It’s a cold evening and after an hour of saving the world on my computer, I head off to meet a band that my partner in crime has interviewed before but I have not. I walk into The Talking Heads in Southampton and I meet the band for the first time. Skye and Matt greet me as if we were old friends which was so nice, and invite me along with the rest of the band to the Cyco bus where we sit down to a beer and what turns out to be the most honest and funniest interview I have done in a long time. [part two is now up]
We met you 6 months ago on your last tour. What have you been up to since then?
Skye: Well we finished our second album called Opus Mar which comes out on the 31st March.
Yeah we are reviewing it a few days before the release. [review is up now! Mosh]
Matt: I’m going to say this right off the bat… it better be an awesome review! (sniggers)
Skye: We worked on this album tirelessly and we completed the Alien Ant Farm tour in November and now we are back in the UK. We took a little down time during Christmas. Then after that straight into the massive pledge campaign which took up a lot of my time.
Matt: She was so busy trying to make this pledge perfect for everyone that she forgot to sign about 10 of the items, which we are of course getting on top of.
Skye: Well there were over 3000 items that needed signatures if not more. CD’s, posters, calendars, etc. So that was a lot of work then getting it all together and out before we left for this tour. Which is cool as it means everyone got their packages before we went on tour. Just barely.
This was great as it meant they had a chance to listen to the new material before we come out and play it live. It’s always nerve-wracking when playing new material live as you don’t know if people will like it, get into it or hook on to it. But to have people that are already into it helps with the atmosphere.
When you play new music live is it a test for yourselves?
Matt: It’s like a more intense practice. The ones we are playing in this show are pretty good. When you are writing something and putting stuff together you’re not even sitting in the same room together. And you come up with ideas, you hand it to the guys and then you have to work out how it’s going to work. Some parts just don’t work live.
Skye: there was a time in rehearsal when I couldn’t seem to do it like when I am live and we couldn’t work out if it was the song or the fact there was just no-one there to work to. So you are never sure until you play it live for the first time. That’s the real test as there is so much give and take between us as the performer and the crowd.
Matt: there is one song that just doesn’t seem to get the crowd jazzed… we just don’t know what it is, damn it! (gesturing in a very charismatic way)
How about throwing dollars out in the crowd?
Thor: Hold on. Hold on… Money cannon!
Skye: Yeah, but we can’t use UK money as the small ones are coins and will hit people in the skull! (laughter)
Matt: What’s cool is we are doing four or five of the new ones in the show but there are some that we just won’t do right now as they are not ready to do live. Next time we come we will be playing a lot more from the new record.
What’s the reaction been like to the new album by those that have received it via pledge and reviews?
Skye: Our PR agent was prepping us for really good reviews and really bad reviews. Being so mixed in our music and our performance some people will like us or…
Matt: Some people will f**king hate us! (laughter)
Skye: It makes us laugh when our record is put in front of a real metal head, I mean, how is someone who is deeply into that genre going to enjoy this when they don’t even want to listen to it.
Matt: We’ve had a couple like that where you know the reviewer from previous reviews is a Pantera fan, and I love this band but if that is the type of music you love you are most likely not going to get us or even want to get us.
Skye: I’m so heavily influenced by hip hop, pop music and those types of genres and those types of guys hate it. So that would influence a reviewer possibly.
Matt: Some people think that as we can play with metal bands they automatically think that’s what they are going to get it and this really throws them for a loop. I mean that’s what I think.
Skye: The important thing is that the fan really enjoy the album we have put out and hear it live.
Matt: Reviews and everything are great but all that really matters to us is the kids, or what we consider our Cyco friends and family, that have been loving us so far. If they like it that’s all that matters. Which helps us know what we need to keep doing.
But some reviews you’re like “Come on! We put our heart and souls into this.” (laughter)
You worked with Benji from Skindred on the track “Move Mountains”. What was it like working with someone you’ve looked up to for so long?
Skye: I cried… (laughter) Not in front of him of course!
Matt: No, honest, she really did. She was so cool the whole time, but then alone…
Skye: (in a happy crying type way) This is the best day of my life! What was really cool was we did it remotely over the internet. Passing things back and forward until we had the song. We had the song for about 6 months and then we were heading past his hometown of Newport and I thought if there was any chance we could get Benji in a video we would have to go to him, we couldn’t ask him to come to us.
So we were right there, I figured we would see if he was even around so I emailed him and he was like “Yeah, I am totally down”. So he took us to his rehearsal space where they first started and we filmed for a few hours and thought “Yeah, that’s great we got it all in”, but he was like “We should all go out tonight”, and I was like (excitedly) “Yes, yes, we should!”
He took us all on an awesome night out. I mean it’s all fine when you’re doing the track but it’s another thing to take that time to hang out.
Thor: Yeah he had some really good stories, really good stories that he shared with us. He’s even had Skye live on stage with him doing “Morning”, which was pretty awesome to watch.
Matt: There was talk of a tour between the two of us, it was close but we decided to wait until the record was out. But soon, maybe next year, something will happen.
Skye: Yeah we are in touch. He’s one of those guys that does everything via voice notes never text. So he will send a voice note of him like (singing) we are going to move mountains… (laughter) I was like “Yay, that’s sooo cool!”
Why Pledge Music? I’ve spoken to a number of bands and artists who had their reasons behind it. They were with a record label, it fell though, the label was not letting the music develop organically. They choose that option to basically just get the music out there. So why did you choose to do a pledge campaign?
Skye: Well firstly, we wanted to do a record and we are independent so we don’t have any money. Secondly we had the idea of instead of working with James who worked of us on the last album and using our home studio and Matt producing, we decided that we wanted the old and new Cyco friends and family to be personally involved in the new album.
I had a ton of ideas of how to make a successful crowd funding campaign. We did a little crowd funding for the first UK tour we did and we got an amazing response. I mean we got half our budget for the entire tour. There were people that pledged even though they could not make the tour as they lived somewhere else. They just wanted to help us get out there on tour.
Thor: It’s so good because it’s the ones that care about your music that are sponsoring the band and helping to get us out there. It’s way more intimate than a record label. We picked Pledge as it’s all about music. The others out there are all about everything not one thing.
Matt: Pledge were great. They helped promote us, that’s for sure. It was also a big thing as they submit to Soundscan for our record sales.
Skye: In Canada it’s kind of a big deal to get government funding for bands because there are not a lot of opportunities there. So in order to reach certain amounts of funding you have to get to certain thresholds of sales to prove what you are doing. And for some reason it is so hard to submit our off-stage sales to properly put into our sales count. So with Pledge all the pre-orders go towards that.
Matt: I bet you are sat there thinking “man I have a lot of writing to do…” (laughter)
Yeah but this is so much fun. Having real answers instead of pre-set ones is fantastic. Thank you!
Skye: After doing this scale of a campaign there are now so many things that I would do differently. It’s one thing to do the pre-orders and some t-shirts, but because I have this crazy mind and so does the artist that does our artwork, that we come up with these ideas that take so much longer than we possibly imagined.
Matt: I am the one that is stressing out the most. I’m like “Hey, when is that going to be done?” and they are like “Two weeks”. I heard two weeks for about seven months. (laughter)
Skye: But the fans I think can see how much they mean to us by how much effort we put into stuff. Like we did a deck of cards with each card having a different pose and a calendar where we do 12 full on photo shoots at 12 different locations. Most of the pledge money went to the items, a very small percentage went to the album.
Matt: The mailing alone – and this is all your fault… (looks at Skye) I said to Skye, “So what are we looking at when it comes to the mailing costs?”, and she was like “Yeah… it’s going to be between $1500 to $2000!” Well it is about triple that! (laughter)
Skye: I didn’t realise that when I made a package that a third of the cost that was paid for the item or items went towards the postage. Some of the packages were pizza box size and they were about $100 a piece to mail.
Matt: I was like “Damn, I need another job!” (laughter)
Skye: But the fans are happy and it was a learning curve. I also think it shows how much we care about what we are giving to our fans.
Matt: They are not fans. They are family. They are people that care about us and care enough to invest in something that they love and want to help us meet new people. No-one is a rock star anymore; we are just lucky to be out here.