You guys just wrapped up supporting All Time Low's tour. That was your first big tour since the AltPress tour, right? What was it like finally getting to play in front of kids every night after such a long time away, especially now with new material?
I'll tell you what...as horrible as the break was between us touring and our two records, I feel like overall, it was something that was much needed. The last time we toured was Warped Tour and the end of that tour was kind of when the winds picked up. The hurricane came shortly thereafter. That's kind of when all of the bridges around us started collapsing. The All Time Low tour was great for us though. After being away for that long, the stage and recording process was exciting again. The lights seemed brighter...the voices of those singing along to your songs were louder...and the stage felt more like home than ever before. We were so honored to be on that tour with bands like All Time Low, The Starting Line, Mayday Parade, and Cartel. It allowed us to play in front of large numbers of excited kids, onstage with bands we look up to, and most importantly...it reminded us why we do what we do in the first place. We felt like 16 year olds playing music onstage for our first time, and there is NO better feeling than that.
Coming on that tour, you also had a brand new line up as well. Joey Thunder, whose been a touring member for a while now, became official at bass, while Alex Johnson was relieved of his drummer duties. You've dealt with line-up issues in the past, but do you feel like your current one is as solid as its been? What is your response to those who still think a break up is inevitable just because of member departures?
People who think that The Cab is falling apart obviously have never sat down and had a conversation with us. They have obviously never been in the studio while we work. They weren't in our van when we flipped it twice in Wisconsin a few years back. Because if they HAD done and gone through those things with us, they would know that simply giving up is not an option. They would know how much this band means to me. That I live it. I breathe it. It's who I have grown to be. Yes, band members have come and gone, and yes it has been sad and has hurt us at some points. But from those moments we have evaluated every single angle and have come to the consensus that all of them were for the better. For example, did Ian's departure hurt? Did it sting a bit? OF COURSE IT DID! Ian was a brother to us and one of the most incredibly gifted guitarists...actually...MUSICIANS we had ever come into contact with, let alone been in a band with, but who are we to say what was good for him? His heart was in another place and as a friend, you have to respect that. It's part of life. We aren't bitter people and we really do wish him the best with all that's in us. We root for him and our his biggest fans.
Saying that, I can also say with full confidence and honesty that the band is in the best shape that we have ever been. The one constant has been Alex Marshall. Not only is he one of my best friends but he is probably the best writer and music guy I know. The guy just hears layers and orchestras. Challenges me and makes me want to be better. He has a gift and I know that myself and this band would be absolutely nothing without him. I am so grateful for him. We've gone through all of this together, you know? Over the years, you realize that surrounding yourself with people with good heads on their shoulders and strong hearts is just as, if not more important, than having people who can play their instruments faster than most others. The camaraderie of our band right now is unmatched and we are just a big family. We finally have phenomenal musicians that have souls that scream as loud as their instruments. You have to come out to a live show and check us out. Dave, our new drummer is unreal. One of the most incredible musicians I have ever played with. Adds a whole new dimension to the band. Frank, our guitar player, is incredible too and has quickly become one of my best friends. The writing core has never changed and remains intact. I have full faith that we're going to be just fine. I don't care about what has happened in the past. It's called the past for a reason. Respect your history, but keep your eyes in front of you. All I can speak of is right now, and right now we are a happy band.
After over 3 years, your new album, Symphony Soldier, is finally out. How has the response been so far, and what has the past week been like for you and the band in general?
It is finally out, isn't it? Sometimes I forget! We spent so many years working on it and at points had so many people telling us how we would never make it/that it would never be released, that at one point we thought it never would never see the light of day! That aside, the response has been simply unreal. If I have learned anything from this album being released, it is just how incredible and loyal our fans are. Don't get me wrong, I have always loved them, but this took it to a different level. Its been a great week for us. Spirits are pretty damn high. I mean, we didn't release an album for over three years! Over a thousand days. We pretty much disappeared for a year. That is normally suicide for bands. In a day and age where the internet is so important and art accessibility is so key to a band's success, it literally is a miracle we made it out alive, and a miracle that kids remembered us and still cared. We also lost our management and label, which 99% of the time makes bands and artists disband or quit all together. There is so much music out there at people's fingertips that they could have easily forgotten about us and replaced us with another band, but three years later, our fans were still there. They held on. The album did just as good, if not better than our first record Whisper War. The thing about that is, this one had almost ZERO marketing. There were no flashy commercials, no crazy pop art ads in magazines. Nope. Just an album...word of mouth on social networks...and the support of our fans. Pretty incredible, right? I owe my life to them.
It really did have no marketing. It was basically announced just over a month ago, and right after, your single is all over radio, and the album ends up charting higher than Whisper War did. I don't think I've even seen a negative review for it. How satisfying is this all for you? Do you think you still have something to prove to anyone whose doubted The Cab or has the success so far spoken for itself?
To us, this is success. Just being able to sing and tour the world for a living is a success. HOWEVER...we are just getting started. Some bands are content with touring small clubs for a few years. They party and drink every night and wreck their voices and bodies, make mediocre albums every nine months, and then a few years later they are back at home thrown back into the real world looking at their time in a band wondering what they should have done differently. That's not the type of band that we are. We want to be a career band, which is extremely hard to become. All of these things to us are hopefully just checkpoints and not finish lines. We are going to work as hard as we can. We want to keep gaining speed, you know? No one starts a band to be #6 on iTunes. We are super happy that we were, but we are going to work to one day be #1.
I couldn't care less about what other people think at this point, which should seem evident when we parted was with the label when they didn't believe in our band. I have things that I need to prove to MYSELF. I have things to prove to my friends and family. I don't have to be good enough to anybody but myself because I know with everything in me that if I write an honest album, remain genuine, and work hard, our fans will be there and people will relate to and support the music. We are so grateful that people are enjoying the album though. It truly is a great feeling to know that our music can make people feel something and that they can be inspired. That it can be the soundtrack to their lives. It truly is an honor and we hope to continue doing that for them for a long time. The success of the album should show all bands that they can do it on their own with determination and hard work. Proves that doing things independently, is in fact possible. It feels pretty damn good to know that we finally did it. Hopefully one day we'll be able to send the people that didn't believe in us a plaque. [Laughs] We just don't focus on them. We don't put time or energy into the non-believers or their opinions. Instead we focus on the people who have supported us through it all and they'll never know how much we appreciate it.
You talk about your fans a ton and you aren't kidding when you say how much they've been there for you. They created an entire day dedicated to you guys as well as countless fan sites updating whatever you do. What have you done differently to keep them by your side for so long? These days, if a band even releases an album that fans don't like, they'll be written off for good.
What have I done differently? Look, I'm going to be honest. I have no idea why our fans have been so supportive. I can't speak for them. All I can say is how grateful we are for it. I can talk for hours about what they do for me. They were our strength when everything fell apart. They inspire us just like they say we inspire them. It truly is an amazing relationship that we have with them. They truly are an army. I would do anything in my power to make each one of them smile and to shake every single one of their hands just to tell them thank you and how much their support of our music and dreams truly means. I know how corny and cheesy this is going to sound, especially while being read, but it all is true.
You know what...I'm going to rant for a second because someone needs to say it: fans are EVERYTHING. Us artists, we're just creative people sitting in our room writing and singing out words from our souls that no one will hear without fans. These million and billion dollar companies such as Warner and Sony? Nothing without the fans of the music. The kids that go to your shows and hang your posters on the walls, and tattoo your lyrics to their skin...THAT is what this is all about. You sing songs hoping that a single person, somewhere, will relate and feel the same way. Too many bands are unappreciative to their fans. They become these rock stars and think that their celebrity status means that they can pretend to be too busy to say "hi" or take a picture with the people that listen to their music. If a fan goes up to an artist while they're eating dinner...EARTH TO ARTIST. THAT FAN IS PROBABLY PAYING FOR THAT STEAK DINNER THAT YOU ARE CURRENTLY DEVOURING BY BUYING YOUR ALBUMS AND GOING TO YOUR SHOWS. It just angers me a bit. Nothing gets under my skin more than ungrateful bands. We all are the same. We're all fans. You were that kid once too. I know I was. I had posters of my favorite bands on my walls. I sang into my closet mirror pretending to hold a microphone to people dreaming to one day be on a stage. I just hope that our fans know how important they are to us and how grateful we are.
Symphony Soldier was released without any label support. A lot of bands would say that their first full length on a major is a stressful time, but is a full length without any label just as bad? What were your main worries leading up to August 23rd, if any?
Any stress that was there was covered in layers and layers of excitement. We were just so anxious to get the album out that I don't think there was room to feel anything else! With labels, you are stressed because if the CD doesn't do well (to their standards, because a label's standards and any reasonable ones are probably two very different things) you could be dropped and living on the streets with the snap of a finger. With us, we finally got to record the songs that we wanted, with who we wanted, and release it when we wanted. We were fully comfortable. Of course you hope that people are going to love it, but I wouldn't call that stress. I would call that curiosity and anxiousness. We are confident. As a band, you have to believe in your music and in yourself, because if you don't, how can you expect anyone else to?
Now, flashback to your first album Whisper War. It didn't really meet the commercial expectations that everyone thought it should have. The general consensus was that..."These songs are huge." Did you think so yourself? Since it was your first album, did you have a real goal in mind, or were you just riding the wave to see where it brought you?
I was 17 years old. I was working with Patrick Stump, Brendon Urie, and more of my idols. At that point, I think I was just so damn excited that I was way more likely to go with the flow. I wrote songs and was just like "what do you guys think!?" Overall, we were just incredibly green. Incredibly excited, yet so naive to everything that was going on around us. This industry is a shark tank and we were acting like it was a bowl of goldfish. This is me being super honest -- I know this may all sound bad. When you first get signed and you get a big time manager, you kind of just expect things to work, in a way. Of course you work hard, but you start getting used to relying on other people. Used to having everyone else around you set things up, and tell you what's good for you that you start getting too comfortable. I didn't even realize the expectations of the first album. I was just excited to play music and to be touring with my favorite bands.
Looking back, I am super proud of how it did though, and am super thankful to everyone who got the record to where it did. We sold close to triple figures which was great for a band like us. I think it would have been bad or scary if the album would have gotten any bigger. We were too green and naive. Who knows what would have happened or how we would have handled it. Imagine if the lineup changes would have happened after we got huge? It could have been a disaster. You don't want to get big on the wrong song or situation. We feel like we're at the point in our career now where we finally understand things. We've evolved into the songwriters we have always wanted to be. We get the business side of things a lot more, and most importantly, we understand that if you want things, you have to go out and get it. You can't sit back and hope a fancy record label or big manager is going to make you the size of U2. You have to get your hands dirty and do the work yourself. Those are the people who survive the sharks.
You said in the past regarding the departure from Fueled by Ramen that they weren't behind the music you wanted to make. Was that the main reason for the delay? Was your feeling always, "We're not going to give in to what you want," or did you try to reconcile with them as much as possible to see if there was a happy medium? Did it offend you that they were essentially saying, "Your new material isn't as good as the stuff you wrote when you were 17"?
Fueled By Ramen was in a much different spot when I was 17. They of course had a lot of success, but in the recent years with the success of Travie, etc. on Top 40 radio, I think they just wanted to see more of that pop success. The crazy thing to us was that we ARE pop! There are very few bands that are more pop than we are and they wanted us to go more pop? If we didn't do what they wanted, they wouldn't support us or pay for it? How do Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, and Justin Timberlake all say that they back and want to work with a band, and you not think that it is a good business idea for you to put time and support into them? Is that not like a "HEY! DING DING DING! THESE KIDS ARE PROBABLY DOING SOMETHING RIGHT!"? Name another band or artist in general that has had backing from all three of those acts? It just made no sense to us. We didn't know what we were doing wrong. In our eyes, we were doing everything they wanted and everything they asked and they still didn't want to push it. Nothing was ever good enough. Our confidence for awhile was shattered. It broke our hearts because we absolutely loved the label and the family we had there.
At that point, we just had to do what was best for us. We didn't want to change for anyone. I wasn't going to do songs that sounded like me attempting to mimic a Ke$ha sounding solo project. The Cab is a band. We're all in this for each other. I do this and work hard for them just as much as I do it for myself. We can play. And play well. We weren't going to dumb ourselves down for anything or anyone. Labels have to learn that you can't change an artist. Music listeners aren't dumb, mindless people. They are going to see right through it if you release something forced and unnatural. Let artists be artists. Let them create. That's why you sign them in the first place, correct? Because you like what they're doing? Labels need to understand that the biggest and most successful artists are the ones that are different and that start the trends, not the ones that are mimicking the other artists that are on the radio. To us, the label problems were just a shock to us. We truly do love everyone over there and we wish them the best. Their loss. We have songs to write and cities to tour. To be honest, we just don't have time to be bitter towards them or anyone else. We are stronger now and in a better place.
At what point did you realize there was a problem between you and FBR? As far as Whisper War was concerned, where was the line between giving them time to push you, and then the realization that their promotion wasn't going to go in your favor?
We were happy with how Whisper War did. We sold a decent amount of records, had our videos on MTV, and toured with massive other bands. You can't always blame the label, sometimes things don't work. Not that it didn't fully work, because we got an incredible fan base and following because of it, but you can't EXPECT anything. We didn't have expectations. Others might have, but we didn't. We are super thankful to where that record got us, but now it is time for bigger and better things. They had so many bigger artists...we couldn't expect to get the big push that all of the other ones were getting.
Even though this didn't happen as recently as leaving Fueled By Ramen did, you also parted ways with Crush Management as well. Where were the disagreements in that relationship? Did you feel like you should have been given the same attention as, say, Cobra Starship or Panic! at the Disco? Who is your management now, and do you feel like they'll allow you to reach new heights?
Crush Management has some great people over there. Some of the most smart, hard working people around and I respect them tremendously. Look at what they've done with some of their artists. They have turned garage bands into arena acts. With us and Crush, I just feel like we parted ways a bit. I just don't think they knew what to do. No one knew what the next step was and the band was in need of a fresh perspective. Both sides agreed that us leaving would be the best step. After the Crush departure happened, I took a month off. I needed to breathe. I spent some time exploring Italy and more importantly, exploring myself. Trying to figure out who I was and what I needed to do. When I came back, we met our new manager Chris Knight at Azoff/Frontline Management through a friend and ever since then, things have been going perfect.
The thing about Chris is that he is a fan of our band and our music. He actually believes in us. He doesn't work with us because he has to, but because he wants to. He is so passionate about us and the music that he has genuinely gotten us excited about it all over again. It means so much to us that he is taking the time to work with us, especially because the other artists he works with are massive artists and proven successes. In a way...he saved us and our dreams. We truly did get a second chance. We never gave up, we worked hard, and we were always kind and respectful to those around us. All we can think and hope is that karma came around. Everything happened for a reason and now we are in an incredible spot on a whole new journey. We are super confident that the combination with us and our new management will push us farther then we have ever been before. The horizons are much clearer, the walls much wider, and the ceiling that was above our head is slowly but surely being demolished.
As far as labels are concerned, there's been rumors going around about major label involvement with Symphony Soldier, but as the album was released, "Z-Entertainment Records" was what was listed on digital retailers. Can you shed some light on what that is exactly? Do you think any majors could come into play anytime soon? Say a major wants to sign you...what is your ideal vision that you want them to have for The Cab?
Z-Entertainment is a partnership with our management team. The guy that runs it is great and has really been amazing at getting the single out at radio. We are really thankful for his support. Like I said earlier, labels can be a great asset to an artist or band. It's not about the label, it's about the contract and the deal... and the people directly working with your band. They have to be fans. It's all of the little details. Are we against ever signing to a label again? Of course not. But the deal would have to favor us and not just them. Labels now are so desperate in this day and age that some take crazy amounts from artists. Even going as far as taking cuts of their publishing. Why does a record label deserve writing rights to a song that they didn't write? How unfair is that? Right now we are doing fine without a label. There are incredible labels out there with incredible staff but it's all about finding them. Some of my best friends work at labels and they are incredibly passionate and treat their artists great.
However, right now we are winning the game. We have been getting phone calls from record labels big and small every day and we are glad to take them, but a label is really going to have to make us an offer we can't refuse for us to leave the incredible spot that we are in now. We want it to be fair and a great business move for both sides. It's important to find a label that believes in the band and that is just as passionate about the music as the band is. Personal investment is so key.
Symphony Soldier's opener "Angel with a Shotgun" has become a fan favorite so far. The album is streaming on youtube and each song has around six to seven thousand listens, but "Angel with a Shotgun" literally has over thirty thousand. It even charted on iTunes' Rock charts. Do you think you might have made a mistake making "Bad" the lead single?
We didn't make a mistake. I fully understand why "Angel with a Shotgun" has so many views. This album took three years to make. It was all an uphill battle. With life, with the label, the management changes. It was tough. But our fans were there with us the whole time. They fought the battle too. That song speaks about all of that and is the perfect way to kick off the album. "Angel with a Shotgun" is a movement about standing your ground and fighting for what you love and believe in. Of course our fans are going to back that song. They ARE that song. Choosing singles is always hard. As a band you should like every single song on your album so when it comes to a single, you have to pick one that you THINK will do well. You never really know if songs are going to hit or not. Look at Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks." Did anyone think that song would be a NUMBER ONE? Over Rihanna? Gaga? No. They didn't. It just happened. We believe "Bad" has a universal appeal. It's a sing along. One you'll know the words to after one listen. It was my mom's favorite, my 10 year-old brother's favorite, and my 17 year-old sister's favorite. All three are great thermometers. It's doing great on radio and kids have been enjoying it a lot live, as have we. So we're happy with that decision.
Going into the studio for Symphony Soldier, you guys had a ton of songs at your disposal. I think you said something around 150 that were written? With that said, what mindset did you have to have to make you decide on which to include on the album? Did you know what would be on the record before you met with Feldmann or did he help you choose?
Songs are like children. There is a reason you write every song. Whether it's because you liked a chord progression, you had a thought that you wanted to get off your chest, or you just wanted to tell a story. Every song truly does hold a special place. The hardest part about making an album is choosing the songs. I can tell you that we cut it down to about 20 fairly easily, and then from there it was like pulling teeth. I wanted some that no one else did, Alex Marshall wanted a song that I didn't see fit, Feldmann had his favorites, etc. It was tough but in the end it just came to compromising and the realization that though some songs didn't make THIS record, that doesn't mean they still can't see the light of day in the future. Having too many good songs that you love is not a bad problem to have. I've watched other bands have the opposite problem.
As far as those other songs are concerned, which do you think will see the light of day? Fans heard the song "Locked Up" on tour while others heard "Rockstar" on ESPN, and then you had "Falling Up" which leaked last year. Is some type of b-sides collection possible, and which were your favorites that you would have put on the album if you could have?
The producer of "Locked Up" was not a huge fan of producing it for a band. He didn't want too many live instruments. I mean, I get it, the song sounded really great as it was. A big pop record. We disagreed so we gave him permission to shop it around to other artists. "Rockstar" was a song we did for fun and wrote and recorded super quick. ESPN used a demo version of that, I believe. It was fun to write and fun to record but it didn't fit or work for Symphony Soldier. "Falling Up" is a great song, but was leaning a direction that may not have been us. Plus, we had so many ballads for this record that we couldn't include them all. More than just calling ourselves "The Cab," we are also songwriters. We want to write and produce for other people. It is a blast for us. Some "Cab" b-sides are already being sold and shopped around for other artists out there. It's actually a super neat thing to hear other pop artists and bands sing your songs. Some b-sides of this record will see the light of day someday through us, but you may be listening to Cab songs that didn't make the record without even knowing it as it's sung by other artists. My other favorites were "Crown", "I Wish I Could Break You", "Favorite Bad Habit", and "Feels So Good."
You've said in the past that "Crown" was definitely going to be released, and fans have been asking for it ever since you posted a clip of it about a year ago. You've even spoken to some of Timbaland's crew to produce it, right? Are there still plans to release this, and when? For people who know nothing about the song, what is it all about? Additionally, you've said that you had plans to "do" something with it -- is/was there something more in mind than just a regular single release through iTunes?
We aren't sure. We just know there is something special about this song. The meaning and message of it. It really has the power to do something. Not to mention, it is probably the most raw and real song I have ever written for or about someone. I think everyone could use a song like "Crown." It gives hope. Not to compare us to Coldplay at all, but I would like to think that it's our "Fix You." Everyone could use a song like this... hell, I could use a song like this. We just don't want to rush or settle on it. We want to find a producer who believes in it like we do, and who can really take it to the next level. Who knows how we'll release it. As a single...for a movie...for an album. We aren't sure. We just aren't going to release it until it's perfect. The people deserve that...especially the ones that believe in the message and that need the message...like the person it was written for. I want to get it right for them.
What was the recording process like with John Feldmann compared to Matt Squire? Both are big pop producers that fit your general direction well. Were they both equally as easy to work with, or did one push you more to reach a certain sound?
Both Matt Squire and John Feldmann are incredible producers. They really are. However, they are extremely different producers. Another thing I'm looking at while answering this question is the time period in which they produced our records. Squire is a very precise producer. His work is all very calculated and laid out. You slave away in pre-production for days and days with him until everything is just right so when you go into the studio, you are pretty much just laying out everything that you had previously went over. Feldmann on the other hand is insane, in the best ways possible. He is more of a mad scientist when he works. A lot of time he has no idea what he's going to do or why… he just goes in and messes with things until he likes it. He just feels around for the magic. Kind of trusts his instincts and runs with it. Both producers are extremely good at pitching and throwing in good ideas for the record and both have grown to sound very distinct, which from a guy who wants to write and produce one day, is very respectable. I can look up to people like that. Squire's challenge was to take a band filled with 17 year-olds that didn't really have a distinct sound and to give it one, while Feldmann's was more of to bring out the great qualities and strengths in us and to build on what we already had -- to put his creative spin and twist on them.
Working with Feldmann was incredible because he had a lot of faith in us. We paid for the record completely out of pocket and he definitely helped us out in that area. He came to me and said, "Look...you guys are stars. Your voice is unreal, and your band is amazing. Let's make a record." There were very few people that believed in us more than John did. I have an impossible time thinking about where this record or band would be without him. He brought us back to life. We were his Frankenstein band of sorts. I think it was good for him as well though, because we definitely had a different sound and vibe than anything else that he has ever worked on. We trusted each other a lot and were constantly learning from each other. It really was an incredible experience and we will forever be thankful for John and his family for taking us in when everyone else left us standing outside on their porch.
Symphony Soldier has a ton of co-writes. You had Pete Wentz, Bruno Mars, Adam Levine, Martin Johnson, Evan Taubenfeld, the Madden brothers. The list really does go on and on. How did all of that come together? How much of their influence made a difference on the songs?
Co-writing has become such a sensitive topic in music nowadays. People either look at it as an amazing opportunity, or as the death of a band's integrity and originality. I can see where both sides are coming from. Co-writing is all about WHY you are doing it. Can you not write songs on your own? Are you trying to change your sound to get a big radio hit? Or are you doing it for the right reasons? I understand why some people frown upon it, because I too like seeing artists be artists and come up with their own ways of expressing themselves. Nothing is worse than hearing a band you used to love release an album of a manufactured sound that sounds like every other song you've heard on the radio the past few months. No one held Da Vinci's paint brush and painted his masterpieces for him. However, I think co-writing can be great for artists for many reasons. We did more co-writes leading up to this album than I can count. Mostly set up by our former record label. You would think that we would have been banging our heads against walls, right? I mean...over a year of writing with professional songwriters and not a single one making the album!? You'll probably be surprised to hear that we have no regrets. We learned to be sponges. From every single writer and producer we worked with, I was taking and soaking things in; both good and bad. I learned when to strip production down and when to keep it full. I learned different techniques on how to come up with melodies both on the spot and more calculated. I was learning different ways to bring lyrics out of me. Whether it was reading or free styling lyrics in the vocal booth because sometimes the natural things you say without thinking are what turns out to be the best. I could go on and on and on.
I can honestly say that I am ten times the writer I was a few years back because of these experiences. Always take every day as a chance to learn. You can learn from almost every situation that you go through in life. Become a student. Another thing about co-writing that hurts artists is that it can be incredibly stiff. It's like, "Hey Alex, go into this studio at 7pm sharp with this writer that you have never ever met, who know knows nothing about you and visa versa, and pour your heart and soul into a song. Oh yeah, and it better be a hit song -- and you need to be out of the studio by 10pm." It's like, "Huh? You expect me to write a hit song by snapping my fingers with a stranger?" It was tough. I'm sure there were times we let down the label a lot. But you can't force art. We are artists. We are comfortably crazy. We need to feel something.
We were extremely lucky to get to write with Bruno Mars. I don't think he's worked with very many other bands, if any. To be honest, in that writing session, we talked and joked around for about 5 hours before we were like "Oh, wait a minute -- we have a song to write, huh? We should get on that." The melody came so natural because we were having a good time. Not to mention, Bruno and his way with melodies is just uncharted. He's the only person I have worked with to where EVERY SINGLE thing he sings is amazing. It's not about finding a good melody -- it's about picking one of the many good ones. It's like throwing a dart at all of them and running with whatever melody it lands on. They'd all be great songs. That's how great he is. We hung out so much and had such a good time all talking with one another that we didn't even finish the song that night. It wasn't fished until over a year later.
Look at the other co-writes on the record. Martin? Great friend of ours. Evan? Good friend. Worked with him before when I sang on a Tyga chorus. Pete Wentz and the Madden brothers? Former idols that have come to be big brothers. Literally the nicest guys you will ever meet. We were close to most of the people we wrote with. So when we wrote together, it was like a bunch of friends sitting around a campfire catching up, talking about life, and writing songs. There was no pressure. No expectations. Just friends doing what they love. Bouncing ideas off each other. Telling jokes. That's the way music should be. Music is an art, not a math problem. Take the numbers away and just hand me a guitar.
Each song on the new album is different. You have the rockers, ballads, your super pop ones, etc. Was this a conscious effort to make sure nothing sounded too similar, or was that just the way it turned out? Are there any underlying themes to the record that may not be known?
I refuse to say names or give examples because it's disrespectful, but so many bands with so much potential keep churning out the same records. And not only the same records, but records with 12 or 13 of the same exact song. You listen to the record and you're like, "I think I liked that," but every song kind of sounded the same. You can't remember any one song because the album sounds like one long 45 minute jam. That's the one thing I refuse to do. You may not be a fan of our band, you may hate my voice because I sound like I should be in a boy band, or you may think our words are too simple, but you will at least have to admit and respect the fact that our album's are diverse. Songs won't even make the album if they sound too close to ones already on the record. We have a great song called "I Wish I Could Break You", but it was too close to "Another Me" so at the last second it got axed. You can't have too many ballads or too many rockers or it gets boring. It should be an event when the heart string-tugging song hits. If the album is filled with just ballad, then unless you are Josh Groban, by the third or fourth one, the listener is numb and doesn't want to hear it any more.
To me, it becomes less believable. Albums are just like life. Life has its up and downs. One day could be filled with laughter and love and the next could be filled with heartbreak and remorse. Life isn't one dimension so why should albums be? After all, as songwriters we are storytellers of life and our thoughts on the world. There is definitely a common theme on our record that slithers its way in and out of the songs. A lot of warfare references, love, faith, and so on. That's what I was going through. I was in a damn war. At war with myself, the war between my heart and my head, at war with my faith and what I believed in...and at war with the music industry. We fought and made it out of all of them alive. Together. Our band had nothing but each other. That's what Symphony Soldier is about. An album should be a bunch of different shards of your life, broken and put together in a mosaic of sorts. All the different and unique pieces should come together to form something beautiful and touching. An album, if done the right way, is a journey. It is an experience. A walk in the shoes of the writers, and an opportunity to see the world through their eyes. That's what we hope to deliver.
How do you feel about the current state of radio? What do you think needs to be changed or worked on? How would you run things, or which artists would you put on there now if you were in charge?
Surprisingly, I think that radio is finally headed in the right direction again. I was listening to the radio today and within 30 minutes, Bruno Mars, Adele, Mumford and Sons, and Foster the People came on. It was a great feeling. Those are all real artists. They can play. They can sing. I do understand why people listen to the four on the floor dance music. I truly do. I don't hate on it whatsoever. The world, and this country is in such a low state because of the economic downfalls that people don't have much to look forward to anymore. They go home to debt, bills, and the other stresses of every day life. A lot of people really only have their family and music. I understand that people want to get away and forget about the tough times for awhile, so what do they do? They go out and they dance. They have a good time. Music and dancing is their one escape. That is exactly why that kind of music is doing so well right now, because in times of feeling bad, it makes them feel good. Hell, I love to go out and raise my drink to a good pop song.
However, people also appreciate honesty. Radio underestimates the intelligence of the average music listener. Every day people can appreciate an artist who bares themselves and who sings what they're feeling because those artists are singing all of the things that everyday people are feeling but didn't quite know how to put into words. Adele sings of heartbreak. Every person that has ever been in love knows how hard it can be and when Adele comes on the radio, they turn it up and sing along because, dammit, they've been there too, and they know exactly how she feels. It's raw and pure human emotion. As people with feelings, we have no choice but to react to it. It's wired into us. I honestly believe there is room for both. The fun and the honest/real. There IS room for the "band," for the artists who want to be raw with their instruments and I am glad that the organic artists are coming back around and being recognized. We can only hope that it keeps pushing forward and that more stations start playing music that sounds like ours. It's okay to be different. Not all songs need to sound the same. Radio is just in fear. Just like the record labels are. Everyone is worried about losing money and going under. EVERYONE. They are playing the big artists because they are almost guaranteed not to fail. Before, radio could take risks and see the reward. They could gamble on an artists because the demands and pressures were significantly lower. Now because of the economy and the pressures of present day society, it truly is hard for them to take risks. I can promise the second they do though…it will be an incredible day for music and artists like us. We'll all win.
The big news with you lately is about a possible collaboration with Justin Timberlake. You said on twitter that you had a conversation with him at his recent NYC show. How does a conversation with him actually go when it's your idol? Did you manage to construct any comprehensible words?
[Laughs] It was amazing, man. I taught myself how to sing by replaying his records over and over again and mimicking every single note, melody, and ad-lib until I got them just right. Before vocal lessons, I had myself, my headphones, my Justin and Michael records, and my voice. Recently, we did some songs with his producer and friend Rob Knox and it all kind of worked up from there. Rob Knox is one of our favorite producers and his style is one of a kind. He must have put in a word to Justin because when I met him he already knew who I was and was already talking to me about recording together. This week I ran into him again in NYC and had the chance to watch him soundcheck, play acoustic, and run his business and to say the least, it was inspiring. The talent that he has his unreal. He doesn't hit wrong notes, he plays multiple instruments, and then is incredibly smart, business savvy, and still humble. As an artist, and a career on at that, he is everything I want to be. A great idol and role model.
I've gotten the chance to speak and hang with him a few times and he definitely wants to make it happen with us. It's just all about scheduling. The guy does so many things from his music, to movies, a clothing line, cologne, tequila brand, that it's just hard to get him in one place for too long. I have faith that it will work out though. We are obviously passionate about it and he seems to be too so we're looking forward to it. It's going to be a unique experience when us, Justin, and Knox work together. I think we all get it. He loves rock music but hasn't worked with too many "rock" bands and we haven't worked with too many people that know r&b and pop like he does. It truly would be a dream come true and I think the end result would be something refreshing, unique, and would open the doors for a lot of people to experiment more with different blends of genre, taste, and style. The fact that he even recognizes me as a peer and know who me and the band is, is good enough for me. That's an accomplished dream in itself. He left his bar with a copy of Symphony Soldier in his hand the other night so everyone cross your fingers for us.
What are your future plans? Are you touring this fall? Is a headlining tour in the cards anytime soon?
At the moment, we are just really promoting and pushing the record. We've been doing a bunch of radio gigs and visits and trying to get our single, "Bad", as far as we can. We know it's an uphill battle when it comes to radio, but we are up for the challenge. We have a tour coming up this fall that should be being announced any day now. We are excited about it because it's fairly different than anything we have ever done. We love touring. We make a living seeing the world, meeting amazing people, and singing our songs to any pair of ears willing to listen so we are going to constantly do so, especially since the record just came out. As long as people want to hear me sing, I'll keep on touring and I know the rest of the boys feel the same way. This is what we love to do.
We are looking into doing some headlining dates so we can play more songs off of the new record so hopefully you'll be able to look forward to that early next year. As far as the future in general goes, we just want to keep growing. I don't care how fast our growth is as long as it's growth. Any growth is not something to take for granted. We know big things don't always happen overnight. We are also looking to branch out a lot more. Hopefully we can start touring with more mainstream and universal artists such as Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars. We realize that's a high bar, but we're ready to jump. We want to be the biggest band in the world. No smaller than that. It's going to take a hell of a lot of touring and a hell of a lot of good songs, but why would we set the bar any lower? I've seen crazier things happen.
What would you say is the greatest lesson you've learned so far in The Cab? What advice would you give to kids who were in the same position you were in 5 years ago?
Whether you are a Yale graduate, or a kid with nothing but a guitar and a dream, you are a king to somebody. You are never alone. There are people just like you. That feel the same way you do. That go through the same things that you do. There is not a damn reason you should change for anyone but yourself. Your heart beats in your chest and nobody elses, so who are they to tell you what tempo to live to? I'm going to succeed because I am crazy enough to think that I can. We have been told "no" so many times in my life and we are so appreciative for it, you know? Because it put fire inside of us. It made me a fighter. Life isn't necessarily a boxing ring, but I've learned you should still always wear gloves. You'll get nothing out of life or love without having a little fight in you. Being told no made me feel something I had never felt before. It was liberating in ways I cannot put into words. Me and my brothers in this band are on a mission now.
The greatest lesson I have learned in The Cab is that no one knows you better than yourself. Whether you paint or play an instrument or not, everyone is an artist. Every single person draws out their own life and you should let no one else in this world hold that damn pen for you. When everyone told us no, we said yes. When they told us we weren't good enough, we proved that we were. All of the greats were outcasts. Black sheep have always and will always be the ones that are remembered. When you are told no, when you feel like you aren't good enough, and when you think that no one believes in you...just know that me and the rest of the boys in The Cab do. We are your biggest fan...and we'll be rooting for you.
I saw this band way back before Whisper War came out, and was a huge fan of them during that era. Saw them live probably more than any other band, either on purpose or because they seemed to be on EVERY tour. I lost a lot of faith in the band during all the lineup changes, during the long break, and what seemed to be a major disconnect in how they interacted with their fans. Maybe that was me personally but I felt a little alienated from them the last few times I saw & met them. However, this new album has refreshed all of that. It was a absolutely solid album and I enjoy it a lot, and I'm really loving the band as a whole again.
This interview is phenomenal. I didn't even know much about the band at all or Alex DeLeon, but this interview kept me hooked. It's a great read for anyone who's just a fan of music. Alex DeLeon seems like a great guy.
I don't even know where to begin. The Cab is not only my favorite band, but some of my favorite people. I admire the whole band so much. Not only are they talented, their words speak to me so much. Not once was their a rough road in my life where a Cab song didnt help. They give me unlimited amounts of hope, knowing that artists as raw and genuine as this still exist. I'm so proud to be even a fraction of their fan base and i beat myself up everyday for even having second guesses on if they would ever make in back into the music scene, or if their album would be any good. GOD BLESS THE CAB
After reading this interview, I feel SO GUILTY for not buying symphony soldier. I need to get on that. I actually have listened to all of the songs, and I'm very proud of my hometown boys in The Cab. I can't wait to see them at Bite of Las Vegas in October :D
Wonderful interview. It was really cool that I was reading it today. I'm writing my album at the moment (pop rock if you're curious) and nothing was coming out right. I've been writing all summer and only have like 2.5 songs I'm happy with. This interview sort of encourages me to get working again and just jam out stuff. Well done interview.
Pretty sure this sis one of the greatest interviews I have ever read. The album is so good. Alex seems like he would be the guys in the room that you would feel honored to even be in that room with. If they keep doing what they are doing there will be no doubt they will get to #1 in everything.