“The money isn’t there anymore, which means there’s no more support for artist development, which means we’ll probably be spoon fed Taylor Swift and Kayne clones until it all burns to the ground.”
-Noiseheads frontman Nick Gray, on the current state of the music industry
Alternative Nation recently had the opportunity to interview the vocalist/guitarist for Noiseheads, Nick Gray. Nick was a very insightful and very loyal interview. And “loyal” is said because after starting the interview at 8:30 PM we ended just before 4:30 AM. Interruptions in our daily lives (particularly mine) caused this interview to be spread sporadically over several hours, however in the end, we discussed numerous topics including the current state of the music industry, the new Noiseheads album, the rumor that Scott Stapp will be fronting Stone Temple Pilots, Radiohead’s unique approach to promoting their new album, North Carolina’s HB2 law, and Nick’s message on the difficulties of a do it yourself (DIY) band in today’s music industry.
AN: Scott Stapp has hinted he got the Stone Temple Pilots singer gig that you tried out for. Do you have an opinion on this?
NG: I’m glad STP came out to debunk that one because I think whole world was puzzled for a bit (Laughs).
AN: Yes (Laughs). Actually, I just read its now been confirmed he is working with Scott Weiland’s former band Art of Anarchy. But now to a bigger question, how is that new Noiseheads album coming along?
NG: It’s coming along great. Right now, I’d say it’s about 50% finished. Drums and guitar are mostly done, some vocals as well. Don’t have a release date in mind yet, but I anticipate us being finished before the pre-order is up.
AN: That’s great. I know quite a few people who are really looking forward to it. How would you describe the sound of the new material?
NG: Those who have listened to our last release shouldn’t be surprised, as I think that was sort of the transition between our debut album and this one, which was done intentionally to help us start fresh for the follow-up to “1994.” I will say that it’s a lot more dynamic and diverse in style, more so than anything we’ve released to date. There’s one track that’s just piano and vocals. I think the goal was to showcase what the band is capable of while still being 100% Noiseheads. But for those that like our heavier material, there are tracks that will absolutely satisfy that. There is a sense of aggression to all of it that hopefully people will pick up on and connect with.
AN: It’s always good to branch out. It sounds like the record is coming along very nicely. What was the purpose for the move to North Carolina? Was it a smooth transition? Did it hinder the recording effort?
NG: At the moment, two of us are living in NC and the other is living in FL still, so we’ve had to work on this long distance. The bassist, Joe, and I moved up to NC for different reasons but were somewhat work related. I wouldn’t say it’s been smooth (laughs), but it’s been interesting for sure. Things haven’t really worked out the way I thought they would, but ironically, we probably wouldn’t even be working on a new album had it not turned out the way it did. So, there’s that I guess.
AN: Now with being a resident of North Carolina, what are your opinions on bands like Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen canceling shows in response to the HB2 law?
NG: I’ll admit to not being as educated as I should be on it. However, from my understanding of what cancelling events like that does to the local and state economy, I get why they did it. I just hope they make it up to all of their NC fans one day soon.
AN: Yes I agree. Mumford and Sons actually donated all their proceeds from their North Carolina concerts to local LBGT organizations which would could have been another option for them, but I think cancelling outright was a much stronger protest, but it really sucks for the fans that bought plane tickets to the concert. Those tickets probably could have not been refunded on such short notice.
Speaking of big, rich rock bands that can afford to cancel a huge gig, coming from a DIY band such as yourselves, what are your thoughts about the current state of the music industry?
NG: It sucks! I mean, it’s so disjointed and disconnected from its audience that bands like us really have no chance of ever breaking through from here on out, unless something dramatically changes. Otherwise, it’s just a self-serving cycle of homogenized artists that are perfectly calculated to squeeze what’s left out of its consumer base. There are some exceptions to that rule, of course, but the truth is: the money isn’t there anymore, which means there’s no more support for artist development, which means we’ll probably be spoon fed Taylor Swift and Kayne clones until it all burns to the ground.
The Internet provides a platform for artists like us to be heard but because literally ANYONE can utilize it, without any sort of filter or curator there to sift through the good/bad, most of what’s uploaded is doomed to be lost in the mist of everything that suffocates it.
It’s been around long enough for websites like Reverbnation and Sonicbids to take advantage of aspiring artists by making them pay a subscription fee (and an extra submission fee, in many cases) just to apply for ultimately useless opportunities of “exposure,” all at the expense of the musician.
So, for a DIY band, you’re only option is to raise enough money to pay for a publicist to help submit your music for review to publications or blogs. In that instance, you get what you pay for, so if you don’t have the money, don’t expect much from the results. It’s why you see so many bands including major groups like Weezer or Filter try to fundraise for their release.
In our case, we have no money, hence why we’re doing a pre-order campaign to help us with the costs. It’s sort of a catch 22 in the sense that you need money to increase exposure, but you need exposure in order to gain a fan base that would maybe be interested in supporting you. Back when the music industry was at its peak, labels gave advances to bands to work with the big name producer, pay for the marketing and radio promo, pay for the touring, in hopes to recoup through album and ticket sales. Now, the power is in the hands of the artist and their audience but with certain limitations, but I don’t think the casual listener is even aware of how it all works in today’s world. Some artists are able to make it work for them by playing covers on YouTube or having some entertaining schtick that goes viral, but for bands like us, it’s tough trying to figure out what to do. We cut costs by doing everything ourselves: producing, recording, making our own videos, doing our own PR, setting up our own tours, etc., but we’ve kind of hit a point where besides just releasing new music, we’re kind of stuck.
A band like Radiohead can afford to just erase their presence on the web because press will continue to report everything they do because, you know, it’s fucking Radiohead, but for a band like us, erasing our presence online would be suicide. We would have nothing.
AN: Yes, I’ve noticed since I starting reporting for Alternative Nation just how difficult it is to get the promotion many great bands deserve in today’s music world. It seems a band has to be already widely popular to even be able to continue in today’s music scene. And there so many great underground bands out there!
NG: Exactly, and I mean we’re talking about the most sought out career in the world, so by no means am I saying it should be easier. I just hope that newer bands that really put in the work to make great music can at least have their chance. Having the silly video of the week is one thing, but we have to get back to truly appreciating artists who make music for the sake of the music.
AN: Speaking of other bands, what bands are you guys currently listening to? Are there any great up and coming bands you would recommend to your fans, or maybe some band’s that inspires you to continue writing music?
NG: There are many new groups that I wish everyone knew about. False Pterodactyl out of West Virginia is a band we brought on tour with us last year who killed it every night, and they’ve got some amazingly innovative songs. I describe them to people as a heavier version of the Presidents of the United States of America but with an acoustic. Their singer/guitarist plays the shit out of an acoustic plugged up to 3 different amps that creates the sickest sound. Fantastic drummer, too.
The Black Clouds have been around for a while, but they’re getting ready to release their latest album FINALLY, which features Mudhoney’s Mark Arm on it. A great album and super cool guys who asked us to play with them on tour last year. Their singer Dan cooks some killer burgers (laughs).
I also just got through producing an EP for my buddy Malkasian, which should be released sometime soon. I play drums and a few other instruments on the record, and sing with him on one of the tracks. No one knows hardly knows about him yet, but I swear he will be our generation’s The Grateful Dead or Dave Matthews Band, his songs are poised for that kind of jam band mentality that inspires legions of followers. He’s the real deal.
There are also many groups who are fans of Noiseheads that have in turn influenced me to continue doing what I do. Hearing someone say that our music has meant something to them is the single greatest feeling an artist can have, and it’s definitely what keeps me going.
AN: Your unplugged show from last year featured some great stripped down versions of many of my favorite tracks from you guys. Any thought of doing that again and incorporating some tracks from the new album?
NG: I’d love to do something like that again and maybe even go bigger with it. It was a lot of work, and we put a lot of time into making it happen but it was definitely worth it. I’m proud to say that we’re one of the few newer groups that’ve had the opportunity to do something like that, and I think it showed a different side of Noiseheads, and our track “Friend” will be on the new album.
AN: Great! Anything else you would like your fans and our readers to know?
NG: My only hope is that people realize how much power they have to influence their own culture, and I encourage any true music lover to find one new group each month, week, or day and give them some support. It’s so easy to take music for granted in the digital world. Seeing what seems to be an abundance of musical legends pass over the last year has really had an effect on me as an artist. I feel a responsibility to pick up where they left off, in a sense, and keep going, as every artist should. Life’s too short to not embrace art and the artists we have here with us. Don’t take it for granted!
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