What were your initial thoughts on being asked by Jerry Roush to join Glass Cloud?
Travis Sykes: Well, Jerry, Chad and I actually grew up together. I contacted Jerry to see if I could use him as a reference for a guitar tech job I had lined up. That's when he asked me to start a project with him. At that point, Glass Cloud wasn't even a thing yet. I knew it would be a gamble to start a band right out of college, but the whole team that was behind us was very solid and reassuring. And, after hearing some of Josh's material, I don't think any of us had any doubts.
From what I understand, Jerry was still under contract with Equal Vision, and he went from there to recruit the remaining three of you. Is that pretty much correct?
Travis Sykes: That's pretty much how it went. Chad and I were involved before Josh. But, once Josh came in to the picture, it was pretty much solidified.
I understand both you and Chad Hasty graduated from Berklee School of Music, the most prestigious music school in the United States. Some amazing talent have came from that school, such as John Petrucci (Dream Theatre), Adam Dutkiewicz (Killswitch Engage), and John Mayer. Looking back on your time at Berklee, what sort of lessons did you consider to be the most valuable? What do you think you'd be doing right now if you never attended? Secondly, what is something that you DIDN'T learn from Berklee that you've learned through this band?
Travis Sykes: I think the most valuable thing I took from Berklee was the importance of networking. It doesn't matter how talented you are if you don't get involved with people. That's just the reason bands who make bad music can still get really big. They work hard. You have to respect that even if you don't dig what they do. That's humbling as a trained musician. All of the actual musical training was beautiful too. But, it's the social aspect of Berklee that I found to be most useful. Something I DIDN'T learn at Berklee is how to deal with life on the road. Touring has been an incredible thing for me. I think our band does really well with getting to know these other bands out here on the grind. We meet a lot of cats and get close to them, on some real homey shit. I love that part of it. Scream It Like You Mean It was a huge summer camp to us. (But, with way more partying and hoodlum antics). All of those bands are our brothers now. That's real life shit that they don't teach in college.
When the signing was announced, I think people were more receptive towards seeing Glass Cloud as a collective effort, as opposed to "Jerry's new band". Do you agree with this? If not, what has been your general experience with how people see the band?
Travis Sykes: I think at the very beginning it was focused more on Jerry and Josh. Chad and I don't care, we knew it was a good place to get our footing as a band before people started to see us for what we really are. We don't really hear about that too much anymore. It's more people saying, "I've never heard of you guys before. I loved it! Let me get a CD!" And that's cool to us because Jerry and Josh are fully involved with Glass Cloud, we don't want to have to live in the past. Plus, at the end of the day, we're really just trying to play music and kick it with each other.
You guys finally released The Royal Thousand in early July on Equal Vision. Right off the bat, can you explain the significance of the album title and how it relates to the rest of the album?
Travis Sykes: The Royal Thousand is something that I think will take full circle somewhere further down the line, but is a good starting point because we wanted to cast a big shadow to live up to. The Royal Thousand is a way to put a name to anybody who still thinks of their craft as exactly that, their craft. Be it music, film, photography, painting, writing, cooking, dancing, cleaning people's bathrooms, etc. Whatever you do, you work and you get good at it. No business, no gimmicks…just talent, hard work and passion. And we feel like we take our music seriously enough that people will understand it for what it is. Hopefully, in the future we can start to take other artists under our wing. Art of all forms. That would be 'The Royal Thousand' coming full circle. But I just hope that people see it as a way to identify with their own passions, whatever they may be.
What are some of the lyrical themes the album touches on (using song titles as examples). Lyrically, which song (or two) was the hardest to write, and why?
Travis Sykes: Most of the songs on the record are about falling in love. At the time, I was falling in love with the girl that I'm still with. The rest of the record is about trying to make sense of the new lifestyle that was being thrown at me and us. I was dealing with leaving home, my family and my friends. I also wrote about Greek mythology stories that I dig and a fictional song about a guy who finds out the meaning of life but nobody believes him ("Memorandum"). Now that things are starting to pick up for the band and we all have a common vision and path, the lyrical themes will be a lot different. I want to write about completely different things. I have a very specific vision about the direction of the lyrics for the next project. We'll probably start to talk about that in January.
As for the two hardest songs to write, I would say "White Flag" and "She Is Well And Nothing Can Be Ill". "White Flag" was just hard to find a cool melody for and it took a lot of time to work it out for me. It wasn't as natural as the rest of them.
"She Is Well…" was hard because I was at the studio for a month away from my woman and it was just really rough. We've gotten a lot better at being apart since I've been touring. But at that point, it was awful. I wrote it in the studio and it was one of the very few that I used really specific stuff about my relationship. It's selfish for a writer to do that, but I didn't care. That song was written for my girl and I didn't care if anybody else understood it. The band even said something about it, but they understand where I'm coming from and thankfully they let me roll with it.
Were people pretty quick to point the finger and accuse you of being a "djent" band, or even as far as ripping off Periphery?
Travis Sykes: I haven't heard that a whole lot. I think we might've gotten that because Periphery II came out on the same day as our record, but I didn't notice too much. Although we all love Periphery's music and respect them infinitely, we don't like the "djent" label really. We do have polyrhythm's in our music. But I think at this point in heavy music, if you aren't taking notes from Meshuggah, you're just kind of falling behind. And that's where this "djent" thing is coming from.
I understand you wrote all the lyrics and vocal arrangements to the album, and Josh wrote all the music. What led to that decision, as opposed to having Jerry write them, or even a combination of everyone in the band? Will everyone in the band have a hand at writing the next Glass Cloud songs, or will this writing process remain the same?
Travis Sykes: Well, Jerry is smart with his decisions when it comes to things like that. My major at Berklee was Songwriting. I wrote "Falling In Style" and showed it to the band, then I think it was pretty much a green light after that. We're not really a role-playing type of band. We all put in our contribution and we all do 25% equally. There's no clear cut "who does what" in Glass Cloud. This writing process worked really well for us and we'll probably continue with it. But, we just do whatever comes naturally. It could change whenever!
How old were most of these songs on the album when it came time to record them? Have you guys already been tinkering with some new song ideas?
Travis Sykes: We started writing around August of last year and had the majority of the record complete before we left for the studio in November. I wrote the lyrics for "She Is Well…" in the studio. Then, Josh wrote the music for "Memorandum" one day and I wrote the lyrics a couple of days later. To round out the album, Josh and I worked out the arrangement for "Prelude For A Ghost" and we were done.
I don't think Josh knows the definition of "tinkering" with new ideas haha. We have piles of new music; which is great because we can pick out the ones that REALLY pop instead of struggling to write new material. As far as my part in it, I've only just started writing lyrics to a few of the songs that I really love.
Things are taking off fairly quickly for the band, as SXSW created a fair amount of buzz, Scream It Like You Mean It just wrapped up, and now you're set to support Miss May I and The Ghost Inside in the fall on The AP Tour. Most smaller bands don't land two prominent tours back to back. What are your thoughts on the band's recent success, and your outlook towards the future?
Travis Sykes: I think we've only recently started to notice things picking up for the band. It's been really cool to see it all happening. We have our eyes set a lot higher though. We want to constantly be pushing the bounds of our music and our reach.
What are the band's touring plans for the rest of 2012 and the early part of 2013?
Travis Sykes: We have our tours planned out for quite a while into 2013 already, but we can only talk about a few. We're going to Canada in September with our label mates and good homies in Texas In July, that should be a crazy time. We're also doing The AP Tour with Miss May I, The Ghost Inside, The Amity Affliction and Like Moths To Flames. We're really stoked about all of that. You can find all of our announced tour dates on our Facebook. The rest will come out real soon.
What's one book and one band that you'd recommend to any fan of Glass Cloud?
Travis Sykes: For a book, I'd recommend Women by Charles Bukowski. As for a band, I'd recommend checking out Radiohead.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Travis Sykes: Pick up The Royal Thousand in stores or on iTunes! Watch our music video, and come check us out on tour soon! And WE BEEN HERE.
I picked up The Royal Thousand at bestbuy the other day. Definitely appreciate it. Such a mature sound. I'm 23 and have been listening to screamo music for a while. This album brings such a new element to the "scene". Very mature sounding, no cookie cutter breakdowns. I highly recommend it to everyone, but then again my favorite vocalist is j-craig sooooooo...