You Me And Everyone We Know - interview "From The Vault"

I'd like to share this great interview with everyone here. This interview I had with Ben Liebsch, the man behind You Me And Everyone We Know, occurred on June 1, 2013 in Cupertino, CA. By the time that I had gotten back from a tour and conducted several other interviews throughout the month of June, I had to fix my computer's busted hard drive, which would finally allow me to fix the videos that I couldn't access. Right?

Well, no. The video file became corrupted due to the faulty hard drive, leaving me with a video in iPhoto. Which was great, but I had an immense amount of problems uploading it to YouTube. This was one of my favorite interviews of the year, so I wanted to make sure that everyone had a chance to check this out. I transcribed the audio from the interview, and here it is. Check out this great interview with Ben below!

What’s it been like working as a one-man project as opposed to a full band?

I’ve written a larger majority of the structure of the songs for the band in the past, so it’s really been interesting filling in the holes, for the most part. Like, getting it to 90% and then taking it to Trevor, the engineer that we work with to finish it. It’s been really cool though. I think I’m very much comfortable with the genre and the sound that I have, and I know what I want to do with that, so I’m very much able to focus on that without any problems.

Where did the EP title “I Wish More People Gave A Shit” come from?

Bradley Walden (ex-Squid The Whale) randomly tweeted that phrase one night, and it struck a chord with me differently than I assumed he meant. I had been starting to sort of grasp a new direction, lyrically. I always cared about a lot of social justice issues and various environmental issues, and problems with civilization. That phrase struck a chord with me. I wish more people gave a shit about these things. I thought it was also funny because if I left it up to no explanation until the record came out, it would sound like a 28-year old guy saying “the scene is dead!”. You know, like that record you write right before your band breaks up because no one is coming to your shows. I had a lot of fun with that three weeks (laughs). It’s about a lot of these things that I wish more people cared about. The phrase “I wish more people gave a shit” causes two things in your head; the first being “do I give a shit?” and if the answer is no, then you’re just gonna keep doing what you’re doing. But if you do care, then you have to ask yourself what it is that you care about. That’s a conversation starter, and that’s where it all begins.

How would you say that, besides band member changes, the material on the new EP is different from any of You Me and Everyone We Know’s previous work?

Lyrically, it’s centered far more around global socio-economic issues. I wouldn’t call it political because what I’m singing about isn’t really debate. They’re just facts. These aren’t my opinions; these are facts about things that are actually happening. I think I made some songs that I didn’t need to compromise on, as far as toning down on anything or having someone say “These songs sound too much like this or that.” I was just able to make them. We went in, did them in five days, and said “these sound great.” It was a very casual experience, while getting it done as fast as possible. These songs occurred as they did; we didn’t overthink them or anything.

How did the writing process for the EP go?

I had about a song and half written out of the four songs when we started. I had seven or eight ideas, just riffs and things. Then Trevor, the guy who I’ve recorded a lot with over the years, informed me that he was moving to California for a year. I told him, “well let’s record an EP once you get out there!” He said, “that’d be great! But what if we did one beforehand?” and I said “Perfect!” I asked him when we had to do it, and he said in two and a half weeks. So I buckled down and I wrote it all out. It came out really well. Once I had that deadline, the stuff that I had been messing around with just came together so fast. I was sending the lyrics off to guys that have known the band forever, asking for advice, because I’d only really written about myself in terms of drinking, depression, extremely autobiographical lyrics. And while this still is autobiographical, it relates directly to a lot more people. I wasn’t sure if I was onto anything, but I was reassured that I was, and I felt that it came out really well. Some of the songs like “Better Man” came together for the most part in the studio. We were done with all of the instruments and I thought “I need to write a chorus really quick,” so I went into the back room and spent about three minutes writing the chorus.

There’s clearly a huge pop-punk influence in the songs. But where do your musical influences stem from?

It’s really weird; I’d never thought about it until last week. It’s a weird mix between Andrew W.K., Bob Seger, Strike Anywhere, and Jackie Wilson. And Saves The Day’s “Through Being Cool” era, and Say Anything. I’m really into old Motown stuff. I’m really into punk music. But as it goes, you will always be a watered down version of your idols. And when you attempt to be exactly like your idols, those are the records where the artists always sound like they’re trying too hard. Where you’re trying to be your idols, rather than accepting that you’re a watered down version of them. I’ve accepted that, and I’m cool with being in that pool. (laughs).

Where was your mind lyrically when you were writing the EP this time around?

Once I got sober, there were issues that I found that I cared about. Social justice things like ending rape culture, destroying the land base, our water supply, all of these things. But I’ve felt kind of powerless in it. I did a lot of reading on veganism and all of these other environmental issues and economic things. It’s a long list of things. People will say “what’s your one issue that you care about?” and I’m just like, “Where the hell do you even start?” Frankly, I think rape culture is it. I think until we figure out that, we’re not going to figure out the rest of it. Patriarchy was an invention. Every species survives interlocking through cooperation rather than competition. Consent and equality is inherent to the survival of our species. If it was about competition, all that cavemen would have done is hold the women down and impregnate her, but then you’d have to fucking make sure she doesn’t kill herself out of the depression that she knows something like that was taken, or terminate the child. It’s just… consent is so much easier! Until people figure that out, we can’t even begin to address any environmental problems or anything of that nature.

I think I was finally able to articulate it. Before, I was drowning in alcohol before. There were mentions of it, like a line or two of it in the old stuff, but I just didn’t know how to word any of it. I think all of the reading I did over the last couple of years really helped me understand it, because you write what you know.

And I mean, I don’t know everything. I’m an idiot compared to the people that I read (laughs).

What did you read?

I read a lot of Derrick Jensen in the last year.  He’s a big anti-civilization guy. Edward Abbey was one of the first people I read. He wrote Desert Solitaire. He was a very reluctant environmentalist. A lot of classic books like by Michael Pollan, and Eric Schlosser who wrote Fast Food Nation. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. A lot of stuff like that. Stepping stones that all led me to this position of understanding of why we’re fucked (laughs) and what we need to do about it. Al Gore had this incredible quote, oh my god! He was talking about the debate of the elections shortly after the two Supreme Court Justices were like “we think we might have made a mistake with the whole Bush/Gore thing”. Someone asked him about it, and he said something along the lines of “look, there’s no intermediate step between a Supreme Court ruling and a violent revolution.”

It’s to the point where I don’t know if I’m going to be able to write about anything else! It’s stuff that you can’t ignore. But I’m still part of the problem as much as anyone else, but I’m doing the best that I can.

What is the song “The Big Mistake” specifically about? What is the big mistake that you are referring to throughout the song?

The big mistake is buying into the idea and system of our culture in general. I kind of go through a laundry list of things that are wrong and all of the hypocrisies in our country.

What kind of message would you like fans and listeners to walk away with after listening to your music?

A)   you’re not alone in anything that you think is wrong, anything that you think is wrong with you or the world. There are people out there just like you that also think that. They deal with the same things; dependency, depression, things like that. B) While you may feel around in the dark for awhile, with a lot of stuff like that, there are other people out there. There are ways to connect with other people who care about things. It’s very important to care about something and to affect some sort of positive change. We live a life where everything is about ourselves. But while you pay attention to yourself, you’ve got to pay attention to what’s coming down the line. Be good with each other; we’re all in this together.

Well thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, man.

Thank you for caring enough to want to interview me. Thank you for giving a shit! (laughs).

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