Scatter The Ashes - About Signing To Epitaph
Nina from punkbands.com got a chance to talk with Dillon from newly Epitaph signed Scatter The Ashes. Topics covered were their new album, signing to Epitpah instead of Island and about being compared to The Cure and Refused.
Nina: We'll start at the beginning...Forming out of Nashville, TN, did you ever find it difficult trying to gain a supportive fan base outside of your local town? Was it ever hard trying to become popular in other states as well? Trying to throw a tour together, make a name for yourselves...anything, really. I mean, their might not be as many advantages in forming a band out of Nashville as there is forming one straight out of Chicago, or anywhere in California...It's not really that big of a city, but I may be under the wrong impression.
Dillon: Oh yeah, it was definitely hard. There are a few cities around us that are relatively popular, but Nashville never really gets that much recognition. There's Atlanta and Birmingham which are pretty popular, but that's basically it. It's always been hard for us to really get a good grip and make a name for ourselves here. We're not out of California, that's for sure. We're not coming out of a huge market, or a huge city. If you go to a show, and play a show in Nashville for instance, and 150 kids show up, that's considered a lot. I know it doesn't sound like much, but 150 kids is a huge amount to see at shows here. It's hard to get that many people to come out to your shows, and when it happens, you just think it's great. Working out of a smaller market really makes you try harder. We would always be pushing it to the next level, and be willing to travel that one extra mile. We would pass out like 6,000 flyers at a show in Nashville; we would drive all the way to Atlanta and pass out more flyers there. Anything we could really do to get our name out, we did it. But it's definitely hard coming out of Nashville. We did a ton of self-promotion just to try to get kids to come out to our shows, and that's really what it took.
Nina: Signing onto Epitaph was, I imagine, a huge deal for everyone involved. I'm not going to ask you the story of how that came about, because I'm sure you've been there already and have the answer memorized by now, but what has Epitaph been able to offer you, which may be the reason why you chose to stick with them as opposed to another label, and what do you hope you're able to give to Epitaph in return?
Dillon: Epitaph is one of those labels that work for the bands, as opposed to the bands working for Epitaph. They really do a lot for everyone who is a part of their roster. There are a lot more advantages in being on Epitaph, because it's one of those bigger independent labels. We've definitely gained a lot more access to things by becoming a part of their team. There's more distribution available, more funding, more support on tour...We get a shit load of stickers all the time to pass out. They really do a lot for us. And Brett from Bad Religion owns Epitaph, so he knows what it's like, and he's totally down to earth with everything we consider doing, and he understands our reasons behind doing it all. If we want to hand out 500 demos for free, Brett won't be against the idea. He'd totally understand it. He's never told us that any of our ideas are necessarily bad, or that they wouldn't help the band at all...He's really supportive with whatever we come up with. So it's cool for him to be so involved since he's been there before. As far as what I hope we're able to give them in return, all I can say is that I hope we sell a shit load of records just so they won't regret signing us. If we can give them that in return, I think it would be more than enough.
Nina: Now, I wouldn't consider Epitaph to be a huge label, but it is relatively popular. In order for that deal to go through though, you had to go through a developmental deal with Island. Would you ever consider signing with Island in the future? What are some of the drawbacks of making such a big decision? What sort of mixed feelings rise out of the idea of signing onto Island?
Dillon: Well we had that deal with Island worked out way before the deal with Epitaph was considered. With Island, there were some benefits and some drawbacks. They were able to give us a van, we had the opportunity to record...They offered us what they could at the time. When we signed to Epitaph, we realized we were on such a more comfortable level. We could have stuck with Island, but we didn't want to get "lost in the fold" so to speak. There are always a ton of pros and cons into signing with a major label, and a lot of them are really frightening. Like, on a major label, you need to sell 250,000 copies of your record just to break even, and that's fucking scary. I can't even imagine selling 50,000 right now. There are a lot of mixed feelings amongst the band about the idea of major labels.
It's like ehh...do we stick with where we're comfortable, or do we push ourselves past our limit? I think Epitaph really understands where we're coming from. They've allowed us to distribute ourselves across the United States and into Canada, but if we would ever want to consider making ourselves known overseas, which we would eventually like to, we would have to focus more on a major label. I would love to go to Europe or even Japan one day, and play shows out there, and see kids listening to our record. But, I mean, we don't want to be on MTV or anything. I can never see that happening. Epitaph is just so comfortable, and we're really happy in working with them, so we wouldn't consider going any further right now. We're a new band; we have a long time to go, so maybe one day we'll decide we're ready for it.
Nina: If I'm not mistaken, Devout: The Modern Hymn was recorded in New York with the help of John Naclerio. What made you choose to work with him on your full length, and what do you believe he was able to bring into the band as far as advice and opportunities are concerned? Was there anything about the way he carried out the production process that you really enjoyed and appreciated, or that you even disliked?
Dillon: We were actually hooked up with John through Island. He was someone they recommended, and we didn't really know anything about him or his work, so we took the chance of agreeing to have him help us on our album. All we really knew was that the studio was pretty small and intimate, and that he had worked with My Chemical Romance in the past, so he had a good reputation in our minds. It was actually kind of intimidating though when the time finally came to record, because we had never done anything this professional before.
John turned out to be a real nice guy though. He was really cool and extremely laid back about everything. He would say "Let's try this, and if you don't like it, then I have some other ideas in mind." He wouldn't force anything down our throats and make us do anything we weren't agreeing upon. It's stressful recording an album though, because that's what people hear and judge you by, so you have to do your absolute best. We didn't want to step on any needles during the recording process, so we pretty much tip toed around and were careful about what we did. We produced a lot of the album ourselves, so I can't really say that there were some things that John did that we would have done differently, or anything like that.
We would work on it on our own, and then we would tell him how it was going. Every now and then he would throw his two cents in and give us some advice on how to go about handling certain situations. He really helped Daryl out a lot on his vocals, especially on the melodies. And John has a shit load of amps in this place, so there was a ton of equipment we got the chance to use that we never had access to before. It was great being able to work with all of that. It only took us ten days to record the album, so timing was critical. Most of the first takes were what we wound up sticking with. I think I recorded all of the drum tracks in about a combined total of one day. The album sounds almost identical to how we sound live, because we didn't use anything digital, and we didn't throw in any surprise sound clips. We didn't have the money to be that technical with our work, so it sounds exactly the same as we do live. That's probably a good thing though, because it makes recreating the sound a lot easier.
Nina: As far as budgets go, I guess working with John was the right thing to do for your first full length, but would you ever consider working with him again in the future, or does that really depend on what's put out on the table, and what's available at the time you decide to consider recording again? Any ideas of who you would like to work it in the future?
Dillon: Yeah, we didn't have a lot of money available to us, and working with John was definitely the best way to go at that point in our lives. We would love to work with him again in the future, especially since now we know how he goes about handling his work, and we're both familiar with how one another carries out the recording process. I really don't know who we would like to work with later on. I'm sure we'll be given some names, and we'll have to sit down and contemplate it all, but we're relatively new to all of this, so we might just be better off sticking with who and what we know, and right now, that's just John. So, I guess you never know until it comes time to finally commit yourself to the studio again.
Nina: In writing songs, how do you make your music seem more like a real composition as opposed to simple song-writing? What do you need to combine into your songs to make one more of a "real composition?" Where is the line drawn between the two similar, yet extremely different ideas?
Dillon: Whenever we sit down and write new material, it takes us about an entire month to decide on whether or not we're satisfied with a song. When we were putting together songs and writing for the album, we would practice about four times a week, for six hours at a time each night, so we spent a ton of time just playing through the same songs over and over.
Over the course of a year, we wrote a handful of different versions for each song. We decided some parts were too easy, some parts were too cliché, other parts weren't melodic enough...We always had excuses to go back and re-write a song. We always wanted to feel out each song, get a taste of what it sounded like, and decide on whether or not that was really going to be the finalized product. We would record the songs on this little demo thing we have, and go back and listen to each track.
Then we would have to decide if we wanted the song to be slower, lighter, heavier, faster...We took a lot of different avenues. I think just spending that much time on each song alone really made them more like a real composition. We didn't write the song, play it through three times, and decide that this was it. We put a lot more into our song-writing until we were completely sure that we were satisfied, and that nothing else could be done to make the track any better. I guess that's just how we work though. We're always looking out to make sure we're putting out the best possible product we can offer. We would never be satisfied with our work if we just threw out the first thing that came to our minds. We spend a lot of time writing songs, which is why we say it's more like a composition. That's just how it is in our minds, but each band handles the same topic differently.
Nina: When it comes to the sound of your music, people always seem to make comparisons to bands like The Cure, or The Refused. Do you ever feel any pressure in reading or hearing about those comparisons? Do you feel as if you have something to live up to, or are you just grateful to receive such a compliment, and hope people think just as highly of your music?
Dillon: We like both of those bands a lot, so we never feel ashamed or embarrassed by people saying we sound like them. I don't know whether or not we ever really get nervous about it. What happens, is bands you listen to on a regular basis somehow work themselves into our own material when you're writing a song. It all happens accidentally, and you have absolutely no control over it, so our influences just get thrown in there without us even realizing it. I mean, we hope to be as great as those bands one day, but I don't know whether or not that will ever happen.
A lot of people compare us more to The Refused than to The Cure, because The Refused blew up after they broke up. There's a joke going around Epitaph that that's what's going to happen to us. We're always playing shows to small crowds, like twenty people a night, and people are always saying things like "Man, this band is great, why aren't there more people here?!" And we honestly don't know the answer to that. I was looking at some picture of The Refused that's hanging in the office here at Epitaph, and there are about ten people in the audience, none of which are even paying attention to what's going on.
They're all like hanging out at the bar, drinking, smoking cigarettes, having their own conversations, and then there's The Refused, on stage, doing their thing. So since we don't play to any real huge crowds yet, and that we're pretty low-key as far as popularity is concerned, we're always compared to The Refused. When it comes to The Cure, I think we sound more like their darker side. None of their poppy stuff is like us at all. That's the thing about The Cure. They have some really horrible albums, and some down right beautiful albums. We're more like the depressed, sad side of The Cure. We relate more to their darker side.
Nina: You're just finishing up a tour with The Calico System, and the Black Halos. How did the majority of those shows turn out for you guys in regards to crowd response, attendance, etc.? Was there anything you were aiming to achieve on this tour, or really just getting out and supporting the album?
Dillon: All we're really trying to do is spread the word about the band right now, and give kids a chance to listen to and check out our music. We've been on tour for a few years now, and each year it's a different story. Our first year we were probably playing to like 5-10 kids a night, and now it's up to 20-30 kids a night. On this tour, we're playing in a lot of the smaller markets, a lot of the smaller cities, so we don't really expect a shit load of kids to come out. Plus, we're not friggin' rock stars or anything.
Twenty people is fine with us, we don't complain about it. Touring with The Calico System and the Black Halos is really strange though. Each band is so different. The Calico System is like this tough, hardcore band, and then The Black Halos are this dirty rock and roll band, made up of a bunch of old guys who wear nothing but black. They just remind us of the Sex Pistols or something. Somehow, each of our bands finds a way to connect though. There aren't really that many bands that sound like us to begin with, so it would be hard to throw together a tour with bands that we sound remotely similar to.
I don't think I would want to be on a show like that anyways, because who wants to go to a show and hear bands that all sound the same? That's like going to a hardcore show. I like playing with diverse bands and throwing something different into the mix. I guess we just hope to stay on the road for as long as we can and keep promoting the album as much as possible...that is, until we go broke hah.
Nina: I don't want to bring the subject of genres into the mix, because that always seems to be a sensitive topic, but do you pretty much see the same group of kids coming out to your shows, or is it hard to predict what your audience is going to be like each night? I don't want to be stereotypical and say "Do you see more punk kids at your show compared to emo kids?" because first it's unfair, and you can't tell just by looking at someone, but do you see any resemblance in the type of people that head out to your shows?
Dillon: It's definitely hard to predict what sort of kids we're going to see at our shows. They'll be someone wearing a Cave-In shirt standing next to someone in a Joy Division shirt, standing next to someone in a Poison shirt. I don't know Hah. It's funny because the older dudes seem to love us, the college kids seem to love us, even the thirteen year old nerdy science kids seem to like us. Hardcore kids like us...depressed kids like us, all the weird and strange kids like us...I haven't been able to see one solid group of people yet, and I might never be able to see that. With all the different shows we're playing, we're always being exposed to new audiences, so it's never the same crowd. I really like that though because it allows us to open ourselves up to anyone who's willing to listen. Plus, with not that many people coming out to begin with, it's hard to tell who fits in where. So yeah, it's definitely hard to figure out what sort of kids we attract.
Nina: As far as the future of Scatter the Ashes is concerned, what's in store for you guys? Do you plan on taking a break before you head out on the road again, or before you start writing new material? Is there anyone you'd like to tour with this summer, or even any shows you yourself want to check out?
Dillon: We hope to tour for the rest of this year, as well as next year. We don't really want to have to sit down and record again until next summer. So in the meantime, we're just going to find ways to keep ourselves busy as much as we can, and stay out on the road as long as possible.. I would love to check out TV on the Radio, The Mars Volta, Me Without You...all those bands are really great, we like them a lot. Maybe we can work something out with them in the future, who knows. All we know right now is that this is what we're devoted to, and we don't have any other shit to be doing right now, so the band is our primary focus. If anyone has the chance, they should definitely check out our website, our new album, even our tour dates, and if we're playing anywhere near you, come check us out. It's really all we ask.
Thu Jun 17, 2004 7:50 pm