Your last album, Life As A Baller, came out last year. What’s changed for you since then? Did you get any kind of new opportunities off the record? Did you do any touring?
We toured for that record in July of last year. And since then I’ve moved to Philadelphia from Ann Arbor.
What prompted the move?
I was just really ready to get out of where I was. I had a couple of friends that had already moved here and some other friends invited me to come along with them because they were coming here too. So it was just a matter of timing that worked out. And obviously Philadelphia is really cool and has a lot of stuff that’s relevant to my interests.
The DIY scene seems really vibrant. Have you run into a lot of musicians/like-minded people?
Yeah definitely. We’ve been going to shows out here. I live in West [Philadelphia], so there’s a ton of house venues that are always having shows. It’s been really cool meeting people; I feel like I’ve just barely scratched the surface, to be honest.
Have you been playing any shows yourself?
We played one show, like a month ago. It was pretty cool—would love to play more.
Do you have a set group of people for live shows? For your recording process, are you still playing everything yourself?
Yeah, on the new record, I’m playing everything myself. I’ve contemplated going to a studio, but it’s not in my budget. The way that I do it, I kind of record sporadically, in the moment, and I do a little bit at a time and I kind of jump around. I know that a lot of people, when they go to the studio, will have a set day to record all the guitars, for instance. I don’t really do it that way and I don’t know how that would work if I went to a studio and recorded with a producer.
For live stuff, it’s been a three-piece—me playing guitar and vocals, a bass player—generally doing backup vocals, and a drummer. There hasn’t really been a set line-up, just kind of whoever is available. For this tour though, it’s going to be a four-piece. We’ve got some songs that are going to be two guitars, and then some songs that’ll be just be one guitar. And then hopefully down the road, I’ll be able to expand and fill out the line-up even more as I get to know more people around here.
Do you always see yourself playing everything on the record, or are you talking more about people for the live shows?
Adding people for the live shows. To be honest, I’d love if other people played stuff on my recordings, just because I'm not that good so it takes me a long time to get the takes that I need. And then it’s never as good as I’d want it to be.
What’s your process like? Do you always start with a certain instrument or do you mix it up?
I always write the song on guitar first, generally. I’ll have the structure of the song on guitar, just like rhythm guitar. And then I make the drum sequence for the whole song. Between those two things, that really helps me visualize the length of the song and where all the parts are.
Does this all happen before you write the vocal melodies?
No, I do the vocal melodies along with the guitar. So those are the two things that happen first, together. Although, sometimes it obviously will change over time and a lot of times the lyrics don’t come until later. It’s just either loose ideas or just the melody itself in gibberish filling in for the lyrics.
And the drums—are they all in the computer/programmed?
Yeah, sometimes I'll make them in GarageBand or Logic. A lot of times I make them on my iPad using an app called DM1, and that’s just a basic drum sequencer that I like with the touch interface.
Do you have a least favorite part of recording and producing?
To be honest, I kind of have a love-hate relationship with producing in the first place. A lot of times it’s really stressful overall. There are times where it happens really easily and I don’t have to think about what I'm doing, and that's great and that's when it’s fun. But a lot of times, it’s kind of like forcing myself to do it as work, and then it’s not fun and I usually don’t like how anything sounds as I'm doing it. It can be really frustrating.
But more specifically, the actual process of recording instruments, like guitar and recording vocals, can be kind of frustrating; having to get the takes, having it take forever. Mixing can be kind of frustrating too, but I think mixing is kind of fun sometimes also.
This new batch of songs you have [for an upcoming album], have those all been written since the previous album or have some of them been kicking around for a long time?
Actually yeah, some of them. At least one of the songs was written that same month that we toured for Life As A Baller, and I've been kind of working on it since then. I actually scrapped a lot of songs too, so yeah I've been recording songs even since Life As A Baller was not out and just waiting to come out. I was working on more stuff, but a lot of it didn’t make it this far. But at least one song did and will be on the record.
In terms of production, are you trying to aim for a new sound versus what you’ve done before? Or similar?
The quality of the production is definitely gonna sound like Life As A Baller, just because it’s the exact same set-up and I haven’t really learned anything new in terms of production and sound quality. I guess we’ll see. To be honest, there are twice as many songs that I'm working with, and that’s making it a bit harder to keep the quality consistent, so there might be some songs that sound even more lo-fi.
I've listened to the new songs, and the thing that’s consistent through all your songs is your ability to write catchy hooks that will stay in your head. Do you find, when you’re listening to music on your own—is that something you’re drawn to?
Yeah, that’s the biggest thing for me these days—catchy music and melodies. I just listen to songs essentially; I have a big list of songs that have cool melodies I like. I listen to other stuff too, like hardcore and punk, but the stuff that mainly inspires COMPs is hook-y and melodic.
Do you ever write punk- or hardcore-type songs? Or when you’re writing, is it what we hear when we hear COMPs?
I do vocals in a hardcore band called Z.O.N.E.; we released a demo last year. I didn’t write the music for that, but for writing hardcore vocals, I kind of have the same approach to making it hook-y and trying to repeat parts that are cool.
I try to really pay attention to how the vocals sound from a pop perspective. Like rhythmically, words that are pleasing, and the rhyming—making sure the rhyming sounds cool. There’s a little subtle bleedover when I write the punk stuff.
You’re heading out on tour next week, are you going to be playing new songs?
Yeah we’re going on tour next week; it will be just songs from Life As A Baller. That’s kind of what I'm hoping to spread the word about still. Obviously I want people to know that there’s a new album coming too, but I think that there are probably people who still haven’t heard Life As A Baller that would like it. So that’s my goal for this particular tour, to spread awareness about that album, but also the existence of COMPs in general, hopefully if they like Life As A Baller, they’ll be excited to know that more stuff is coming.