Is The Living America’s next great rock band?
The digital age destroyed all barriers for entry into the music industry that had previously existed. For the first time in human history anyone with a computer could create, record, and distribute their music from the comfort of their own homes. As this trend grew increasingly popular the competition between up and coming artists reached a boiling point that shows no signs of change in the foreseeable future. In today’s economy, simply making good music is not enough. Those who succeed today must have marketing skills, networking skills, and a general sense for good business practices. Of all the talented music makers in the world only a small percentage can say they offer the ‘full package,’ and one of them just so happen to be San Francisco rock band The Living.
For those unaware, The Living are a self-proclaimed heavy atmospheric rock act from the Bay Area. Their music falls somewhere between Deftones and The Dear Hunter, but with a heavier edge that is incredibly hard to resist. The group has been making the rounds in Northern California for a few years, but they have been working harder than ever in 2017. With a successful headlining tour recently under their belt, the band is now preparing to self-release their debut album on September 22. You can stream the lead single, “Delay,” below:
When we first heard The Living we found hope for the future of rock and roll. Then we heard their album and realized they are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, one of the best rock bands in America today. With the right push they could soon be everywhere, so we decided to play our part and interview them about all things rock. Enjoy.
How’s life in San Francisco today?
“I work in an office so, ya know, typical office stuff. Pretty removed from the rock and roll thing.”
I think it’s good to not always have your feet in music. Keeps you connected to the struggles and experiences of regular people. You can appreciate how much they don’t want to be in an office because you’re there as well.
“That’s right, actually. Everyone at work was pretty surprised to learn I am in a band, but to me it’s like – everyone I know is in a band. It isn’t a crazy notion to me”
I spent some time with your new single, “Delay,” and I really love what you’re doing. There has been so much talk about rock being dead or forgotten as of late that I wonder what it’s like for you, the rock musician, in the industry today. What can you tell me about the existence of rock in the Bay Area?
“It’s pretty eclectic out here, actually. A rock scene definitely exists, but I think it was probably more prominent ten or fifteen years ago. Now there is a lot more electronic music, which is cool in its own way. But at the same time I wouldn’t say San Francisco has ever been associated with just one sound or style. It has always been a fairly eclectic place for music. One of my favorite things to do, in fact, is to check out all the shows happening on any given day and pick a random one to attend. It’s pretty great what you can discover.”
But kids are still coming out to the rock show?
This past week I was reading an article that claimed the digital age killed local scenes. The main idea was that the internet changed our perspective on new music. People used to leave their home to experience something new, but now everything is a click away, which – this article claimed – made people less willing to leave home to support local up and comers. As someone cutting their teeth in the industry, how do you feel about this idea?
“I don’t know. I guess I can see it both ways. For me, personally, I’ve learned about way more local shows and events through the internet than I did before.”
Let’s move on to you and your career. “Delay” is the first single off what will be your first full-length, correct?
“Yes, this is our first proper album. We did an EP a few years back, but didn’t really do anything with it. We started writing for this record about a year or so ago, and most of the creation came from being together in our practice space. I think only one song was written outside of that setting, composed if you will. We locked ourselves in that practice space and we would jam for hours hammering things out. We ended up writing a lot of songs, which we then cut down to 10, and we then recorded those. When that process was complete we ended up cutting the song list even further while still working at Atomic Garden studios.
It’s funny, looking back on that process now it seems like such an undertaking. When we entered the studio I would say we completed 75% of what made the record on our very first day. We recorded live, so it came together pretty quickly. The next few days we did patch ups and overdubs, stuff like that. I think it came out very raw, and that is exciting.”
When I first heard “Delay” I thought it sounded as if it were recorded live, so I’m happy to hear that was the case. I think there is something about recording in that manner, the looseness of simply performing as a band while the tape rolls, that captures something special. There is a big difference between how records recorded live sound and, I guess, more polished albums. This approach really seems to fit your sound.
“Definitely. I think it’s a pretty cool approach. I’ve done the opposite in the past, where you single track everything, and it’s just so meticulous. You’re sitting down most of the time, you’re the only one playing, and you’re so focused on doing everything perfect that there is no real vibe happening in the room. Recording live helps to capture at least some magic from the band.”
Rock is a genre where hearing a band live can change everything. There are rock bands known for live performances rather than albums simply because their studio work never comes close to recreating the magic of their concerts. I think your approach to recording helps bridge that gap.
“That was our idea as well.” [laughs]
We keep saying rock in this conversation, but to market yourself in today’s world you need a little more specificity. How do you sell The Living to people who may have never heard your music?
“You know this is something we’ve been talking about a lot as of late because it’s something we have struggled with ourselves. We’re kind of at this weird intersection where we’re a rock band, but there are also elements of metal, pop, and other sounds thrown in as well. All of this leaves us at a loss at how to promote ourselves, but lately we’ve gotten into the habit of billing ourselves a heavy atmosphere rock band. I’m pretty bad with all that, admittedly, but it’s something we have been working on. We know if we can get people to listen to it they will probably like it, so we’re really working on finding the best methods of getting it into their hands.”
The artwork for your record is pretty eye-catching, which will surely help attract new listeners. Where did the concept for the cover come from?
That is our good friend Sam. She’s an amazing artist. We basically sent her the record and a few very loose ideas for how we wanted the record to look. She took all that and designed a few mock-ups that we then reviewed. We ended up going back and forth a lot, but ultimately we decided to let her do her thing. We’re super happy with how it came out.
We’re still a few weeks out from the release of your album. How do you feel about the response you have received so far, particularly as it applies to “Delay”?
“Yea! So far we’ve received a lot of great reactions. I’ve actually been really surprised by some of the press we have been getting. Some writers have reached out to say they dig what we’re doing and that is always great to hear. There are also people who feel differently, of course, but I really try to not let that negativity in. I’m not hyper concerned with critical reception, but I have been pleasantly surprised by how much people like it.”
You just wrapped a short tour, but with the record coming I assume more show are as well?
“Our next gig is the album release show on September 29, which is exactly one week after the album is out. We’re still locking down support, but that will be the next big show. This fall we hope to hit Southern California, like San Diego and Los Angeles. We don’t have anything in the books beyond that yet, but we hope to get out more often and maybe even hit some festivals. Regardless, we are planning to promote this record heavily as we move forward and continue working on new material.”
A big goal we have at Haulix this year is to better understand what determines success for artists. Obviously this answer is a bit different for everyone, but as it applies to you and this upcoming album release – what would you consider a sign of success? What is your goal?
“The goal is…Well, the first goal was just to make a record we all liked. On that front we have succeeded. Beyond that, our main goal is to get this album into the hands of as many people as possible and gain leverage for the next release. We’re still a pretty unknown band, so we’re focused on taking this as far as it can go and win people over along the way. That is why we keep booking shows further and further away, to get in front of more and more people. If we can do that, then we will consider this whole process a success.”
Last question: What do you hope people take away from your new music?
“I hope people have an emotional response to this record. When we were just on tour I saw a guy in the crowd singing along to “Delay” not long after it was released. He blew me away because I couldn’t believe someone already learned all the words. If we can make that kind of impact on other people that would be pretty great.”