Hello I’m here with Wes from Deas Vail.
Thanks for taking some time, Wes.
We’re here at Cornerstone 2011, and there’s been a lot of new things going on with the band since the last time we saw you. First things first, there’s a new drummer.
There is. He’s got a good name. His name is Wes, so there’s two Wes’s in the band now. Kelsey is back in school, getting married in October, so he’s got other things going on – just something he needed to do, needed a change in his life and stuff, so we parted ways. End of story, there’s really nothing more to it, it was a really really easy transition. He just needed to do it, and we were like, go for it, do it! Change is awesome sometimes, we’re not worried about it at all, and then Wes just kinda jumped right in.
You’ve got the new record coming out.
September 6. We’re really excited about it. And Kelsey did record the album, so it’s like his last project with us.
What are you excited about with the new album?
We co-produced it with Matt Hoopes from Relient K. He’s just been a good friend of ours for a long time. He’s never produced albums before, but he just understood where our vision was for the new songs, and was like, I can get you guys into a studio and I think I can make this work really well, so we agreed. There wasn’t really anybody else that understood what we wanted to do.
And what we wanted to do was capture more of our live sound. We’ve tried to do that before, we tried to do that with Birds & Cages, and we got closer but it wasn’t there yet. And I felt like this album is definitely closer than we’ve ever been. We were really careful, it’s so easy for us when we get into the studio to start putting in more than we need to – start putting in more guitar tracks, strings, or auxiliary percussion, or three piano parts, you know – you have that freedom in the studio, and I think Birds & Cages taught us how to not do that as much. So with this one, we didn’t. So what you hear on the album is what we’re playing, and there’s not really a whole lot more to it, not a whole lot of polish to it, it’s just kinda there, and it is what it is.
So that was our approach to recording. I think we did a really good job of capturing that energy, and we learned a lot because we got to be a lot more involved in the production end of things.
I noticed you’re playing some acoustic guitar, and you used to have a second keyboard. Any specific reason?
I just love to change it up, and we just needed to. We used to use tracks as well, and with Wes coming in, it was just a good time to drop the tracks – he plays with a click but it’s loose, it’s kinda secondary… it’s a lot more free now than it’s ever been. There’s an acoustic track on the new album. We’ve been writing new versions of stuff. When we started the band we started playing songs that were solo songs that I had written. So we started doing that and then we started writing together, but I kept playing the acoustic. So for a couple years at the beginning of the band I was playing guitar. We dropped it and I was playing piano for the bulk of our career, and now it’s kinda like, let’s pick it up again. It’s just fun. It helps me grow as a musician too – I’m so nervous, playing that acoustic track night I was so scared. I think it’s good for me and hopefully it adds to the sound we’re going for.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see Dan Smith. Is he on the album?
No, we asked him to do it today. He had never even heard the song before. We sat in the van, and he did this part for us in the van. We talked about the lyric and what the song was about – the song’s called “Quiet Like Sirens” and it’s about this sneaky, brooding monster slowly overtaking something or something, the monster being like addictions or anything that’s captivating in a negative way and it’s kinda holding something down, so it’s calling that out a little bit. The lyrics are kinda haunting a little bit. So we talked about that, and he had a piece from some of his music that fit, so he tried it. He had something prepared, and he’d never heard the song before, jumped in the van, and it fit measure to measure, perfect fit, so we ran with it. Did you record that by any chance? Good, cuz I don’t what it sounds like. [Watch the whole song]
Did you write these songs more thinking about the music, or were there certain messages you wanted to get across in the lyrics?
I didn’t have plans. We had 27 songs going in, so we had way too many ideas. So in pre-production we just had to whittle away a lot of stuff. And that changes the lyric a lot when you do that. When you have 27 ideas, a lot of times you love one part of a song, so you try to make that useful in another song if you can. The lyrics generally come last, and for this album I tried really hard to stick with the songs lyrically that wrote themselves and kinda showed me what they were about as they were written. Those tend to be different – not always better, just different – and they fit what we were doing musically better, for some reason, in my mind. I don’t know if that makes sense on the outside or if it works for people, I have no idea, but those songs that kinda fell in my lap or we were there and caught them. Sometimes you feel like you’re trying to write songs and you can’t, and then you’re trying to write songs and they write themselves. Or, you sweat them out, and either sweating them out, or songs that write themselves, they can be equally good. Sometimes working on a song for months really does make a better song. But on this project I really wanted to be songs that their own thing, that I was discovering as well, kinda fun that way.
Is there anything else you wanted to say about the new album?
No. [laughs] This album – I’m so excited about, I feel like it’s really special to me. There’s a few tracks that are really special to me. The involvement we had in the project was above and beyond what most people get to do, when they’re working with record labels and managers and producers and stuff like that with their fingerprints on it. This is a really personal project for us, and a step in a direction we’re really proud of.
On Birds & Cages, the last track “Atlantis,” sometimes I felt like that song was almost a metaphor for the band, like you had this message you’re trying to get out to the surface…
That’s a metaphor for anybody that has something to share. I started something there that I continue with on the new album in September. I started writing with a more fictional storytelling… it’s pretty vague actually, it’s not a good storytelling song, but it is like a fiction kind of thing – it’s not about something that happened to me. It’s literally about the city of Atlantis being in this globe under the water that nobody knows about but there are people there, and they know about us, and they’re trying to get our attention because they have something special to share with us. And that is a metaphor for a lot of things in life. People have so much that they don’t realize they can share with people, they just need the opportunity, or they need the support, whatever it might be, for them to get that out. I think God puts things in us that we have no idea how important it is, in every person. And sometimes it’s really hard to discover that – or maybe you don’t, and it just happens and you don’t even know it. That’s kinda where “Atlantis” comes from.
Thinking about where the band is at right now, has it been what you expected?
Deas Vail has never been what I expected, ever. We started the band and it was, like I said, doing solo stuff, friends getting together and playing music for fun in college. We played a few shows, and all of a sudden we were doing a recording. The response was good, so we kept doing it, and we just haven’t stopped. It’s become something we never expected it to and it continues to do that. When we started playing Cornerstone, we were playing a generator stage for ten people, maybe, that were just people walking by that would stop and listen. Today we got to play for a packed tent at the Gallery Stage, and we were invited here, and we have an agent that booked us, I mean, it’s like, what? How did that happen to a little band from Arkansas? I have no idea. We’re just doing what we love to do. Somehow it turned into something we get to do all the time. So I try really hard not to take it for granted because it’s special. There are hundreds if not thousands of people that would love the chance to do it, I try not to forget that. I’m just really honored to be able to experience life this way right now.
Do you guys have jobs at home or do you just work on writing?
For the past few years we’ve doing the band full-time. We toured a lot for Birds & Cages.
Owl City tour…
Copeland, Mae, Lydia, Warped Tour.. it was just a bunch of stuff. So we had been on a break for seven or eight months, and we hadn’t really been generating a lot because we hadn’t been working, so we’ve been doing other stuff. I’ve been teaching piano and guitar at a music school, which has been really interesting, and Laura has been working at a restaurant in downtown Nashville booking special events. We’ve been really blessed – Laura and I just moved to Nashville in September, we relocated there, and that’s been really cool.
Are the other guys still in Arkansas?
Andy and [his wife] Kristy are in Arkansas. Justin is in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Wes is in Gainesville, Florida. We are all over the place right now.
Does that make it more complicated…
It’s a new challenge, it’s just a different challenge. Life changes, you have to change with it. If you’re gonna stay a band, you have to be flexible. If you’re not, it just doesn’t work.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to the world?
Keep an eye out for that album, September 6. We’re really excited about it.
Self-titled… Deas Vail… We are doing vinyl as well. I love vinyl…
I just bought my first vinyl.
I just picked up Mumford & Sons yesterday…