Before their EP Release show at Detroit Bar this Saturday May 28th, Railroad to Alaska members Justin Suitor (vocals/guitar) and Justin Morales (bass) filled us in on what their newest release Salvation is all about, their plans for an upcoming full-length, and their ideas on touring.
So what is your game-plan for Saturday?
Justin Suitor: We haven’t headlined in a long time, so we’ll be playing a longer set. We’re going to try and play old songs-- not obscenely old, just off of the first EP-- and songs off of the EP we’re releasing now, and songs that may or may not be recorded on the full-length album we’ll be recording in the next couple months—some brand new stuff that people haven’t heard.
So for the first EP, LuckyBearClawDoom, you had one concept. Has it changed as you went into producing the second EP, and how would you describe your newest concept?
Suitor: Yeah, definitely. Well the first EP was out of necessity. We just needed a recording. I don’t think anybody in the band had any grand ideas about what the concept was. I think it was something that we put together, and then explained. On Salvation, we had a little bit more of a concept, but it was kind of born out of necessity too. We needed an updated recording. I guess when you’re in a band and you’re functioning on a level of not having a budget, you can’t really have a huge scope.
Justin Morales: I think that both records are just two incidental snapshots during a period of growth of the band, and they’re a year apart. Naturally, there’s changes that took place in there.
Suitor: The songwriting got more deliberate. When we recorded it, we were much more aware of the end product that we were going for. In terms of overall theme, we still didn’t really have any specific direction, whereas the full-length that we’re recording now--even though we are still in that “budget” category—we’re going to attempt to have an overarching theme and a specific direction, and we’re going to attempt to create an overall atmosphere and mood for the album.
So what would you say is the theme of Salvation, and what will be the theme for the full-length that will be coming out?
Suitor: Salvation has very few songs on it; it’s just an EP. There’s a song on there about drug use, a song about depression, there’s a song on there about being crazy, and there’s a song about weighing the ideas of hating yourself, versus being happy about what you’ve done on earth. So like Morales said, there are a few little snapshots within the EP that are little bits of everyday life. There was no theme on that, except for, we wanted it to be real, and it’s real. For the full-length, we can’t go into that because we’re still developing it all. It will be darker, and bigger, and a lot more serious. I think that’s what we gathered on this second EP—a lot more seriousness. We became more adult.
Why so serious?
Suitor: Because that’s who we are. I mean, even if we’re happy-go-lucky right now, we all want to play serious music, we’re all serious musicians. We’re trying to play hard, we’re trying to play tight, and we’re trying to play for real—we’re not trying to pull one over on anybody using parlor tricks. Overall, I think what can be said about what we’re trying to do differently for the show, is that we are trying to up our production level, to a place where we are holding the attention of the audience for as long as we can. It’s a lot easier in 30 minutes, but for one hour, we’re going to really have to dig deep and try to use lights, song order, and dynamics to our advantage—just really try to arrange all of that properly. I think we pretty much have that worked out.
How many of the songs for from the upcoming full length will be incorporated into the set?
Morales: It’s not really determined which ones are going to make the cut for the album or not, so we can’t really say for sure. We are going to play at least one that we’ve never played before, and three that most people haven’t heard before—and they definitely haven’t heard them the way we’re going to play them on Saturday. The newest songs are still in some stage of infancy, considering the transition that happens when you’re writing them—adding parts, taking parts away, changing lyrics, sometimes even changing key. It will be how it’s going to be on Saturday. Again, it will be another snapshot of the life of a song.
It sounds like you’re trying to progress in your musical work everyday then?
Morales: And learn from our mistakes, and learn from our triumphs.
When are you planning on a tour, and the chance to progress outside of Orange County?
Suitor: We don’t want to go on tour with EP’s. It seems a little counter-productive to leave such a small stamp in the areas we might tour. I think once the full-length is complete, we’ll try and pool our resources, determine the best possible way to tour without killing ourselves. We’re getting old and we’re not 21 years old anymore We can’t just leave for a year and roll the dice, so we need to make a pretty calculated effort on our tour. Admittedly, I know it demystifies rock and roll a bit. Right now we’ve got some dates in California on the Van’s Warped Tour. Once we see how that works, I think it will give us some incite on how to approach a tour where we’ll just be rushed in, rushed out, not really being that important—those things that go into playing on a side-stage show. I’d say by the time 2012 comes around, and if the earth hasn’t really ended, we’ll probably be touring the greater United States—in a Dodge Caravan.
Morales: Hopefully on someone else’s dime. That would be just magical if we didn’t have to find it ourselves. It’s not like we’re depending on it, or waiting for it, but if it happens, it happens.
How will you be releasing the EP? Will there be vinyl, digital download, a CD?
Suitor: We don’t have any ‘synergy,’ as Jack Donaghy would call it. We’re just releasing a good old-fashioned CD. I think that we will move towards a download, and it will be up on iTunes and all those other avenues. At this point, we gotta get people to pay. There are others who maybe can afford to give their music away, but we work hard on ours and we’re not asking for much. Give us like three bucks or something. It’s not for a 40oz. and a crack-rock. It’s for more gear, touring, and I think people will understand that.
When you do record your full-length, what type of medium are you planning on implementing?
Suitor: We’ve thought about tape, we’ve thought about various producers, we’ve thought about going back to work with our good friend Mike Troolines, but it’s undertermined. The material is taking shape, and that’s gonna dictate where we’re gonna go. If the material is more low-fi, maybe we’ll go for tape. If it’s turning into more of a production, and it’s getting more detailed and intricate, we’ll be forced to go digital. We tried something new with the mastering on this EP, with a new process that’s very futuristic. Maybe we’ll try futuristic mastering with lo-fi tape, lo-fi tape mastering after recording digital—we’re open to all that, but like I said, the material is going to dictate how we record.
Morales: It depends on what studio we record at, and what kind of gear they have. I like recording on tape, I’ve done it before. Having four guys on a huge Triton board all mixing down to ½ inch tape is crazy. One little mess-up, and it’s like, ‘Whoops, we gotta start over again.’ I really felt like, ‘Why aren’t we doing this digitally?’ In the end, it was worth it.
What can you say about the bands you are playing with on Saturday?
Suitor: We’re playing with Omaha and Mammoth Thunderpower. I don’t think anyone knows about Mammoth Thunderpower, it’s maybe their second show, and I know there are members from previous bands that we’ve played with, so we’re looking forward to that. We’re just happy to hear bands playing some hard rock. If they turn it up, and they play hard, we’ll be happy. And Omaha, they’re our good friends and we back them. They play sludgy, heavy, and dark music, and are serious musicians as well, and serious dudes too. That’s always a good pairing for us to play together because we were all to the point when we’re focused on playing. I’m not saying we’re not up there having fun, we’re not machines up there. But when we’re playing with those guys, they are focused, we are focused, and I think it brings a good vibe. People are there to see a show, rather than just to hang out. I think it’s a good lineup and I think people are really gonna enjoy. We’re also gonna have a guest cameo, Mr. Josh. People who don’t know who Mr. Josh is, they should come out ‘cause he has a carnival wheel that you spin and win prizes. Prizes vary all the way from buttons he’s made, to life-size cartoon paintings he’s made. He’ll also be handing out some of the band’s shirts and cd’s as well for free.
Morales: He may or may not be wearing a white tuxedo.