Sunday, August 17, 2014

Exclusive! SPEAK Intv!

This summer Austin's favorite synth-pop stars SPEAK returned with their second record, Pedals. The album packs an array of influences that range from 80's New Wave to the neo-New Wave movement that captured the early naughties. With enough fun and energy that can get any room of people dancing and moving. We spoke to drummer Jake Stewart about the band's latest record, touring, and what exactly the title of their record means. Take a look at our interview below:

With just one album and a couple EP’s under your belt, you are set to release your sophomore album and things seem to be picking up more for your band. How do you respond to the buzz?

The attention is encouraging, but we try not to make too much of it. With hype come expectations, so our main goal is to put out something that we feel proud of and hope it resonates with people. So far the response has been very positive and we're incredibly thankful!

What did you do differently on Pedals that you have not done before?

We've done some self-production before, but we made Pedals entirely on our own. The writing, recording, production, mixing, mastering, and design of the album is all ours. This meant we had a lot of learning to do along the way - which took us many, many months and lots of searching and frustration. But the end result being a product of the four of us exclusively is very rewarding. This is not to say that we disdain external help - instead, this process allowed us to craft the album to our exact taste and spend as much time as we needed. (And for free, too!)

What does the title Pedals signify?

I'm so glad someone finally asked this question! We take the title not from a physical pedal (piano, etc.), but from a musical pedal tone - which is a sustained or repeated tone that is played while other harmonic elements change around it. Essentially it serves as a grounding point for the music and allows it to explore new ground without being too alien. For me, a pedal is emblematic of our goal for the album - to stay true to our vision and have faith, even while there's chaos swirling about. There's also a pedal on every song on the record (or nearly all), so it's kind of a hint at a concept musically as well.

Hailing from Austin, how has the city influenced your work?

I know we've all benefited from growing up in such a strong community of musicians - our parents, friends, and neighbors. Not only have we drawn inspiration directly from the music coming out of Austin through bands like Spoon and Ghostland Observatory, but the culture of music here is so rich that it's impossible not to feel its influence daily. Austin also attracts a lot of amazing touring bands, especially with SXSW and ACL, which has given us the opportunity to see so many of our heroes over the years.

Austin has embraced you so much, how do you hope to get other cities around the country to do the same?

For us, the Internet is an invaluable way to stay connected with people outside our hometown. Twitter, Instagram, and SoundCloud all make it so that people anywhere in the world have just as much access to us and our music as someone from Austin. We've also done a lot of touring, including residencies in New York and Los Angeles, and that's allowed us to get to know people in many places around the country.

What is it about Austin that makes it such a creative hotbed for music?

There's obviously a really strong musical lineage here, from Stevie to Janis to Willie. Aside from the history, though, I think it's a combination of interest and opportunity. Interest, because there are so many great events here that draw attention to music (SXSW, ACL, Fun Fun Fun, the list goes on) - and there's an incredibly receptive audience here, with the University of Texas and strong music programs in Austin primary schools. The opportunity comes from all the fantastic live music venues here in town and the tremendous support Austin provides to musicians. There's even a community-sponsored health insurance plan for musicians (HAAM). This means that there are a lot of people who want to make music and a lot of chances for them to express their passion here.

The band’s sound has a new wave feel to it, who are some of your influences?

Talking Heads would definitely be in there; our name is partially an homage to them. Otherwise, it's really diverse. We draw from different backgrounds as individuals, though there are common threads (starting with The Beatles, of course). I'd also list Prince, Radiohead, Kanye, Wilco, Cut Copy, Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel .. We try to draw from a variety of sources - whatever appeals to us.

SPEAK came from the ashes of Jupiter 4, since a majority of the members in SPEAK came from that band, do you cover your old material once in a while?

There's one song - "Too Afraid" - from our Jupiter-4 days that we'll sometimes dust off for a live show. A lot of the songs on our first record actually originated from the Jupiter-4 days, so Pedals is probably our first pure SPEAK record.

Your live shows have gained you so much acclaim due to the amount of energy and joy you exert on stage. As soon as your set is done, how do you decompress?

Usually it's hard right after the set! People are going to sell merch, pack up, load out, etc. - it's really hectic. If there are other people on the bill, we like to watch them and learn from what they're doing. If we're on tour we'll sneak a few beers into the hotel and watch some late night TV .. Bad movies and conspiracy shows are our favorites (the worse, the better).

When hitting the road, what are the things you have to take with you that you cannot live without?

Our CD binder. The van doesn't have an auxiliary input, so we listen exclusively to CDs on the road. Earplugs and sleep masks, because it's noisy and bright when you're staying with friends and sleeping in (or at least attempting to). We also have a Furby and a couple other good luck charms on our dashboard!

How much fun are you having being in this band?

All the fun we can get! Even when we're working, it's usually a good time - and when it's not, we have a laugh about it afterward.

Where does SPEAK go from here?

Back on the road, to tour the record. Then, become best friends with Kimbra and Stephen Colbert. After that, we'll see.