ABL’s View on Touring, The Rock Business and Other Tarable Things…
I recently sat down with the five very talented and easily distracted members of A Brilliant Lie. We chilled on the patio of Copper Rocket in Maitland and had a thorough, captivating and rambling discussion. It’s far too much info for one interview, so I’ll break this into two or three hopefully entertaining chunks.
Today, it’s some deep insight into what it takes to make it in today’s rock scene and the band’s always entertaining live shows. These five are uber-friendly, funny as hell and supremely passionate about what they do.
Next week I’ll have a fun peek into some random tidbits from the session that give you a bit of insight into the music of ABL but even more so, a deep look into the wicked, unpredictable sense of humor these five so easily flash, before wrapping with the rest of the interview, a look at their recording process and the Threads EP series.
Cretin: You’re opening for Our Lady Peace in a few days and then close your tour with Matt & Kim. Does either band hold any special meaning to any of you?
Chris: For me it does. I’ve always liked Our Lady Peace and they’ve always been a big influence for me. They’re one of the first concerts I vividly remember seeing when I was a little punk kid. They immediately drew me in. They were a little off the beaten path and they weren’t doing what everyone else was in the 90s.
Matt: They stepped out of what was the common thing at the time. I found them on my high school radio station. I listened to it and thought ‘this is cool,’ and then they blew up on the next album. It was different, too. Their guitar playing had a lot of texture and there were a lot of layers. Back then the landscape was void of that.
Nick: I am real stoked to play with Matt and Kim although we are polar opposites from them… it’s that they’re legitimately fun to listen to.
Chris: That event, the FIT Homecoming should be great.
Cretin: I’ve seen both bands live, and they put on excellent shows. So, how did you end up hooking up with both gigs, with two bands from two totally different genres of rock?
Tara: I think we’re in a nice spot, where we don’t just fit in one pocket of music. Obviously we’re a rock band but we have a lot of hooks and poppy moments, so we fit with Indie bands and dance bands and can kind of blend with anybody. Honestly, there are some really, really cool promoters and show producers in Florida who are very supportive and if they can get a local slot they will. Florida is a lot more communal for music than people give it credit for.
(Just then we were assaulted by angry squirrels pelting us with acorns – I’ll share some of that humorous dialogue in my next piece)
Cretin: So, that’s a good segue.
Nick: Really? The next question is about squirrels?
Cretin: Actually, your band has a great following here in Florida and now you’re headed out on a nice tour of the Southeast, what kind of reception are you expecting?
Matt: What I’ve experienced out on the road is that people going to our shows are really receptive, especially in the South, and places like the Carolinas.
Tara: They’re looking for a good time and for new music which is kind of exciting. We’ve been hitting the road a lot and going through Alabama and the Carolinas and all that. We get the most buzz when we can play in front of people instead of posting stuff online. We make friends wherever we go. Our first Georgia stop is in Valdosta which is not a huge city but man those people are there to have a good time and every time we go there we have more people who we high five when we walk through the door because there are a lot of familiar faces.
Chris: People talk to us and tell us they saw us last time and they’re back to see us again.
Tara: The system works. We send tour posters and they say “We saw the posters.” They come back when we return and they bring their friends.
Nick: I think it really helps that we’re not jerks (everyone laughs). I really do. Sometimes when you play with bands and try to talk to them, they act like they have more important things to do. But we’re so receptive and happy to be out and about and meeting people. They see that and know we’re genuinely excited to be talking to them.
Chris: And from a business standpoint it’s the best way to grow what you do. Central Florida has been really great to us and we love it here, but to be able to push beyond where we are as a band, you’ve got to get out of here. We’re pumped because we know this is the next step to grow our brand.
Matt: It’s proven that you can go outside of your comfort zone and still do well. People will enjoy your music and really get into it.
Tara: And those people don’t owe us anything either. It’s nice to have fresh audiences, who sit there and they jump around and they clap with us and they don’t know us from the mailman.
(We took one of our many humorous detours in a conversation about mailmen, birds and stand-up comics before we got back to the challenges of succeeding in this industry today)
Cretin: So, you’ve had a personnel change recently. What drove that?
Chris: Life. What we do is not easy, it’s crazy. We all live the normal life that everyone else does, then on top of it, we lead this alternate life. We work two jobs, that’s really what we do, because we go out to make the money so that we can blow it on this thing. I tell people I work to support my music habit. Zach loves what we’re doing and enjoys the band, there’s just other things he wants to do in life.
Cretin: And, you had one show where both bass players shared the stage, right?
Tara: Our CD release show was kind of Zach’s send off and welcoming Nick on.
Nick: I have to hand it to Zach, the way he handled it. That was really cool of him to give you all notice and to do the things he did to help me.
Chris: He’s actually still our roommate and we see him all the time.
Cretin: So, was that version of the lineup together for a long time?
Tara: We were a four-piece with me, Chris, Zach and our original guitarist who left right after our Waking Vessels CD came out. So we auditioned and got Jason. He came off of Craigslist and came with a free sofa. And we took that opportunity to re-form because the production of the CD had all of these three guitar parts and synth parts which we couldn’t pull off live because we try to avoid using backing tracks. Matt came on about a year and a half ago. And the rest is history. Now we have a shit ton of people and shit ton of gear.
Chris: But it seemed like a good idea at the time. We say that a lot by the way, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Cretin: So who got the sofa?
Cretin: You’ve referenced all of the work it takes to be successful. Is it all DIY effort for you?
Cretin: And who does the work? Is it a collective thing?
Chris: I’d really love to tell you that we all do, but Tara does all the work. Tara is a machine. If she ever left this band, it’s over because we wouldn’t know what to do. I mean literally, we wouldn’t know what to do.
Tara: All the booking and stuff like that I handle but everyone has their own things. Like Jason does the website, and Matt does a lot of the graphics. Everyone has their own things that they do. We have a company that helps us out with our PR, but that’s minimal. If you see something posted on our Facebook or Twitter, that’s us talking to you.
Matt: Or accidentally talking to you (there’s some story about a cat here that we never got into)
Tara: I would like to get to the point where we have some sort of third party assistance, but it’s finding the right fit.
Matt: There’s a point where you are so neurotic about it, you don’t want to give away all of the control but you have to at some point.
Chris: I think the biggest thing is to find someone to help with all of the bookings. That takes a ton of time and stress, so that we can focus more on the music.
Cretin: Along those lines, how do you that today? How do you work the routing?
Tara: We do a lot of research. And we also have alliances with bands in other cities. I’d like to think we’d be there to help other bands when they are coming to Florida to connect them with contacts and promoters who can help them get their foot in the door which is hard unless you have someone who has your back. So we have folks like that, and then it’s really about mapping it out in a smart way so that you’re not spending a ton of money on gas, and you are filling your time with things that are productive.
Chris: Tara does a great job of not giving us nights off. If we play to 15 people in a room who have never seen us before, I can sell stuff to all fifteen of them, which doesn’t seem like much, but it could be $50 we didn’t have and 15 people who might come out next time we come back. Some people discredit the small show, but I’d sell a CD to a bartender.
Cretin: So, if there’s a young band out there
Chris: You calling us old?
Cretin: I meant really young; not as seasoned and polished as you. For those bands, would you say this is a business you can make money in?
Chris: Do you ever gamble?
Cretin: I’m from New Jersey.
Chris: I think most people would refer to this as the slow play. It’s like betting on the Cubs at the beginning of the season, where the payoff could be huge. If you are a band that’s just starting, there’s a long way to go, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can grind it out and make some money but that’s a bad place to be, you need to want it first.
Matt: It’s tough, too. Now, with the internet you can write music without really knowing how to play music. There’s a lot more avenues for people to get stuff out there which creates a giant big field of competition that never existed before.
Nick: It’s, it’s… How do I phrase this so it doesn’t sound like I’m being a huge asshole?
Chris: But you are, just be yourself.
Nick: We played shows with this group who were this outrageous circus act. And every night they walked away with a lot more money than we did, but these people were literally willing to be stapled.
Chris: That was part of their game. They were a freak show and they got people to staple money to them and if they gave them enough money they’d let them staple it anywhere they want.
Nick: Any band could make money doing that if their priority is not about the music, if you don’t mind going to the hospital every five days to make sure you don’t have hepatitis.
Tara: We usually come out in the green but that’s also because we have been lucky to play in front of people who have been super supportive. And, there’s publishing and other ways you can make money as a musician. I’d hate to see people give up hope.
Chris: I don’t mean to make this sound discouraging but I would never ever tell someone to do this to be rich and famous.
Matt: You do it because you like it and love it. You have to do it because you love playing music and you like writing stuff and you enjoy going out and performing.
Jason: There are easier avenues to get rich.
Cretin: What do you think about the Orlando rock scene?
Chris: People are super supportive of each other.
Matt: I think it is supportive, but it’s kind of small and there are all of these little cliques.
Tara: I think it’s large but it is segmented. I feel like we are lucky enough that we can kind of float between groups.
Cretin: Because your music crosses genres?
Tara: Kind of. If I could change anything, I wish there could be a little more crossover. It’s like anything, music, or work, or hanging out with friends. If everyone thinks their group is the best, you’re never going to break through. You need to network with other groups and support other people.
Cretin: Are you referring to a specific group, or what?
Jason: It’s a group of bands that we always end up playing with. We book a show and the same bands end up on the show.
Tara: It’s that, it’s genres, it’s even venues. I know some people who will come out to a specific venue but won’t come out to see us somewhere else.
Chris: People will come to the show based on the venue, which is crazy. One thing I would like was if there was a true hierarchy. Like if I’m new to the scene, this is the venue I play at and all of the promoters go there to check out the new acts. And, I feel like everyone feels they are owed something.
Tara: Everyone’s entitled because they’ve played one show
Chris: There’s nothing wrong with confidence although we are kind of the opposite. We tell everyone we’re terrible.
Nick: We’re so bad, we named our lead singer Tara.
Chris: I encourage any band to travel 50 miles and play a show where all of the people you know don’t attend. If you can get one of the people at that show to buy your CD, you know you have something.
Matt: The first time you ever do that is eye opening.
Cretin: Back to the hierarchy comment, I came from the Philly / New York scene, and there was a definite pecking order. You paid you dues and developed your act before you got to hit any of the big name venues. You played a lot of shitty rooms before you played a JC Dobbs or even a CBGB.
Tara: And that’s fine and it should be okay to put some sweat into it. I don’t think people understand how much work we really put into this.
Cretin: Describe an A Brilliant Lie live show for someone who has never seen you before.
Jason: Horrible. Have you ever watched Grandpa sitting on a couch? Actually, from when I first saw the band to now, I think the show is a lot more entertaining.
Tara: And when these two knuckleheads (Matt and Jason) first came on board we were trying to regurgitate music written by another line-up.
Chris: We call those the dark days of ABL.
Matt: Now everyone, except for Nick is playing stuff they had a part in and wrote and we’re also having more fun with the old material, giving it our own little weird things and quirks when we play it.
Jason: We’re presenting the material and take a little more liberty with it than we used to.
Cretin: How important is playing live to you?
Chris: I don’t think there’s any better feeling in the world than, as shitty as this sounds, by someone being honestly surprised you’re not awful at what you do. There’s something magical if you’re able to impress someone so much that they stop anything they’re doing and pay attention to you for twenty minutes and then take the time to tell you they enjoyed it or buy your CD. Sometimes you’re playing and you have a crystallizing moment where everyone is paying attention.
Nick: It’s a good feeling when everyone is on the same page, and you’re like ‘how did we get here?’
Matt: My question is ‘are they all staring at us because we played really good or really rough?’
The conversation continued for a good long while, and we chatted about the Threads series of EPs, and about recording in general, and I’ll have that coming up in another article.
As they head out on tour, let me end with this exchange.
Nick: Me and Jason are actually opening for A Brilliant Lie and Our Lady Peace with an Our Lady Peace cover, My Man War, where we do accordion covers of their songs.
Jason: I don’t even know accordion…
You can check out A Brilliant Lie (and possibly MMW) on their forthcoming tour (dates below) and see for yourself what makes this talented quintet a band on the rise, and an Absolute Blast Live.
Now, Like Us on Facebook below and make sure you don’t miss a thing when we post Parts 2 and 3.
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Oct 22 Ashley Street Station Valdosta, GA
Oct 23 His Rock Music Cumming, GA
Oct 24 The High Note Birmingham, AL
Oct 25 Springwater Supper Club Nashville, TN
Oct 26 House Party Murfreesboro, TN
Oct 27 Preservation Pub Knoxville, TN
Oct 28 Soho Live Columbus, GA
Oct 29 The Mill North Charleston, SC
Oct 30 The Windjammer Isle Of Palms, SC
Oct 31 The Haven Orlando, FL
Nov 06 FIT Homecoming Fest with MATT and KIM! Melbourne, FL
Visit A Brilliant Lie on Facebook, too: https://www.facebook.com/ABrilliantLie