The importance of involving the fans somehow and keeping them informed is paramount, especially with the advent of the internet where fans can now correspond with their favourite artists through the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Such efforts arguably boost sales to an extent, and encourage listeners to become lifelong fans. One group that perhaps understands this importance is Evans Blue, who in the past have devised ideas such as fan music video campaigns to encourage the involvement of their followers.
Consisting of vocalist Dan Chandler
, rhythm guitarist Parker Lauzon
, lead guitarist Vlad Tanaskovic
, and bassist Joe Pitter
, Evans Blue cut fourth studio full-length "Graveyard Of Empires
" with longtime producer Trevor Kustiak
and mixer Dan Korneff
(Papa Roach / Breaking Benjamin). Mike McClure
– a friend of Dan Chandler – drummed on inaugural single "This Time It's Different
" and "Halo
", the latter of which was released in December 2011 as a gift to the fans. The former composition, meanwhile, debuted in the top 25 on the iTunes Rock chart. A fan music video campaign was launched by Evans Blue, fans being asked to submit videos of themselves performing "This Time It's Different
" and / or photos of themselves using the EB wings symbol. Paramore touring drummer Jason Pierce
drummed on the rest of the tracks.
"Graveyard Of Empires" is the second Evans Blue album to feature Dan Chandler, the first being June 2009's self-titled effort. Rounding out the outfit's albums are February 2006's "The Melody And The Energetic Nature Of Volume" and July 2007's "The Pursuit Begins When This Portrayal Of Life Ends," both issued through Hollywood Records. "Graveyard Of Empires" will be released on April 17th via Sounds + Sights Entertainment.
On March 31st at 19:00 GMT, Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned rhythm guitarist Parker Lauzon to discuss "Graveyard Of Empires."
Parker Lauzon: Hello?
UG: Is this Parker?
This is Parker.
This is Robert Gray calling from Ultimate-Guitar.com.
Hey... How's it going?
It's going well. Would it be okay if we began the interview?
First of all Parker, could you talk us through the writing process for 'Graveyard Of Empires'?
Oh, the writing process? It's interesting for us because we are very separated as a band. Most of the writing process would either be Vlad (Tanaskovic, lead guitars) or myself coming up with the riffs and just sending the mp3s to our singer Dan (Chandler), him recording his vocals or whatever over the top of it and sending it back to us, and then it just bounces back and forth between everybody in the band until we got it to where we wanted it. We did that pretty much for every song, so by the time we actually hit the studio all together the album was written. It was pretty much done all online (laughs). Emails and mp3s.
Did Evans Blue have a goal in mind?
No goal. We just wrote as many songs as we could within the time given to us, picked the best songs, and worked on those songs until they were the best they could be. It just started forming. It's all about Dan and the lyrics – he wrote from the heart on this one. He wrote very honestly about a time in his past when he wasn't in a very good place, so it's really cool. All the songs have a very cool message.
Are they messages you can relate to?
Yeah. The general message on the album is about individuality, that it's okay to be yourself and have your own beliefs. I think it's a really cool thing. The inner struggle from when you were younger to find out who you are, that's what this album is about. Whoever you end up being, it's okay to be that person.
Was there a time in school where maybe yourself or one of the other band members kept their beliefs to themselves? Or wasn't themselves so much?
I think everybody struggles through it, especially when you're very young. Some people have a habit of telling others what they should believe, and what they shouldn't believe. This album is pretty much just getting past that, and just believing what you want. I can't speak for Dan because I don't really know his whole past. I don't think anybody is really themselves when they're in school though, especially high school. Everybody's still crazed when they're in high school.
In what ways do you feel Evans Blue's growth as musicians can be heard on 'Graveyard Of Empires'?
"I'm a big fan of Dan's lyrics. I don't know necessarily what all the songs are about, but I listen to them and the emotions resonate with me."
With the last album – which was self-titled – we were just getting to know Dan as a singer and as a person. That album was pretty much half-written before Dan was in the band, so it was definitely a weird process for him and for us as well. With this album we've known each other for almost four years now, and it just shows the growth between the individuals in the band. Especially with Dan and the comfort level we have, as we're all friends now. We're brothers; we've been on tour together for years, and it just shows the growth between every individual in the band. 'Graveyard Of Empires' is better than any album we've done I'd say. It's a really good, honest album.
How does Dan differ to former vocalist Kevin Matisyn?
Hmm... that's a really good question. Both of our singers are amazing talents, Dan in particular though. He writes on guitar as well, which Kevin didn't do. Dan brings a lot more of a smoother vibe... I don't know if that makes sense. His method is much more dedicated I guess. I don't wanna diss either person (laughs). Both singers are amazing, and bring different things to the table. I think Dan brings a lot more to the thought process in terms of melodies, and his lyrics come from personal experiences of his that I think is really cool for the listener. I'm a big fan of Dan's lyrics. I don't know necessarily what all the songs are about, but I listen to them and the emotions resonate with me. It's a real cool thing. I think of what I want in a song, and what everybody else wants in a song.
Has personal lyrics always been a facet of Evans Blue, or only since Dan joined in 2009?
I think it's best when singers write from personal experience, which is an honest approach. It resonates really well with the general population because a lot of people feel the same feelings. When you hear somebody that's feeling or going through the same thing you are, it's a really cool connection. I think Kevin and Dan are both really great at creating that connection with fans.
How did the album come to be named 'Graveyard Of Empires'?
The title 'Graveyard Of Empires' was actually a working title for a song which actually made the album called "Thank You". We really liked the title 'Graveyard Of Empires', and we wanted to use it because we thought it really spoke for not only just the record industry but a lot of what's going on in the world right now. Obviously the record labels are all falling apart and big corporations are losing lots of money, so 'Graveyard Of Empires' is just saying that maybe it's time for the little people to come, step up, and have their say. It's a really good time for rock bands right now that aren't signed to a major label, because with us for example we get to do what we want. We get to express ourselves artistically, and do exactly the songs that we wanna do. For a lot of bands on major labels, it's not that easy to express themselves in the way that we do.
That's a surprising viewpoint, because most of the musicians I speak to are quite miserable about the music industry in general.
I'm not saying it's all butterflies and rainbows, but to be in the position we are is really, really great. It's still of course an upward struggle and it probably always will be, but to me an independent still being able to have any level of success is really great.
Are there specific drawbacks to being independent you can identify? Certain doors not opening so to speak?
Being independent you don't have big label money behind you, but then again I know on the other side of the coin is you don't owe that money back to anybody either. There's pros and cons. We were on a big label; when we first got signed we were on Hollywood Records, a big label. You get the tour support and what not, but it all comes back out of all your record sales, your royalties and stuff. It all seems glamorous but you really are supporting yourself for tours and not the label (laughs). Being independent we see where the money is, where you can use it, and you can decide how you will use it. I think that's really beneficial.
So you don't look back fondly on Evans Blue's time with Hollywood Records then?
No, no. I do. Hollywood Records got us to where we are today. If we hadn't been signed we wouldn't have been known by anybody really, so I'm really thankful for that. We still have a great relationship with Hollywood Records. They're great people, but it just wasn't for us anymore. We decided to walk away, and they were very nice about the situation. We decided to go on our own, and I'm glad we did. We're all glad.
How would you compare 'Graveyard Of Empires' to previous Evans Blue albums?
There's a lot more aggression in the music and the vocals on this album, but every song I'd say has a much larger, heavier element than any of our other songs. Our last album came out, and then after awhile we wrote and recorded "Erase My Scars" and added it to that album. This new album is pretty much an extension of "Erase My Scars". When we recorded "Erase My Scars", everybody in the band and around the band agreed that this was the direction we needed to go in as a band. We ran with it, and we're so happy with the outcome of this album. It's heavy, but there is a ballad. It's a very unique ballad and we're very happy with it though. It's actually my favourite song off of the album.
Can you see Evans Blue maintaining that aggression for future albums, becoming heavier again, or becoming mellower?
"We really liked the title 'Graveyard Of Empires', and we wanted to use it because we thought it really spoke for not only just the record industry but a lot of what's going on in the world right now."
There are so many genres, so it's really hard to say. We're not trying to stick to just one sound, and it's so hard trying to write and stick to one sound. We just try to write songs and see if we like them. We don't try to stay in one sound.
How would you describe your guitar work on 'Graveyard Of Empires'?
Vlad actually wrote a lot of the stuff on this album as well. We all had our say, but with my guitar work I think it's a lot more riff-oriented. This album has a lot of riffs, more than we've ever had. It's very much a groove-based album where it has a mood to it. We really stretched the boundaries of the rhythm guitar, which is something I've always wanted to do – be a heavier, riffier band. We've never done that. Everybody stepped it up to a new level on this album.
What influences did you have on your guitar work?
There's just so many. I'm mostly influenced by whatever music I'm listening to. It's really funny. If I'm listening to soft music, then I'll write a soft song. My major influence growing up was Dimebag Darrell though – he's my idol. I grew up with Pantera; they were always my favourite band. New age bands like Staind and Deftones and Breaking Benjamin are all huge influences, and we got to tour with all of those bands. It was really cool to get inside their heads, and ask them what their writing process was. I think I've learnt a lot from all the bands that we've toured with.
What's it like to work with producer Trevor Kustiak?
He's been there since the beginning, and so has our manager Mari (Dew). They're just great people. It's a great team to have behind us. Working with Trevor speaks volumes; this is our fourth album with him. It's just a very relaxed environment, and he's always there not only when you're in the studio but when you're at home. I had writer's block for awhile, and he helped me through that. He said 'Relax, and let it come. It'll come eventually.' He's not only a producer, but a brother. He's part of the family, and he just brings out the best in all of us. I really think that it's important for producers to know each individual personality, and know how to bring the best out of that person.
What brought about your writer's block? Were you being too hard on yourself?
When I had writer's block, it was a really, really weird time for me. I've never experienced writer's block before. My writing process is to have an acoustic in the living room at all times, and if I'm bored I pick up and write. There was a lull of quite a few months where I wasn't writing anything or recording anything. I don't know. I've never sat down and thought about what was wrong. Maybe the well dried up for a little bit (laughs), but eventually it came back. Creativity comes in waves I guess, which was what Trevor was saying. You've just gotta let it roll and let it come. You can overthink it, and I think that was the problem with me.
Tell us about the drumming situation for 'Graveyard Of Empires'.
Earlier on in the process late last year we lost our old drummer H-Bomb (Howard Davis), so that delayed the album quite a bit. Moving forward we had Dan's friend Mike McClure play on a couple of songs on the album. He was actually in a band with Dan awhile back – we needed somebody quickly. He came into the studio and really helped us out, recording "Halo" and "This Time It's Different". For the rest of the tracks we actually used Jason Pierce, who is a touring drummer for Paramore.
What's the current status of the drumming position in Evans Blue?
It is wide open (laughs). We're not necessarily looking for somebody right now to come into the band, but we're definitely keeping an eye out for a touring drummer. If it happens and we feel that it's the right person, then we'll definitely bring them into the fold as far as the band goes. As of right now though we're not looking for a permanent drummer. We're looking for a touring drummer.
What qualities will Evans Blue be seeking in a permanent drummer?
Friendly would be the first one (laughs), easy to get along with. I don't know. Obviously they'd have to be technically good on drums; it's important for me to be able to change gears so to speak as a performer. Generally the thing we're looking for is chemistry. We just want great chemistry; someone who's good to have in the studio, bounce ideas off of, and brainstorm ideas. We don't want someone who you need to tell exactly what to do.
There was a fan campaign Evans Blue orchestrated for the music video to "This Time It's Different".
"The general message on the album is about individuality, that it's okay to be yourself and have your own beliefs."
Yeah. We also did a fan video for the second single off of our self-titled album. It was just a cool idea to get the fans involved. On Facebook especially fans talk to me; I usually talk in chatrooms at least once to twice a week on my Facebook, because I just like to know what the fans are up to. I don't think there are enough bands who get the fans involved enough. This was a cool way for fans to film a little video of themselves singing our song, and then we just had a compilation of all those videos and posted them online just to show the world how proud we are of our fans. We do have amazing fans.
Due to the current climate within the music industry, do you have to be more involved with fans nowadays and come up with unique ideas to encourage their involvement?
I just think with the way technology is going these days. It is much easier for fans to gain access to their favourite bands with Facebook, and back in the old days MySpace (laughs). I think I still have a MySpace account actually (laughs). I'll have to check it... I think that fans access bands so well that you can't interact with them enough. To me it's really odd because they're right there. If I'm sitting in the living room in my house on Facebook, I say 'What's up,' see what's up with everybody, reply to people, and see how they're doing. There's a whole reason that we get to do what we're doing. I won't let this band be the band that takes that for granted.
You wouldn't like to be mysterious like the old bands then? Where you only got to see them at the concerts?
A lot of bands now do signings afterwards. Bands are way more accessible definitely than they were when I was a kid. You're right; it's exactly what you just said. You went to the concert, saw them play onstage, and went home. Now it's much more interactive. I think it's much more cool for the fans.
Yeah, definitely. I'd agree with that. Will more music videos be filmed to support 'Graveyard Of Empires'?
Yeah. We definitely plan to make three actual performance videos for the record. It's all about scheduling, and getting us to LA. We're definitely in talks with the guys that did the "Erase My Scars" video. Adrian Picardi is absolutely incredible with the camera work that he does; we've actually talked about having him make every video we do from now on, because we're very happy with the video for "Erase My Scars".
A case of if it isn't broken, don't fix it.
Thanks for speaking to me Parker.
Hey man, no problem.
All the best with Evans Blue, and 'Graveyard Of Empires'. Have a nice day.
You too man.
Take care. Bye.
Interview by Robert Gray
Ultimate-Guitar.Com © 2012