Lydia - 05.02.08

Interviewed by
Lydia - 05.02.08How did process go for creating Illuminate?
Steve- All of the songs started as a fragment that either Leighton or I had, just a little diddy on piano or guitar. We'd just record all this material on his laptop in my room. We set up my amp, a keyboard, a bass, and we had a little drum pad that we would sketch out a really skeletal beat with. So it was just the two of us sitting in my room working on music day in and day out. We decided to throw personal pride out the window and just work together. It was a lot of fun.

How was it different than This December?
Steve-We were still in high school when we wrote most of those songs. We had a whole different band. The way we worked back then wasn't very effective. We found it was much easier to orchestrate everything and then teach the band later. That's the main difference.

What is the writing process for the lyrics?
Leighton- Well, when I was writing the lyrics for "This December" it was more of the music first, lyrics last style of writing. If you want to call that a “style”, it’s just how it kind of happened back then. But when I "started" writing for Illuminate it was two or three years later. Spread out over some years of amazing highs and crazy lows, everything contributing to the lyrics and album. Which while writing the instrumentation for the record, the lyrics took far longer, for me at least. So to answer the question I guess and stop rambling the writing process for the lyrics didn't have a start and stopping point like most people think writing songs do. Creatively you can't, or I can't, I should say, just turn it on and off, the shit just comes out whether you want it to or not.

What kind of struggles/experiences did you go through in order to create the lyrics for this album? I know you weren't done with lyrics by the time the band had entered the studio, so you must have pulled them from somewhere so quickly.
Leighton- Shit… you heard about that? Yeah I tend to procrastinate, kind of a bad habit...I guess, Steve has the same problem too. Sometimes our management doesn't really enjoy it too much. Anyways, once I had the melody and the basic ideas put together I kind of just let the small details or problems work themselves out experimenting in the studio tracking vocals. Everything I went through about a year prior to the album being recorded was very isolated in my own head. So I tried to take my problems, my fuck ups, my happiness, and portray it in a way that people could relate to. Or in ways that could bring back a certain time or feeling in their lives. I wanted someone to listen to the record and be able to apply it to themselves, and not just hear all the lyrics and songs about "me" and everything the keeps "me" up at night. I think that is a very selfish, for lack of a better word, way of writing that happens too much in music now. You have to take your experiences, good or bad, and let them grow and mature until the way you portray them on paper can influence or affect someone’s life, dramatically. I would hope. With that being said though there are obviously songs and lyrics on the album that stay very personal and close to me. Which I think every singer/songwriter should have.

Did Mindy have a big influence on the newer sound, because Illuminate is totally different from This December?
Steven- Leighton and I had the vast bulk of material for Illuminate before Mindy rejoined the band. It was more of a conscious effort between the two of us to hold ourselves to a higher standard when creating music.

Leighton- The lyrics for this December I had to entirely write. So this time around there wasn't as much stress on me. I didn't have to "entirely" write all the female vocals. And yes, the keys and vocals we mostly done by the time she had settled back in with the band. Mindy definitely helps give the record that unique sound that I enjoy very much though.

In 'Laugh Before You Grin' and, of course 'Hospital', you talk about your proximity to a hospital. I was wondering if that has had much of an effect on your music?
Leighton- So, this is actually referring to a girlfriend that I had a few years back which I basically lived with. She was actually the one that lived across the street from a brand new hospital. And why it has come up a few times. I spent a ridiculous amount of nights out on her balcony watching them build it with her. So yes, she has had a pretty big effect on my music and me.

Many of your songs seem to have the imagery or references to addiction and/or dependence. In fact, This December seems like it could have been written about a month of bottoming out - in relationships, with drugs, in life. Is this accurate? If not, I would like to know the concepts behind This December, as well as Illuminate.
Leighton-A lot of problems, have happened with me in the past year or so. I try and write about personal experiences and keep things a genuine as I can. I don't think about what a song is going to be about lyrically, or musically, before I start writing. That seems ridiculous to me, to start a song and say "this ones going to be about my trip to South America!" ha well maybe that's not the best example BUT I think it should just come from what you're honestly feeling at the time. Same thing goes for writing the actually instrumentation of a song.

What's the back-story behind "Stay Awake"?
Leighton- Stay Awake has the back-story that you want it to have. It has it's own personal "back story" for ME, but I couldn't bare to tell you mine and ruin what it might mean to many other people. I love that various people can take the lyrics that come out of mouth and spin whatever story they want inside their own mind. So, this one I’ll keep to myself, cool?

Why did you name the album "Illuminate"?
Leighton- I really wanted to have an album that is one word. I could really tell you why, just kind of wanted it that way. I also didn't want it to be anything gloomy or dark. There is far too much of that bullshit flooding the entire music industry right now. So "Illuminate", describes this entire album to me. These songs were written to illuminate something inside you, inside your mind, son.

How did the collaboration w/ Aaron Marsh come about?
Steve- The dude who recorded us, Matt Malpass, is friends with him so we
went down to Florida to track some stuff at his house. He had a really cool
piano and some vibraphones that we used, and we tracked some of the vocals there. So the idea got thrown around and we went back and forth with him until we found something pretty cool. He also did some trombone work…

Where did you get the idea for your artwork?
Steve-Becky Filip was an old friend of Mindy’s, and was invited to design the album cover. We wanted a fine artist’s approach that encompassed the style of Arthur Rackman, with a hint of surrealism inspired by Robert ParkeHarrison. Mindy and Leighton helped mold the design based off of sketches that Becky submitted. After several years of being a stagnant artist, she was brought out of hibernation with this project.

Are there any songs that didn't make Illuminate that you guys feel could surface one day?
Steve- There are definitely some little pieces on Leighton's laptop left over from the writing sessions that we will at least steal a part or two from.
Leighton- Absolutely. There are probably about 3 or 4 songs that were in the same running as the ones that actually did make the album. Not that they aren't bad songs they just didn't get the attention that the others did. They will definitely surface at some point.

Are you planning to release any of your material on vinyl?
Steve- There are no plans in action right now but it'd be cool to do that.

Leighton- There has been talk of that too. Hopefully soon.

When will the physical copy of "Illuminate" be released nationwide?
Leighton- Soon. We enjoy keeping your attention.

Who is Hailey? That name has appeared on both albums now.
Leighton- Hailey is a girl that has plagued and supported me through some very hard times in my life.

Why did Loren leave the band?
Steve- We just called him over one day and explained to him that we had
found the direction we wanted to go with our music, and this direction
unfortunately didn't include him on drums. It was an amicable decision; he's a good
dude. Check him out in Austin Gibbs and the Southern States.

How did your signing to Linc Star records come about?
Steve-We were ready to release another record with an independent label. They are genuinely good people that work with us day to day on everything. They are more than a label.

Rumor has it, you guys are getting courted by major labels. On one hand, at least you'll have stronger distribution and money for videos, etc. Hopefully you can even set yourself up financially for the future and maintain a long-term career. On the other hand, many bands, including the aforementioned Straylight Run, have failed on major labels. How will you guys prevent that from happening? What will you do differently?
Steve- Rumors are rumors. There are pros and cons to everything, so I guess I'll just have to see when we get to wherever it is that we are going.

Leighton- Major labels have a lot of bad things attached with all the good. There has been plenty of talk but we are not dying to sign anything in our careers at this point.

Will there be a music video or anything of that kind show up anytime soon?
Steve- Videos cost money! But we do have something pretty cool, not exactly a music video but some visual stimulus that will be surfacing soon. Stay posted.

I hear that there was a demo that you guys circulated before This December was released. Now that you guys are far bigger, are there any plans to start circulating it again?
Steve- If you don't have then it means you weren't there, and I guess you just had to be there. Three of the four songs on it are on This December, and the other one is probably the most aggro song we've done to date. Ha. I bet it's on the Internet. I think the song is called "Only something you could say"

Leighton- Ha. no. That will never be circulated. At least not willingly. I'm pretty sure we were 14 years old. You know how that is.

Mindy, what is it like being a girl on the road? How are you treated?
Mindy- Its really not that difficult being a female on tour. I think it depends on the type of person you are. I've always been more of a tomboy & easy to please, so it wasn't a big change for me. Living out of a suitcase is challenging sometimes but you get used to it. The guys and I get along really well, we're like a family at this point, so of course there's times when its the best thing ever & also times when you want to knock them out. haha but all together I couldn’t imagine my life any other way right now

Touring plans for the rest of 2008?
Steve- We're going back out in July on some headlining/co-headlining gigs,
then from there I'm not exactly sure, but we'll be up to something regardless. Stay tuned.

Plans of playing in Europe?
Steve- I've heard rumors of it. I hope it goes down.

Leighton- There was talk about getting the band over there toward the end of the year. I believe it's still getting worked out.

What do you guys do on the road to keep from dying from utter boredom?
Steve-We post up and kick it. Hard.

Leighton- Ya. and whiskey never really hurts.

Since Arizona has a variety of bands, what are some of your favorites?
Steve- Dear and the Headlights. The Format but they broke up. And of course Jimmy Eat World.

Anything else you want to say to the kids of AP.net?
Steve- Rock'n'Roll.

Leighton- keep coming out to the live shows, really means a lot to all of us to actually see the music reach out to so many people.
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 48
02:36 PM on 05/22/08
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MikeOxlarhj's Avatar
one of my all time favorites. i love this band.
04:17 PM on 05/22/08
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sweetforever's Avatar
Illuminate is still my AOTY. I thought there was a news post awhile back about them releasing something later on this year? Maybe I'm wrong.
07:10 PM on 05/22/08
You guys are walking in slo-mo?
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CTMarshall's Avatar
I definitely need to pick this album up already...
08:06 PM on 05/22/08
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sheisarebel's Avatar
Great interview!

I really am so in love with this band and Illuminate is most definitely my AOTY thus far. I hope the album can have a larger distribution so more people can be exposed to this band's extraordinary music.
04:12 AM on 05/23/08
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GibbyPhills's Avatar
Cool interview. Love this band.
07:07 AM on 05/23/08
Said Ripley to the android Bishop
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amorning_ofsleep's Avatar
08:54 AM on 05/23/08
brujah brujah!
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knowthisx's Avatar
I love this band so much. Leighton is one hell of a writer.
09:54 AM on 05/23/08
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dunder05mifflin's Avatar
this made my day. illuminate is the love of my life. I couldn't live without 'this december' either though. they are so incredibly talented.
12:47 PM on 05/23/08
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04:44 PM on 05/23/08
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dunder05mifflin's Avatar
Illuminate is still my AOTY. I thought there was a news post awhile back about them releasing something later on this year? Maybe I'm wrong.

yeah, somebody talked to the drummer craig at a show and he said that they are going to record an EP. I think they might have posted a bulletin about it a while back on myspace, too. i'm super stoked for it.

Does anybody know when we get to see the recording of the set they were planning to play during the brighten tour, since they had to cancel? I missed them in SLC :(
12:08 PM on 05/24/08
Said Ripley to the android Bishop
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amorning_ofsleep's Avatar
yeah, somebody talked to the drummer craig at a show and he said that they are going to record an EP. I think they might have posted a bulletin about it a while back on myspace, too. i'm super stoked for it.

Does anybody know when we get to see the recording of the set they were planning to play during the brighten tour, since they had to cancel? I missed them in SLC :(

I talked to Craig about a week ago and he said that the last thing he heard was that they were trying to edit it.
12:30 PM on 05/24/08
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anamericangod's Avatar
I love this band so much. I'm glad I know a little bit more about the songs, from Leighton's personal level. Very cool.

And OMG vinyl plz.
12:42 PM on 05/24/08
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carlosonthedrums's Avatar
Fantastic interview, great questions...they seem like the coolest dudes (and lady, of course).
Congrats to them on creating quite an amazing sound journey once again.
12:56 PM on 05/24/08
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leifstar's Avatar
Amazing band. I am looking forward to their headlining tour. The first time I saw them wasn't enough.

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