How would you describe your sound to someone that has never heard of you before?
Mike McKeever: I would describe our sound as fast and restless power pop with layered vocal harmonies, wirey cello, and driving guitars and drums.
Will Ewing: We started out with the phrase ?orchestral pop,? using classical instruments to play rock music. We?ve picked up more of a guitar-centric sound, but those two words still represent what we?re going for.
Who are your influences?
MM: We are really influenced by The Beach Boys (Pet Sounds in particular), early Weezer (Blue Album mostly), Nirvana and My Bloody Valentine. Our writing is also influenced by the ways melodies build off each other in classical music.
How did the band get together and decide on the style of music you would be playing?
MM: We started playing together in 2008 at college. The group started out as a mini-orchestra that played at frat basements, secret societies, and local dives. We eventually slimmed down to a leaner trio with guitar, cello, and drums, which we like because it is cleaner and more focused. In terms of our style, we are all very interested in putting together tightly constructed pop songs with clear melodies and sections. We dig how Brian Wilson managed to fit so many memorable lines into 2 or 3 minutes of music.
Due to the fact that you have a cellist in the band, do people automatically assume you are heavily inspired by bands like Arcade Fire or Airborne Toxic Event? Just because there happens to be a string instrument in the group?
MM: We think that people make those comparisons because strings are popular in indie rock right now. But I think that we have our own vibe in terms of how we use the instrument. Instead of using the cello as an orchestral flourish layered on top of a rhythm section, we put the instrument in the foreground and use it for grimy bass lines that hold the songs together and for lead lines that would be more commonly be played on a guitar or synth. Also, Robert blasts his electric cello through a bass amp with effects so the tone gets pretty grungy.
Robert Karpay: Some people say that, I guess. I've gotten Arcade Fire and a few times Apocalyptica. Honestly, I'm just trying to play bass...but on the cello. Gotta have my power chords.
Are you inspired by those acts?
WE: For sure. It's really cool to see a band like Arcade Fire rise to number 1 on the mainstream charts while still making such musically ambitious material.
MM: Funeral is an album I keep coming back to, the lyrics really tie in to the music in a viscerally direct but well-crafted way.
Coming from Columbia University like a little band called Vampire Weekend, is there automatically pressure to try and live up to be the next big band from Columbia? Or is there no pressure at all and you just want to do your own thing?
WE: Definitely. I think any band coming out of Columbia in the next ten years will be in their shadow. Mike and I saw them play at our freshman orientation, just before their first album was released. When I came home for winter break three months later, they were as well known as a band like Green Day. Their career trajectory has been insane, and that's intimidating for sure. But I also think that there are a lot of bands doing really well right now that have Columbia alums, even though that?s overlooked and they're not thought of as "Columbia bands." Take the National, Animal Collective, The Walkmen, etc. It's great what Vampire Weekend has done, but we're trying to carve out our own place.
RK: Well since I don't even really go to Columbia...I don't care. I just like playing the music. If there were any pressure to live up to any Columbia band...it'd be to live up to that dude from Ava Luna. I hear he went to Columbia and I can't stop listening to their EP. Sooo sick.
You have developed a kinship with fellow NYC band The Twees. How did this come about?
MM: Through the usual way, we played a show together. We were blown away by how clean and professional their live set was. Since then, we?ve been collaborating on more shows. Besides respecting them musically, they are cool guys and we?ve been hanging out with Jason (their singer) this summer.
Even though you and The Twees are fighting for attention of fans and followers, do you feel it is necessary to develop musical friendships like this when starting out?
WE: Yeah, it's pretty essential. We play a lot of shows and we go to a lot of shows, and it makes you realize the blessing and the curse of the New York scene, which is that there are sooo many bands. Developing relationships with other bands allows everybody involved to build their audience and feel connected in a scene that is otherwise too big to grasp.
MM: It's definitely more collaboration than competition.
Your live shows have gained you much attention, what is that feeling like going on stage and doing what you love?
MM: The feeling of connecting with the audience has driven us to amplify the intensity of our playing, which sometimes means giving up technical precision for energy. Live, we try to break down the division between lead singer and audience by having all three of us sing parts that would normally be solo vocals.
RK: What I think before we are about to play: "Man, I hope we get a drink special or something."
BURNING QUESTION: Do you feel it is possible to draw up a life size map?
WE: Google’s working on it.
WE: Google’s working on it.