Watching a live band that can completely go nuts is always a memorable experience, and a band like The Ongoing Concept is a prime example of this. The band finished up a tour with Norma Jean that concluded this past fall (when the interview was originally conducted), and I got a chance to speak with Dawson Scholz (guitar) and Kyle Scholz (vocals) about their chaotic live show, why they decide to make an album with entirely handmade instruments, and much more.
Let’s talk a little bit about Handmade. How was the writing process for this record different in comparison to an album like Saloon?
Dawson: With Saloon, we were trying to write something that was crazy and different, not really mature, I guess? Handmade was much more of a structured album, where I wanted to have verses and choruses, something that was more structured and matured throughout the entire record, and not just crazy. Saloon wasn’t a mess, but it was like a crazy, kind of “this is us in every way” overboard [record], if that makes sense? Handmade was who we are if we took the time to write good quality songs. Plus, we were obviously writing stuff with the whole “hand made “concept, with instruments that we had built. I wanted to bring a “real” type sound to the mix, so a lot of those songs are trying to showcase a lot of real elements. We didn’t want to sample all of our drums, or make things super fake sounding, so I tried to really make things sound real.
What does the album artwork represent for the tone of the album? It intrigued me.
Dawson: I feel like it was a good way to just showcase, promote and explain the entire record in a single picture. It involves all of us [in the album artwork]. Kyle’s cutting down a tree, which is what we did to make the record. It’s not the tree [pictured] that we used to make the instruments, but we wanted to literally wanted to explain “hand made” in a single piece of album artwork.
I thought that was one of the craziest things to hear about you guys with the making of this record. Who even came up with that idea?
It was kind of a collective idea. I had thought of it a long time ago, in probably early 2014. I was thinking of new concepts for the album. I ran it by the label, and our management, and they were all super stoked on it. It just seemed super unattainable and unrealistic at the time. It’s so much work to make that even happen. It was kind of one of those wishful thinking situations.
At the same time though, I thought it would make the record so much cooler. If it seems like it’s unrealistic at the time, it’s probably a really good idea…if that makes sense. I explained it to everybody, and they said “that’s crazy, but if it did happen that would be the coolest thing.” We just ran with that. Collectively, over time, it ended up becoming an actual reality.
How long did it take to craft the instruments?
Kyle: Well, I didn’t really spend every waking moment on it. We had a couple of tours in between. In full, I’d say about a month, eight hour days for a month straight, which drug out over four months because of all of the other stuff that we were doing. It was a long time to get it all figured out.
From hearing the music on both of the records, and also from something that I had read from you guys, it really seems like you write what you want, and whatever comes out, comes out. Even with the more direct approach you took on the album. When you started the band, was that an approach that was decided consciously, or did that come later?
Dawson: That’s always been a thing. We just never really felt like our band was stuck to a single style or genre. It was always open ended and at any point could completely change if we wanted it to. I think with that mindset in hand, it kind of just makes your song really not have any boundaries. I never really look at a song and go “that’s too much ‘this’”. I just go, “hey, this is cool.” It is what it is. It’s kind of hard to explain. But we’ve never been stuck to a certain genre or style.
What kind of message, if you have one, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
Dawson: That’s a hard one. Hmm.
Kyle: That’s actually kind of a two-sided question. Lyrically, anyone could take anything a certain way. I wouldn’t say that I would try to force a certain message upon anyone with the lyrics or the music itself. With our live show, though, I feel like we just want to have fun. We don’t take anything seriously, and we hope that you have a laugh and a good time. I don’t know what people necessarily take from us musically, but hopefully with our live show, they have fun and want to come see us again.
What does music mean to you?
Dawson: Music to me, now, is a job. Funny, I don’t really listen to music anymore, that much. I think music has always been something that is a captivating and emotional thing, but for a band, it’s a job and a business. It’s a totally different side. When people talk about, “oh you should come to a show!” when you get home from tour, it’s like…imagine if you were working at Domino’s Pizza, and someone says, “dude, you should come to Domino’s and have a pizza!” Like, why would you ever want to come back to have a pizza that you’ve already had? (laughs) Music, to me, is a job now, and I don’t want to go back to it when I’m not doing it. It’s a business, but at the same time, you have to understand what is captivating and what influences you. So music is still something that is emotional to me. If it wasn’t, I would not be able to create any music. It’s just a different way of looking at it.
Kyle: I don’t necessarily listen to a lot of music all the time. I know that people always have their headphones in; I don’t really do that though, but I don’t know. For me, playing live is the most fun. When we don’t play a show for awhile, I kind of get antsy. It’s really fun to just be on tour for the sake of playing a live show, because you get to have fun with all of these people. Music for me, I guess, would be playing a live show, but then again I don’t really go to live shows myself, so I really just enjoying being out there with everyone and doing that.
For more music from The Ongoing Concept, visit www.facebook.com/theongoingconcept
This has been another Shameless Promotion.