You guys just released your new album "With Arrows, With Poise" - how would you describe it?
John: We like to say, "cinematic."
Jonathon: I was just going to say, I think Steven says it best. Like, each individual song is its own little movie, in a way.
Do you have a favorite song off the album?
John: For me it's probably "Holiest of Thieves", I don't know about you guys.
Randy: It rotates for me. I like "Get on the Plane" and I like "Grandfather" because of all the drums.
I understand it was mixed in Berlin, Germany; how did that come about?
Steven: We did the record on our own, we recorded it ourselves. When we were in between labels, we didn't know where we were going to mix it. Koch was the label we ended up signing to, and that was one of the things they were really helpful with. They were like "where do you guys want to finish it up?" There's this guy, Michael Ilbert - who we're all big fans of - is a great mix engineer in Berlin, and we really wanted to do it with him. So they flew a couple of us out there and we mixed it for a couple of weeks. It was a pretty amazing experience.
How does it differ from your debut album?
John: It's not as good... We're degrading.
Randy: The only difference is I'm on it now. So it's waaaay better.
John: I like to say it's got a lot more swagger and more soul to it. A lot more life, a lot more earth in there. The other one was kind of linear and it wasn't as interesting.
Jonathon: I like our first album, I think this one is just more mature. It's just where we're at in our maturity process as a band.
Jeremy: I think the first record, too, had a lot of different themes, and different feelings from song to song. For me, this record really captures a moment which is what we really set out to do from the very beginning. The first record we started writing right when we started touring full time. Actually, just before, but once you spend a couple years in a van with guys and just play - you get 200, 300 shows under your belt - you really start figuring out for the first time what kind of music you want to write and what kind of feeling you want to put into your next album. I think that's what we did with this one.
You guys have had quite a lot of press on MTV lately, can you talk a little about that?
Steven: Yeah. There's this yearly thing they do with Mountain Dew called "Dew Circuit Breakout", where they select 12 bands out of - this year it was 4,000. They leave the rest of the voting up to online voting. We won that at the end of last year, and they've been really supportive of us throughout this year with our new album coming out. Like, this week, we're "Artist of the Week" on MTV, and they're spinning our first video for the album "A Clean Shot". It's kind of surreal, because we certainly didn't anticipate or plan for that to happen, it just sort of happened.
Did you record the music video for "A Clean Shot" with MTV?
Jeremy: We actually did it at the request of MTV with our record label. It was with a guy that they hired, a director named Josh Forbes. He had just finished the Sara Bareilles "Love Song" video, which was really creative and really great. He sent over this really crazy treatment for our video, which had like, puppets and stuff involved. It was really weird and out there, but we wanted to do something a little different and more risky than the average video.
John: We're bored with rock.
How do you think the publicity from MTV has affected your music and your shows?
John: It's been awesome having people come out and say "Hey, I've never heard of you, but I saw your dates on MTV and just came out to see what's going on... love your video..." That's really cool to see new fans and new people coming up and making new friends with people who would've never heard of us outside of the world of MTV.
How do you guys stay humble with so much attention from fans?
Jonathon: We look in our wallets.
John: Ask our wives about our refrigerators.
Jeremy: Pray we don't get hurt, because we don't have health insurance.
Steven: I think there is this weird sort of mystery about a band that is touring or signed on MTV that you have money or that you've "made it" or whatever. Really, it's just one more rung of the ladder. You're still working, you're still trying to make the best art you can make, and put on the best show you can. If it means there are a few hundred more people at a show that you're able to share that experience with, then that's awesome. Last night we were in Pomona, and it was a fabulous show, and a lot of people came out. The music sort of transforms and becomes community property at that point, and that's when it feels really powerful and more exciting.
John: All of our hummers run on vegetable oil, too.
Jonathon: I know, that keeps me humble; when I open my garage and there are only two hummers there. I mean, I should have five or six by now.
How do guys define success as a band?
Jonathon: We're still here.
Steven: That's the hardest work.
Jeremy: I think for me, it seems like if you define success with how much money you're making or how well your song's doing on the radio, then you're always going to feel up and down, up and down, up and down... There are moments throughout being on the road, where people come up to us and share how our music has impacted them. I think a guy just told John five minutes ago that we're his favorite band and our new record is really inspiring. Just those little moments are the moments where, if you're in the right frame of mind, that's success. We wrote music, we created art, and it's affecting people. If you think like that then you're just going to keep doing it forever.
John: Last night, too, there was a guy at the merch table who seemed like he could care less about us, and I'm like, "Well, have you heard of us? This is the new album and blah blah blah", and he's like "Dude, I have all the albums, of course. I've got the iTunes exclusive and this and that extra.." It turns out he was just nervous, because he knew who I was. I was like "Ooh!" and gave him a big juicy hug and picked him up. And cooked him a steak.
Jeremy: Yeah, having MTV on the team, too, is like having gas in the gas tank. For two years, we've had blueberry slushy in the gas tank.
Steven: Now we have 97 Octane Racing Fuel.
Do you guys have a most memorable experience from touring?
Steven: That's what I was just going to say! Gettysburg is one of those moments that was really important for us. We were tired and on tour, and we had a day off, and John had just finished a book on the Civil War so he was able to give us a historical narrative of the experience.
John: I'm the tour guide!
Steven: We went on a sweet ghost tour of the Jenny Wade House, and really, the album started there. Some of the first lyrical ideas started coming about with our fascination with the world that we can't see; this whole spiritual realm that none of us really have any answers to.
John: I think this album, too, gets back to what's the point of things, and for us it was really like wow, we can have fun doing this. Where before it was like "art, metaphor...", now it's like "I want this song to be really fun."
Jonathon: I think that's the nice thing about where we're at. We had just separated with our management, we didn't have a label, and we just made music for the sake of music - for what we wanted and what we loved about it. So I think there was also a freedom there in that sense.
How about the most unexpected thing?
Randy: Yeah, probably MTV.
Jeremy: Getting that magical call on October 1st from MTV Network in NYC. They never call us, it was totally weird. Now they call us all the time.
John: Oh yeah, I have them on speed dial.
Randy: People love what we're doing, and that's like, amazing to me. It's exciting, and humbling, and it's so emotional. We're artists, and every night we go up there and basically we share who we are at our core. That people are coming out to experience that, and walk away with something...it's hard to explain. It's pretty amazing.
Jonathon: That was profound, Randy. Very profound.
John: It's kind of weird to remember that, too, because you do it every single night. So you get kind of jaded to it, until someone says "this song's changed my life", it's like "Wait, what? Which song?! I'm so tired of that song. Really? ...what about Track 6?"
Anything else you would like to add?
John: Java java.
Steven: Yeah, buy the record and come out to a show and join us...
Jonathon: In camaraderie!
Steven: Yeah, it's a weird experience right now. We made a record, now we're out on the road, and it's fun.
Jonathon: Come celebrate with us!
Steven: Come on out and hang out with us!