12th Annual Love Song Winner
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Record Label: Self-Released
Home Base: Washington, DC
Genre: Rock / Alternative / Jangle Pop
Categories Entered: Love Song
Work Submitted: “World Goes By” (Song), Carbon Copy (Album)
Artists Featured: Soundtrack for Silent Films
Label: Independent / Self-Released
Who are your influences: Elliott Smith, Jeremy Enigk, Jeff Mangum, Leonard Cohen, George Martin, Johnny Marr, Morrissey, Matt Pond, Ben Gibbard, Dar Williams, Conor Oberst, Tim Kasher, Stephin Merritt, John, Paul, George & Ringo.
Describe your nominated work: This song is actually very old. The verse/chorus parts were written when I was in college around the Y2K era. However it didn’t feel complete so I pulled the bridge/outro section from a separate song I’d written a few years earlier. That’s actually a formula I use frequently. I’ll have one part of a song written here, another part of another song written there, and I’ll patch them together and simply change the key or the rhythm so they fuse. Ultimately the subject ends up being an amalgam of people, relationships or experiences, which is precisely the case for this track.
This particular recording is the third and final iteration. I hastily recorded the song with acoustic guitar only at a local studio in 2001. I think I did 17 songs in one day; guitar and vox all recorded live in one take. It was horrendous…however my budget was non-existent. Slowly but surely I learned that quantity was far less important than quality. I took another stab at the song about ten years later and recorded it at home in Pro Tools. While my cheesy midi drumbeats didn’t make the final cut, I did write the lead guitar line for the verses and chorus then, as well as the bridge/outro piano line, all of which are present on the final recording. So it wasn’t a total loss. Finally, the band formed and we went into a proper studio, with a proper budget, and the guys convinced me to give this song one more go on the Carbon Copy album. I’m glad we did. Bill (Ledbetter) added a whole new element on drums with that march, and then opening up the beat in the bridge/outro really gave the song new sections, and Matt (Waller) added a bunch of different textures with the lead guitar, bass and harmonies. I think it came together well.
Did you use any unusual effects or instruments in this recording?: This particular song is pretty straightforward, however on the album we used everything from a Fisher-Price xylophone to the sound of rain on the roof which was inadvertently recorded at the end of the drum track in “Long Island”.
Were there any happy accidents while in the studio, or did everything go as planned?: Nothing ever goes as planned in the studio – but that’s what makes it exciting. One of the most thrilling aspects of the Carbon Copy album is that we went into it without a plan. Sure, we had the shell of songs written, but we were writing second, third and fourth guitar parts in the studio, experimenting with different beats and bass lines, changing lyrics, adding a Fender Rhodes here, a studio Rickenbacker there, and we even got our producer/engineer playing vibraphone on one of the tracks.
How did you raise the funds for this project? How long do you expect it will take to recoup your out-of-pocket recording expenses?: This was a self-funded project. And I’m not sure I’ll ever recoup the costs through album sales alone. But that’s something I knew going into it. I wanted to make an album I was proud of. Something I could stand behind many years later. I know it’s not business savvy but I never started writing music with the hopes of turning a profit. It’s always been for the love. It always will be. If I get paid in the process that’s just icing on the icing.
Why did you choose to submit this work to The 12th IMAs?: I figured we spent so much time and effort making this album, which isn’t reason enough alone, but I’m also extremely proud of the final product and I wanted it to be heard. I wanted to reach audiences that we couldn’t reach on our own. I’ve followed the IMAs through the years and have seen it kick start many music careers. I was completely shocked and ecstatic to be chosen as a nominee, and remain honored to be a small part of the IMAs amongst such great talent and distinguished judges.
What’s your definition of success and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?: Someone somewhere, in their car, at work, walking their dog, pressing play on their iPod, on their own volition, unbeknownst to me, enjoying the music we created. I’ll never know for sure when this has been achieved but every day has the potential.
How will you leverage your IMA honors to achieve your career goals?: I’m pretty certain that from here on out “IMA Nominee” will accompany all band related correspondence, promotions, websites and CD shrink-wraps. Being nominated is such an incredible honor. It shall be bellowed from the rooftops!
Who’s sitting in your audience and what makes your fans unique?: What makes our fans unique, collectively, is the breadth of ages, styles and variety who come out to the shows. We have some of the most loyal and supportive friends and fans around. We’re very fortunate.
What is your guilty pleasure on the road? Any close calls or mishaps while on tour?: Being that most of the guys in the band have day jobs, we’ve yet to the hit the road for any extended period of time. Consequently, the majority of our shows are in the Washington, DC area.
Who are your musical heroes & influences?: The Beatles, The Smiths, Sunny Day Real Estate, Elliott Smith
Are there any songs you wish you wrote and why?: I wish I’d written Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” After hearing that song hundreds and hundreds of times, it still moves me to the core. Between the horns, acoustic guitar, and swirling singing saws, which seem to transform from wind to spirits to memories, it captures the magnificence of life and flirts with the mystery of the afterlife. It haunts me wonderfully.
I think the mark of a great song is that it can transport you to a certain time or past sentiment. For me, I’m in the middle of Kansas driving cross-country. The sky is so big it touches the horizon in front of me. Nothing around but a highway that runs straight into clouds. I don’t have a job, I have no idea what the future holds, and it’s exhilarating. The possibilities are infinite. “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” drops me right back into that memory every time.
What artists are you listening to that would surprise your fans?: I still listen to GZA’s Liquid Swords. I think it’s one of the best hip-hop albums ever released. That might be a little unexpected as compared to the music I write.
How do you discover new music? Do you buy music or are you content with streaming?: When I was a kid I used to discover new music through skate videos. That was unquestionably the most enjoyable method of learning about bands and discovering new music. Nowadays it’s either through music magazines, friend recommendations, or getting lost in the excess of options on iTunes. Every now and again I’ll catch a good opening band, buy an album, and become a fan. Those finds are golden.
I buy all of my music. In fact, the stuff I love I own three times over. That is, I likely have the CD, the record, and an iTunes purchase. I don’t really stream music. And I’m not over-ecstatic about hearing just one song by an artist and then either pledging allegiance or denouncing them altogether. I miss the days of thumbing through my dad’s records, reading the liner notes, studying the album covers, and discovering The Beatles for the first time. I remember sitting on the floor with my head in between the speakers, listening to Abbey Road cover to cover, and looking up confused when the B-side stopped spinning because I thought it contained only one (continuous) song. Unfortunately, a lot of the music listening ritual has been lost through streaming abilities and single song purchases.
On the other “half-glass-full” hand, both streaming and music a la carte are great ways for bands to get exposure. There’s so much more opportunity than there was even ten years ago. And there are so many more options for the music fan. So I’m quite happy those channels exist.
How will musicians make a living if fans continue to expect music to be free?: That’s a great question. Maybe touring? But that’s why we all have jobs outside of playing in this band. The job enables the music.
What don’t fans/audiences understand about the music industry today?: I don’t know much about the music industry myself. Have I just signed away my rights?
Are digital singles/EPs vs. full albums the future?: As a continuation of one of the previous questions, I’d love to see full albums be the future, however I think we’re headed down the digital single/EP route. That’s not such a bad thing though, especially for independent artists and bands that can only fund recording for a single or an EP.
Finish this sentence: The music industry is…an industry of music.
What do you have in the works for the upcoming year?: The plan is to get back in the studio to finish up some work we started on last year. We’re also in the midst of working on more show dates.