Interview / The Whippoorwills

Hailing from Nashville, The Whippoorwills fearlessly take over the famous music city with their sharp indie rock n’ roll. The three piece signed to Mattress House Records are surely in for an exciting year with a debut album on the way and ambition to take their music to different places like the UK. MGMB is more than happy to introduce you The Whippoorwills aka Heather (vocals, synth), Ryan (guitar) and Kevin (drums) in our exclusive interview, in which you can find out about the recording of their first album, Nashville music scene, influences, plans for this year and more.

Eva: How would you introduce The Whippoorwills to the UK audience?

Preferably in person. We think our music can speak for itself, whether people like it or not, but the best way would be to meet UK face to face, play venues there… just be there, essentially.

I believe you have finished recording your debut album. Could you tell us about the ‘making of’ journey? And what can we expect from this record?

Kevin: Writing our first album was very fun, and a huge learning experience. None of us have ever really done something on that scale with music before, so a lot of it was new to us. We spent 6 days in a studio called the Sound Emporium here in Nashville, and basically arrived every morning at 10 and recorded until midnight. We went in with about 9 songs complete, and around 9 more songs that were either not finished or were just ideas, but we were able to record every one of them, so that’s very rewarding.

Ryan: We started writing songs together almost immediately after we formed the band in February of 2013. At first, it was a slow process but then it was like the flood gates opened and all of these songs and ideas just came pouring out. We started to record our rehearsals on a portable handheld recorder that we would refer back to for ideas and stuff. When it came time to record the album, we knew right away that we wanted to record on tape, not digitally. That, in itself, was a challenge since none of us had worked with tape. We recorded eighteen songs in four days and spent two additional days recording overdubs and retakes.

Heather: Stress and hunger definitely played a major role in our creative process as well as in the studio. When we started a year ago we didn’t really know what we were going for or what we would create together, but over time it has become more evident to us. I feel like we didn’t truly have a clear direction sound wise until we started structuring out our newest songs in the studio while recording our album, and did the best when we were down to our last few hours of time in the studio. Recording 18 songs in so little time definitely had its pro’s and con’s, but we felt we had to get them all on the album, even the ones we may have felt less passionate about. As far as expectations, we hold the earthiness of our material close to our hearts, so that’s something you can expect to hear a lot of. We definitely didn’t want the album to sound over processed.

You’re based in Nashville, a city famous for its music scene and the capital of country music. What’s it like for an indie rock band trying to succeed there?

It’s crowded. There are a lot of bands across every genre, so just competing for people’s attention is a job in itself. Trying to succeed in Nashville is extremely difficult. If you play a show in Nashville on any given night, odds are, there are about thirty other shows going on the same night. So not only do you have to be good at your craft, you also have to be good at convincing people to come see your show instead of someone else’s, so it’s a constant struggle. But, if we can get a few people in a crowd to feel something through our music it’s always worth the hard work. That’s the kind of people we love performing in front of, those who can hear a song and take something from it without needing an explanation. As long as we can keep sharing what we’ve got with some of those people, that’s us succeeding…, for now.

Do you draw a lot of inspiration from the place as a band?

In a way, we think it would be strange for any band or artist to come to Nashville and not be inspired, but we often don’t exactly fit in. Plus, there’s such a rich musical history that spans across several different genres, not just country music. Although, we think there’s a minor misconception about the music scene in Nashville, because where there’s music everywhere you turn, you learn it’s hard to find something that sounds original. So when you do find something else local that’s one-of-a-kind, that’s inspiring in itself.

So what do you think are your main strengths as a live band?

Probably the rawness of it all. As a band, we only have the bare essentials: drums, guitar, and vocals. So that forces us to create songs with what little we have, and that opens up a lot of doors and leads to a lot of creativity. So as a live band, creating that sound with just what we have can be pretty exciting, and people notice. So that, plus some loud guitar and drums with some screaming and jumping around can be pretty amusing.           

Who in particular influenced each one of you on the way to become a musician?

Kevin: I hate to sound narcissistic, but no one really. Music was never a big part of my life until late in life compared to most; I was about 16 or 17 when I even started caring about music. It was also around then that my parents got me a guitar for Christmas, and then one thing led to another and now I’m playing drums and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Heather: So many great artists influence me and they are always changing as I am growing as an individual, but some of the big ones right now would be The Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, Beck, Jack White, Muse, The Rolling Stones, Andrew Bird, Led Zeppelin, Sea Wolf, The Stooges, Neutral Milk Hotel, Damien Rice, Cage The Elephant, The Strokes, Tame Impala, BRMC, Wolfmother, Alison Mosshart, and Alt-J.

Ryan: For me, it was several people along with the fact that it was something I felt like I had to do. So I guess my biggest influences are Bob Dylan, Robert Johnson, Skip James, Led Zeppelin, Tom Waits, Woody Guthrie, Son House, Howlin Wolf, Jack White, Jimi Hendrix, Blind Willie McTell, Charlie Patton, the list goes on and on.

2013 was a great year for new releases. Which album was your favourite?

Heather: Cage The Elephant’s new album Melophobia is amazing; I just can’t seem to get sick of it no matter how many times I listen to it. Love how they were able to break away and do something so different from what they’ve done in the past.

Kevin: A favorite is hard to pick, but probably Melophobia as well. Letters Home by Defeater was definitely another favorite for me personally.

Ryan: For me it would have to be Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s “Spector at the Feast” and the Strokes “Come Down Machine”.

If you could recommend one or two other new acts based in Nashville, who would it be?

We would have to say 1933. We have played a few shows with them and they rock the house every time. They are like family to us; just really good American rock n’ roll.

What about UK bands, are there one or two you’d like to join on tour over here?

We really look forward to meeting local UK artists to tour with over there, but until then we will dream big and would have to say The Arctic Monkeys and Muse.

What are your plans for this year, except releasing your debut album?

We plan on playing as many shows and festivals as humanly possible and touring to some other states around here as well. Nashville is an intriguing place, but we are anxious to branch out and see how people from different backgrounds react to our music.  It would be beautiful if we were ever able to take over Nashville as a band, but we would always want more, and to expand past that. The make of our 2nd album is also underway, which we plan on recording and releasing this year if all goes as planned. Other than that, we are devising a plan that will migrate us out of Nashville and over to London by the end of this summer. It’s a risky move for sure, but we don’t want to get stuck in one place for too long. It’s mainly just our fear of growing too comfortable with our surroundings, which is never good for an artist when searching for creativity. At least that’s how we view it.

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