Via Coma is an indie/experimental rock band from California. The band's debut album, Figures, is one you can't miss for 2012. Thanks to the band for taking time out to do this!
1. Please introduce yourself and your role in the band.
Jesse: I’m Jesse, I play piano and sing.
Rob: I’m Rob and I sing.
Nic: I’m Nic, I play guitar and sing
2. You went into the studio with Aaron and Cody of As Cities Burn. What was that experience like? What did you walk away with after the whole process?
Jesse: Yeah, we did. They are some of the nicest and most humble guys we’ve ever met. We decided that we wanted to work with them because of the honesty and energy they captured in the performances on their records. So when they expressed interest in working with us after emailing some demos back and forth, we were ecstatic. We booked the dates and flights, and next thing I knew we were picking them up from the airport.
Since we all (Rob, Nic, and Jesse) live together, they crashed at our house for the two weeks they were here. During those two weeks, our days were spent working through each song on the record and just about every night, we’d hang out and/or watch Arrested Development; like we’ve been friends for years.
We didn’t have a drummer when we began tracking and at the time Aaron was recovering from a broken femur but despite being in the midst of his recovery, he wanted to play and ended up writing and playing drums on the record. After tracking the album, Aaron actually joined our band for a brief period (before Hawkboy started touring) and moved out to California to live with us while we completed the record. He has since left to pursue a life with his wife in Nashville, and various As Cities Burn reunion shows but we still talk on a regular basis and helps when he can. He’s even expressed interest in working with us on all future releases, which is humbling to say the least.
Rob: The biggest impact Cody and Aaron had on us as a band was in the way they went about putting together an album. They smoothed out a lot of the transitions between parts within our arrangements, which made the flow of the songs, and album, far more powerful. Their “less is more” approach is something I think we’ve really internalized.
Jesse: If it’s not moving the song forward, then why is it there?
3. From my listening of the album, it seems as though there is a lot going on that more than 3 members can pull off live. How do you plan to translate your songs into a live setting?
Jesse: Our current “official” lineup consists of who wrote and recorded on the album (minus Aaron), and a live drummer. We have an amazing live drummer, Trevor Bergero, who has been playing with us since our first performance debuting new material back in November in San Francisco. Most of what you hear on the album is actually played live, all the vocal harmonies are performed by myself and Nic.
Nic: Everything on the album can be performed live by the 3 of us, and Trevor. For anyone that has seen us live and watched me perform, it makes a little more sense. I perform with 3 amps and 3 pedal boards, or as we refer to it as, “The City.” The reason for this is when we originally started recording, we wanted to make the most honest album we could. No overdubbed guitar tracks, no more than 3 vocal harmonies at a time, we wanted the album to be the listener hearing 4 people playing songs together. For example, the chorus for our song “Architects” originally just had a high lead line for the guitar part. After working with the wonderful Ryan John, he suggested we do a rhythm track to thicken the song and then do a double of it. Despite wanting to keep it true to what rig I was running at the time, I modified my live rig to sound like the album instead of the original, opposite idea. I could then run the lead, the rhythm, and essentially a double of the rhythm as well. I had already been running 2 amps, a number of effects, and loopers. The ways I use all this equipment is a lot to understand, I encourage people to see us live, after our set it all starts to make sense. I’m very entertaining to watch as well apparently, at times I have to hit 3 or 4 buttons on different sides of my rig and have to move my microphone around with my face. It’s kinda silly looking, but I’m too busy during our set to really notice.
Rob: I used to play guitar in Via Coma, despite originally being a bassist, but when we lost our previous bassist, and after auditioning several guitar players, Nic took over the duties of two guitar players and I took over bass. I wrote and recorded all the bass parts on the record, but live we trigger the bass from a laptop into my rig. There’s a lot of reasons why I don’t play bass and sing live but it largely comes from a conversation I had with our mixing engineer, who does live sound for a living. In a nutshell: Having an instrument in front of you, on some level, prevents you from connecting with the audience on more than just a sonic level. This doesn’t mean I won’t be playing bass live ever but at least for the foreseeable future, it does. Who knows?
4. How did the remix of "Stitches" by Spacebrother come about?
Jesse: Hearing all of these dubstep/brostep songs gaining traction, we thought it would be entertaining to have a remix done. I actually jumped on SoundCloud and just searched through artists and found Innerpartysystem and decided to contact them. Jared got back to me and informed me of their hiatus, but expressed interested in doing it through his own project, Spacebrother, and it unfolded from there. The result was something we were all very pleased with. That genre (whether you like it or not) is huge right now, so we decided to try to throw our hat into the ring, so to speak. However, judging from the reaction of our fans, they seem more excited to hear releases off the album.
5. On your Kickstarter, you expressed that you did a lot of work for the band in between jobs, schooling, and life in general. How hard was it to write this record while balancing all of that amongst yourselves?
Jesse: It was just tough. Working full time and coming home every day to record was really taxing. We’re perfectionists so we would record each take, time and time again until we felt it was the best we could make it. Work was physically exhausting, and the album was creatively exhausting. I’m glad it’s over with and yet I can’t wait to do it again. Working on music is my escape, we’ve already started working on some new material and covers. Coming home from a hard day of work to working on my passion and pursuing my dream job is the best feeling in the world.
Rob: I think Jesse put it best (Work physically exhausting; Album creatively exhausting). Balancing, in my case, school and the record was not, by any means, easy. The sum of commuting to and from school, eighteen units worth of homework, and being the main recording engineer on the project, was kind of a nightmare but I can’t wait to do it all again. It’s nice to have a break from school for the summer though.
Nic: I was actually almost fired from my job the first day of pre production with Cody and Aaron. I was pretty stressed the whole rest of the two weeks they were here making sure I wouldn’t lose my job because of taking these two weeks off. Balancing a job, bills, and the band, it can get pretty hectic. It’s sort of a catch 22, in that my job gets in the way of having time to write or do any band work, yet because of my job I’m able to afford the house we live and record in as well as band expenses.
6. Looking back on your demo, Bridges, and listening to your new record, what's the biggest difference you hear between the two?
Jesse: I’d have to say that especially vocally, we’re much more proud of our performances. Aaron's drum performance, the ironed out versions of our old songs, and the energy captured, it’s something we can all stand behind and honestly say we put 100% into creating, which is an amazing feeling.
Rob: Everything about this recording was done how we wanted to do it. With Bridges we set ourselves a deadline that wasn’t doable and with this recording, we took our time and have something we’re truly proud of, even if it took a lot longer than we would’ve liked.
Nic: We spent the infancy of our band behind closed doors trying to find our sound. I believe Bridges was the tale end of that search. When we decided to begin writing an album, it was all agreed that it wouldn’t be finished until everyone was proud of it. I think this the big differences between Bridges and Figures, that we never set that standard when we made Bridges. Of course we wanted it to sound good, but I feel there is much more heart, honesty and maturity to our songwriting that really shows in Figures.
7. Listening to the new record, I could only think of Death Cab For Cutie and Copeland as fair comparisons. Are those unintentional influences coming through considering you prefer to be compared to Thrice, Muse, and The Mars Volta?
Rob: We’ve definitely gotten the Death Cab comparison before, and though I’ve listened to Copeland for years, I’ve never heard anyone compare us to them until now. I don’t know, maybe I’m too deep in the band to really assess our comparisons. I wouldn’t say that we prefer to be compared to any band, really. We’d like to forge our own way, but I don’t ignore the fact that we will inevitably be likened to other artists. It seems like that’s just the natural order of things. As for Thrice, Muse or The Mars Volta, they are solely the names that have come up the most from our circle of peers and fans. Frankly, I’m not complaining about those comparisons, nor am I complaining about Death Cab and Copeland. All of these bands that we’ve heard we “sound” like are incredible, and each have made careers out of writing, recording and performing original music.
Jesse: I am totally fine with those comparisons! Although I’ve never really listened to either enough, so any comparisons you can hear in piano would be entirely unintentional. We’ve heard Death Cab for Cutie a lot, and we’re honored more than anything else. I think we prefer to be compared to Thrice, Muse, and The Mars Volta because we certainly have heavier aspects to our music, and honestly I can say I have been heavily influenced by those bands.
8. Is there any particular song you find yourself personally attached to from the record?
Rob: I think every song has moments that I’m really attached to. Sometimes it’s lyrical, sometimes it’s melodic or instrumental.
Jesse: Having poured three years into this whole record, I love every single song on this album equally. I have never been more proud of something in my life to date, but that being said, I find myself constantly having an emotional reaction the last song on the album, “All’s Well That Ends”.
Rob: Yeah. “All’s Well...” is the only song off the record that has given me chills every single time I listen to it. I’m not sure if that’s because that was the most difficult song for me to finish and it’s a feeling of elation to be done with it or if it’s simply one of the moments on a record that the only thing your body can do to expel the excitement is give you goose bumps.
9. What's the plan for the band rounding out 2012?
Jesse: We’re working on some new material just to keep the ball rolling, as well as some cover songs for fun. Hopefully we’ll be playing a ton of shows in California, maybe break out of this giant state this year, maybe even a tour with some friends of ours. Ultimately, we just want everyone to listen to our music and we’re going to keep pushing our boundaries as a band until we can do this professionally.
10. Anything else to say?
Jesse: Thanks to everyone who has donated to our Kickstarter, helped with our album, helped spread the word about us, and stood by us while we’ve devoted our lives to this band. It has been a long journey up until here but it hasn’t been travelled alone, we’ve had amazing support from our friends, fans, and family and I can’t thank them enough. I hope you enjoy our music as much as we have enjoyed creating it!
Rob: Thank you AbsolutePunk for being a continued source of entertaining music news. Thank you to all those who have stuck with us for the past three years. Looking forward to the rest of this year and 2013.