Even before signing to Triple Crown Records, these up-and-coming rockers were making waves in the music scene. Matt Carlson, Collin Waldron, John McSweeney and Sean Dibble make up the four-piece from Naugatuck, Connecticut known as A Will Away.
Hours before the charismatic band took to the stage at The Canal Club on their second night of tour, they sat down with us at a Buffalo Wild Wings, enjoying a beautiful Richmond afternoon. We chatted with them about the transition from being a DIY band to a one on a label, life on tour, Justin Bieber making “phenomenal pop music,” as well as the process behind recording their first full-length with Triple Crown Records.
Modern Vinyl: What has the process been like recording LP 1 so far?
Matt Carlson: If you want us to be perfectly honest, it was a bit stressful. Not really for any reason other than the fact that we wanted to bring our best material to the table and when you’re writing and writing and writing, you work in a little bubble. We were in our practice space, in a little bubble. We were working. We brought it to some people in a studio, who also live in their own little bubble. Then you send it out to [more] people who live in a little bubble, so it’s like you’ve got a bunch of people who are listening to it with completely different perspectives and exactly the same way as you’re going to put out that music when it’s a finished product, and people are looking at it from different perspectives. You’re also sharing it in its infancy stage with people who are looking at it from different perspectives.
It was stressful, mainly because we wanted to get to a middle ground where we were writing a record that was going to be appealing, not just to us in our bubble, or our producer and his bubble, but everyone in their own bubbles, and hopefully reach out and get something that was completely approachable for anyone who enjoys music. I feel like we definitely did that. Bubble-friendly material!
MV: What are some of the influences for this upcoming LP?
MC: Everything! If it’s music, it’s an influence. If we’ve heard it, it’s an influence. We get that question a lot. Every band gets that question. Every creative person gets that question about who influences you, and rather than taking a handful of people that influence you directly, it’s easier to just accumulate everything you hear, and everything that happens to you as an influence…and your life! Your life is your influence; our lives are our influence. The things that we consume. The things that hit us. Those are our influences. So everything! I think the most direct ones that people are going to hear are gonna be classic rock, alternative rock and modern rock influences. Modern rock, alternative rock and classic rock fans will probably be into what we’re doing right now.
MV: If you had to compare it to any artist today, what would you say?
Collin Waldron: The drums on the record came out a little like old school John Feldmann, like The Used. Just as far as production goes, there’s some Taking Back Sunday in there.
MC: Just bass and rhythms, yeah.
CW: Just modern rock music. As far as production goes, it’s going to be those standards, but the songwriting and the directions of the songs definitely stem from rock music over a greater period of time.
MC: The last 60 years! You’re gonna hear everything from Led Zeppelin to Rascal Flatts to…
(The rest of the band shouts “mer!”)
MC: …Creed to freakin’ Microwave, you know what I mean?
John McSweeney: Quote us when we say “mer,” please!
MC: Definitely say mer.
MV: This is your first LP with Triple Crown Records, which is very cool! How’d you get involved with them?
MC: We put out “Bliss,” and they responded to it. We put out an EP last March on a small indie label that a couple of our friends, Brent [Martone] and Boone and Rachel Cooper had put together, and we released “Bliss.” A handful of weeks later, we started getting contact from different booking agents and from different record labels, and it was just a very natural progression from there. Triple Crown seemed like very down to earth people who enjoyed good rock music and really wanted to help support it! That’s kind of right up our alley, and I think we ended up there very organically.
CW: Brent booked us a tour that we went out on for about three weeks. The last date of the tour, we played a show in Brooklyn. We met our agent there, and he has helped us pretty much get all that going from then on. We played a show in Brooklyn, we became friends that night, and he’s just helped us get all of this off the ground. It’s really cool.
MV: What is one of the biggest differences from being a fully DIY band to actually working with a label?
MC: The biggest difference, honestly, from being a DIY band to being a band on a label is from the get go…money. You are being funded by a group of people who genuinely think…they have the money, they have the capital to invest in what you’re doing, and they genuinely think that what you’re doing is monetizable and worth investing in. Those two factors are things that stick in your head, because when you’re making a new record for the first time, for these groups of people, you want to make sure that at the same time as being worth the investment, you want to be worth the time creatively. Triple Crown raising our budget to make a record, and being able to do that for the amount of time we wanted to do that, and be creative for the amount of time that we needed to be creative…those were the biggest positives.
For the reissue with “Bliss,” it was like being able to extend our marketing reach. Being able to extend our distribution reach. Being able to just sort of reach your hands into all markets internationally, which is the biggest difference between being a DIY band and on a label. When you’re a DIY band, the only reach you have is the regional reach that you are able to hit with your own money, your own connections, your own time, your own creativity. Anything that you get is yours to keep, but those resources are very limited. I think being able to work with someone like Fred Feldman who really understands good music, and really has the capital to invest in it, without a doubt has been one of the most helpful things we’ve ever had as a part of our band.
MV: Yesterday your tour with Have Mercy kicked off.
MV: What are you looking forward to most on this tour?
MC: Playing good rock music with people who play good rock music, you know? I think we’re really looking forward to hanging out with these guys and enjoying the time. I think [that] last night we had the chance to talk to them and get to know them on a little bit more of a personal level than we have in the past. We’ve run into them a few times, but just getting to know them and getting to talk to them on a first impression basis, I think we’re going to get along with these guys really well. I think we’re going to have a fun time playing really cool songs.
CW: Going back to making the transformation from DIY to a band on a label, and having a booking agency…it has let us play shows with some bands that we’ve heard over the years and I think it’s cool we’ve gotten to play with some bands that we’ve gone to see in the past on our own agenda.
MC: We appreciated the music before we were on tour with these bands!
CW: Yeah, so now we have the opportunity to spend some time with them and get on stage with them every night, and I think that’s a really great thing that infinitely goes back to switching over from DIY. Before, we would book shows with our friends because that’s all that we could do.
MC: Right! And now we can with bands we respect. And honestly, every time you play with any band, any musician, you learn something from them, especially when you’re playing with good bands. You learn a lot from them.
CW: How to operate, how to stand on stage.
MC: Even their gear preferences are something that we take into consideration when playing with good bands. How do they get the tones they get? How do they play the way they play? How do they deliver the way they deliver? It’s all a learning experience, and working with good, professional bands in a good, professional capacity as opposed to a DIY capacity is night and day. You’re able to really, really take and draw from the bands you’re playing with.
MV: What are some of your fondest memories from being on other tours?
MC: Oh geez. Fondest memories, or most standout memories? Those are two completely different things.
MV: You know what? Go with whatever you want one this one!
CW: One time we pulled Johnny out of a Walmart. He was passed out drunk in a storage room in a pile of boxes at four in the morning.
JM: Was that in Michigan?
MC: Yeah! Literally in a pile of boxes in the storage area of a Walmart. That was one of our fondest memories, because it makes such a funny story now.
CW: It was pretty scary at that moment…
MC: It was stressful at the time.
CW: …Because we had no idea where he was.
Sean Dibble: I’m so glad I was asleep for that. Just there in the backseat.
CW: When in Michigan, you know?
MC: You were awake! You were awake!
SD: I pretended not to be! I didn’t want to deal with it! That sounds horrible, I’m sorry.
CW: Actually, I had a lot of fun when we played with Pentimento in New York City.
MC: I was gonna say that! One of our fondest tour memories I would definitely argue was with Pentimento. We had a great time with those guys this past October, and they were one of the first tours we had done since we had been picked up by a record label and a management company. We did that tour with Light Years and Head North this summer; a full U.S. tour, and we had a great time with them. But touring with Head North…
CW: We just had a bad van. I think it threw us off.
MC: Oh yeah. We had a terrible van. Touring with Head North was a familiar experience, whereas when we finally got to go out with Pentimento, these were again people that we had known in passing, but not gotten to know very well over the past couple of years, playing in the Buffalo area. Being able to spend some time with some really good musicians that we really respect, and some really great people was just a really good tour! Even when we had a couple of shows in those markets that were not unbelievable, but every single show had people who were interested in listening to good music and interacting with the people who make that good music, and Pentimento has the best attitude in the world.
CW: There’s a lot of passion…
MC: Tons of passion!
CW: …That can determine every aspect of tour, just the fans and every band on it.
MC: It was a really great experience to be out with people, and be playing for people exclusively who really appreciate what you’re doing.
MC: And that’s…you can’t ask for anything more, truly. That would definitely have to be our favorite tour experience. Every DIY tour we’ve done beforehand, we were either doing by ourselves, or with one of our friends’ bands. Being able to go into it blind and have a great time and positive experience, just because the people on tour made it that good of an experience, that’s great!
CW: It was surprising, almost.
MC: We had a good time. It was great.
MV: I feel like I’ve asked interview questions about touring and weird answers about mattresses and Walmart always ends up being an answer.
MC: You can always sleep at a Walmart. If you’re in a van, you can always sleep at a Walmart.
JM: Unless you’re in Denver, Colorado.
MC: Unless you’re in Denver, Colorado, apparently.
JM: It’s gotta be a super Walmart though!
CW (mimicking security): You’ve gotta get outta here!
MC (also mimicking security): You’ve gotta get outta here buddy! You can’t be here!
JM: I wanted to tell that guy to shut the fuck up so bad. Let me go back to sleep.
MC: Buddy you can’t be here!
SD: You’ve gotta go!
MV: We are in March! 2016 has been really good with new releases, like the new Into It. Over It. album.
CW: I’m really glad they did that all analog. It truly speaks to the talent of this band.
MC: I was gonna say, I think they are getting back to…I don’t want to say primitive…but a more simplistic form of rock music. It held up. People were perfecting the formula of how to make good rock music in the ‘70s and ‘80s with analog tape recordings.
CW: It’s cool that they actually made the conscious decision to go back to that and do that.
MC: We were very big on making sure that we were doing things “the right way,” for us at any given time. Sometimes that means tracking live, like when we were in the studio, there were portions of our record that are tracked live, but there are portions that are not. Had we taken the full live approach, it would have been a much different record. I respect the hell out of anybody who takes that approach, because it is much, much, much more difficult to get an idea from beginning to fruition in an entire take. It takes a level of forethought that is definitely above and beyond making a normal record, and I think that we’re seeing a lot of really cool bands going back to some of the smarter, more skillful ways of recording their records. I back that 100%. I think it’s really great.
CW: I’m trying to think of other records that have come out so far.
MC: That Foxing release this past year?
CW: That was great.
MC: I think that technically came out in 2015, but I consider it a 2016 release because I’m still listening to it. You know what I mean? It’s really good stuff!
MC: Somos’ “First Day Back”? Fantastic. What else do we have…
MV: You guys are really good! You’re getting into this question without me having to finish it. So, what are some of your most anticipated releases, if they haven’t already come out?
MC: Oh man. Anticipated releases…
MC: I’m really excited for The Hotelier record.
CW: Their last record was so good.
MC: Manchester Orchestra, anything coming out of favorite gentlemen, I’m very excited for. What else?
CW: Justin Bieber. Did he already put out his record?
MC: Dude. The new Bieber record. Does that count as a 2016 release technically? Because even for Justin Bieber, that was a phenomenal release! A phenomenal pop release!
CW: No, it was amazing. Some dude from Vernon, Connecticut has a writing credit on one of the guitar riffs. He’s in a band called Move Out West. Bieber heard the riff because he was in a previous session at the studio, and the producer put it on. He was playing back some of the tracks, and Bieber was like “Dude I really love that riff.” So he called the kid up, and was like “I’m gonna pay you for that guitar part.” And he credited him on the record.
MC: So we know at least one good musician worked on that record! That’s really kind of phenomenal.
JM: Write that down!
MC: Put that on the record! Put that very on the record!
MV: It’s very on the record!
MC: But yeah. I don’t know.
CW: I honestly haven’t paid attention.
MC: What else is coming out this year? I haven’t heard a lot. The new Head North record is coming out later this year and I’m very, very excited to hear it! I’m very interested and excited to hear what they’re going to come out with. Again, the jump from “Scrapbook Minds” to “Bloodlines” was a huge jump, and I can only assume knowing those guys, they’re going to make another big jump from there, and I’m excited to hear it!
MV: I think Modern Baseball’s is coming out soon.
MC: The Modern Baseball release is going to be really, really cool as well. I’m excited for that.
CW: I love them.
MC: I’ve always been into the Modern Baseball crew. I feel like they’re a polarizing band for no reason, but they really do put out quality songs any time they release anything. And they do their own thing as well as anybody can do it.
CW: I feel like it’s kind of sad to say, but it’s almost more genuine and honest that anything…it’s always reminded me of Motion City [Soundtrack], but just with a little emo twist…
MC: A little more heart.
CW: …They set up in a room and just tracked it. The production wasn’t crazy. And it really spoke to the personality of every single member of that band.
MC: And I’ve gotta say the quality of the song…every time. When you look at a band that really does a bare bones production technique, the quality of the song really shines.
CW: It depends on how they paint the picture. Those guys always have great imagery.
MC: And they always paint the right pictures. I’m definitely excited to hear their new release.
JM: Are we bad at this? I’m sorry.
MV: No, no! You guys are really good at this.
JM: Me and Sean are bad at this. You guys are not.
MV: You just released the cover of “Yellow.” While you went to the bathroom, Collin said you liked light rock. Besides that, why did you decide to cover it?
MC: The real answer? One of the biggest criticisms we heard of Coldplay’s performance at the Super Bowl was that they chose to focus more on the newer portion of their library, that was much more pop and EDM-centric, rather than Coldplay as a rock band. I think we’re looking at a current music climate where rock music and mainstream culture is completely under-appreciated. The performance of real instruments is completely under-appreciated. To look at a song like “Yellow,” which when it came out, was a successful song, and a very, very good example of how light rock music and light instrumentation and a good, heartfelt vocal performance can really shine through, even in a pop-centric world.
CW: And that was less than a decade ago.
MC: People still remember and appreciate that music. One of the biggest complaints about Coldplay from their Super Bowl performance was, “Why didn’t you guys play more of your rock songs?” I think that the reason that they didn’t play more of their rock songs is because their rock songs don’t sell anymore. We chose to focus on one of the best elements of Coldplay, which is them being a fantastic rock band, and they really always have been.
MV: And not getting upstaged by Beyonce.
MC: And not being upstaged…yeah, exactly. By EDM and just sort of going and taking…I wanna take a part of their library that I can appreciate in a deep, profound sense. I don’t want a copy of the aspect of their library that is currently popular. I don’t want a copy of the aspect of their library that is currently deluded and shallow.
“Yellow,” specifically as a song, is just one of the most beautiful songs; it’s one of our favorite songs. I think it’s one of the most beautiful light rock songs that has been on the radio in the last 10 years. People remember it, and it sticks with you because it’s such a good, beautiful, touching song. We didn’t want to change anything about it drastically. We changed a couple of things with the guitar parts and vocal delivery, but by in large, the song was written correctly, and we didn’t want to touch anything other than doing that song justice, because it really is just a great example of light rock music at work.
CW: We had this idea that we were going…there’s a Taco Bell down the street from where we were recording, and we had this idea to have Matt take all of his clothes off before he ordered food at Taco Bell, and do the same slo-mo thing [from the original video]. We ended up going to a mall down the street, and found a bunch of school buses. We were like, “Alright, those school buses are yellow. That’s kind of funny.” And we decided to film it there. It happened all within the 10 minutes before the cops kicked us out.
MC: Yeah, yeah! Actually as we were filming the “Yellow” music video, the take that we kept was the take where the cops showed up. You can see that there’s a point in the video where I look hard right and stare there for a good 30 seconds. I’m staring at the mall cop coming to break up the filming. It was a really funny thing, and I think it just has a…the video has a really funny, silly, genuine character to it. It fits the song well, which is why we kept it.
MV: I think it is a little similar to the original video where you’re not singing it backwards and walking backwards or something along those lines.
MC: Yeah, absolutely!
MV: On that note, cover songs! Are there any in particular that you’d want to cover for fun, or as a serious thing in the future?
MC: I mean there’s a lot of songs I would love to cover. There is probably six decades worth of music that I would love to cover. Whether or not we could do it any justice, I don’t really know, but I think that we will always be passionate about doing covers of songs that really hit us the right way.
CW: Stand the test of time.
MC: Stand the test of time! Timeless music we will always be willing to cover. I think that that’s part of where doing the Coldplay song…it’s a timeless song. Whether or not Coldplay is a timeless band, “Yellow” is a timeless song. That’s something we definitely strive for when we do covers. We wanna do something that’s gonna hit every demographic and every person that listens to or stumbles upon that video on YouTube for the next five, 10 years, is gonna look at it and go, “Yup! Still a good song.”
CW: It’s kind of neat.
MC: Still a good song and that was kind of neat. Everything we do now, and everything from our personal state of standpoint, and everything we do in the future is definitely going to be about our gut reaction to whether or not what we’re doing stands the test of time.
CW: I think one artist that I would love to cover, as far as modern stuff is coming out, is Julien Baker. I love it. She has a great style of songwriting, and I would love to recreate that, maybe in A Will Away form one day, but we’ll see what happens.
MC: There’s a lot of really, really great modern artists. I’m super proud of the music scene right now, and where it’s going. I don’t know if it’s gone there fully yet, but where it’s going right now, is you’ve got a lot of really great bands, a lot of really great small bands in the music scene who are just trying to get insanely creative with the way that they write music, and the way that they put their songs together. It’s a beautiful thing, because I think we’re witnessing a lot of people hitting their creative peak and finding whatever it is that makes their sound timeless.
CW: If it ever…if any of those songs come out from that attitude, I would love to cover that, because it’s coming from the right place! It’s cool. Those would be the songs I would like to cover.
MV: Lastly, is there anything else that you guys would like to add to this?
MC: Listen to Zeppelin!
CW: Thank you for meeting us at Buffalo Wild Wings.
MC: End quote, listen to Zeppelin!
JM: Free Gucci!
JM: Even though he’s getting out in a couple months.
MC: Free Gucci!
JM: Free him early, fuck it.
MC: Yeah. You can end on that. Thanks for listening!
(someone shouts spaget!)
MC: You know what? End on spaget.
We’d like to thank Collin, Matt, Johnny and Sean for chatting with us, and wish them the best of luck with all of their future endeavors. It should be noted that Johnny and Sean forgot to get each other something for Valentine’s (and Galentine’s) Day, and they were both very sad about that. If you want to catch a show of theirs, they’ve got some upcoming events that can be found on their Facebook page.
The band’s EP “Bliss” was re-released last year through Triple Crown Records, and can be purchased at the label’s webstore. Copies of “Bliss” are available in two formats: CD and vinyl. The record is pressed on clear vinyl with blue splatter.