A Will Away
7.28.2017 | Tulsa, OK | The Vanguard
A Will Away is a four piece rock band from Naugatuck, Connecticut. They began working together about six years ago and it didn't take long before it became very clear that they enjoyed playing together-and people enjoyed watching them. Although their little town was far from flourishing in the music scene, A Will Away continued to play locally, then book shows out of the state. They essentially rolled into three and a half years of DIY touring across the country and slowly but surely wound up here in Tulsa, Oklahoma!
We got to have a chat with the guys before their set, so read below to get to know the band a bit and find their insight on the music industry and its role in human culture.
With DIY touring and such, how did you guys learn how to tour on your own and really dive into the music business?
Matt: You just have to do it. You learn to accept the fact that for a while, no one is going to give a shit about paying you and you’re just there to try and win them over. And the next time you come through, more people come and promoters are slightly more apt to listen to what you have to say.
Johnny: And each tour gets better and better. Every single one.
MATT: There’s not a class in the world that can teach you everything you need to know.
So you guys are signed with Triple Crown- when did that happen?
Johnny: When we did Bliss, that’s when that all unfolded.
Matt: Yeah, when we were touring the record, that all unfolded. We were working with a very small DIY label collective that we we’re in with a handful of our friends and it was run by another handful of friends. They helped us in those final stages to sort of network into whatever the next thing is.
Collin: We had or agent offer us a tour and in a couple weeks we started having meetings and it was pretty cool.
Is there anyone in particular- whether growing up or once you started getting into music? Maybe someone that acted as a mentor or gave you any really good advice?
Matt: I wish. The truth is that we were never industry people. Most people that you talk to have a connection in the music industry and we didn’t. We truly had to network from the bottom up.
Did you ever feel annoying since you always had to be the one trying to make the connection as opposed to having someone more established do that for you?
Matt: Yes. You have to realize you’re a pain in the ass and no one really cares if your band succeeds. You just have to keep doing it and doing it and the second it becomes profitable, that’s when people wanna be a part of it.
Johnny: It’s crazy but it’s the reality.
Collin: In one of our first meetings, someone asked us who our friends in the industry were and we were like “nobody.”
That’s good though! I think that other bands who might be in a place that isn’t necessarily thriving in the music scene can look at you guys and follow in your footsteps.
Matt: A lot of bands are not transparent about how their bands got to where they are, but it takes a village of people to make the kinda things that we’ve had happen, happen. It’s been sorta difficult, we had to completely remap our lives to essentially not work 8 months out of the year and that’s a really difficult things to do that with absolutely no guarantee that you’re gonna see payback for that. But we routed our whole lives around that.
Johnny: That’s why my phone is about to get shut off!
Did u guys think that with all of the struggles and ups and downs that you’ve had, comes a more creative headspace?
*chorus of yeahs*
Is there anything in particular?
Sean: Every flat tire we’ve ever gotten.
Matt: Even still to this day, we are riding around on our life savings, with the rest of our life savings in the back. Every dime we’ve ever made in our adult lives have essentially gone to help us continue to do this. I think that when you put your entire life on the line for something, you feel ridiculously impassioned. We have a lot of things we wanna say about the world and we’ve done so much touring and had to do rough odd jobs to sort of maintain. We’ve all experienced a ridiculous amount as a group of people, and I think people who experience things should share those experiences because everyone can sorta learn from that. That’s the driving force behind what we do- to continue talking about life.
Sean: Writing a song kinda helps you deal with all the bull shit. You can remind yourself that you’re in a better place today. There are some songs that we play every night that just make me chuckle when I think of the experience behind it.
Being you first ever full length album and maybe even complete creative statement as a band, is there a certain thing you want people to take from Here Again?
Matt: I challenge that! I think the Bliss EP was really our first, and that and Here Again are companion records- you can listen to the beginning of Bliss through the end of here again and it’s complete. Obviously the full length took a lot more effort and care and I think working on an EP is easy because you hear it sorta manifest itself and you have like four songs to nor fuck it up. With a record, you have like 13 songs to not screw up. You can have your two songs to be singles or work as driving force that your label is asking for, and the you’ve got like 11 more songs that can screw up your narrative or sound scheme or tones, performances- anything. It was a different process but it felt very similar because it was a continuation of Bliss.
Did you guys plan on having the full length be a continuation?
Matt: Yeah, and I expect our next one to be a continuation of that.
Did you always plan on having an EP work as sort of a “part 1” and then release a full album?
Johnny: We had a record we were writing for a really long time that we hated so we scrapped. The Bliss EP kinda just happened. We knew what we were doing with Here Again but we didn’t expect Bliss to happen like that.
Are you ever scared of rushing through your music? Like looking back and wishing you had something different?
Matt: All the time. We are the most painfully picky people ever. We change the way we play songs on stage. One night I might change the way I sing a melody and that what’ll stick for six more months.
Do you guys like the live experience or the “behind the scenes” writing, recording stuff better?
Matt: Live experience. It’s about playing live music in front of real people. We make the record to bring people to the shows. How do you think we make most of our money?
Matt: Yeah, were basically a t-shirt company! There’s no real intrinsic value to the music, other than the value it has to the listener. We really focus on giving value to the music so that we can get people to come to the shows which are different and I’d say way better.
Collin: Last night was a good example of when the audience just connected with us.
Johnny : Last night was soo much better. I saw that someone wrote a bad review over our Atlanta show.
Matt: Part of playing live is like, someone’s gonna make mistakes. We don’t have backtracks, we do our own vocals. Everything is as fallible as humanly possible and that makes for some real funny moments! I played the complete wrong chord for no reason, and we don’t try and cover it! We just laugh it off. This is part of what we do.
Sean: Nothing is ever rehearsed.
Would you say you have a strong connection with your fans then?
Matt: Yeah of course, and were at our merch table every night with them.
Have you all ever had a group of fans that followed your tour?
Colllin: There’s people who drive outrageous distances! One time a group drove to like three shows and by the end of it we were just pals!
Matt: One drove 11 hours just to see our set!
Collin: Shout out to the person from Florida! We are playin’ in the fall but you didn’t know that.
What did you guys do when you met them afterwards?
Collin: It’s just mind blowing!
Matt: What do you eve say to someone like that?
Have you guys ever driven really far to see a band?
Matt: No, we live in an area that really close to NYC and Boston so we can take a train or just drive like an hour and a half.
Johnny: I won’t go to see a show that’s more than like 45 min away, even for my favorite band. But it’s cool when people do drive a lot.
Matt: I don’t like it, personally. There are times when I had to drag myself out of bed to see a band I really like an hour away. Seeing shows is different for us though I think. It’s a weird feeling like you can’t walk into the back of the venue and into the green room to take a leak comfortably, you have to stand in line! And beers are 13 dollars!
Are there any bands you would go out of your way to see?
Johnny: They’re all gone!
Ok, who were some bands?
Matt: We are really big classic rock fans.
Johnny: We are lucky that we got to see one of Motion City’s last sets ever.
Matt: That’s a band we would’ve gone to see. We’ll still go see The Maine, too.
Who are some bands that have been influential to your sound?
Matt: The bands we just named, and also Tom Petty!
Johnny: Tom Petty plays a huge role in this band.
Matt: But yeah, we are about people who play real music with real instruments on stage in front of a real audience. There are maybe actually like ten mainstream artists right now who are doing that.
Would you ever push your boundaries within the rock genre you’re in?
Matt: I mean, we are never going to turn into a straight pop band, but there’s no reason we can’t go in a hundred different directions under the rock umbrella. Frankly, if we started to, it would never feel right. There’s a misconception that people who don’t write mainstream compatible music can’t write it…but it’s just a majority of people don’t want to, they wanna actually sound like something.
Sean: A great band that’s an example though is The Script. They are one of the biggest pop bands- they had hits on the radio- but literally they were guys in a room with guitars. They had mainstream success but they were technically a rock band with guitars amps and vocals
Matt: The things that mostly dictates mainstream success is whether or not it was manufactured in a sterile environment by a major label- that’s the truth! Why are there no more rock bands on the radio? That’s what we grew up with. Every single person. A vast majority of people will listen to whatever they’re told is good. And right now, the vast majority of people are being told that trap rap and sterile pop music is good, and I think we all know that they aren’t. Even with rock radio, there are still alternative rock bands that still get zero air play, zero attention, and zero time because they want songs that are manufactured by a major label. There’s a very distinct glass ceiling on where you’re allowed to go unless you shed your skin and become something you’re not.
How would you guys define your own success so far? What do you even define as success? Is it making money or getting on the radio or winning some award?
Johnny: Obviously that’s all success but releasing this record at this point.
Sean: I’m gonna say were successful when we can show up to any town and there’s a number of people there.
Matt: I think when we can play on bills with bands we constantly and mutually respect- both musically and as people. Not that we’re not in that position entirely right now, but like there is a lack of mobility on how we can leverage who we want to be playing with. So yeah, success would be sort of when we can dictate the terms on which we play, always. I think that’s complete success because that’s complete freedom. Paying the rent would not hurt either!
Do you guys ever feel like you’re plateauing or not moving forward?
Matt: I think if we ever felt that we would probably just stop, honestly. This is sort of driving force for ourselves and the people experiencing this with us, so if we plateau this isn’t about our egos or brand. If people become not enthusiastic to listen to us anymore, we’re gonna go do other stuff.
Sean: We’re not gonna beat a dead horse
Matt: No one belongs in the music industry. You play until you can’t. If you’re a chef in a restaurant and they ask for artesian burgers and you turn out big macs, you’d get fired pretty fucking fast. I don’t think music is any different. You’re creating experiences for people. You’re not creating a fashion statement or brand or cult. It’s about creating an experience. Make room in the industry for people doing something new and progressive. If people stop loving our music, we will probably stop loving it too.
Would y’all go off and do solo projects then? (like ehmm, One Directon)
Sean: I’ve never heard of a drummer with a good solo project.
Matt: I don’t wanna trick someone into listening something under the guise of “so and so from so and so.”
Collin: Everytime you see stuff on alt press or blogs about these guys, it almost never goes anywhere. Who cares? A few people retweet it and like it.
Matt: You’re bands no longer a band for a reason! Whether or not you were that reason, it seems kinda asinine that you think you could leave a whole band and try to make something half as real.
Collin: The bands that are doing it, they were together for like 10-15 years. We’re still in that process, and were still getting into that.
Matt: I think the truth is most people who market music completely underestimate the intelligence they’re marketing to and good for them because frankly it works. They aim directly at the heart of the demographic at the lowest common denominator and make the most agreeable possible fame for that person. That doesn’t feel like art to me and that doesn’t feel like entertainment either- under most cases. And obviously there’s a line between art and entertainment in the industry but like most the music people release is strategically released to make people go “I’d love to spend money on this, this makes me feel very cool about my place in society.” That’s not why we are doing anything. It’s terrible because most people would be upset to find out we aren’t outrageously happy with the music industry. I don’t think anyone in it on the musician side is actually that happy as a musician. Unless you’re motivators are purely financial, there’s something seriously lacking in creative people’s ability to be creative and there’s always ways to make that better.
Do you think music (and art in general) is being commercialized?
Matt: Absolutely. We are witnessing the death of human culture. The minute you take the instruments away from musicians and the ability to write away from creatives and put it into the hands of engineers…people can sense false reality. The bubble everyone lies in, between social media and political view points and the music you listen to and food you eat full of bullshit and preservatives, it’s almost never what it says it is on the package. Why would you believe music is what it says it is? They sell you coffee that’s mostly saw dust! Why do you think you’re being sold music that’s mostly music?
Sean: Like with EDM. There’s one dude pressing play and everyone goes nuts because you’re on drugs.
Matt: Any single person here could make a hit EDM record using a basic set up of instructions and a formulated beat technician software and a MacBook- is there something beautiful? Yeah, that someone can generate something so rapidly… but I think when it’s put into the hands of major labels to go “Wow, it’s a lot cheaper to pay one guy to pretend to be a band in front of a Mac using strategically formulated engineer beats that we bought, so we have control every aspect of it.” Do you know how expensive it is to pay, strain, and maintain five dudes with instruments? It’s work, actual work. Why would anyone wanna do actual work?
Collin: Sorry, we're pissed!
Matt: People wanna hate us for saying it, fucking hate us! It’s all in the music, anyway.
But you’re finally saying it! People who don’t think of music the way we think of music… this never crosses their mind. I mean, music like EDM is powerful I think because you see how it brings masses of people together, but it’s just that- party music.
Matt: It’s entertainment! But do we really think those people should be the highest paid musicians on the face of the planet? It’s so much easier and cheaper to make, so all you have to do is tell the mainstream audience that that is the epitome of musicianship and they damn well believe it- and they say it every day with their dollars and cents. My opinion isn’t that they aren’t talented, but we are physical tangible people. I think that looking at how real musicians are paid as opposed to computer programmers, is insulting and objectively upsetting when you think how music and culture has been marginalized for the last couple of decades since the dawn of the internet. My cell is powerful but also a piece of shit. Everything is manifested at the cheapest price in the lowest standard. Why are we so happy to except that? Everything now is designed to break and become a cheap thrill so you can put a photo on Instagram and generate a like so you can show marketers what you’re willing to pay for. The bottom line is we’ve allowed corporate control to destroy human culture as a whole- and music is no acceptation.
Is music your act of civil disobedience?
Matt: Yes. Climbing an uphill battle carrying a torch for a genre of music that no body gives a flying fuck about. At the very least we are doing something real.