INTERVIEW: Austin electro-rock trio Culture Wars

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

I’ve been good. 2017 has been an exciting year so far, as a lot of our songwriting and rehearsal efforts are coming to fruition with shows planned and the release of our debut EP.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Money (Gimme, Gimme)”?

“Money” has an interesting story behind it. The genesis of the song actually occurred late one night in a studio at the renowned Sonic Ranch, near my hometown of El Paso. I love effects pedals, and sometimes strange sounds come out of them by accident. That’s exactly what happened with Money, and I came up with the guitar riff after a crazy verbed-out sound seemed to be coming out of my amp while I was experimenting with certain electronics. Rob (our producer) immediately went to work on it and it turned into strange, electro-dance song. Alex came up with his vocals and lyrics shortly afterward and the song took on yet a different character after that. The character was constantly changing with every step of the process, and that made it very interesting to work on.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song? What about the video treatment?

The song would probably not have been written if Rob, Alex and I were not sitting around late one night in such a cool spot (Sonic Ranch), just having a good time. We’ve realized that some of our favorite ideas come out of specific settings and spots where we’re not only relaxed but also simultaneously inspired. The video treatment was actually mainly Alex’s idea. He has a degree in film so we thought it’d be cool if he collaborated with Jeremy on the treatment. It turned out to be inspired by the aggressive and energetic tone of the song and the unique lighting schemes planned in the video.

The single comes off your new self-titled EP – why did you decide to name the record after the band?

We often stick with keeping it simple, probably because of lessons learned with previous releases/bands haha. One of our goals as a band is to make a clear artistic statement without any unnecessary distraction, so keeping the EP self titled seemed natural.

How was the recording and writing process?

It was very fun and interesting, mainly due to fact that we decided to record and write in many different places, including both the Sonic Ranch in Tornillo and the Hustle House in Austin. Our good friend and producer Robert Sewell was there writing, producing and guiding us every time we were in a studio. Otherwise, most of the initial song ideas were developed by Alex and I at our rehearsal space in Austin. Both sides of the process were very experimental and open, and we’ve realized that keeping an open mind and fun attitude throughout has yielded the best results. Adding David’s drums to songs was often done later in the process and really made the songs come alive, like in Bones. He’s awesome and a hard hitter, and the songs sound great after he adds his ideas and what we call “thunder drums”.

What was it like to work with Robert Sewell and how did that relationship develop?

Rob has been one of my good friends for a few years now. He first started working with us in a previous incarnation of the band, in which I played guitar and Alex sang, as an engineer, and it was a no brainer for us to ask him to produce and co-write songs with us for this project. He is a super talented artist and producer with great sensibility, and also the fastest Pro-Tools and Ableton Live gun in the west.

How much did he influence the record?

Immensely. With many bands, their producer really becomes another member of the band, and we definitely have that relationship with Rob. His sound design and beats are all over the record and gave it a really polished yet interesting sound, in my opinion.

Would you say that 80’s music influence your writing?

Definitely. Alex and I are both huge New Wave and synth pop fans, and 80’s bands have influenced us in a big way, especially the darker tinged ones like Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics on Culture Wars EP?

Many different places. Sonically and instrumentally, the songs usually came from searching for something very fresh on both our guitars and synths. Sometimes it felt as if we were trying to stretch a single idea as much as we could, and then reign it in and make it cohesive in more of a pop context. A lot of the lyrics and themes, in my opinion, have to do with themes that a lot of people experience in modern society, especially young people. They touch on both relationship troubles and feelings of alienation, which a lot of young people seem to experience. However, we always try to come full circle by having an overall hopeful and fun message and vibe with the songs.

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes! Our first show is in Houston on August 24th, and we are planning a lot of out of town dates to follow soon after.

What else is happening next in Culture Wars’ world?

We have a lot more songs, so we’ll definitely be back in the studio soon to finish things up and explore new ideas. At the same time, we are also going to focus on playing as much as possible live, which is exciting after being in songwriting mode for so long.


Watch Culture Wars “Money (Gimme, Gimme)” video HERE

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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