When you’re starting new music, where does it stem from?
Nate Lown: It just stems from an idea, I think. Either a musical idea, or a lyrical concept. And then, for me, either I’ll try to write music off of whatever lyrical concept I have, or vice versa. If I have a progression or something that sounds a certain way, I guess I try to write lyrics that fit to it.
So before you even start writing a chord progression, is there a melody in your head? Where is that stemming from?
Kyle Bray: When I sit down to write a song, I don’t purposefully sit down and write a song. I’ll just get the feeling that I want to write a song, and whatever happens just happens. It usually stems off of something that I was messing around with, whether it’s a progression or something. If you sit down, I think it either just happens naturally. But, I mean, every songwriting experience is different.
So sometimes you might have a chord progression that you might have stumbled upon that you like and that tends to sit and brew for a while. So when do the two sides combine to create that musical epiphany?
Bray: Usually there’s like 100 different ideas that you’re doing something with, and then eventually you decide that this one is good enough that you want to develop it and write more parts for it. I think lyrically, it’s just about the thing that comes naturally. Whatever is weighing on your mind the most is usually what you write about, and what usually clicks I guess.
Lown: I usually play a part over and over, and just try to sing whatever is coming to me. If I’m thinking about lyrics, then I just kind of think about how they make me feel, and how I want them to come across musically. It’s over and over, constantly, and just try to find a creative flow that builds off of itself.
Do words fit into place originally, or do you find a melody first, and words fit in afterwards? Is it a give and take?
Bray: In my experience, it either works or it doesn’t. You’ll try three different melodies for the same chord progression and it won’t work. And then, for some reason, something will just come out.
Lown: Sometimes I do lyrics and melody. If I haven’t written lyrics for it yet, I’ll sing a melody, and start saying words to start writing. If I find a line that I like, that I just start singing, I’ll keep that one line, and say, ‘What do I think I could write from this?’
So who is generally writing? Do you guys get together and jam, or maybe someone brings something to practice and you expand from there? Or do you write a complete song structure, then learn it that way?
Lown: Recently it’s been different. It has kind of changed since we started, but I guess recently it’s been, I’ll have a verse or Kyle will have a part, and then we show the other person on guitar. Trevor has come up with a few parts and brought them in on keys. We’ll learn the chords, but we don’t really jam that much. It will be like, one person will bring something in, and then start showing it to everyone. Usually the person who starts it, I feel, is the person who figures out the rest of the parts.
Bray: Yeah, whoever brings it in is basically in charge of the arrangement. Usually that person will get the ok. They’ll ask, ‘What do you think of that here?’ And if the other person is like, ‘Yeah, that will work,’ then we keep it. We’re definitely very fair in songwriting I think.
Lown: And it always seems to come together a little bit differently than you first planned, which is cool. Like, Dan will throw in something, or Noel, or Trevor, and that always changes it up.
That’s what writing as a band is all about for you guys then?
Do you ever think about the audience when you’re writing?
Lown: It definitely enters my mind.
Bray: Yeah, at some point. Usually at a point with a song there is a point where it’s like, I’m going to finish this song. You bring it to the band, and then you start thinking about…
Lown: …How fast, what kind of a beat, will people be able to move, I guess things like that.
How do you guys feel about being more technical versus playing and writing by ear?
Bray: I think we definitely have a mixture of those two. We’re not an experimental jam band, ‘cause we definitely organize our music.
Lown: We don’t really write it out though. But I definitely use theory, and I do think about theory when I writing progressions. You know, like which chord will work in which situation, or where the progression is going. Sometimes I’ll just have something that sounds good, and I don’t really have to think about the theory that much. And then sometimes I feel like, I kind of want to change this, what would work here?
So by knowing those rules and relationships, it gives you the ability to branch out more? I notice in your new music, you’re testing the waters of different genres as well. It’s still Drums and Color, but with a new twist.
Bray: I think that comes from what we’re listening to at the time. We’re not trying to write, necessarily, for a specific sound. We’re writing the kind of music that we’re enjoying.
Lown: I’d agree with that. Each and every day, I was probably listening to Antonio Carlos, which is like Brazilian bossa nova, and Grizzly Bear in the same day. And that’s what came out. And you can kind of hear it, I think.
So a lot of your songwriting comes from the music you listen to then? You guys are obviously very eclectic with your musical taste. How do you fit all that into one sound?
Bray: Well, we’ll see what it does for us. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out in the end, who knows where it will go (laughs).
Lown: I’ve always realized that I listen to, it feels to me, like random stuff. But I guess it’s just really eclectic. I love all that stuff, and I think it gives us options to create a song exactly how we want it to sound.
So how important is having a harmony between members to writing and playing your music?
Bray: In a perfect world, we would all live in harmony and play music together.
Lown: We have own band stresses, but I feel like the only time that stress goes away for me is when we’re actually playing. Sometimes there’s moments during practice, or moments during a show where I just get the best feeling ever. And that’s realizing the agreement. Even if it’s just for that split-second, ‘cause we don’t always get along.
Bray: We’ll be arguing before and after the show, but when we’re on stage, we’re happy.