New Music

Self​-​Contained – introducing NJ freight train hardcore act LIGHTNING IN A JAR!

Self-Contained cover photo, by Dave Spangenburg
Over two years since our interview on his NJ vicious hardcore act HELL MARY and just a couple of months after the insightful introduction of the captivating project HUNDREDS OF AU, vocalist/guitarist Paul Alan is back with an exciting new project LIGHTNING IN A JAR! With the official first hearing at Dave Norman‘s Open Mind / Saturated Brain already in the books, it’s time to dive a bit deeper into several layers of “self​-​contained” and give you a full first-hand explanation, track by track!

Featuring exciting guest appearances from Nicole Spangenburg, Patrick Flynn, Mike Scarpa and Louie Duva, “self​-​contained” is a precariously intense, raging set of tracks with a distinctive side to their aggression and high-octane energy that genuinely characterizes what these guys deliver.

Paul plays everything except the drums on this, as Kevin Carafa takes that role, along with mixing and mastering to boot. There’s a lot to love on the 12 tracks here, but there were standouts for me. First, the  ending of opener “self-doubt” has a forefront line of, “Are you ready for this part?” followed by a righteous breakdown. The beginning of “Dead Air” is venomous, but the close has a completely different feel to it, opting for beautiful, swirling instrumentals and some distant singing. The guest vocals on “boys will be boys” by Nicole Spangenburg really give the track some additional oomph with those ferocious snarls, and Patrick’s contribution to “Balancing Act” make the track exceptionally dark. / Dave Norman, Open Mind – Saturated Brain blog

Why Lightning in a Jar? Paul offered the following:

The lightning

When I was a kid I had the thing pictured on my night stand. It was like the cheap version of the “plasma ball.” Anyway, it always fascinated me. If two people touched it, you’d get a shock. I always pictured the glass breaking and filling the room with electricity like what happened with the electric gremlin at the end of Gremlins 2. Anyway, glass never broke and one day it just stopped working. The thing was called “lightning fury,” but as a kid, I always called it “lightning in a jar.”

When I first got into music, Scott Earth taught me that you gotta have songs and names with meaning and I’ve held onto that since with very few exceptions. This name is nostalgic for me and on the metaphoric side, I’m yelling and screaming about a lot of stuff on this album that I keep bottled up and would otherwise not talk about. Break the glass.

Continued below…


This is a very personal song that cites very specific instances where I buckled under pressure. It has a positive twist at the end with advice I should be following.

New Year’s Disillusion​ / Holidazed

December usually sucks. I’m typically sick and reflecting on the year isn’t fun, especially when you end up back where you started. Conversations with family can be rough when you’re trying to put off an “everything’s fine” vibe and in reality you shouldn’t be complaining anyway, so you get caught in the daze and wait for January for a clean reset.

Thieves’ Market:

We get mad at each other when we should be getting mad at the manipulators in power, who sit back with their feet up, laughing at our expense as we put on quite the shit-show and become even more divided. At least that’s how in picture it.

Foot In Mouth:

I should just shut up sometimes.

Theme From…:

This uses the metaphor of a snake caught in a rat race. I think the story of the name is more interesting, see above for that.

Dead Air:

As someone who is constantly creating, I’d be lying if I said just the act of doing is enough (I’m not cool enough or at all for that). It’s nice to get that pat on the back sometimes and know people are responding to your art. Maybe I do it too much, maybe I’m not saying stuff that’s important enough to be heard or maybe I’m just on an ungrateful brat. There’s a feeling I get sometimes that I’m in it alone, but that will never stop me from doing it. So that’s just fine.

Boys Will be Boys:

Nicole used to do guest vocals in hell Mary but we never had a chance to write a song for her to actually record. I felt that this was appropriate. This was long before that jillette commercial.

Continued below…


Traces of Me:

This is just a song of stuff that I actually do. I wanted to write a song that sounded like anxiety. It’s also a metaphor for being the cause of my own problems.

Just One Word:

I work in special education. Anytime I hear somebody use the word “retarded” in casual conversation to make an argument or make fun of something I immediately turn off and stop listening. Try something else maybe?

The Clog:

Sometimes in life we get stuck in traffic. Sometimes on the road we get stuck in traffic. My friend Laura coined the term “the clog.” I wrote this based off that idea.

Balancing Act:

The song sounds like it’s about over or under-talking but it’s really about overthinking. Pat Flynn does guest vocals and we talk about this idea all the time.

Continued below…

Balancing Act

Balancing Act – Paul Alan and Pat from the last Young American Artists show in 2012. Young American Artists was a band that Kevin, Pat and Paul were all in at one point.

Kid on Notch:

This is a song about the elementary/middle school days. The people who I’m singing about in the song are in the gang vocals…no more no less.

Continued below…

Paul and Kevin in high school when they first started playing music together

Paul and Kevin in high school when they first started playing music together

He handled all the drumming, mixing and mastering on this project. He moved to Portland, Oregon about 5 years ago and the fact that he was able to do the drums on this means the world to me. We each had a bunch of separate projects, since he moved, but we always seem to filter our work through each other. He even helped write some of the Hell Mary tunes. We have a long history of playing together starting in my high school band and most recently, this project. Before I started this project and recording songs with Wade, I made sure that Kevin would be involved on drums. I could not be happier with the end result and the fact that we are still able to collaborate being on opposite sides of the country is awesome. If and when he moves back, then a LIAJ show will be in the works.

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