Monday, January 30, 2012

The Never Setting Suns Interview with Corey Larrison

Recently sent over some questions to Cincinnati based indie-rock band, regarding their beginnings and future release. By far, some of the most interesting and heartfelt answers I have received in a very long time. Please check these guys out at Their latest single is available for free here!
How did the project begin? How did the group assemble?
Well, it’s easiest to start with this: the three of us had been friends for a while. Chris and I lived in a house together with a bunch of guys and Tyler would come over all the time. We’d play Halo, listen to records, rope swing over fires in the backyard… stuff like that. Then at some point I started going over to Tyler’s parent’s house with my guitar and the two of us started playing. It was mostly covers we wanted to play like Never Ending Math Equation by Modest Mouse and Wolf Like Me by TV on the Radio but after a few months of doing that we started to write some of our own stuff. We honestly did that for close to a year and then we were asked to play a show by a friend of ours at a local pirate themed laser tag arena called Scaly Wag Tag. That’s when Chris asked us if he could step in on bass for a few songs. He literally stepped in, we didn’t practice together, we just brought a bass and amp for Chris and he stepped in with a piece of paper that had a few notes written on it. The night went great, we even have a recording of it somewhere, but it was an all-night event so by 6 am we were beat. We all had so much fun playing the show though that we decided to keep doing it. This conversation happened over us packing up. Then we went to Perkins.
Cliché one, where did the name The Never Setting Suns come from? Is there a story behind how it was chosen?
There is a story but it’s not very good. When we first started playing together we didn’t really have any aspirations to make or do anything besides play in Tyler’s parent’s basement and do a show here or there for our friends. So there was no real need for name, we were just Corey & Tyler’s band. Eventually Tyler and I played the show with Chris at Scaly Wag Tag and told them our name was Broken Idols. We hated the name (because it was a stupid name) and after we picked up Chris and started trying to actually do band like things, we thought we should have a name. We were really bad at coming up with ideas though and The Never Setting Suns looked really good on this picture of New York that my girlfriend, now wife, had taken … so we just went with it. Even Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse who got their name from a line out of a Virginia Woolf book (modest, mouse colored people) always said he wished he’d found a better name so maybe that’s just the nature of naming bands.
How would you say you arrived on "your sound"?
Guitar pedals, friendship and time. I was really obsessed with Craigslist and buying guitar pedals early on, which led us to a lot of experimenting. We wrote the entire song “Spheres” out of a strange delay pedal setting and this cool noise with an e-bow that we saw Explosion in the Sky do. Friendship and time are the real contributing factors though. We live our lives together. Right now Tyler lives in a house with Chris and his wife and we hang out with each other all through the week. What’s cool is that through Chris and me getting married, Tyler and me graduating college, Chris having a kid and the band going on four years being together, we’re somehow closer as friends. We always wanted our band to be something that brought us together and it really has. Because it brings us together, we want to do it. We want to play together and write songs together; we just love what we’re doing. If there’s anything that “our sound” comes out of, it’s that. There’s integrity to music that comes from people who love what they’re writing. I think we learned that from Neil Young.
What's the music scene like in Cincinnati?
It’s prevalent and it has a deep history. There are all of these great people that played in bands ten years ago that still go to shows and play in new bands with guys from other bands that played ten years ago. Then beyond that there’s this great history of the Afghan Whigs, the National, Over the Rhine, Wussy, etc… that virtually everyone respects and is proud to be a part of. It’s also incredibly encouraging to see older musicians with lives, real lives, past the age of twenty five and still writing or playing music. There’s this particular guy in a band around here called Pop Empire that has two sons and hearing him talk about how he encourages them to be creative and look at the world differently from everyone else is just as encouraging for us to hear. It’s artists like that in our community that really makes us glad to be a part of the music culture we’re in. 
What can people expect when they see you live? Who are some people that you have looked up to in the past in terms of live performance and stage presence?
When we write songs, we spend a lot of time talking about what we want them to be about. What the song is about determines what the lyrics are, the feel of the song and ultimately how we play the song. Envisioning what we’re playing, especially if the song is a narrative, is something we value and it’s where we draw the emotion of how we’re playing. What we’re playing about determines how we’re playing it. If the song is about that feeling of being trapped in a personal struggle, then our individual reactions come out. Tyler’s going to lash out, I’m going to writhe on stage and Chris will move around with an air of introspection. It’s what we do, we have these feelings and these stories that we want to share with people and our bodies are as much a part of them as our music is. If we’re going to be vulnerable with people about who we are and what we’re thinking, we’re not going to look like we’ve got everything together either. Because we don’t. We’re flawed and human and communicating that does not come through an air of composure. That’s why we draw a lot of influence from artists like Fugazi, Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Neil Young. They structured their performances in such a way that they couldn’t play songs without feeling and that’s really all we’re trying to do.
What would you like for them to take away?
We played a show once at the Southgate House in Newport, KY in this tiny packed upstairs room. There was this older woman that none of us had ever seen before who made her way to the front and absolutely let herself go to what we were playing. After the show I ran into her and I told her how encouraged we were by her enjoying what we were doing. I had kind of thought that she’d just been really drunk but when I said this to her she very soberly and calmly just looked at me for a few seconds without saying a word. She smiled and said, “You know, someday I hope my daughters will be able to do what you do.” She went on to explain that when she saw us playing she was taken aback by how moved we were by our own songs. She said that was her one wish for her daughters, to be able to do something that they truly loved doing. That’s always been the reaction from people that fuels us, when people see us let ourselves go in our songs and they themselves let go too. Ian MacKaye of Fugazi once said, “We don't wanna play to a bunch of heads and bodies because heads and bodies represent consumers, and I don't want anything to do with that.” That’s what we don’t want. We don’t want people to come to our shows, pay for their ticket, receive their performance, go home and feel cool. We are not a product and we’re not offering a product when we play. We’re offering people the opportunity to be a part of something that we love. We’re sharing an incredibly intimate part of our lives with the hope of people responding to and feeling a part of it themselves. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco compared what he felt a good show should be like to what he felt church should be like, a group of people with a sense of community coming to share in an experience. So, to put it shorty, we want people to feel the movement of what we’re doing and walk away with that experience.
How did the writing process pan out for you guys on your new release, Time & Eternity? Was it a collaborative effort?
With the way our lives are, the writing process tends to be collaborative effort. There’s rarely ever a writing stage for us, it just happens the more often we get together. With Time & Eternity it was the span of about a year of writing. The summer after we released our first album And Now We’re Not Alone in 2010 was when we really started. Chris had just gotten married, I had just proposed to my now wife and we would go to our practice space during the week and mess around with new material. Sometimes Chris would have a bass line or Tyler would have a drum beat or I’d have some chords and lyrics but, in general, we’d all try to bring something with us. That’s how we try to write. Once we’ve written parts together, we start to discuss what each particular song should be about. That’s the most unifying part of everything. I write the lyrics for each song but the content of what the words and the song are about come through our conversations. It’s important to us that what’s being said in every song is some idea that the three of us strongly agree on because, again, it’s what we draw our performance from. When we went into the Monastery Studio in 2011 to record, we had all but about two songs completely written. We finished those two songs while we were recording.
Tell me how "Meet Me There" specifically came together...
“Meet Me There” was one of those songs we started writing the summer after we released our first album. But initially we were working on two very different songs. The verse and guitar melody of Meet Me There were from fragments that I had written on acoustic guitar right after Chris had gotten married and I had gotten engaged. A lot was changing but I was really happy with all of it and I remember sitting down, coming up with those chords and melody and then recording them on my nice LG flip phone. At the same time, the three of us had come up with an incredibly intense song that was basically Tyler beating the hell out of his cymbals and me playing a heavily delayed triplet with the new green Russian Big Muff I had bought. At some point, we realized that these two songs we were different ways of playing the same two chords, A & D, and decided to make it one song. So we arranged the song in a way that the verses would be incredibly happy but then burst into these strong epic pre-chorus moments. As we were doing this, I started writing the lyrics. The lyrics came out of a lot of discussions we were having about marriage and relationships but it also in a literal sense came out things I wanted to say to my then fiancé Alex before we got married in 2011.
What would you like for listeners to take way from the album, after giving it a good listen?
If they can make it all the way through, I’d say two things. First, an appreciation for music that isn’t easily accessible. Humanity is too deep of an experience to try and express in only short catchy songs. The songs that have really moved me have always been longer songs that took a few listens to figure out what they meant to me. Trailer Trash by Modest Mouse, Cortez the Killer by Neil Young, Broken Chairs by Built to Spill, Storm by Godspeed!You Black Emperor, etc… Second, we really want people to take our songs, consider what they’re saying and think about what’s true. The album is titled after Book XI in Augustine’s Confessions and at the very beginning of the work he declares, “Truth, truth: how in my inmost being the very marrow of my mind sighed for you!”  That’s something we really believe, that truth is something humanity longs for. It’s also something that’s really scary and is easier to avoid than to consider. That’s why we hope people take away from our album an encouragement to think deeply and consider truth. It’s not very post-modern of us.
 Who did you guys work with during the recording process? What attracted you to work with them?
We worked with two guys, Rich Hordinski and Matt Moermond, at a place called Monastery Studio in Over the Rhine (downtown Cincinnati), Ohio. We had initially heard about Rich and his studio from a few local artist friends of ours that had been recording there. They spoke very well of him and what he did so we decided to try him out to record two songs. Originally we were going to just make a 7” single for Record Store Day but after the two songs were recorded we got a call from Rich and he wanted to know if we’d be interested in some time in the studio with Matt Moermond. We said yes. Matt had been at the studio with us for the two songs and he was someone that we really trusted with our sound. The whole process was incredible, we honestly feel very fortunate to have been able to do it.
Any advice for new D.I.Y. bands just starting out?
Yeah, DIFY, do it for yourself. What it meant to be a DIY band in the 80s or the 90s with underground touring networks and zine’s is different from what it means to be a band today when at some point in 2008 there were allegedly 8 million bands on Myspace (RIP) and the best way to get ahold of higher up blogs today is to enter contests on Reverbnation. DIY was what it was because people supported it; there were communities of people that wanted to go to shows where they didn’t know who was playing. But that doesn’t exist anymore so it’s so important to understand that playing music without the blessing of major influencers has to be because you love to play it, not because you think you’ll “make it.” Ian MacKeye of Fugazi would always get asked about the formula to being a successful DIY band and he once said, “You ask me what Fugazi is about and I say Fugazi is about being a band… our job is to be a band and to play.” We say do that. Figure out what being a band means to you and play. Don’t figure out what other people want to hear, play to suit them and then be band. Disney Records does a better job of that than you ever will.
How important is social networking/media for bands like you?
It’s crucial. Part of our philosophy as a band has always been that it would help us grow closer together and help us mature as people. For us, that meant college, jobs, marriages and Chris having a kid. That all made touring something we decided not to do in the beginning. We’ve always felt, and still feel, that we should go on tour in response to people wanting us to come rather than trying to get them to go. We watched too many local bands go out on tours and get burned by it. Bands would break up, no one would go to their shows and they’d have hard times getting jobs. We didn’t look down on it, we just thought there were too many people going that route and not having much success for us to try it. So, we came up with plans outside of touring to share our music with people. For the last year, that has primarily been centralized around social networking and media. In early 2011 we started filming and editing videos from our more intimate performances and putting them on YouTube with the hope that people would be able to experience a part of what we’re doing from home (which is what we all do with every band we’ve never seen live). Then this past summer we decided to make a website and, in the spirit of DIY, I coded the whole thing myself. I had no idea how to do any of it either, it was insanely difficult. Beyond that, we became social without our social media accounts. All of this has allowed us to share our music with people without hurting what our music comes out of, our lives.
Any shows coming up?
Yes. The show for the album release party on March 24th here in Cincinnati, a house show in Lexington, KY late April and possibly a short tour out of that if we can find interest. If we don’t go on a quick tour we’ll make a lot of YouTube videos.
 Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
There’s Nothing Wrong with Love by Built to Spill, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About by Modest Mouse, Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven by Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever by Explosions in the Sky, Mean Everything to Nothing by Manchester Orchestra and, of course, Zuma by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. If we ever write an album like any of those, we win.

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