Full Interview with England in 1819
Brothers, Andrew and Dan Callaway, spoke with reporters from The Carolinian after a performance Tuesday Evening at The Coffee Bar in Downtown Spartanburg.
Your band name is a poem by Percy Shelley, what influenced that decision?
Andrew Callaway-Not so much the content, it was more just the name. When we first started the band like 4/5 yrs ago we were super atmospheric and like, spaced-ambient orchestral kinda style
So the things I see most from that, is this far away place a long time ago ya know? It kinda had this built-in sense of size and mood that really fit what we were doing
I think it’s not the perfect name for our sound anymore, but I think we’ve kept a lot of those elements, like a lot of that ambient stuff, the structure of the songs and the French horn, so I think it still works, buts that what we were drawn to originally
The content of the poem we didn’t really pay attention to, I mean it is a little political, and were not political at all.
Yeah I noticed that (laughs) But the poem comes from the Romantic period, and there is definitely a romantic quality to your sound. Do you think that comes out more in these intimate performances?
AC- Yeah, probably
How would you describe your sound?
AC-I invented a genre called ‘grand-wave’ which tries to capture the left over part of that post-rock phase that we were in when we started. It has this kind of epic feel, even though we have these groovy beats underneath it, at least to us, still has a kind of epic feel to it. The structures are a little longer, and we have these big builds and long progressions that build on each other. It’s like we’re combining the epic thing with chill wave electro beats
Some of your earlier stuff was more instrumental, what do you think influenced your shift to the more electronic/synth style?
AC- It was really slow, and pretty organic. We had an opera singer, an oboe, Dan on the French horn, multiple percussionists, but as the band started playing more and touring more, that setup was really difficult to do. It was hard to play consistently with 9 people, and touring was almost impossible. As the band got more serious, the people who wanted to be doing it stayed, and other people left, and we just really started stripping down. When people would leave I would fill things in with different electronics, so it was really just a slow progression. We went from having 9 people four year ago to now just having the two of us and lot of electronics, but we really like it like this. It’s a lot easier to tour and it was really fun for just the two of us to write that album
So you recorded this last album in the woods, in NC?
AC- Yeah! Up in Asheville. We just kinda fell into that. This girl had this cabin that was abandoned, and I was just joking, like ‘I’ll go up there and clean it out if you let me live there for free’ and then a few months later she asked if I really wanted to go, and I was like ‘yeah, that would be really cool’ so me and him (gestures to Dan who is packing up the set) went up there for 2 months and it was basically in the middle of nowhere just on top of this mountain. It was in pretty rough shape, and we had to carry all our gear up there because you couldn’t even drive, so it took four days to get everything up. We could only carry one thing at a time, it was like a ½ mile hike up a hill. But it was awesome once we got it all in there and set up, because there was nothing else to do, so we got really focused.
Just finding different ways to be creative was really refreshing. We wrote and recorded and entire album in 6/7 weeks, which would usually take a year or two. So it was a cool experience.
And that’s not uncommon, a lot of acts having taken that route; Bon Iver, the Avett Bros, Panic at the Disco…
AC-Yeah, and I feel like we understand why now!
Did you find that there was a different vibe/ did it bring out a diff side of your creativity?
AC-Yeah, I think so. I did a lot of things I wouldn’t normally do. Usually I write everything, just me and the piano, but He (Dan) wrote all the lyrics on this album so that was a big change, especially for me, as the song writer, to not be writing the lyrics. It was weird at first. It was like his words weren’t aligning with my emotions I put in, so finding that balance was cool. It was a lot more flexible than we’ve been in the past. It had always been a really rigid process for us; very particular, so it was cool to be more open about it.
Do you think it helps, or hinder you, being brothers?
AC-I think it helps (laughs) I mean, touring is incredibly stressful. There’s so much pressure, and there’s money involved and feelings involved and it’s really something. I guess it takes some of the pressure off to know that that person isn’t going anywhere. We can be more honest with each other, and know that at the end of the day we are still going to be brothers; we’re going to be there for each other ya know? And that’s a lot different than when you get other people involved, who can just get mad and leave. It allows us to be more honest and cooperative.
You experiment a lot with sound, what made you decide to blend such a traditional instrument, like the French horn, with the electronics?
AC-It’s more of a hangover from what we were. We both came out of school from the classical world. He studied the French horn, and I studied electronic music composition, so our first idea was to start a band that could somehow combine these different elements that we had. The original idea was to really blend the classical world and the indie-rock world, so we started off with the opera singer, the oboe, saxophones, all that, and it was really slow, and the songs were really long, like 12 minute epic multi-piece things, it was just crazy. And I mean, it was awesome, but it was also problematic in a lot of ways, especially to take that set up and start playing around. So the French horn is really just the last thing left over from that.
Who would you say some of your greatest influences are?
(A guy interjects, asking Andrew for his online chess game-username)
AC-Chess is my hobby when we’re not playing; I’m really into chess (chuckles) What was the question again? Oh yeah, influences..We listen to pretty different stuff, but I think this band was really influenced by Sigur Rós , Radiohead, Beach House, Future Islands… We saw Future islands in Baton Rouge like a year or two ago and that was crazy, it was really cool.
If you could tour with anyone, play with anyone…(his face twists up, we laugh) I know that’s a hard question.. (laughs)
That is a hard question! (laughs) Like as much as I love Future Islands, I wouldn’t want to tour with them, because they’re so much better than us! I can’t follow that! I don’t want to go before them, I don’t want to go after them, that’d be hard! I would tour with like a really terrible band that had a million fans..
Dan Callaway-(while still packing) To make us look good! (laughs)
AC-Yeah exactly No, Future Islands would be amazing, Sigur Rós would be awesome, Beach House, definitely, they’re one of my favorite bands.
Lety- Do you come from a musical background?
AC-Yeah, actually our dads-dad was a travelling musician in Georgia in the ‘50s. He did like dance halls; and then my dad started off playing drums in his band, and played all through college. So that’s what we did as kids, was go and see him play. He spent a lot of time with us as kids, and so we just spent a lot of time around instruments.
DC- You wanna switch?
AC- (he peers over and sizes up the rest of the work) Okay.. (laughs)
DC- (He takes a seat) Sweet.
I was talking to your brother earlier about the French horn, it’s beautiful!
DC- Yeah! I’ve always found that beautiful, so we found a cool way to incorporate it. Same way he has a background in electronic music, it just kind of fit. We just play up our strengths.
How long have you been playing?
DC- Since middle school. I did band, orchestra all that. That’s what I went to college for. Sometimes we’ll pick up money when we’re home, if we have like a 6 week break, we’ll teach lessons.
What is life on the road like?
DC-Its good! It’s tiring at times. It’s like every night you’re at a bar, so you have to learn to pace yourself. Figure out what nights you’re maybe gonna ease up a bit, and try to get some sleep when you can. Nights like tonight are great for that reason, because you can kinda recover ya know? You have to learn how to do it. You have to start small, the weekends, then you do ten days. I mean, this is seven weeks, it becomes a lifestyle. And I like travelling, we both travel a lot so it’s a lot of fun.
How long have you been touring?
DC-The band’s been doing it for about a year and half, like actually quit our jobs and committed to it.
What are some of the best experiences you’ve had?
Just really fun shows, ya know? Like everything comes together sometimes; when there’s a great crowd, the sound is good, it’s a great night. But every night is cool. It’s kinda like pizza, even a bad one is pretty good.
Have you had any awkward nights or bad nights?
Sometimes the sound will go or you’ll hit it on a weird night. Yeah for sure, but that’s part of learning how to do it. Like here for instance, you have to learn that you can’t play too loud, so you have to think, ‘how are you gonna make this work?’ So we try to play acoustic. You just have to present a vibe that works. Like tomorrow we’ll be at a metal bar, so it will be really loud, people are drinking and having a good time, they want to hear a lot of sound.
What advice would you give to bands, starting out considering going on tour?
DC- Start small. Just do a weekend, or do 2 shows in a row out of town. There’s no real reason to do anything but play weekends for a long time. Just because your Sunday-through-Wednesday is a hard thing to develop, so just figure out your weekends and go from there. Once you’ve done that enough, go for ten days and see what happens.
Do ya’ll ever get homesick?
DC-We’ve moved around so much we don’t really have a home. I love Baton Rouge, it’s great.. So I miss it, and there are people I miss more than any particular location, but then you kind of make friends on the road, so as much as you miss some people, you you’re looking forward to seeing others.
So where is this tour headed?
DC-Well the last one went as far as Canada, but this one is just going up to NY. We’re in DC on Saturday, and Sunday we’ll be in NY. This one was more Mid-West than the last one, which was more North East.
Are there any cities or venues you particularly enjoyed?
DC-We love Houston, New Orleans, Baton Rouge… all of the cities we play often are a lot of fun.. Savannah is a great one. We went to high school up north, and everyone that lives in the North East sort of gravitates to New York, so we know a lot of people there, and it’s fun to see the city, so we like to play New York from time to time.
What made you pick Spartanburg? Or did someone pick you?
DC- We were playing Greenville, and then we just zipped over to see if there was a place to play and we saw it and it was great. Initially it was a way to transition from one town to the next, but now it’s just a cool place to play. This is our third time playing the Coffee Bar, so it’s cool.
Do you prefer bigger venues to smaller ones?
DC-They’re both different. It’s more like a party, the bigger ones. People drinking and dancing, it’s cool to do these every now and then. Its super intimate.
AC- Just having you guys sit here, you really feel like you’re connecting. This is also about six hours earlier than we normally do shows. Usually were like just waking up. It’s really quite sobering (laughs)
So do you feel out of your element in this setup, or just in a different element?
AC- It’s more like going back. We used to do shows like these all the time when we were starting out. It just works out really well like as a date in between cities to come through and stop off and they’re super cool here. It’s cool because a lot of venues aren’t open on a Monday or Tuesday, so it’s cool to find somewhere we can play on our way through.