Roughly two months ago (late March 2014), Keep Calm sat down with The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die.  What started as the usual interview turned into a half hour long conversation, addressing everything from preparing for their European tour (which just ended), new material in the works, to how they feel about being the term “emo revival.” Huge thanks to Greg Horbel and Chris Zizzamia for taking some time to talk to Keep Calm and making this one of the most entertaining interviews I’ve been a part of.

~Madison


Keep Calm and Carry On: You guys just recently finished up a North American tour.  What was the range of dates for that?
Greg Horbel: We started in Mid-January and ended on March 1st.
Keep Calm: Wow, so that was pretty long tour.
GH: Yeah, it was ridiculous.
Keep Calm: Overall, how did you feel the tour went? How was the crowd reaction?
GH: It all went great.  There were no bad shows on the tour at all.  We played in Jackson, Mississippi to five people because it was below freezing and the show was in a warehouse outside and it also not supposed to get that cold in Mississippi.  It only is because we broke this planet.  So I assumed no one wanted to leave their house.  But even that show was really fun.
Chris Zizzamia: Santa Barbra was a little weird.
GH: Yeah, Santa Barba was actually shot as hell.
CZ: When you said no bad shows, I thought you forgot about Santa Barba.
GH:  I truley forgot about Santa Barba.
CZ: Thank you to the people from Santa Barbra who came out. It was nice of y’all.  It was just a strange gig.  There was a cop there.
Keep Calm: There was a cop there? Was that the strange part of it? Why was Santa Barbra so weird?
CZ: The show got moved last minute and wasn’t very well advertised that it had been moved.  So it got moved from Ventura to Santa Barbra and people were tweeting at us the day of being like “Oh, where’s the show in Ventura?” So that was confusing for all parties.  In fact, I think some people in our van still thought it was in Ventura when we were headed to Santa Barbra.  So between that and there were more tickets sold than people there, which is usually not common.  But the crowd was really great.  They were all really friendly and stayed for all the bands. So that was all cool.  It just felt like given how big the space was- also it was bar and I feel like bars are always a little weird to play in.
GH: Yeah, it was a weird rock bar.
CZ: Yeah it was a straight up Nickelback bar, kind of. But the crowd was super responsive and fun but it was such a large space for so few people that is felt really strange. But I had fun, it was just strange.  It was the strangest show.
Keep Calm: You guys went on this big tour after releasing Whenever, If Ever in the summer.  Has there been any change in crowd response since releasing the LP?
GH: I guess there were more people excited about our band, but it’s always been a steady growth from when the band started.  There was definitely a major upturn when the LP came out but I don’t think it’s so crazy.  It’s not like any of us are like “oh my god, everything has changed over night.”  It’s cool that more people are finding out about our band; we’re all happy about that.  We are happy with the way things are going.
Keep Calm: Tonight, here at TCNJ is your last American show before you head to Europe?
GH: Oh yeah.
Keep Calm: So that’s very exciting.  The World Is is actually headlining that tour with Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely State) opening.  How excited are you guys for your first European tour?
GH: It should be a lot of fun.  We’ve all played in bands for a really long time and none of our bands have ever gone to Europe.
CZ:  Keith?
GH: Keith has been there. Keith from Empire! Empire! has been to Europe to tour a bunch of times.  I was actually surprised, he hit me up and was like “what are you guys doing about this, this, or this?” and I was like “I feel like you should be telling me what we are doing. I don’t know what’s going on!”  It should be exciting, I hope so.  I wonder if it’s going to be a week- we’ve played Montreal a few times and it’s always really fun and terrifying being in a place where you’re like “ooh, not everyone here wants to speak English.”  I know that everyone does speak English but nobody wants to.  No one wants to talk to me.
CZ: Does Josh speak French?
GH: I think he might have learned a little bit.  Our bass player also dates a girl in France so he is excited that we’re like paying his way to get over there.  Yeah, the tour should go well, I think.
CZ: The London show is already sold-out so we had to add a second show.  I actually won’t be on that tour but I can speak about it. The London show is already sold-out; the Kingston show is running out of tickets.  At the very least, the UK response has been very good.
Keep Calm: Right, so why aren’t you [Chris] going along with the tour?
CZ:  I didn’t really actually join the band officially until not that long ago.  I’ve been playing shows with them probably since February 2012 about.  I’ve been doing shows intermittently, I’ve done a few tours but we decided, not that long ago, to do an album together.  That’s when I started touring more.  By the time Europe was rolling around, logistically, it just didn’t make sense.
 
Keep Calm: Since this is your first European tour, has anyone given you any tips or anything to expect in the differences in shows?
GH: I feel like I should’ve talk to someone about this but I haven’t.  So I don’t know.  We’ll find out next week.  If you want to do a follow-up, we can totally do that and I can tell you all the things that went wrong.  Power-convertors… Dave and I were talking and it’s like I don’t really know how to get money.  I don’t know how we are gonna eat.
CZ: You can literally go to any bank.
GH: We’ll go to a bank.  But I also don’t want to get six kinds of money. That sounds annoying.  I guess I could use my debit card.
CZ: That’s what the euro is for!
Keep Calm: Yeah, can’t you use those anywhere?
GH: Well you can’t use them in the UK.
CZ: So two kinds of money.
GH:  All their money weighs apparently a pound each! It’s so difficult…
CZ: The great British pound!
GH: The great British pound! They have very big wallets.  It doesn’t seem like anyone in our band has actually done their homework at all. But we are going.
CZ: Have any of the band members been to Europe?
GH: Josh has been. . . maybe a couple of times? No one else has ever been over there.  We’ve only toured Canada last year so none of us have ever toured internationally before, besides Canada.   Canada doesn’t really count.  We just have to go through the border, which is hell.
CZ: But not as bad as flying all your gear.
Keep Calm: True, that is gonna be rough.
GH: I am trying to get away with only bringing this bag.  I don’t change clothes like up until yesterday, we played a show in New York and it was sweaty and disgusting. It was actually the first time I changed my clothes in a week and a half.  We are going for three weeks so maybe I’ll just bring two t-shirts and another pair of pants. I also have to look and see what the weather is going to be like.
CZ: I don’t know if you can figure out the forecast for fours week from now.
GH: Well, I can at least get a general…
CZ: It’s generally warmer.
GH: I’ve been told that Germany is a lot like Massachusetts.  So, not that exciting. I’ve seen that before.
 
Keep Calm: Do you plan on changing your setlist at all or altering your performance since you are playing to a crowd you haven’t played to before?
GH: We were going to learn some of the songs we haven’t played in a while.  We also haven’t practiced so we are going to practice this week and learn some of the songs we haven’t played in a minute.
CZ: Some of the older stuff we didn’t really do this tour.
GH:  Yeah, that we also didn’t practice for. We have a couple of off days before we fly out so, I think, the two days before, we are gonna get together and work through that and just run over some of the newer stuff we have been working on as well, like keep it fresh in our heads.
CZ: There are people over there who are requesting songs that haven’t been played for a while.  When people here do it, I think the general feeling is “Yeah, we already toured and played all that for you.”  But people in the UK haven’t gotten the chance yet.  Although, there were people from Ireland at our show last night.
 
Keep Calm: Switching gears to Whenever, If Ever, there was a lot of positive press around it.  The album was names “Album of The Year” by several different press outlets.  Did that surprise you at all?
GH: It was cool that people liked it because the general consensus of the band was that we all hated it.
Keep Calm: Really?!
GH: Yeah, so it was like “that’s awesome that you all like it.”
CZ: There are songs that I think everyone can really get behind.  Also, though, the nice thing about releasing splits and 7″s, in my personal experience, is they come out faster so you’re not workshopping the songs forever.  So I think by the time the album came out, everyone was sick of practicing those songs.
GH: The album really represented a dark time in the band and personal periods.  We saw a lot of good friends fall to pieces.  The band almost broke up a couple of times.  It was a dark period overall.
CZ: The lead singer left the band.
GH: A lot of bad stuff was happening.  That’s life, sometimes.  That album is a true representation of just really a dark period in all of our lives.  We are all looking forward to working on everything else we have going on.
CZ: And that was also the period of time where I came back to performing with the band after a while off, right before the album was recorded.  And I was like “oh shit, things have gotten way heavier emotionally in this band.”  The first tour I went on, I was like “Alright, this is the most light-hearted vibe that I’ve experienced,” and then by the time that I was back doing shows, I was like “things are fucked up. This band has been through some shit.”
 
Keep Calm: Now that we are several months out of 2013 and you’ve had some time to reflect on the year and the album, do you like the album now?
GH:  I haven’t listened to it.  [From] late 2012 to mid 2013, I was listening to it so much that, I would say by the end, it was nauseating- just a lot of listening and processing and being like “okay, I like this, this, this.”  It became like a lot of us were breathing the record, where I know everything that’s going on with this thing.  Just the thought process was like- a lot was going into it.  It’s reached the point where I just don’t care.  I would say I don’t want to listen to it.  It’s interesting; Chris and I listened to my old band’s LP on the way up here.  There becomes a point where you can go back and listen to something… You need to take a break from it to actually go back and think “okay, well this is what it was,”  instead of being like “well I play these songs every night so it doesn’t really mean as much.”  It was really interesting right as we were really working on this LP and get towards the end of it, I went back and listened to our Deer Leap split for the first serious time in god knows how long and I remember that record being finished and listening to it and being like “I don’t know if this is going to stack up to the previous material that either I or anyone else has been a part of.”  And now I can go back and be like “okay, I’m stoked that we did this, this, this.  This is all really cool.” And I can listen to the recording and it’s a pleasant thing.  It reminds you of that time period, you know?  That, I guess, is what’s important.  A record is supposed to capture a moment in time.  It’s not supposed to be just like “oh hey, this is the thing that is going to get us more popular right now.”  That’s bullshit.  We don’t really care if our next record, no one likes.  We are going to make the art we want to make.Keep Calm:  Mentioning the next record, you played some songs off of it last night.  A lot of them were spoken-word-driven.  Is that what you are going for?  Should we be expecting a spoken word album?
CZ: This record is weird.  This record is the weirdest, it’s strange.  There’s a lot of spoken word on it, which I do.  There’s also a lot of Dave singing on it, which he only does live on one of the songs right now.  But the song that was the most “there,” Dave regularly sings on on the album but when we perform it, he does not.  It’s a noisy record.  It’s a strange ambient rock record.  It has lots of spoken word.  It has a lot of Dave singing but it also has- there are also parts that I do that aren’t strictly soft spoken word parts, that are more like mewithoutYou-shouty vocal parts.
GH: The record itself, we’ve been talking about doing it for a long time.
CZ: Probably April 2012, we first started talking about it.
GH: Yeah, we first started talking about it.  The beginnings of it were kind of as a fun recording experiment.  We had a lot of interludes that had been [created] over the course of years playing live shows.  We don’t really practice any of the interludes we play between songs, ever.  Those pieces develop over a series of months and after playing shows and shows and shows, you all start to lock into one another.  So we went into the studio like “let’s try to record some of those things. Let’s just try some other stuff.”  It was interesting- the guitars were recorded first, instead of drums first.  We didn’t really know what we were doing.  We were just like “let’s go into the studio and try to make a record.  We won’t really plan it and see what happens and if it sucks, we won’t tell anyone about it.”
CZ: That was a very legitimate fear, even up until the point where I finished recording.  Until I was done, I think everyone was pretty afraid that it would sound pretty bad or just be boring.  I think though this record is difficult, it is not boring.Keep Calm: Are you guys done recording now?
GH: No, we have some work we have to do in May: keyboard layers, the finishing touches.
CZ: More vocal parts.
GH: It’s close but it’s also interesting because we’ve been touring so much and everyone has a series of other commitments we have going on in our lives that it’s been tough right now to really get a lot of stuff done.  We actually plan to not tour at all this summer so we can just focus.  Not even to just finish this.  We’ve been calling this the second LP, but this is really the wildcard record.  We started to also work on next “formal” LP, as well, on top of a series of split 7″s, and some other stuff as well.  We just want to have a streaming output but we are going to start it off with the wildcard record.


Keep Calm: You’re recording this through Silver Bullet Studios, correct?
GH: At this point, yes. Correct.
Keep Calm: And, Chris, you said you could talk about that a little bit and give us more information on that.
CZ: So other Chris in the band, first Chris in the band, Chris Teti, co-runs a studio in Burlington, Connecticut called Silver Bullet.  It’s been really awesome.  I have recorded at Silver Bullet with two previous projects before Chris was even involved and the cool thing about that has been watching Chris develop as a recording engineer and getting super deep into it.  He spends all his money on gear now, like it’s kind of incredible.  He has so many weird guitar pedals there.  But just watching the way the studio’s general quality has gone up since there’s now been. . . not just Greg Thomas. Greg is great engineer but he is also super busy.  Now that [Chris and Greg] both put a ton of passion into it, [I’ve watched] it blossom into a really, really high-end studio that I would recommend to just about anyone.  Chris is also a really good producer.  If you need song-writing help, he is good at that.  Greg is, too.  Greg will write your metalcore riffs, no sweat, built into the cost.  But they have tons of great pre-amps. . . great microphones, awesome boutique guitar heads and stuff, stuff that I didn’t know existed until then.  They also have lots of comic books and movies to read and watch when your other band members are doing stuff. And an electric kettle.  So I kind of feel like it’s all-in-one.

Keep Calm: That’s awesome.  We are all super excited for this LP to get finished and released.  Do you have a tentative release date?
GH: “Fall.”
CZ: The plan is to have it, I think, out by Fall, in so much as then, we can tour on it sometime in October, probably, right?
GH: Mhm.
CZ:  Late October for it.  The other cool thing about this record is it sets up my position in the band in so much as then, when I show up in the next record for some weird part in the middle of the song, everyone is like “oh yeah, that guy. I understand now why this is happening.”

Keep Calm:  So the last thing I am going to touch on- anyone who has listened to Keep Calm knows my position on the Emo Revival and how I think it’s. . . not a great term.  But you guys have been labeled by several media outlets as kind of the frontrunners of the Emo Revival, especially with Whenever, If Ever being the album the regenerated the entire scene.  What is your take on that?
GH: That’s. . .
Keep Calm: Well you are rolling your eyes.
CZ: It’s so bogus that it’s not even funny.
GH: I don’t know, it’s there.  Music exists.  It’s also very interesting that in 2013, every style of music exists at the same time.  This is what we like.  I don’t think that like if we wouldn’t still be here if Stereogum and Pitchfork weren’t writing. . . Personally, someone brought this up where like our record didn’t get that much huge press.  I think the Pitchfork review was almost the only thing.  We didn’t have song premieres or anything like that.  Also, our record leaked a month and a half before it was supposed to come out.  So we were going to try to do that stuff but its like “Everyone on the internet has it so we have to put it up on Bandcamp right now. Go.”
CZ: That shit was fucked up.
GH: It was funny. Man. That was also really cool.  I lived with Kevin from Topshelf and I remember we were like making dinner.  We had a long day and we got home at like 8pm and I’m making a sandwich  and I get a call from Derrick.  He was like “Hey. The record’s on What.Cd. Five people have downloaded it. . . We got to get it ready.”
CZ: Do you know that [What.Cd] will take it down?
GH: We tried to. There was- oh my god.  Derrick and I were fighting people on What.Cd.  It was actually a really cool 24 hours, looking back on it.  Really hilarious.  But it doesn’t really matter.
CZ: The weird thing is that. . . the music press has cycled and re-picked up on “emo” for the first time again in a few years.  But it’s existed that entire time.  The bands that are in our lane were kind of in our lane 5 or 6 years ago, too.  They were huge bands then, too.  Evan from Into It. Over It.- he’s been playing music in bands that sound roughly in the same avenue as Into It. Over It. for 10 years now.  There are pictures of 16 year-old Evan playing with a Prince Valiant haircut.  This has existed for so long.  So the press cycle has picked back up on it because they think- the way media outlets tend to work is they always do need some sort of buzzword or some sort of movement to latch onto, whether it be emo or dubstep or whatever it is they’ve decided- PBR&B- whatever it is they’ve decided. . .
GH: PBR&B? I forgot about that.  I read about it on Wikipedia.  That was cool.
CZ: I think it is a little bit of a disingenuous phrase- the Emo Revival- because it’s still been there. Maybe it was in VFWs instead of warehouse spaces.
GH: Wow, so different!
Keep Calm: It’s really stepping up!
CZ: It’s also strange because no one talks about the pop-punk revival, just because a band can fill a 1,000-cap room.  No one is like “Oh yeah, Blink-182 once existed and now this band exists.”  I don’t get why it even exists or why it is a marketing thing.
GH: I never thought about it that way and that’s- that’s really interesting.
CZ: It could just be that everyone writing in music press now really liked Braid like 10 years ago.
GH: It’s interesting talking, also, to Ian Cohen.  We met him in LA.  He was telling us how he was like ‘honestly, I am more stoked about writing about your band and your friends’ bands because I feel like you guys are actually getting something out of it. . .’  People give that guy a lot of shit but I appreciate everything that he has done for our band and my friends.
CZ: He is a really nice dude.
GH: He is a really nice due.
CZ: The other thing is like as far as Pitchfork goes, no one is going to- Kanye West is not getting more money or new fans or anything because Pitchfork reviewed his album.  Everyone is taking care of that on their own, you know?  Same thing with Bon Iver.  Same thing with just about everything they review.  So when they review bands that are on independent labels, when they review bands that are not getting as much buzz, that makes a marked difference in a band’s financial and potential outcomes. It’s a very nice thing that that is happening, that sort of press. For a while, it was ignored. But it’s just a weird thing.


Author’s Note: This interview was originally published on The Garden Statement’s parent website Keep Calm and Carry On.  All content of Keep Calm and Carry On is now property of The Garden Statement.  A letter explaining the switch in sites can be found here. Thanks!