CG: Where are you from? How did the band come together?
BD: I moved from Rhode Island to California about 4 years ago. I’ve known the guys since mid 2008 when I moved next door to Brent. Things weren’t working out with my new roommate so I was looking for a new place. At the same time, thatwasthen’s former bassist (who lived with Brent) was moving on to another project, so I jumped on the opportunity to move into the newly vacant room. As Brent and I were moving my belongings from next door, he asked me “Hey, what’s in the case?”. I told him that it was my bass. The signs were all there, and here we are today.
BS: We all basically grew up and went to school in South Orange County, near Dana Point. Most of us met in school and have known each other half our lives. The only one who isn’t a California native is Benny, who came out here about 4 years ago and happened to be the bass-playing neighbor of a currently bass-less band. Things always seem to be falling perfectly into place with thatwasthen.
CB: Nick and I have been close friends since 7th grade when we formed our first band Switch. We were in that band all through middle school and high school. Playing together in this band is where I found my passion for music. When we graduated high school Nick went to UCLA and our lead singer went off to the Marines. Because two of the four of us were no longer together, we disbanded. After a year or so of not playing music, I got a call from Nick asking if I wanted to come up to LA that night to jam with his new band thatwasthen. By that point I had seen them twice in concert and really dug their sound. I jumped at the opportunity and have been playing with them ever since
CG: Who are some of your biggest musical influences? Any influences besides music—people, art, literature, film, etc?
BD: I’ve always admired John Paul Jones (of Led Zeppelin and Them Crooked Vultures) for his god-like bass skills. Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) for fighting the good fight. Steven Pederson (of White Octave) for writing songs from the heart and not being afraid to sing them. Squarepusher for melting my brain for two years straight. Tony Maserati, for showing me what a professional studio looks like. Jamie Locke, for teaching me the importance of sound science, and consequently almost everything I know about audio.
BS: I’ve always been more inspired by writers and painters than musicians. I appreciate all things art but when I write music I think of poets like Bukowski and Keats. I feel like most of my ideas and feelings come from reflections on another’s’ art. It seems only fitting to acknowledge what it is you have consumed as being part of what you currently are creating.
CB: Jeff Buckley for the passion he brought to his music and his performances. He had an amazing voice and wrote amazing music. Also, he was the best cover artists ever in my opinion. I have never seen a person be able to take another person’s song and completely own it and make it his. Listen to Hallelujah off of his only album Grace and you will see what I mean. John Bonham and Steve Jordan (studio great who has played with pretty much everyone) are two of my main drumming influences. I’m more interested in musical drummers who can lay down fat grooves that take control of you and make you move than drummers who can play 16th notes at 200 beats per minute with their double bass.
NP: Of course each of us has their influences, be it Chris’ idolization of John Bonham and Steve Jordan or his kinship with Jeff Buckley, or Benny’s more modern influences like Squarepusher, Trent Reznor and Steven Pederson from White Octave. But it seems like most of us can agree that the cats in old rock n’ roll bands like Brian May and John Paul Jones are the common thread. We all know where we come from and where we want to go.
CG: Did growing up where you did influence your music at all?
BD: I used to go to shows all the time in Providence. There really isn’t much else to do in Providence besides going see 6 bands you’ve never heard of in an abandoned building or an art-space for $5. Many were donation only, no charge. I mean, it’s hard to justify charging people to stand in a building that might collapse from the sound pressure alone. The music being made there at the time was very loud, noise-driven amalgamations of punk, hardcore, indie rock, experimental and folk. [The bands] Lightning Bolt, TinyHawks and The White Mice were some of my favorites. One thing I loved was that there were no stages. The bands played eye to eye with the crowd, standing about a foot away.
NL: Living in south Orange County in the 90s was like a parade of bands being sucked out into the world to be discovered. It’s sickening how many bands came out of OC during that time. We only hope it’s not a detriment to our future, as many people attach a stigma to whatever “scene” there may be left in Orange County. It’s unavoidable and inevitable that you are a product of your surroundings. C’est la vie.
CG: What bands do you think you sound like, if any?
BS: I think we’re all very open to the idea of being compared to bands with big virtuosic musical compositions like Queen and Led Zeppelin. We’ve been compared to those bands before, and many others like Incubus and Foo Fighters. One time someone said we sounded like Barenaked Ladies [laughs]... I almost punched him. I think he was referring to our love of three part harmonies, but it still came off wrong. We’re cool with sounding like all the bands people compare us to... there’s no end-game with our sound. We’ll find our niche.
BD: I’m cool with Brent’s response.
CG: What do you think you would be doing right now if you weren’t a musician? What did you want to be when you were a kid?
BD: I’d be working in an office either fixing computers or developing websites. I didn’t figure out what I wanted to do until years after playing music and submersing myself in the world of technology. With the emergence of digital audio and affordable home recording, I could finally tie together my two passions: music and computers. I decided to pursue a degree in video and audio production.
BS: I’d be in a gutter, but probably still playing a guitar. When I was a kid I wanted to be a film director, so... it’s not too late for that.
CB: I would still be going to school and working to get a degree. I could see myself opening a brewpub or a sports bar here in Orange County. I love everything about beer; the history, the importance of it
CG: You guys are pretty young, ya? Do you ever feel pressure to achieve greatness by a certain age? Do you ever feel intimidated by older experienced bands you play with or competitive with other young bands?
BD: I’m 25. If I can play music for the rest of my life, put food on the table, and have a roof over my head, then I believe I will have achieved greatness. We are old souls. I think part of the reason why we all love classic rock is because we are all fortunate to come from loving families. Our parents, our hero’s music simply rubbed off.
BS: I’m 28, Nate and Benny are 25 and Nicky and Chris are 21. So I guess we’re pretty young. I could say with confidence that I’ve definitely had a little anxiety about achieving certain things at a certain age, but who doesn’t. As for feeling intimidated by older bands... not a chance. We know we can learn from them, but this isn’t a competition. Every band has their own path and if part of that is creating some weird invisible competition between their band and others’ then I think they’re focusing on the wrong thing.
CG: What has been a personal high and a personal low about your musical career so far? Any particular moments of awesomeness or embarrassing blunders?
BD: [Winning Best Band at] Pauley Pavillion at UCLA Spring Sing 2010 = Awesome
BS: Personal high is definitely making this album with the 4 other guys. I feel like I’ve learned so much and grown so much over the last few months as we produced this album from two live sessions. There are always lows, but we learn from those and try to grow.
CG: So what’s the story behind your band name, thatwasthen?
BD: Brent, you should probably just field this one.
BS: thatwasthen has so many meanings, and it continues to grow as we grow as a band, but initially it was meant as a pointed finger to the deliberate choice one must make in order to advance themselves. You’re inevitably going to face adversity in life, but growing and learning from these trials is a choice. thatwasthen means you can look back and smile as your timeline extends throughout your lifetime, and that is why it is one word... like a timeline that never ends.
NP: Also, like a URL!
CG: What is next for the band? I know there’s a new album coming out, so are you planning any tours? Any collaborations or side projects? As for the new sound, did you stick to your sound now or did you experiment/take a new route at all? If you did, do you think your fans will dig it?
BD: We recorded the new album live at Uncle Studios with Scott Walton. Scott and Andrew [McMahon, of Jack's Mannequin and Something Corporate] were on keys. The new sound is reminiscent of late 60’s, early 70’s Rock and Roll. The feedback from our initial listening sessions and private pre-release have been great. We’re excited to see what people think.
BS: We plan to tell the industry about our project for the very first time (we have been playing/practicing/writing/growing for the last 2 years together) and we also have a small stint of shows up and down the California coast for this Winter and Spring. Always looking forward!
Having seen these guys perform live twice, I am anxious to check out the new album and, at some point, see them leave it all on the stage yet again. Their new album is out in January, so be sure to take a listen.
Beyond that, make an effort to see them live. Let’s face it—there’s no denying that you were head-banging along with them during this video. And head-banging alone in your apartment (…guilty) is not nearly as cool as head-banging along with a hundred other sweaty, enslaved-by-the-groove fans. Promise.