I had the awesome opportunity to speak with the members of Philly based rock band The Escape. After taking two years off, the band are back with a fresh sound and spirit, which you can hear elegantly captured in their new effort "New Direction". Check out the in-depth interview below.
1) How did The Escape begin? How long have you been around?
We began around 2010 or so. We were a band before that, playing in different configurations, we played with different people. But in 2010, we kind of put the band aside, threw away all of our material and began writing again. So in 2010, we began with this lineup. Me, Josh, Steve, and Mike, and then Mike a guitar player who plays live with us.
2) I read that you guys took the past two years off to rediscover yourselves. Rediscover yourselves musically, or as people?
The main time off was to figure ourselves out musically. But I think along the way, we wanted to reinvent ourselves, if you will. During that time though, we did find ourselves on a more personal level.
The record title “New Direction” really sort of speaks to that. We’re in a new direction personally, musically, everything like that. There was some personal relationship stuff going on. We also had another member who we had let go in June of 2010. That was a big thing because he had been with the band for a long time. He was more of our friend, and it was one of those things where we had to be “we don’t think you should do this with us anymore” and it wasn’t working. That’s kind of where that two years was.
3) Now that you guys have returned and taken some time off, how would you say that time off has played into the creation of your new music?
I think that when you are hitting a wall creatively, and having personal issues with members in the band, and when you step back like we did for two years, you can really see the picture from the outside and evaluate what you were doing. It’s so much easier when you’re not so close to your problems. You can see the picture better and go “I now see that this is an issue”. You can see your vision a lot more than a step back. We wrote about 60 songs, it was ridiculous.
When we took two years off, it wasn’t really two years off of being a band. It was two years off of being out in public. We were together all the time. There were times when were together about five to six days a week, writing music and trying to find our sound. When writing, there was a lot of crap. There was a lot of stuff that we went through where we said “This is not us. This is not the direction that we want to go.” We are not Modest Mouse (laughs).
4) When and where was “New Direction” recorded? How long was that process once you guys decided to pick up your instruments and get back at it again?
It was definitely a grueling process. It was a lot of choices. We do a lot of recording ourselves. There was a lot of demoing that went on. We widdled down songs, and got a lot of feedback from people that we knew in the music industry. It was a continual process. We recorded one song in Colorado, so we were sifting through songs to pick the one we’d record out there. It took longer for us to find that single, because it was going to define the rest of the record.
5)What made you guys choose Colorado out of any place to record the single?
We chose Phil Stevenson to be the producer. Phil is based out of Fort Collins. He’s done the new As I Lay Dying record, he did the new Alkaline Trio record, he’s a really awesome dude. The people we were working with recommended him. It was really cool.
6)How would you say that all the new songs on “New Direction” are different than the previous music that you put out? It says that you guys “cleaned the slate”, so to speak.
Musically, the older stuff we had we loved playing. Before, it was more like controlled chaos. Not that we didn’t play it well or do it well, but listening back there weren’t many hooks that you can grab onto. There wasn’t enough for us as musicians, I guess you could say. We’ve had great support over the past few years from fans. But we felt we could be hookier, catchier, and more cohesive as a band. Before, we had a writing machine that consisted of me and our other guitar player. He’s a great writer. It just didn’t work out with me and him though. We’d be writing on different pages. The songs would end up coming out as two stories. This time around, we really focused on lyrics. Josh started writing and Mike, our drummer, started writing on the record this time. We collaborated to really just put down everything you hear on this record. We’ve all kind of gone through the same stuff but through different avenues in life. We would all work well together.
This is the first time that we as a band have done a cohesive thing from top to bottom. Everything ties in with the record; the art ties in with the record. It’s tough; it’s hard to have four dudes who all have different concepts floating around. It’s hard to get all of the lyrics to tie in together, all of the artwork to tie into the lyrics, the name of the record. I think this record is a huge step forward for us because everything is very to the point. Our songs are much more concise. The lyrics are much more concise as well. The theme of this recording session was the song “Somebody That I Used To Know”. It was really getting to the point, finding the best way to say it as possible. The vocals are much more consistent, and they repeat themselves. We tried to maximize the vocal hooks. One of the strengths of our band was always able to turn a really good chorus, but our verses were all over the place, throwing stuff where we could get it in.
7)Where do you take inspiration from musically?
I can reel off a couple bands that everyone likes, like Bayside, Brand New, Foo Fighters. I could cite artists like Dave Grohl and Bruno Mars. Really vocally acceptable, but hard hitting, like the rock band that we are.
Yeah, I mean we would listen to the Top 50 and try to get ideas. Sometimes we’d want to shoot ourselves (laughs) and sometimes we’d get what people like about that. But Mike and I are really into Phil Collins, Huey Louis and the News, that really poppy 80s stuff. I think Adele’s great. There’s a lot of great solo artists out there. Even though they don’t pertain to your writing, they’re still doing it right. Billy Joel, man. To us, a good song is a good song. I may not like the artist, but a good song is a good song.
8)Who writes the lyrics? Were there any particular songwriters you take inspiration from lyrically?
This time around, it was a little different. I would write a lyrical idea, and then Josh and I would try and feed off each other, Mike would chime in with his lyrical sense. We wrote a lot of these lyrics together as a band. We sat in the basement and wrote. We’re all good friends, so it was easy to write lyrics together, while being very difficult, if that makes sense. A lot of it was about relationships that we were going through in our lives. Some of it had to deal with the departure of a member in the band. We’re still great friends with him now, we always have been. Instead of trying to write a million metaphors like we used to, we tried to put ourselves out there.
9)What kind of message would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
Things in life can get really fucked up. I think the main theme of this record is to step back in your life and re-evaluate the stuff that you’re doing, and who you’re doing it with, and then stepping up above the stuff that sucks and running with the stuff that’s really good.
I mean, things go wrong in your life sometimes, but know what’s worth fighting and know what’s worth letting go. In some of the hardest decisions, you are feeling those two things, figuring out where you want to be and what place you want to be in. I think the whole theme of the record is not losing hope in that. Fighting through that and trying to make yourself happier and a better person.
10)What are the future plans for you guys right now?
We just shot a single for our video “Pain You Put Me Through”. (Check it out here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXeV4GVVbvY&feature=c4-overview&list=UU1Q1Obk4YFS3_2gaXR69D0g) We’ll be playing more and more shows. We’ve playing Philly trying to build our audience out here, and we’ll probably be playing along the Eastern seaboard as well, New York, Connecticut, Baltimore, all that fun stuff. We have an unreleased acoustic song that we have in the works. We’re also writing some new material. We’re actually sitting with guitars in hand working on it right now.
Keep up to date on all of the new music and news from The Escape by checking out their website at www.theescape.net, and www.facebook.com/homeoftheescape. "New Direction" is available now.