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INTERVIEW: White Label Analog

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Aaron Herbster (AH) – Doing well and very excited to be here.

Chris Didear (CD) – Hey thanks!  Things are great; just crazy busy prepping for our new release and tour.

Heath Macintosh (HM) – Great, just gearing up for the local CD Release at Stubb’s on Sept 2nd and the west coast tour to follow from Sept 9th-25th. Thanks for having us!

James Millican (JM) – Fan-tastic.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Echoes”? 

CD – Well, it is the lead off track from our new record In Case You Just Tuned In and just hit radio.  So far we’re getting some great response and getting spins in markets on the West Coast, Midwest, Texas, and NY.  It was self-produced and was mixed by 11-time Grammy nominee Mark Needham.  He’s worked with so many great bands like The Killers, Imagine Dragons etc.  We got to work with him on our first EP and were fortunate to have another opportunity with this record.

HM – It’s actually a song that we demo’d for our EP last year.  But, it was just all wrong at the time and didn’t even bother past the scratch track stage…so, we revamped it this year, just keeping some of the chord progressions and completely reworking the song from top to bottom, rewriting melodies, lyrics, working up counter melodies, harmonies, etc…  So, a very different song than what it started out as and it feels right now as if it has found its correct vibe and arrangement.

JM – This is a song that has floated around for a while. We wrote a few different versions of it that were shelved because they didn’t quite capture what we were hearing, but we stayed excited about it and kept bringing it back out to work on. While recording material for the new album we dusted it off again as an afterthought but it quickly became a primary focus of the writing and recording process.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

HM – Lyrically, Chris can direct you on this

CD – This song originally started out as a completely different idea about a year ago and we ended up salvaging part of the chorus to use as a bridge in the current version.  Lyrically, it was inspired by personal loss both in my family and with a dear friend.  So, I wanted to acknowledge the frailty of life, but also celebrate the legacy of the human spirit.  Reminding us in our busy lives, to live in the moment and enjoy the good times.  It is the realization that those experiences become memories that we leave behind.  So…  Carpe Diem!

Any plans to release a video for the single?

AH – Yes, though we may have to do a lyric video first, and then before releasing a live action video.

CD – Yes, we have begun discussing ideas and it is just a matter of finding the time to fully execute the right idea.  We were hoping to have one completed before our tour, but we have just been so busy.  However, it’s definitely in the plan, so we hope you will keep an eye out for it.

HM – Yes, we have one in the works, but time is not our friend right now with our busy schedule, but hopefully very soon.

JM – We keep reaching out to Spike Jonze but he won’t return our calls…

The single comes off your forthcoming album In Case You Just Tuned In – what’s the story behind the title?

AH – We have been around for a few years now, recently released our debut EP, and trying to play as much as we can around town. The title is about that: if you don’t know about us, yet, you’ve been missing out, but it’s not too late.

CD – Also, using a song lyric as the title is something we did on our first EP.  So, we thought it would be fun to do it again with this record.  “In Case You Just Tuned In” is a line from the bridge section in “Echoes”.

HM – We used a song lyric for the title of our EP “A Little More Time” and thought that was an appropriate place to look for the title for our full length.  Actually kinda the same process as the EP, we all threw out a bunch of stuff and the title list got ridiculously long, then we started looking at lyrics again for some inspiration.  Found a couple that were close and one even from this same song, but eventually decided “In Case You Just Tuned In” a line from Echoes was the appropriate anecdote for the album title.

How was the recording and writing process?

AH – The writing process is fun and challenging. We all have ideas for our parts and for the song as a whole. Typically, James (guitar and back—up vocals) brings in a general idea, or more specific parts, depending on the song. We jam and try to create the best possible version of each song. This is where compromise is very important and that we don’t fall victim to pride. When the song is done, it is extremely satisfying. Recording is better, for me, in that the song is still fluid until recorded. And, once recorded, the next step for the song is playing it live, and that is what all of this is for.

CD – This band goes the extra mile to try as many ideas as possible, tear them down, and rework each song until we collectively feel they are in a form where they can be recorded.  It is the culmination of a lot of time and effort to get to this point, so it’s exciting to be able to share it.

HM – We self-produce so we always try to do as much pre-production as possible, so we can execute the overall vibe and theme of each song. But, we leave room for adding in studio nuances be it additional harmonies, counter melodies vocal or musical, etc.. to help complete the song to its final form.

As far as writing….James pretty much comes up with the skeletal work of a song and then we dissect, arrange, tear it down/build it back up if need be…each of us putting our own flavor and spin on parts. And sometimes little has to be done, other times it’s completely reworked, just depends how it comes together.  Lyrically mainly James and Chris take that role with suggestions from the peanut gallery.  : )

JM – Four guys, one gal, lots of opinions, and a very patient recording engineer (Andy Sharp).

What was it like to work with Mark Needham and how did that relationship develop?

AH – I thought it was very cool working with someone with such a distinguished career and discography.

CD – He is the consummate pro and very gracious.  He comes from such a wealth of knowledge and experience that helped us put our best foot forward.

HM – Mark was actually referred to us by Marc Kordellos over at UNCLE (btw, can’t say enough good things about him, great to work with).  We used Needham to remix the song “Turn To Dust”on this album and in turn used him for a couple of other songs for the album (Echoes and Rainmaker).  I run point for most of the studio stuff, mixing, mastering, etc.. so I was the direct pipeline on that.  Mark is a great guy and has great ears, extremely adaptable and patient in working out any kinks, makes himself very available and keeps on top of things with quick turnarounds.  Really can’t ask for more and that’s why he is the “Pro” that he is.

How much did he get to influence the album?

AH – We originally hired him to re-mix one song (Turn to Dust from our debut EP), which ended up as a track on our full-length album. However, his re-mix sounded so good, that we decided to have him mix what we considered would be our first two singles (Echoes and Rainmaker). He set the bar for mixing, and the other guys mixing the other 8 songs all did an amazing job.

CD – Yes, we utilized the Needham mixes as a reference to set the tone for the rest of the record.  This helped us to establish some sonic consistency throughout; since we used multiple mixers.   The other 3 mixers who lent their talents for this album have impressive album credits of their own.  It was a different approach for us than what we had done in the past, but in the end, it helped us create what I feel is a more unique experience for listeners.

HM – Since we self-produce, the songs were there, and mostly we just let him do his thing as far as mixing, we would alter volumes and amounts of effects here and there.  But, mostly just let him give his interpretation of where he thought the song needed to be and then we could fine tune to our taste.  He really opened up the songs he worked on and pushed them to the sonic level you hear on the album.

What ideas and experiences inspired the lyrics on this album?

HM – Again, will let Chris and James chime in on this

CD – Mostly they are a reflection of some of our personal experiences, risks, tragedies, triumphs, and moments of clarity or self-awareness, and relationship lessons.

 JM – I feel like there’s this gap between when you are first an adult on paper and when you finally (if ever) start to consider yourself one, and a lot of the lyrics I wrote on this album explore that period of time. Within about five years I transitioned from graduating college and buying the house with the white picket fence to quitting my job and moving across the country from Pennsylvania to Austin in pursuit of music. Lots of hard lessons along the way and many of those made their way into the songs on this album.

Any plans to hit the road?

AH – Yes, we will be doing a two-week, West Coast tour in mid-September, which is very exciting for all of us. We may do some regional gigs after that, but look forward to Mid-West and East Coast tours in the near future.

CD – Yes!  Can’t wait!

HM – As mentioned previously we are heading out on a West Coast tour from September 9th-25th, then we will probably just stay regional with some midwest dates as well thru the end of the year, before moving on to a second single and spring tour.

What else is happening next in White Label Analog’s world?

AH – Focusing on creating a great live show that faithfully represents us and our music, and looking forward to the tour.

CD – Yes, we have a release and tour kick-off party at one of our favorite venues Stubb’s, and then we hit the road.  We’ll be working on a music video for “Echoes” and looking forward to playing new places and meeting new people.  Thanks for having us and we’ll see you on the road!  Cheers!

HM – Well, we will be doing anything and everything to get this album some legs and that will be the priority over the next 6 months and hopefully into summer festival season next year if it keeps building.

And early next year start hashing out some demo ideas for the next album.  Thanks again for taking the time and hopefully be talking to you soon again with more updates on all things WLA.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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