of the country that we would bring a man like that into The White House. That kind of crystalized some things for me and put a fire back in my belly,” he explains. It also catalyzed him to finally finish the album and get Criteria back on the road for a well-deserved victory lap.

In many ways, things are coming full-circle for Pedersen. Years is being released by 15 Passenger, a label owned and operated by his first band Cursive. Better yet, in January Criteria will celebrate the release of the album by heading out on a two-week West Coast tour opening for Cloud Nothings and Cursive, which will also mark the first time the band will be playing many of these songs together in the same room. “I think all of us are super excited because this is such a special opportunity to get to go on tour with two great bands, one which we have a ton of history, and get to do this again. It makes us feel very lucky,” Pedersen summarizes. In a world where life often feels unpredictable there’s something strangely comforting about a band like Criteria coming together to create something not for the sake of commerce but just simply because they love making music together. As Pedersen sings during one of Years’ most memorable moments, “This reign is ours.” Let’s bask in it for a minute.
Show More
Genres:
Emo, Post Hardcore, Post-punk, Indie Rock
Band Members:
Michael Sweeney, Aaron Druery, AJ Mogis, Stephen Pedersen
Hometown:
Omaha, Nebraska

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