What was it like to play with Motion City Soundtrack and the Henry Clay People?
It was amazing; it went really, really well. It was the first time that we’ve played that venue, and it was the Casbah, so we were pretty excited. We were totally honored to play and I think the show went over really well.
Your album, The Front Bottoms, opens up with hit, “Maps”, which talks about leaving your hometown. Was that a reference to your band taking off for touring?
It really was. We had thing feeling of just wanting to leave where we were from.
There’s a lot of romantic misadventures on your album. Has your romantic life gotten better after the album’s release?
It wasn’t all necessarily about myself. I take a lot of stories about my friends and things like that. I’m happy that I have a band and a way to release them. And then you find a lot of people that can connect with the stories.
How would you characterize the album conceptually?
I would definitely say it’s a coming of age album. When me and Mat recorded the album, we were kind of all over the place. We recorded like six songs, and then we took a little break to kinda make some money. Then we recorded the next six songs. I feel like you can kind of tell the first songs that we recorded from the second group of songs, just because it was a different headspace. We were going through a lot of things, and the album was a way for us to go back and live the experiences and have a release.
What is the most important part of a song to you?
Let’s see. I like keeping it as familiar as possible for the audience, but just do something a little different. The most important part of a song is that it’s enjoyable to listen to. That’s the whole point if you’re going to go around and play for people. If you’re keeping it simple and relatable, then you’re doing a good job. Sometimes we fail, but sometimes we succeed, so it’s a good feeling.
I really appreciate the sing-talk aesthetic. What drew you to that with your music, as opposed to more conventional singing styles?
I didn’t have like a super-nice voice or anything, but I still wanted to express myself through this medium of singing. When I played the tape back, I was like ‘it doesn’t sound horrible, I could listen to this’. I don’t have a very good singing voice, so it was just working with what I had.
Would you say that it was a choice to emphasize the lyrics?
It was always really natural to us, it just kind of flowed that way. We never tried to force anything.
Were there any particular inspirations for that singing style?
I’m a big fan of the Mountain Goats, I’m a big fan of Bright Eyes, and Brand New. All those bands where the vocals are very distinct. They were a big inspiration to me, ‘hey, look at these guys, they’re not trying to sound super pretty like everybody else’. I think I can do that, you know?
Favorite Bright Eyes album?
I guess I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. That album came to me when I was going through a period in my life where I was very able to latch on to something. I love Bright Eyes. Actually, me and Mat are huge Bright Eyes fans. He’s actually got a few tattoos of Bright Eyes lyrics. He just got a neck tattoo, isn’t that crazy?
Yeah, that would be a very sensitive place. What is it?
I can’t even tell, it just looks like a big blob. It’s a scorpion with a big flame, it looks ridiculous. It’s just ridiculous.
New Jersey has been a popular state in recent pop culture. Almost every band or celebrity that breaks out of that state defines it differently, from Jersey Shore to Titus Andronicus, to the My Chemical Romance. How do you think your music represents New Jersey?
When I first started out, it was never something that I thought about. I lived in the suburbs of New Jersey, it’s just who I am. If I grew up in Texas, I’d probably make different music. If I grew up in California, I’d definitely make different music. The music that we make is us, and if that represents New Jersey, then that represents New Jersey. I do feel like bands from New Jersey have a distinct sound because there’s a certain attitude that comes along with it. There’s also different areas of New Jersey. There’s very wealthy parts and there are very, very poor parts and everywhere in between. We definitely grow up with a certain personality.
Do you like those shows?
I know, it sucks. You go everywhere and it’s so attached. It’s the Jersey Shore, or Desperate Housewives of New Jersey or whatever the hell it is. It is so not that situation for us, for any of us. When you pull up, people are like, ‘you’re from New Jersey? That’s weird’. There is kind of a stigma attached to it, but it’s something we embrace.
Favorite New Jersey band?
River City Extension. There’s a pretty lively music scene up there. You run into the same people a lot. We just ran into River City Extension in California.
Your lyrics are very vulnerable and confessional. Do you ever feel weird singing them live?
Sometimes it catches me off guard. At this point, I would say no. When we sing the songs, they’re not even about me and my experiences anymore. When the audience is singing it, it’s theirs, they can have it. They’re for everybody else. It’s a great feeling. I love the fact that we’re able to relate with people.
Particularly when bands are starting out, they get compared to other artists as a means of describing their sound. What is your favorite and least favorite band that you’ve been compared to? For instance, your website describes your music as Joni Mitchell via Green Day…
My favorite band that we’ve been compared to is Frightened Rabbit. I love Frightened Rabbit, that’s a solid band. We’ve gotten all sorts of things. I think that when we’ve been compared to bands that just really seems to be doing their own thing and having fun with the music that have a strong fan base, that always makes me so happy. Maybe that could be us one day.