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 the 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 literally 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?
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.
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.