A Chat With: Matt Maeson

Considering he grew up playing music in prisons and at biker rallies with his parents, you could say singer songwriter Matt Maeson has quite the interesting backstory…But ultimately, it’s his dynamic vocals, piercing lyrics, and knack for storytelling that hooks listeners and fosters the growing buzz surrounding his music. With millions of streams racking up on Spotify and appearances booked at major festivals around the country, the momentum surrounding Maeson just keeps building, and he hasn’t even released a debut full length yet.

The music Maeson has released so far remains sonically multifaceted, with each song on his two EPs having a distinct sound of their own. Most of his songs tend to cover serious subject matters, but to juxtapose the heaviness that comes with some of his music, Maeson keeps the mood lighthearted on his social media, often cracking jokes on his Twitter. (Go follow him if you’re not already, trust me.) That same personality transfers over to his live show, so if you’re heading to Lolla this year, make sure you catch Matt Maeson on Friday, 8/3 at noon…but first get to know him a bit better. I recently caught up with him after his set at Bonnaroo last month, talking his favorite festival moments, his love of Chicago food, Johnny Cash selfies and more.

 Photo Credit: Matthew Reamer
Photo Credit: Matthew Reamer

So I know you grew up with a musical family, but when do you remember wanting to start making music on your own?

I was, like you said, raised in a very musical family, so from the time I was able to consciously receive music, I loved it. I started on drums when I was really young. I was like 3 or 4 and my uncle passed away and he left me a drum set. I just drummed away until I was 13 or 14 and then I picked up a guitar around 15, and that’s when I started writing songs. My dad would teach me chords. So 15, around that age was when I started writing, and I started performing live when I was 17. The rest is history.

When you started performing live, is there anyone you looked up to, or whose stage presence you admired?

That’s tough cause there’s different aspects. Vocals, Britney Howard from Alabama Shakes is insanely talented. Jeff Buckley is one of my all time favorite artists. Then Manchester Orchestra is a huge one for me.

Oh were you around yesterday when they played?

No I wasn’t I missed it! I missed them at Bottle Rock when they played the day after.

Oh no! One day you’ll get to see them! Anyone else who inspires you?

I love Johnny Cash. I love the way he performs… and I played in a lot of prisons growing up.

I caught your set earlier and before you played “Cringe” you said “This is the one everyone has been waiting for.” How does that feel since releasing that song to have such a viral response to it? What has been a highlight?

It’s sick! “Cringe” is my most streamed song so I know every show that’s what everyone wants to hear. I’d say that the really dope thing was I played this show at The Hawthorne in Portland, Oregon. That was the first show that I ever heard people singing the lyrics with me, and that was to “Cringe.”

Then you just mentioned you played Bottle Rock, you’re playing ‘Roo now, then playing Forecastle and Lolla too. What is your favorite festival moment and your worst festival experience that you’ve ever had?

I’d say my favorite festival moment would probably be the time I played this festival in Houston called In Bloom. It’s a smaller one, but it was my first festival. My girlfriend was there, I just played solo acoustic. And people were singing along. It was just the first big crowd at a festival I saw and played in front of. The least favorite was I went to this festival called Beach Goth in Orange County. It’s cool and the line up was amazing…it had three of my favorite artists; King Krule, James Blake, and Bon Iver were all headlining. The stages were so close together and it was so packed that if you were trying to see King Krule you were hearing like TLC play. And then if you were trying to see Bon Iver you heard this, and there was just so many people that I was like I don’t want to see any of my favorite artists like this. I’d rather wait to catch them in smaller shows.

What made you come up with the idea to release stripped versions of songs like “The Hearse” and “Cringe”?

[It was] mainly cause this is my first tour doing a full band thing. So everything before that was just acoustic. So that’s what people who have seen me live have grown to love. That’s when I think the songwriting really shines, when there’s not all this big production behind it, but it’s just this simple thing where people can really focus on the melody and lyrics. We put a couple out and people loved it.

My mom loves the stripped version of “Cringe!”

Yeah that song is streaming extremely well! It’s streaming better than the regular one.

What about new music? Are you working on that on the road at all or just focusing on touring these songs?

I mean, both. I don’t really try and force myself to write too often because I think that’s when the writing feels like it’s a job or something. It gets a little less sincere when you’re trying to force something out. Typically what happens is I’ll go on tour, I’ll get so drained and so exhausted, and then I’ll get home and write an amazing song. We’re definitely writing for the album right now.

So you’re coming to play Lolla, and I’m based in Chicago–

Yeah I love Chicago!

So what are you looking forward to about Lolla and coming to Chicago in general? Are you sticking around at all?

I will be because I’m doing a Lolla set and then I’m doing an after show, and then I’m doing another show…I think it’s just acoustic. So I’m doing the acoustic show and then I’m opening up for Gang of Youths, they’re awesome and I’ve done a couple shows with them! Then I do the actual Lolla set, so I think I’ll be there for three or four days.

Did you check out the rest of the line up at all?

The line up is insane. So good. I’m pumped. There’s definitely people I want to see, but I’ll know in about a month and a half from now.

Anything else you’re looking forward to doing in the city while you’re there?

I love Chicago. I would 100 percent live there if it didn’t get so cold. It’s brutal. I’ve been there in the winter and it’s so brutal. But Nando’s, I love Nando’s and it’s one of the only states that has them. Au Cheval, the burger spot. It’s insane. I love food. I still haven’t been yet, but my buddy works at the restaurant called Alinea. It’s insanely expensive. I just love Chicago, I love the people there.

Also your Twitter can be really hilarious, and I saw the other day you posted about people DM-ing you selfies. So if anyone in the world were to DM you a selfie, who would you want to slide into those DMs? We can even do dead or alive.

I would say Johnny Cash. Cause not only would that be amazing to receive a selfie, it would also be hilarious just to see a selfie of Johnny Cash.

Yeah, those don’t exist. Then last thing, do you have any unknown facts or something that you’ve always wanted to talk about that no one has brought up yet in an interview?

That’s a hard one! I skate…nobody ever asks me about that! If you look at my Instagram or something everyone I follow is pro skaters. I never get starstruck and the only people I get starstruck by are pro skaters. Which is funny cause they’re usually the chillest dudes.

When did you get into skating?

When I was super young, around 7. I’m not like great. I was better when I was 16, but I still love it. Love the culture.

Anything else you’re looking forward to or any last closing comments?

Looking forward to getting this album done. We don’t know when it’s gonna come out. It’ll either be late this year or early next year. Then we’re gonna do a fall tour that I’m pumped about. We’re still figuring it out if it will be a headlining or support tour.


 

Chicago, if you’re not going to Lolla this year, you can still catch Maeson at his aftershow–snag those tickets here.

This article was originally posted on ANCHR Magazine

Get To Know: Naked Giants

2018 has already been a whirlwind for the Seattle trio Naked GiantsBetween releasing their debut album, touring Europe with Car Seat Headrest, and playing new cities for the first time, it’s certainly been a year of career landmarks, and things aren’t slowing down for the band any time soon.

Back in May, the group played Chicago for the first time, packing Schubas Tavern on a Saturday night. Just as the audience warmly welcomed Naked Giants to their city, the band made sure everyone in the crowd had a great time by periodically checking in to make sure everyone felt comfortable, promoting a completely safe space at their show.

Before the show began that night, I had a chat with the band, talking everything from movie soundtracks, their bucket lists, starting a New West Records super group, and their proactive songwriting habits. For all that and more, get to know Naked Giants now.

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Naked Giants is Gianni Aiello, Grant Mullen, and Henry LaVallee

THEIR FIRST MUSICAL MEMORIES HEAVILY INVOLVE MOVIE SOUNDTRACKS

The three members of Naked Giants all remember getting into music at different ages, but there’s a common thread in all of their introductions to music. Gianni Aiello says he remembers laying in his dad’s bed with a green iPod listening to “Human” by The Killers, but adds “Before that I really liked the SpongeBob Movie soundtrack. That had some tunes on it. When I look back on it, it’s like Flaming Lips, Ween, Avril Lavigne, Wilco… It’s a pretty cool soundtrack.”

Drummer Henry LaVallee also had early memories of movie scores. “I remember this movie called Bedknobs and Broomsticks, with Angela Lansbury,” LaVallee says, animatedly describing the film. “It’s like an old Disney movie from the 70’s, it took place in Britain during World War II. It was like a musical, but it was one of those trippy ones where the first act is all humans, and then at the start of the second act, they go into a cartoon world. So these humans are interacting with—it’s like Roger Rabbit. Then they get out of this cartoon world, but it follows this Medieval story book and it’s a really good movie honestly. These kids are orphaned from the war and then Angela Lansbury is like a witch and she takes them in.” Aiello interjects at one point to ask if it’s like Nanny McPhee, and LaVallee continues, “Little bit, little bit. Then the kids don’t believe in magic and they think Angela sucks, but then she’s actually badass. They also all sing together. And Angela doesn’t like the kids either, she’s forced to have them, but then they’re all really chummy by the end of it and they fight off the Nazis with magic at the very end and it’s really cool. But the music in that [inspired me]. So we used to watch that, it was a great summertime movie. Or Meatballs with Bill Murray and the songs in that!”

As for guitarist Grant Mullen’s first musical memories, he recalls having a tiny Casio keyboard. “They’re really small and they sound really weird. I just remember playing really scary music, cause you know it’s really easy to play music like that when you have no idea what you’re doing. I was probably 4 or 5 when my parents got me that.”

THEY’VE PLAYED SXSW THE LAST THREE YEARS

SXSW usually does quite the number on bands with schedules involving multiple shows a day all around town, but Naked Giants hasn’t let that madness deter them from returning to Austin for the last three years in March. However, they all agree that this year had been the best by far, confirming that the third time really is a charm. “It was better in every way. We played better shows on average, there were people at the shows. We got to stay with our friends Ron Gallo. We had some good connections. We made some friends…The Do512 people who are all super nice. We’re actually gonna see one of them in New York cause their other coworkers [DoNYC] are there. Just in general it was a good vibe. Just like the flow and all of that,” Aiello said.

Mullen mentions that the group got to see their label-mate Caroline Rose for the first time at this past SXSW. “Meeting her was kind of like meeting a cousin. It was like oh, we’re probably gonna get along. You know? It weirdly reminded me of that. And we totally did, I thought,” LaVallee added.

THEY WANT TO START A NEW WEST RECORDS SUPER GROUP

Speaking of New West Records label-mates, if you’ve ever seen some of the label’s artists like Naked Giants, Caroline Rose, and Ron Gallo perform live, you might have realized that they all have an unforgettable stage presence. Well, Naked Giants has also recognized that trait about themselves and their extended record label family too. “I realized after seeing Caroline, and after touring with Ron, that New West Records–what they really love is gimmicks. We have the whole smorgasbord of everything we do on stage. Ron’s got the whole trumpet thing and playing a guitar with a skateboard or whatever. Caroline and her band have the outfits and the end of her show where she pulls out the recorder. So New West wants something that people will remember,” Aiello says. Mullen interjects to say, “People that don’t take themselves too seriously.” Aiello continues, “Exactly, that. So I had this dream of forming a super group of all 3 of our bands. I don’t know what the music would sound like…”

While they may have no idea what it will sound like, they do have some idea of the band name, and how it could work. “What if the name was Mick and the Gimme Gimmes?” LaVallee suggests. “That’s good, gimme more! There’s this band called Superorganism and they’re like a collective thing, but they would send music across different countries. Like one of them lived in England and one of them lived in Greenland, I don’t know if anyone lives in Greenland… But I would imagine it would be something like that [where we send music to each other],” Aiello ponders about the structure of the group.

THEIR FAVORITE PERFORMERS RANGE FROM THE LEMON TWIGS TO FREDDIE MERCURY

Speaking of memorable stage presence, the members of Naked Giants always seem to give 200 percent of their energy whenever they perform. So whose stage presence do they admire the most? “Freddie Mercury,” LaVallee says, adding that he tries his best to be the “Freddie Mercury of the drum kit.”

“I was just talking to somebody yesterday about The Lemon Twigs,” Aiello says. “I haven’t seen them live yet, but I’ve seen videos and that one kid’s got some really good kicks. So I started doing kicks after I saw that.”

Mullen adds, “I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this, but now that I think about it, early White Stripes, Jack White stage presence. Cause he just you know, looked so almost like, he had mixed emotions while he was playing. He didn’t want the crowd to even look at him. Cause he didn’t like being there, but he really wanted to tell them something really important. Which was I’m a white guy singing the blues. Something about that, like he has this weird vibe that I remember thinking was really cool when I would watch them play. Now when I watch modern Jack White, I still like him, but it comes off as a little pretentious doing it twenty years.”

Aiello also mentions that the group caught [Thee] Oh Sees’ set at Sasquatch festival and realized that’s where Grant gets all his stuff.  “[John Dwyer] looks like a lizard man too, but he surprisingly doesn’t move that much. He just does weird little gimmicks, like spits in the air and catches it in his mouth. Something I also steal from him is the mouth around the microphone. He really throats that thing,” Mullen says. If you still have yet to see Naked Giants live, you can get a glimpse of their energetic stage presence from the photos below of their Schubas show.

 THEY’RE NOT PROCRASTINATORS WHEN IT COMES TO ALBUM WRITING

Naked Giants’ debut album just came out in March this year, but despite their busy touring schedule, the band has already started working on new material. Rewinding back to the release of the first album, Mullen says, “It’s just good to get it out. So people can listen to twelve of our songs in a row now…. If they want to. They all sound pretty similar production wise…They’re all one package that you can experience our songs. Before everyone was like who is this band? Like I’ve heard of them, but they just have six songs on an EP, what’s the deal? And now we have an album.”

“The best response was a review on some online magazine, and it was a really nice review. They were like we really like this album, love all the tracks, and then they called the album Slush instead of Sluff,” Aiello chimes in. While the group were happy to finally get out a cohesive catalog of their music that’s been well received, rather than relishing in the debut, they’re eager to get out even more material. “We actually just recorded nine demos in the week and a half we had off between tours. One actual song that’s gonna hopefully be a single in the fall or something like that,” Aiello continues, highlighting the group’s work ethic.

Despite their eagerness to release new material, don’t get too excited for their sophomore album just yet; Mullen disclaimed they potentially have sixteen months of promoting and touring backing their first record. “It’s never a bad idea to just have the next one done,” Aiello says about their sophomore effort, mentioning that they’re only that proactive when it comes to making music.  “In all other areas of life we are [procrastinators]. We like to make albums.”

THEIR MUSIC CONTAINS EASTER EGGS 

The trio has even gone as far as constructing a loose common theme throughout the new material. “It’s secret though,” Mullen says, but Aiello hints that their might be some clues in the last song of the first album. Going back to their love of film, the band admits they’re fans of putting easter eggs in their work, which is a common factor in movie and tv series. “Once all the albums are out, if you really like our band, you’ll be able to find all these things and nerd out about [the Easter eggs],” Mullen reveals. At this point, LaVallee pointed to an Alfred Hitchcock book under the green room coffee table, saying the book was a good hint to their future work without using any words. Elaborating on the connection of film and their music, Mullen adds, “I feel like a lot of times I get inspired by the feeling I get from watching a movie. If it’s very dark, I might be in that place for a while. I don’t do it consciously.”

The group also says they’ve tossed around the idea of a TV show for the band. “Like a Naked Giants TV show, we’re always thinking how to make that work. We might have to start it as a web series. Then for one of the future albums we have planned, we’re hoping to do a visual album.”

THEY PERFORM DOUBLE DUTY WITH CAR SEAT HEADREST

This year, Naked Giants got the opportunity to not only open for Car Seat Headrest, but to join Will Toledo’s live lineup during Car Seat’s set on the tour. The gig has certainly added to the band’s workload on tour, but it’s also given them the opportunity to cross a lot of places and goals off their bucket list. This year, Naked Giants has already toured Europe and performed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,  and they’ll be continuing on another double duty tour this fall in The States.

While the band is grateful for all the career-highlight opportunities they’ve had with Car Seat Headrest, they remain ambitious to achieve the same feats as Naked Giants too. This fall, they’ll be playing their first major conventional festival when they return to Austin for Austin City Limits. “We’re doing this whole thing with Car Seat Headrest, going to Europe….but ACL is the kind of first big step that’s just Naked Giants. I mean of course we’ve done SX and that kind of stuff, but there’s a huge difference when you start doing the festival circuits. Then that gives me hope for next year, maybe in the summer, we’ll start doing Coachella, Lollapalooza, etc…” Aiello says. They’re also keen to cross off all of the Seattle staples from their list, naming The Neptune and The Paramount Theatre as the ultimate goals.



Check out Naked Giants’ upcoming tour dates here (Chicago, they’ll be at The Riviera on September 7th), and order your own copy of Sluff here. 

 

This article was originally posted on ANCHR Magazine

A Chat With Night Riots

Over the past few years, Night Riots has toured relentlessly; from supporting the likes of The Maine and Andrew McMahon to their own headline runs, it seems like the five piece is constantly up on stage, engaging crowds in cities across the country. Night Riots’ discography showcases a wide range of different musical styles, but their contagiously catchy melodies remain consistent, as does lead singer Travis Hawley’s signature vocals, which have drawn frequent comparisons to The Cure’s Robert Smith. Hawley’s timeless vocals translate even more powerfully when he’s up on the stage, charismatically commanding the room’s attention with his magnetic stage presence and bond with the entire band. While their recorded music has this quality that makes it instantly like-able, Night Riots’ live show only amplifies that quality, making their concerts a must see.

If you still haven’t found your way to one of their gigs, make sure you change that this month as they tour nationwide with Silent Rival and courtship. The tour swings through Chicago on Friday, June 22nd, but before they hit the Subterranean stage, get to know them as they discuss their ideal companion in an elevator outage, their favorite Ewoks, how they stay entertained on the road and more.


You’ve been on tour with courtship and Silent Rival since the start of the month. What’s your favorite part of touring with each of these bands?

It’s been awesome to be with bands that are good people.  It’s not always the case that you get along with everyone you tour with but both bands are awesome and really talented.

Speaking of tour, you’ll be in Chicago again on June 22nd, and you’ve played in Chicago several times in the past. What are some of your favorite things to do here?

We try to make a point to stop by the Chicago Music Exchange.  That place is amazing…has so many guitars and synths and just rad music gear.  Also always gotta hit up a Pequod’s Pizza for that deep dish.

How would you describe your live show on this tour in 3 words?

Energetic, theatrical and transportive.

Your song “Breaking Free” was recently featured in the show 13 Reasons Why...If you could pick any other TV show to have your music on, what show would you pick and why?

I’d want to go back in time and get a song on Star Trek TNG.  Maybe even have us be like a holodeck band or something.

You’ve had a couple new singles out this year, which are both great! What other plans for new releases do you have this year?

We’ve kinda been releasing unconventionally.  We aren’t necessarily releasing songs as legit singles.  We just want to get new music out there…maybe we will compile it into an album this year.

What are some of your favorite songs or albums from this year so far?

J. Cole’s new album KOD is rad.  Vacationer is putting out an album we are stoked for.  The new Kid Cudi/Kanye West album that just dropped is pretty tight too.

I saw your tweet the other day about the Gunslinger Series by Stephen King. What are some other books you’ve been into recently?

The Dark Tower series has been one of the best series I’ve read in a long time.  The scope and storytelling in it is remarkable. I think almost the whole band has read it at this point.  I just read The Stranger by Camus. I felt weird for a week.

Even though it seems like you’re constantly on tour and consistently working on new material, you guys are still really great with engaging fans on social media. What are some tips you have for managing your time with crazy tour schedules and how do you make sure to prioritize fan interaction?

At the end of the day the only reason we can continue what we do is because of the fans.  So I think it’s important to remember that. You need to be true to yourself and make art that is real but you also need to remember why you do it.  It’s fun and another way to be creative and think of new interesting ways to engage, entertain and help transport people out of their everyday lives… at least for a minute. Sticking to a schedule and consistency is key.

 

If you were stuck in an elevator with someone for a few hours, who would you want to be stuck with and why? (It could be anyone in the world.)

Probably Shaq because 1) He’d probably cradle you like a baby and calm you down 2) He could just rip the doors off and save you and 3) If it all goes to shit and you’re stuck, you could live off eating his body for like 6 months.

What’s one thing you’ve never been asked in an interview, but you’ve always wanted to talk about?

Who my five favorite Ewoks are.  Not in particular order they are: Chief Chirpa, Paploo, Teebo, Wicket, and Logray.


Grab your tickets to see Night Riots at The SubT this Friday, June 22nd here, and follow them on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram.

P.S- You can also grab a copy of Night Riots’ latest album in the shop or order it online here.



This article was originally posted on ANCHR Magazine

Get To Know: Shame

If you’ve ever attended SXSW, you know that it’s not like any ol’ regular music festival with set stages and scheduled performance times; There’s super official secret shows with big name artists, last minute pop up shows, unofficial showcases by new artists in the most random places around town, and multiple sets by the same artists in a single day. This past March, I finally attended my first ever SXSW and quickly learned just how unconventional this festival can be when I found myself interviewing Charlie Steen of the British punk band Shame at 1 AM after my friend had just cut his hair (as well as his bandmates’ hair) into a mullet.

Easily one of the buzziest bands at the festival, Shame has been soaring high since the January release of their debut album Songs of Praise, which has in fact been receiving endless praise from listeners around the world. This summer, Shame will return to The States to play a handful of dates, including a show at Chicago’s Empty Bottle as well as the annual West Fest street fest. Before they return to Chicago in July, get to know the band better by checking out these six facts I learned while chatting with Steen earlier this year.

 Photo by Holly Whitaker
Photo by Holly Whitaker

THEY RECORDED IN THE LEGENDARY ROCKFIELD STUDIOS

With the amount of buzz they’ve garnered and the sheer amount of gigs and festivals Shame has played, you might be surprised to find out that the members of Shame are only 20 and 21 years old. Before they started touring heavily, the band worked on writing their debut album for a few years, starting at the ages of 16 and 17. “We were still in school, and we recorded the album when we were 20,” Steen says.

Talking about the process behind writing the album, Steen continues, “Lyrically, it was about personal sort of things you experience in that time as well social observations. Musically, it was influenced by what we were exposed to in that period. All the different bands we discovered through just being that age and being into music.” Once they had written the album, the band took a trip to the iconic Rockfield Studios in Wales to record the tracks. “It was kind of like rehab,” Steen says about the middle-of-nowhere location of the studio, where they resided for ten days. “We’re quite bad at distractions. So, we were on a farm, and this place is like a historic studio. Oasis, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Led Zeppelin, all these people recorded there. Not many people go there now…Because everyone seems to just record with their laptop or a studio in London,” he says, pausing to describe the scene. “You have like a farm, and then you have a house up top. That’s where we stayed, we each had our own room. Then you walk past the stables and stuff like that and there’s a recording studio. I was up at the house, and I did all of my vocals in my bedroom with a bed sheet over me, onto an Apple Mac. The rest of the band, they did everything to a click [in the studio].”

Prior to their work at Rockfield Studios, Steen recalls working their way through several different producers in order to finally get the right fit with Dan Foat and Nathan Boddy. “I’m not a musician, so I don’t want to put my foot in a shoe that won’t fit, but before that, we’d worked with eight different producers. They all had done the same method of ‘you’re a live band, let’s try to make you sound like some punk band from the 80’s where you record it live.’ That wasn’t how it worked best. Dan and Nathan are from an electronic background, techno producers…They did it a completely unique and different way. Like Charlie, our drummer, he recorded his drum kit individually, each song. They saw it in the same way that fits our music, where the bass and the drums are the pulse and that was very important,” Steen says. “We then realized through trial and error that the best way to approach it for us, was to try to create something completely different to our live sound. So they’re two different things. Sometimes people say it sounds like it does live, but to us it’s a great difference than how it sounds on the record. It’s a lot more concise,” he continues.

THEY ADMIT THEIR MUSIC IS DERIVATIVE, BUT THEY STILL ENJOY IT

One of the most compelling features of Shame’s music is the incredibly raw, honest quality of their songwriting. Reflecting on their style of writing, Steen says, “With the type of music we’re doing…we’re a guitar punk band in 2018. We’re very aware it’s very derivative. There’s no way we could ever deny that. I think with us–I’ve said this before, with bands and artists we might be compared to, and those that might have heavily influenced us, we’ll never have been able to experience it. That’s amazing for us. When we get to see bands like Goat Girl and Sorry and stuff, it’s amazing that we can experience it. For us, it does feel new and refreshing.” Ultimately, they were never trying to be someone else when they started writing, and they’re still just trying to stick to their own vision. “At the end of the day, we never did this with dreams of like having 5-star hotels. It wasn’t ever manufactured. It was all just part of the process. We are just very passionate about music and we know that it’s been done before, but we enjoy doing it. I think the main thing is we don’t write music for anyone other than ourselves. At the end of the day, this is entertainment and we really enjoy it. We’re having a laugh,” Steen adds.

In addition to being authentic, Shame strives to keep their sound and vision multifaceted. “I think one of the preconceptions of a punk guitar band is aggression. Which you know could be lost in translation from energy or passion, or humor at times. That’s something we want to separate. Of course there are issues we’re angry about, but we don’t want to be a band that just conveys one emotion. That’s not human. We want to be able to express humor and melancholy,” Steen says. As they keep pushing to diversify their sound, they also keep pushing themselves to grow and adapt. “We’re very self aware. When we did that album we were teenage boys…that was when we wrote that album. We know now that a lot has changed in our personal lives, which also reflects in the general absurdity of being in a band. It’s just a weird life to live. You feel very temporary. At all times. We basically just want to adapt and evolve. We don’t wanna write the same songs we did before,” he says, adding that their constantly changing environment deeply affects them as a band and as people.

THEIR REHEARSAL SPACE LED THEM TO DISCOVER MUSIC IN A NEW LIGHT

In addition to recording in a legendary music space, Shame also first formed in the rehearsal space of the legendary Queen’s Head in Brixton, which is where the likes of Fat White Family rehearsed as well.

Steen attributes their early rehearsal space to some of their current habits as music fans, saying, “When we started in the Queen’s Head…This is one of the differences; Before, we’d grown up going to venues like Brixton Academy, really large venues like that and seeing bands who had already established themselves in a position of accomplishment. When we went to go to the Queen’s Head, personally I was able to discover bands who were playing a lot more intimate settings. Not known world wide. The realization that great music exists with an accessibility to a more intimate setting is a sort of relief.”

“These were bands who, you say what you want them about personalities, but they were characters. It wasn’t just some pop culture. When you grow up and you’ve only ever seen the bands who perform on a platform of success, you can sometimes overlook the reality of a lot of situations. Of course everyone grew up listening to The Ruts and Stiff Little Fingers. So we knew about these bands, but to get to know them. You realize they’re people. And I think their intentions to do whatever the fuck they wanted…they’d gone past the point of remorse. Which was the best thing about it,” Steen continues.

THEIR STAGE PRESENCE IS JUST AN AMPLIFIED VERSION OF THEMSELVES

The same sense of authenticity that Shame’s music has transfers over into their live shows; at SXSW, Steen often told their audiences to loosen up and smile, saying “this is entertainment.” Steen says he never feels intimidated to get up onstage and deliver such a transparent show. “When I was younger, and I say younger as in like a year ago, I definitely had idolized a lot of people. Then I found that to be quite damaging because you gain this obsession and sort of like–” Steen pauses and snaps his fingers, trying to think of the best way to phrase it. “It’s unattainable identity. At that period, when we play, it’s definitely to an extent a persona. It’s who I am, but amplified,” he continues.

Essentially, their stage presence will continue to remain an extension of themselves. Steen muses further on the concept of immense stage personalities, saying, “When I would look up to all these people like Iggy Pop or Lou Reed or whatever like, it was always…if you’re constantly comparing yourself, that’s what I found damaging. I think like I was saying, I don’t believe anything can be separated from context. At this age as well, you’re in the middle of this identity crisis, so you want to absorb all of these different personalities and be these people you obsess over. Then it got to the point where I’d just rather be myself. I was just this chubby, shy stoner as a teenager. When we used to play, that was the whole point: If you’ve been insulted so much your whole life, what have you got to lose?”

TOURING HAS TAUGHT THEM THEIR LIMITS

Shame just finished another UK and European tour after returning from a North American run, which saw them playing upwards of five shows in a day at this year’s SXSW, but believe it or not their recent touring schedule is nothing compared to the previous year. “Last year we did like 140 gigs and 57 festivals in 3 months, like whilst recording an album and doing 5 tours. By the end I got a bit broken mentally,” Steen says. “It’s hereditary but I suffer from anxiety so now I can only speak for myself…On the road, I don’t drink as much and don’t do drugs as much as we used to. Every night used to be a party. I sound like an old man,” he laughs. “I feel like an old man. So that’s how I kind of deal with it.”

Their intense past experiences ended up acting as a learning experience, where Steen personally discovered where his breaking point is. “The period of what I went through in December, where we ended up having to cancel this tour in Germany, I learned a lot more about myself than I have in my entire life. So I know when is too much. I know when I need a good night’s sleep. Like I need a good night’s sleep now, but it’s a celebration. I know what I need to do. I guess I sort of learned the value of responsibility a bit more. As a person, and this is a little bit hypocritical of me to say after saying that, but I can’t do moderation. I can’t do it at all. So I know that if I have one drink, I won’t drink until I fall asleep. And I can’t do one line. I’ll do it until it runs out. I can’t do that. If I’m not doing that, I can’t do anything. So it’s either one or the other, but that’s me as a person,” he says.

While Steen may have personally learned to rein in his limits, he also realizes as a band they have to compromise sometimes. “We’ve known each other since we were kids. Sean has been my best mate since we were 8. We understand each other very well. I don’t particularly like playing a lot of shows, for my own personal reasons. If the rest of the band wants to do it, you have to find a middle ground. After what happened we’re looking through a sharper lens about how many gigs we do. So like this festival season we slashed loads of festivals cause it’s not worth flying from Poland to play to 40 people in Kent to fly back to the Ukraine the next day.”

As far as the biggest lesson that Steen has learned about the band through the years, besides learning his limits, he says, “You kind of lose a lot–this might sound very dramatic, but you kind of lose a lot of human rights. And by that, I don’t mean like I’m shackled in chains in a 4×4 room. I mean, in terms of you kind of lose the things that make you feel human. Eating a meal with your mum and dad or like going for a drink with your friends. You lose people you love, your friends and family. It sort of disappears. Familiarity becomes an abstract ideology. I still don’t think I know a lot about myself. I think as people we know each other so well, we [the band] went beyond friendship about 2 years ago. It’s almost like a cult. I guess, I don’t know, you have to deal with everything you deal within a normal life, like breaking up with someone, moving out of home… you have to do that through the band. The biggest amount of privacy I get is when I go to the toilet. Fact. For 6 and a half weeks. So I think you lose privacy. But you know I’m saying all this and we fucking enjoy it and we love it. Whatever we have to lose at this particular moment in time, personally, I feel is because we want to do this. I want to do this. We want to do this to the best of our ability.”

THEY’LL ALWAYS USE THEIR PLATFORM IN A POSITIVE WAY

Through their music, social media, and even past interviews, the members of Shame have made it clear that they’ll never shy away from standing up for what’s right. At one of their shows at SXSW, Steen jumped off stage mid-show to tell off an audience member who had gotten aggressive with some of the other crowd members. Touching on their habit to speak out, Steen says, “As a person, and a white man, we don’t want to…I don’t want to be the spokesperson for any problem or any inequalities with girls, or race, or religion. But as a human being, I don’t understand how you could not want to support all these people and fight against any inequality. I think we all feel it’s disgusting for anyone who has any sort of platform to not [use it].”

Steen also reflects on the tendency of the press to label them as a political band, but says they never saw it like that; they just realize it’s something that directly effects them. “At the end of the day, it’s the biggest bullshit that a person could say ‘I’m not political.’ Everyone has politics, it’s just whether or not they choose to share them. How could you not talk about it? I don’t know, it doesn’t really make sense to me. There are a lot of great bands who will speak on these issues, and I think particularly in the current climate, in the music industry, and every industry, but this is the one we’re most absorbed in because this is our life.” He continues, shouting out people like Princess Nokia who speak out on all these issues, adding, “As a guy, like who is constantly surrounded by the music industry all the time, it is without a doubt and without question, majority middle class, white men. That’s how it’s been for probably just under 100 years. With the birth of pop culture, all of these unforgivable acts of discrimination were erupted that weren’t extinguished. They shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but they should have been addressed and destroyed when it came out.”

Lastly, Steen asks that everyone remains respectful of others when they come to shows, especially one of their gigs. “At a guitar gig, like a mosh pit, it’s mainly like male aggression taken out. We don’t fucking want that at our shows. Like it’s a safe environment. I’ve never won a fight, I’ve only ever been beaten up. Honestly. We’re not the jocks, we’re not the cool kids, we’re the people who just want to enjoy ourselves and we want everyone else to enjoy themselves as well. It’s not fucking hard, it’s not a lot to ask. If you’re an asshole, don’t come to our show.”


Make sure you grab your tickets to Shame’s show at The Empty Bottle here and keep up with them on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram.

You can also order your own copy of Songs of Praise here!

This article was originally posted on ANCHR Magazine

Get To Know: Deeper

In a major city like Chicago, there’s always ample opportunities to catch local bands playing live music every night of the week. Especially with venues like The Empty Bottle, Schubas, and Lincoln Hall, you can often discover a new favorite hometown band by just getting to the show early enough to catch the opener. I first discovered Deeper by doing just that; showing up early to Twin Peaks’ ACLU benefit show held at The Empty Bottle back in March of 2017.

Since that show, Deeper has continued playing all around the city, from bars shows at The Whistler to a support slot at Whitney’s Valentine’s Day show at Thalia Hall. The band’s four members, Nic Gohl, Drew McBride, Mike Clawson, and Shiraz Bhatti, have also been hard at work putting the finishing touches on their debut record, which will finally be out on May 25th via Fire Talk Records. Around the release, Deeper has put out three singles; “Pink Showers,” “Pavement,” and “Feels,” all of which have garnered buzz and kept the momentum surrounding the album in full swing.

Just ahead of the album release, I met up with Nic Gohl and Drew McBride to get to know more about the band. Check out these six things I learned about Deeper so that you can also be in the know before the album drops.

 

 Photo By Alexa Viscius
Photo By Alexa Viscius

GROWING UP, THEY HAD SPLIT OPINIONS ON THE STROKES

“I hated The Strokes,” said no one ever…except for Deeper vocalist and guitarist Nic Gohl. “I like them now!” Gohl continues. “I had this vendetta against MTV and all that shit. I think I had a really shitty taste in music. I was into Ska bands at one point…” Unlike his bandmate, bassist Drew McBride talks about a fascination with The Strokes while discussing his early influences. “I think for me, the moment I was like wow I wanna play music, I was 12 or 13. I was a total nerd loser kid, so I would check out a ton of CDs from the library. I didn’t know much about indie rock before this, but I checked out The Strokes Is This It and- it almost sounds cliche looking back on it, but I listened to that and I was like oh my god, this is the coolest thing ever.  That was sort of it for me,” McBride says.

Despite Gohl’s self-proclaimed questionable taste in music growing up, he still managed to get into making music at an early age. “I think it was like second or third grade and my best friend had gotten one of those Squier starter packs. I was super jealous and really wanted to start playing music because they were, so I played my brother’s shitty guitar through his practice amp, and put the distortion on, and just started kinda hitting it,” he recalls about his early days of playing.

THE GROUP COMPLETELY CHANGED UP THEIR SOUND TWO YEARS AGO

Gohl’s music taste isn’t the only evolution the band has had over the years, it turns out. The original lineup that formed in 2014 actually had completely different songs and contrasted with the signature sound that the present-day Deeper has honed in on. For the group’s self-titled debut that’s out May 25th, the process only dates back to 2016, a couple of years after the start of Deeper. “It kinda started in 2016 when Drew joined the band. The name has been around for four years but before that, we were approaching music and trying to make something different,” Gohl says. “It’s essentially a different project, but the name stayed through,” McBride chimes in, Gohl joking that they basically didn’t feel like making a new Facebook page for the rebirth of the band.

“When Drew came on we basically got rid of every song we had before. So none of the stuff we were playing in the earlier form of Deeper came on. It’s different, completely. We were just starting from scratch. We would have a few and be like fuck it, we should get them down on paper before we forget them,” Gohl says about the writing process. “I think there’s some more guitar pop songs, and also some punkier songs that are a result of like when we recorded them. We were in a phase of writing songs that were a little more straight forward.”

THEY USED A PIECEMEAL PROCESS WHEN RECORDING

Since the band first started writing for Deeper 2.0 in 2016, their recording process has been an ongoing journey. “We started slowly recording with Dave Vettraino, who recorded the whole album and was also Drew’s roommate. They used to live in a place called Public House, where numerous records….the first NE-HI–” Gohl recalls, and McBride tosses in the names of Melkbelly, The Hecks, and Pool Holograph, just to name a few of the fellow Chicagoans who have recorded with Dave. “Everyone has recorded with Dave,” he says.

“Yeah, Dave’s the best. We basically started recording tracks down there. We’d do like two days, one weekend, and then we’d maybe get back together a month or two later and record another one. Slowly we had all the bones after about a year and a half. It was a long process,” Gohl adds, admitting it wasn’t the most efficient process.

About halfway through the recording of the tracks on the debut, Dave moved out of Public House and started working in other studios, which Deeper couldn’t afford at the time. “So we just had him come to our practice space and we recorded the rest of it there. So there’s definitely some differences in some of the songs you can hear,” the band says. While there is that difference in tone that comes from the multiple recording locations and sessions, the band also sees a positive side to piecing everything together. “The tones are a little bit different from song to song cause it’s not like all the drums were tracked at the same time and mic’d in the same way. It creates a wider range of sounds,” McBride says.

“The nice part about it, for a long period of time when putting the record together, I was kind of afraid of it sounding super piecemeal. That element makes it better for the listener. It evolves throughout the record, and kind of brings you in the different mind sets we were at when we wrote and recorded those songs,” Gohl reflects.

THEY BELIEVE EXPOSURE FOR SOME IS EXPOSURE FOR ALL

If you’re a fan of music in this city, you’ve obviously noticed the growing buzz around the current scene, which has sent more and more bands out on national tours. In the past few years or so, we’ve seen bands like Whitney, Twin Peaks, NE-HI, Post Animal and more start to regularly tour the country and drastically grow their audiences. With bands popping up over night, between either new musicians just starting up and established bands kicking up side projects, it can seem daunting to try to stand out among the masses. However, as Deeper points out, it’s more about camaraderie in Chicago, not competition.

“I forget who I was talking to, someone…it might have been Drew actually,” Gohl says, “But, it’s not like there’s a limit on opportunities. You know? I guess city wise, you’re fighting to get the bigger shows from bands coming from out of town. As far as getting on a record label or booking agency, if you’re gonna get on it, you’re gonna get on it. You’re not fighting those people necessarily. Focusing on that, you’re never gonna be able to do this. There’s no fucking point. I think I would never call each other competition. It helps out each other. Having like Twin Peaks and NE-HI definitely have helped us out a lot. Those are some of our closest friends. We got to watch them go through becoming a national act. Being able to see what they had to go through kind of helped us figure out how we want to attack this and make sure it can be as successful as possible.”

Elaborating on the communal spirit in the city, McBride says, “When people like Whitney or Twin Peaks are successful, then people start looking at what else is going on in Chicago, so I never think yeah it’s this competitive thing. Exposure for some is exposure for everyone. If someone is like ‘Oh man, Twin Peaks are cool. Who else is from Chicago?’ Oh you also like NE-HI? Check out Deeper!”

All in all, the band just want to keep their focus on their work and moving forward in their own time. “We really enjoy playing together, and we’re really happy to finally get a piece of music out. I feel like we’ve definitely been humbled through the process and with that, we have no set expectations of where…we definitely want to shoot for as far as we can go, but I think we know what we’re doing more and I think that we have an honest approach. I just want it to stay fun, and keep on progressing and be able to reach more people,” Gohl says.

TOUR HORROR STORIES WON’T KEEP THEM DOWN

Every band, especially those just starting out, tend to have some battle wounds when they return from a tour. As Deeper get ready to hit the road after the album release, they recall some eventful shows in both Nashville and NYC.

Starting off with the scarier of both tales, the band describes the time they played a Halloween show at Fond Object in Nashville, which is a record store with a performance space outside of a house. “We played with Jack White’s girlfriend at the time, who was on Third Man Records. I forget her name. We also played with these guys called the Boo Dudes. They were a Halloween cover band. They covered a bunch of songs and changed all the words to Halloween themes. Then they all wore costumes onstage. So the drummer was the Headless Horseman so it looked like he was drumming with no head,” McBride says. Gohl says they hung around with the Boo Dudes afterwards and had a great time, but the night had started off rocky when they found out the promoter had double booked, and they didn’t have the night. Despite the double booking fiasco, they got added onto the spooky bill and the night went from a dud to a great time.

The last time Deeper performed on the east coast, they also had an epic comeback while in NYC. “We’re having an album release show in New York as well because that’s where Fire Talk, our record label, is based,” McBride says. “To me, I’m excited for New York so that we have a little bit of redemption. Last time we played New York, we played two shows on a Friday and Saturday. As we were leaving the show on Friday- I didn’t realize it- but the car keys for our van fell out of my pocket and I didn’t realize until mid way through the next day. We’re about to go to load in and I’m like, oh my god, the keys!” McBride says they looked everywhere for the keys to the van they had rented through a service that’s the car equivalent to Air BnB, but they were nowhere to be found. After even checking with the Brooklyn precinct to see if anyone had turned the keys in, the band had to let the van owner know what had happened, and Uber their gear to their Saturday show. Just as they were about to give up hope of continuing their east coast tour, McBride says Gohl convinced him to check with the police station one more time. McBride recalls, “So I go in and check again and he’s like these? And pulls out the keys. I remember sprinting out of the precinct as he was filling out the discharge forms. I kicked open the door and I was yelling THEY HAVE THEM!” Gohl remembers the band members all going crazy with excitement over the return of the keys, mentioning they all went out all night in Chinatown to celebrate.

Hopefully when Deeper plays in NYC this time, they’ll only be celebrating a successful album release show, not the return of any more lost items.

MOST OF THEIR FAVORITE MUSIC SOUNDS NOTHING LIKE THEIRS

When shouting out other Chicago bands that they like to support, Gohl’s and McBride’s lists include the likes of Bunny, Pool Holograph, Clearance, The Hecks, The Knees, and so many more…a lot of bands that exist under the same Chicago rock umbrella. However, when it comes to listening to music from outside of the city, their picks come from all different genres.

“I am obsessed with this band from Philly- they’re a part of the 80’s post punk scene-called Crash Course In Science. They’re playing the Bottle for Cold Waves Fest, so I’m really excited to see them play. Besides that, honestly, I’m just obsessed with listening to DAMN. still. I think that will be my forever album,” Gohl says. “I’ve been listening to a lot more electronic music. I’m really into synthesizers and drum machines, which is definitely something we’ve been pursuing with some of the newer stuff,” he continues.

McBride agrees, adding,”I honestly have been listening to a lot of electronic or experimental electronic music instead of solely just indie rock. Like Nicolas Jaar and Jon Hopkins and things like that. I feel like all the other music that we listen to allows us to not get burnt out on what we’re doing. If I was only listening to the same kind of music that we’re making, I just don’t think I would enjoy it as much. I think also to evolve the sound, you can’t just listen to the things that sound the same as you. Otherwise the album is going to be similar to what you’re already doing or what your peers are already doing. By listening to like other genres, or electronic music, I think it allows us to find what we think is cool in music that’s not the same as us. Then bring that back. If these other artists did something cool in this way, I don’t wanna do that same thing, but I like the concept of how they did that.”



There you have it! Pre-order the Shuga exclusive of the record on white vinyl here, or swing by the shop to snag it on Friday.

Keep up with Deeper on Facebook + Instagram + Twitter


This article was originally posted on ANCHR Magazine