John Cleese, The 1975 and a house party are all included in one of our longest Band of the Day interviews we’ve had in some time. Strap in!
All 3 of us grew up and still live in Santa Cruz, California. If you saw Jordan Peele’s “Us,” (which if you haven’t you should) – that place!
How did you meet?
Our drummer is my younger brother Carl, so our meeting is pretty self-explanatory! Basically, picture me as a 3-year-old nervously holding a screaming loaf of bread while my parents snapped Polaroids and went “Awwwwww.” As for Ryan the bassist, we met back in 2016 through a mutual friend T3TRA who recruited both of us to help her open for James Durbin at this big beach concert. Funny enough, I actually started playing bass for his band Urban Theory at the time, and we just got to be really close friends and musicians in general.
How long have you been playing as a band?
Well, originally our first album was part of a solo side-project I was working on, but I decided to form the band in late 2017 instead. Originally, Ryan was still preoccupied with Urban Theory, along with the whole work + school equation, so it was a while after we released The Lighter Side of Darkness before he came around to play bass at our shows. I believe our first show with Ryan was last July in Salinas at the Somos Art Gallery – so about a year!
Before you get sick of being asked…where does the band name come from?
I’m a big Monty Python fan, and I was watching a relatively recent interview with John Cleese where he mentioned that he had just turned 75. As you’d expect, the crowd started applauding, and he responded by making fun of them for basically congratulating him on still being alive. Sarcastically, he goes “Yes, watch me breathe. Watch me breathe!” I just thought it was interesting.
What are your influences?
Numerous, and not exclusively music-related. In addition to listening to music, I also read a lot, listen to podcasts, watch movies/documentaries, and in general just pursue an ever-growing education in anything and everything that is exciting and stimulating for me. I love history, philosophy, art in its many forms, science/technology, travel (which I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of so far in 23 years)…the list goes on and on! To me, the world in many ways is a bleak and troubled place, but it’s also deeply permeated with incredible people, ideas and stories that offer a wealth of inspiration to the careful observer, and I strive to be that careful observer. As for more strictly musical influences, I grew up listening to Goo Goo Dolls, Peter Gabriel, Switchfoot, The Police, Sting, Imogen Heap, U2, etc., and in recent years I’ve been heavily (no pun intended) influenced by a select group of relatively underrated progressive metalcore bands like ERRA, Invent Animate, Periphery, and Novelists.
That’s just a short list of the biggest influences, though. I’ve probably listened to, and been influenced by, something or someone from just about any genre you can think of. Just like with other pursuits, I try to expose myself to as much as possible, and with music, I’m always hoping to detect genuine originality, bold creativity, and some kind of distinct voice/perspective; a process which, as a listener, takes some considerable sifting and wading through all the disqualifiable peripheral noise. But I always find what I’m looking for eventually! And you never know where, or in what genre, it will pop up next. In much the same way that I view the whole world in general, I think digging through all the bullshit to find where the real gems are is ultimately worth it.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
If I had to guess, I’d suspect that the influence progressive metalcore has had on me as a pop-rock songwriter is pretty unusual. I used to play in a metalcore band (now called Anever) where I got exposed to the magical world of polyrhythmic syncopation, and I discovered how to create kick drum patterns and basslines that are both technically advanced, yet extremely funky/engaging and accessible. The same is true for chord voicings. A lot of metal is deliberately atonal and ugly, but some of the bands I listed before like ERRA make really sophisticated and tasteful melodic choices in their compositions, such that (once again, to the careful observer) a profoundly wide expanse of palpable emotion is to be discovered in their music. I see myself as trying to pioneer a bridge between the aforementioned intense, yet relatively uncharted expanse and the general public, who I suspect would fall in love with it if only they had a way to get there.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
Probably. My biggest lyrical influence is, without question, Switchfoot. Something Jon (the lead singer) has done consistently for the past 20 years is write song after song where questions are ultimately posed to the listener. This is your life, are you who you want to be? We got information in the information age, but do we know what life is, outside of our convenient Lexus cages? Lyrics like this have always felt like fire under my ass, telling me to get up and embark on some kind of adventure into a world that is calling my name. I want my own lyrics to carry the same kind of message, conveyed in my own way. I think art has a tremendous ability to change people’s hearts and push them in a certain direction, and that’s why I’m always so irritated and offended by so-called artists that use this incredible power only to reinforce the dominant paradigm and keep people where they are. What a waste! It’s hard to pinpoint what my lyrical themes are exactly, but you won’t ever hear me singing about my own wealth, sexual prowess, or aptitude for glamorous, drug-infested parties. I can tell you that for sure.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
Well, I’ve been told we’re very loud. My brother plays the drums extremely hard! We play as a power trio, so the stage setup is fairly small and intimate, and I try to make the experience as immersive as possible for the audience. I’m not a natural “front-man” personality, and I’d rather not force something like that, so I do my best to show the crowd I’m a human being who’s simply gone to the same show they have, and that we’re all here to listen to the music. I guess you could say I’m sort of an empathetic onstage persona. I’m more likely to divulge some embarrassing thing I did the other day or ask the audience a question than I am to point my finger in the sky or start clapping my hands and dancing. I’d be the horror of any trained performance coach, but I like it that way, because I know that it’s genuinely me and not some imitation of what people think I’m supposed to be.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
Oh man, let me tell you about this house show we played a while back. My friend was moving out of this really nice two-story house just outside the city limits, and he was throwing this enormous moving-away house show party. As you can imagine, throwing a huge rock show in a house you’re about to move out of does not translate into a healthy sense of respect for property. I think he even hired a brewery to do catering in his living room, so there was beer everywhere and the crowd was basically a drunken mob crashing around the house, knocking over speakers and mic stands, getting in fights, and in general just leaving behind a trail of total destruction everywhere.
The crazy thing I had to do was tell off this hammered asshole that stole the mic during our set and who started accusing people in the audience of stealing his phone, which he’d obviously dropped somewhere in the soup of his intoxication. I don’t think I’ve ever been angrier at another person in my life, or closer to getting in a physical altercation. But eventually, he just sort of wandered off – whether that had anything to do with my intervention is lost to history. The worst part of that show was unloading the gear after our set; there was such a thick endless sea of drunk people in the way, we practically needed Moses as a roadie. But I’m glad we had the experience!
Another wild experience we had was playing an outdoor festival in Mariposa, CA called Music On The Green. We played last year, in July of 2018, when Mariposa was on fire. Not only was Mariposa literally on fire, but it was also sweltering with 100+ degree weather, so it felt like it was on fire, too. To make matters worse, Mariposa is pretty high elevation (because it’s really close to Yosemite National Park) so I had to play a 2-hour set in intense heat, breathing only thin, smoky air. But the show was still really fun, and my girlfriend Natalie (who grew up in Mariposa and helped get us on the bill) officially became my girlfriend on that trip, so the whole thing is really a very fond memory for me overall. The fire was awful, though. I know a lot of people lost their homes and it was a really traumatic time for the people there.
What kit do you use/guitars do you play, etc.?
My brother plays a Gretsch Catalina drum kit with a few add-ons like a really smacky Pearl snare, some Sabian cymbals/hats, and DW hardware. I think he’s pretty religious about using Vic Firth sticks too. Ryan plays a 5-string Ibanez SR505 and a Fender combo. As for me, I’m a 100% Fender Telecaster guy. I love the plucky sound and it’s really important for my play style and the riffs I write. I use 2 live: a Modern Player with humbuckers, and a semi-hollow body with P90s. I use a simple Marshall combo amp and no FX or pedals (other than a tuner). Mostly, this isn’t because of any purist snobbery on my part – I just find that my particular play style works best with a really clear, dry tone. So I don’t overdo it with the gear. I also recently incorporated a Yamaha CP4 stage into our live setup, which I play for only one or two songs.
What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?
We just released a new single called “Feel Alright” that I’m pretty excited about. Prior to the release, we partnered with The Label Group, who are helping us with management and distribution, and we also partnered with TAG Publicity who are helping with press. It’s rad to have their support, and we intend to keep working with them throughout the upcoming release of our sophomore album, which will be called The Strange Pull of What You Really Love.
What are your plans for the rest of 2019/2020?
For me, the big focus right now is the upcoming album. We’re also continuing to tackle the local scene here in Santa Cruz – in fact, just last night prior to writing this we played a packed show at one of my favourite venues in town, The Crepe Place. The plan is to build up our audience and start pursuing opportunities for touring once that is feasible. We’re still a relatively new band, but I’ve quite honestly been a bit shocked and totally humbled by how much we’ve progressed already, and I’m ecstatic to see how far we can get in the coming year.
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
Oo, tough question! I think I’d have to go with The 1975 as my ideal band to open for. I’m crazy about their stuff. They get incredible crowds, too. As for the opener, I’m not too sure. I can imagine my friend Israel Sanchez would do well with this hypothetical audience. He writes very, very unique rock music using just a looper pedal and an acoustic guitar. I’d certainly classify him as a must-hear artist from my area.
What is your dream venue to play?
There’s a venue fairly close to where I live called the Mountain Winery that is the best-looking, best-sounding venue I’ve ever been to. Back in high school, I saw my heroes the Goo Goo Dolls play there, along with Parachute and Michelle Branch. It’s hard to think of a spot I’d pick before that one.