Interview with Old Notes

Immediately after hearing their debut album ‘former self‘ I was completely in love with this band. The trio from California have not been together all that long, but their chemistry and charisma makes it seem like they’ve been together for years. We talked about future goals, a love for Tiny Moving Parts and playing music live.

Where did the band name come from?

Eli: Originally, it was called a different name, it was Devin’s thing. It was the county his college was in. After we had talked it through we were like, you know, that doesn’t really hold a lot of meaning to anyone else, which doesn’t really make any sense as to how it has any more meaning now because its more like my thing.

Devin: Basically, he just wanted full control. [laughs]

E: Basically, with my ex-girlfriend she was just a very anxious person and she used to write me notes because she couldn’t vocalise what she wanted to tell me all the time. She would leave me notes and then sometimes I wouldn’t find them. After we broke up I found a bunch of notes, finding notes I had never read, it hit me super hard and I went through weeks of not wanting to do anything – and that’s where the Old Notes thing comes from because it’s a bunch of old stuff I hadn’t read before but after we had broken up and seeing all this, like ‘I love you so much’, it just hits you.

D: I mean, I also had old notes from my ex-girlfriend and I actually burned a couple as a promo thing when we first started the band.

Justin: That’s buried deep in our Instagram.

 

How did you all get together?

D: Well, when Eli and I were in high school we played in Jazz band and there’s this district band where they get different musicians from each band in the district together and Eli and I happened to be part of that. So, I played jazz guitar and he played drums, and we somehow got to talking during the practice when there was a little break and we started playing like Blink-182 songs and Angels and Airwaves songs. We met there and we added each other on Facebook, then we didn’t talk for years. Eventually, after we were all in different bands and stuff, I had old demos and stuff I was working on in my bedroom. I needed musicians because I knew I didn’t want to do it by myself and I knew Eli was in the project he was anymore and I knew he was a good drummer so I hit him up on Facebook, we still have the conversation – it was really awkward.

E: It was like hitting up some girl after talking to her one night in a club. ‘Soooo, what’s going on?’

D: So, I sent him all the demo’s on Facebook messenger and he said he really liked it, and then more awkward conversation until we got together to play music.

J: And then Eli and I were doing marching band together at RCC, which is a college in Irksine, California and I was in drumline, he was in pit. When opening the whole field show, I was right next to Eli and there were times where we would hang out for like half an hour at a time and just start talking. And then, for some reason we wanted to start a rap group so we started rapping together for a little bit. Then he came to me with this idea, ‘like hey, I’m in this band it’s kinda cool’.

E: We had gone through like 4 different bass players and it hadn’t really worked out.

J: He was like, ‘do you wanna come play for this band?’ and I had never played bass in a band before, and I was like sure I’ll try it out. I turned up to practice where I got to meet you [Devin] and I thought he’s alright, I guess I’ll stay. Now we’re in a band together.

E: His beard’s cool so I guess I’ll hang out with him.

D: Then we became friends and we hang out all the time.

 

In terms of how long you’ve been together, it’s really not been that long. Was it difficult writing together? Your music deals with some pretty heavy and intimate topics; was it difficult sharing that with people you didn’t know too well?

D: I think it was hard at first, ‘cause I was so emotionally attached to the demos I was writing in my room and when they wanted to change things I was like okay, is that gunna sound good? That’s just my anxiety in general when I’m writing, as an artist just like are people going to like this? Will it suck?

E: He was really hesitant, especially at our first practice when it was just him and I. I was like what if I add this drum part and he was like, ‘well, when I first had this idea it was supposed to sound like this’. And I was like, ‘but it’s okay Dev’. He still writes a lot of the skeleton structure and then when we come in we go what if we add this, we flesh it out as a whole.

D: I think most of the songs beside from ‘Hillside’ and ‘Ashes’, those two songs were written collectively as a band, then the skeleton existed and they added their parts. In terms of it happening so fast I think it’s because we had those skeletons and we had something to work off of. We just wanted to do this and we didn’t waste any time.

 

What inspired you to be musicians? Was it what you always wanted to do?

J: I think I can speak for all of us when I say we’ve been music nerds all our lives. I started playing trumpet when I was in 5th Grade. I had an option; I wanted to do archery but my mum thought that was too scary and she pushed me towards playing an instrument, so it was like do I do archery or concert band. Lo and behold, to keep my mum from crying every night thinking I’m going to kill myself with an arrow, I started playing the trumpet. That evolved to playing a few other instruments, drumline and playing guitar. It’s been a constant thing, I listen to music every day and it’s been a constant drive.

E: I can say that something that drove us all as a collective three individuals, something we all enjoy separately, was Blink-182 and Angels and Airwaves. Those two bands right there are kind of like the inception of what made us want to play rock music.

J: The reason we all started playing guitar.

E: My Mum and Dad are both very different as far as like music goes; my Dad’s got me into like hardcore and a bunch of nu-metal when I was little and then my Mum was more the pop side, more of like Michael Jackson. They got me into a lot of different aspects of music and then seeing my Dad play in bands when I was growing up was cool and my Mum got me into different music lessons. I worked on being mediocre at a bunch of different instruments. Basically, it was as soon as I found this style of music I know where this goes now.

D: When I was in fourth or fifth grade ‘School of Rock’ came out and after seeing that movie I only wanted to play guitar – that was all I wanted to do. Once I started playing guitar you couldn’t take it out of my hands, every day in my room I am playing guitar.

E: His next-door neighbours hate him.

D: Sports never really worked out for me I was never good at soccer, I got kicked in the stomach the first day. I did karate –

E: And got kicked in the stomach the first day [all laugh]

D: I would listen to a lot of classic rock, Dad Rock as I would say, and I had to go through the music discovery thing myself. That’s where all my friends came in, I think eventually it evolved into finding this type of music and it was like oh my god, something about this refined flare, I wanted to play sad tunes.

E: I think specifically the cool thing about emo is that it’s more about the raw emotion than it is the actual talent. That’s why I think there are so many people who can do it and have the inspiration to make that kind of music. I mean, he [Devin] is still amazing and his guitar playing is legendary, but that mixed in with the raw emotion is super cool and is what especially drew me to that.

J: I just love the fact that me and you [Eli] consider ourselves mediocre musicians.

D: I think it provided a catalyst to vent that you can’t find anywhere else.

 

What song would you recommend to someone who hasn’t heard your music before?

E: The overall hit, the ‘banger’, is ‘Father’s House’ because I think it is the most accessible. But, me personally, I really like ‘Ashes’.

D: Same, yeah. I think I like ‘Ashes’ because it was the longest and also the most painful to write. We took like 20 videos of us trying to record this song and we had to keep redoing it because we kept messing up on parts, it’s very intricate.

J: It was a lesson on modulation, in timing.

D: I just think the lyrical content too just sticks to me. It’s trying to wipe everything away and form a new self and like being constantly at a battle with it and trying not to go back to your old ways. Plus it’s really twinkly.

E: It flows really nice.

J: The song I typically show people is ‘Masculine’. The first time I ever showed anybody, right after the album came out, I was at a friend’s house after Suicide Squad came out and we drank a lot that night. Then I was super-excited about it, so I told them they had to listen to it – we were all sat around my phone listening to it. That’s the song I show to people.

 

What artists would you say influence you?

E: Recently? Like Blink-182 and Angels and Airwaves are what started us to be influenced for that kind of thing. But Devin, man, he really likes Tiny Moving Parts – to say the least.

D: I think that Tiny Moving Parts, Into It. Over It, American Football, Modern Baseball, a lot of those bands are just great. I think my sophomore year of college was when I got into this kind of music and it was just finding compilations and stuff, finding this whole community and scene of bands – anything with like open tunings and twinkling guitars. I would say Tiny Moving Parts obviously, Into It. Over It.

E: Same with me. 2014 was when I first kind of discovered the music, when I first heard Free-throw and Modern Baseball, bands like that, and I was like oh cool you can scream over really pretty guitars and just yell and be sad – that’s really tight. Even going back, I’m influenced by a lot of 90s hardcore stuff, drumming influences from Page 99, and I hate Myself – the original hardcore emo.

J: I am very new to emo music, it hasn’t even been a year and a half since I found this whole plethora of wonderful music. So a lot of my influences are from anything with Ben Gibbard. A lot of Ben Gibbard and a lot of influences from hip-hop, a lot of rap. We get wavey sometimes, straight up trap music, some of those influences you can kind of hear in the bouncier parts.

E: The beginning of ‘Masculine’ is a little bit trappy.

J: But I take a lot from really, really ratchet music.

E: We’re both really big fans of Kanye West and Chance The Rapper.

J: And Migos, one of the greatest artists ever. That’s definitely where I take it from.

 

What would be your dream collaboration?

E: Me, personally, I want Kanye West to produce our next album.

J: Yes!

E: But realistically, working with Mike Kinsella because he does recordings.

D: Or Anthony Green.

E: Even getting him on a vocal track would be tight.

J: Connor Murphy! I’d love to have him for vocals. Anyone we mentioned would be great, but Kanye West produce our next album please.

 

This is a question from my Mum; what is your favourite app on your phone?

E: I love Mum questions. That’s a good one!

D: I don’t know if it’s an app, but there’s this game called Whale Trail.

E: It’s a really good game. We were in this diner at 1 in the morning, and he was playing it and we were like wow.

D: Yeah, I have like all the power-ups. I’ve completed the game two times over.

E: It’s basically Flappy Bird but with a whale. My favourite is Spotify. Or Tinder. [laughs]

D: Tinder found the relationship I was in, so I’m all for it.

E: Me and him [Justin] still update our Tinder profiles with ridiculous bios and photos and see if anyone is still interested.

J: My favourite app is probably the reddit app, because I really like memes – I find good memes. I’m in a D&D chat and getting tips from that.

 

This question from my friend is very important; what is your favourite dessert?

E: Okay, I’m gunna answer this. It’s cherry ice cream with double chocolate chip ice cream in it.

D: We were in Claremont the other day and they have this double fudge brownie ice cream with brownie bits in it, and he made a shake out of it but with raspberry ice cream. It was the most decadent thing ever.

E: Everything I ever do, if it involves chocolate then I try and put raspberry in because it’s perfect.

D: Even better if it’s white chocolate. I’m a barista and that’s my favourite drink to make – we call it the Belgian White and it’s a raspberry and white chocolate espresso.

J: Mine, still to this day is a rum-infused bread pudding that I had with bananas in it and nuts. It tasted straight up like rum in the after-taste and I was a little buzzed that day. The alcoholic bread pudding is my favourite.

 

When you’re writing music how do you go about writing it?

D: Well, there are times where I’m in my bedroom playing guitar and I’ll have a really cool riff and then I’ll send the video of that riff and say we have to work on this.

E: And I’ll usually be at work and be like ‘um,  I’ll check this out’.

D: I used the notes app on my phones to write down ideas, once we have the music that’s where the lyrics come in. I think it’s easier to have a musical base.

E: Easier for the structure; you can take words out or add them, but it’s more difficult to decide how long you want certain sections to be.

D: It’s a very collective atmosphere though, especially now when I’ll come up with a riff and they’ll add parts. And add this drum fill and bass part. The last song we wrote is a straight banger.

E: There’s so many changes.

J: When we wrote this one, he [Eli] was like I do a lot so I’m gunna take it easy on this one. Then we started writing it and the entire song he is moving. Like, that’s how you relax?

E: Yeah – it’s the way you play around the drum set. This one is centralised.

 

What is the easiest, hardest and most important part of a song or of writing a song?

E: The hardest thing is getting those two to agree on root notes. That’s the hardest thing, like that’s the E#, no it’s the D.

J: We play in so many different keys. I play half a step down, so we play around the bass and I play the key he is in. But because he’s in so many different keys, I forget what note it is. It can get really messy.

E: There was so much discourse on the last song we wrote about what sounds right.

J: We were half a step down from each other. Easiest is vibing. If someone were to record one of our practices you’d just see us vibing out.

E: We’re all cohesive enough as a group of people to know where changes are going to come when we’re writing or jamming, we all kind of feel that change. It’s something in yourself.

D: We’re a more cohesive group. We’re a lot tighter as a band, we’ve noticed it as a band.

J: That guy who was really drunk at one of our shows and he called himself Chief and he said we had to be linked and trust our brothers. He wasn’t wrong either, we do trust each other like brothers and the most important thing is trust. Or agreeing on what we want, there’s so many possibilities.

E: I agree.

J: It’s also really stressful, because those songs never feel done. We all need to agree and trust each other to decide what direction we need to go in.

E: I’d say more specifically if we’re talking about parts of a band then I’d say guitar work is the most important part of the band. We all lay it down in our own right. But the part that catches the ear of a lot of people is the guitar work.

D: That can be very stressful.

J: He has to write everything amazing.

 

When you’re buying music, how do you do it; CD’s, vinyl or digital?

E: If I buy physical copies of stuff I only buy vinyl records.

D: I have a record player, but I need to set things up. But I think CD’s are important because I have a CD player in my car and I love being able to go through my library that way. Its really rewarding to look at how many CD’s you have. Sometimes vinyl just so I can have it.

J: Most things I listen to digitally; on Spotify or Bandcamp. Or as a record.

 

 

What would you say is the most challenging song to play live?

E: Rocko. It’s our new song Rocko, I shouldn’t have written it how I did. We start shows with that song and by the end of that song I’m done.

D: I’d say ‘Ashes’ or ‘Hillside’, both of those for me doing my guitar work and trying not to blow my vocals – especially on ashes. I’ve grown a lot from that; learning how to scream live and not blow my voice. Also doing the tapping work whilst singing was a challenge for me at first but now it’s like second nature.

J: I would say ‘Ashes’ as well for me because there are a lot of changes in which when we started playing it was really hard. Not really hard, but to this day, we sometimes forget when the modulations happen. So we’ll be halfway through a phase and forget and realise we need to change. But it’s also one of my favourites to play, when we play it live you can see people hyping up. We hit people in the face with this song.

 

What would you like to achieve through music?

E: I wanna rule the entire world.

D: I think, I want to touch people emotionally. When people hear our music I want them to think ‘that’s authentic I can totally relate to that and I feel that, like I’m personally going through something right now and your song helped me get through that’. Also, I’ve always wanted to tour. I’ve always wanted to do shows day after day, the most I’ve done is 3 days in a row and I want to basically go out on the road and play shows and connect with new people. You know, I think that’s the beautiful part of music; there’s a common ground. I can meet up and talk about music and when they hear your band if they are into it you can discuss the album. I just find that really rewarding, honestly.

E: I just want people to take away what they process from it, because everybody processes music differently so it’s like an extension of that. I want people to emotionally connect with our music but at the same time there’s no way to get everybody to connect with it the same way you do. Even the way he [Devin] writes the songs, I connect to them emotionally differently to the way he does and he does the same. For every single person, I think that’s the best part, is that our music is accessible enough to everybody to be able to associate it with their own experiences. That makes me happy because that’s all I really wanted. I just want people to kind of understand, in their own way, what our music means to them.

That is one of the coolest things about music, you go to any show and every person in that room is experiencing something different. There’ll be some people crying and others just there for a good show. Going to concerts is one of the best things, even if it’s a band you’ve never heard of.

E: I enjoy people that just buy tickets to go to shows, because they just want to see a show and I dig that. That’s something that our music scene doesn’t really have, people don’t really go to shows unless you know who’s going. Personally, I’ll just go to a show even if I don’t know any of those people playing. When you look at people in the crowd, it’s crazy to me – I’m big on people watching so I can just sit there and look at other people and try and create my own experiences for them in my head. When I see them, and you see them, like I go to a lot of high-energy shows, seeing a lot of people crowd-surfing and crying and finger-pointing and screaming the lyrics at the singers face at the same time. You look at the song and you’re not as connected to that, you create this sequence for why they’re so connected to that song, what makes them want to cry and climb all over people and scream? If I could go back to what I want through our music – I want that. That’s the only thing I could ever want; I want people to scream lyrics back in our faces.

D: And it’s slowly been kind of happening. You know, we’ll play our shows and people sing our songs back to us and I want to cry every time.

That is a pretty crazy thing though – those have to be moments that really stand out.

J: It’s still unbelievable to me, to this very day. It’s not weird it’s just astonishing. The first time we played in San Francisco people knew the lyrics to our songs, like those people live 500 miles away from us and it’s like living on another planet.

 

What is your earliest musical memory?

D: My first favourite bands were like Linkin Park and Metallica. I heard ‘Master of Puppets’ one time and it’s a good album, but I heard that as a young kid with long hair who wants to be a metal head. In my yearbook for fifth grade I remember mine said I wanted to be in a death metal band. That was like my first memory, knowing I could do this and the ‘School of Rock’ thing. I wanted to play guitar, and here I am, just in a very different light.

J: I remember when I was 3 or 4, my favourite movie, my grandad tells me this all the time and I remember a bit of it, my favourite movie to watch every day was ‘La Bamba’. Growing up in a Hispanic household, I would hear oldies like Ritchie Valens. Still to this day I listen to oldies. I remember being a little kid and trying to play a little toy guitar, we have videos of me trying to play it at a wedding reception.

E: For a little bit of Californian history, that’s everything for Californians. If you predate 1950 that’s California music, low-riders with Motown and oldies. That’s the culture, it’s a big melting pot so I think that’s something for all of us. I don’t know my earliest experience, what I can recall right now is seeing my dad’s friend’s band play. I was 7 or 8, it was the first time I had ever moshed because my Dad grabbed me and threw me into the pit and I was like okay cool. I just ran into it and came back out. I’m sure there are earlier ones, but I can’t remember them.

D: When I was younger, I used to dance to the Men In Black soundtrack.

 

What is your fondest musical memory? It doesn’t have to be something you’ve done as part of a project, it could just be an awesome show you went to.

J: I have 3 quick ones. One of the coolest things that we’ve ever done in this band was our album release show, where we completely packed out a tiny, tiny venue. There must have 60-70 people in this cramped venue and they were there to see us. That was the most amazing feeling, they were there to celebrate us releasing an album. I still can’t explain how happy I was playing that show, it was one of the best things ever. One of the best concerts I’ve ever seen was Paul McCartney in 2009, that was an amazing show and I saw Morrissey the night before him too; it was one of the greatest experiences of my life seeing these two oldies play fantastic music. And then when I was in drum core in 2013, I played in front of 10,000 people in a stadium. Just seeing 10,000 people is really weird, it’s a lot of people.

E: I agree with the ‘former self’ release show – I think we all do. But my other really good one that I really, really remember is every single time RCC perform because out here for some reason it’s a really famous drum line. The entire band is locally famous.

J: It’s like worldwide famous dude, it’s just very famous here.

E: Yeah, RCC’s drumline has been in like The Office and American Pie and a bunch of music videos, it’s a very well-known thing. Every time we would play at a high school as like the special guests, people would just be like screaming your names from the bleachers.

J: There’s like hundreds and hundreds of people.

E: At one show my high school band was there and they all, on the count of 3, yelled out my name, like there were like 150-200 kids there just to say ‘what’s up’ to me. That was awesome. There was a good 7000 people at that one.

D: I used to play in a cover band when I was in 8th grade and we played at the county fair. There were thousands of people watching me on stage. Then also seeing Tiny Moving Parts for the first time, because I was really into them. They played this little warehouse with Modern Baseball. It was when they were both really small bands. I had not known who Modern Baseball were, I was the only guy in the crowd freaking out for Tiny Moving Parts. There’s a video with me in it, I was the only one pointing and screaming out. It was a wonderful experience, you know, seeing your favourite band for the first time knowing that they’re so small. It’s kinda cool being that person who can say, I saw them when they were small. Seeing Modern Baseball was cool, everyone in that room was there for them.

 

Have you ever met an idol and freaked out?

E: Yes. When I met Tom DeLonge from Blink-182, I was like the Spongebob episode when he’s the glossed over Spongebob. He signed my shirt and said it was a cool shirt and I was like ‘thanks’ and he signed a bunch of my stuff. We talked for a minute about aliens and I was like ‘see you later’ as I walked away. He was great.

J: A folk singer I really like is Billy Bragg. He’s like everybody’s granddad. I met him on my 16th birthday, my step-dad and I love him a lot, we were meeting him and he was like this friendly old man who is very political. We own the same guitar and he said it was cool, he told us how to get his tone; like most guitar players hide their tone but he was sharing everything. I was trying to be cool, but my step-dad was fangirling really hard. My step-dad is basically all of our dads. It was just a really cool experience; he signed a poster.

D: I served the singer of Earth, Wind and Fire which is pretty cool.

J: The old drummer gets his hair cut the same place as I do.

E: Yeah, they all live in our town.

 

What would be your dream tour?

E: I joke about this all the time, but I say we’re the best band all the time; like I really do think we’re a good band and if you don’t believe in yourself then what are you doing. But, my dream tour would be  American Football headlining with Tiny Moving Parts as the mid-section and then You Blew It and then us.

D: That would be tight.

E:  We’d be playing big places, like 1,500-2000 capacity.

D: My dream tour is the one we’re doing this summer, our friends are planning something.

E: It’s going to be 18 days, going through half of the United States which is a lot.

J: I don’t know if I have a dream tour but I would love to play Reading Festival someday. People there are so muddy and getting down, there are thousands and thousands of people and flags and it just looks like fun. Festivals in the States are cool but no one gets that crazy at Coachella. Everyone’s on too much E, I need people going crazy.

People are usually so drunk and on so many drugs that they don’t care what’s playing as long as they can bounce along and sing it back.

J: As long as they remember the name, so they can look it up later that’s all I care about.

E: Yeah, I mean, I especially agree with that – playing a big festival. Because I grew up watching MTV World Stage, we’d just watch the pre-recorded concerts of Reading and Leeds and Live at Wembley Stadium.

 

In 5 years, where would you be ideally?

E: Hopefully we’ll be signed and playing with some bigger bands at larger venues. Tiny Moving Parts toured more than 2/3 of the entire year, so I mean that’s something I would want to do.

D: I have that same goal, we also have a pact that if we’re not doing anything in 5 years then we’ll break up.

E: Not even on bad terms, we’d just do something else.

 

Do you have any advice for any other aspiring musicians?

E: Quality over quantity. Don’t release a thousand tracks that are straight garbage, work a lot harder on your sound and refining yourselves as musicians. Make sure you work as a band, embrace your local community as a whole and be accepting of every single person.

D: Just do it. Don’t go out there and half-ass it. If you only want to play backyard parties then only play backyard parties but don’t be mad at yourself when nothing changes. Also, just practice, work on yourself as a musician. I used to play in this band and it wasn’t really going anywhere, I stayed for 6 years. I realised I could be a better guitar player and musician if I practised more and pushed myself.

J: If someone wants to get somewhere in a band, if you want to be taken seriously you have to show yourself seriously. I’m not saying you have to wear suits or be choreographed. But if you want people to check you out then give people proper warning before shows, have a good site, make decent flyers. It makes all the difference. If you are appealing and the music is there then people will be into it. If you drop a song and it’s only on DropBox through a link that’s not user-friendly then people won’t get it.

E: A really important thing is that you can’t hold yourself back because of what your family and other people think. You can always get another job, you’re expendable to that company. There’s nothing in your way, you just have to do it.

old-notes

Old Notes are not a band you want to miss out on, with their first effort ‘former self’ coming just months after this line-up got together these guys will only get better. Follow them on social media so you never miss a thing and if you can get out to see these guys whilst they’re on tour I highly recommend it. Keep showing them support and buy their album.

Twitter: @oldnotesband

Facebook: Old Notes

 

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