Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Graduate Interview with Corey Warning (lead vocalist)

photo by Laura Means
The first time I heard The Graduate was live at the Masquerade in 2008, and I remeber their thirty minute show vividly. Have you ever been to a concert where the opening act completely blew you away? To where you started getting ready to leave when they finished up, but then you realize that there is still another band that hasn't even played yet? Well, the Graduate was that for me. Afterwards I purchased their album, "Anhedonia," which was equally as good as their live show. The song "I Survived," was often on repeat in my car. Now two years later, The Graduate has released their second full-length "Only Every Time." I had the chance to sit down with lead vocalist Corey Warning, and discuss the story behind how they created this wonderful album...

Cliché one to start it off, how has the tour been so far?

Warning: Good actually, we were pretty surprised. We were off of the road for so long; it could have been considered a hiatus. Even though we weren’t on one, it felt like it while we were writing this record and finishing stuff up. It has been nice, because we thought we were going to have to start completely over, with the long break we took. Fortunately, kids still remember our band, and they are still coming out. So that has been nice!
Yeah it seems like yesterday when I saw you guys play here (The Masquerade) with Secondhand Serenade.
Warning: Oh yeah! That was the last time we were here in Atlanta. The summer of 2008, it has been two years since we have been here.
Your new album, “Only Every Time,” is absolutely fantastic. How would you say that this album differed from your first LP “Anhedonia?”
Warning: Writing wise, we took a lot more time to finish this album. It wasn’t really by choice; it just took longer this time around. So is that sense, we had a lot more material to work with. We were writing the record for almost two years, so we had almost thirty songs by the time we got finished. There was a bunch of stuff that we could pick and choose from. If there was one part in a song that we like, but didn’t necessarily know what to do with it, we could just take a little piece off of one song and put it in another and keep it going from there. I think that we were able to focus on the record more, as a whole, rather than just song by song. Any other records that we have made, have just been whatever songs you have, that is what goes on the record. This time around, we could pick and choose and really nail down the sound that we were going for on this album.
As far as the recording went, how was it working with the same producer Brian Mcternan?
Warning: There was never a doubt in who we were going to work with on this record. When we finished, “Anhedonia,” we had talked as said that we couldn’t imagine working with anyone else. I think this time has solidified that even more for us. Brian is like a sixth member of the band. He’s like family to us at this point.
Was he along with you guy through the writing process?
Warning: Yeah, He kept in touch with us after Icon went out of business, and everyone was ready to give up on the whole thing. He was one of the few people who refused to give up on our band, and did whatever he could to help us stick through it. We definitely wouldn’t be here today, if it weren’t for him.
Your previous label folded in 2008, correct?
Warning: Yeah, at the end of 2008 we got a phone call from our A&R guy there and he was like, “hey, I know you guys kind of saw this coming, but we are closing up shop.” We had been hearing rumors for six months, that something like that was going to happen. We weren’t really prepared for it, and it was tough at points. We had to do everything on our own dime, and we wanted to make a record that was up to par with “Anhedonia,” so we in turn needed a budget for that. Of course, none of us are “rich kids,” so we didn’t have that budget. It just took a long time to figure everything out with how we were going to make the record, but I don’t think that it would have turned out the way that it did if things would have been different. We are all happy with how the record turned out, so at the end of the day it is what it is, and we are happy to be where we are right now.
Where were you at in terms of finishing the record, when you signed with Razor and Tie?
Warning: When we actually signed the contract, we thought that we already had a record in the bag. We thought that we had all of the songs; we just needed to lay down the ones that we hadn’t laid down. We recorded six songs with Brian, before signing to Razor & Tie. We planned on going back, and had made this studio time while we were flirting with Razor & Tie and things were starting to look good. We had booked this studio time, just hoping that everything was going to work out, and luckily it did because if it hadn’t everything would have been a huge disaster. We signed our recording contract with Razor & Tie in May, and the next day left for Baltimore to finish the record. When we got there, we thought that we had all of the songs done and he was like, “hey, let’s try to write five more songs.” So we ended up writing more songs when we got there.
Did any of those make “the cut?”
Warning: Yeah, I think all but one of the songs we wrote in that session made the album. Which was “Permanent Tourists,” “Stuck Inside My Head,” and “All At Once.” So three of those songs ended up making the cut, and we ended up scrapping a couple of songs that we were sure were going to be on there. That’s just how it goes though. We are planning on trying and releasing the songs that didn’t make it on the record because we still go good recordings of them, they just didn’t really fit.
So a “b-sides” kind of thing?
Warning: Yeah, something like that. We will look to do something like that later down the road, after people have heard the record for a while. We are going to keep putting out more music, and not make people wait for two years.
Which has become the average these days for artists/bands…
Warning: It has, but we really like making new music and we want to put more out as much as we can. Even if it’s just putting out a b-side Ep, it’s just songs that people haven’t heard and we just want to keep that music coming out.
What were you guys doing work wise, during that two-year period? Working odd-jobs?
Warning: Yeah, we were all writing as much as we could. I live in Chicago and the rest of the band lives in Springfield, which is almost four hours apart. We would e-mail stuff back and forth, and I would go down as much as possible, which was a lot. We all just worked odd-jobs. I was working as a floor installer in my off time, and a couple of the guys working for a catering company and Tim droves was driving an ice-cream truck at one point. We were just doing whatever we could to keep things going. We just never stopped writing, even though there were points where everyone had to stop and save up money. I actually got married at that point, and had the time to focus on the relationship for a while and then two weeks after I got married, I had to leave to go finish up the album. It has been a crazy couple of years.
With all of the hard times, what would you say kept you guys together?
Warning: I think that it is the music, really. We have the same group of people that we started this band with, which is rare these days. Everyone in our band writes, so everyone has the same amount vested. If any of us wanted to quit at any point, we would write another song that would just keep us going. We would write two or three terrible songs, and then we would write one that would get us really excited. Also, at the same time our band had a big enough “macho vibe” to where nobody wanted to be that the one guy that quit.
The last time I saw you guys perform, you completely blew me away. Who are some artists that you guys draw from as far as live performance goes?
Warning: I listen to a lot of Radio Head, and I think that sometimes I have this head-wobble that I unintentionally stole from Thom Yorke a little bit (laughs). We really like MuteMath, in that we try to bring in some extra percussion and make things a little bit more exciting. We still want to be our own band, so we try not to take our influences too hard.
What about during the writing of the record, were there any bands that you were listening to a lot that may have influenced the sound?
Warning: Over the past couple of years, we have all become obsessed with the Arcade Fire. Right now they are my favorite band and have been for two years straight and I bet that a couple of the guys would agree with me on that one. I almost wish that, “The Suburbs,” had come out later. I got so excited when that record came out, that I wanted to keep writing but I was a little bit dried out from the last record. I wish that it (“The Suburbs”) had come out later, so that I could have drawn inspiration from that for our next record. Music like that has been a big influence on us.
Being a band that has almost had to start from scratch twice, what kind of advice would you give to a band in the same position?
Warning: A couple of bands that we are friends with were kind of in the same position actually, and one thing that we would all talk about is that you cannot stop writing ever. There are a lot of times that you get frustrated, if you are writing a bunch of material and nothing is really happening with it and it will make you dry out. You have to push through it as much as you can. We had plenty of times where we felt creatively drained, and it is tough. You have to understand that not everything you writ is going to be great, and it is just like anything else that you do in life. Not everything that you do is going to be amazing. You have to get out there and make those mistakes. Not to get too philosophical here, but you have to make mistakes to kind of figure out what works. We did that a lot on this record, so I am hoping that the next record we make is going to be less stressful because we worked out a bunch of the bugs on this record.
How did you guys decide on Razor & Tie?
Warning: We were talking to a lot of labels and they were the only label that felt like they really understood our band and were willing to give us the time and space that we needed to do what we wanted to do with the record. They never came in and said, “The songs are cool, but we want you guys to go work with some writer and go make a radio hit.” Which some labels did, they wanted us to do that and it’s not something that we are interested in doing. When we are writing songs, we don’t ever say “I think that this song needs to sound a little bit more mainstream,” or something like that. It’s just not how we write. We don’t sit around and think about what is cool right now, and is going to get us airplay. We just want to write songs that are interesting to us and that we think are going to connect with the fans that we have, and the new kids too. I think that is all that we can really do, or we would drive ourselves crazy.

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