Levi: Well, we formed in 2002. I’ve known Seth since he was about 13 years old.
Ooh, that’s scary.
Seth: I’m 14 right now.
Levi: So I’ve known him for a year and a half. No, I moved to Nashville and some producers introduced me to this guy named June and he was living in Chicago. He and I talked on the phone and then a day later or a week later, something like that, he moved to Nashville. We became friends and we started the band in 2002 in Cleveland with Levi and what’s your name?
Johannes: What’s your name? Right now? It’s Shirley.
Levi: Then we relocated back to Nashville in 2003 and picked up these two guys and we’ve been in this band ever since.
Tell me about your latest release that you put out.
Levi: It’s terrible. It’s a steaming pile. No, it’s called External Affairs and it comes out on March 20th. It’s the most creative writing we’ve ever done. It’s certainly the greatest thing we’ve ever accomplished as a band. And enters Greg Ladanyi the producer of the record.
(The band sings: dun dun dun dun dun dun)
Greg: I keep trying to enhance the timing of everything. It’s very important.
Actually that was pretty damn good.
June: He has a knack for that.
What all went into the making of the record?
Seth: June and I spent about three or four months writing songs. We wrote 30 something songs for this record. Greg came down and we started demoing some stuff out in July or something like that. We started tracking in July and finished this record in early September and came out with 11 songs on the record.
We didn’t really finish until December 22nd. We mixed and mastered in December and then released it in March.
How difficult is it to take 30 songs and whittle them down to 11?
Levi: With Greg, not a problem.
June: There were a couple of close songs that we had to sit down and really think about but we really wanted the whole record to be the songs that relate to each other and be a cohesive album and not a bunch of different random songs. We tried to tie in each song to the next and put together a record that flows.
Well, since we have the producer in the room with us maybe he can tell us a little bit about his job.
Greg: Letting them be real. That was my job. Keeping it real.
What exactly all does a producer do? I never had the opportunity to talk to people like that.
Seth: Talk a lot of crap.
Greg: Well, I think a good producer has the sense of what needs to happen musically to a song and helps their initial birth of that become a big, big picture. One that you can listen to and really feel the emotions of the lyrics and the mood of the sounds, the chords, and the melodies. And just being a really good coach and keeping them from killing each other. These guys are really great musicians, all of them so my job was mainly focusing on capturing what it is they were trying to say and an ensemble of the five of them.
Seth: Thanks dad.
June: Very well put Greg.
He’s quite literate. I like that.
Seth: Yeah, his part in this record, he might as well be the sixth member of the band. He pulled things out of us that I didn’t really even know existed. His guidance was completely key to the whole thing. This record wouldn’t be what it is without his vision along with ours so it really worked out.
I think it’s awesome you came out on the road with them. Are you with them for the whole tour?
Greg: In spirit I am. They know I’m there. Sometimes they don’t even know I’m there when I’m there.
June: We’ve got to talk about that. If one of us is having a problem on stage one night it’ll come up the next day. Greg would kill you. So he’s definitely with us.
Tell me about two or three songs on the album you like the most and what you were thinking about when you wrote it.
Ligion: That’s complicated. We’re very, very, very married to every one of them. Even in the order that they’re in. I can’t listen to it any other way but from top to bottom. I can’t just punch a tune. I can but I don’t want to. Although one of the band’s favorite songs that we play is a song we wrote with Danny Kortchmar called “For You.” It really captured a lot of our lives. The lyrics. It was a magical thing not to use that word so dramatically. I don’t know what happened but during that time period there were some gloomy moments in the studio for us because we were getting ready to climb this mountain. It’s very intimidating at first so emotions are all over the place. We went through these trials and tribulations and these songs were born out of that really and it shows. “For You” was one of those songs that really hits home with all five of us. “Lost My Car” has always been a favorite of ours because it’s so cool and it’s kind of a left turn for us. The way it came out, we surprised ourselves a little bit and it rocks. I could tell you a story about every one of the songs but I won’t.
Seth: I don’t think you have that amount of time.
Ligion: It’s a whole journey. It’s a whole thing and we bled that record. It really came out the way exactly…we captured that moment in time for sure.
Is it your first release?
Ligion: Yeah, this is our debut for the whole world. Watch out!
That first one is always the most difficult to make isn’t it?
Seth: Yeah, but you get the longest amount of time to make it because you get to write all through leading up to making that record. From what I understand the next one you don’t really get that much living to do.
No, they expect that one in a snap and they expect it to be better.
Levi: Oh, it will be. We’re going there. Oh yes, we’re going there.
Greg: Who is “they” if I may ask. We know it’s not the record company.
(The band sings: dun dun dun dun dun)
It’s that ambiguous “they”. How long have you guys been out on the road?
June: This is our third day with Saliva and Crossfade. We’ve got 40 something more to go. We’ll be out until about March 24th or something like that. So far it’s been absolutely mind blowing.
I heard you got to sing with Josie from Saliva.
Ligion: I did. That was the first night of the tour. We were standing on the side of the stage and he kept coming over and looking at me and singing. We were standing together and he kept coming over and looking and we were wondering if we did something awful. That’s impossible. We’ve only been here for five hours. What have we done now? He’s standing on stage and he kept looking over and he kept writing in his hand and mouthing “take notes.” This is the first day of the tour and we’re the young band and then all of a sudden he pointed to me. I walk out and he was looking over and he said “lead him in a chorus of ‘Shout’.” I was like thank God I know that one. That would have really sucked.
Seth: I’ve known this guy for years and I’ve never known him to get nervous and he came back. There’s a thousand screaming kids out there and what a rush that was. He came back and he was shaking. We said “dude, that was awesome” and he was freaking out. He was trying to play it off cool like “oh I do this every day.”
June: All those dudes have been super hospitable and really unbelievable cool. Especially those Crossfade guys. They’ve all been really cool. We were hoping to be buds.
Yeah, Crossfade is a really good band. I interviewed them a while back. I’m glad to see they’re still out there doing their thing.
Seth: They can’t play their instruments very well but they’re really fun to hang out with. I’m just kidding. I don’t want to make anyone mad or Paul’s going to punch me in the nuts. That’s the game that they like to play on the road. Last night we were abducted and they punched me in the balls when I wasn’t expecting it. I ended up on the ground. It was after the show. We were loading up. We were all just hanging out having a drink and Paul the drummer from Saliva comes walking up to me and he’s like “hey, what’s up man?” He puts his hand up to give me a high five and I reach up and he punches me right in the balls. It hurt so bad he almost started to feel bad. He’s like “oh man, I’m so sorry” and I just looked up at him and said in a falsetto “I am so going to get you back. I’m coming for you. I’m coming for that ass.”
When you least expect it, expect it. What do you guys have planned after you get off the tour and get your nuts back in shape?
June: A body massage. I’m never having kids. I’ll be sitting in the cooler for a few days. We’re going to get a lot of bar mitzvahs. Nah, we plan on doing some more touring. When the record comes out we’re going to try to stay out on the road as much as possible. Pretty much play, play, play through 2007 for us.
Any other thoughts or comments?
Seth: You’re probably going to have to hit the edit button.