Answers provided by: Matt Joynt, Erica Froman, Bret Wallin, Jeremiah Johnson
Generally, people are willing to jump the gun when they find out about the beliefs of a band, as Christians, how do you view your role as musicians?
Matt: This might seem sort of underwhelming, but we probably view making music like many other bands. We don’t have an agenda to fulfill or a sense that we are special. I think as humans, we all like to use systems to organize things, groups,… a sense of order, whether actual or imagined. I can’t blame people for wanting order, for wanting to organize people by their beliefs. Things seem much simpler if we apply a structure to them. It serves as a framework through which to think. On the other hand, certain kinds of order can be negative if they are used in the place of investigation or thinking. Aesthetically, we strive for many of the same things that other bands are working toward. We want to continue to learn about composition through experimenting with its different elements, and hopefully touch on something that people like to hear. We want to grow closer together as a group, and to discover things about one another through playing music together and communicating. Our beliefs definitely influence our music, but we generally write about what we are thinking about. We never feel pressure to unnaturally merge our theology into our music. Faith means so much more than singing about it. To do otherwise would be to profane it.
How do you respond to fans that snicker and mock during a live show, especially being on tour with bands that are more accessible and corporate-friendly?
Matt: People mock us? I don’t think we’re really that controversial. Generally, people have been really open to what we’re trying to do. We were blown away by the acceptance of the Format’s fans. They were wild and really open-minded. We haven’t encountered too much angst. People laugh when we do certain things during our set, but we sort of invite that by being ridiculous or overly dramatic… or by singing about slugs and bugs.
What do you hope your music provides your fans?
Matt: Personally, I hope that people feel conflicted about whether they liked it or not. I hope that it provides them with an opportunity to engage new ideas and use imagination (this sounds so prog and mystical,… sorry haha. I should probably save it for the upcoming D&D tournament!). I hope that it takes time, a little bit of dedication, and trust. That’s probably a little presumptuous, but that’s what I would hope for. Ultimately, I hope that people feel a sense of wonder about the world.
Since Floating World and past music isn't as ubiquitous in retail stores, what is your stance on downloading music?
Matt: I don’t really have a black and white opinion on downloading. I buy my music whenever possible. I like packaging and how artists can use it to present the recording. Apple has mastered the art of convenience with itunes. My thoughts on the topic aren’t very developed.
What is their deal with Nettwerk, exactly? Is Anathallo signed with them? Are they just distributors?
Matt: Our managers, Tom and Janet, work through Nettwerk. Since the whole company is connected, we were able to start our own imprint label called Artist Friendship and be distributed through Sony/BMG by way of Nettwerk’s distribution deal with them. We signed ‘Floating World’ over for a single licensing and manufacturing deal. It has been pretty amazing so far. The Nettwerk staff has been incredibly accommodating.
How difficult is it to manage being in a band with so many members? What are the ego trips like?
Matt: It’s not difficult at all. Then again, this is all we know. It would probably be really hard to go from performing/touring solo to working with a group. In general, we are low drama, low maintenance. We spend most of our time pretending to be dramatic. Every once in a while our communication breaks down a little bit, but that’s to be expected with the lifestyle of touring, and from my perspective, these are the most loyal friends that any person could ask for. We need a good slug out. I’ll propose that tomorrow at practice.
Does Erica ever feel out of place in a band of dudes?
Erica: This was a general concern coming from my friends and family, but it hasn’t been a problem at all. If anything I have gained six new brothers and get to experience all the things that would happen if you were in a van with your family for eight months out of the year. I think there is a good combination of respect and equal opportunity for everyone in the band. We all have our bad days but generally speaking things work really well.
What is the writing process like? With so many parts, how does everyone get in their two-cents?
Matt: We’ve been dealing with this quite a bit lately. I would say that in general, it all has to come with good communication. It’s impossible to be in a band like Anathallo, which thrives on complete collaboration, and not spend the majority of your time trying to figure out how to communicate. We’re working on it. It’s not perfect, and different people are selfish at different times in regard to the inclusion or exclusion of ideas and adhering to a specific vision for a song. In general, it just takes a lot of time to work through problem sections and an openness to perceive the song the way someone else hears it. It’s a process. We’re still learning about it. We’re young and fail to see the subjectivity of writing sometimes.
There seems to be a resounding theme of hope in the lyrics of Floating World, or is there even a theme at all? What caused your departure from your older sound (esp. Sparrows) to the more indie sound on Floating World?
Bret: For me- from my understanding of the lyrics – I would agree with you… I really think there is some measure of hope given throughout the record. But I also think – what I really like about Matt’s way of writing – is that it’s never an easy hope. It’s not cheap. In his retelling of the hanasakajiijii folktale, the land is restored but only at the expense of the dog’s death. And even when the ashes are sprinkled – when the old man’s tree blooms again – there’s a sense of, “but what now?” And in this version, the “what now” includes the angry neighbor bringing about more trouble. I don’t think I always trust stories that end with an overwhelming sense of overcoming… I always wonder how the characters wake up the next day. In the same way, I think – the last song on the record, Kasa No Hone – the last words sung are “though I also am torn, don’t desert me.” It might not be a necessarily happy end… but I think it’s hopeful. It’s honest.
The sound of Floating World being such a departure from Holiday and Sparrows… I think it came about for a few reasons. You know, we’re older now, we’ve spent more time playing together. I think there was a sense, especially on Sparrows, where we would cram every music idea we could into a five second span, work on it for a week, and then move on to the next five seconds. It was fun (!), but it wasn’t exactly tasteful songwriting. I even think on this record… you can tell that the first three songs were written a couple years before the rest of the album was finished. There’s a definite progression.
How has manager Tom Gates helped you along as a band?
Jeremiah Johnson: Tom (and Nettwerk) has afforded us the opportunity to see our album(s) materialize in stores, helped us to have our album played on 68 college radio stations across the country(on the first week of release), as well as allowing us to have seemingly unlimited artistic control of our career. Tom has taken the time to get to know us as people, not just musicians/artists, and because of that he has shown us that he believes in what we are doing and is willing to do what it takes to further our career in any way he can.
Do you plan on putting your album in stores (Best Buy, Target, etc.) anytime in the near future?
Jeremiah Johnson: Our album “Floating World” is currently being distributed through Sony/ BMG to most independent record stores around the country. I do know that Tower Records and Virgin stores are carrying the new album. But aside from those 2, it can only be found at indie stores,the anathallo online store, itunes, or at shows. The market for the major chain stores is incredible hard to break into and usually will cost the artist far more money than it’s worth. Unless of course you happen to be Ludacris, Faith Hill, or an American Idol, it seems to me, that it is too expensive of a gamble to take.
Why is it that you always have *special* little deals with your merch sales? You used to make beanies, now the soap with the preorder...I love it by the way, keep it up.
Erica: I like the idea of getting people to use some of the other senses to experience music. The things that we include inside the albums tie in with some of the concepts. It’s also a way to show some hand made appreciation. The process of making something together is really great too.
What was the experience with working with mewithoutYou and their upcoming album?
Bret: For me, the whole day was this thought of, “I can’t believe this is happening.” Or, mewithoutYou has meant a lot to me for a while… and when it worked out on our last tour with The Format that we had a free afternoon in LA, that we’d actually be able to be a part of their project… it was just the nicest feeling. Something that, ten years from now, to have something to look back on from this time.
The actual process of the day – mewithoutYou had traveled back home by that point – but Andrew and I spent the afternoon with their producer, Brad Wood. He was the exact right mix of - he was very direct with his vision,“for this section, I could hear something like this,” but he would also give us enough time to create the part, to be free with his ideas, to let them grow and breathe. We ended up playing on three tracks… there’s not even a guarantee that they’ll make it through the final edits!… but even to have the experience was great. And from what we heard of their new songs, the record is going to be pretty special.
What does 'Hoodwink' mean?
Bret: Do you mean the title? Or the song? The title, the word “hoodwink” – it’s deception, it’s giving off a false appearance. And the song, the opening lines are a quote from Adolf Eichmann. “Nevermind, someday they’ll build monuments for us.” Except he was a Nazi war criminal… the man who oversaw the deportation of three million Jews to extermination camps. He went to his grave convinced he was a hero. So I think the song, there are a lot of aspects of self-deception… of the work we do to convince ourselves that we’re good. I know that’s kind of extreme, gaining personal perspective from one of the architects of the holocaust. But I also think, it’s the clearest example of a part of our human condition. Our storytelling, our way of making sense of life… it usually all stems from the idea that “we’re the good guy.” And I don’t think that’s always the case. It’s not the case for me.
It seems as if you are the band that everyone one knows but knows nothing about and I hope this interview clears some of those things up, but what are some things that the band would like to tell their fans about themselves?
Bret: Well, I’m not really sure what there is to tell? Some friends of ours drove up from Chicago as a surprise last night… and as we were sitting around, we started talking about what it was like when we first met. It was really fun to think about, but then one of the girls spoke up and said, “I remember the first time I met you guys! I got really shy because I thought you were all cooler than me… but then I realized you weren’t.”
And that, I think, is us. Anathallo. I spent four years in the high school marching band. Andrew just wrote a musical about Christopher Columbus. Half the band spent their teenage years in a hardcore band. We’re pretty much, I think, who you went to school with, who you dormed next to in college. Except we never got jobs and now get to drive around in a van all day.
So yes. We will be in that van for a long, long time for the rest of the year. July through September, late October through December. It would be fun to meet you all.
They seem like such sincere and cool people, also they seem extremely intelligent. This is a band that was introduced to me solely through this website and I am so glad I bought "Floating world" Everything from the artwork to the music is beautiful. What an inspiration these guys and gal are.
That was a great interview, Anathallo are easily one of my favorite bands right now. They make beautiful music that makes me think and i love that. I can't wait to see them live for the first time July 8th.