September 11th 2009
Amazing Baby is a five piece band from New York that has toured the world supporting acts such as Cold War Kids and MGMT, and has been hailed as one of the best new bands to come out of Brooklyn. The band is currently headlining a national tour in support of their debut full length album Rewild, released through Shangri-La Records. They'll be playing a show in Los Angeles on September 23rd, but before heading out west, lead singer and lyricist William Roan took the time to call The Music Pirate’s Eszter Zimanyi from Chicago and talk about the stress of touring, Amazing Baby’s new drummer, and the world’s “best” dancer. Read the transcript below and be sure to check out Amazing Baby with Night Horse and The Entrance Band at The Troubadour next week!
Will: Hey what’s up Eszter
Eszter: Not too much. How are you? How’s Chicago?
Will: Chicago’s pretty nice! The weather is lovely here actually, it’s nice and cool, and we’re just kind of chillin’. We just had sound check and we did a radio promo thing. Our new drummer Ryan is from Chicago so lots of people are coming and we have a very special dancer that’s going to perform with us on stage tonight.
Eszter: Yeah! I saw that you posted something on your twitter about a special guest tonight. I was wondering who it was.
Will: It’s this guy who became friends with our guitar player Simon at Lollapalooza this summer.
Eszter: Cool. Did you just say you have a new drummer?
Will: Yeah, we have a new drummer.
Eszter: Woah. Give me the deets on that. I had no idea that was happening!
Will: Pretty much Ryan Rapsys, who is our new drummer, has performed with a lot of bands before and he’s really pro. He’s worked with Don, our bass player, on Don’s solo record by the band The Historics, which is a band that Don started with Michael Madden from Maroon 5 and a bunch of other people. Basically Matt, our original drummer, got to a point where I think he wanted to focus more on being at home. We’re on the road so much and it’s very hard. I just think that he had gotten kind of tired of the grind. It’s really hard you know?
Eszter: Oh yeah I totally do.
Will: I think we all have the drive to keep it up and I think Matt just needed a break. It kind of worked out because Ryan is an incredible drummer and he’s really changed a lot of our sound for the better.
Eszter: Right. Well I’m glad you found someone who fits well with the band. I totally understand what you mean though. I don’t think people realize that bands have to tour relentlessly to pay back all the money that they and their record labels put into making an album. It’s intense.
Will: Yeah I know seriously. It’s pretty crazy. It’s very hard for personal relationships and stuff like that as well. Almost everybody in the band is in a relationship and I’m kind of seeing somebody who’s also touring so I don’t get to see her often. It’s very hard. But you’ve got to do it. This is the life I’ve chosen and I’m very thankful to be able to do it. It’s just not totally perfect all the time.
Eszter: I think people have this misconception that being a musician is very glamorous and it’s not at all.
Will: No definitely not. It’s very brutal and it’s very hard. You have to take good care of your body and you really have to keep your head above the water. It gets very overwhelming. But it’s also beautiful and we’ve gotten to see parts of the world I would never have gotten the chance to see otherwise, so that’s a huge plus. I’ve been able to see amazing bands that I’ve never seen before and meet people that I would have never gotten to meet so all in all it’s incredible, but it is hard.
Eszter: You guys released a second video for your song Headdress. Were you unhappy with the first one?
Will: It ended up becoming very confusing to undertake it. The alternate video was made by our friend earlier and the label wanted to put out the song as a single so they decided they wanted to do a new video to push it. In hindsight I’m not sure if that was the best idea because both videos have similar motifs and in general it’s kind of hard to release a single for a song that has been on the internet for a while. We actually just shot a new music video for our song Supreme Being which is an unreleased song of ours.
Eszter: I love that song so much! I’m so glad you’re releasing it.
Will: Yeah! We’re releasing it. We did a brand new version which is awesome. It’s a big improvement upon the original demo and we got some guest vocalists to join us on it. Our friends Heather and Erika from Au Revior Simone sing back up on it and we’re going to put it out as a single probably next week or the week after. I just got done shooting a really cool and surreal music video for it.
Eszter: Awesome. Well back to the alternate Headdress video. There are naked girls running around in the video and obviously for YouTube and certain websites you had to censor that, so I’m wondering what you think about censorship in the media? Do you feel like it compromises your creative integrity?
Will: Yeah definitely in some ways. When I re-recorded this new version of Supreme Being for example, I had to change some lyrics which really frustrated me. Even though sometimes things end up becoming clear and deliberate, I like to think that everything I do has a purpose and I don’t like to have to change things for any other person than myself. But I also understand the need and I think, in terms of the Headdress video, the way we censored it was kind of cool. We used those old school black lines over stuff and I thought that had a cool image context to it.
Eszter: Yeah definitely.
Will: Sometimes the way you censor yourself can be interesting.
Eszter: That’s true, but I do hate when artists are forced to change lyrics for late night TV shows or radio, etc. because it feels like message of the song becomes distorted in a way.
Will: Yeah. Sometimes you can do other things. Like for Supreme Being we did weird sort of stubby edits and tried singing stuff backwards. It ends up sounding kind of cool. You know, I understand the need and in general to be able to put your art out to more people it’s necessary to do that. I really don’t think it’s super important and I think it definitely does degrade the art as a whole. What can you do? It’s the name of the game.
Eszter: What do you think about file sharing and downloading music illegally?
Will: Well, it definitely has hurt the music industry in some ways because people sell less music, but I also have to say I think it’s very important. It has changed the music industry in a good way. I think a lot of people are exposed to more music that they wouldn’t have heard otherwise. It’s hard for bands to work the way they worked before because spending the amount of money that used to be spent on music is really unreasonable now. It’s harder to sell records and get yourself out there. I think file sharing is important and it might not last forever. It might become harder to do it, but at least right now there’s kind of this mentality where you can get almost anything. It helped me to check out new music that I had read about but couldn’t find or didn’t have enough money to buy. I usually do purchase music that I really enjoy and I cherish hard copies of music, but I also do download myself and I think it’s an important tool in general to be able to have. It’s a free market of expression and it allows you to check out things that you may not have been able to previously.
Eszter: Do you feel like artists should have control over how much their music sells for themselves?
Will: I don’t know. I’m not sure. I usually like to leave that up to someone else because I would like to give it all away and also still be successful, and sometimes that works for people and sometimes it doesn’t. I definitely think that it’s absurd how expensive some things are and I think that music should be less expensive. There needs to be a shift in how that works. Do we end up selling music like we would sell art and have original pieces be very expensive and have reproductions for much less? You know, that may be a way to look at it too. So I definitely think artists should have a say, but I also think artists should stay out of the commerce aspect of music as much as possible and pretty much stay focused on the art in general.
Eszter: Have you heard about the new iTunes model that Apple just released two days ago?
Will: No, what’s that all about?
Eszter: It’s called iTunes LP and basically they’re going to recreate the physical album experience by giving consumers album artwork, photos, lyrics, and music videos whenever they download an entire album off of iTunes. I think it’s a little bit more expensive but they’re giving a lot more incentive to buy music. I thought it was a really cool idea to combat the loss in CD sales.
Will: I think that is a really good idea too. I think most of my friends that paid money for our album purchased it on iTunes. If anybody’s going to innovate the model it’s probably going to be Apple first. That sounds like a very cool idea, I like that a lot. We did some interesting things with our album where if you bought it on iTunes you got an extra song, and if you bought it on vinyl you got a free download card for the album as well. So we were trying out a whole slew of different ideas. I don’t know how well it’s working out but you have to try to give people incentive for purchasing albums now.
Eszter: Yeah that was really cool! Props to you for thinking of that. Do you think it’s possible to create original music today or do you feel like everyone is recycling each others ideas to a certain extent?
Will: Well I think that’s always been true over the course of humanity. I think there’s definitely a lot of original music out there and sometimes you can find things original in a recycled medium. I think that music is continually getting better. There’s definitely a lot of regurgitated crap out there; there always has been and there will continue to be. But I think that more and more you will find that there’s some crazy cool music out there as well. Sometimes people like comforting music that reminds them of older sounds or styles and I think that can be very innovative too.
Eszter: Do you have plans to collaborate with any artists soon or are there any artists you are dying to collaborate with now?
Will: Well, I’ve always had a fantasy of collaborating with my heroes you know…but like I said we have Supreme Being coming out and two of the girls from Au Revior Simone play on that. We’re also working on some new remixes coming out soon which are somewhat like collaborations. We’re really excited about them and we’ve been working very hard to get some remixes on board so we’ll see what happens with that. To be honest, I think we’re trying to get in on doing some remixing for other bands too, but it’s hard as far as collaboration goes. I’m trying to do something with my friend Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson when I get off tour, if I ever get a chance. Pretty much when we get some free time that will be on the horizon but we don’t really stop touring until the end of October so it will be a little while before I can approach that.
Eszter: What’s something about you or your music the general public might not know that you think they should know?
Will: Hmm. It’s hard to say. I guess we definitely take our music very seriously but I think people also have to understand that we’re really friendly and goofy guys that love playing a good joke. Although a lot of our music is serious I think more and more we’re going to try and make lighthearted music that might come across less pretentious. I think a lot of people might think that we have certain pretentions and that’s just not the case. I think we’re very approachable people that like a good joke…and a good lady!
Eszter: What’s been your craziest experience with a fan?
Will: Probably this dancer. You should YouTube “world’s best dancer lollapalooza” and this guy that’s dancing in the video is going to be performing with us tonight. Our guitarist has had to be in contact with him for the past month and he’s been calling us trying to set this dance thing up for our concert, which is ridiculous. I think it’s kind of freaked out Simon a bit. You have to watch the video though to understand why.
Eszter: I know, I tried to watch it earlier but my computer was lagging too much so I gave up. But I will watch it at some point for you.
Will: Thanks. Also, last night we were interviewed by some people from Michigan. They came into our dressing room with a camera and one of the girls was Asian, and for the first twenty minutes of the interview she pretended to be a Korean exchange student. She completely and totally committed to it and then just started laughing and said she couldn’t do it anymore. It was really funny. It didn’t freak me out but it was very surprising and kind of out of character for what I was expecting.
Eszter: That’s really funny. Okay, do you remember when you were last in Los Angeles and you played at the Hammer Museum?
Eszter: Your microphone cut out during “Pump Yr Brakes”. Can you tell me what went through your mind when that happened? Has that ever happened to you before?
Will: That’s never happened to me before. I was actually really frustrated that our drummer stopped drumming because I thought I would do it acapella since we were almost over. So what was going through my head was to keep going, to be honest.
Eszter: Oh man, it was the weirdest thing ever!
Will: Yeah seriously. All the power went out. There was a power surge. You know, that's the thing. I've definitely made mistakes on stage before where the cord of my microphone has been pulled out or I've dropped the mic, and that's really embarrassing, but with the power just completely going out all together, it didn't freak me out so much. I kind of wanted to keep going with it, but unfortunately we just stopped. It would have been really cool if we had continued but in general I think it came across alright.
Eszter: Alright, this is my last question. If you could put together a dream festival who would be on the lineup, where would it be located, and what would you call it?
Will: Umm, I would call it like the Cool Wave festival or something. Or the Waved Out festival.
Eszter: Oh Waved Out! I like that.
Will: Waved Out. And this is what I would have. I would have LCD Soundsystem play –
Eszter: You can do anyone dead or alive FYI.
Will: Oh, well that’s crazy! That’s crazy. I would have The Smiths play, Pavement, Love, Phillip Glass would play, with like a saxophone orchestra. I would have the Talking Heads play, probably The Psychedelic Furs play, I would have Sly Stone play, and Stevie Wonder. Yeah…I don’t know.
Eszter: Where would it be?
Will: It would be…that’s a good question. Let me think. It would be in my hometown of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Eszter: That’s an island right?
Will: Yes. Martha’s Vineyard rules. It’s an island off the coast of Massachusetts, one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Eszter: Alright well that's it! Thank you so much!
Be sure to check out Amazing Baby at their websites:
And buy their record REWILD in stores now!