Hello Vents Magazine! We are stoked to be doing this interview. This is certainly an exciting time for us. Thank you for including us in your magazine!
Can you talk to us more about your song “I Know Better”?
Certainly! We created a character, a woman who is trying to navigate through life during Hollywood’s golden age. Every song on the record tells a part of her story. The single, I Know Better, is about the woman’s understanding that she’s charting dangerous territory in her latest relationship – but is all in anyway.
We tried to keep a certain noir-ish theme throughout the EP.
Did any event inspire you to write this song?
Jackson Vari, our lead guitarist, wrote the lion’s share of this song. It was originally about a prior relationship of his. It ended up fitting in perfectly with the theme of the new record.
Any plans to release a music video for the track?
There’s one really good live video of us performing this song. It was from a television appearance back in May 2017. If anyone would like to see it they can do so at https://youtu.be/AjzbngnGLWU
We haven’t really talked about making a proper music video for this track. Although, it’s certainly a possibility in the near future.
Why naming the album after this track in particular?
For starters, it’s one of our favorite songs to play and is what we really wanted to showcase to the public. We also thought that the name “I Know Better” really sums up the story of the character we created.
How was the recording and writing process?
Jackson and Paul do most of the songwriting. These tracks were written when they both were going through some dark times in their lives. The five tracks were written over a period of two years. We pretty much started writing them as soon as our previous EP “Wash Me Clean” was done.
We recorded them at Songbuilder Studios which is outside of Baltimore, MD. We worked with Steve Antonelli, who produced both of our EPs. The cool thing about “I Know Better” is that it is a hybrid between live recording and individual tracking. Paul, Jackson, Gene, and Kevin recorded the music as a band, in the same room. Nikki was isolated in a vocal booth. All of the vocal overlays, the acoustic guitar parts, and the guitar solo on Spirit is Silent, were tracked individually.
We’re really proud of how this record’s sound is really true to form. You can definitely tell that it’s us. We think our fans, both old and new (hello new fans!) are going to dig it as well.
What role does Delaware play in your writing?
For being a small state, Delaware actually has a lot of diversity with its homegrown music. You will hear everything from a more driving rock sound coming from bands from the state’s northern cities, to a country/bluesy feel out of bands from the state’s rural southern areas, and everything in between. We happen to be situated in the middle of the state. We believe that you can hear influences from both ends of the spectrum in our sound.
The other cool thing about being from a small state, is that you are never more than 1 or 2 steps removed from other musicians. There’s definitely an “everybody knows everybody” vibe which allows for collaboration and a lot of genre crossing shows. There is a ton of talent in this state and we love that we can be part of Delaware’s music scene!
How was the transition from Acoustic to Full band?
It’s felt very organic because it happened over close to a three-year period.
How has the addition of a new member affected the band’s sound?
Surreal Nation started out with just Paul and Nikki doing a very mellow folky thing. Jackson came on board about a year into it and we started moving towards a more folk-rock sound. Those were fun times because Paul and Jackson were always switching instruments, in an effort to keep things interesting. We used a drum machine for our previous EP. We knew we wanted a more authentic drum sound and began a long, arduous search for a drummer.
We went through two others before we connected with Gene. The funny thing is that from the beginning of our drummer search, Jackson always talked about how much he wanted Gene to be our drummer. Gene was busy with college and some other projects and just didn’t have the time. Everything lined up perfectly in December of 2016 and Gene joined us. He definitely gave us that raw, authentic drum sound that we wanted. But, then we realized that there was not enough bottom to our songs. Jackson and I would switch using the bass but there were some songs where neither of us used it. We knew we needed someone on the bass full time.
Paul and Nikki knew Kevin. Paul talked to him about trying out in February 2017. He showed up for his try-out and never left! We knew right away that he was our guy. With the group finally being where we wanted it, we moved forward and played a ton of shows in the spring and summer of 2017. We went right into the studio and recorded “I Know Better” in the fall.
What dark and bright aspect of your lives did you get to explore on this record?
As these songs were written over a two-year period, they were developed as everyone in the band experienced ups and downs with relationships, family, friends, and even health. The peaks and valleys of our personal lives definitely translate onto the record.
Any plans to hit the road?
Yes! We are going to be doing a short tour of the northeast in February. This will be right after “I Know Better” drops on February 20, 2018. We’re also hoping to do some travelling in spring and summer.
What else is happening next in Surreal Nation’s world?
The big thing right now is this new record. We’re in the phase where the music is recorded, and everything is focused on promoting it. One bit of good news is that we got to have our music played on a bunch of college radio stations throughout the USA, this fall. We even got a spin on our local Top 40 station, which was really cool!