Chicago – San Francisco indie rock band Finish Ticket had a pretty great 2015. The five-piece released the EP When Night Becomes Day and hit the road with Twenty One Pilots, for two months, on the sold-out Blurryface Tour. 2016 is set to be just as amazing for the members of Finish Ticket. Vocalist Brendan Hoye, bassist Michael Hoye, guitarist Alex DiDonato, drummer Gabe Stein, and keyboardist Nick Stein will team up with Fueled By Ramen recording group Vinyl Theatre for a major co-headlining U.S. tour, presented by Live Nation’s Ones To Watch. Finish Ticket began as the brainchild of twin brothers Brendan and Michael Hoye. They started the band with their friend Alex DiDonato, while all three were still in high school. Twins Gabe and Nick Stein later joined the band. After self-releasing two EPs and a full-length, the twenty-somethings caught the attention of Elektra Records. Elektra signed Finish Ticket and re-released their debut Tears You Apart. These boys from The Bay quickly built a strong fan base, which only intensified after their time on the road with Twenty One Pilots.
In anticipation of Finish Ticket’s co-headlining tour with Vinyl Theatre, Best New Bands caught up with Brendan Hoye, while on a break from touring, to discuss the band’s latest EP When Night Becomes Day, the changing music scene in San Francisco, and touring with Twenty One Pilots.
You released the EP When Night Becomes Day last year, so I assume you’ve been working on an LP. Is this the case?
Yeah, before we even made the EP, we started with an LP in mind. We were planning on doing a full-length, and then at some point we were interested in an EP to focus on a few songs…so the goal definitely is to make a full-length…Since we got back from tour, we’ve been writing whenever we can.
Did you get any writing done while on the road, or has it mainly been while you were on break?
Yeah, we got some done this last tour. We started trying to do Garage Band demos ourselves, with apps on our phones. When you’re traveling with a band, it gets really difficult to write on the road. There’s not really space to always run off on your own and write. It’s something that we’ve struggled with a bit, just because we’ve been touring so much the last two years. Before that, writing was easy… Writing is definitely a habit. Once you get into the flow of it, it really becomes a habit… That’s why we’ve really been taking advantage of our time off.
Let’s discuss When Night Becomes Day. I read that you felt a lot of pressure recording this EP since there were eyes on you and expectations were high. Do you feel that pressure came across in the music? And looking back, do you feel perhaps you were too hard on yourself?
I think we were definitely hard on ourselves. This was the first record we made that we really second guessed everything, every step of the way. Before that, we were just making music and there wasn’t as much pressure… And there were so many more people involved…Before that, it was really just the band and our manager. Now we’re working with a lot more people… But I think that was a learning experience for us, and now we’re really prepared. It’s something that I think every band, when you get further in your career, you have to open yourself up to more people in general, to people who want to be part of your team… yeah, I think some of the songs maybe would have been a little different if we hadn’t been so unsure of ourselves. But at the same time, it benefited us being unsure of ourselves because we ended up changing things around.
Perhaps you were getting out of your comfort zone?
Yeah, trying different chords and vocals. We tried things that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
Speaking of working with new people, your EP was mixed by Mark Needham, who has worked with The Killers. Seeing as you guys are fans of The Killers, I bet this collaboration was pretty major for you!
Mark Needham’s work with The Killers is so awesome! We had known about his involvement. His hand in the record was mixing, with us, but with The Killers, it was more hands on. But being in the studio, working with him, we asked him so many questions about The Killers. [laughs] He’s a really awesome guy, too! It was perfect because since he worked with The Killers, during the mixing process, if he’d asked us, if he was struggling with a part, he ask us if anything was missing, and we’d reference Killers’ songs. [laughs] He’d know exactly what we were thinking!
This EP was inspired by transitioning into adulthood. “Wrong” is perhaps the best example of this theme. My favorite line is, “there’s a youthful bliss that I often miss and it haunts my memory.” Tell me about the writing of these lyrics.
That song is the reason the EP has that theme. There are other themes, in some of the other songs, but in the previous work on our last record, a lot of it was coming into adulthood, deciding to leave college to pursue music, and other things concerning where we were in life. That carried over into this record, but the difference is, in the first one, we were unsure of what we were doing with ourselves. We didn’t know if we’d be pursuing music at all, and at this point now, we are pursuing music as a career; we have a record deal. But we never feel sure of anything, still. [laughs] There’s this feeling of realizing you have expectations in your life, and you thought if you reach certain goals, you’ll have certain feelings. Then you get there, and you still feel the same. It’s about being unrealistic. The song started with, I forget what was going on, but I was not having a very good day. I thought back to a time when I was eight or even younger, and I remember thinking, “I don’t want to be a kid anymore. I want to be an adult. I want to be independent and have my life.” Back then, I was sick of adults telling me what to do all the time; just typical kid stuff. That’s where my head was at when I was younger. Then I had this thought recently, that that’s crazy I would ever think that, especially now that I am of age. It’s just so much harder. There’s so much weight behind the decisions we make and everything we’re doing. It goes for anyone, of this age, just figuring it all out. The decisions you make can effect your whole life. When you’re a little kid, it’s a lot less stressful, and you take stuff for granted. The song came from thinking I really took that for granted when I was younger and the thought of how much simpler it was, compared to now, and just how wrong my view of how my life would be when I was older. [laughs]
In November you put out the music video for “Color.” It shows off your beautiful city of San Fransisco. San Fran has been in the news lately as more and more artists and working-class families are being pushed out of the city due to rising rents mainly caused by the tech boom. Have you noticed changes in the musical community in San Fransisco? What are your thoughts on the economic changes your city is experiencing?
I’m not the best person to ask because we’ve been touring so much. I’ve barely been home to experience the music scene here, but I do remember back before we were touring a lot, the music scene was changing, with what we would call “Mission bands.” I don’t mean to trash talk anybody, but we noticed this type of band that would pop up. Before the music scene in San Francisco was insane. We’re from Alameda, California. We’re right outside San Francisco, just across the bridge basically. It’s a suburb. That’s where we grew up. We knew of all these bands, through our friends from high school and middle school. They were from San Francisco and Oakland. There was this thriving music scene, and that’s how we got our start; we were inspired by these bands. When we started playing shows, we knew we had to be at a certain level, and we had to prove ourselves. It was a really cool thing to be a part of. The quality of music coming out of the Bay Area at the time, it’s not something you’re going to get in every music scene. These were all bands, well a lot of them came from nothing; music was all they had, and it really showed in their music. It was a cool thing to witness. We started playing in the music scene towards the end of that, but then we would see a change in who was playing around. There were all these new bands. People were moving into San Francisco, and they had all these different sounds. They were called “Mission bands” because of the Mission District that was heavily impacted by people moving in… The music being played was just really different than what had been being played in the Bay Area. We definitely noticed a difference in the music that was being played when we were younger till now.
I especially love the song “Never Alone.” What inspired it?
Thank you! That was [written] in my first year in college. Well, that was my only year because we all left to pursue music. We decided that was probably our best shot at it. We decided we should take off, right then, otherwise we’d probably never get to it. So, I started working on something, just a rough idea. Then someone asked me to perform for an anti-bullying campaign. Since I had this beat I was working on, I just wrote the lyrics about someone who needed help, who was being bullied… we had played it a few times at shows, and the crowds responded to it. So we decided to put it on the EP.
You recently toured with Twenty One Pilots, as did your soon-to-be tourmates Vinyl Theatre. What did you learn from touring with Tyler and Josh? Do you think you’ll find yourself bonding with the guys of VT because of this?
We learned a lot from Twenty One Pilots! Especially how to be a great touring band and how to treat people on tour. We always wanted to go on tour and be a family on the road. If you’re going to be out on the road all the time, you want to feel like everyone is getting along. We’ve definitely been on tours where it doesn’t feel like that; you’re not looking out for each other. One thing we loved about Twenty One Pilots was how kind they were to us. They really went out of their way to make us comfortable. They even had some of their guys do our lights. A lot of opening bands in that situation wouldn’t even get a real light show. They were just so cool because they’ve been there. They’d been pushed around [on] their early days of touring. They know what it’s like, so seeing that they cared, even once they’d gotten to a higher level. I’m sure Vinyl Theatre got to see the same thing. I think we’re both going to take that with us, even more.
Finish Ticket and Vinyl Theatre are co-headlining Live Nation’s “Ones To Watch” tour. Click HERE for a list of tour dates. When Night Becomes Day is available for purchase on iTunes.
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.