Bryn Schurman: Do you guys want to talk about your influences; how you all got started?
Travis LeVrier: Quite a bit of influences, actually. Obviously, Dream Theater being one of the high ones, and [John] Petrucci just in general. Guthrie Govan is another, Joe Satriani, Cynic… Metallica is the reason I started playing guitar.
Chris Letchford: Pantera is the reason I started playing guitar.
Pat Skeffington: I like Deftones a lot, and you know [Mike] Portnoy has an influence as well, of course. I like Josh Freese a lot, he’s a really good drummer.
Jordan Eberhardt: We could go on talking influences forever (laughs).
CL: But as far as playing instrumental music, nothing really inspired us, we just wanted to do everything based around music. You know, just keep it around the music instead of adding lyrics.
PS: Something that people forget that it’s about the music sometimes, so that’s what we kind of do.
BS: So you’ve never had a singer in mind, it was always instrumental when you guys started?
CL: We started this band to be instrumental. This guy [Travis] went on tour with Into the Moat a while ago. Without him it was going to be us three, and we started using a singer just to see how it worked, and it honestly wasn’t really working. And then he came back and it was like, “Never mind.” (laughs) we’re going to go back to the original plan now that things are back the way they’re supposed to be from the beginning.
But no, we tried. We started the band to be instrumental. I think we just tried to make it more aware that “yeah, oh right, we don’t need this.” If that’s the simplest way to put it.
PS: It seems that for me, any kind of vocals makes it feel cheesy. I can’t explain it but I feel that any kind of vocals over it would kind of ruin the vibe that we have going, and our sound.
CL: We spend a lot of time writing or music to be full without a singer, so adding one would be extremely forced
BS: You just had your second album entitled…
TL: (whispering) Carving Desert Canyons
BS: Carving Desert Canyons, thank you. (laughs). Sorry, it’s been a long night.
JE: No, it’s cool, man. I’m awful with album names. I don’t know any song names, so it’s all good.
BS: Well, speaking of song names, having instrumental music, are there any particular things you go from [when writing your song titles].
TL: We write the music first and then come up with the song names afterwards. Music is always first. I guess you could say we think of names. Not often, but we’ll just keep an eye out. Since we don’t have any lyrics, our songs aren’t necessarily about anything, but we try to think of a title that kind of fits the mood of the song I guess, and try to have words that are kind of appealing, maybe epic sounding.
CL: Something that paints a picture.
TL: That’s a good way to say it
CL: Like just the song title alone, and then you listen to the music and you kind of see that. I mean, we see it of course. Yeah, when we’re doing song names, usually when we’re done will just sit back and think about what we all feel or see in our heads, and that’s how the tracks come out.
As far as the nature theme — obviously, everybody picks up on the nature theme — that’s just something we’ve always been into and the fact that our music’s very organic. We don’t use tons of effects, it’s very organic sounding, so the nature thing fits perfectly and it works for us as far as image and stuff.
TL: Also, sometimes we’ll have a group of song names and say “Okay this one really fits this song,” and then maybe we’ll think of another one. “Actually, this one fits it better, so we’re going to switch these.”
BS: Who does the merchandising for you guys? You have a lot of interesting shirts.
CL: I do half the designs and then I have another couple of guys that I’ll get designs from. I’ve been starting to use more work from Dan Mumford, who did the bison design and the giants design. He does a lot of stuff for Black Dahlia Murder. He’s really well known and he does stuff for other clothing companies and stuff like that. I’ve done pretty much half of the designs. I started doing the dot ones, like the pointillism designs. Those are my favorites, so I started doing those. So I’ve done like half, and the other half are just commissioned artists.
Yeah we’re into having a ton a merchandise as you can see by going to our web store and we have like a billion things to choose from. I’ve just always wanted variety. On this tour, actually we’re only able to have two shirts, but on the last tour we did, we had 22 with us, which is more than the average band, even an opener, but it’s good to have variety.
TL: The fans seem to like it.
CL: Yeah, they definitely appreciate the variety, that’s for sure.
BS: Any plans for after this tour?
CL: There were plans, but they kinda fell through. We had a possible Gojira tour in the works and then one with Cynic in the fall. We’re still hoping that that one, last minute, will come to shape. They’re basically planning on doing a headlining tour, so we’ll see. We already know that they like our stuff and they of course know that we love them, so we’ll see what happens. Hopefully everything will come back together. Right now, it’s not looking too hopeful, but other than that, I’m sure something will come up. I mean this came up, I’m just sitting at home watching TV on the Internet and I got a call,
“Hey, you guys want to do Progressive Nation?”
“Hell yes! I mean, why did you have to call me and ask me. Call them back and tell them we said yes, you don’t need to ask.”
So, this tour came out of nowhere and we had a month to prepare, which was barely enough time to get things together. As far as plans go, hopefully something comes up but nothing is set yet.
TL: We definitely want to do some kind of Fall tour.
CL: Something Fall, Winter, we’ll see what happens. We’ll be busy though.
BS: Have you been writing for the third album?
CL: Yeah. I actually have a lot of material done for the next CD, and we’ve all learned one of the songs. Because we were at home, not really doing much over the summer, so we were like “We might as well work on some new stuff.” But, it’s going to be a while until before that stuff actually gets into the studio and we start working on it more in-depth. We are always writing. I make sure to write my stuff down, because I have a horrible memory. So I have all my stuff written out. Especially during this tour, I’m probably not going to be able to touch it for most of the time to even work on anything new. We have a lot of new stuff that we are very excited about.
BS: Is there any improvisation that goes into [the band’s] playing ? It seems very structured.
CL: Well, some bands are more into the improv, we’re more into reenacting our cd, pretty much note-for-note. There are some times where we’ll do like a couple things here, but it’s probably only the super-musicians out there that have our cds memorized by ear might notice “Oh, that’s a little different.” But for the most part, especially our solos, guitar solos are pretty much note-for-note. It’s definitely harder, I think, to play things note-for-note the same, every night versus improvising, because you can get really good at improvising. Petrucci does it all the time. He does it great every night and you don’t really ever hear any mistakes ever. So it’s just years and years of playing, too.
JE: Sometimes Pat and I, we might actually do a little change here and there with the rhythm section-type things. Just something to mess around with, change things up. It’s not really too noticeable, but it’s just something to keep us interested all the time and have some fun too.
CL: Yeah, it brings freshness to it, I guess.
PS: Music is always progressing. We’re always learning new things and getting better, so stuff happens.
BS: I see you guys are really using the internet to your advantage with the Youtube channel and Myspace, which is how I first heard about you guys. So what’s next? What do you foresee?
CL: As far as promoting goes? We need to be more out in the real world with the touring. So that’s kind of our main plan. I still write back all fan mail to this day, and I’m going to try to continue to. I’m going to start my tour blog tonight since the first show’s over. People seem to really enjoy reading that. The internet is obviously a huge part of our career getting going, because it’s free and it’s endless as far the amount of people that you can reach out to. Other than that, like I said, just getting out in the real world and doing the live shows, because that’s what we all went to school for, performance.
TL: And it’s the funnest part!
CL: Yeah definitely the most fun. The most rewarding. Because you can practice to walls — which we did for thirty days before we left — but it’s totally different playing in a live environment with lights and people and cheering and stuff like that. It’s great.
BS: Are you guys classically trained?
CL: I did classical guitar. I mean, I took private lessons since I was twelve, as pretty much most of us did, but we all did music college. I did almost a year of classical guitar, but I’ve done more college for jazz. When we all went to MI [Musician’s Institute], my plan was not to do progressive metal, because I already was kind of doing that so I wanted to do something where you could basically just add distortion to it and it’s kind of progressive metal now if you’re not doing the jazz. So I did jazz. You did a little bit of everything.
TL: Yeah, we all formed, we all met each other at Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles, so we all went to music school there. And even before that, like Chris said, we all had private lessons just as individuals. The good thing about MI is that they have a lot of classes where if you want to take a certain style that maybe you’re not familiar with, you have that opportunity and also have private lesson teachers that specialize in certain styles, so it’s a good thing to take advantage of. And we definitely did.
CL: [to Pat] You did all styles too for the drums.
PS: Yeah, our school is definitely more contemporary and modern compared to like Berklee college of music. I started playing drums back in middle school, so I used to play in concert band and marching band and that brought me to here.
BS: Marching snare, tenors, or what?
PS: I started out… When I was in middle school I did marching tenors and then did bass in high school. Never did snare, though.
JE: I pretty much went to Musician’s Institute for recording and I kinda just met all the guys there randomly on Myspace, which goes to show how important the internet really is. But pretty much, my main way of progressing as a musician, was just playing with these guys and having them push me to be better.
TL: That’s one thing that I love about playing in this band is that we all push each other to progress and just become better at our instruments. In a way, you could say that we’ve all helped mold each other into the musicians that we are now, so it’s great.
CL: Yeah, I couldn’t play in just a normal rock band. We all strive on the talent part of it, I guess. I mean, we don’t write our stuff to be extremely technical. We want it to be super melodic but it’s definitely fun to play music that’s challenging.
TL: And just music that you enjoy, in general.
CL: Which, as every band, they’re playing music they enjoy. This is just our little niche.
BS: Okay, any thing else for the listeners?
TL: Come see us on Prog Nation 2009.
CL: Check us out on the road more later this year and next year.
BS: And scalethesummit.com is the best way to get to you?