One of our contributors, Ray, chatted with The Scenic Route (Rachel, Chad, Van and Sam) a pop-rock band based out of Canton, Ohio, recently to talk about their EP, Ultraviolet. They also chat about their writing process, their influences and, if they could, the one band they would want to be in.
Ray: You guys got together in 2011, correct? I was told you guys have a pretty interesting story. Would you care to share it?
Rachel: I mean, yeah, we can. I started the band at what would have been the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, when I was 14. I am 22 now. Along the way we picked up these little diamonds in the rough and found all these really wonderful musicians. We started out as a duo and then it turned into this big band and all that stuff.
Ray: Being in a band for so long, I would imagine it is almost like you guys have this kind of telepathy now, like who plays what and what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are and how you can layer something here or understate something here. I would imagine it is kind of like that now after so long.
Rachel: I guess I think that we have good chemistry with each other. I have specifically been told by other people that they really notice the electricity the band has together. So I guess you really have to when you’re writing music together and doing that kind of stuff.
Ray: You mentioned writing, when you guys write together. What is your process? Does someone just kind of write and bring something to band practice, or is someone kind of fiddling with something on the guitar and they have like a hook and they want to try to fit it in, or do you guys all do it together at one time? How does that work for you guys?
Chad: We’ve had a few different processes and I think it’s changed a little bit since we’ve started this latest album too. We are each writing a few different little snippets here and there and we’ll bring those to the band and then kind of develop those together. And then we’ve been writing our lyrics, brainstorming all the lyrics, brainstorm the topics, what the song is about and what it feels like. And then we’ll usually kinda go and do some freewriting and kinda write separately and then bring those together, like, “Oh, I was going in this direction,” or “What about this for the chorus?” So we kinda amalgamate those different ideas together so the song ends up being being like this fusion that is usually better than any one person’s writing.
Van: We go around the room and are like, “How does this song make you feel?”
Rachel: It’s like you’re paying for a therapist?
Ray: I would imagine that everyone has a say in how they want the song to be and how they want it to go. I would think that from a band standpoint that is important, so everyone feels like that for every song on the album they feel like their voices have been heard for each song. For the song “I Said It First,” I may be completely off but what I get from it, it almost sounds like it’s a relationship at a crossroads and you want to try to figure out where you want to go from there? Am I way off or is that about right?
Rachel: No, that’s about right.
Chad: The whole album is kind of about a relationship where we kinda discover the same story.
Rachel: I would say it was not intentional, but while we were, from the start of that album to when we released it, I have been in a long-term relationship, so all of the songs ended up being about certain situations in that relationship that I needed to kind of deal with those feelings I was feeling because I always express myself better through music. But you are right, that’s definitely what “I Said It First” is about, it’s about a crossroads in our relationship and dealing with the negativity and the worry and all the anxiety you get when you aren’t exactly sure how things are working out. That is what the song is about. You’re absolutely right.
Ray: It’s funny that you mention anxiety, Rachel, because I’m listening to it – was it Dallas or Chad on the guitar in that? Both of you?
Chad: Yeah, we were both playing on most of the songs. I was playing lead part on that one and Dallas was playing the rhythm.
Ray: I don’t know if you guys have ever heard of the band Explosions in the Sky or This Will Destroy You, they’re instrumental bands. They do a lot of guitar work that almost emotes anxiety or happiness or whatever is going on there. Whatever it is that you guys are playing in that part, I get a little anxious listening to it. There are some chords you hit in there that are super melancholy to me. It’s just within the guitars. I don’t know if it’s the tone or whatever you’re doing there, but it gives me this moment of anxiety, which I think I convinced myself is the point. Like what Rachel said, you get this anxiety because “where do we stand?” or “what are we doing?” or “How would you define our relationship” kind of thing?”
Chad: Thanks! Yeah, I think having that emotional reaction there is like the most that a song can hope for. Because the worst thing a song can do is have no impact.
Ray: The album itself, Ultraviolet. It is an EP. How many tracks are on there?
Ray: How long were you guys in the studio, hammering out the songs and mixing and stuff?
Sam: Six months. Four months of recording and then another two of polishing.
Chad: From when we wrote the first song to the release was six months, right?
Sam: Yeah, six or seven months.
Chad: We actually only spent two days in the studio. We just tracked the drums and then the vocals as well in two different sessions. And then we did the rest of the bass and guitars and all that just at home studios, at my studio and at Dallas’s as well. We just ended up mixing and producing all that in house, and I actually did all the mixing and producing on that.
Ray: The other two LPs you did, was it the same process? Just mix everything down at your home studio and everything?
Rachel: Our first album, Epic, that was all in the studio. And then Ghost was a mix, so it was home recorded so it was in different studios. And then Chad joined the band right after we released Ghost, so this is the only album we’ve specifically worked with Chad with his production and his studio, but we have always done a mix of some studio work, some work at home.
Ray: I noticed on your band Facebook page you all have a wide variety of musical influences, for example, Beyonce and Paramore. Tell me more about those influences as a female fronting a band.
Rachel: Part of that wide variety of influences is I’ve always been someone who really likes all different kinds of music. I’ve always found there are different techniques, different things that I enjoy about a lot of different artists and I kind of use all these little pieces and parts to create what I consider my sound. A lot of the stuff with Beyonce is a lot of the same stuff with Hayley Williams: I just really, really respect really powerful, in the moment, very talented, gifted singers that you can tell really work on their craft and really care about the way they sound, it’s not all just computer generated stuff. Both are just admirable, I think they’re both just really well-rounded entertainers and that’s why I’ve always really enjoyed them.
Ray: Chad, who would you say influenced you musically that kind of, this is what I want to do and this right here really hit me and this is what I want to do.
Chad: Yeah, I think my influences are probably the most disparate from the rest of the guys in the band. I have had to reconcile some of my favorite music, but I’d say some of my favorite artists are like Sufjan Stevens. So a lot of acoustic guitar, sort of soft spoken ballad, sorts of Indie folk are my influences. You can hear those in the guitars in there, but I think the work these guys have done to sort of reconcile that with a more intense, more hardcore sort of like vibe just has been pretty cool.
Van: Chili Peppers, a lot of Chili Peppers and grunge music and just really anything with intricate bass parts. I love Primus. I don’t know, man, I come from like a heavy metal/hard rock background, so it’s kind of weird to be playing stuff like this, but honestly I just love all kinds of music, so whatever I jam to, you know.
Rachel: Yeah, I think definitely your root is 90s grunge, but you obviously also really like hip-hop.
Van: I can play just about anything I feel like. If I can vibe to it and dance to it, then I like it. I can fit that vibe and that’s kinda what being a bass player is about, I think, is like learning that touch, being able to play that type of groove.
Ray: Someone like Les Claypool?
Van: He kind of set the standard for bass players.
Ray: And Flea, he doesn’t just stand in the corner like some bass players do.
Van: I definitely emulate [Flea] on stage.
Ray: How about you, Sam?
Sam: I’m kinda like Van. I grew up on a lot of harder rock, old stuff. Ozzy, AC/DC. As I got older, I branched more into modern rock. And then in the last year or two I’ve been really into like Indie stuff, really Indie stuff and a lot of modern pop music. My musical tastes have changed over the years.
Ray: With Ultraviolet, how would you describe it?
Rachel: Well, I usually tell people pop rock because we definitely do more dance-y pop influenced stuff, but at our core, I think all of us came in with some form of rock background, so there definitely is going to be that type of rock in there. Especially when we play live, our album is going to be a lot more pop (20:03), but our live shows are little more rocking, a little more jumping around, yelling with the crowd and that type of stuff. So I usually just say pop rock. I think that encompasses our different layers, because we really do kind of have a little mish mash of everything. But that usually boxes us in enough.
Ray: Do you deviate much from the album recording during your stage show?
Rachel: It kinda depends. Like, I say at first, we’re coming for ya, we basically play exactly how they are on recording. Obviously they are a little different because they don’t have all the keyboards and everything in there. But, for example, when we do “Burn it Bright” live, we have a whole drum solo that is not in the recording.
Sam: I’m very excited for that part. They told me, “Yeah, we’re gonna stick a drum solo in there.” And I was like, “Really?!”
Ray: You all stay really busy, gigging a ton, where do you find time for other things? What do you guys do? Is this the job, or do you have other careers?
Chad: I think just about everybody in the band has a day job.
Sam: I go to school, I work during the summer. I think we’re all very committed to this though.
Rachel: I think that we all have jobs right now as a necessity, but like right now the band is essentially, with the amount of time and money we get from it, is basically like a standard part-time job. So we just have our day jobs to supplement the rest of our income. The goal eventually is not necessarily to be famous but just to be able to tour and play stuff but that is going to be our only job. So we can let our whole lives go to music and that is what we focus on. It’s not that we’re not necessarily happy with our day jobs because I think we’d all like our jobs to stay. We all like music and that is definitely our passion, so that is more what we are geared toward.
Ray: If you go back in time or had the ability to just choose any band to play in, which one would it be?
Chad: That’s a good question! One of my friends, we were talking a while ago and he was saying, well what is your favorite band and what is your ideal band? Because those are two different things. My favorite band to listen to might not be the band that I’d love to play in. So, that’s a weird thing. I feel like a lot of my favorite influences now are actually the ones that are happening right now as opposed to a decade or two prior. Maybe like the Japanese House or Now Now? Those are two that are happening right now that I’d love to join in on.
Rachel: My top three would be No Doubt, Paramore, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers definitely. I love all their music. That and Journey, dude. I love Journey, dude!
Van: You know the band Morphine? I would basically go back and I would just be Mark Sandman. I would play bass and I would sing, and I would not do heroin like Mark Sandman (laughter). But I would not die like Mark Sandman did, so I would continue to play in that band forever and be so happy. The vibe they bring is like nothing else. I still listen to them like constantly.
Sam: Well, Shinedown is probably my favorite band, so definitely them. I’ve been to see them three or four times now in the last year. So definitely them. I have one of their lyrics tattooed on me.