Whether it’s their work on Hembree or Noise FM, brothers Alex and Austin Ward have become known for their intensely catchy and dancing pop songs. Teaming up with CJ Calhoun (Bonzo Madrid, Cowboy Indian Bear) for their latest project, Scores, only brings these elements to the fore even more. Drawing inspiration from the “thrilling basslines, drums and heavy synthesizers of the music the trio experienced in clubs” on a “month-long trip through Europe”, Flight. 1 is dark and exciting. While Scores’s album isn’t due out until July 9, we’re excited to present the album’s latest video, “Broaden Out,” and to speak with the trio about how it all came about.
Field: Please tell me more about “the music the trio has experienced in clubs across Europe”. I have pictures of you three disappearing from German nightclubs, but suppose things could be slightly different?
Alexander: Well, you’re not far off. The three of us had talked for years about making music together, and we had also always wanted to backpack Europe. These two things kind of lined up. We were around Europe for a few weeks, and somewhere in there we ended up at a hostel in Berlin for a few nights. We were looking for really cheap accommodation, and I guess we neglected to read the fine print as unbeknownst to us the place we booked was classified as a ‘party hostel’. They were all young travelers in their late teens, early twenties, playing alcohol games, dancing in the lobby, and going bar crawls every night. We’re in our thirties, but damn it if we didn’t do our best to keep up. On our last night in Berlin, we had a full techno experience at an underground club called Tresor. It was as if we were sucked into a black hole. By the time we got out the next morning at 8am I think we had all aged a few years and had a few fine lines and wrinkles around our eyes which became the inspiration for one of the first. pieces we wrote, “Berlin Lines. “
JC: Yes for me I think in so many different bars and places we hung out during our stay I really enjoyed that the music could be part of the atmosphere, the conversation and the overall vibe of so many people. places we’ve been to, instead of just being relegated to background noise. I feel like we’ve done a good job of trying to create soundscapes and environments that allow people to fully immerse themselves in them and linger in them for a while, for better or for better. worst ! Sometimes I think the music can sound a little indulgent, but I feel like we’re trying to capture a specific vibe and sticking around there long enough for someone to completely get lost in that groove.
Austin: Every bar and club we went to across Europe had such a different musical flavor than American bars. It was as if every place we entered was designed to be a dance party. By the end of the trip we kept talking about how fun it would be to be in a dance group and play music designed for dancing, but with darker undertones. The Berlin dance club, Tresor, was really the last straw for us to commit to coming home and writing dark dance tunes. None of the music that night removed the dance pieces. It all had a very dark, almost sinister feel, disguised as a dance beat. This is what we wanted to do with Scores.
The dancing side is in every band you do, whether it’s The Noise FM, Scores or Hembree. What does CJ bring to the group?
Alexander: CJ, what do you bring to the band?
JC: Hah, that’s a really great question. I would say that I often tend to write in fairly simple song structures, and Alex and Austin tended to write more complicated and curvy song structures than is natural for me. So musically, I feel like I brought in a few areas, well I guess, hook, for lack of a better word. Vocally, if I was working on a song idea that started with them, I really enjoyed the challenge of trying to write something catchy to some of the chord progressions and ideas they gave me. sent. I felt like I had to really push myself to work to get the tunes where I wanted them and keep working in their progressions which was awesome. It definitely made me think about each turn more deeply and work harder for it. Plus I’m really proud of my lyrics on this album so I feel like I brought something there too! Come on guys.
Austin: The most enjoyable part of the project was combining our sensibilities and our musical tastes. Alex and I have always had an affection for catchy tracks, while CJ is such a strong songwriter that much of his music is more spacious and lyrical. So, combining CJ’s amazing melodies and sense for powerful lyrical content with more catchy, dancing music was fun from the start. The first demo we worked on together, which became “Alligators”, immediately set the bar high as to how we wanted to combine dance grooves with powerful melodies. As soon as we got CJ’s first demo after he got his vocal melodies, we knew this project would work out well. We left with a rather unique sounding album that really mixes our sensibilities.
Flight. 1 was recorded in a cabin in Fort Scott, which sounds as far as it gets from that style of music. Why record in such an unlikely place?
Alexander: The whole process of recording this album was different from how our other bands have operated. Austin, CJ, or I would have a fragment of an idea that we would record at home and then email to the other postal services for their input or to see if it sparks any inspiration. We went back and forth to send files to each other for a few years, not really knowing if anything would come out of it, but the songs kept evolving. Eventually we started to get excited about the idea of a full album, but we wanted to avoid the pressure of going into a “real” studio, because it always stresses me out. We wanted an environment where we could be fully immersed in creativity without worrying about budget constraints or time limits. My parents have a little cabin on the lake in Fort Scott, Kansas, and they let us convert it into a makeshift studio for a few weeks. We always refer (jokingly) to Incubus recording their Morning view record in a Malibu mansion overlooking the ocean as a dream recording scenario. A small cabin overlooking a small Kansas lake is even better.
Austin: This project was never meant to be anything but fun. When we finally decided to record some of the demos we had shared, we all agreed that it should be in a “completely safe space” where we could creatively do whatever we want and never judge or reject any. of our ideas. Our mate Greg Panciera was the producer and engineer of the 4 songs we recorded at the cabin and he was just as keen to record a project with no creative constraints. Every day in the booth was like a new day doing any weird song we wanted and that’s exactly what we did. 4 days, 4 songs.
JC: Yes, at that point it was a matter of unplugging and taking a few days to focus on nothing other than creating. From morning till night, we just tried ideas that ended up being half of this record, but when we went in we didn’t specifically plan to “make a record” necessarily. We had no idea if we would end up with something worth listening to, haha.
Austin has made the videos for all three singles so far. Where do you find inspiration for these visuals, like “Broaden Out” and “Talk Flood” really focus on faces?
Austin: The forced break from Covid at home really opened up my schedule to focus on the videos of all the songs. From the start, we wanted to treat this project less like a group and more like an artistic project. We’re all big movie buffs, so when we decided to release these songs to the world, we all agreed that we would like some sort of visual element to accompany each song. Covid put a lot of restrictions on what we could shoot, so I ended up diving into more trippy, psychedelic visuals using editing programs that I had rarely used before. We wanted the visuals to mimic the feeling we got in European clubs where you can’t see anything but pulsating lights and fog, but you can’t help but groove to the music even if you are a little bit at times. exceeded. Using faces for “Talk Flood” and “Broaden Out” was an easy way to anchor the video a bit more to keep the viewer following even if they started to feel overwhelmed by the intense colors and elements. trippy.
Hembree has a new album coming up, The Noise FM released a new single last summer, and now Scores. Is it pandemic productivity, or something else?
Alexander: This is more of a coincidence than due to pandemic productivity, because honestly, a huge chunk of the pandemic has been spent drinking wine and seeing Lost again. CJ, Austin, and I spent a lot more time playing Call of Duty online than working on anything creative. We’ve been sitting on this Scores record for a few years, trying to figure out what we want to do with it. Hembree already had a new record in the works for this year, and The Noise FM has about a record for material that has been on the shelves since before the pandemic. CJ has a full record ready for release under the name Bonzo Madrid. So there is a lot of music coming from our camp in the near future that was written before Covid. If the pandemic has done anything for us, it has reminded us not to be so precious to keep this music and wait for the perfect time to release it. We just have to post it, and people will find it and respond to it, or they won’t.
JC: Certainly not pandemic productivity for me. I can honestly say that throughout the pandemic I felt as uncreative as ever, really! But I love music and will definitely continue to do so in the long run. I have a second Bonzo Madrid album that’s in its final mixing phase, so I’ll have that to come out, and maybe some other Scores stuff on the road as well, who knows! I just invested in some new home recording equipment, so I can’t wait to tinker with that now… I totally agree with Alex, I feel a lot less valuable about keeping the records. I think the idea of doing things that we can be proud of and getting them out of is something that interests us all at this point.
Scores’ Flight. 1 comes out on Friday July 9. Find all the other singles of the group on Band Camp.