jeudi 18 janvier 2024

Interview Underdog

In this interview, we delve into the journey of Underdog, celebrating the success of their latest album, "Trans Global Amnesia." From diverse influences to the evolution of their sound, Scott and Bryn share insights, highlighting the band's rich history and global impact. They discuss the creative process behind the album, the significance of streaming in today's music industry, and their plans for the future, promising fans a melodic and cohesive experience in their upcoming work, tentatively titled "Wonderland."

1. Congratulations on the release of your latest album, Trans Global Amnesia! How has the response been so far, and what inspired the title of the album?
Thanks so much! So far most of the feedback about the new album has been very positive. Six of the songs have found their way onto over 30 playlists since the beginning of the year, when it came out, which is pretty amazing, usually one or two songs become the focus of the hype, but seeing a wide variety of them getting attention is really amazing and gratifying. One reviewer, Senocular Media, actually added the entire album to their Indie Rock Hits playlist, alongside their review, which is really mind blowing.
The album title was inspired by by a friend’s sister who was traveling for work, and woke up in a hotel room in Maine, with no idea of where she was, or why she was there. She was checked out at a local hospital and found out she had “Transient Global Amnesia,” which thankfully is a temporary condition, usually brought on by strenuous activity or highly-stress events. When my friend was telling me the story she called it “Trans Global Amnesia,” which actually sounds a bit cooler in my opnion, and I told her at that moment I wa going to use it for an album title. It’s got a very ambiguous sound about it. Like you have no idea what to expect, or what you’re in for putting on the album.

2. You've been making music together since 2013. How has the dynamic within the band evolved over the years, and what do you believe has been the key to your longevity?
Well our friendship goes back to around 1984, when I first met Bryn, so it’s been evolving since then. There were points when we were actively playing in bands during that time, and even working together for about two or three years doing graphic design. In the mid-80s Bryn was at the helm of The Hackmasters, a band that featured him on guitar and singing songs that he had written. I was playing bass, along with our friend Glen Sherman on drums. In the mid-90s I formed fin-de-siècle, and Bryn was one of the drummers we had over the years.
We’ve stayed in touch in between those times as well, but once he got himself set up with ProTools at AMRD Media, his home studio we were off and running. He played me some demos he had made of newer songs, and \initially he invited me out to record some of my songs, but I told him that I was going to need his help with the drumming and lead guitar work. So very quickly we were in on it together. It’s always been a very open dialogue, and we are both comfortable speaking our minds. Once and a great while one of us may have a specific thing that has to be just a certain way, but for the most part it’s a very collaborative effort once the recording is underway.

3. Scott and Bryn, you have a rich history of playing together in various bands dating back to the 1980s. How has your musical collaboration changed or developed since your early days with The Hackmasters and fin-de-siècle?
This time we are both contributing songs that we have written, and although we had hoped to find a bassist and drummer to round out the band, that never happened, and we realized that between the two of us we had all the bases covered. Our friends have helped out with live shows on bass and drums, but they haven’t been able to commit to it full time.
This has given us the opportunity to try a lot of different things, especially as we’ve been learning ProTools alongs the way, which has added a whole other dimension to what’s going on, rather than working with a highly skilled engineer. Sometimes the songs come in pretty much finished and ready to record. Then there are times one of us brings in a basic idea that we get to flush out together in the recording process, building up the tracks. Lots of happy accidents along the way for sure, and it’s especially cool when we figure out a way around something in ProTools to make some magic happen.

4. Ether Dome received positive reviews from various sources. How do you feel your sound has progressed from your first album to Trans Global Amnesia, and what elements do you believe define the Underdog sound?
I think the elements that are part of the essential sound are the guitars being out in front, with very present bass and drums to really support them. My feeling has always been the the vocals are just another instrument within the band, and don;t need to be riding on top of everything. I guess there’s that idea that if something is being played with all it’s might, yet it’s down in the mix, especially the vocals, it helps give the impression of an overwheleming sound. I always thought that Mission of Burma did a wonderful job of creating that sense of space.
The sound of Trans Global Amnesia is a lot more dense, and multilayered. There are also instruments like Sitar, Tempura, Tablas, and Electric Sitar, being introduced to the pallet of sounds, which helps to broaden the sound texture spectrum. Although the better understanding of ProTools may not have cleaned up the sound, I think we were able to capture a more consistent and better representation of our sound this time. I think the songs are a bit more adventurous in and of themselves, which opened up a lot more possibilities too. With any luck it’s a constantly evolving process, learning and trying new things all the time.

5. Can you tell us about the songwriting process for Trans Global Amnesia, especially since Scott took the lead in writing this album? Were there any specific influences or themes that guided the creation of the songs?
Yes, most definitely. Lots of different influences, as you can tell by the variety of subject matter. Most of them come from personal experiences, or are about people who are, or were close to me.There’s a bit of social commentary going on in places too, and a sense of humor is always good to keep in mind. “Helsinki Airport Blues” is one of those songs that writes itself, and it literally did just that over the course of the trip. The words have been distilled to their perfect essence over time, but most of it was done by the time I got off the plane when I returned home. “Munchausen By Proxy” and “Mallus Maleficarum” were both inspired by things that I had seen on TV, or I read about, and felt they were interesting subjects for songs, inspired by the search for the guilty and persecution of the innocent. “Rocket Baby” is another true story, about a 3 year old whirling dervish I know.
“Summer Song” came about in the studio while I was experimenting with recording direct to board, and the song just spilled out. I thought it sounded like a summer song, and with that in mind, the words all came out at once shortly afterwards. “Louie & Marie” and “Regeneration” came more from general observations about the general state of things. I would not say that the instrumentals don’t have a theme, in fact they may be the most refined ones on the album for all I know. “Echo of a Dream” was obviously inspired by a dream, but also by that moment on the edge of consciousness when you don’t know what’s real and what’s a dream tricking your mind. “Blow Your Face Off” was originally supposed to be the final song on “Ether Dome” and linked with “Music Box”, but the lockdown prevented us from getting it recorded before we finally decided we had to release the album, and it also deals with the passing of our friend Glen. “You Told Me” deals with the departure of a loved one of another kind.

6. Underdog has consistently been the No. 1 charting alternative band in Boston for over five years. How has the local music scene influenced your music, and what sets the Boston music scene apart in your opinion?
The local scene is very diverse and Boston has always been known for having a fairly gritty sound, so we sort of fit into that nicely. There are a lot of very loyal, die-hard fans out there on the scene in general. People who have been there since the late 70s, or earlier in some cases, and they’re still out there looking for new music. There is a very established garage and blues scene, with lots of great bands and artists that span that time frame. Right alongside that are younger and more contemporary sounding groups out there doing their thing, which has its own community, and is probably a bit more diverse by way of the variety of styles within it. Lots of college students around means that almost any genre can find its niche around here.

7. You've achieved high rankings on Reverbnation nationally and globally. How does it feel to see your music resonate on such a broad scale, and what do you attribute your success to in the highly competitive music industry?
It’s constantly amazing to us at how far our music has reached. It’s definitely one of the huge advantages to using a digital delivery format, rather than relying solely on tangible media like vinyl and CDs, and even traditional broadcast radio. The music is instantly everywhere, all at once, and there for anyone with a curious mind to check it out. Obviously there is a lot more competition out there for the same reasons, but artists that would never get their music out there, if they had to rely on a label putting it out, are able to have their voices heard. In some ways it feels very underground, but the fact that it’s out there in plain sight makes it highly visible to everyone. We have gotten some serious ongoing support from online radio stations like Radio TFSC in Germany, RI Free Radio, in Rhode Island, Listen Local Radio, in San Diego, METAVERSE RAD.IO, in Chicago, and Music City Digital Media Network, in Nashville, which have a far greater reach in some ways. We’ve been pretty lucky so far, but hoping this new album will bring in an even wider audience.

8. Winning the Battle of the Bands in Nashville and placing in the Top 50 of the "Artist of the Year" poll in Stuttgart are impressive accomplishments. How do these experiences shape your approach to future performances and recordings?
These were both huge moments for us, and we’re hoping to keep the momentum going. I’m not sure these sorts of things have a lot of direct impact on how or what we record, or even our live performances, in any conscious way, but the idea that we are always thinking about the “next big thing,” whatever that may be, is sort of what drives us ahead. We would love to see more good things like these happen, but they are not the actual goals that we are aiming for. Making music we are happy with, and proud of is the driving force behind what we’re doing. We hope it’s finding fans that enjoy listening to it as much as we do making it.

9. Your songs have received airplay across the US, UK, Europe, Australia, and South America. How do you think your music connects with listeners from diverse cultural backgrounds, and have you noticed any regional preferences in your audience's response?
Hopefully there’s something in there for everyone that enjoys this sort of music, and it seems to resonate in a pretty wide variety of places, like Mexico, Poland, India and Brazil. The UK seems to be our number 1 fan base outside of the US, but France and Germany have also been very good to us with their support. We’ve gotten some media coverage in Africa too, but not sure how engaged the listeners are there and across Asia. I’d love to think that one day we will find out we’ve gotten airplay in Antarctica.

10. You've been featured on various podcasts and blogs. How do you find the experience of discussing your music in different formats, and do you feel these interactions have influenced your creative process in any way?
Absolutely! When someone is writing about us with only the music as a contact point it’s much different than when there’s even been email conversations or some text messages. There’s also a big difference between a phone call and some sort of face-to-face (FaceTime or Zoom) interaction, because the more connected you get with a person, the more intimate it becomes. They both have their pitfalls, as I find myself going out on tangents when talking live with someone, and then forget to circle back to the main point. I tend to stay more focused in written correspondences. However, those don’t have the same spontaneity as the live conversations.
I think we take away whatever the writer or interviewer’s perspective is, and just hearing comments about what they think, who we sound like to them, etc. are always interesting and leaves some sort of impact, even if it’s subconscious. We are not aiming to make music to please anyone based on their comments. I think we’ve been very lucky to find a lot of people who have taken a genuine interest in our music, even if it’s not the sort of thing that they may listen to on a regular basis.

11. Can you share some insights into your creative and recording process for Trans Global Amnesia? Were there any challenges or breakthrough moments during its production that stand out to you?
I cut the initial basic tracks of rhythm guitar, bass, vocals and scratch drums at Black Dog, which is my home studio, and then brought a slew of songs to Bryn. Together we selected the one we wanted to work on next in each case, and he would record the final drum tracks and then add his lead guitar part. For me having to record a few of the songs on my own was a big challenge, and I’m still very self conscious about the drumming, lead guitars and solos on those, but it was also a bit of a breakthrough, overcoming that fear.
I know I mentioned before that we got more comfortable working with ProTools this time around, and I was both happy and surprised when we were able to figure out ways around corners that we had boxed ourselves into during the recording process. On one song, we were actually able to extend the intro section, adding four bars to the front of it, which is something we could not have done so easily had we been recoding on tape, like in the ‘good old days.”. There was also a lot more layering of guitars on this album than the previous one, and I feel like we were able to keep all those elements pretty well balanced in the mix, especially towards the end of “Blow Your Face Off.” These are things that we’ve learned from and will hopefully make the next album go quicker and smoother by way of the actual recording process. The songwriting and performances are always the point where the rubber hits the road, but I feel like we are in a much better place than we were a year or two ago.

12. With the release of Trans Global Amnesia on New Year's Eve 2023, what are your expectations and hopes for the new album, both artistically and in terms of audience reception?
The actual release date came about mostly from chance and necessity. We had hoped to have the album out by late summer or early autumn, and really wanted to get it released in 2023, especially with the next one already underway with a target release of the summer of 2024. We got the final song finished on December 29, and we were looking at the 123123 date of New Year’s Eve, and said, “Why not?” I think it’s kind of nice, as the album title implies some sense of disorientation and that transition into the new year always carries a bit of that displacement for everyone. I’d love to say it was planned, but it only came about in the last week before it was released. I suppose that fact that it’s usually a quite time for new music to be released might work in our favor a bit, rather than being swallowed up in a huge glut of releases that happen at other various times during the year.

13. Looking ahead, you mentioned that work on new songs for your third album is already underway. How do you approach the evolution of your sound while maintaining the core identity of Underdog, and what can fans expect from your upcoming work?
Well I think the next album may be a bit more melodic overall, and have more cohesive themes going on than this one. I fell like each of the songs on “Trans Global Amnesia” has its own theme, or is exploring a unique direction for us. The new group of songs are a bit more intertwined, especially by way of subject matter. I think the songs may also hit a bit closer to home by way of what we are all about, and trying to do. We often joke about running songs through the Underdog meat grinder, which comes down to us taking the basic song structure and turning it into something that sounds distinctly like us. We’ve gotten a lot of comments about both albums having a great live sound, which is great, although they were both done completely in the studio. It’s nice to know that the live energy is transferring to the recordings, and getting captured in some way, as that was the real intent behind the first album.

14. Your songs are featured on various Spotify playlists. How important has streaming been to your music's exposure, and do you think it has changed the way artists engage with their audience?
It’s obviously had a huge impact on the entire music industry. Better known artists are feeling the financial impact on their royalties, but for us there is a low level of royalties coming in, so it doesn’t have the same sort of impact on us. For lesser known artists, like us it’s a great way to share our music across the globe for nothing, as I mentioned before, so it’s really a double edged sword, but for the moment I think we are reaping more of the benefits than feeling the downside of it. Obviously that can change as an artist becomes more well known, and may not feel like they are seeing the finical rewards of that success coming from places like Spotify and other major streaming services that aren’t paying the artists their fair share of the proceeds. I’m sure it’s been a primary source of exposure for us, so we are going with the flow for now.

15. Finally, what are your plans for the upcoming year, and how do you envision the future of Underdog in terms of musical exploration and growth?
Hopefully the music will always continue to grow in new ways, and exploration is part of that process. I’m hoping to find some other new sounds and instruments to introduce to the mix along the way. Besides working on the next album, We’re hoping to get some live shows happening over the spring and summer to help support the album, and inspire some things for the next one. With any luck we will get that one out over the summer, it’s tentatively titled “Wonderland.”

Underdog (@underdog_rocks) • Photos et vidéos Instagram

Musique | Underdog (

Streamez de la musique Underdog | Écoutez des chansons, des albums, des playlists gratuitement sur SoundCloud

Aucun commentaire:

Enregistrer un commentaire