Every so often as a blogger, you experience burnout. It’s tough to admit — after all, we get a consistent stream of new and exciting music thrown our way — but it happens. And sometimes the only way out of a musical funk is something irresistibly catchy. The layered harmonies of Cruiser were just the sort of thing I needed a few weeks ago when a case of that burnout struck.
Cruiser is the musical pen name of Andy States, a Philadelphia native who has a knack for crafting delectable beach rock. The Cruiser EP is without a doubt the most pleasant inbox surprise I’ve come across so far in 2012. States was kind enough to give us a bit of his time to answer our questions. What follows are his answers, and some tunes as well.
Is the music scene in Philadelphia thriving, or how would you describe what it’s like?
The scene in Philly is great. There are more shows than you can keep up with and tons of insanely talented people coming from this city (War On Drugs, Kurt Vile, Work Drugs, Sun Airway…). The promoters in Philly tend to have amazing taste in the bands they book as well. For instance, in the next week Philly’s hosting Best Coast, Twin Shadow, DIIV, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and Here We Go Magic. They usually give the opening spots to bands from Philly, so there are tons of opportunities for smaller artists to open for these really great bands.
Can you explain a little bit about how you and Jeremy Park ended up working together? You guys never actually met right?
Right. I actually found Jeremy’s blog on his site where he was going into incredible detail about how he did the Youth Lagoon record (which I loved). He’s a busy guy so eventually he didn’t have enough time to keep updating the blog, so I decided to shoot him an email to see if there was any way I could learn a little bit more about some of his techniques. I attached my songs so he knew I wasn’t just trying to rip off Youth Lagoon or something. I was surprised not only that he even responded but that he loved the songs and offered to help produce the songs. We set everything up and then just had these REALLY long phone calls to make sure we were on the same page.
It was an interesting dynamic between the two of us. I knew going into it, that I would sort of have to hand the keys over to him and trust him and be open to changes. It was really hard to listen to his interpretations of the songs at first. I had already spent so much time working on my demos, trying to get them exactly how I wanted them to sound. I was a little disoriented when hearing his mixes at first, but the more I listened to them, the more I realized how much better they were.
How did J. Park make the record better, in your opinion?
He really added a sense of dimension and stereo width to the songs, making the songs sound bigger and clearer. I think that in most cases if you put two heads together you are going to get a better result. Different people hear things in different ways. It was super important to have that second opinion. He also re-recorded all the drums live (originally I just had beats I made in the computer) so I think that really changed the sound for the better and made them feel more dynamic.
These songs have an awful lot of layers, a lot depth. How did you go about writing and recording all the different pieces, and then fitting them together?
I actually do it how I think most people do which is, write the skeleton of a song first. Just coming up with melodies over chords until you find those things that really excite you. I used a loop pedal for a lot of the writing, where the loop would be the entire song. It enabled me to get away from my computer which I feel was really important. I would record the initial chords and write the song with just chords and singing. Then I went back and started with the main guitar parts and added on and tried all kinds of stuff until I found stuff that was exciting and catchy to me.
If you could soundtrack a cross-country drive – from Philadelphia to LA, say – who are some bands you couldn’t leave off that playlist?
Maybe the new Beach House, the first Fleet Foxes album, some Fresh and Onlys Self titled, Girls – Album
In that same vein, whose music are you digging at the moment?
I’ve been obsessed with Purity Ring, DIIV, Grimes, Death Grips. I have an unhealthy obsession with everything Captured Tracks puts out too.
What do you think of music distribution models like, say, Bandcamp, where your stuff is hosted as a “Name Your Price” download? Is just having a platform like that beneficial for an emerging artist?
I don’t know what I’d do without it. It is without a doubt the best way for me to get my music to people. The behind the scenes stuff that bandcamp does is so helpful too. Also, I’m all about just spreading the word. A lot of friends have been actually paying for the record which I’m so grateful for, but really the primary goal is just to get more people listening.
What do you love about writing and playing music?
I love the idea of creating something that people can really get attached to. Its really important to me, to spend a lot of time putting things out into the world, so I can not only leave something behind when I’m gone but also look back and be proud of the things I’ve done when I’m older. Hopefully I can say I spent more time creating things than consuming them. Deep right?
You have 3 plays on the jukebox at a bar – what do you choose to keep the party rolling?
My girlfriend actually thought of the name while we were walking together. I had already sort of started developing the sound of the band but didn’t have a name. When she said “What about ‘Cruiser’?” I remember feeling like, wow yea, that’s what this is supposed to be called. The name just seemed so fitting given the style of the music.
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