INTERVIEW: Birthday Club

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

Stephen – Hey, nice to meet you guys! We’ve been insanely busy the past few weeks getting ready for the release of our debut EP, “Lighten Up”! I think we’re all ridiculously excited for these tunes to get into people’s ear holes.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Having Too Much Fun”?

Valeria – When Stephen showed me the demo for this one, we couldn’t help but dance around our apartment to it while we listened and I’ve got to admit I fell in love with it immediately.

Stephen – I think that people will definitely get into the initial groove aspect of the song, but I’m also really hoping that the darker overtones get people curious about it on a deeper level too. It’s also a really, really fun song to play live.

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

Stephen – I honestly can’t say that there was any one, specific event that I can point to as the inspiration for the song, but there was definitely an overarching theme in my environment around the time that I wrote it. I think certain aspects of your surroundings can creep into your music in unexpected ways, and that’s the sort of thing that lets you look back on a song and wonder, “where the hell did that come from?!” Sometimes, there can be this weird, foreign undercurrent in a song that might make it sound and feel strangely “present.” I think that “thing” might be just be a reflection of how willing you are to try and naturally integrate what’s going on around you into your songwriting, rather than trying to isolate yourself from what’s going on in the moment.

Valeria – Stephen started working on the song a while before Birthday Club was conceived, but there was a lot in Having Too Much Fun that I could relate to. For me, this song has always been about having to let people go because they aren’t growing or changing, and the emotional fallout that comes with that. In a lot of ways, it felt really good to record this one, because it was a time capsule for how I felt about life at the time.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Stephen- As of right now we’re just trying to really focus on putting out the best music we can, but that’s not to say that we aren’t looking for filmmakers who might be interested in working with us in the future! *wink wink*

The single comes off your new album Lighten Up – what’s the story behind the title?

Stephen – My ex-band mate Kenny Hopkins actually came up with the name “Lighten Up” sometime towards the tail end of our run together in a band called Featherface. I deeply connected with the phrase and it actually became a really helpful sort of mantra for me at the time as we all began going in our separate directions. I had started working on the “Lighten Up” songs as the band was really beginning to split up, and I think that the entire experience, which was incredibly challenging and formative for me, definitely shaped a lot of the themes and sounds on the album.

How was the recording and writing process? 

Stephen – The writing process for the album was honestly both incremental and a little manic throughout the entire experience. The process of leaving my old band while simultaneously moving from Austin back to my hometown of Houston really kick-started my writing and helped to solidify the vision for the album and also what would eventually become Birthday Club. When it came time to record the EP, the songs themselves and the concepts were mostly finished, but there were definitely still aspects that I was really unsure about.

What really helped transform the uncertainty about the songs into a useful creative tool was working with our team of engineers and producers. The first step was working with Erik Wofford over at Cacophony Recorders in Austin. Erik is such a brilliant engineer and really focuses his studio methods on cutting tracks live to tape. It forced us to rely on the energy in the room and come face- to-face with that daunting feeling that happens when you’re standing there naked with the permanence of recording onto a giant tape machine. You tend to react in the moment more fluidly with your band, and those things that my pal Bob Ross would call “happy little accidents” really do tend to transform themselves into useful tools in the recording session. We had a really hilarious moment after our session a few days later as I flipped open the latest edition of Tape Op, only to see Erik’s beaming face sitting in his glorious studio in one of the feature articles.

After our sessions at Cacophony, we took the tracks over to Justin Douglas at Shine Studios, now King Electric Recording, for overdubs and production work. Justin has this magical way of producing that is simultaneously so completely mindful and focused while at the same time effortlessly laid-back and fun. Justin had so many great ideas that ended up morphing their way onto the album, and we all share an eerily similar vision of what should come across on a song. The way that he worked with us injected this genuine enthusiasm onto the tracks and really allowed us to get out of our collective comfort zones.

When the tracks were finished, I flew up to NYC and got with my good friend Aaron Bastinelli, who is also an engineer for this great music program called Converse Rubber Tracks. Aaron and Justin both work for this program and they give artists opportunities to record in professional studios all over the world, completely free and with zero strings attached. The title track on the album was actually recorded with Aaron during a Rubber Tracks session we did at 12th Street Sound during SXSW 2016. The mixing process with Aaron took place in his basement studio in Brooklyn. He had been working on mixes for the songs for a few days prior, so we had a great foundation to make any small tweaks or production ideas to get the songs sounding as big and shimmery as possible.

The final step of the record was getting it mastered by our pal Michelle Mancini out at Larrabbee Sound Studios in Hollywood, CA. She’s done a ton of great work with artists like Fitz & The Tantrums and Alicia Keys, and she really did give the record this glossy electric polish that brought out so many interesting things in the recordings that I hadn’t even picked up on during previous spins.

What was it like to work with Erik Wofford and how did that relationship develop?

Valeria – For me personally, I had never played synths in a band before this project, much less any sort of instrument that needed to be plugged in. I was very intimidated by Erik and the recording process, but it didn’t take me long to break out of that. Erik’s calm and neutral way of being was a huge help in that regard, and of course getting to work at Cacophony was a real treat. Apparently its previous incarnation was a visual artist’s loft, so the tone of all of our recording sessions was one of brightness and openness. Our recording process began with Erik and the entirety of Having Too Much Fun was recorded there. I am very grateful that I lucked out by having my first professional recording experience with a person like him!

Any plans to hit the road?

Stephen- Absolutely! We’re hitting the road for a month starting in early October to promote the EP, and we’re planning on doing another round of national dates starting early Spring around SXSW as we finish up our next round of tunes!

What else is happening next in Birthday Club’s world?

Valeria- We couldn’t be more excited about a listening party we are throwing on the day that “Lighten Up” will be electronically released, September 30. It will be hosted by TOMO Magazines at 1206 Hawthorne, Houston TX, which is a great space for Houstonians. We have worked closely with a variety of visual artists over the year and will feature artwork from all of them, as well as a lyrics zine made exclusively for Birthday Club in celebration of Lighten Up’s release. We can’t give too much away, but there’s a special treat in store for those that enjoy an immersive listening experience. We’re teaming up with some heavy hitters for this one as well: Wonky Power, Topo Chico Mineral Water, and Steamboat Amp Works are all going to be contributing their brilliance to this event. Oh, and we’ve got to mention that September 30 is our new drummer, Travis Peck’s, birthday. If you live in the area, you won’t want to miss this one!

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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