Philadelphia is home to many things, including a burgeoning music scene. It's one of the few cities in the United States, much like New York and San Francisco, that is coming alive with new talent and musicians of various genres. "Neighbor rock" is one of these genres that's making its way into the world, thanks to a Philadelphia-based trio by the name of Up The Chain.
I recently sat down to chat with all of three members of the band (via phone) to talk about a number of things, the most notable being the release of their upcoming EP, Windows Into Worlds (available April 21). Check out the interview below with Reed Kendall (guitar/vocals), Noah Skaroff (bass guitar/backing vocals), and Kirby Sybert (drums).
First off, how did you guys get started?
Reed: It started about a year ago. The band used to be something completely different. It was a rotating cast of a bunch of people. About a year ago, it made sense to change the dynamic a little bit. Kirby and Noah were both musicians around town that had been in bands previously that I had known about. I just asked them if they wanted to get together and play, and we did, and as they say, the rest is history.
Noah: Yeah we got to have a fun summer last year, since we were just starting to play together. We had a lot of gigs just going down the shore and filling time in front of people, playing covers and just jamming. It was a great chance to kind of learn to play together in an environment.
What was the process like writing and recording Windows Into Worlds in comparison to anything you guys have worked on previously? What differed from past experiences?
R: Well this was the first thing we did together, so it set the tone. A lot of the ideas for the songs were kind of there, and then I would bring that to the table. Then the three of us would work out arrangements. For recording, we went to the house I’m actually in right now! It’s an empty beach house. We recorded with our friend Carl Peterson, whose producing it. We just layered it from there, pretty straightforward.
N: It was a very natural recording process. I think we all have a pretty good amount of experience recording, so there was no jitters or false starts or anything like that. We just had a lot of fun. We didn’t really do anything piecemeal; all of the basic band tracks were tracked live. I think it was more rewarding.
Were there any songs on this EP that were harder to write than others? In terms of lyrical content, subject matter, or any other obstacles?
R: I’d say these all came together pretty quickly.
N: We had a lot of songs off of this EP and the upcoming album that we’ve recorded multiple versions of. So there was never really a lot of pressure in the way of “oh this is the way that the song has to sound.” For example, on this EP, it starts off with our new single “The Heart of Stone”, and then it ends with the original demo version, which has a completely different feel. We did a lot of that, where we tried to take a song, record it, and then strip it down to its core, and rerecord it another way.
(At this point, Kirby calls into the conference)
Kirby: Hey how’s it going? I’m in a prison right now filming for a TV show!
N: They let you take your phone in?
K: Yeah, somehow. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to be doing this…
R: So band update: Kirby’s in prison. (laughs)
How’s it going over there in prison?
K: Prison’s cool, man. It’s a lot cooler than I expected it would be.
N: Have you made friends?
K: I’ve had to make friends because, well…you know how prison is guys!
K: No it’s good. We’re halfway through our day right now. We’re at lunch, so I was able to sneak away for a minute.
(The interview continues)
You guys are all from Philadelphia, a city that’s very alive. How would you say growing up there has had an impact on your music?
N: Well definitely the fact that we were in Philadelphia in the first place was what brought us all together. Not just geographically. A good friend of Reed’s is Alison Wadsworth, and Kirby was playing in her band, so that’s how they met. Another good friend of Reed’s is Vanessa Winters, and I was playing in her band at the time. It’s a community; it’s pretty tight knit. We’ve got a lot of friends in bands that we’ve worked with, or do projects with. There’s a lot of collaboration.
I feel like we’re in a world right now that, while it’s exciting that there’s so much music, it can be a bit overwhelming to discover new artists. What do you think separates you guys from everyone else?
N: That’s a hard question to answer because there’s so many other great bands that are out there. We just try to put a lot of thought into every aspect of it. The lyrics, the music, the arrangements, the instrumentation. We’re just trying to create the best product we can.
What kind of message, if any, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
K: I would say I want the listener to be thinking. I want them to take a couple listens to be able to get all of the info. Obviously with music, you have to listen to it a couple times to get the full story and the full scope. I would just hope that it’s thought-provoking, and not only musically. Reed, as a lyricist, has a lot of hidden things in the lyrics and kind of things that you need to think about. They force you to think a little bit more. I think that having those thought-provoking lyrics are something that I enjoy. I would hope that the listener is thinking “oh, I thought he was going to rhyme this with that, or use a different word”.
N: I would also say that we live in very cynical times, and the common theme throughout this EP and the album we’re going to release afterwards is that there is a lot of positivity and hope for the future. The feeling of looking forward to starting again, and trying things out for the first time. I hope people absorb that; I hope it makes people feel hopeful for the future.
R: That was what I was going to say. Hopeful. Take any kind of positive message over the inevitable sadness that will occur.
What does music mean to you?
K: Music is the universal language. Music means everything. That might be a little too cliché, but it’s true. I had a friend who was dating a deaf girl for awhile. She couldn’t hear what I was playing, but she was affected by it, and felt the energy that was giving off from it. So regardless of whatever language you speak, it’s able to affect people. It’s so meaningful in my life, and that’s what it means to me.
Up The Chain's debut EP, Windows Into Worlds, will be available on April 21, 2015. For more information on new music, tour dates, and the like, visit www.facebook.com/upthechain.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.