I recently spoke to the wonderful Unifier, a four piece from North Carolina. They have just released their debut album, Colorado, a solid slab of great pop rock gold and are set for big things. I spoke to the band about working with Jesse Cannon, their recent name change and sandwiches.
Firstly, who are Unifier and how did you get together?
Aslan Freeman - I sing and play guitar, Chris Carr - lead guitar and backing vocals, Mike Kane - drums and Luke Rayson - bass guitar and backing vocals.
Chris and I (Aslan Freeman) got together originally to write some music for a friend's zombie film. We had a lot of fun working together, and it came pretty easily for us, so we decided to try our hands at writing some more actual songs together. Mike and I are originally from the same town, and I grew up watching his old bands play. He walked into a bar in Greensboro that Chris and I were playing and I recognized him immediately. We introduced ourselves and asked if he still played drums, as we needed a drummer. Luckily he had just quit his job earlier that day to pursue music again, so he joined on. After going through a few bass players, we met Luke while playing a show with one of his old bands. We needed a fill in for a long tour we had booked and he was able to help us out, and decided to stick around!
What are you up to at the moment?
Well this very moment we're sitting outside at a deli in downtown Wilmington, NC eating some amazing sandwiches. In a more general sense, we've just released our debut album, Colorado, which has been getting great reviews, which we're all incredibly pleased about. We just released our first video for the album this past Friday, for the song "Bitter? Better". and we're gearing up to do a short North East US tour over the next couple weeks.
How has that reaction affected the band? Do the great reviews put more pressure on for your upcoming tour? Or is it all gratifying?
I think we've always felt a bit of pressure to perform well, so I don't think it's changed too much in that sense. We do a lot of warmups before all of our shows and try to make sure we're well practiced and prepared to run through our sets as quickly and smoothly as possible. That being said, I think everybody's mostly just been really excited at how well the album has been received. We're very proud of it, but as it is so close to home for us, there's no way to ever really know what other people will think of it. It's been very gratifying to see other people enjoying our music so much.
How was the process behind the album? What impact did working with Jesse Cannon have on the record?
We did all the writing about a month before going into the studio. I have a small project studio in my basement, so we all lived there the whole time and just wrote, played and recorded tons of music every day. We ended up with 33 fully finished demos of songs and worked with Jesse and our label to narrow it down to the 12 we ended up putting on the album. Actually working with Jesse was a fantastic learning experience for all of us. He and Mike Oettinger pushed us all so hard to get great performances and I don't think we've ever worked that hard in 2 weeks doing anything, even 'real' jobs, haha. Jesse's approach is to help you find your own unique sound, and make you sound the best you can, rather than shape your sound or your record in a way that only he envisions.
We think it's a pretty real and natural sounding album, which is exactly what we wanted, and we got it by playing all of our parts as well as we could and Jesse allowing us to be ourselves.
How did you decide which tracks to narrow it down to? Any chance of any of the other tracks emerging as well?
We listened to all the songs a ton and made lists of our favorites to narrow it down to 22. Then we sent that list of 22 out to Jesse, our label, and a bunch of close friends and sort of took votes again to see what everybody thought were the strongest tracks. It was like a test polling group, trying to get a variety of opinions and see what came up. Then we ranked all the songs between the lists we had gotten back, talked it over some more, and then ultimately just used our own preferences if there were some close calls.
We're definitely going to be releasing more of the other tracks in the near future, and have already released 2 of the demos as b-sides: "1984" and "New Year". There is another one, "Archers Fade" that we offered to any of our fans who rated and reviewed the album on its iTunes page.
Awesome. What were the lyrics based on throughout the album? Were they written from a personal point of view and would you consider there to be any continuous themes?
They are definitely from a personal point of view for me. I try to be poetic and use fairly general themes, without being vague so that the listener can make their own interpretation and decide what the lyrics mean to them to a certain extent. A lot of the general ideas and themes on the album came from a time of reflection I had when I was in Colorado quite a few years ago, which is why we decided to name the album that. I'd say some of the main topics I come back to are: people being deceitful or conniving, the desire to not be taken advantage of/the desire to take advantage of others, and figuring out who you are and what your place is in the world.
How do you plan to develop your sound from here on? Colorado is quite a jump from your debut EP in terms of how you come across as band. Are you confident and settled as band now or are you still developing and finding yourselves?
The EP was very much a bit of an experiment for us, trying to figure out which way we wanted to take the music. We used a lot of the feedback we got from people hearing those songs - and from playing them ourselves - to shape the sound we settled on for Colorado. As a band, we are all huge believers in the natural maturation and development of a sound or style, so Colorado was a big step in the right direction to us personally. However, that doesn't mean that the next album is going to sound exactly the same. We don't know where our sound will go, but whatever we release next will be something that represents where we are as people and musicians at that time. The difference most likely won't be an overly drastic one, and will sound like something that evolved from Colorado in one way or another. We'd love to keep both our musical past and our musical goals for the future a part of everything we write.
How did the whole name changing incident actually come about? (Unifier recently changed their name from Future Ghosts.)
We just received an e-mail from the Chicago Future Ghosts' "agent" saying that they held the trademark on the name, and we were therefore infringing on their rights by using it. They had already sent out e-mails to Facebook, Youtube, Reverbnation, Bandcamp, etc. saying the same, and asking the sites to remove our content. We spent a few days trying to figure out how to work out the situation, and ultimately decided to just move on, pick a new name, and start re-branding everything and creating new websites. While we were looking for a name, Luke was using a random word generator on his phone and Unifier came up. We thought it was very fitting due to all the support we received from friends and fans while we were dealing with the situation, and wanted to remind ourselves of that with the new name.
How has it impacted the band? Obviously, changing a name once it's established is difficult, but did it have impact in terms of merchandise, tours, etc?
Well we had just ordered some new shirts, so that definitely sucked haha. But we ended up giving them all away at a show in Atlanta, and people tipped them for us which was very sweet, and helped us get gas home and order some new ones. The biggest impact it has had otherwise is the fact that we lost all of our Facebook likes. As dumb as it is, that's usually the first thing booking agents, promoters, venues, etc. will look at when determining if they want to book your band. We've gotten back a lot of them, but are still below what we had before, and we've definitely encountered a few roadblocks because of it while trying to book tours in support of the new album. It's mildly frustrating, but will work itself out with time, and there's nothing we can really do about it at this point, haha.
Well, Colorado has certainly done strides to assure people remember Unifier rather than Future Ghosts! What can fans expect from your upcoming tour?
That's good to hear! We're just going to keep doing what we've been doing and trying to improve every day. We play with a lot of energy and love performing live so much. We just try to let that shine through in our live shows and hope that other people feed into the energy and connect with it, with us, and with the music when we play!
What do you hope to achieve by the end of this year? Have you any festival slots or smaller releases coming up?
We don't have any festival slots lined up at the moment, but we do love giving away music, so we'll probably try and get a few other videos, b-sides, alternate versions or maybe a few covers together to put up for free download. There's a ton on our website already for anyone interested. By the end of this year we just want to have done as many tours as we can fit in, and try to get onto a few bigger ones as an opening spot. Touring in the US is definitely our main focus at the moment, hopefully we'll get to some more festivals next year, and maybe even over to Europe.
Who and what inspires Unifier's music?
Anyone and everything we come in contact with has the potential to inspire something. We draw from tons of different places musically, and I draw from personal experiences, things I read, films, so many things. There is inspiration anywhere you choose to take it from. The comparisons we hear the most musically are Jimmy Eat World, Brand New and either Foo Fighters or Alkaline Trio.
Great! Okay, if Unifier was a sandwich, what would it be?
Do I have to pick a sandwich in existence, or should I tell you what's on it?
Hmm....actually I was going to think about this and make one for us but I just realized the obvious answer: a Torta! Tortas are Mexican sandwiches, and there is a place in my hometown that has the most amazing tortas. We go eat one pretty much every week when we practice. It's on this giant homemade bread, and has marinated grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, avocado, aioli, and we like to put this verde sauce, Valentina hot sauce and Tapatio hot sauce on it. It's the best sandwich in the world.
First of all, thank you so much Kelly! Your review of our album was wonderful, and this interview has been fantastic. It's been a pleasure. To the readers: if you haven't listened to our album, we would love for you to at least check out a song or two and give it a chance, then pick up a copy if you really love it. It's up streaming for free on our website (www.unifiermusic.com) and our Facebook, plus it's on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, etc. We hope to see and meet tons of new friends and fans as we try to tour through the rest of the year, and appreciate so much all the love and support we've gotten so far.