How do you usually write the lyrics of your songs?
I’ve got this little black notebook that I carry with me, collecting lyrical ideas, phrases, words that catch my eye out in the wild. I use this as my stockpile of imagery and ideas.
Whenever I’m sitting down to write by myself or working out ideas with the rest of the band, melody reigns supreme. That is always the first thing to settle. We will be jamming on something, some chord progression or riff, and I’ll start to carve out melodic phrases. Seeking out a landscape for how the song might look. The voice memo app is one of my most trusted songwriting tools during this process. When we are hammering out songs, I’ll be singing these melody lines with nonsense words or phrases, just sort of stream of consciousness stuff, making sure to record all of the passes we take.
When I’m listening back through these early sketches, in my car or out for a run, there will inevitably be a phrase or two that sticks, that seems like it might be the lyrical nucleus for the song. I’ll crack open my notebook and start to stitch together images and phrases and a path will start to emerge.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing in songwriting?
The most important thing in songwriting is making deliberately intentional choices. When you are songwriting, you are creating a world for the listener to live in for the duration of that song. A good song is like a condensed film or TV show, the listener suspends their disbelief and submits to the rules of that song. Every lyrical, sonic, and arrangement choice that the songwriter makes must service that experience for the listener. The images you choose. How many times you repeat a phrase. Assonance, consonance, anaphora, alliteration. Songwriting is made up of a bunch of little choices, the most important thing in songwriting is making sure every choice is thoughtful and helps to create that world.
Are you ever scared of revealing aspects of your personal life/experience to strangers through your music?
I think that’s all that good songs should strive to be, honest communication. A mentor of mine once said if you’re not scared while writing something then it’s not worth writing. Good songs have the ability to transcend authorial intent, mean one hundred different things to one hundred different people, which both alleviates that scary feeling and also adds to it.
What is the best lyric that you ever wrote (the most meaningful for you)?
“Mint,” the closer on the EP, has some of my favorite lyrics I’ve ever written. I had a really strong vision for what I wanted to do and am really happy with the way it was executed. I knew I was writing it for Katy’s voice and that was really empowering for me, opened me to try some things I may not have if I was writing them for myself. I wanted it to be these series of declarative statements and images that could be plucked out of context and still be interesting and impactful. When I was writing the lyrics to this song I became very interested in words that had multiple meanings, words that could act as nouns, adjectives, and verbs depending on the context. “Mint” is my favorite of these words that can do this, it has so many different meanings. I tried to pack as many of those kinds of words inside the song as well, so that the individual lyrics and the song as a whole could chameleon based on what the listener needs.
What inspired “Fever”, part of your latest EP?
“Fever” is meant to be mimetic of the cyclical nature of relationships and togetherness. It ends in the same place that it started. It’s about navigating the clumsy and lovely nature of starting things over, calling things off. It’s an amalgam of those moments in relationships short and long that seem unimportant at the time, spilling a glass, laying in bed, dancing together, little mistakes, that end up seeming like the most important ones once the relationship is over.
“Team” is an uncoupling. It’s supposed to be nostalgic and contemplative, thinking of the people you used to be on a team with, reflecting on all the little reasons why things have changed. I wanted to leave the verses of this song more obtuse and open to interpretations, fragmented imagery sort of stuff, with the chorus being easily memorable and understood.
Do you remember the day you wrote “White Room”?
It was the day after a pretty brutal breakup. Allan picked me up for some music store therapy, going to our favorite music store to find him a fuzz pedal. We got one of those private rooms where we could really crank things up loud. Allan and I have this pretty explosive and easy musical chemistry, things have always happened really quick for us. He started to play these punchy, fuzzed-out stabs and I started writing lyrics and a melody to what would become “White Room.” The riff he was playing felt so cathartic and freed me up to let some ideas loose. We started sketching out what would become “White Room” and “Mint” in that same day.
Is there a link/a common theme among the songs of the new EP?
The common thread for us has always been togetherness and celebration. We like to make music that celebrates the spectrum of experience, pain, forgiveness, fucking up, figuring it out. The breakups and the makeouts, starting things over, being in over your head. All of us, together, tangling up, unfurling. These have been our favorite themes over the past years. We like writing songs for those that are involved in this messy beautiful blur of a world.
What is the best suggestion your producer gave you?
Our lead guitarist Allan Cuva produced and mixed our record. Some of the most important suggestions Allan ever gave me were to trust myself. To stick to my gut. I tend to get insecure about ideas and takes and Allan is extremely encouraging, he’s really good at pulling the best performances out of us when we are recording.
What are your plans for 2019?
We have so much music to make, so many shows to play, so many things we want to do as a band. We’re hitting the road. We’re recording more music. The party is just getting started, we’re here for the long haul.
To conclude the interview a short Q/A session, please answer the first thing that comes to your mind:
- Define in one word your self-titled EP: Shark.
- The best show you ever played: Selling out The Basement, a legendary rock club in Nashville.
- The one thing that you must have in your backstage: Red Hot Blues corn chips and red wine, get a little spicy and sweet before the show
- The soundtrack of your childhood: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco.
- Your favorite song lyrically speaking, but not written by you: Cactus Tree by Joni Mitchell.
- Last question is “unusual”, we want to know your best relationship advice: Same advice I’d give to anyone trying to be in a successful band, listen to and trust your team.