The Game of Monogamy
How does the solo writing aspect work for you?
The writing itself isn't so different. I've kind of just stuck to, well, it's not a formula at all. It's just the way I write and the way I write for the band, as well. Things change a lot as far as putting the record together. I try to cover as many arrangements as I can. As in the last album, there are a lot of full-band rock elements, also a lot of friends who are contributing to that. I have a friend who's writing some basslines for a few songs.
One of my real shortcomings is percussion. I just, I can play really rudimentary drums. Like a lot of musicians, where maybe you've sat behind the drums enough times that you can play a Pixies beat or something. I have Nate [Kinsella] and Dylan [Ryan] coming in, which is great, I appreciate it.
Some of your lyrics have a humorous quality to them and I like the idea that you don't take yourself too seriously. I think that it makes you relatable and people are into that.
Thanks, I hope so. Thanks.
Has your new Chicago living space shaped the latest of what you have written?
I always think that environment is really big. I'm convinced that you're influenced and inspired by whatever your surroundings are; it's inevitable, it just makes sense. I can never locate those influences myself, they just kind of occur. Maybe somebody else could recognize them. I've honestly tried; I can pick out things here and there over the years, things I wrote about because I was living in this city or that city. I love Chicago and I haven't been here that long; I hope it will influence… Like I said, it just will.
What sparked the idea for a mini March tour?
Ah, well one really simple thing is that I had the time open. (Laughs) I tour so much and then I get so tired of it and I wish I didn't have to so much. Then, whenever I have time free, I'm always just out doing it again. I guess that I have to think that I like to do it.
I'm also looking forward to this because I'm playing new songs. That's just incredibly exciting for me and most songwriters to get the chance to try new stuff out, see if people respond to it or not. The best use of these shows I'm playing, I'm going directly into the studio right from the shows. The East Coast dates I'm playing with Nate, and he's going into the studio with me and working on about half of the record. For the Midwest dates, I have more of my proper backing band and they're going into the studio with me for the other half of the record. Hopefully, everyone will be kind of oiled and ready to go.
What kept you busy in 2012 and what are your plans for 2013? More touring later in the year?
2012 was… We're not sure yet, but it may have ended up being the most touring in a year that we have done. It's a real wash as far as my memory. I went to a lot of places, we visited new places, visited and revisited and visited again. It was busy and I just wrote a lot in all of the times in between.
This is a totally different year. I'm just doing a lot more writing and recording. I'm hoping to put this record out in the fall and have a tour then. That will probably be the only big, chunky tour that I'll do this year.
Maybe you'll even have the summer off.
I kind of hope that I'll be busy. Being busy is always better, but yeah, as of right now, the summer is off. If you have any work, if you know of any work for me… (Laughs)
In recent years, how have you grown as a musician and songwriter?
What's annoying is I feel as far as guitar playing, I don't think I've gotten any better since I've turned 19.
I feel like, as long as you keep on playing, that you are improving.
I'm recording guitar parts for this record already, and it's stunning now that I've been playing for… I've been playing guitar for longer in my life than I have not been playing guitar. I think I started when I was 13. I think it would be neat if I would improve at it. I also know that I recognize now that it's not going to happen (laughs).
As far as songwriting, I see it as stages of a mindset, and I totally agree with you on this one, that you can continue improving if you keep working on it. Even if you didn't work on it, I bet you would improve regardless because I'd like to think, as humans, we're growing and advancing in one form or another anyway. Like, you write a record, and then you can just start picking your words a little bit better. I love the experience, I guess, of feeling like palpable different experiences over the years. I don't even think that I could write a thesis on it, it's all kind of abstract.
Is there any new music that has inspired you to practice or explore new instrumental territory?
During all of that touring we did last year, one of the new places that we visited was Brazil. We had these great hosts down there; our crew got a little bit of education down there. Brazilian music was pretty interesting, and I brought back some of that, which I've been listening to a lot. It was fun, it makes the world feel a lot larger. It's one of those small reminders of how much different music there is out there and how small our rock 'n' roll style can be in a grander picture.
What changes would you like to see in the music industry?
I feel like that's a really touchy and delicate conversation right now. I feel like when Spotify first showed up, I was so confused and enraged by it. Maybe it's alright that I've kind of just calmed down. The music industry keeps getting attacked every few years and then we just keep kind of accepting it, like "Okay, I guess everything is just free now."
Whatever is happening, the worst hasn't happened yet. Just because music is essentially free now, it hasn't really taken away from it being an art form and therefore important. That was part of what enraged me. This is like debasing what we do. Maybe I should say Spotify hasn't changed much anyway, maybe they were right, like there's all of these people out there who aren't paying for music anyway, so this is a service for them. I kind of thought that was bullshit and now I'm kind of coming around and saying, "Yeah, I guess you were right."
I still buy music, I feel good about it. I like to purchase something, an album, and the better the album is, the better I feel about the purchase. When do you think it's going to level out? I don't know. I'm still in the business, so all of these changes… If anything, I should probably be one of those few people who really appreciates it regardless of the pains that it offers and the fairly harsh changes in economics that it's gone through.
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