INTERVIEW: Alt-Rock Band Life Size Models

pIC BY Roby Behrens (@lucidsoundandpicture)

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

Hi VENTS! Thanks for asking. The band has been well! We are doing our best to stay creative and utilize the time we have during this quarantine to keep working and moving the needle forward with our 2020 plans. Like most musicians, it’s been a unique but welcome challenge coming up with ways to connect with our audience without playing live.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Cusack, 1984”?

Sure! “Cusack, 1984” is the second single we’ve released in 2020. I  feel like it showcases a different side of the band that casual listeners might not be familiar with. For that reason, I think we are all really excited to get this song out there and “on our resume,” so to speak. Musically, the song is intricate in a different way while being more poppy and less driving. Despite those adjectives, it feels like we’ve captured the band’s performance in a really honest way this time around.

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

No, it was more a series of events that came together over a period of time. The song began by experimenting with home recording a few years ago. I remember listening to The Smiths a lot at the time and I couldn’t figure out how Johnny Marr wrote such creative, intricate riffs. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and researching and saw an interview of him playing the chords to “This Charming Man” and then playing the famous riff over the top of it. I think it occured to me that he would come up with a chord progression and then write over top of it.

This realization made me set up my audio interface and some cheap music software called “Mixcraft” and come up with a simple chord progression. Then I started writing something over the top of it that I thought sounded like The Smiths. The intro riff to “Cusack, 1984” came out of my fingers (which is really just arpeggiating the chord changes – it’s about as complicated as I get). That’s as far as I got initially but there’s more on this later on in the interview in the question “How was the writing process”…

Why Hughes and Cusack in particular?

There was something in the sound of the chords and the riff that informed the lyrics. The line “I got my paycheck and got you some flowers / I spent the next few hours trying to think of something to write that might make things alright” already felt yearning and romantic to me. I followed that up with “The taste of my words were sour, I swallowed, choked and powered my way / right to your door…” and then had to pick a way to end the verse that said a lot in a few syllables.

The sound of the chords with those lyrics reminded me of that scene in High Fidelity where John Cusack is hiding in the rain from his ex girlfriend after her father’s funeral or the scene in Say Anything where John Cusack is standing outside of his girlfriend’s house with the boombox trying to win her back. So I finished the line with the words “…like Cusack, 1984” and it just clicked. I feel like if you’re familiar with John Cusack at all, the words “Cusack” & the year “1984” paint a picture for you immediately.

John Hughes came into the picture from the sound of the song. The way Nick Miller bends his guitar (using a EHX guitar pedal to emulate a keyboard) right into the verse as Chris Denn’s drums deliberately shuffle alongside Anthony Martos’s bass all sang “John Hughes film” movie to me. I feel like that’s just how my brain works. I hear music and I associate it with things that feel similar to me whether that’s other songs or movies. I’ve always loved John Hughes and the sincerity of the protagonists in his films. There’s a lot of heart in his films and that inspired me to really work on the lyrics. I didn’t want to just write a “breakup” song but rather a song where there’s no bad guy. I feel like that’s how John Hughes films often played out. Everyone was fairly justified in their behavior and you understood both sides of the story. That – and a conversation with my girlfriend about the chorus of the song – sort of informed the chorus lyric “Don’t lie to me and tell me you love me…You know I need you / but a lie won’t do.” It feels like a resolution in a John Hughes film to me. Not loving someone or returning their feelings is just the way things turn out sometimes. People fall in and out of love all of the time and that doesn’t mean anybody was particularly wrong for feeling how they feel. The resolution is that hopefully you’ll be able to grow from the experience regardless of how it turns out. It’s not a romantic comedy movie ending but it felt like a John Hughes ending to me.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

We’ve had a lot of conversations about this as a band and we’ve gone through several treatments and storyboards. One idea was very budget friendly and one idea included John Cusack in the actual video. Unfortunately until we’re rich and famous we won’t be able to contact Mr. Cusack.

All that is to say that as soon as COVID-19 is over we’ve got an idea that we’ve settled on and storyboarded and we’ve got a videographer attached. We don’t have a release date for the song but there will be a video, yes.

How was the recording and writing process?

About a year after the initial writing of the riff for “Cusack, 1984” my brother, Stephen Seymour, (who plays guitar in the band) ended up encouraging me to work on it a little bit more. He and I sat down at a little keyboard with an acoustic guitar and put the verse and chorus together. From there, we brought it to band practice and the band fleshed it out and once we got it to the studio we were able to fully realize the song!

Recording this song was the best recording experience I’ve ever had. Our engineer and producer, Maryam Qudus at Tiny Telephone Recording Studios in Oakland, CA, brought a lot of her musicality to this recording. We really focused on getting the right tempo and right performance for the song to build off of. Once we had that down the rest of the recording experience was just having fun and trying things out. The song was recorded live in the studio and then we went into the control room, listened back, and started tackling overdubs. Maryam helped us narrow down some textures (synths, keyboards, and acoustic guitar) and our drummer Chris Denn played vibes on the outro of the song. This song turned out to be one of the most dense tracks we’ve ever recorded but when I listen to the song there’s a lot of breath and air and space in the recording. That’s something the whole band really focused on achieving – hopefully we accomplished that.

Did you approach this song as a film score?

I didn’t go into the song thinking about a film score but as soon as I heard the bones of the song being played by the band in the room together, it felt “cinematic” to me. It felt like a song you’d hear in a TV show or a movie, which is pretty cool if you ask me. I just started thinking of this song as a soundtrack to an imaginary John Hughes film starring John Cusack.

With the 80s having a prominent role in the title alone – did you intend to go for a much New Wave, 80s driven sound as well?

We definitely had the “making this song sound like the ’80s” discussion. I think we fell somewhere in the “make it sound like a cross between Alvvays and Camera Obscura.” I had a chorus pedal that I kept turning on during practice and the whole band would kind of go “I don’t know about that…”. We didn’t want to lean too heavily into the ’80s sound because while it is definitely an influence, we wanted it to sound modern too. In the end, we sort of met in the middle. There’s a chorus pedal on the recording but it’s very subtle and it’s kind of buried behind the less affected, more modern sounding guitar. That being said, the ’80s are very “in” right now so who is to say what’s modern and what isn’t?

Does the new single mean we can expect new material – how’s that coming along?

We are always working on the next new release and this new single is leading up to something we’ve been working on for about a year now.  We’ve got a couple songs already recorded and some more songs kicking around and we’ve a recording date scheduled in the next month or two (assuming the studio reopens).

Any tentative dates?

Before the lockdown we were close to finishing a project that was aiming for a late summer release. As it is, we will see where we’re at in a couple months. There will be more music out this year though – that I can guarantee.

As far as a title goes for the project, if you’ve heard “Cusack, 1984” you’ve heard our tentative title. We picked a lyric from this song as the title (it’s not “Cusack, 1984”) – we’ll leave it at that.

Any plans to hit the road?

We had plans to tour the SF Bay Area after our previous release in January, “Bayshore Freeway,” but all our shows got postponed and cancelled due to the COVID-19 lockdown. As soon as we are allowed to play live again you can guarantee we will be making plans.

What else is happening next in Life Size Models’ world?

We have been writing a lot during the lockdown and we have a couple EPs worth of songs ready to record. When time allows we’ll be working on more recording and playing live. We have a pretty aggressive release schedule that extends out roughly to 2022 so expect to hear a lot more from us!

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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