I think the best part of South by Southwest this year was the company. Fortunate for me, one of those persons was Evan Weiss. Weiss is more commonly known for his solo project Into It. Over It. and another project started with Nick Wakim, Stay Ahead of the Weather. I had the pleasure of spending most of my week with Weiss, and Monday, after all the commotion of SXSW died down, we had a beer out on my porch, and we just talked.
So essentially, what is the story of Into It. Over It.?
For a while I was in this band The Progress. I was playing in a couple of other local bands in New Jersey where I was from. How it started was all at once, I went through this horrible break-up and The Progress broke up and then I moved back in with my parents and then I lost my job all in a matter of a couple of months. From about May to September. I could see all these really shitty things happening all at one time. I was really unmotivated. I hadn't written anything in a long time. I hadn't toured in a while. I hadn't done anything. So what was a way to motivate myself and get creative again? So, I had the idea in June of 2007, starting on my birthday of my 23rd year. I was going to write, record and release a song a week for a whole year. Around August, I booked the studio time at Gradwell House, which is a studio that Steve Poponi from Up Up Down Down owns, and basically the idea was on Thursday a new song went online. On Wednesday, I had three hours to record it and mix it. I had six days to write and record the next Wednesday every week for an entire year. That's basically what I did. I got a new job. I was working 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, and was writing new music and then recording new songs each week. It was free for everybody. There was new artwork every week that my buddy Brian did. There was a splash page that you could click on and go to each week. There was the song to download, the lyrics and any additional recording information, like who else played on it. It became this viral thing. It started out with just me and few friends and then it spread. I got a Myspace page. This was before Facebook was popular. Every week the new song would go on Myspace. It was just really a recording project for a long time. That's all it really was. So when 52 Weeks was over, it ended right as I was joining Damiera as a touring member playing bass. I was really just burnt out on writing music. I just wanted to put my ear on doing something else and clear my head. I met Chris [Hansen] of No Sleep around week four or five. I was like, "Yeah, I'm doing this thing and you should download the songs or whatever." We became really good friends just talking about old hardcore bands or whatever. About six weeks after it was over, he talked about putting it out. We took it offline, mixed and mastered it. We put it up on double CD with all the information. What was funny is that some people still don't know it was online for that entire year for free. I didn't want to break it up. The point of the project was that this was a year of my life. All the songs were about things that happened that particular week. It was like an autobiography of what my year was like when I was 23. I didn't start touring until almost a year later. I didn't start touring until February 2009. It didn't come out until June 2008. There was like an entire year where the record was out and I didn't start playing shows.
Tell me about the time between 52 Weeks and all the songs you did on the splits.
Well, I was playing in Damiera for a while, for that year. While I was on tour, the band did this week tour right before they broke apart. I was trying to think of a new idea, a new project. So I was on this tour, and I had all these stories from tour. I was getting ready to write some more Into It. Over It. songs again. 52 Weeks had been out. Since I had the release, I decided to keep doing songs under that moniker. The idea that I had was that I was going to record 12 songs over the course of a couple of months. I was going to spread those songs over six split records. That would not only promote myself, but it would promote six of my friends' bands, six labels and they would do the artwork for the record. Basically, it was a way to promote the community of D.I.Y. bands that I was in and tell the experience of these twelve towns I was in. The songs were just named after the towns they came from. I wasn't necessarily interested in doing a record because I wasn't touring. So I just sort of posted something online, "This is what I want to do. These are the bands I want to do this with. Hit me up." It just came together. Planned the first one with Bob [Nanna]. That came out first. Then the Pswingset one came out second. Then the one with Empire Empire!, and I had known Keith [Latinen] for a long time and his band. Then Topshelf hit me up through tweets. I tweeted to them about how much I loved the new Pianos [Become the Teeth] record. I really loved what their label was doing. I got an e-mail a bit later about their 7-inches. It was Bob and then Pswingset, CSTVT, Everyone Everywhere and then Empire Empire!. The last one was going to be Snowing, but they ran into some stuff with their last LP. I approached No Sleep about it now that I'm starting to play more shows. [Chris Hansen] always wanted to be part of it, but he wasn't sure since they were all limited to 500. That's a very limited, expensive project. He said he wanted to do it with Such Gold. They're finally finished their two songs, so that's going to come out in May.
So Koji, isn't part of this?
Okay, so explain to me how that came together.
Koji and I toured together last March. We were in the car, and we realized that we'd known each other for 10-12 years. What's a good way to cross promote each other? We're good friends. We need to do something really cool. Those are actually five new songs. The two "town" songs that were recorded for the Such Gold split were recorded over two years ago. They were done and just ready for the split. It was just a matter of timing. Koji and I talked about it. I talked to No Sleep about it. They loved it. We went seven days to a recording studio in Chicago last July. I had 20 days to write my songs, which was hectic. The way the recording ran was really cool. We were both in the studio for seven days. We basically tried to break it up as much as possible. So Mark, who was doing the recording, had to switch back and forth working on my songs and the Koji's songs. We had people come in to be on both of our songs - Koji more than me. We got a lot of friends from Chicago to be on the record. The idea was for us to have the community on the record.
It certainly seems like this album has taken off. It seems like with how fast the vinyl sold out, and the response it has gotten, it seems like this is one of those records that will be at the forefront of what's about to go down here in the next year or so...
Do you feel that way?
Those are the five songs that I feel most confident. Those are the first songs I wrote where I felt there was a direction, where I felt I was a confident songwriter. I know what I want to write...
You say that, but what about your first project and then the second project with the splits?
With 52 Weeks, so much about that was finding my identity and how I write and what works for me and what doesn't. It was all experimenting. It was like, you had six days to write a song and three hours to finish it. You're going with whatever you have, whenever you have it. There will be a song next week, and that is what happened. It was just stream of consciousness. The splits, sort of, and then with the Koji split, was the first time I was able to take songs and write them and really think about them. To really figure out and take time to figure out what works best and actually have time to do it. To say that it's at a forefront of a movement, I don't know. For Koji and I, that was just us doing something fun. It was me hanging out with my friend. I think that's what made it special. If you know him and I...we made these videos for the making of the record to see how we interact. That's why that record is so special to us. I feel like that attitude about making it, I feel like shows on the record. That's all the difference. It wasn't a stressful experience. It was a fun experience. Well, any studio experience is going to be a stressful experience. Looking back on that, it was fun. I look back and smile on that recording session.
How do you take that experience into your next album that you're working on?
I'm at a really weird turning point now with doing music. When we recorded that record last year, I was still beginning to tour and thinking about taking music full-time seriously. I'm at a point where a lot of things in my life are changing. It's like a rediscovery. I have to figure out in my life, how to cope with what the next year is going to bring. I think, with the next year, I need to think about how to relax. I find myself over thinking things way too much now. Whereas before, I didn't have time to focus which turned into me focusing which turned into me over focusing. I have to kind of level back and realize that me being able to do what comes naturally to me, take my time, but not take my time is what works. I think this time, there's no deadline set. Nick and I started writing last month. There is no deadline set to when we're going to record this record...I want it to come naturally.
Your thoughts about South by Southwest. Now that we've shared this time together in the midst of it, it seems you have some heavy thoughts.
South by Southwest for me...when we were at the Topshelf show and we were at the No Sleep show, and all our friends were in one spot, I couldn't have been happier. For me to be surrounded by the people I care about...every band that played the Topshelf show and every band that played the No Sleep show I know. I've toured with them. I've played with them. I've done records with them. I have had these long standing relationships with them. To be able to stand in a room just full of them is an amazing experience. To be in a city though, just overflowing and I can't see eye to eye to them is a bit overwhelming to me. My experience overall, if I had to do this again next year, I would just come in and play the shows I'm with all my friends and take off. I would know where to come in and just play and not get stressed about where to park the car or get stressed out about where the venue is - and I know that sounds like first world problems [Laughs] that's a drag. At this point, it's more stressful than it has to be. No band should have that much stress when they already have enough stress as a touring band. Maybe I should just come in and play more shows. Having days off is tedious for me.
Okay, so how did Stay Ahead of the Weather start?
So, Nick and I, Nick [Wakin] who sings and plays guitar in CSTVT who is a really great drummer, he used to play drums in a band called Oceans which I played with before when I was in Damiera. We met a couple of times before and talked about playing together. I needed a drummer, and I didn't really know anyone when I moved to Chicago. We talked about it and it sounded like a great idea. So I just started writing these songs around the time of the Koji split, and I brought them in and we jammed on it and got through five of them - the five on the 7" - and they were going to be my five Koji songs. Then him and I talked about it and realized it sounded a lot different. It was louder and more uniformed and heavier. It's not totally diverse like the Into It. Over It stuff was. I didn't want to pigeonholed Into It. Over It. like that. I wanted to write five songs and make it cohesive. So we decided to make it its own thing. We searched out musicians that would fit with us. It all happened organically. Matt Jordan was a guy who worked with me, and we got together one day and played guitar and it was awesome. I showed him some of the songs and he was playing stuff over it and it sounded great. Finally we booked some recording time, and we didn't even have a bass player. We called Bobby [Markos] and asked him if he'd be interested in playing on the songs and helping out. He loved the songs. He met up and he already had bass lines planned out and we jammed on it and it was perfect. We recorded the EP. When we recorded it, we were just going to put it out ourselves, or see if a label even wanted to put it out. It was just fun, and we wanted to see these songs come to life. When we were mixing it, we sent the songs to No Sleep, and Chris loved it. He offered to put it out. It was really just four best friends that wanted to write songs together and be in a band together.
Do you see that happening more now within the community? Seeing friends from different bands come together on projects? I always talk to people about the late-'90s days when some bands were formed by members of other bands just for the hell of it. It seems like it is happening again in the Midwest and even in California, but it seems much more natural than just this "side band."
It's a community. Especially in Chicago. We're all friends. We all go to shows together. We hang out all the time. It's great. So when we have ideas for bands or ideas for writing songs, it's cool to know we have this community of people. "We have this thing, do you want to be a part of it?" I know a couple of websites had something about us being a supergroup, we are not a fucking supergroup. I don't know who said that. To say that is really unfair to the band. Superfriends I'll accept. [Laughs] That might be a little more accurate.
Doesn't it sound flattering? [Laughs]
Yeah, it's flattering, but it's also pompous. We're just friends. We get together and play music. It's just fun. There's nothing super about it. It's like any other band. Bands start for a reason. They get together and enjoy each others company. We didn't pick members of the band because of what band they were in. We picked them strictly because we're good friends and work together as musicians. I feel like some supergroups pick people because of a status thing. That's not what Stay Ahead of the Weather is. Bobby had to leave the band because Native is so busy. For us and for him, it was totally a mutual thing. We all understand that's a first priority. We're all still homies.
There was no animosity.
Yeah. It was his decision. When we were recording, it was like, "Let's see if we can do anything." Then when we were recording, people were interested in it. Then we brought it up to Bobby, and he just couldn't. He was super busy and told us if we wanted to do something with it, to do it...Then our buddy Owen [Mallon], who's a great friend and bass player, we've been writing new songs and it's been great. As far as bands starting anywhere within a community, in our scene I think it has less to do with what bands you're in and the fact that we're all just friends. That's what it is. We just want to play music together.
What do you think about what's going to happen next within this scene? Kenny [Czadzeck] and I were having this conversation yesterday, and I'm interested in your take on it. What do you think of that sense of community and what we all know is about to come?
It's exciting and it's terrifying all at the same time. I know a little over a year ago, Former Thieves and I did a house show and there was maybe a hundred kids there. To see the growth exponentially over the last year from working hard and being good bands, it's exciting. It's kind of vindicating because we've all worked hard in other bands just to see them fail. For whatever reason, in the mid-2000s, people were just not into bands that had heart and banging it out. Koji and I have a phrase for this. "There's no economy for bullshit." There is no money to go around for these elaborate, dumb fucking rock bands. There's no economy for that. No one wants to see some dude jerking off on stage for hours. People want to see bands on stage just playing music, being authentic and being themselves. You can see right through a band that's bullshit. Nobody wants to be lied to anymore. People are getting lied to everywhere they go. People don't want to be lied to when they go somewhere that makes them happy. They want to see something authentic. They want to see something that's real. Our community is something that is so real. It's exciting to see people take notice, to see people yearn for the same things we yearn for. It's terrifying. We're all treading scary waters. None of us know how to garner any sort of success, whether it's big or small. We're all just kind of like, "Cool. Here we are. What you see is what you get." [Laughs] It's going to be interesting to see how people react this year to this stuff. It's going to be interesting to see how attitudes might change. That they may think they're owed something. I'm worried about the humbleness right now is going to disappear. I really think that's the furthest thing from everyone's minds.
Do you feel like there's a torch about to be passed? Especially with Every Time I Die and Norma Jean headlining Bledfest this year. I don't think anyone saw that coming, but those were bands I grew up with that have certainly paid their dues. Now there's this whole new group.
As far as I am concerned, music didn't exist between 2000 and 2010. There was no music between that time. The bands that I loved and I listened to were my friends. To see what came out in those years and to watch that Myspace bullshit die and burn in flames, it brings a smile to my face every day. Do I think the torch has been passed? Yeah. I think it has. If it hasn't yet, it's about to be. I think there's a lot of exciting things that are about to happen this year that have just been sincere and genuine for years and just have been shit on for commercial, bubblegum bullshit. That's the only word I can describe it as, bullshit. I remember playing in The Progress in 2005-2006 with bands like Metro Station and wondering why the fuck we were there. We were still trying to book shows using the phone. We didn't know what Myspace was. We didn't know how to market ourselves like that. That's not who we were. We were a D.I.Y. band. We were a group of kids playing emo songs. To see that coming back...stuff can only go bad for so long until it collapses. We had to realize, "Hey, if we don't do this for ourselves, nothing is going to happen." That happened. The levee broke and it finally happened. To see that happen nation wide and in Europe and England now, it's so exciting. Everyone now has their finger on the pulse of this really friendly relationship of support. You know what's funny, people talk shit about the Internet, but Facebook and Twitter is so important. That's the easiest communication tool. People plug in and meet each other. They exchange ideas. They can talk about anything. That wasn't in music ten years ago. You're being spoon fed what you liked. Now you get to know people. That's what people want. That's what people care about. They want to know people. They want to know who they're going to see. They want to know what people are into. I've toured for the last year, and I've stayed in a hotel one time. I want to hang out. I want to meet people and talk about stuff. I think that era of bands that are this hierarchy unsociable rock star shit is dead. If it's not dead yet, it's about to be. That's so awesome. That was the one cool thing about South by Southwest. It was getting to talk to people.
I love Evan's music as IIOI; perhaps I shall check out Stay Ahead of the Weather? Anyway, he seems like a great guy & I'm interested in anything he does musically. And his split with Koji was a great idea because that's how I found out about IIOI.