Transfer first got on the radar of myself and many others as the opening act for Brandon Flowers, which you can read about HERE. I enjoyed the San Diego rock band very much, but I also a little embarrassed that such an amazing band had eluded me. Fronted by Matthew Molarius on guitar, Jason Cardenas, Shaun Cornell, Andy Ridley, and formed in 2006, the band has gone through many changes to get where they are right now: a tight-sounding rock n’ roll band.
If it wasn’t for a friend inviting me to that show, I would have missed out, and since that day I swore to redeem myself. I think I finally have. Below is my interview with Matt.
Kristina Villarini: What is your process for songwriting?
Matthew Molarius: It is collaborative, but it has changed over time. I know my role in the band, and I appreciate it. I come up with the lyrics and melodies. It used to be we would play a song live forever, then finally record it, which lent itself to some meandering song styles. The band has a studio, we come up with elements together. But I’m a fan of great structured songs and I love melodies.
KV: Do you prefer this style of collaboration versus the other?
MM: It’s always a joy to play music, but I think the shorter songs just sound better, and the outcome makes more sense. I sort of cringe when I’m listening to music and you’re waiting for the payoff, or you’re waiting for that long moment to pass. I enjoy this a lot more, but everyone has to find their own recipe.
KV: How do you write lyrics?
MM: It comes intermittently. I carry two journals with me, and I just always have them. When something inspires me, I always try to plug that thing in, and the journals help me capture those moments. So, the first journal is the idea book. I jot things down quickly as they come,usually in pieces. It probably looks like a jigsaw puzzle to anyone that isn’t me. The second one is the completed idea system. There’s no system, but it’s closer to finish concepts than the first book.
KV: What has this experience taught you?
MM: This whole thing has been an education, aside from the technical aspect, which are fundamental. All of us improve as a band, and we’re willing to learn from one another. I know how hard it is to write songs with stubborn people, and how hard it is to create anything with people who can’t get over themselves. I also learned to listen. It’s hard to accept that not every ideas may be perfect, but I’m in a band and we respect our collective vision.
KV: How do you approach the challenge of sharing your artistic vision with others within the band?
MM: The thought is that, we need to have the right people playing the songs. I mean, something is only prolific if people play their part, and you can’t force it. Now that we have all of the right pieces, it works.
KV: Let’s go back to creating art in a stubborn environment.
MM: Well, it’s possible but it’s not sustainable. A lot of bands that I know have one person who has all of the power and everyone else just deals because they hate conflict. It’s about finding a compromise, sort of like a marriage. To me, it’s like, I KNOW great art can come from that place, but you’re still an a–hole.
KV: How do you guys decide on your setlist?
MM: Well, we just try and take measure the night or the crowd. We do lean on our most uptempo songs, and play off of the kinetic energy. When we’re not the headliner or in our area, we want to make an impact on the crowd. It’s a struggle to keep people’s attention as an opener, so the slower, more intimate songs may not have a place. When we’re at home, we’re playing more obscure stuff, or throw in a cover or two. It really does set around the audience.
KV: What was performing like when you were starting out?
MM: We wanted to do what we wanted, and surprise, it didn’t work. Now I try to imagine what I would like to see from a band at a show, and craft something similar to that.
KV: How important is performance to Transfer?
MM: Oh, it’s the heart and soul of a band. I’d go even further and say, it’s the test of a true band in that moment, because there’s no hiding behind ‘studio magic.’ So the least you can do as a performer is… Everything. Just go out there and try, especially for people who actually paid money to come out and see you.
Early on, I would get blown away by those bands who would punish the audience. I just renounced them. If they didn’t get a vibe or thought the venue wasn’t packed enough, they’d half-ass it. It’s probably why I feel the way I do about the relationship with our audience. I want to show people that there are still people who care about this industry and don’t take it all for granted. I know that music affects people in different ways.
KV: What’s your favorite part of being in a band?
MM: There are so many: playing live, recording, traveling, writing. There are so many positive that feed the soul. It’s just everything. There are so many things that keep me hopelessly addicted to this. On the other hand, it’s not always awesome. It can be a tiring lifestyle, but I can appreciate the newness and freshness of it all. I have bad days like everyone else, sometimes I get stuck. But the good always outweighs the bad.
KV: Is there one moment that made you want to create art?
MM: I’ve always been so moved by music. I never sought out to be the lead singer of a rock band, though. I was just always around music. Jason and I used to play guitar in school, and I was just thrilled to be around it, playing in the same room. I guess it was a discovery. There were never major aspirations, it just happened. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
KV: What’s next for Transfer?
MM: We continue to receive a positive response wherever we go, and we’ve met so many great people. Our tour begins soon, starting with February 1st in London. We’re out with The Bravery, and we’re looking forward to playing, and when we return to the mainland, we’ll begin our residency With that opportunity, we’re going to stoke the fires. We believe in what we do as a band.
Transfer was named by Clash and Q Magazines as one of the “acts to watch in 2011.” Tickets are on sale now for their two-weeks out with The Bravery, and then the band will continue their European tour for a month with White Lies and Crocodiles before returning to the U.S.