I started writing these songs on my own, but didn’t want to release them under my name. I needed a moniker that was simple, but universally understood. Accents can refer to a lot of different things, and though seemingly insignificant, when looked at in the right way they make up vital parts of our lives. Accents can be language barriers – every person in the world sounds different than the next. As cliché as it may be, this means we truly all have our own voice. In another sense, our life’s accents are our most precious assets. Family, friends, art, etc. They all enhance our qualities of life in one way or another. Accents are a vital part of music too. Get rid of them, and you end up with compressed, trite, pop music.
2. How did this band get started?
I’m also in a band called The Cast Before the Break, and I think the five of us realize more every day that life catches up with you. When we were all in college together, it was easy to sit in a bedroom until 3 in the morning writing or recording music. Now we all have some combination of full-time jobs, families, graduate school, etc. and it makes it extraordinarily difficult to schedule time to write as a unit. I’ve always considered myself a very aggressive songwriter, in the sense that I write a lot of songs very quickly. The Cast started as a solo project for me, and turned into something much more grandiose. No matter what you think, you can’t write a ‘post-rock’ song in a couple hours, bring it to your band and say ‘okay, we’re done.’ You HAVE to have that back-and-forth, five-guys-in-a-room element or it will never translate properly.
Accents is a lot of things for me. Yes, it’s sort of a return to form in the sense that I’m writing all the songs on my own (and is, for the most part, acoustic based). On the other hand, you’ll also find a lot of ‘ambient’ elements textured in throughout the album. Accents started because a couple years ago I was inspired enough to pick up my acoustic guitar again and start writing songs that felt more like stories. That is to say, the focus would be on the lyrics as opposed to the atmosphere. Truth be told, it became creatively frustrating to only be able to practice for 2 hours a week. Since the Cast began, I’ve worked very closely with Ben Hemingway, who played drums on and produced TCBTB’s first EP. We get this immediate sort of connection when we play/write music together, and always seem to understand where the other is headed with an idea or a suggestion. There’s never an argument about what direction a song should head or how something should be played or mixed. To sum it up, it’s relaxing, and it always makes sense to both of us. I must have sent him 25 songs for the Accents debut, that we then whiddled down to about 15, and then began tracking from 8+ hours apart. Ben recorded his parts in his basement; I recorded mine in my walk-in closet.
When this started, I was calling Accents my solo project, but I think that term is pretty meaningless now. This isn’t a solo project or a side project or whatever, and the Cast has no less of my focus. This is just a collection of music that two very busy people can create on their own terms, as often as they want.
3. What bands are you influenced by?
I take influence from such a wide variety of music. I’d say while writing and recording this record, I was listening to a lot of Death Cab, The National and Sleeping at Last. Ben mixes that with his passion for pop rock/punk music.
4. If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?
I think if I could hit the road with The National, The Twilight Sad, Death Cab and Coldplay I could die in a state of pure elation. All these bands are insanely talented from a performance and songwriting standpoint, and you could definitely say I find inspiration in all of them.
5. If you were a furry, what animal would you be? Why that animal?
A monkey, but one that sports a killer bath robe and old man slippers. Why? I have really big ears. It just makes sense to me.
6. Why should people listen to your band?
Because it’s the perfect accompaniment to this interview!
The record has a little something for everyone. In the beginning, I wasn’t necessarily planning on releasing such a diverse collection of songs, but it definitely ended up that way, and I’m happy it did. I think there’s something interesting waiting at the end of every song. There’s folk undertones, pop structures, post-rock ambience (with some ebow!), gritty guitar tones, a lot of driving rock elements and anthemic choruses. And if an overabundance of somewhat meaningless adjectives isn’t your thing, being able to listen to the whole thing for free on BandCamp should be reason enough to give it a chance! Wow! Sweet!
7. If you were chosen to be in Guitar Hero/Rock Band, what song would you want in the game? How hard do you think it would be to five-star on expert?
“Divide” would probably be the most interesting to translate but “Underwater,” or “Routine Movements” would probably be the most fun. They would both probably be about as difficult on expert as an Alanis Morrisette song. I’m not exactly Slash.
8. If you won a Grammy, who would you thank?
Ashlee Simpson for the dance moves, Fergie for the voice lessons, Justin Bieber for writing all my songs and Sam Beam’s beard.
9. If you could change something about the music industry, what would it be?
I feel like we’ve taken our favorite artists for granted. This is an all-inclusive ‘we;’ I’m as guilty as the rest of you. Sure, our favorite songs and favorite records are, for all intents and purposes, infinite. Their recordings and what they mean to you are never going to disappear. But the artists themselves don’t have that ‘forever’ aspect. For your favorite artists, in a lot of cases playing music is a job. Yeah, it’s the fucking coolest job in the world but it’s still a job. Don’t think of this negatively – I’m simply stating that they’re getting paid, most not very much, to do this for you. Where would we be without our favorite songs? Our favorite albums? The only thing I spend more time doing in a day than listening to music would be breathing. And we’ve all come so accustomed to experiencing this art second hand (or third, or fourth…) through a viewfinder or youtube or a cell phone. In the same way compressing WAV files down to poor quality MP3s does, as a culture, we’re taking way too much purity out of the artform. Remember when going to a show meant singing along until your throat hurt, or trying to crowd surf your way to the stage? Remember going to an HMV on release day and picking up an album you’ve anticipated just to take it home and spend 45 minutes reading along in the lyric booklet? THAT’S how musicians want you to experience what they create. All they’re asking for is a little bit of quality time, in return for possibly a lifetime of connection and enjoyment.
Forget the political bullshit that’s so present in the music industry. We all have our opinions as to why it’s completely fucked, but it’s still the music industry. And whether you like metal, country, jazz, punk, classical, pop, or some crazy genre that hasn’t been coined yet, the one thing it all has in common is that these are human beings creating art. And yes, I know this whole schpeel goes both ways. Record labels began taking their fans for granted way too long ago. Once you start alienating the core consumers you’re selling to, there’s going to be an issue. It doesn’t matter which came first, because we’ve almost come to a point of no return.
To sum it up, appreciate what you have and what you love, every day. Mothers know best.
10. Memorable tour experience?
Accents has never been on tour, but my favorite thing in general about touring is the sort of nomadic experience being on the road provides. Even only traveling regionally still feels so cathartic and rewarding. I love the spontaneity, and the randomness of it all.
11. What does AP.net mean to you?
Though you probably wouldn’t consider me a very ‘active’ user in the forums, I am on the site religiously. Besides covering the widest range of music (genre and status wise), the atmosphere has always been very welcoming to smaller artists. It’s great to have a place, or community rather, where young bands can be seen and heard by staff and fans alike. Word of mouth is arguably the most important tool young artists can utilize in this day and age. A seal of approval from AP.Net holds a ton of weight in my opinion.
12. What is your favorite song to play?
“Alright With Me” means a lot to me so I’d have to go with this one, though “Routine Movements” would definitely have the most energy.
13. What is your vacation spot of choice?
I was a pretty sheltered kid – haven’t been too far away from the northeast. So based on absolutely no personal experience, I’d say I’d love to vacation in the UK… if for no other reason than to get a chance to explore the awesome music scene. The idea of going to an authentic British pub is also a must.
14. What music reminds you of your childhood?
I remember when I was younger, my Dad would play a lot of Collective Soul and Live records. I can’t hear “Shine” without it taking me back to working in the garage with him or something. It’s been a while, but I imagine hearing some of that stuff now would conjure up some memories. As I grew up, I had a lot of different ‘phases’ musically, the least surprising of which being a pop punk phase through high school. “Sticks and Stones” and “Say It Like You Mean It” are extremely nostalgic for me in that sense.
15. If you could have any super power, what would it be? Why?
It’s not very ‘super,’ but it’d be pretty fucking cool to have the power to melt. Just spontaneously condense yourself down to a puddle. Traveling would be so much easier if the streets or whatever are busy. You could hide out in a room and no one would suspect you’re there. Until they tried to wipe you up, of course. Oh, and there would have to be a solution to combat footsteps. One splash and there’d be pieces of you everywhere. Are there this many flaws with every super power…?
16. Do you feel that your band has "made it"?
Not at all, but I’m proud to say that I feel we’ve accomplished something really important. It dawned on me the other day that Ben and I have been working on this record for over a year, including pre-production and all that. It started as a collection of 25+ demo recordings that I’d written and collected and we slowly narrowed it down to our favorite 12-15 from there. Ben and I both work full time and live a good 8 hours apart, so for a process this unconventional, I’d say the end result is quite a feat. Personally, I feel extremely proud about this record and the amount of heart that went into making it. “Making it” never really crossed my mind when this project started. I think as an artist, it’s important to just be selfish sometimes. I write for myself, and certainly not to appease anyone else. I’m insanely self-critical, so if I end up with a finished product I can listen to and feel really good about, I’d say I’ve accomplished something. Don’t get me wrong – I want to be as successful as the next guy, but not ‘making it’ certainly isn’t going to stop me from creating.
17. What is something that most fans don't know about you?
I have a 4 year old daughter who is absolutely incredible. (And has great taste in music!) You’ll often find us in the car singing along to the Black Keys or Cage the Elephant or Death Cab together. More so as of late, the muppets soundtrack (fantastic movie by the way….) She and I usually jam together on Saturdays.
18. What's your favorite holiday?
It’s a tie between Christmas and Daylight Savings Time. But not the one that makes it dark before dinner.
19. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Music is what I do in my spare time! But besides that, a lot of TV on DVD (or Netflix if I’m feeling fancy). At a minimum, I think it should be a core requirement of mankind to have seen all of Arrested Development, Breaking Bad, Dexter and Six Feet Under. True brilliance right here.
20. What kind of hidden talents do you have?
I don’t have many talents period, much less any hidden ones! But I can cook. And I like to, so we’ll go with that.