Hi Schreiner, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Hello and thanks for having me! I’ve been very well but very busy for the past few months, with everything surrounding the album release.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Miss Marietta”?
Sure thing. To give a quick flyby: Miss Marietta was actually one of the first songs that we wrote for this album, and basically tumbled out all at once. My brother walked in with this really interesting, jaunty sort of guitar idea and the lyrics/vocal melodies I came up with were just my knee-jerk reaction to it. I always pay attention when that happens, because it usually means the lyrics touched on something important and lay very close to the surface.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
I’ve given it a fair bit of thought since then, and honestly no, it wasn’t inspired by any one event. I think it’s a summation of my lifelong affair with music. Over the years, I’ve heard many accounts from sailors about the strange, bittersweet relationship they have with the sea. It’s kind of like that for me with music. I love my work and I’ve given my all to it, but it has cost me a great deal and often the relationship has felt one-sided.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
The filming process was really cool and challenging. I’d never spent much time in front of the camera until this past year, and it took some time for me to adjust. It’s one of those parts of the job that no one tells you you have to actually get good at and learn to be comfortable with. The video includes a lot of behind the scenes footage from our past year of playing shows in the greater Washington D.C. area, with the primary shoot held at Ivakota Studio where we recorded the album. So, I’d say it’s a pretty solid representation of everything that surrounded the project.
The single comes off your new album Kingdom From– what’s the story behind the title?
I could tell a much longer story here, but I’ll try to just hit the highlights. ‘Kingdom From’ is derived from the album’s first track and namesake, and the album chronicles the most important and transformational period of my life to this point. About a year before we broke ground on it (early 2017), I finally beat a serious addiction to amphetamines (among other things) and emerged with this incredible sense of personal power and self-knowledge. In Jungian terms, I’d met my shadow and seen the terrible things I was capable of when I gave over control of my life to the beast within. But, it was only through that process that I found my true self, the part of me that was capable of conquering anything. The song “Kingdom From” speaks from the merciless perspective that eventually allowed me to master my darkside, turn its strength toward positive goals, get myself together and move on. There are a lot of chapters of that period represented directly in the album, but it ends with a song I wrote for my son, Valor, who my wife and I just welcomed into the world in September 2018. After writing that song, I knew I’d come full circle and stepped into the “Kingdom From” all the pain and suffering that it took for me to find myself and a life worth living.
How was the recording and writing process?
Cathartic, varied, and gratifying. Nearly all my writing prior to this project was done in a vacuum…that was just my process for a lot of years. But, when you work with the right people, people whose creative intellects you REALLY trust, it’s easy to just jump in and be confident that the combined effort will be better than the sum of its parts. Out of the nine songs on the record, four were written during our stay in Berkeley Springs, WV. We booked this really killer cabin for 4 days and spent 8 hours a day working. Beyond being a straight up good time, that retreat really set the tone of the record and gave me a lot of creative liberty when I approached the other tunes. It felt like each song and its lyrics just erupted into being, and for me it felt like an internal dam had cracked and broken.
After that, I was primed to tell some very honest stories I’d been carrying around (eg “Coyote Beautiful”) and was also able to really tap into the emotions of my daily life (Uh Oh Love, Hiiiiiiigh). Overall it was a very fulfilling time for me as a writer, on a lot of fronts.
Once the writing was done, we took the project to our friend Ben Green, and the process of working with him to capture the songs was incredible. I think every songwriter’s greatest fear is that they’ll take good material into the studio and walk out with a final product that feels like a let down. Working with Ben, it’s precisely the opposite feeling. He is so good at finding the core of a song and offering useful commentary on how to render it accurately. Overall, making this record felt like something of a dream come true for me.
What was it like to work with Ben Green and how did that relationship develop?
I met Ben a few years ago while recording at Blue Room Productions, where he worked at the time. We hit it off in that first session and I was super impressed with his knowledge of his craft and attention to detail. He’s an absolute encyclopedia of great music and always seems to know just the right reference to bring up when developing material. Beyond that, he’s an expert sound engineer, so I knew I wanted to work with him in the future. In the intervening time between that first session and the record, Ben opened his own amazing studio (Ivakota Studio in Washington D.C.) so it was a no-brainer for us to cut the record there.
How much did he get to influence the album?
Well, we worked really hard in pre-production, so we basically walked in with all the songs finalized. But, Ben made some really great suggestions on a couple of the tunes (Pale Horse and Hiiiiiiigh especially) that we chose to use in the final arrangements. He also contributed a huge amount in terms of his knowledge of recording techniques and how to sculpt the guitar tones on the record. Ben has a real gift for asking the right questions, so even if I was the one supplying the answers, his influence can be felt all over the record.
How Rolling Stones and Gary Clark Jr. has influence your writing?
When the Rolling Stones first hit my radar, I learned something very important about the nature of rock music. They embody a certain looseness and confidence that people want to feel when they go to a concert. You can tell that they’re playing from instinct and not from a cerebral or heady place. It’s electrifying and sensual in a way, and that was something I tried to incorporate on songs like “Uh Oh Love” and “Miss Marietta”. With Gary Clarke Jr., there’s the obvious technical prowess that just makes you sit back and shake your head, but also just a rawness and singularity of perspective that you get from his work. He’s also probably the best current representation of what the Blues have evolved into today and effectively demonstrates its continuing relevance to modern culture. I think exposure to his work gave me the confidence to pursue the sound I’m most drawn to, without giving much thought to what’s trendy or new on the airwaves.
What role does DC play in your music?
Washington D.C. is the place where I really grew into a solid performer. I spent most of my life living in DC suburbs, but when I finally started performing in the city, I was able to hone and distill my technical abilities in a way I never had before. I studied vocal music performance at university, so my vocal chops were in good shape going into it. But, being a good singer and a good performer are very different things. Between age 28 and 31, I performed nearly 1000 shows and that put me on a whole other level in terms of confidence and audience aptitude. It also enabled me to really hone my chops on electric guitar and piano in a way that I’d never had the opportunity to do before. Overall, I could sum it up by saying my work in DC is where I got my “master’s degree” in performance.
What aspect of redemption did you get to explore on this record?
Most prominently, I’d say I explored the aspect of salvation from within. I grew up in a heavy duty religious background and I always hated the emphasis on salvation from an outside source. I don’t think that’s how it works. I think you have to take total responsibility for the task of life before you can make any real progress or be a worthwhile person. Ultimately, no one is coming to help you and even if they were, they couldn’t do the internal work for you. Other people and solid ideas can point you in the right direction, but you have to make the choice. You have to lay hold of your own personal power and get on with it. That’s the only path I know to fulfillment.
How does tragedy serve as a bright source of inspiration?
I think tragedy serves as a reminder of the reality of life and the stakes you should keep in mind when you’re playing the game. If you want to do something with your life, do it. Don’t wait. Waiting weakens you and your ability to believe in your own efficacy in accomplishing your dreams. Every day that you wait, you become more convinced that you’ll never get there and lose more of your sense of personal power. Tragedy often is the force that lets people tap back into their real desires and aspirations, and in that way it’s more inspiring than almost anything else.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
My relationship with my wife, past relationships, the birth of my son, our current political climate, modern drug culture, etc. I drew from a lot of different places and explored subjects that I never had before (eg Rolling Stoned), which was really exciting for me.
Any plans to hit the road?
We spent all of 2018 preparing our product and cementing the necessary business mechanisms to be a true national act, and we’ve already begun our expansion into that territory. 2019 we’ll be all over the east coast and 2020 we’ll be looking to expand westward throughout the rest of the continental US and internationally as well. A lot of work to be done, but this is a very exciting time to be us.
What else is happening next in Schreiner’s world?
We’re performing at the East Coast Music Conference in May, opening for Smashmouth in June, expanding into new cities like Richmond and Charlottesville VA, playing festivals and universities, etc. Too much to tell on that front!