“The better we become as songwriters and musicians, the more we just try to write from an honest place and write what we know.”
October 19, 2016
By Zach Collier
Spirit City’s upcoming release has received a considerable amount of attention. Baeble Music premiered the music video for their single, “Do What You Want.” The same single was featured on Alex Rainbird’s August 2016 Playlist. SLUG Magazine released an advance review of the album early last month. In that article, SLUG’s Alex Vermillion said, “We’re All Insane is a demanding album—in a brilliant way. It demands that you listen, that you dance, that you soak in nostalgia from the past and that you truly think about your life in the present.” Last night, I got to phone in and talk with lead vocalist Nate Young, bassist Cori Place, and synth player Austin Young about the album’s themes while they were at their studio in Springville.
My first question for you: “We’re All Insane” makes veiled mention of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. What are your current feelings about the election cycle?
Nate Young: [Laughter] That’s a great question. Kudos on finding that subtle hint. Well, I guess it’s not so subtle. When we were writing that song, it was actually at the beginning of the election cycle, before Donald Trump was even the candidate for the Republican Party. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both had some pretty peculiar moments. They’ve said some things that seem a bit crazy. I guess there’s no other easy way to put it. So when I was writing this song, I just felt like this election cycle was so insane. That’s part of what prompted the name of the whole EP. I just thought it was so insane that as Americans we can support candidates that are so lacking as far as setting an example of what a President should be. We just thought it was kind of funny, and I thought it was even more funny that they became – Donald Trump especially, but Hillary Clinton, too – the candidates that we are choosing for the presidency. [Laughter] That just blew my mind.
Is it all about the election? Or are there multiple meanings?
Nate Young: The song is not only about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and the presidential election. But it kind of started off as sort of a satire. Poking fun at the election cycle and the irrationality of the candidates and their platforms. The things they say and the things they do. But anyways, it also became more about human irrationality in general. Just the theme of human irrationality. We’re all kind of crazy sometimes. We do and say and behave in ways that are pretty irrational. I think that’s why it’s even possible to have candidates that seem so crazy to a lot of people. Even though they say things that are irrational, there are large portions of the American population that identify with them, obviously. Things that they say resonate with them. We’re just irrational, emotional beings. That whole theme was just the backbone of that song and even the entire EP.
That was my next question. It’s the title track, so are there political themes that run through the entire album? Or does it dip into satirization of culture in general?
Nate Young: It’s not by any means a political EP. And we’re not trying to be a political band. That just happened to be the theme of that song. And it was in an upbeat, fun, satirical way. We’re not trying to take ourselves too seriously. But as far as the EP – the record as a whole – it has a theme of irrationality in general: in unrequited love, in human interaction, in trying to understand ourselves. All of that sounds really serious, but we tried to do it in a pretty upbeat, fun way for the most part.
Austin Young: All of those things are super important to life, in general. Sometimes we feel like people – ourselves, even – put too much weight on those topics, and live our lives that way, when really you could take that stuff less seriously and enjoy life for what it is. You know what I mean?
I think that’s reflected in the “Do What You Want” music video. In essence – correct me if I’m wrong – it’s all about choosing who you really want to be instead of living a life contrary to what you want. At first, when I was watching it, I thought it was just going to be about a guy quitting work. But I loved the twist where it presented the thought that while maybe a desk job is not for you and you should be quitting and joining a band, maybe being in a band is not right for you and you gotta quit and go get a desk job because that’s where you want to be. Is that close to what you were hoping to convey?
Cori Place: That’s exactly what we were thinking, you know? Honestly, being a musician and being in a band and taking it seriously and making a career out of it is super hard. Sometimes finances get tough. But the point of it is that you need to love what you’re doing. If you’re not loving what you’re doing while you’re doing it, you might as well not be doing it. That’s the point of that music video. So whether that’s playing music, or having a desk job, or being a taxi driver, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you’re doing, you better love doing it or you’re not going to be happy.
How did you come up with the idea for the music video? What percentage of the idea was Eric Thayne’s [director] and what percentage was your vision?
Nate Young: That specific twist at the end was Eric’s idea, and we really liked it. We kinda came up with the general idea about what we wanted the music video to say. We knew that we didn’t want to be in the music video. Which is maybe not the smartest idea being an unknown band. People are always trying to get exposure and put themselves out there, and we’re not really even in the video. But we really enjoy art, in general, and we really wanted to make the video artistic. Not just a performance video. So we wanted it to speak for itself. So we had an idea that was a little different, but was along the same lines of doing what you want, living for yourself, making choices that aren’t based off of fear or social anxiety. And then Eric gave us a lot of good suggestions, and we molded the idea as we talked about it and it became what it was. That last twist was Eric’s idea. I’m glad he thought of that.
You said you only make cameos in the video. I noticed that Mojave Nomads was also in the video!
Cori Place: Yeah, they’re some friends of ours. We didn’t want to be the band in the video ourselves. We just needed some people who could actually play and look the part. They’re some buddies of ours and we asked them to play, and they totally obliged, which was great.
Are you close with them?
Nate Young: Yeah! We’ve played some shows with them. We actually played a show with them on Saturday for a pumpkin bash thing that was pretty cool. We know them pretty well, and we were happy that they were willing to help. We were trying to organize everything super last minute and they were super nice and willing.
So I feel like there’s a pretty bold aesthetic with all of your photography for this album. My question is: where did you get all the kooky patterned outfits, and where is the room in your promo photos located? [Laughter]
Austin Young: With this idea, we worked with an art director. Her name’s Alex Vaughn. She just got done with SVC, by the way. Space Venture Coalition. She was the space queen in that. She’s super artistic. She’s really passionate about what she does. So it was kinda the same thing with the video. We wanted it to speak for itself as an art piece. So we let her take the reins on most of the decisions. She found this cool design on – what is that website called?
Nate Young: Print All Over Me.
Austin Young: Yeah. Print All Over Me. It’s a website where a bunch of artists upload their designs, and you can have them printed on clothing. So she was browsing that and she brought a couple ideas to us. And we loved this one. It kind of bespeaks the message of We’re All Insane. Crazy colors. Really bold. Bright. Fun. It fit the aesthetic that we were going for. We really connected to it. We loved that. So we chose it and built a room for that. So it’s clothes first, room second. It’s actually located in our studio, so we’re standing on it right now.
[Laughter] Where did you record the album? Did you do it all yourself in your studio?
Nate Young: We did some of it here. The studio’s called Modern Audio. We did a lot of it at [Fictionist’s] Stuart Maxfield’s house, since he has a little studio in his basement. He did a lot of the synths. We used his synths for a lot of the synth sounds. He was really hands on. He was a really hands on producer. So he added a lot to the aesthetic of the EP. Even the songwriting to a certain extent. So we did a lot at his house. But we did drums here and vocals here. And bass, half and half. A little bit of both.
So how’d you get in with Stuart?
Nate Young: I used to play in a band called Good Morning Maxfield, which was pre-Fictionist. So I know all the guys from Fictionist because I played with them before I served an LDS mission. Then they got Aaron, who’s an amazing drummer, and became Fictionist and did their thing. But I’ve known him for a long time. So I asked Stuart if he wanted to produce it. He was excited about it. We gelled really well. He came up with some ideas. He really helped us find a specific vision for the music. We were a little bit unfocused, I guess you would say. We had a lot of songs, jams, and we didn’t know where to go. Stuart helped us focus that into a really interesting and specific sound. We were really happy with how everything went with him.
This album is a pretty drastic departure from your last release. “We Are The Ones” was a little more laid back. Not bad, by any means. Very good song. But what were you hoping to accomplish with the style change?
Cori Place: We basically just wanted to be us in music. I always describe our EP as fun, quirky, and upbeat. And that’s who we are as people. We wanted to reflect that. That’s who we are now. Back when Nate and I wrote “We Are The Ones,” I was going through a divorce. Nate and Austin’s brother had passed away. That’s who we were: we were more melancholy as people. We tend to just write. What comes out of us is what we’re feeling at the time. And so that’s how it’s kind of happened. It’s not necessarily like, “We need to sound like this band” or “We need to put this synth in our song.” It’s kind of just what it is, you know?
Nate Young: The better we become as songwriters and musicians, the more we just try to write from an honest place and write what we know. I feel like this EP came from a really authentic place. It’s super fun and quirky, but it wasn’t forced in any way. We just tried to write songs that spoke to what we were experiencing in the moment.
Do you have any plans to tour in support of this album? What’s your plan with the release?
Nate Young: We are announcing that this week. We have the release show this Friday. We will be playing shows – a string of dates – for the few weeks after that. Rexburg, Boise, Denver, St. George, Vegas, and Mesa. We’ll be doing a West Coast/regional tour for We’re All Insane.
Austin Young: …….Though we’re not really hitting the west coast. [Laughter]
Nate Young: Mountain West! [Laughter] We were hoping to go to LA, but that got delayed. We’ll be getting out there soon. We’re excited to go on and play these shows. Get our music out there, hopefully get some fans, and spread the music.
Anywhere in particular that you’re excited to go to?
Nate Young: I’m really excited to play Denver. The Denver area has a really strong music scene. Vegas should be fun. We’re playing a – I dunno, what do you call it?
Cori Place: It’s like a concert and a marathon pushed into one. [Laughter] It’ll be pretty fun.
Nate Young: And Mesa and Vegas in the middle of November. That’s gonna be great weather. Mesa is a music festival, too. So I’m sure there will be a lot of good bands there, too, so it’ll be a good time.
Last question. This is for each one of you. Which song is your favorite from the album and why?
Austin Young: I think my favorite is “Stillness.” I’m just gonna steal that one right off the bat. It’s not like “Do What You Want” and “We’re All Insane” where they start off immediately. It’s more of a gradual building song. But when it hits the chorus, it’s huge. I dunno, honestly I get a little bit of chills when I listen to that one. That one’s my favorite.
Cori Place: I’m gonna say I do love “Stillness.” Super emotional song. But I’m gonna say “We’re All Insane.” That’s probably my favorite to play live. That’s one of the huge reasons. And I always notice when we do play it live that it just makes people dance. The groove in it makes me dance in the car when I listen to it. It’s fun.
Nate Young: I can’t repeat? [Laughter] I guess I’ll just say “Do What You Want.” I love the whole EP in general, so it’s really hard to choose. It’s kind of an eclectic EP, but I feel like they all fit together at the same time. But “Do What You Want” is just super catchy and fun and upbeat and encapsulates the whole idea of what we were going for with this album. I really like the message. I love the chorus. I love the little guitar solo. It reminds me of Tom Petty or The Beatles or something. So I feel like it has a weird hybrid mix of retro rock with 80’s synth band stuff with modern production on it. I like the whole hybrid approach on that song. I also like the fact that my dad loves it, and little girls love it, and my grandpa likes it. Little kids love it, old people like it, Stuart was super excited about it when we finished. I feel like it’s a song that resonates with anyone regardless of their age and where they come from.
We’re All Insane drops Friday, October 21st on all major digital distribution outlets. Their album release show – the “We’re All Insane Party” – is happening the same day at Velour Live Music Gallery at 8PM. Make sure to like Spirit City on Facebook, and watch the music video for “Do What You Want” below.