Interview with soft targets

The band soft targets hails from Tallahassee, Florida and features members Jesse Corry on vocals and guitar, Steven Gillespie on drums, percussion, and vocals, and Nate Sadler on bass, keyboard, and vocals. The guys took some time before their headlining tour of the U.S. to go over the creation of their music and lyrics, influences and inspiration, and what it’s like to be in a band.

Their second album, Heavy Rainbow, is out now and like the album title, the band’s music is a study in contrasts, between a clean, bright, indie-pop sound of lilting guitars, upbeat drums, buoyant harmonies (all three guys sing beautifully!), catchy melodies and Jesse’s sweetly aching, emotionally turbulent, melancholically-edged vocals and conflicted lyrics that shift between cynicism and hope. In order to fully appreciate the depth and ideas of the band, I suggest reading the lyrics at the official site.

Delusions of Adequacy: Hi guys! It sounds like things are going wonderfully for you music-wise, with your sophomore album Heavy Rainbow released last year and an upcoming U.S. tour starting at the end of August. How are preparations for this tour coming along? Have you been on such an extensive tour before?

Jesse Corry: We have never done a tour like this before. In fact, as soft targets, we have just played other Florida cities. Each of us have been in other band situations where we’ve played shows in different places, but I think it is safe to say this will be a brand new experience for us all.

I do feel like we are prepared. We’ve strived to stay organized in the planning stages of the tour, and the three of us know each other pretty well at this point. This feels like the next logical step.

DOA: What spurred you to start a band, and I just have to ask, is your name soft targets supposed to be all lower-case letters?

JC: I have been writing songs since I was a small kid. I used to just sing them to myself before I knew how to play an instrument. I played my first solo show when I was 17 and continued to write songs and play the occasional solo opening set at local clubs. I never really felt comfortable in a band situation, though I did try several times with a few groups as a high school aged kid. But the music we came up with never moved me.

Really, meeting Nate was the first time something like that felt ‘right’. We played with many drummers over the years, and did our first album with drummer Marcus Delano, who was a wonderfully creative player.

But when we met Steven I felt that we really became a band in a way I had not experienced before. Steven played with another band in Tallahassee called The Ums who we were friends and fans of. I was always impressed with him, and especially with his singing voice. So when Marcus moved, Steven was the obvious first guy to ask to join. Even Marcus suggested him.

It is a fantastic thing; being in a band you really care about. It is also a bit scary, because suddenly you can’t simply walk away when you get your feelings hurt the next time. But anyone who’s done that a few times knows that’s an empty existence. So, this keeps you growing as a person. It’s strength training.

As far as our band’s name being all lowercase, we’ve never really discussed that. But we quite like the idea, so I think you started something, Jen.

Steven Gillespie: Before joining soft targets, my experience was limited to some childhood training and, more recently, working with the Ums (another local Tallahassee band). I was a fan of Frequent Flyer – the kind of attentive fan who analyzes and dissects the music. (Ums bassist) Alex Zacharias and I had practically started our own two-person soft targets fan club. We admired the work. We studied the live shows. When Jesse asked me to join, I was honored. Though I had no part in the actual formation of the original band line-up, I felt at home from the beginning.

DOA: How did you decide on the band name? I looked for a definition of “soft target” online, and to my surprise, it’s not a standard dictionary-accepted term (yet!). I found that it is used as a military phrase to describe an undefended target that could be destroyed or as a technological term for computers that are vulnerable to attack. Did these meanings come into play in your decision to name your band soft targets?

JC: The name soft targets came to me in 2002 sometime. That term had been bandied about in the media quite a lot due to all of the political/military coverage. To me, though, it was interesting in terms of the politics of human relationships.

I think that, as humans, we have a built-in system based on victimization. I mean, we come into the world ‘victims’ of circumstance (our parents having sex), and our lives are then dictated by a seemingly endless series of occurrences that are completely out of our control: politics, the environment, other people’s behavior, trends, stocks, wars, weather, taxes, whatever.

And like the little fruit market that gets mowed down in the midst of an ambush, we feel like innocent bystanders who’re always swept up in chaos that we didn’t ask for, whether it is at our offices, or among our friends, or with our spouses, or just within our own brains and bodies. But I don’t see this in a cynical, negative light. I think that we can find peace of mind within these seeming limitations. So we are The Soft Targets. Rather, we are now the soft targets.

Nate Sadler: I liked the band name immediately because it could mean different things to different people, whether political or personal. It’s descriptive, but vague.

DOA: Turning to your album Heavy Rainbow, how did you come up with that title? The meaning of Radiohead’s album title In Rainbows just confuses me, but Heavy Rainbow seems apt because it distills the contrast between the upbeat dynamics, poppy guitar strum, and sweetly layered harmonies of your songs and the perturbed emotions running through Jesse’s vocal delivery and sharp, trenchant lyrics.

JC: The term “Heavy Rainbow” as is used in the title track, is a symbol representing a catharsis or an awakening of sorts. The path to this life-changing transformation is a messy, difficult, even violent one. But the path is a means to an end; and it leads to a new state of mind that is so truly joyous, peaceful and beautiful that, in retrospect, the pain and angst that you seemed to feel on the journey now appears as very superficial and benign, almost humorous.

SG: Given that the first album was named for one of the songs on it, I felt we should stick with that motif. (As you know, this is a common way to name an album.) So all the possible titles for the record are listed on the reverse side of its jacket, and we just went down the list. I think we considered “The World Looks Bigger Now”, maybe “Under Control”, and the ultimate decision was “Heavy Rainbow”. I agree that it suits the contrast between sweet and cynical which exists in much of the material. Also, the song “Heavy Rainbow” is a little more far-out than the other songs. For me, naming the album after that song helps to justify its strangeness (ha ha).

DOA: From what you posted on your website, you recorded half of the album’s songs in one day! How chaotic was that and what was the reason for the time constraint? Would you do it again for future albums? I’m assuming that you had all the songs mapped out before-hand in reference to lyrics, song structure, instrumental composition, and that these songs were recorded in a straight-forward manner, with a minimum of added or looped tracks…

JC: The reason we recorded 5 songs in a day is because we had just one day to work at Southern Tracks Recording in Atlanta and record onto 2″ tape, the old-fashioned way and we wanted to make the most of it.

Our producer/engineer/friend Tim DeLaney (who also produced, engineered and mixed Frequent Flyer) was very encouraging and had a lot of faith in us, for which I am grateful. “Tim is a real gem” is what one man at Southern Tracks told me. And many more would agree with that man. He is equal parts talent and humility. And a helluva studio soldier, to boot. After we spent about 8 hours at Southern Tracks that day recording bass, drums, and guitar live in one room together, we went back to Tim’s studio Electron Gardens (located in the basement of the old historic Biltmore Hotel building in downtown Atlanta) and laid down vocals until about 6 in the morning.

We did come in prepared and well-rehearsed, but “So Long, Baby Burns” was written 2 weeks prior to recording it, and “Dear Atlanta” just 4 days before recording it.

SG: First, Southern Tracks Recording is a tremendous studio. The people we worked with (engineer Tom Tapley and asst. engineer Steven Kaiser) were attentive and capable of producing, almost immediately, anything that was required for the session. Without their assistance, recording five songs in one day would have been difficult.

For our part, rehearsal time is often productive. We tend to go straight for the stuff we need to work on, and we spent a lot of time preparing for that day. There wasn’t much left to chance in terms of who-plays-what-when. Even though such methodical preparation has the potential to make performances seem stiff, I think there’s a point at which material learned by rote and repeated many times becomes second nature. Then it’s possible to respond to what’s going on around you, instead of focusing solely on what’s under your hands. As far as recording the same way again, I think the basic tracks (bass, drums, rhythm guitar) tracked simultaneously, were tighter and more effective. There are some aspects of those performances that are difficult to achieve when recording separately. Clean, orchestrated tempo shifts and playing in the pocket, just behind the beat – these are practically impossible without direct communication. Recording together made it easier to get the desired effect. We’ll almost certainly do basic tracks that way in the future. If we can do five songs in a day, despite the need for more intense preparation, I think that’s great.

NS: I was really excited about it. I wanted to have the band sound like a great group playing live together, like an old Kinks or Motown record, and playing the basic rhythm tracks live in a 70’s-era studio was a great way to achieve that.

DOA: Who are your musical influences?

JC: As far as my musical interests and influences go, I am really more of a fan of songs and songwriting in general rather than being married to a specific genre or fanatical about a particular artist. And a lot of the influences that work their way into my songwriting have nothing to do with music. And some of the most powerful influences were certainly subconscious.

However, I was raised with a lot of great popular music playing in the house. I was born in 1977 in London to a couple of hippies, and that was obviously an amazing time for music. My mom was spinning albums by Bowie, Joni Mitchell. Captain Beefheart, Dylan, John Lennon, Blondie, Lou Reed, Tim Buckley, Simon and Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, The Rolling Stones, and T-Rex to name a few. She even took me see Bob Marley in concert in ’77 when I was just a few months old (I still have the button she bought me). And she took me to see rock, blues, jazz, and country concerts as a pre-teen and teenager too – even allowing me to stay home from school on a couple of occasions when we stayed out really late. Rock ‘n’ Roll was certainly seen as important in my house. This is something I sort of took for granted, but am really thankful for now.

I went to some very unconventional schools as a kid, and really didn’t know what was “cool” in the minds of most kids my age. So I went through phases of being into classic rock, folk, hair metal, country music, new wave, and Chopin, and they all sort of overlapped.

To name a few artists that I liked as I got older and who must’ve influenced me, I’d have to break it into categories. All of these are in no particular order of importance, but are just the first ones that pop into my head.

Lyrically I was really drawn to: Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie (though his are generally a bit more abstract and stream of consciousness), Elliott Smith, Paul Simon (who I have not heard much lately but recall digging his words as a kid) and some John Lennon and Dylan. These days a couple of lyricists who I really enjoy hearing and who, I think, offer a whole lot to a careful listener are a guy named Jim White (who is signed to David Byrne’s Luaka Bop Records) and Aimee Mann.

Musically/Melodically I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Hunky Dory-era Bowie, Prince, Elvis Costello, Kate Bush, ELO, Elliott Smith, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, Todd Rundgren’s hits, The Cars, and of course, the old Motown, Stax, and Beatles recordings are power-packed.

As a singer I have loved many voices – and some only for one song! Just to name a few: Prince, Kate Bush, Jeff Buckley, (After The Gold Rush-era) Neil Young, George Jones, Lyle Lovett, Chrissie Hynde, Joni Mitchell, Lennon, Rod Stewart, David Sylvian, Freddie Mercury, Elvis Costello. Newer singers like Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Antony Hegarty, and The Fleet Foxes. There are just too many to mention, and the eighties had some greats too. I can forgive mediocre lyrics and just get into a vocal performance if it’s a riveting one.

As a self-taught guitar player and guitar playing songwriter, I especially dig Joni Mitchell, who is just a ridiculously good guitarist – highly underrated, except by those who know. Jeff Buckley had a gorgeous style, and was a technical monster, but didn’t need to prove it. I love his clean telecaster tone. Elliott Smith and Nick Drake were amazing at coming up with unique and super-intricate picking patterns that followed only their rules and added so much to their songs. Andy Summers’ stuff with The Police is really interesting and fresh still today.

I actually only really heard The Smiths for the first time a couple of years ago (odd, I know) after enough people told me I should check out Johnny Marr’s playing. I do like it a lot, makes me want a Rickenbacker. And Morrissey’s got a lyrical instinct all his own that is inspiring to me.

SG: This question is a staple of music interviews. I recall Frank Black responding by saying, and I agree, that everyone is influenced by everything, that songwriters are influenced by every song they’ve ever heard. I’m certainly paraphrasing, but there you have it: even my response to the question is influenced by someone else.

There are a couple of performers I could mention that were a direct influence on me. The first is Chet Baker. At some point during the recording phase of Heavy Rainbow, Brett Vaughn (another member of the Ums) played me a Chet Baker record called Embraceable You with these stripped down jazz standards. The instrumentation is limited to acoustic guitar, upright bass, and Baker alternating between trumpet and vocals. I had never heard him before and the clarity of his vocal tone was striking. Every nuance of his performance was audible in that recording. It was mesmerizing. I intentionally tried to get that level of clarity and simplicity while recording the vocals for “Sirens”.

The second influence is a relative of mine, Bryan Cole, who is a lifelong professional musician. I think that music as a career carries with it some degree of fantasy for most people; they don’t believe that it can be a real job. John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants once joked that when he was growing up, saying “I’m going to be in a rock band,” was like saying “I think I should be the Incredible Hulk”. It wasn’t really like that for me because I grew up knowing Bryan. He demonstrated that this is a real job, and anyone devoted enough – who works – can succeed.

NS: I was raised on classical music, and my brother used to play me crazy psychedelic stuff when I was a kid, so my influences are all over the place. Plus I was 13 in ’91 in North Carolina and the indie-scene was blowing up. I think the classical stuff has made me always try to fill the sound, but leave clarity. It’s given me an unhealthy obsession with arrangements.

DOA: I’m detecting hints of 1960s musical influences in your light, clean pop sound, buoyant harmonies, and catchy melodies. Am I way off-base in my assumption?

JC: No, you’re not off base. Though, I have to say that we have explored a lot more of that music since we made Frequent Flyer than we’d ever listened to prior to making the album. And one big reason for that is because a few people said we had a “baroque pop” sound. We didn’t know the genre existed. But we checked out some Zombies and The Left Banke and were pleased with the comparison. I recall loving “Time Of The Season” and “Just Walk Away Renee” as a child, but never knew who the artists were who performed them. I read the Elliott Smith bio, and one of his friends said that when she heard The Left Banke’s “Pretty Ballerina” after hearing Elliott’s music, it felt, to her, just like discovering The Pixies after hearing Nirvana.

SG: Many times when a person has heard our record, they’ll point out similarities to other songs or bands. In some cases these similarities are known to us because we were intentionally going for a particular sound we’d heard somewhere. For example, a friend of mine listened to “Sirens” and said it sounded like Zero 7. In fact, I encouraged Tim (DeLaney producer / engineer), who played bass on that track, to keep the parts of his performance that reminded me most of Zero 7 bass lines. Occasionally, however, the similarity is coincidental. The lead vocal for “Sirens” is double-tracked and panned to extreme left and right. I was told later that it sounds like an Elliott Smith record, and it does, but the similarity was unintentional.

Any influence one might infer from listening to soft targets I would treat as valid. The reason is that we write the kind of music we love, having learned what we love from listening to music. So we’re drawing from a pretty large palette, trying to decide which tones and techniques to use. Plus, anyone we emulate was emulating someone else and the influences filter down. The process of discovery is perpetual. I really like it when someone points out a connection to a band I’ve never heard. Often they were the heroes of my heroes.

NS: I think we all have a love of sixties British rock. I know that I, at least, was listening to the Nuggets compilation a lot during the making of this record and have been obsessed with that era since high school. We weren’t consciously trying to sound like anyone in particular; just taking the older approach to making records.

DOA: Jesse, you’re the guitarist as well as lead vocalist. Your guitar, as well as your vocals, have a beautifully lilting sound. What kind of guitar do you use?

JC: Thank You. Typically, I play a couple of Telecasters for half of our set, and a wonderful old sixties Gibson ES330 for the other half. One of my Teles has stainless-steel frets which gives it a slightly different sound.

DOA: Steven and Nate, you contribute vocal harmonies to the songs. Does that mean Jesse’s vocals are never doubled with his own voice? That all the layered harmonies are of all three of you singing? It’s pretty rare to have three guys in a band who can all sing so captivatingly!

SG: Lead vocals were sometimes double-tracked, as in the case of “Sirens” (which features conspicuous use of the effect). They were done by whoever wrote the song, and all the harmonies you hear are someone other than the writer. This is done partly because, when playing live, three-part harmony must be performed by three people. This way, the vocals you hear at a live show are the same as the performances on the record. It’s the same people singing those parts.

Jesse brought in all but two of the Heavy Rainbow songs, so he sings mostly leads. Nate and I both have some formal vocal training from when we were kids, and being in a choir kind of grooms you for background vocals. You have to be part of the whole sound, not out front. We tend to focus on blending dynamics and staying just below the surface. So it was a challenge to sing lead and do it as well as Jesse does, with as much confidence. Likewise, when it was time for Jesse to sing back-ups (on “Sirens”), I think he had to make, and succeeded in making, a considerable change in his approach.

NS: Steven and I both love adding back-ups to Jesse’s songs, and for me it’s an easy way to fill out the sound without losing clarity. Typically, we just agree that a section needs them, and I’ll sit at the keyboard and Steven and I will just throw out ideas until we get something that works. Sometimes it’s as easy as singing an octave under Jesse’s part.

DOA: Steven, what types of drums and other percussion do you use on the album?

SG: Even though I’ve been playing drums for years, I don’t spend much time thinking about which drums to use. Becoming familiar with the nuances, construction and tuning of certain drums is a more recent development for me.

I’ve always used the fewest pieces possible to get the sounds I want: a four piece drum kit with a ride cymbal, one crash, and hi-hats. The kit at Electron Gardens was a Tama with wood shells. At Southern Tracks they helped me put together a mix of vintage drums, mostly Ludwig. The greatest piece was a Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum. The snare sound was of great importance. I’m only now discovering how to get my favorite sounds, and there’s a lot to consider. Any percussion other than kit drumming (tambourine, shaker) was performed by Tim DeLaney. The triangle, which is barley audible in one of the songs, was a sample on a keyboard.

DOA: Nate, what kind of keyboards to you use and what type of sounds do you employ on the album?

NS: I mainly used a Fender Rhodes, a Wurlitzer, an Acetone Organ and a micro-Korg, with several effects placed on them. I also used the Steinway concert grand piano at Southern Tracks. My favorite sounds were running the Acetone through a Moog Pedal on “Surrendering Slow” and doubling the bass with a distorted Wurlitzer on “Under Control”.

DOA: The upbeat nature of the musical dynamics belies the tormented lyrics that shift between cynicism and hope. Jesse (I’m assuming you’re the main song-writer), your lyrics are a resonant, poetic goldmine where you deal not only with intimate relationships and friendship, but also address modern world issues of war and complacency with pointed lyrics. Here are some prime examples: “Under Control” lyrics: “…we’re so very frightened, / we continue to sleep. / How are we going to survive / to the next century?”, “Sugar Glass” lyrics: “We crawl to our corners / to clean up the wounds. / Once you develop the palate for blood / nothing else will do.”, and “Small Straight” lyrics: “…your same familiar friends, / they now seem stranger than aliens”. Does writing come easy to you? You pack a lot of meaning into your words, yet still manage to have some kind of rhyme scheme. Is it difficult to shape your writings into song lyrics?

JC: I am the main song-writer in the band, though the first lyric excerpt you mentioned comes from a song that Nate wrote and that I actually didn’t sing on at all. That is Nate and Steven doing all the vocal work on “Under Control”. I just play guitar on it.

The other songs you mentioned were mine, and they do deal with the strange desire to kill (whether literally or psychologically) that we all have – even towards those we love. But by looking unflinchingly (and without shame) at those desires (ambivalence, jealousy, anger, competitiveness, neediness, and manipulation) that we all experience (if we are being honest) in relationships, we are able to gain a much deeper and much truer kind of love towards other people and towards ourselves.

Most of the time we just try to deny that stuff, and that only makes it grow like a horrible hidden cancer until it finally explodes. It is much more kind and strong to look at it, own it, and then choose against it. But if you don’t even know you have that side of yourself – and we all have it, even the “nicest” and “meekest” of the bunch – you cannot help but act on those damaging unconscious feelings without even knowing it. That is, until your life comes apart at the seams.

As far as whether writing comes easy to me: Yes and No. It is rarely easy. But it does feel natural. I spend an enormous amount of time on each song, generally. And I don’t quit until it really feels right. I’ll sit for eight, ten, twelve hours at a stretch, for many, many days. This kind of work involves sacrificing a lot of what are considered “normal” activities.

I don’t go out too much. I have to simplify my life and minimize my different roles. I can be a husband and a songwriter and a massage therapist – but that means I don’t get to out with the boys very often, and I don’t watch much TV, or have a lot of extra time hanging around to spend on whatever whims I find flying through my head at a given moment. But after a while, that means less whims fly through my head bothering me – unless they wish to become song ideas.

This focus and discipline appeals to me, and is strengthening in every way. If I find the right chord for a part, I want to try out many different voicings of that chord, with different substitutions, and variations on it. Often I hear the right chord (and the right voicing) in my head. My job is then to find it on the guitar. Before I knew much at all about music theory (which wasn’t that long ago, certainly post-Frequent Flyer), I would just search and search, hunting and pecking all over the neck of the instrument until I hit it. Sometimes my hands go right to it somehow. Sometimes my hands don’t go right to it for years. And then just when I think I’m getting somewhere, I begin to hear all of these possible passing chords in my head, so the workload then instantly doubles.

But I always know that, as Leonard Cohen puts it, “the song will yield” if I keep working at it for long enough. But long enough is very often far, far longer than what seems at all reasonable to you. Your ego will always wants it to go faster and easier. But your ego is the weak part of you, only masquerading as strong. Good songs never respect your ego.

Whenever a new song is brought into the practice room we all must agree that it feels like it fits us as a band, as opposed to fitting the chief writer as an individual. And it helps if it is something that also lends itself to live performance. Steven and Nate have been bringing in more songs these days too. But no matter who brings in the song, and no matter how developed it is at that point, the process of making it into a “band song” generally goes down somewhat like this:

First the song is presented as it currently is.
Chords are deciphered, mood is discovered.
Nate then spearheads the working out of vocal harmony parts, and he and Steven work together until they feel they’ve found the right intervals to suit the song. With a few exceptions, we each come up with our own parts that we’ll be playing. We all feel the freedom to offer each other suggestions, even criticism – but we try to be careful that we are not being driven simply by the need to put our own stamp on the piece. And you really have to examine that in yourself, because we are all human beings with strong ego “needs” coming up from our unconscious. And your ego can feed you some clever bullshit rationalizations as to why your ideas are right, when really you’re just being duped by the lizard part of your own brain.

NS: I’ve always loved Jesse’s lyrics and feel like they have a great poetry to them. You have to dig to get the meaning out of them and often you can get several meanings. I just felt like this album needed some prose thrown in, some simple statements. And I was feeling pretty cynical at the end of 2006. So I wrote “Under Control” to get it out of my system. I just wanted to strip down the poetry and get to the gist.

DOA: Frequent Flyer was your debut album. What are the differences in sound or production between your two albums? Is Heavy Rainbow a departure from, or progression from, the first album?

JC: I think Heavy Rainbow feels like a natural next chapter after Frequent Flyer. I don’t prefer one record over the other. Somebody told me that Frequent Flyer is a more “intimate” record. I see why they might interpret it that way, but I don’t agree. I think there is plenty of intimacy to be found on Heavy Rainbow. It does seem like a “bigger” record at first listen. It is far longer in terms of running time. It has more layers and is, in general, a more up-tempo album. And it has quite a few songs that do stray from the sound of anything on our first album. Heavy Rainbow, to me, has a very wide range of colors and dynamics, and some louder songs with bolder, broader strokes. But it also has tons of subtlety.

“Surrendering Slow” and “Offseason”, “Dear Atlanta”, “Sugarglass” and “Sirens” all sound like they could have been on Frequent Flyer to me. In fact, I wrote “Surrendering Slow” in 2002, long before Frequent Flyer was made. It is the first song I ever wrote on the electric guitar. Another couple songs on Heavy Rainbow that were written even before our first album are “Sugar Glass” and “Something Else”. We actually recorded a version of “Something Else” for Frequent Flyer, but it didn’t quite gel. So it was heavily re-worked musically. Nate and I came up with a new bridge, and with Steven’s drumming and a bunch of harmonies, it worked out nicely. But I didn’t change a word of the lyrics since it was written back in 2002.

NS: I feel like Frequent Flyer is freer and more centered on the songs rather than the production, while Heavy Rainbow is tighter and more thought out.

DOA: You’re already off ‘n’ running and working on new material. How is that shaping up? Are any songs fully formed yet?

JC: The new material is shaping up nicely. Thanks for asking. I know we have a live version of a new song (“A King In Her Hand”) posted on YouTube now, and we are going to put out a DVD that has live versions of 3 new tunes. We are really looking forward to getting to work on the next record. I’m pushing for early ’09.

SG: There are a handful of finished songs. The new material is somewhat more collaborative, and the next album will certainly have more contributions from me and Nate. Writing songs to be displayed together has raised discussion among us all, regarding style and form. While these conversations may yield some decision about a song’s construction, the more exciting results relate to where songs come from and what they do. I don’t mean to imply that we sit around analyzing each other’s lyrics. I just mean that song writing is an interesting subject on which to compare philosophies.

NS: I’m definitely hoping to contribute more to the next album, as long as the songs fit. We’ll see…Jesse and Steven are always raising the bar, but competition is good for me.

DOA: Going back to your tour preparations, what will you be packing in your luggage to get through the drives between shows ?

JC: Oh, the usual boring human maintenance supplies. A bunch of books on CD, rock mags, and some healthy non-perishables from my mom.

SG: There won’t be much room in the van. Any source of diversion will need to be compact: books and CDs, I guess. I haven’t decided which ones to bring, and making a detailed list of stuff I like would seem kind of vain to me. I wish I could be more helpful.

NS: I’m making an awesome 5-CD mix compilation that we hopefully won’t get sick of for at least a third of the tour. Plus I’m sure I’ll take tomes of books with me. I’ve already read the book I was planning on reading on the road.

DOA: You’ve played gigs before in the Florida region. How does your live sound compare to your albums?

JC: We want to be able to get the songs across live in a way that doesn’t disappoint the people who dig the recorded versions. But it is because that is what we like when we see shows. I’m not saying that there are no deviations, or arrangement changes, but since I was a child I always enjoyed seeing a band that sounded pretty true to the record, except that live, the songs popped with a bit more energy and grit. I’m apt to switch up vocal phrasing, here and there if it feels natural.

After working so hard on these songs, you begin to trust that they have been crafted in the way that serves them best. They feel strong and well formed structurally, and that allows the lyrics and the innate emotion and idea that is the lifeblood of the song to flow through uninhibited and with vitality. So you want to present them that way because it feels good and right.

SG: In general, the live sound is intended to mimic the recordings. Like the vocal harmonies mentioned before, instrumentation is often the same from studio to stage. For example, we use the same electric piano in both cases. Instead of trying to find a digital keyboard to mimic the Rhodes piano sound, we just use the Rhodes. This is partly because we like the sound of that piano, and partly because we can’t currently afford to buy a high end digital keyboard. There’s a lot of effort involved in preparing these songs for shows. Much of the time we want that lush, complex sound from the record, and we get as close as we can. Some people prefer a loose, spontaneous live performance. What we do is pretty methodical, but I think our excitement and energy are still evident.

NS: We’ll change the arrangements some, but we try and duplicate the sound of the records as much as possible, so I find myself forced to play bass with my left hand and keyboards with my right. This is actually easier than you’d think.

DOA: Please list your official website(s) where we can find more information about you. Thanks, and thanks for the wonderful interview guys!