Coming together in the dense and tumultuous landscape that is the music industry, former members of popular bands Copeland and Lydia combine forces to create the lovely indie rock sounds of States. Offering honest, pure, and thought-provoking music, it is clear that the musicians who comprise the band are both extremely gifted and supremely compatible. States- Mindy White (vocals), Stephen Laurenson (guitar), Bryan Laurenson (guitar), Jonathan Bucklew (drums), and Dean Lorenz (bass)- gush with excitement and pride over their new musical venture and it seems they have found a perfect place in the scene. I sat down with the band in Austin during SXSW and the friendly artists talked to me about their group dynamic, their debut album, and silly song inspirations.
States arrived in Austin two days ago and have been going non-stop the whole time. “It’s been good, it’s been really busy,” Bryan tells me. “We’ve had a lot of press and we have four showcases total and some additional acoustic things that we’re doing here and there. It’s been busy and awesome. It’s been fun.” “We’ve already played two shows,” Stephen says. “They were awesome,” White adds. “So far it’s been really great,” Stephen agrees. “There have been a lot of people watching us and it’s been really fun.”
Though they have been through Austin in previous bands, this is the first year that the musicians have played at SXSW as States. “I feel like there’s going to be a lot of people that accidentally see us and hopefully we’ll gain them as fans,” White explains. “We also want to see some bands and maybe meet some people and build some relationships.”
Room To Run, States’ debut album, came out in October 2011 and is receiving a plethora of positive reviews. “For me, I had never been able to write in a band before,” White explains. “In my previous band I wasn’t able to write and contribute. So for me, this record was about being able to contribute and work with people that wanted the same exact thing that I did and it was just incredible. Having the freedom to do that was amazing.” “I think I would second that,” Bryan adds. “Just having a lot of freedom to do what we all wanted to do and have everybody contribute was awesome. It was a liberating record for everybody.”
Coming from diverse and fruitful musical backgrounds, each States member brings something different to the table in terms of songwriting. “Usually it will with start with Bryan and I coming up with what we call ‘nuggets’,” Stephen shares. “A little verse, a little chorus idea, or something. Then we’ll send them to Mindy and she will work on lyrics and vocals and what not, then we pass them through email to John and Dean and they work on their parts. When we have a chunk of them, we’ll all get in a room together and hash them out, rewrite them, and work on arrangements. It’s really cool. I think a big element of this is we wanted to be in a band and sit in a room and write parts together to play as a band.” “Even the little nuggets that they write, we get in a room and then John and Dean put their own unique spin on it,” White continues. “And it just turns into the States sound. It’s really awesome.”
The entire debut album is superb. I wonder if there is a song on there that, as least initially, the band was nervous about sharing with the world. “There’s a song called ‘Everlasting’ and it’s super, super poppy,” White reveals. “I didn’t think it would make it on the record at all, but then we started toying around with it and changed it a bit and it’s on there. It’s funny because the people that I think would hate it, love it.” “I think we were all pretty nervous about that song,” Stephen admits and everyone laughs.
Song inspiration sometimes originates from strange places for bands and States is no exception. “Lyrically, starting this band was kind of strange because the news was really big since we were in previous bands,” White shares. “As soon as it was announced that we were starting States, I had a lot of people hitting me up and telling me I could do this Miley Cyrus thing and I was like, ‘What is this?’ I’m too old for that, I’m not going to be in a bedazzled bra onstage ripping my clothes off’. And that’s what ‘Timebomb’ came from. They were like, ‘We’re going to make you into a superstar’ and I was like, ‘Uh, that’s not this band’. That was kind of weird.” White’s not the only one to be inspired by something odd. “I don’t think I’ve told any of you this,” Stephen says cautiously. “A lot of times when I’m writing there’s no rhyme or reason. I’ll hear a sound or something I think is cool and I just start writing around it for some reason. One of the songs, I don’t remember which song it was…what’s that Titanic song? ‘My Heart Will Go On’? There’s a bell part or something that is really cool so I was playing it on the piano and I found this cool sound then I wrote a whole song.” “Stephen you’re out of the band,” Bryan claims and sets off another round of laughter. “Don’t tell us what song, because I’ll never play it again.” “People think that ‘Time To Begin’ is a Christian song for some reason,” White relays. “But it’s about Mario. You know on the level when you go up on the cloud and you run really fast and hold down A and there’s a castle in the sky? That’s what that song is about.” “This makes no sense,” Bryan says. “Our songs are inspired by Celine Dion and Super Mario Brothers.”
Prepping for a live performance can take some work, but States takes it pretty easy. “I warm up a ton,” White tells me. “I think we all go in corners and start breathing really heavy and try not to pass out,” Stephen contributes. “We don’t really have any pre-show rituals,” Bryan says regretfully. “But we really need to get some.” “We’ve tried a couple,” White offers. “Every now and then we’ll be like, ‘Let’s do this before every show’,” Bryan continues. “Then we do it once and forget. We’re not good at rituals I guess. We’ve tried. We failed.”
States plans to attack the rest of 2012 with fervor. “We’re actually going to Vegas soon,” White says. “Right now we don’t have any set tours but we are looking. We want to be gone the whole year if we can, so we’re just trying to find tours that are going to work out for us.” “We’re trying to support, we don’t want to headline right now,” Bryan informs me. “We want to just get out and be able to play in front of other people’s fans.” “We want to steal fans,” Stephen says chuckling. “Band thieving.”
As States continues to grow its fan base, the band is thankful for every supporter they acquire. But if the artists got to pick anyone in the world to be the number one fan of their band? “The Cardigans,” Stephen says without hesitation. “Michael Jackson,” White offers. “Paul McCartney,” Bucklew says. “Actually I take that back. It would be weird if Paul McCartney was up front fist pumping. It would just feel awkward.” “Justin Timberlake,” Lorenz retorts and his mates applaud that choice. “Stewart Copeland from The Police,” Bryan concludes.