Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
John: Excellent! Busy and feeling good.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Livin’ For The Weekend”?
Sterling: A little bit of a detour from the sound listeners heard on “Mirage”, but the new sound has been developed and slow cooked through countless live shows over the past few months. It has a right direction and more focused, catchy melodies both vocally and with the piano that lend to a more accessible song.
Whit: In songwriting, my favorite stuff seems to come out when we’re on a deadline and have to it finished before we go into the studio. LFTW was just that. As the date approached, Wes finished every text message with, “Keep Writing!” It was the last one we wrote and I feel like it summed up a year of writing perfectly.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
Whit: One of my best friends who I grew up with is insanely creative and sort of lives vicariously through what we do and loves helping out anyway he can. We text back and forth just bouncing ideas off of each other. I told him, I need the single for our last album that we’re recording. I told him that Wes said if I came up with a good title, he’d help me write it. My friend asked the premise for the title and I told him we needed a chorus that college kids are going to be singing at Hangout Fest, arm and arm, at the end of the weekend. Boom! Livin’ For the Weekend.
Of course it took a lot more texting back and forth but in the end, it was right in front of us. My fav songs that we write always start off with the title!
Can you tell us more about the upcoming video?
Whit: By luck, Emily Newton, our videographer, showed up to the studio right before we recorded that track. So she shot every one on different takes and it was meant to be. We’re filming tonight’s show at the GA Theatre and our homecoming show in Nashville Sept 10 so we’ll mix that with the studio footage and should have something really cool.
The single comes off your new album Above The Horizon – what’s the story behind the title?
Whit: So we were sitting on the beach in Pensacola, FL in between a 2 night run, trying to brainstorm an album title. Naturally, horizon popped in. Our first album, “Mirage,” was a metaphor for our first year getting this band off the ground. Aimlessly wandering in the desert and thinking every time we saw an oasis, it was just a mirage and we had to keep moving forward until we found water. In other words, we played any and every gig we could get for whatever we could get and it was this whole trial and error thing. Now entering our 3rd year, we have a much better idea of what we’re doing and what gigs we should and shouldn’t play.
Coming from already established bands, it was an ego check having to start over from scratch with this one. There’s no other way to start a band unless your already super stars, than from the ground up or the bottom. We didn’t want to below anymore we wanted to be above. I remember the exact moment when Thomas blurted it out, and that was it. When its right, its right.
How was the recording and writing process?
John: Before we went into the studio, we’d meet up once a week and work out songs as they were brought in by somebody. So, most of the arrangements were worked out in these rehearsals. By the time we went to record, everybody was so familiar with what they were going to play that we could spend more time fine-tuning and getting it to sound just the way we wanted.
Thomas: Writing was mostly co-written within the band. A couple of us would come up with the basics of a song and then flesh things out with the whole group. We probably had at least 20 potential songs from this cycle of writes and then we chose the most appropriate 10 for the album.
Whit: Gosh, this is the most I’ve ever labored over an album. We wrote for about a year then practiced the songs for 5 months, took them out on the road and played countless shows. Then 6 weeks before we went in to the studio, Wes rearranged most of them, haha! He trimmed the fat, got rid of the sections or parts we didn’t need and made them much smoother. We learned so much in making this record and had a really special team assembled to help us along the way. The writing is the easy part! I try and get up with Thomas or John every week and we just write whatever comes out over 3 or 4 hours, until we’re finished. Do that every week for a year, you should have 10 good songs out of 100!
Why did you choose not to record the album in a raw way as your previous material?
Sterling: With more digital elements such as synthesizers and sampled midi tracks, recording to tape just wasn’t feasible onthis project. Going directly into protools while still utilizing the incredible vintage analog outboard processing that Welcome to 1979 offers allowed us to retain the signature sound of the studio while enabling a looser recording process where we didn’t have to stress about pulling everything from one or two takes.
Whit: Our brother, Nick Worley produced our first album and he’s just the best. He played me a record of this band he was working with (Willie & The Giant) and I thought it was just awesome. They did it to tape and it really reminded me of the first Alabama Shakes record. It had horns and soul and this vintage type sound. I told him that’s what we wanted. The idea of not staring at protool waves and just listening really intrigued me. And not comping any solos! Having to get it right in one try really tested us and made that record really special.
For this album, we all wanted to go bigger. Hold true to our classic rock heritage but incorporate modern sounds and techniques. So we brought Wes on board (Nick was still with us!) who is a master of adding these ear worms, loops, and effects. Kolton Lee just destroyed the mixing part and nailed it in every way we could have imagined. He’s a young dude who’s been shadowing Jacquire King for years and just a consummate pro. Then to top it off, we had Richard Dodd master it! He’s a legend here in Nashville.
What was it like to work with Wes Bailey and how did that relationship develop?
John: It was awesome to have a musician and person of his caliber come in with a fresh set of ears and direct.
Thomas: Wes brought fresh ears and a mature sense of arrangement to the overall project and sound. He added several sample and loop ideas that really distinguish certain songs and give it more of an edge and deep lush undertones.
Kaitlyn: Working with Wes on this album was really an enlightening experience for all of us. From the very beginning, having him sit in on our practices and helping us re-work the structure and “feel” of our music before we even entered the studio was crucial in the development of the overall sound we wanted for the album. He would suggest ideas that none of us would have ever thought of because we were so attached to the versions we had created on the road. As a band we fell in love with the way we had written and pieced together each song, and I don’t think it initially crossed our minds that we would need to bring in anyone else to tell us what we could change. But the truth is we are still a young band and our sound is constantly evolving. Having the opportunity to work with someone like Wes, who is not only an incredible musician but is also very involved in Nashville’s rock scene, helped give us the unbiased direction that we needed to make this album unique.
Whit: Thomas and I used to play in a band (Mama’s Love) out of Athens and played tons of shows with Moon Taxi from 2009-2012. We played to no one with those guys. Interesting enough, I didn’t really know Wes that well until I moved to Nashville and Trevor hooked us up. We were both going to see Phish in Atlanta, rode down together, and have been good friends ever since. The idea of working together gradually evolved and I knew he had had a lot to do with the production process of MT’s first two albums. They pretty much produced those themselves, which is so impressive! They make amazing albums and us being so focused on being a live band, we needed help in making our own record. You’ve got to have an unbiased voice to tell you what sucks and what doesn’t because after playing the music so much and playing an integral role in the creation, you sort of don’t even know anymore.
How much did he get to influence the album?
John: Overall, I think he helped make the songs more focused and sound a lot sharper. Lot of attention to detail. If he heard something being played that he felt was unnecessary or felt like something was missing or the feel wasn’t right, he knew how to communicate that in a way that was productive and make you want to do better. He’s not afraid to make his opinion known for the greater good of the song.
Thomas: There were a few tunes that got re-worked in substantial ways. For instance, “Let You Be My Man” had originally been more of a 60’s soul/motown stylized song, but we broke it down with Wes, changed the groove and vocal delivery, and it really has become the delightful surprise for me on the album. It’s not only one of my favorites on the album but it is also a testament to the production quality we would have lacked had we not had a producer like Wes.
Kaitlyn: It’s crazy to think back on the way some of these songs sounded before Wes. For instance, “Lost In A Dream” started out as a fun, quirky, latin sounding number…which got a great response when we played it live. But Wes came into practice and suggested that this version might not work as well on an album as it did in the live setting and that we could make it more unique than a clique samba. We took his advice and completely changed the feel of the song by creating a different drum/bass groove, adding a few simple hooks, and eventually some atmospheric loops that I feel made the song way more “hip”. The same is true of “Let You Be My Man”, which began as an Aretha Franklin-esk funk number. Wes had this idea of creating a constant moving bass line, similar to that in Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, that we could slowly build into a constant groove as each instrument made it’s entrance. We brought the dynamics way down and added some fun effects to tie everything together and create this simple, sexy groove number that in my opinion is way more effective. A good number of songs were kept very similar to the original versions, but even little suggestions like omitting an unnecessary bridge or shortening a solo helped to tighten up each song and make them more powerful. I think Wes took a bunch of really great songs and helped us tweak them in ways to make them even more distinctive and well built. We are extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to work with him.
What role does Nashville plays a music?
John: Nashville’s an influence in a few ways. You can go out any night of the week and catch somebody you’ve never heard. A lot of our friends in town are musicians and play in bands. Everybody tours through here, everybody’s always writing new music. It’s wall-to-wall everyday and you take something away from every little experience.
Kaitlyn: I’ve been in Nashville for 8 years now and I’ve seen the music scene here evolve into something that is really different from anywhere else. I would even go as far to say that Nashville has developed it’s own genre of rock/indie music that has made a substantial mark on American music. Years ago just hearing the word “indie” made me want to vomit. At the time I thought this new genre of music was boring and “hipster” and I couldn’t force myself to get into it. However, over the past few years local bands like Moon Taxi, Apache Relay, an even upcoming bands such as Los Colognes have taken this genre and made it rock again. These bands are blending ambient indie melodies with alternative rock and pop grooves, and I feel it’s influenced us a lot as musicians individually but also together as a band.
Nashville is also a place where you can go out any night of the week, find an open jam, and play with top notch musicians from around the world. It’s a place where you can walk into one of the hundreds of venues in town and hear something you’ve never heard before. So needless to say there is always something to discover here.
How has all your different background have influence this project?
John: I think musically, we all come from a similar place. We’re fans of a lot of the same bands and we’ve all been in bands before and have seen firsthand what works and what doesn’t. There’s a good deal of combined experience going into this.
Kaitlyn: One thing I love most about this band is that we all have different backgrounds in terms of music we were brought up on and how we all got to where we are now, and that really reflects in out individual playing styles. However, we all grew up in southern states, which has a huge impact on our overall sound in this project. We are all rooted in southern rock n’ roll music and I think that is one of the defining factors of our sound as a band.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
Thomas: Certain lyrics and melody lines come into grasp at different moments and it’s important to find those moments through the discipline of sitting down and actually making yourself write, but also just staying perceptively open enough to know when those gifts become available in everyday situations, taking whatever that initial inspiration is, and unfolding more of that idea until it becomes a complete song. Telling an engaging story if possible or describing emotions in a unique way is always a goal in mind. Catchiness and timelessness are very important, as well.
How has the road been treating you so far?
John: Dave Grohl once said tour vans represented freedom to him. The older I get, the more I find that to be true. Especially with this group. It’s like summer camp with your friends.
Sterling: I personally feel that we show our best side out on the road with our live show. We hit the road hard during the summer and are continuing through the fall. It really allows us to perfect songs and see how audiences react to different arrangements and voicings that we may come up with.
Kaitlyn: I live for the road. And I think everyone would agree that being on the road together often feels like a mini vacation. Not only do we get to travel around the country and explore places we’ve never been, but we get to do what we love and share our music with the world! Being the only girl in the band everyone always asks me how I can spend weeks stuck in the van with a bunch of dudes… but I really wouldn’t trade it for anything! All I can say is that there’s definitely never a dull moment with these guys, and I just spend most of my time laughing.
Kaitlyn: Lobster rolls and seafood in New England are always a highlight for me, but you really can’t beat playing to large crowds in major cities like NYC and Washington DC. We always have such a blast together as a band exploring places like the Smithsonian and Central Park..and it really makes it that more special when we get to climb on that stage at the end of the night and rock out.
Whit: Our summer North east tour was unforgettable. We had just exhausted ourselves in making this record but we took a few weeks off, hit the road, and all of the work we’d put it became immediately evident and all of a sudden, we were a much tighter band than we were six months prior. You have these out of body moments in playing where you feel like somebody else is almost playing for you and you’re just going along on the journey with 4 other people who you know inside and out and communicate with without actually speaking.
What else is happening next in Maradeen’s world?
John: More shows, more music, repeat.
Whit: Put this record out. 2015 & 2016 were obviously essential but we’re excited to see the results of 3 years of hard work start to pay off in 2017. Make every year bigger and better and start writing again for the next one!
Sterling: Just sold out the Georgia Theatre with Moon Taxi!