To be a band coming from Brooklyn these days is like a band that was trying to make it out of Seattle in the late 80's and early 90's. It is a tough endeavor, however, it can be done but the road is a winding and narrow path. For Brooklyn's A Million Years the road has been long, yet they are driving fast and building a report that just saw them sell out two nights at Lower East Side's Mercury Lounge back to back. The band's constant gigging and raucous live shows have gained them much attention in the city and beyond. The band's debut, Mischief Maker was released last summer to stellar reviews and as they get noticed and work as hard as they can, it may feel like a million years for them to get to where they want to be but it will take much shorter time span for a band of this caliber. I had the opportunity to speak with vocalist and guitarist Keith Madden about the groups origins, style and praise. Take a look at my interview with Keith below.
You formed in 2007 and have gone through various line-up changes, is this the final line-up of A Million Years?
I can say with 100% certainty that the band lineup has never felt more complete. We are a well oiled machine.
You are inspired by the work of Radiohead, Spoon and Wilco – yet you take that inspiration and make it your own. Are you conscious of just using those bands as influence and not taking their sound and style?
Absolutely. When we're starting the process of writing songs we just sort of go with it and anything you do naturally like that is going to take on qualities of whatever songs or records are bouncing around in your head. The bands and records we love become points of reference. Like a language that we communicate ideas with. Most of the time we're totally conscious of the decisions we're making. But as each band member has their own individual take on that language sometimes its what gets lost in translation that ends up forming a song. And that's more fun anyway.
I have been covering bands in New York for years, but the Lower East Side has not taken to a band like this since CBGB’s Hayday. How do you feel about the love you are getting in New York?
It feels good. We care about this a lot and we put in a lot of work so it's reassuring to see that it gets noticed.
How is the vibe outside of the city, when you are playing to faces who have no idea who you are?
Touring can be tricky. Play to a packed room one night, and then play to a room of 5 people the next night. It varies but we are always getting better at making the most of any situation.
Being a new band from New York City, do you feel like you have to uphold some sort of rep and attitude or does the location you come from not even matter?
While I can't deny that the city has had an influence on the way I write songs, I don't think about it much. We used to think we'd need to tell people we're a native Brooklyn band but there doesn't seem to be any point to that any more. I'd rather they just listen to our records and make their decisions about us that way than worry about how we figure into some NYC rock and roll mythology.
You released your debut Mischief Maker last year and it received stellar reviews (from us at least), now that the album has been out for a year, have things changed in the band?
Having the record has made it a lot easier to communicate to people what it is we do and how we sound. Touring has been far more successful because we can actually put something in people's hands when the shows are over. Also we were able to score some gigs opening for Phoenix and 30 Seconds to Mars on the strength of it and we're still reaping benefits from those great opportunities.
How long will fans have to wait for a follow up?
Not long hopefully. We're always writing songs so we're going to take them all as far as they go before we make the decision to record again. Being an independent band in our position allows us freedom to decide that our next release might just be a string of singles, or EPs, instead of another full length. So maybe soon. Maybe not.
You have shared the stages with so many great bands, how do you feel about now being in the league of these acts?
Everyone has treated us with total respect so we feel lucky. And grateful.
Who has been your favorite person to play and tour with?
We did a stretch of dates with Jesse Malin and the St. Mark's Social in the UK. That was a blast. They were great to us and helped make our first overseas adventure memorable.
What do you learn from the bands that you are opening for? Do they bestow any wisdom down to you?
The recurring theme seems to be that no matter what level of success you are at, you need to be working harder and harder at being a better band. Also, the dressing rooms get bigger. That's nice.
Who would you like to play with next?
We are friends with bands in NYC that we haven't been able to coordinate gigs with yet. Bands like Wojcik, Year of the Tiger, Field Mouse, Whale Belly. The list goes on. So it'd be really good to do that this year. One big show with all of us playing. And LCD Soundsystem coming out of retirement to headline it.
The energy and vibe fans take from you doing your live shows is pretty incredible. I have seen you guys work a room. Do you go in each show with the same energy or does the crowd feed it?
We try to perform the same way every time. So if we're at 100% then the crowd's energy is what takes the gigs into transcendent territory. It's a great feeling when it happens.
A Million Years is a pretty unique name for a band, who came up with it and how did it stick?
The long answer is that I wanted a band name that had a classic kind of sound to it. So that one day some day a 15 year old kid would be scanning Allmusic.com like I used to and find out that his favorite band was influenced by a band called A Million Years. I was dreaming big. The short answer is that it was the last name on a long list of names that nobody hated. But then it sort of made sense to continue using it when getting the first incarnations of the band took forever to get together...