Brooklyn-based outfit American Authors recently burst onto the music scene with its refreshingly unique, yet cleverly catchy indie sound. The lyrics to the band’s exceptional debut single “Believer” open with, “I’m a little bit sheltered, I’m a little bit scared." When you listen to the the rest of the poignant, polished song however, the artists seems anything but. American Authors- Zac Barnett (vocals), James Adam Shelley (guitar/banjo), Dave Rublin (bass), and Matt Sanchez (drums)- deliver head-bopping melodies, peppy lyrics, and soaring four-part harmonies that are sure to make you dance. I got the chance to shower Barnett with questions and the talented musician opened up about writing songs, lucid dreams, and winning karaoke contests.
Have you ever performed in Denver?
I've driven through Denver a few times and it's always been beautiful, but we have yet to play there.
Give me some insight into the songwriting process.
It’s always a different process each time we sit down to write. Sometimes one person will bring in the initial idea, sometimes it will come from a few different people who had already started something, and a lot of the times we all just sit in a room together and come up with something from scratch. Having four writers in the band always makes for a different writing experience which is really cool because the sound always comes out a little different.
What's the strangest thing to inspire a song?
We have a new song about lucid dreaming. I got really into lucid dreaming back in high school. I started practicing all the steps to try and be able to completely control the dreams I had. It didn't work too well so I ended up giving up.
What's the story behind the debut single "Believer"? How has it changed over time?
“Believer” started from a guitar riff I played. We were sitting around the studio not sure what to start working on and I picked up an acoustic guitar and started playing the lead riff and said, "Here's our next song." James had written the line, "I’m just a believer" a while back and it fit perfectly with the melody. From there, the song pretty much wrote itself in under an hour. With everyone adding in different sounds, melodies and rhythms, it was a very natural and organic process.
You walk into a karaoke bar and are forced to sing a song- what's your go to tune?
I've actually won a couple of karaoke contests. At first everyone says, "Well you’re a singer so of course you won." But usually I just go up and shout the lyrics. I usually start with A-ha's "Take On Me" and then I’ll move on to MJ's "Billy Jean". Recently though I've been singing super sad songs at really bumpin’ bars, like "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston on a Saturday night at a sports bar.
In your opinion, what makes an epic album? What's an example of one of your favorites?
I think we can all agree that we love every Coldplay album. Now those are epic. The songwriting is so good and they do a great job of using dynamics to tell a story throughout the album. The Killers release great epic albums too.
Aside from the upcoming run of shows, what else do you have planned for 2013?
Release an EP, keep writing and releasing songs, release a full album maybe and tour the world? Who knows! I had to cancel my recent trip to Hawaii for some last minute shows, so I’m still trying to find the time to go surf the north shore this year.
If you could have anyone in the world as the #1 fan of American Authors, who would it be and why?
My father. He used to take me to Warped Tour and Ozzfest every summer growing up and he would always say, "Zac, when your band is playing here, I will tattoo my entire body and sell t-shirts at your merch booth." While that will never be able to happen now, it is still a memory that I will never forget.