A few months ago, while sitting outside IP3 with some friends, I overheard some music wafting from Local 506. I told my friends “I have to get the name of that band.”
That band’s name? The Record. Their music? Some of the most honest, eclectic, good old fashioned rock I’ve heard in awhile. Sean Spollen (guitar) and Will Hendrick (keyboards) swap lead vocalist duties contributing to a unique two bands in one experience, with Tyler Drake (bass) rounding out the vocals that are adeptly punctuated by Robbie Duncan’s driving drums.
Today the band released their fourth album, A Verdict Wouldn’t Matter, so I sat down with Tyler, Sean, and Will to find out a little bit more about this dynamic band.
Q: How did you all get together?
Sean: Basically Tyler and I played in some other bands together. We’ve both been in NC for about 7, 8 years or so and one of the bands we were in ended up breaking up and we started this project, more as a recording project, like live home recording, and we recorded our own stuff for this album as well. So we started there and worked on our first album and then added Will in 2011. So it’s been about 3 years that we've been a band and Will’s been in the band for most of that time. Playing shows around the area and putting out music, it kind of started as recording and putting stuff out so that’s one of the things we've focused on. This is our fourth release in a little over three years.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to pursue music?
Tyler: I've been playing since I was 15. Started a band in high school and played one show and I knew that was what I was going to keep doing, so 15 years later, I’m still doing it.
Will: My parents put me in piano lessons when I was in 1st grade; my dad was an associate music minister at our church so there was always music going on. I’ve been playing ever since then, sang a little bit in church, started my first band I guess my freshman year of high school and I've been doing some sort of musical project ever since then.
Sean: I'm kind of in the same boat; I think I was 11 or so when I started playing my dad’s guitar. I was in a couple of bands in middle school and high school. I've always been into that as long as I can remember.
Q: What was the reception like in the area when you first started?
Will: I think with most bands initially the reception is mostly from your friends and family that are around. I think it’s grown as we've had a chance to play different venues throughout the triangle we’ve gone typically in this general area, Greensboro, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, to kind of build up a local following. It’s grown, we've definitely developed a few folks who are always going to be there shouting for some song that we didn't include in that set list
Tyler: It’s always what they want to hear. (Laughs)
Q: Do you oblige them?
Will: When we can, if it’s been months since we've been through the song then we prioritize quality over the set, over customer service.
Sean: It takes a little bit of time for people to see your name on some fliers, hear you play, and just sort of remember. It takes a couple times for people to remember. It’s been coming along pretty well. We had a couple lineup changes in the beginning, started off with a little more of an acoustic set. Once we got Robbie, we kind of solidified our line up about two years ago or so.
Q: Did your sound evolve organically or did you have a distinct direction in mind?
Sean: Definitely organically.
Tyler: We had no idea what we wanted to play at first, that kind of comes out of maybe falling out of these other bands, and we just wanted to learn how to record, so whatever songs we had, we recorded them. And then we added Will and our current drummer Robbie and that really changed the way we sounded because it was four people collaborating on a song, and everyone has a pretty diverse background. I don't think we've ever writing a song and said it should sound like this, it just kind of happens and that’s what it is.
Sean: We just kind of play the songs the way we think they should be played. You can hear that if you listen to the new stuff we did, there’s definitely a lot of different influences, there’s definitely some variation between the different songs.
Will: I think any time you add pieces to the overall mosaic that you're going to get a different end product. So as different members came on with their different influences then I think you started to hear some sounds that sort of evolved.
Q: How would you describe your style so someone who’s never heard you play?
Will: Awesome. (Laughs)
Sean: I always say a rock band…that’s a tough question. People have an initial, they think about what that means to them immediately before they hear it so it’s hard to sum that up. I don’t know, what would you say Will?
Will: I think it depends on the listener. Individuals may listen to the lyrics more so they may get more of a visual of what we're trying to talk about, other folks are just trying to hear that awesome guitar riff, different folks are trying to put you into a genre or category and then kind of taken aback when the next song doesn't fill that role, so I think it just depends on the individual ear.
Sean: That’s a good point. I think our songs they sort of vary a bit from song to song so it’s hard to choose one genre wise, its rock pop rock.
Tyler: And that's what we're trying to do right? We’re trying to write rock songs, its guitars, keys, bass and drums. That’s a rock band. (Laughs)
Sean: We’re trying to write good songs and there are a lot of pop influences in our songs, we’re not going to have a twenty minute long bridge. We’re trying to write pop song structures, rock song structures, and make it accessible to a lot of people and put our own spin on it. There are not quite as many bands that are as; I don't want to say as rocking as us, but like pop rock. We’re not similar to a lot of bands that we've seen around the area since we've been here.
Q: What inspires your songs?
Will: Personal experiences, things that we've read…
Sean: All kinds of different stuff, some songs might be about some more specific situation some songs are based on someone we know that went through something so the goal is to really capture an idea or a feeling for a song. They’re not all necessarily autobiographical or it might be a couple different experiences compiled into one song.
Tyler: And we've totally written songs about other people we know from their perspective.
Sean: One of our songs specifically is about one of our friends and some girl that he was dealing with at the time. I think I told him one time that I wrote it about him. It was weird.
Q: Do you all collaborate on the songs? What is the process for new work?
Tyler: The process is...typically Sean will present us with a song idea which is him on acoustic guitar, and that’s what we typically what we call our pre-production stage where we have some chords have a general idea of where we want to go with it and then if he doesn't have that kind of scratch recorded quickly we'll do that and then we take it to band practice where everyone fills in their parts. I feel like we edit our lyrics maybe, kind of as we've been doing this longer; we pay more attention to that. Lyrics will typically go through a round where everyone has their input on what we're trying to say, make sure there’s a story there and not just words that rhyme. We focus to make sure there’s a narrative.
Sean: Kind of tighten them up. Keep our songs as tight to one subject, if that makes sense. Not just write lyrics that sound cool, kind of have some point to what we're trying to say.
Q: Where did you get inspiration from on your latest album?
Tyler: I think we were all listening to a lot of Beatles in the early stages on this.
Sean: I was listening to a lot of; I don't know if it comes through on the album, I listened to “Abbey Road” a lot. That definitely has an impact, whether or not it sounds like it, like "Good God Maria" or "Keep Your Head Up." not necessarily trying to write Beatles-esque songs, just like the chord progressions and stuff came from listening to that. Everything we've done is a bit, I don't want to say all over the place, but from different influences and I think especially this one there’s a lot of different stuff going on. I don’t know if you guys have anything else to add.
Tyler: I knew what I wanted it to sound like recording wise, but I don't know what that was based off of. It was just the sound I always thought we should have in my head. I hope...I tried to do it justice.
Sean: I think we just focused on the songs. We kind of always have, but even a little more so this time, just writing good songs and making them as good as we can. And then the choice that we did recording and production wise, we did those to kind of suit the songs themselves so whether or not Will sings it or I sing it or whether or not we focus on the guitar or keys or piano, more that kind of stuff is dictated by the song itself more than what we're trying too hard to get it to sound like.
Q: So there’s a lot of leeway and freedom?
Tyler: A lot of that comes from pitfalls of the other stuff we recorded I feel like we did try to fit the pieces into the puzzle we already had pictured and we learned that’s a lot harder to do. That’s always harder right? You want to make the song what it deserves so if there’s a cool piano part and it’s now a more key based song that’s OK. We can't be concerned about trying to smash all this stuff together into some kind of preconceived thing.
Sean: I think just let the song dictates what we need to do, I don't know if that’s too philosophical sounding. Does that make sense to you Will?
Will: That’s fine. (Laughs)
Q: What can listeners expect from the new album?
Tyler: We've progressed. Will, how do you think it differs? I ask Will because Sean and I have been involved in this for so long that I think sometimes we get a little lost in the trees and can't see the forest.
Will: I think this reflects a more thorough collaboration between the band members because when we were talking about the process of bringing a song to the stage in the past there was a far more complete idea of what the end product should sound like whereas more recently our familiarity and comfort level with each other has grown and the process has allowed for more contribution from everyone and so I think that what someone can expect from this is a sound and a subject matter that’s more reflective of the whole band.
Q: What are some of your favorite from this album?
Tyler: I think "Good God Maria" came out better than I ever thought it would.
Will: That’s the one I’d say we get the most response to when we play live.
Tyler: I think maybe when we started it I wasn't so sure about it, it was a little different for us, but it turned out really well.
Sean: Yeah its funny when you go through the process and we have a rough mix of it it’s not as good, at a certain time you listen to all the songs this is the best song once we finish it sort of all changes.
Q: Do you have songs that are differently received live than on the album? Any you were surprised about?
Tyler: I think “Come Back to Earth” is a harder song to pull off live compared to how it sounds on the album.
Will: Yeah it’s more introspective; I compare it to the “couple skate” song. I think anytime you have something that’s more driving and can get people to dance or move that's often what they came to the show to do. So the ones that back in the day would've been listened to in a dark room on a record player don't get the same reception live.
Sean: I think "Good God Maria" is good to reiterate what you said; I've had some good feedback on that. Not to put it on one person, but one person loves the song out there so hopefully we’ll have more to follow.
Q: This is an area rich with local bands, what makes your group distinctive?
Will: One thing I think, especially on bills we play on that sets us apart is our focus on vocal harmonies. Often times were singing three parts at once on a particular line and we also do a lot of call and response type stuff that bands that don't have multiple vocalists can't really pull off.
Q: What do you want people to take away from your music?
Will: The date and time of our next show.
Sean: How to buy it.
Sean: We’re not in this to make tons of money, it’s difficult to make a lot of money, but I just want people to have some impact from the songs. People come up to us and say they liked certain songs or listened to it or one of our friends having our CD on in their car when we get in, that kind of thing. Just having people really be impacted by our music.
Will: I hope people will take away that anything we see them doing or hear them doing is totally fair game to become a subject of a future song, so be careful.
Sean: All names are changed.
Will: To protect the innocent.
Sean: Purely coincidental.
Q: Who are some of your influences (your site mentions a love for 90s rock)?
Tyler: I feel like we should divide this up into three parts, because if Will starts listing I don't know who they were. My bass playing and production on this album, I've listened to 90s rock for the past three years. I don’t know what it’s been, if I’m having some kind of nostalgia getting older, I've just listened to Nirvana and Bush nonstop. That doesn't speak for the rest of the band.
Will: I think I've been stuck on blues soul and funk from the 60s and 70s forever so that's always been my influence. I like a lot of Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, that kind of stuff. That’s absolutely not what we play but that’s where…
Tyler: I hear it though the influence.
Sean: On some of the songs.
Will: And though he’s not here, I think what's also cool, is I don't want to jump the gun but Tyler and Sean share musical influences more frequently than maybe Robbie and I do, so they have and it sort of reflects the history of the band. They had a similar musical influences, I added whatever that flavor, and Robbie came in and he has a lot of heavy metal influences which you can hear on some of his driving drum beats and stuff. I think sort of layering those two very different sounds on top of a strong structure of what these two guys listen to is kind of heard in the progression of the band.
Sean: It makes sense. I got swept up in the summer of grunge and all that. So listening to old Nirvana and Bush and Smashing Pumpkins and Alice in Chains, all that stuff.
Will: What's Robbie’s favorite band? August Burns Red?
Sean: Robbie’s really into hardcore, metal core, screamo.
Will: He used to be in a hardcore band.
Sean: I get really into poppy stuff too, anything that’s a good song.
Tyler: It’s an intention not to shape our songs. I don't think we're trying to reinvent the wheel either or trying to make some totally avant garde album, but I hear Will's influence in his vocals and I think it’s cool as shit. So I’m not going to be like he sings it this way, its sing it Will’s way you know.
Sean: This is what people are sounding like these days. That’s a good point we just do what sounds good to us.
Q: Who are you listening to locally? You play with a lot of different bands in the area, who are some of your favorites?
Will: I like Bears in the City.
Tyler: Yeah I was just going to say…
Will: Let’s give them a shout out.
Tyler: Tomasevich’s last album was good (My Brother, My Sister). I thought the new Love Language album was good.
Will: I have a lot of fun playing with The Morning Brigade.
Tyler: They're always fun, nice people that are the most important thing to us.
Q: What keeps you making music in the Triangle?
Tyler: Work (laughs.)
Sean: It is a good area for clubs they have regular bands, music every night of the week. Everywhere in the triangle there are places like Local 506 or the Pour House or wherever that have bands like us playing and touring bands coming through too, but it’s not like that everywhere. I’m from outside of Philadelphia and there are a lot of places that have cover bands, but don't have the infrastructure for a local music scene like there is here. That’s what I’d say, outside of my job.
Will: There’s anticipated positive public reception to something that somebody hasn't heard before. The willingness of the people around here to go check out someone they haven't heard before, some band they haven't seen, some sort of the explorative…
Sean: People will actually go to a show if they don't know the band and that only happens in certain places.
Will: And I think there’s enough of a touring music scene that bands are coming through. They will always have a bill you can step onto and that fosters the local scene.
Q: What are some of your favorite venues?
Tyler: Local 506, they treat us very well.
Will: That’s my favorite. I love playing at The Station.
Sean: Yeah The Stations cool…
Sean: Motorco, and I mean Cats Cradles a great one...the Pour House is fun.
Will: Deep South, give them a shout out.
Q: What do you do when you’re not playing/writing/recording?
Tyler: This is going to be the least rock and roll part of the interview. So I’m a research scientist and postdoc at Duke, so between that and the band I'm not getting a lot done.
Will: I'm an environmental attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Centre, when I’m not doing that I'm involved in the social justice scene, I'm the chair of our Justice in Action committee for the Town of Chapel Hill, and then in terms of supporting young artists, I'm a part of this group called Sacrificial Poets that takes spoken word poetry into local schools, it’s kind of a creative outlet.
Sean: I'm a marketing consultant and sales consultant, I do software consulting, and outside of that I have the band. I have a country songwriting side project.
Will: It’s called Two Kings, he won't support it, but it’s called Two Kings, Jesse will love this plug
Q: How do you balance your day jobs and music?
Tyler: It’s really hard, I think there’s almost a common thing where we push each other to still practice and be there. I mean none of these people in this band compared to maybe some other bands I have been in are lazy. Everyone’s accountable, everyone’s very driven, and that keeps it going. It would be very easy for us to not put out CDs and not do all this stuff because we want to hang out with our girlfriends or like watch TV but you just can’t do that. We're liable to each other.
Will: Also, you make time for what you love. It’s all about prioritizing, there are a lot of things pulling us in different directions, but this is stuff we all want to work on so we make it happen.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do after a gig?
Will: Exhaust my free tab.
Tyler: I think we just drink a lot. (Laughs)
Sean: Get stuff loaded into the car real fast so we can just start drinking. There isn't time to do much else at 12 or 1 in the morning.
Q: What do you love most about music/making music?
Tyler: I work a very analytical logical career and I've been doing that a long time and I feel that music and maybe just art in general is a really nice way to exercise that creative part that I don't get to do regularly.
Will: I think music is a release and it’s also an opportunity to kind of explore a different part of yourself, you can sing a song about someone you never were or something you never did and kind of experience it and relay it to somebody else and I also think there’s that, not to be cheesy, that universal language element of it, where you can reach people who may not listen to that story or that experience if you were telling them, but if you play it and sing it to them then they're on it.
Sean: I think what these guys said and for having a creative outlet outside of the day job or whatever else you have to do. I think also it’s about creating something new and I think and just keep doing things better at least with the recording side of what we do. We’re trying to improve and get closer to the sound that we know we want and kind of have in a live setting and then just try and keep writing better songs and putting better stuff together that’s going to attract people.
Q: What is on the horizon?
Will: We’ll be playing locally.
Sean: We'll be pushing the album online and through other channels.
Will: I think with most bands by the time you're putting something out you're already working on the next thing so I that’s what we'll be doing.
Sean: And that’s a luxury of independent bands. We don't have a year to sit back and let the album cycle play out, we have to keep working on the next thing and writing songs and try and keep putting stuff out as quickly as we can so we'll probably start writing or working on stuff.
That song they mentioned, “Good God Maria?” I’ve had it in my head since they snuck me the track. Do yourself a favor and buy their new album, see them live, and support some local talent.
For more information about The Record and to purchase their album, go to thisistherecord.com, and catch them live at Local 506 on January 21st.