How was the crowd over there?
It was good, I mean, in London I had a good crowd. But once I got out of London, it got a little bit…like when I went to a regional city like Sheffield or Nottingham, people don’t really know who the hell I am (laughs).
Was that your first time playing with School of Seven Bells?
That was the first time. It was kind of like a nice introduction, because we’re going to be touring for two months in the fall. We start Septemeber 9th and go all the way to the 22nd of October. It’s 40 plus dates, a solid month and a half of touring together.
What’s different about playing with School of Seven Bells versus Islands?
I think it’s cool because it’s the first tour where I feel like the other band and I have a lot more in common musically. I mean, it’s not like when you go to a show the bands have to be…complimentary, but sometimes to people that are fans of the headliner, if your music is somewhat similar, your music will be an easier sell. For shows I’ve played, I seemed to have a much bigger response as compared to playing with Islands, or the tour I did with White Rabbits. They’re both kind of like…more of a classic band structure with bass, guitar, and drums. I’m excited to see the response on this tour.
Tell me about the Curtis Lane EP. How do you come about creating a whole album by yourself?
I think it spawned from years and years of me just kind of tinkering away: messing around with recordings, recording my vocals, recording this and that, learning how I can maniupulate myself and programs and what sounded interesting to me. It eventually got to a point where I was actually finishing songs instead of just starting them…I have so much shit that’s just like a minute and a half of nonsense. I was finally tying things together and feeling like I was actually having a finished product, and it just kind of went from there. It’s just been a mixture of organic sounds and then me creating a bunch of instrumentals and just singing over it, seeing what happens.
When you’re trying to promote yourself, is it harder with a one-person band versus a traditional band structure?
Oh, it is for sure. There’s pros and cons to it: as far as a live setting, from some people you get a little more respect for doing it all on your own, but then some people who might be a little more musically-inclined might see it as ‘Oh, well they’re not doing a whole lot, they’re not creating this full live sound’.
How do you bridge that gap? Your demeanor onstage? Your singing? How do you reach those people?
I think a large part of it is my voice. I try to really put it out there every night, there’s no way around it. You can’t get onstage and not be into it. If you’re not into it, no one else is going to be comfortable. If the crowd is feeling awkward, everyone is awkaward. It’s a very shared energy at a show: sometimes you’re at a show and you don’t know what to do, there’s this sense of anxiety if the person onstage looks uncomfortable.
I’m still learning. But I feel like with every show, I get a little bit more confident and expressive, and try to forget about ‘looking cool’ or whatever. You just get into your head, and just feel it.
How do you know where you’re going as far as branding yourself as Active Child?
It’s all stuff I’m learning as I go. Initially, I knew I wanted to make cool music; now it’s kind of become this pseudo-business where you have to create this image for yourself, the band, you have to design merchandise. I wasn’t really planning on this, but now I want it to be reality so, I just try to be true to what I think is interesting, what catches my eye: things I would want to listen to, things that I would want to wear. It’s very personalized, not like a big band just choosing random merch to sell.
What struck me about your album that’s really different is that there’s a sense of reverance and reflection uncommon in popular music. As you mentioned on your website, you play music ‘that would not be out of place amongst the richly colored sunlight of a church’s stained-glass interior.’
No, I think you’ve definitely tapped into exactly what gets me excited to make music: that sense of looking back, reflection; in a sense, looking back but into the future but at the same time. Not regretful or anything like that, but it’s a kind of sentiment that I always enjoy in music: something about whatever the songwriter experienced, things that happened to them. It pulls up images and memories about your own experiences, and the overall vibe is nostalgic. So much of our day is like…you watch your DVR-recorded show and you fast-forward through the commercials, then you get on the internet and have five different windows open. So much of our lives is so compact, it’s nice to be able to have something slow, to soak it in and just sit back for a minute and just think about a memory. It’s enjoyable.
Your song ‘Wilderness’ was recently featured on NPR’s Song of the Day. How did that happen?
I had no idea until my mom told me.. She has a Google alert telling her when my name pops up anywhere online. They pick a song everyday and I hadn’t heard anything about it until my mom told me. I was like ‘Great, that’s amazing!’ They didn’t reach out to me or my publicist or anything. I know they’ve played it on the station before when I played South by Southwest in Austin.
How was South by Southwest?
It was cool. I’d only played a couple of shows before then, so I doubled my live show experience just by being there.
How does a new audience differ from an audience that’s familiar with your music?
It’s strange, because you never really know. You can watch the audience while you’re playing and not really see a reaction. You never really know what’s going on in their brains; as an opening band the crowd goes with the assumption that it’s going to be mediocre. Some people’s ears perk up. I’m excited about becoming a headliner, but I’m also happy to be in an opening spot. You know, being the underdog for a little bit, and knowing you can show up and give them something new.
If I’ve had a good show, some people will come up and say ‘You made my night’ or whatever, that’s what I’s all about for me. Even if they don’t buy anything, if they come up and say thanks. You can play a show for 500 people and only one person will have the balls to come up to you. But I mean, I’ve been to shows where I’ve had a great time and I don’t always go up to the artists.
Why is that? Why are audiences so apprehensive about broaching that artist/audience barrier?
I don’t know. I feel like I do it more now. Like ‘Oh yeah, I play shows’ you know (laughs). There’s a little bit of camaraderie, just being in the band world. Before, I was like ‘Oh, they don’t want to be bothered with some dude coming up and saying “That was great”’. But ninety-nine times out of a hundred, that musician would love to hear that positive feedback, and I take that to heart.
What do you think the best tool is for small bands to get the word out about their music? Is it solely Facebook and online networking ? Or is it still just as effective to spread the word person-to-person?
Right now? Play shows. Definitely keep your social networking sites on point and updated. If you can get blog love, that’s the crux of the wholle thing. If you can get the big blogs picking up your songs and remixes, tour dates, Without that, you’re kind of lost. If you don’t have the hip names giving you respect for what you’re doing, no one wants to give you the time of day. Which is bullshit. It sucks, because there’s so much good music out there that doesn’t get that push from Pitchfork or whatever it happens to be, they don’t get that check mark, you know? And so, if you can get all of those things going for you, then you’re onto something.
For more information on Active Child’s music and upcoming tour, visit: http://activechildmusic.com/