SCAD Radio Event Director Maya Looney sat down for an interview with Telethon, the band behind albums like the rock opera, The Grand Spontanean.
Maya: Can you guys real quick just explain yourself and what you do for the band?
Erik: I’m Erik, a.k.a. drums. I play drums. That’s pretty much it. (Laughs)
Alex: I’m Alex, “Deepsoundz” is the descriptor. I play bass and backing vocals.
Erik: I do want to note that I do all the aux percussion, it’s not Gene Jacket.
Alex: He was wrongly identified on our last album as doing so.
Kevin: I’m Kevin. I’m lead vocal and rhythm guitarist.
Jack: I’m Jack, and I play lead guitar.
Erik: And Gene Jacket who isn’t here plays keys, glock, and synth.
How long have you guys been around as a band?
Erik: So we made an album called Witness back in the winter of 2014, beginning of 2015. Kevin was out in California. We hadn’t spoken in many years. He blindly texted me, it was a pretty rude text. He asked me if I wanted to play drums on this project he’d been working on. He did that with just about everybody except Alex.
Alex: I wasn’t a part of it at the time.
Erik: We recorded Witness in Whitewater, which is where I was going to school.
Alex: The band was known as Fitness at the time.
Erik: It was me, Jack, Kevin, and Gene Jacket, who played third guitar. He didn’t play keys yet for us. We were still trying to figure out our sound at the time. We made that and released it in 2015, and shortly after that Alex joined.
Kevin: We went through several options and he-
Alex: …was the only one who said yes.
Kevin: Don’t put that in.
Alex: Kevin had made more songs and invited us all out to California…So we all learned the songs separately and flew out and recorded our second album Citrosis. That was the time that we finally became a “band” and started playing a lot of shows after that with that album.
Erik: It was originally going to be Citrus by Fitness.
Why the name change?
Kevin: There was another band in the same general area that was called Fitness that made similar music in description to us, so it was just way too confusing. So we changed the name and then instead of Citrus we called it Citrosis because the rhyme wasn’t there and we thought it was kind of a stupid name.
Erik: We cycled through a lot of bad names.
You went out to California to record the first album, which you did with your last album, The Grand Spontanean. How is that process of traveling to record instead of being more local?
Alex: Honestly, it’s pretty easy. It’s not something we would’ve done if we didn’t have a really good time with that guy [Jack Shirley]. We toot that guy’s horn a lot. But he totally deserves it. He’s, like, Grammy nominated.
Erik: He has everything that you need to record out there so all you have to bring is yourself.
Jack: Also, when you go somewhere else to record it makes you focus only on that and nothing else which forces you to throw your whole self into.
Erik: Which Modern Abrasive, the EP we just released last year, we recorded here.
Alex: Jack Shirley mixed and mastered it. I’ve kind of seen that it’s really hard to find a really cool audio engineer who’s nice and helpful and really good at what he does.
Kevin: And by now he just gets us…He’s almost like a 6th member of the band at this point.
Your last album was your 90-minute rock opera The Grand Spontanean, but your new album is not in the same vein at all. It’s a proper full-length. What were the challenges of transitioning back into that?
Kevin: Originally this was supposed to be another concept album… I was writing the lyrics as we wrote the music and about a month or a month and a half before the record was going to be made, I was not as far along on the lyrics side or the story side as I wanted to be. But at the same time I was going through a lot… So just for fun, kind of like a thought experiment, I started to rewrite the entire [album]- everything I had lyrically- just stream of consciousness, like my own head, and by the time I knew it everything was rewritten and the concept was scrapped completely.
Alex: Musically, the long concept album is just trying to throw everything together, whereas this album we focused on really honing in a shorter amount of songs. I think we all agree that this is our best and favorite album. The songs are way better and more developed than anything on The Grand Spontanean
What were the primary influences on this most recent album? What should we be listening to for hype?
Kevin: I did a tweet the other day with the albums that informed the record the most. It was, like, Motion City Soundtrack, Bruce Springsteen, Antarctigo Vespucci wasn’t on there but it should be, Wilco, Fall Out Boy, The Beths. Oh, and about the Beths. The Beths’ last album is 10 songs and 37 minutes long. Hard Pop by Telethon is 10 songs long and 37 minutes long. You do the math.
Erik: It’s a cover album (laughs).
Kevin: But it really did spiritually inspire the record a lot. At least for me. A lot of the songs are really transparent about the singer or the lyricist going through it and I was like “I want to write a record like this”. A record where it’s full on mental, stream of consciousness, poetry.
For songwriting is it primarily Kevin?
Alex: At this point we’ve got it down to a science. A lot of times Kevin will come to us with a sort of a nugget of a song. Where it’s some chords and melodies. Jack is really good at taking it and making it into something bigger and he’ll take it to the rest of us and develop it as a full song together. We’ll fill out how the rhythm will be. Gene Jacket will add keys and sometimes when he comes into it, it becomes a different thing.
Kevin: I think the majority of the songs were written by Jack.
You guys just signed to Take This To Heart Records from your old DIY label Halloween Records. Is this the next step for your vision for the band?
Erik: I wouldn’t necessarily say that…I see it as another person in our court, helping us out.
Alex: It ultimately is just somebody helping you get your music to more people and helping us connect with other cool bands. Yeah, it was difficult to feel like you’re relinquishing control.
Erik: It feels like a mutually beneficial thing. It doesn’t feel like they’re sucking the life out of us or anything.
Alex: Yeah, there’s not a lot of money in Telethon.
So what’s next? Obviously, this new album, but is anything planned?
Erik: I think we’re going to break up?
Kevin: It’s over.
Alex: At this point we don’t have anything officially announced, but we will be touring.
Kevin: We’re not going to stop until we’re on my favorite show, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Alex: That’s when we break up. On stage. In front of Jimmy.
Kevin: No, no, we break up when we play the stage at Disneyland.