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The Basement Sessions

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Last month I had the opportunity to interview some great indie artist all around the United States. One of these artist was Sumyeti. Hailing from Scituate, MA and now proud residents of Somerville, MA, Sumyeti is rock music with a touch of surf and psychedelia. Sumyeti consists of three members, Andrew McCall, Trevor Lewis and Andrew Hewitt. They each had the opportunity join in the interview.

AM: Andrew McCall
TL: Trevor Lewis
AH: Andrew Hewitt

How did it all start?

AH: The first time I ever head Duff McKagan’s bass riffs from “Paradise City” in 7th grade and thought, “shit, I want to be a bass player.”
AM: John Frusciante’s riff from “Can’t Stop”, and Flea’s bass line from “Aeroplane” during my freshman year of high school. So catchy.
TL: The first time I saw footage of Led Zeppelin. I think I was 12 years old. They were playing “In My Time of Dying” and Page was wearing the famous dragon suit. I’d never seen or heard anything quite like it, but it was undeniably cool.

What are your passions?

AM: I love to read and write, and listen to music. I really like to sink into the world of a good movie or adventure game like Zelda too.
AH: My two passions are music and rock climbing. I really love the creative process involved in both activities, and I find climbing hard to be incredibly satisfying.
TL: Good stories - particularly sci-fi/fantasy, playing music, nature.

Any advice to musicians or artists?

AH: Don’t worry about writing really intense or complicated music just to sound different. Just write what comes to mind and roll with it. Volume was more important in the early days of songwriting than quality. Quality will come after you write a ton of shitty songs.
AM: Really plug away when you have time alone and don’t be afraid to sound weird singing and playing. When you first start, you will almost definitely suck for a long time and that’s perfectly normal. It just means you’re headed in the right direction because of the fact that you are finally doing it. I still suck at playing so that’s also normal, it just means you/I have to practice more, which I should probably go do now.
TL: If you like something someone else is doing make it yours, you know, legally. You can learn something from almost anyone. Some of the most important things I’ve picked up about music have come from people with far less experience. Everyone has a unique approach to music and art.

Favorite things about music?

AH: It’s one of the only activities in life that justifies itself. I can do literally nothing except listen to or play music and I will still consider that day a productive one.
AM: You can completely lose yourself in your own thoughts and walk around and become inspired by everything you see when you’re really in the zone. A mundane walk you’ve made a hundred times can be different and exciting every single time just because you can hear new things happening if you’re in tune with a melody or idea you have.
TL: From an academic perspective, the fact that the frontier of music is practically infinite. There are always new techniques, ideas, and styles to study. However, the best thing about music is its connection with human emotions. The ability to evoke certain feelings through music is an amazing power.

When you are not making music, what are you doing for fun?

AH: I’m rock climbing and daydreaming about adventures in other places.
AM: Wishing I could surf more often and reading books and articles online.
TL: Getting lost in a book or a computer/video game. Watching Premier League soccer. Running, no wait, that sucks.

Who are your influences?

AH: Dick Dale, Allah Las, Led Zeppelin (John Paul Jones), Brian Jonestown Massacre
AM: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, St. Vincent, The Mattson 2, The Ventures, Jeff Buckley, John Frusciante, Beach House.
TL: Led Zeppelin, Rory Gallagher, The Police, SRV, Stone Temple Pilots, Queens of the Stone Age, Bangs, Pink Floyd, Guns N’ Roses, John Mayer, Mark Knopfler, Fleet Foxes

If you had the opportunity to start over, what would you do differently and why?

AM: I’ve started over several times I think, taking long breaks from guitar and bass while switching between instruments and coming back to them with a newfound perspective and excitement. It can be really good for your creativity to take a break now and then and try interpreting your thoughts on a new instrument or through other forms of media.
TL: Learning to play. I think I fell into the common guitarist pitfall of trying to be an uber shredder (I failed). While this approach had its benefits, I was distracted from some of the crucial and fundamental elements of music. Pursuing technical mastery of an instrument is well and good but not at the cost of actually creating music. In essence, I would make sure I knew how to walk before trying to run.
AH: I don’t know if I would change anything if I started over, but I would definitely have started earlier. Still, trying to ‘make it’ as a band while holding down a full-time job only makes me that much more motivated.

Tell me about your new projects and which direction you are heading.

AM: We’ve been playing in this band for about two years now and it seems to have just solidified its lineup. We’re moving in a direction I think that runs the gamut of raw garage rock, dreamy psych, indie rock sensibility, with some surf elements rolling in over all of it. We’re becoming less afraid to really be ourselves on stage and in our writing, which is nourishing personally. There are so many different sounds and influences inside of me that I can’t really pin down on anything besides my own emotional experience in life.
AH: We will be recording an album/EP (we haven’t decided yet) in mid-September!
TL: I’m planning on doing some artwork to accompany our release. Yeti will probably make an appearance.

What are some of your greatest challenges in your business?

AH: We are musicians, so we are inherently bad at business. I think we would rather just play shows and not have to worry about scheduling. But we’re definitely improving.
AM: What Hew said. We’re getting better at the hustle but we’re really only at the outset of everything. It took us two years just to buckle down and finally settle on a name and form some kind of online presence but we’re picking up more steam.
TL: Being in a band is something like being at a party and being on the job (no, not like an office party). This proves to be a challenging combination. Fortunately, I think we are constantly getting better at structuring our band business and communicating our ideas.

When have you been most satisfied in your life?

AM: Three years ago when I was alone at least three nights out of the week at 2:30 am in my Chicago apartment with a mostly empty bottle of red wine, smoking spliffs and writing a good portion of the songs we’re playing today on my old acoustic guitar.
TL: I got a perfection in Halo 3. To get a perfection you have to get 15 kills and 0 deaths. I got 21.
AH: I remember a particular steak I cooked after a long, hard day of climbing outside of Moab, Utah. I was burnt to shit, but I washed that steak down with a refreshing beer and watched the desert moon come up over the silhouettes of the canyon cliffs.

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider being the most significant in your career.

AM: We have an unfinished song that we call “The Wave” that I wrote out in Chicago about two years after the initial jam it came from occurred on Martha’s Vineyard. It was the first difficult song I wrote that I could sing over. That’s one of my favorites that I’ve written and know that it could take much more time for it to be done, but that it will be done eventually.
AH: The Wave is a sick song; we should do that, dude.
TL: I had a dream we were playing The Wave on some late night show. No joke. I think I was playing a Gibson ES-335.

13.What's your superpower, or what's your spirit animal?

AH: Making the chicks dance. My spirit animal is the V.F.T.
AM: Dancing as one of Hew’s dancing babes. My spirit animal is the Yoshi.
TL: Swallowing pills without water. Pretty cool I guess. My spirit animal is a flying bison.

What does your latest E.P mean to you? In what state were you when you were putting it together?

AM: Our latest EP from 2012 was written when I was out in Chicago but recorded when I graduated and came back for the summer. We were all pretty drunk most of the time.
TL: It feels like a while since we recorded our latest EP. I think it represents a very accurate snapshot of where we were as a band at the time. I’m proud of it.

When it comes to connecting with your fans, is there platform that you prefer?

AM: We’re only just figuring that part out. Bandcamp and Facebook seem like a good combination so far. I would like to have a band Tumblr or Instagram as well so we can collect images and thoughts and share them with each other and fans, when we find them.

Do you play an instrument and if so, which is your favorite song to play on it.

AH: On the drums it’s “All Over the Dunes.” When I hear that first chord from the guitar I am so amped.
AM: On bass it’s definitely “Chase the Yeti” which is a surfy progress song that Hew wrote and blows my mind every time I hear or play it. The riff is the most insane thing that we play. On guitar it’s definitely “The Wave” which will be released later when it’s done in about ten to twenty years.
TL: Guitar. Probably “Strangers Again” because I take a more improvisational approach to it than our other songs. “All Over the Dunes” and “Chase the Yeti” are definitely up there as well.

Is your family musical?

AM: My grandfather played the trumpet when he was younger, and my uncle plays guitar and bass. Otherwise no one in my immediate family besides John Frusciante.
AH: Yes, if you type in “Metal singer warms up” on YouTube, you can see my Dad warming up his vocals before a big gig in Boston.
TL: My brother is very musical. We’ve agreed that if by some chance one of us “makes it” the other gets to be the manager.

Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?

AH: My Creedence tapes, duh!
AM: Probably just Abba. No, there was some Fleetwood Mac and Elton John in there when I was younger, along with some Celtic folk music sung in Gaelic.
TL: My parents had a bunch of Rolling Stones cassettes that introduced me to classic rock and the blues. Andrew’s favorite song in middle school was Dancing Queen. That’s all.

Do you teach music?

AM: I would like to, except I wouldn’t be able to teach anyone anything about theory. But I’d be good at encouraging people to seek out new sounds and expand their creative thinking. I think I’d have some good advice on ways to keep the juices flowing.
TL: I am always excited to share whatever new music theory revelations I have had with the guys in the band. I think I would really enjoy teaching music.
AH: I used to teach bass and guitar. I love teaching; it’s really satisfying to see someone succeed and know that you played a part in making it happen.

How do you handle mistakes during a performance?

AH: Get angry and play worse.
AM: Laugh and get the hell away from the microphone so I can dance more to both distract people and appease Hewitt.
TL: I don’t make mistakes.

In your own words, how would you describe "Music From The Heart"

AM: When you’re up there on stage performing and nothing exists except for the sound you and your band are making under the light. Not you, not them, not your audience, just the sound around you coming from somewhere inside your head.
AH: If you play something, and then a girl "hangs" with you. Suffices to say I have never played any music from the heart.
TL: Going to approach this a little differently. “Music from the heart” is music you like. I think it’s that simple. One great thing about music is that the listener creates its significance. Even if an artist writes a song as a joke, a listener can find a powerful meaning in it. Music is largely a subjective phenomenon. If you enjoy listening to it, it’s the genuine article. Led Zeppelin is still the best band though.

Listen to what this great band has to offer:

https://sumyeti.bandcamp.com/releases

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