Category Archives: Interviews

Interview Series: Will Carpenter on Ships Have Sailed and the Upcoming Year

I love how social media connects people with similar interests. If there’s one thing we can thank it for, it’s that right there. It’s especially great for music. There have been so many bands I’ve discovered lately just because of social media.

One of these bands is called Ships Have Sailed.

Ships Have Sailed is an indie pop duo based out of L.A. I’d liken them to Snow Patrol meets Walk The Moon. They’ve got an upbeat sound and a really positive outlook for their project, which while not unusual, is still very refreshing.

The official duo themselves consists of Will Carpenter on vocals and guitar and Dan Hange on bass. They’ve had a few lineup fluctuations since the project started, but currently they are touring with a drummer named Art Andranikyan.

The band’s initial release was an EP titled Someday, and their full length album Moodswings was released in March 2015. They’ve picked up a lot of steam on social media recently and their fans can be found in L.A. to Australia and everywhere in between. Not to mention, they’ve been making waves in the festival scene, playing South by Southwest in Texas, Canadian Music Week in Toronto, an CMJ Music Marathon in New York City. They really are very passionate about the project, which was evident when I spoke with Will Carpenter about his music, the band, and their ambitions for 2016.

 

Maddie: Well just to start, can you go ahead and introduce yourself?

Will: Yeah, my name is Will and I front an indie pop project from L.A. called Ships Have Sailed. I sing, play guitar, do our songwriting, do our production. We’re just building our following, making some music, having a good time.

Can you tell me a little about your band mates as well?

W: Yeah, absolutely. So as a permanent fixture, it’s just myself and our bass player Dan, who’s been a good friend of mine for a really long time. Dan plays bass; he also sings backing vocals live. And in addition to that, when we play live, we also play with another very good friend of ours, Art Andranikyan, who is a session drummer. We started playing with him earlier this year and we’re just letting that relationship develop naturally. We don’t want to pressure anybody into becoming a full time member but we love playing with him. He’s a great guy, great friend, and super super talented.

Great! Can you tell me how Ships Have Sailed got its start?

W: It might be a little bit of a long story, but I’ll try to condense it a little bit — CliffNotes version. Basically, Dan and I were in another band, and it was a rock/hip hop project. Very very specific genre wise, and I’ve always been a songwriter. I’ve written in all sorts of different styles of music all my life. So I found myself with a growing group of songs that were not a fit for the current project, and I also didn’t want to let them go. I didn’t want to shelf them, I didn’t want to pitch them for other artists. I kinda wanted to sing them myself. So I just started some preproduction in my home studio and Dan was one of the first people that I called over, and showed him the rough sketch outlines of the songs to gauge his reaction and his reaction was basically, ‘Okay, cool, they sound great. What are we gonna call it?’ And so that was pretty much it — that was the start of it.

Let’s talk about the Someday EP for a minute. What kind of attention did it get when you first released it?

W: So my goal with the Someday EP was really just to put some songs together — obviously there was another motive for me, I just really connected the songs and I really just wanted to do them and get them out there into the world — and it was just kind of like, ‘Okay, let’s see how this does. Let’s see who likes it, who doesn’t, let’s see if somebody hates it. Let’s just see how people react.’ And I was really pleasantly surprised to find the reaction was really, really positive overall. From there, we started noticing that our social following was growing. Honestly, at the time we hadn’t even played a live show yet, so we put this together, worked on the production, got it out there, and we started getting fans on Twitter and Facebook and whatever. Journalists started taking notice and reviewing the EP and we started selling a few units. It was a really nice surprise and it kind of pushed us into the next phase of the project, which was ‘Alright, well we need to be able to translate this to the stage, so that if people come out and see us it doesn’t seem like it’s our first day.’

So what was your inspiration for the material on the EP? I’ve listened to both the EP and the album and I feel like the EP is a little bit different.

W: The EP kinda does have a theme to it. I feel like at the time I was sensing an oncoming transition in life, and I was kinda speaking to that and the different types of conflicting emotions that come along with a transition — any transition, good or bad. Even a good transition can be scary. It can be nerve wrenching and whatever. So even if it’s the best type of transition, you’ll have some negative feelings that go along with that because it’s a change and a lot of people don’t really do all that well with change all the time. So I feel like the EP was sensing that coming before it really even happened. Like a premonition almost.

Well how would you say your actual, physical sound has changed between the two?

W: Honestly, I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m working a lot more on my production. Moodswings — I’m 100 percent happy with how that record turned out. If I was able to go back in time, and recreate Someday, I probably would have done some things differently. With Moodswings, it’s exactly how I envisioned it. That’s the big difference. When you really invest the time to hone your craft, that’s when you start being able to execute things exactly the way you want and not having to compromise. I guess from a short perspective, I would say that the difference between tMoodswingshe two sonically is that Someday is a little bit more rough around the edges and Moodswings is a lot more polished. But that being said, I think that that was an organic progression where we just honed in a little bit more on the direction we wanted to go creatively, and really spent the time to beef up our production chops. I think that is the distinguishing difference between those two records from a sonic perspective.

Who would you say are your musical influences? Who did you listen to growing up?

W: This is an interesting question and I feel like I have to give a different answer every single time because both Dan and I have really, really wide musical tastes. Everything from classical and jazz all the way through to melodic death metal and everything in between. Classic rock, The Beatles, 90s grunge, the poppier side of 90s music to a certain extent, and then moving through into the 2000s, theres a lot of really really great emerging artists right now. Some of my favorites on kind of the less huge monumental side, some of the ones that are emerging that I really like are Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, who just came out with his debut EP this year, and then CHVRCHES have been around a little bit longer.

I love CHVRCHES!

W: Yeah, so it’s a really good time for music right now. So, I don’t like to give the same answer to that question because we have so many influences, it’s an easy one that I can just give a different answer every time and it’s always truthful because we like a huge span of art over time, over decades, and genres. That’s the cool thing about being musicians is that you don’t have to pigeonhole yourself into listening to one thing or playing one thing. If you like it and if it sounds good, then you like it and it sounds good.

Well let’s move on and talk about where you guys have been playing. If my readers wanted to see you live, where could they go? What kind of shows are you playing?

W: Again, we are doing this on the indie track right now, so we book our own shows… The one thing that we did notice over the past year, trying to get out and about nationally, it really made it difficult for us to focus on studio work. And so I think this coming year we may actually — I don’t want to say the word hiatus, because that’s not exactly what this is — but I think we may be focusing a little bit more on some local shows and really getting back into writing and creating some more music because one of the things about your following starting on the internet is that your fans are everywhere.  And litShips Have Sailed 2erally for us now it’s impossible for us to get everywhere that our fans are. It would just be physically impossible. So Dan and I have been talking about this a lot because we really do value the people that value our music and we don’t want to say that we’re not gonna play live if festival opportunities come up and the numbers make sense and the logistics makes sense we definitely will travel for those. But we also don’t want to short sell the folks that are across the world and waiting for us to release new music. So we’re trying to figure out the balance for that and I think 2016 is going to be a little bit lighter on the live shows and especially the ones that we have to travel for, and a little bit heavier on getting back into the studio, writing some new music, releasing some new music, maybe doing some online live performances.

 

“We’ve been trying  very, very hard to figure out the balance between being out on the road and being able to be productive in the studio.”

 

What has been the biggest challenge the project has faced so far?

W: Honestly I think I just touched on that. We’ve been trying very, very hard to figure out the balance between being out on the road and being able to be productive in the studio. And so it’s an ongoing challenge and I would say that’s the biggest one to date. And then obviously lineup changes and that type of thing. That’s always a little bit of the struggle as well. But I think that’s more of a typical challenge whereas this challenge of balance is an interesting one. It’s a new one for me specifically, so it’s been interesting trying to find a solution for that.

But your single “If Only” has seemed to have attracted a lot of attention worldwide. Last time I researched you back in October, there wasn’t nearly as much out about you guys but now it just seems like you’ve taken off!

W: Yeah, I mean we have to be really thankful about that and I think it comes down to songwriting at it’s very basic form. Like if you can write a song that connects with people on an emotional level, that’s what you’re looking for. That’s what — as an artist — that’s what we’re all looking for. We’re looking to connect to people on that emotional level and we’re looking to speak our own feelings the way other people kind of feel their own feelings, if that makes sense. And so yeah we’re really fortunate that so many people have been connecting with “If Only.” And actually a lot of the other tracks on Moodswings as well. But you’re right, “If Only” definitely is the standout, has the most streams on Spotify, et cetera. We’re really thankful for that.

Have you noticed the pick up in attention or has it been more gradual?

W: Honestly within the past few months there’s been a really noticeable uptick. Up until that it’s been very gradual. When you’re looking at this stuff everyday, it’s kind of like — so I used to go to the gym a lot in college. And I’ve always been rail thin and really, really it’s hard for me to put on weight. I was always the scrawny kid in high school and so in college I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna put on some muscle.’ And so I went and I started working out every single day. And when you’re working out every single day, regardless of how you try to see the change from a day to day basis, you never see it. It’s only when you look at a photo of yourself from like six months ago and compare it side by side with a photo of today that you’ll notice that difference and it will be a huge difference, but day to day you won’t notice it — and that’s kind of how it’s been for the past couple of years. It’s been a really slow, steady build, which I think organically that’s you want. From a day to day perspective it hasn’t been as noticeable until the past three months and then we really have been noticing our numbers on social media going up and it’s been really a pleasure to see.

 

“Sometimes it’s all about the energy and the vibe that you can create in the room and it doesn’t matter if there’s 20,000 people in that room or 20.”

 

Well what has been the best experience you’ve had since you started Ships Have Sailed?

W: It’s a two part answer: …We made it up to Canadian Music Week this year, which is a really big deal and was a great conference. That being said, our showcase ended up being at exactly the same time as the Death Cab for Cutie show, so that’s a little bit of a hard act to compete with. We wound up with maybe about 20 people in the crowd at our show. As an artist going onto a stage in a room that can hold like 200 people, and seeing 20 people in the crowd, it’s not always the best thing for your ego, let’s just say. But at the same time, you have to go up there. Every single one of those people is just as important as if there were 200 in the room. That’s always been my take on the matter. So we got up there and we played an incredible show and towards the end — we have a song called “Summertime”… — we started playing it and the chorus hit and everybody in the room came up to the stage and started dancing with us. It was just so incredible and it just goes to show that numbers really aren’t always everything. Sometimes it’s all about the energy and the vibe that you can create in the room and it doesn’t matter if there’s 20,000 people in that room or 20. If you’re all having good time and you’re playing a good show and they’re enjoying what you’re doing, that is what it’s all about.

Exactly. Well, just a few more questions to wrap up. How have your attitudes about the band changed since you started?

W: It’s interesting. I think the biggest struggle for me in that area is managing my own expectations. Because at first, this was really just like hey I want to put these songs together and I’m just going to throw them out into the air and then see if anybody likes them and see how people feel. And there’s not a whole lot of expectation that goes along with that. Then once people start to react, then you’re like, ‘Oh, this is going somewhere,” and then you get swept away into these expectations around goals and milestones and what you should be doing. You know that can be dangerous. It’s a little bit — it’s easier to get disappointed that way, it’s easier to feel a level of frustration about the project. I guess what I’m trying to do over the course of how this project has developed, is manage that feeling of expectations, and just let myself — I mean it’s ok to have some expectations and it’s ok have goals — but it started out as purely about the music and so over time I feel those expectations getting heavier than maybe they should, I just try to remind myself that it really is about the music… To me I guess it’s less about how the attitude has changed; it’s more about trying to make sure it doesn’t change too much, if that makes sense.

So you’re starting work on another EP correct?

W: Yeah.

Any idea when we can expect that?

W: Again, a tough questions because I don’t want to set expectations… Internally we had some milestones we wanted to hit for this EP, and we are woefully behind, I’ll just tell you. Myself, I wanted the EP to be basically production all done by now so that we could release it in February, but that unfortunately is not a reality at this point. And it has a little bit to do with the amount we traveled for live performances last year… But definitely, I would say safely sometime in the first half of 2016.

Alright, last question: where do you think you’ll be this time next year?

W: Okay, well you know that thing that [Facebook] started doing where they show you your memories and it’s sometimes a little weird and and little awkward and you’re like, ‘Holy crap, that was only 12 months ago!” and now life is totally different. Ya know what I mean? So I am nervous to predict where I’ll be in a year but what I can say is that I will still be making music in twelve months from now. I’m not looking to stop. There’s no clock on this project. It’s not like, ‘Okay if we don’t sell a million records by 2017 we’re done.’ That’s not what we’re about. While selling a million records would be amazing, it’s not our primary goal. We’re here for the music and we love what we’re doing. We have no intention of stopping. We’ll still be releasing music and annoying our fans online twelve months from now, guaranteed.

 

Ships Have Sailed can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Will is great about interacting with his fans!

They also have their own website in which you can sign up for their mailing list if you’d like to stay updated about the band’s upcoming projects.

Be sure to check out the band on iTunes and Spotify!

*All photos were pulled from Ships Have Sailed Facebook page. They do not belong to me.

 

Interview Series: Carlos Cardenas talks The Vast Alps and being an artist today

Ok, I know I haven’t posted in awhile (as per usual) but I have great news! Recently, I created a twitter profile page for my blog (@notreallyindie). Selfless plug time — follow it if you want to keep up with music news and up-and-coming artists! But that’s not the point. The point is, shortly after I created this twitter page a bunch of up-and-coming artists followed me. There was one band in particular from California I took an interest in, so I reached out to them and hoped to land an interview… and it worked! For this post, I interviewed a member of a band called The Vast Alps, and I’m very excited to share with you guys.

The Vast Alps are a 4 piece band from Riverside, California, which is a little over an hour from LA. The band members include Chris Lacayo, Cory McCormick, and brothers James and Carlos Cardenas. Their latest EP, the Auto Pilot EP was released on May 16th, 2014, and since then they’ve been working hard to bring their new fans a bunch of new music. Recently, they entered the NPR music competition known as Tiny Desk and have started a project they call the “1/1 Project” (1 By 1 Project) in which they put out a new song each week. I was lucky enough to speak with their guitarist and vocalist, Carlos Cardenas, about the band, their music, being a new artist in today’s media world, and where they’re going next.

Maddie Luchsinger: So just go ahead and tell me a little about yourself and the band.

Carlos Cardenas: So we’re called The Vast Alps and we’re from Riverside, California. The band is made up of myself, Carlos, and my brother James, and two of our best friends Cory and Chris. We’ve known each other for probably 10 years just as friends. We met in high school and we’ve been friends through college and stuff like that so we’ve been pretty close in that sense. We’ve all played music before being in this band, and we’ve been playing music for the last couple years — not as The Vast Alps, but just for music projects or for fun or for little films — stuff like that. Officially as The Vast Alps we’ve been a band for I want to say eight months. So we put out an EP last year and we’ve been putting out more music. That just started happening in February. We’ve been putting out like a song a week, which is pretty crazy for us. We’re pretty excited to be doing that, actually.

L: So at what point did you guys sit down and say we can do this and put out our own music?

C: I think The Vast Alps started pretty organically. Like we were all friends before this and we were comfortable just playing around and doing everyday things. And then one day we were like, ‘Hey, we have all these songs, we have all these ideas. Why don’t we just start a band and market ourselves?’ and become what we are today. And the timing was just right. I just finished college last year in the summer and our other member Chris has been done with school for awhile. Two of our members are still in college, but it felt pretty good and pretty right for us to start last year and go from there.

L: Did you have any initial hesitations or challenges that you thought might prevent you from being able to form this band?

C: No, I don’t think we really thought about it that much, like we should do it full blown. I think we’re all pretty committed people. Like in everything that we do we like to give it 100%. I think the timing was just right. Like our oldest member Chris got married a year and a half ago. There’s just things in life I guess, you know, finishing school, getting a job, stuff like that, that you don’t wanna be dealing with and trying to be creative as well because I feel like that can get in the way a lot. Like you know, you don’t have a job or you don’t have enough money, you can’t make it a practice and stuff like that. Things just kind of fell into place really well last year and I guess that gave us the time and the energy to do it.

L: Well what kind of gigs are you playing now?

C: Well it’s a weird thing because we’re from Riverside and that’s probably like an hour away from Los Angeles, and it’s so weird the way the music industry is now. It’s crazy. Like you’ve got to be a better band online than you are playing live I guess. So we always talk about amongst each other how ‘we’re not a live band’ just to be funny you know? Like we kind of grew up in the 90s, going to shows and stuff like that. But the way things are now, nobody really goes to local band gigs. Either you hear about somebody from YouTube or something like that. So we don’t play that often, but we try to be pretty selective on the shows that we do play so that it should benefit us. Like the last show we played was at Cal Poly [Pomona] for the school I graduated from. They had a big fashion show and we were actually the headlining band there… So we try to do shows that are going to help the band and promote the band in some way or another. But we’re not really about ‘oh we’re playing at a local pub, friends come and see us’ because people don’t really go to shows that much, so we really focus on our online and social media.

The Vast Alps

L: Did you notice a surge in social media activity with the release of your first EP?

C: It happened pretty slow for us, because like I said we’re kind of 90s kids I guess. So social media is really important to us, but we’re still learning a lot from it. It’s just changing constantly all the time. I guess the coolest thing that happened to us was we made a video for the Tiny Desk contest and then we had like probably 100 or 200 views in the first couple of days and then NPR put our video up on their tumblr page, and as soon as that happened we had like 1000 views the next day or something.Things like that kind of show you the power of promoting yourself on social media and making the right moves… It’s so beneficial to artists who are just starting out. Because it is hard for artists to get noticed but it can be really easy too if you know what you’re doing — if you play the social media game well.

L: Well let’s move on and talk about the music. What are your biggest musical influences?

C: So basically we have three songwriters in the band. There’s Cory McCormick, Chris Lacayo, and myself Carlos. We all write the basic structure of a song and we bring it to the band and the band makes it into a song where we all collaborate. All three of us are pretty influenced by pretty different genres and stuff. Like me for example — I’m influenced a lot by Spanish music, and Spanish rock, and punk and stuff like that. And Cory — he loves classical music and he listens to a lot of hip hop and things like that, and then Chris listens to a lot of mass music and weird sounding stuff that not everybody gets all the time, but it’s really cool, so it makes our music really — like for me it’s hard to pinpoint our genre exactly. Like if you listen to “Fiction,” which is the song we recorded for Tiny Desk, and then you listen to a song like “Dear, Man,” they’re kind of two different genres.

L: Well tell me a little bit about what’s on the Auto Pilot EP. Why did you choose to release those songs?

C: So this is what happened: we have a collection of just recorded songs or just recorded ideas, and we have a lot of them currently. So we thought ‘Ok, we have all these songs, so we should put something out that kind of will let people know this is  what we sound like at the moment, like this is kind of like our sound.’ So we picked four songs that all sound like The Vast Alps but don’t sound exactly like each other. Like we picked the instrumental song that’s just music that’s the one called “Auto Pilot” because we thought it was this really cool instrumental song that we made up and we picked a pretty poppy one which is “Let Your Walls Down” and we kinda just threw in a little pop, and a little experimental, and a little bit of artsy “Dear, Man” kind of vibe and that’s how we chose to put out those four tracks — so people could get an idea of who we are.

L: What’s changed since you released Auto Pilot both within the group dynamic and the music?

C: That’s a good question. The thing that’s cool is that when you release a song you kind of get over it in a sense that it’s like, ‘Ok, we’ve released these songs, they’re forever out on the internet, so what’s next?’ So it makes you kind of look for the next song or the next sound. So more recently we’ve been kind of experimenting with new songs and we’re releasing a song a week… and it’s gonna be pretty different from Auto Pilot because once you put out songs it feels like, ‘Alright, I already did that song in that genre, so what can I do different, and better?’ So it kind of makes you a better artist I think. We’ve just been working on new material and trying to write better songs.

L: What are you calling this project where you put out one song a week?

C: It’s called One By One (1/1).

L: How did you come up with that idea?

C: Well everything kind of goes back to that social media aspect of being an artist. Like people are on their phones like 24/7. That’s just the reality of the world we live in. I don’t know about you, but I wake up and I’m like,’Oh I need to check my twitter’ and “I need to check my Instagram.” Like that’s how our brains are starting to think. So people want content. They want something everyday. And as a musician it’s hard enough to put out an album a year but since we have all of these ideas and songs that we’ve recorded over the last couple of years or months or whatever, we decided it would be cool if we could put that out every week and put out at least one song a week and give the listeners something new every Friday because if you just put out last year, if we don’t put something out next year, you lose so much traction. Because so much is going on everyday. It’s just trying to keep up with the pace of the world I guess.

L: Is it stressful knowing you have to release something each week?

C: It can be, definitely, but there’s a lot about The Vast Alps that a lot of people don’t know. Like we’ve been playing music for a long time and we’ve really honed in on what we’re doing. Like we’ve recorded everything ourselves and we’ve made life really easy for ourselves. And it could be super stressful if we were like, ‘Dude, we don’t have anything for next week.’ Then it would be a nightmare. But we pretty much have it covered for awhile. We have enough material in our computers and stuff that we can just put it together and release it. But it could be a real challenge if we didn’t have the setup that we have… That’s why we try to be self sustainable and do everything ourselves from website, to music, to social media, to everything. It’s the only way to make it nowadays.

L: Well to wrap it up — it’s been almost a year since the Auto Pilot EP dropped. Where do you guys see yourselves next year?

C: Honestly the way that the industry is and the way things are, it’s so hard to picture where you want to be or where you will be in a year. The nature of the game has changed so much you see bands that are overnight successes or something happens that’s just like “Wow!” For us it was being on NPR and the Tiny Desk thing and the fact that we had like 1,000 people listen to our music in a matter of hours has just made me realize that things can really change on such short notice nowadays. So to answer you’re question, I don’t know. I don’t know where we’ll be a year from now. Hopefully we’ll be writing more music, and putting out more videos and just doing what we love to do. That’s why we’re in a band. We love making music — not because we want to be famous or make a ton of money. If that does happen, absolutely! We’ll take that any day, but we do it because we love music.

All Images were found at the Vast Alps Facebook page.

You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheVastAlps, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @TheVastAlps.

The Auto Pilot EP as well as all of their 1/1 Project releases can be found on iTunes and Spotify. I highly suggest checking them out. They’ve got a lot of variation in their music and you can tell they really love what they’re doing. They’ve also released several music videos, all of which can be found on YouTube!

I wish The Vast Alps the best of luck in the coming year and look forward to working with more artists like them!