21 July 2008

Interview :: Metavari

Interview :: Metavari

I caught up with Metavari outside of the Village Tavern on June 17 right before their opening gig for El Ten Eleven. The quintet, Ty Brinneman (bass), Tommy Cutter (guitar), Simon Lesser (guitar, keyboards, programming), Andrew McComas (drums), and Nate Utesch (guitar, keyboards) had arrived on the coast of SC after a fifteen hour trek from Fort Wayne, Indiana. The sunburn from their day on Sullivan’s Island didn’t dampen their spirits, though. These five fine gentlemen spoke to me for forty minutes about any topic with a sense of humor and anticipation. Here’s the majority of our conversation:

SIO: This may be a question you get asked a lot but, why no vocals?

Nate: Yeah, that usually is the first question we get asked…

SIO: Don’t get me wrong I’m usually drawn to more music now without vocals, because it’s very easy to ruin songs with vocals…

Tyler: Yeah, well a lot of the music we grew up loving had vocals, but what we were more interested in was the musical aspect of it. We all have our musical band influences but…

Simon: With instrumental music it’s always different. If you have vocals on a song it has lyrics, it has a title, it has a message and that’s what it is across the board. It can be interpreted different ways or it can be ambiguous but it generally has something that it is just across the board. With instrumental music it has the ability to communicate the same ideas, but it’s not the same from person to person. It doesn’t assign anything to the music but you can let loose with your own imagination without the artist dictating their view.

Andrew: With instrumental music and its influence, it can be more powerful than music with lyrics because it forces the listener to be engaged in a certain way than just pulling out a lyric sheet and reading through it. It forces more…I don’t know. It just hits you in a different way.

Ty: I think it’s more listener-participatory.

SIO: Do you guys like the idea of not having to force an image on your listeners?

Ty: Yeah, I feel like you’re forced to have to market yourself in other ways that you don’t want to as a musician so if you can remove that aspect from your music or your art then it’s very freeing.

Andrew: I feel like some people don’t know what to do with our music. We’ll have people who will either think ‘Sweet, you don’t have vocals’ or ‘…well, what do you do then if you don’t have vocals?’ Some people don’t know how to react. I think it definitely separates people into two categories: people who ‘get it’ and people who don’t.

But if you get it, it can move you in different way.

SIO: So, would you say you’re okay with some people not ‘getting it’?

Andrew: Oh yeah. Definitely.

Nate: I feel like stepping into this, we consciously said, ‘Okay, because of what we’re choosing to do, there will only ever be, like, three people who will like us’ (laughs). And we’re okay with that! Because of how much we enjoy it and saturate ourselves with it. Some people kind of want us to explain what they should have been thinking (during our songs) and we always feel like, ‘Well, it’s up to you what you chose to think!’ (laughs).

Simon: Along those lines, we’re surprised on a daily basis…our music is not really that far out there and I think we’re pretty accessible. I mean people’s moms like us. I don’t really think we’re doing something that crazy…we do what we like and hope others like it to.

SIO: Hearing you guys talk about it, it’s nice to hear a band admit, ‘We’re concerned about the audience, but we’re not that concerned about the audience…’ Is that correct?

Nate: Yeah, well there’s a balance. You can do something so self-absorbed that you’re just doing something to be different…

SIO: But then you become Yoko Ono…

Nate: Or you can just be full of formula and be a pop music band. There’s a balance.

SIO: You guys mentioned that you had instrumental bands that influence you growing up. So what are some of your influences?

Andrew: I think one of the bands that most of us can identify with is a band called Unwed Sailor. They’re probably my favorite band to date.

Ty: I’m gonna second the Unwed Sailor. When I broke both my knees and I listened to them and they helped me get around a campground…

SIO: You really broke your knees?

Ty: Yeah, both of them at a music festival...

Andrew: He is walking now, however. (laughs)

Ty: I know Mono is a big influence on me.

Tommy: The first instrumental band I started listening to was Aphex Twin. That had a huge influence on the way I hear music.

Nate: I feel like an album that had vocals on it, but freaked me out because of the way it was structured and layered…

Andrew: I know what you’re going to say…

Nate…was the Low Level Owl records by The Appleseed Cast. And then a split EP with Maserati and Mercury Program are some of my favorites.

SIO: Any older stuff like jazz? I hear a little bit of jazz every now and again in the EP.

Nate: I don’t know. Have we talked about this before? I definitely grew up playing piano and sax, but I’m not a connoisseur. I appreciate it and I’m sure somewhere it’s in there.

SIO: Any classical?

Andrew: Yeah, I was gonna say…I play drums for the band but my first instrument was guitar and I took classical guitar lessons for five years. So I think the idea of instrumental music has always moved me especially.

Ty: I actually grew up a hardcore kid and albums like “The Shape of Punk to Come” really changed everything for me. So other bands influence us just as much. When we first started talking about doing this band, I didn’t know we would start an instrumental band. I just want to have to have passion…aw, but I hate that word…insert some other word for passion. (laughs).

SIO: So is this your first tour?

Nate: Yep. First night of the first tour.

SDE: You guys picked a brave time to go on tour…

Ty: You mean with gas prices and all that?

SIO: Exactly. So was it just a conscious decision to ‘damn the torpedoes’ this is what we want to do?

Andrew: Basically.

Simon: You got to go on tour sometime and if it wasn’t now it would be later. And later is not now.

Nate: The new songs we’re writing and the way the sets are developing, we just felt like we had to hit the road now or else we would go crazy.

Ty: Yeah, we’re already planning a second tour. This one’s been weird. It was supposed to be 12 dates and now it’s like four or five.

Nate: We’ve met a lot of cool people so far so I think the next tour will be even better.

SIO: How did Metavari get started?

Ty: Well, the beginnings are kind of twofold. It started out as an ambient band between Nate and Simon. And then after I got married and quit the metalcore band I was in, Nate and I just started doing what we wanted to do and Tommy got in on it pretty quickly. But at that point Simon was in China. So we were sending him demos and he would respond back with nice things to say. And we just decided that if we were going to do it we needed a drummer. Andrew and I had been in bands in the past, but he had never played drums in them. But he had a [drum] set and he was fun dude to hang out with so we recruited him! (laughs).

Nate: It was crazy because we’ve known Andrew as a guitar player.

Tommy: The first time his parents saw him play, I overheard them say, ‘We spent all that money and all that time on guitar lessons and you’re playing drums.’ (laughs).

Andrew: All the recitals and all the classical guitar lessons just over.

SIO: Have you ever thought about having a spotlight classical guitar solo in the middle of set?

Andrew: I’ve always said that as soon as someone learns how to play the drums… (laughs).

SIO: Nice. So where exactly is the “Former Black Swamp” of Indiana?

Nate: Well, some guy at work told me that he thought that Fort Wayne, Indiana isn’t really in the Black Swamp area of Indiana.

SIO: It sounds like a music mecca is where you guys grew up in.

Simon: I think music just breed out of swamps. (laughs)

Ty: I actually read that Fort Wayne has, like, a solid 100 cover bands. If you can’t find a cover band to join in Fort Wayne something is wrong.

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