Chris Dow (lead vocalist) and David Koonce (bassist) from the band Within Reason sat down with Target Audience Magazine before hitting the Jagermeister Stage at the Rock Star Uproar Festival in Atlanta
Interview and photos by Danielle Boise
Chris Dow (lead vocalist) and David Koonce (bassist) from the band Within Reason sat down with Target Audience Magazine before hitting the Jagermeister Stage at the Rock Star Uproar Festival in Atlanta on September 12th to discuss their new album, After The Crawl, what it means to be a band from the South but not be a Southern Rock band and their favorite moments on the Rock Star Uproar Festival Tour.
For someone not yet familiar with your body of work, how would you describe the sound and texture of your music?
Dow: I was telling someone the other day that rock music has changed so much. Some people say modern rock, some people say new rock. I think it’s almost rock-tronic; we put electronic stuff in with it. It’s not straight rock. I really don’t know a better way to describe it, besides rock-tronic. We are rock, we are more rock than anything, but we have electronic stuff too and we don’t really sound like any other band you know.
Koonce: A good way to describe some of our song writing is that we say we’re just regular guys that have the same problems and issues that everybody else does. We just got lucky enough to be able to put music to it and hopefully somebody can hear out music and relate to it and help them out in their life. This is something that we pride ourselves on when it comes to the writing part of it.
Working on your latest release, After the Crawl EP, which was released on March 20, 2012; how was it working with Nick Chahwala in Atlanta and do you feel it shaped the sound and style of the After The Crawl?
Dow: It was amazing because one thing, I have a mutual friend with Nick and we’ve known each other for years. I just watched his musicianship transpire over the years and he’s done the same with us. When we were going to the studio, before we even picked a producer, I didn’t know how far and how much he succeeded at this point.
When we initially spoke about him doing this record, we just completely saw eye-to-eye on everything because what I just told you a moment ago was that we wanted something that didn’t sound like anyone else. But we wanted some electronic stuff on there and for the type of sound that we were going for he is the best at making it modern, fresh and up-to-date. We saw eye-to-eye, like I said and it worked out perfectly.
We actually are going to go back and work with him probably in the first of the year and do another one at Tricky Stewart’s studio (Triangle Sound Studios) here in Atlanta.
Koonce: Yea, to me it really was fun with Nick (Chahwala) because we had these songs that we all did on our phones. We wrote them acoustically and took them in with Nick and gave him total control of what to do with it.
We wrote the songs, recorded them and then he went in and did all the production and we just let him do it. When it came out, it was like we knew this song was going to be perfect. It was like that was the idea we had and couldn’t put it into words and he got that, put the production in and made the songs the perfect way. The way they came out I couldn’t describe to you how we wanted to do it, but he got that and that’s what came out of it for the record.
I know for me, “We’ll Have it All” has a grandeur to it and speaks to me on a personal level, I was wondering which track connects to you the most on a personal level?
Dow: “We’ll Have it All,” those are the most emotional lyrics I have done as a musician. I lost my grandma right around the time I writing that song and she always told me as a kid, “One, you can’t take things with you when you go. Life is short, make sure you have fun and enjoy the short life you live,” so I put that that into the song.
Also it was about no matter what you go through in life, to us we felt like everyone is going to go through the roller coaster; the ups and downs and all that. But no matter what you go through if you can find that one person that can deal with your flaws, you can deal with theirs and you can basically get through anything if you are with the right people. It’s by far the emotional stuff we’ve ever done.
Koonce: I can agree with that to. That song to us was needed because when we wrote it, it was a certain way and it had a lot of emotion to it. When we recorded it with Nick, he kind of broke up part of it for us. It was really strange, ‘cause we didn’t know what he was going to do with it. We recorded part of it and then left a big hole in it. We didn’t know what he was going to and then we came back and he had the symphony come in. He wrote all that symphony part and put it all in there for us.
I remember when we got the track back, I had my ear buds in and I was floored. I don’t think I even finished the song before I called everybody and was like “ya’ll need to stop what you’re doing and listen to this final track.” When that symphony comes in, I’m getting chills talking about it now, but to me that took that song to a whole new level. Emotionally, that’s where we were at. We want you to feel that, when that production came in with that; that sealed it up.
What is your creative process like and who, what or where do you draw your inspiration from to create the lyrical content of your music?
Dow: When we write it’s always different. There is no set way that we do it. One of us may come up with some music and then we try to put melody to it. Personally myself, if I’m writing alone I’d say about 80% of the songs that I’ve written I start with the structure, meaning that I try to come up with melody and hooks first. I always do lyrics last. I figure if you have a melody and a hook, that it sounds right, then basically you start putting structure to the sound, then David can put his bass line on it, Griffin adds the drums, Matt obviously got his guitar.
Once the music and the structure is there, then I sit down and say “what do I want to write the lyrics about?” and we discuss amongst each other what direction we are thinking for this song, what kind of twist to put on it. Once everybody agrees on the structure of where we are going with the content, then I’ll sit down by myself and start doing the lyrics.
As far as getting inspiration, we try to use real life stuff that has happened to us. A lot of times I feel as musicians we don’t like to explain to people exactly what we wrote it about because it’s like reading a book verses watching a movie. People like the books better because you create your own image of exactly what all the characters look like and everything else. You have your own set identity for everyone in that book, verses watching the movie where the director and everyone says this is what he looks like to you.
We would rather people think that themselves, but we always use pieces of life. I wouldn’t say any of its fictional but it can be, I mean Johnny Cash was never in Folsom Prison. You have to be creative if you don’t have a bunch of crazy stuff going on in your life. We do put some stuff like that in it, but we try to mostly use real life stuff that we’ve gone through.
Koonce: I know one thing we did on After The Crawl was the record before, Bloodshed Life, we went in and wrote a rock record. It has heavy riffs, but with this record when we started writing for it whatever came out came out and that’s what we worked with. That was one thing creatively that we did, instead of trying to force a record that sounded like the last one, you never want to have two of the same records.
We didn’t really try to make a rock record. “Here Comes The Light” is the first one we did and we liked the way it felt. The next one came out and when you listen to the record it’s all different. That’s what we were going for. That’s what came out when we were writing and that’s the song that came out; we weren’t going to force the song into being a rock song.
Do you feel being a Southern Rock back from Alabama has impacted the way your sound has evolved? Speaking of evolution, what do you see as the progression of your music from where you started to where you are currently and what are you hoping the future will hold for you as an unsigned band?
Dow: I haven’t really ever thought of it that way. When I think Southern Rock, I think of Lynyrd Skynyrd and a modern day Southern Rock, our great friends Black Stone Cherry. I don’t think that we fit into that category. I mean we are a rock band and we are from the south, but we don’t fit into that genre necessarily. I wouldn’t put us into that category. Our drummer is from Waldorf, Maryland, so not everyone in the band is from the Southeast. David and I especially, are southern guys. We went to school in Alabama and we embrace that. Home is where the heart is. I guess you could say that as far as putting us in Southern Rock I’s say no.
I think it would be the perfect example if we go back to when we first started our band for where we were as people at that point we’ve grown as musicians just as everyone else has grown. Think about when you were 21 years old, oh God I was an idiot, I had no clue about life. As musicians we go back and look at our first record and go “uggg,” it was just a demo we put out. It wasn’t produced with a famous producer per se. It’s definitely progressed as we’ve progressed as musicians.
Now we have different real stories to tell; we’ve been through more. I think like anything else, that practice doesn’t make perfect, but it helps you get better at what you do. So I think we’ve definitely grown as musicians and that definitely reflects in our music and we try to change each record so that we never sound the same like some bands. We want to give our fans somewhat of a guessing point as far as what to expect from the next record.
Koonce: As far as the Southern Rock thing, I have a lot of Southern Rock influences. I really like the Allman Brothers and the blues side of Southern Rock is what really where the bug bit me on music. The way I am is that opened the door for me and then I walked into a room of a million doors and I want to go through them all. I kind of listen to everything from Bruce Springsteen to Frank Sinatra, they are probably my two favorite people to listen to, which makes no sense.
For our band we take bands like Linkin Park, Rage Against the Machine, Bruce Springsteen – we take all of that and we mix it together and that’s what comes out. It’s not really a Southern Rock thing, which a lot of bands from our hometown kind of do that. I don’t think we purposely strayed away from that, we just wanted to do something different because we always wanted to be different.
One thing about the progression of the records is that it’s neat when we put out our records, it’s like the record you just put out was the best one, “man this is our best record,” and then two records later you’re like “that record was garbage.” You never know, we don’t know where we are going next. Who knows what it’s going to sound like. The more you learn you get better. I think After The Crawl we actually learned how to write a song. I think the song writing is getting better, that’s one thing that has definitely progressed. I don’t think it’s going to get any worse (chuckle), hopefully it won’t get worse (chuckle).
I know you recently released After The Crawl in March, but are you currently writing new material in plans for new record in the near future or are you just enjoying the latest release while touring on it?
Dow: Yes. I think that’s one problem with other people that now it’s changed so much. If people aren’t now buying full records, we’d rather do like we did on this one with After The Crawl, do an EP and give them five or six new songs and then once they have it and instead of having them wait double the amount of time. We’d rather give them something fresh and new a lot sooner. We have to stay fresh with our fan base and keep them interested. ‘Cause it’s out of sight, out of mind really.
With that said, we are always writing. I’m constantly every day. It’s mainly keeping ideas in my phone and stuff until I’m ready to sit down and we all start discussing as a band which ones we like the most and we want to start pursuing first. I think that they all agree, especially with this band that every record we do we want to be better than the one before. We try to eliminate anything that won’t top what we’ve already done. I feel like we’ve been successful with that point already.
Koonce: This question immediately made me think of something that happened the other day. We write so many songs. When we put our a record we’ll write 30 songs and pick 10 or pick 5, but we never throw anything away. I remember there was a song that we did on our first record that we were writing, we had blackberries and we’d record on the blackberries and send it to each other. I was cleaning out an old phone the other day and found a song that we didn’t put on our first record because it didn’t fit the record. We weren’t ready for it. I found it, listened to it and I’m like, this is exactly where we are going and we didn’t know that six years ago and now we do.
There are songs that we have that this is a good song now, but we aren’t ready, not there yet. We wrote a song six years ago that we didn’t even know that would make sense way down the road. We could have put that out and not make sense on a record. You don’t want certain records to sound a certain way and then have a song that doesn’t fit and be like, that’s a great record, but that song doesn’t fit.
Dow: That song he is talking about he sent it to me, I forgot we had this song. This will tell you how different we think now as musicians to where we were. When I initially sent that idea over to him, he was like “this is cool, let’s roll with this and try to build on it.” When he sent it back to me, what I initially thought was going to be a chorus, now I was way off, like that’s a perfect melody for the verse. That should have been the verse. We had a whole other idea for the chorus the other day, so it’s totally backwards from the way that we thought when we first started to make it, but I guess that’s growing as writers.
You’ve toured with some diverse and intense acts since the release of Cycle A Smile in 2006, like Chevelle, Hinder, 12 Stones and Blues Travelers; how does this tour compare and contrast to previous ones?
Dow: It’s a strange thing (reference to the diverse lineup of acts performed with in the past). I think that this the perfect fit for us right now because just the demographic, the age group that is here and with the new record that we have being rock and electronic. Because on this particular tour you have bands that have that rock and hip-hop, like P.O.D. and like a Thousand Foot Krutch and Deuce. With us being all over the place I think that we fit in the middle of all those bands and then you have Staind, Godsmack, and Shinedown. So I think it works perfectly.
Going back to what you talking about with Blues Travelers and everyone else that just shows you that we don’t sound like one particular band, we’re kind of all over the place, but that means bigger demographic to me, so I guess that’s good.
Koonce: A cool thing about all those different bands that we got to tour with is that it’s like a learning process for us. When we first started we didn’t really know anything about touring, we didn’t know anything about the road. We just knew we could drink a lot and go play locally. You thing we always made a point to do was when we played shows with those bands we would get five minutes with them and say “hey man, tell us something your band did that was a giant mistake?” That way we can learn from them and not make the same mistake(s) and progress further and further. That’s what’s cool about this tour is that there is a lot of really big bands that have been doing it forever and then there is a group of us that are where we are at in our careers and we’re all learning from each other.
When this tour is over, we’ve got all these new friends we can talk and collaborate with them and maybe do some tours with them. That’s what’s neat about this tour is we’re making so much more friends. When you are seeing everybody every day, all day you get close with them and that’s cool for everyone else. It’s going to make all our careers better.
What has been your most memorial moment on the Rock Star Uproar Festival to date?
Dow: After our second day on the tour, I’ve been a big fan of P.O.D. for a long time, after their set was done and over with. Sunny, the singer of P.O.D. had his son, Justice, fishing with him. So went down and got to fish with him. As the sun was coming down I just thought it looked like the perfect father-son moment, I took a picture of the two of them. It’s the coolest picture with Justice holding the fishing pole, but getting to fish with someone you consider an idol per se, that you’ve grown up loving your whole life. Even yesterday he and his son, he was wearing our shirt and his son was wearing the matching color hat and they were at dinner last night with our stuff on. That’s a very surreal cool moment when you feel like you finally got something back from all this hard work you did because that makes everything worth it.
Koonce: I think for me is that we play so early in the day, we don’t set expectations anymore, but in my head I was thinking we are so early in the day, maybe get in front of a couple hundred people. Every day that we walk out it’s just like three thousand people and we just turn it on. It’s just so good see everybody looking out there singing the words back to you. We worked so hard writing these songs and putting it out, so to see people that know the words and know the band; to me that’s pretty cool when you are 900 miles away from home and the people know who you are and they know your songs.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other unsigned artists on what it means to pursue your passions and create music today?
Dow: I could probably write a book on this. Not to say that we have this all figured out by any means, I feel like we play with so many bands that don’t get it. When I say don’t get it I mean like, number one, bands sometimes think that they are in competition with other bands and that is the opposite of the truth. We wouldn’t be able to grow like we have as a band, unless we had allies out on the road. We team up with other bands, for example Deuce, we’re helping those guys do some stuff and in return they’re wearing our hats on stage and promoting our band. You work together. So many bands think that it’s a competition; they are out there to try to compete and win against everyone else. That’s the biggest misconception and that’s the reason those bands will more than likely fail by not trying to team up with other people and networking.
Koonce: Yea, I don’t know any bands that have National Championship rings, you know? One thing I’ve noticed, especially being a band that starts from the beginning, it gets really frustrating; the best thing I can tell you is don’t give up on it. There have been so many times I could think that we could stop, it was frustrating and we were broke and couldn’t figure it out. We couldn’t get any attention from anybody, but being persistent on it is probably the one thing. We have a rule that’s be nice and don’t say anything stupid. That’s a good thing to follow, be cool and don’t say anything stupid and keep working at it. The more you work at it, the more will come out of it. Being in a band thinking that things are going to get handed to you because you are in a rock band, that’s just not going to happen, that will never happen. You’ll still be spinning your wheels for twenty years.
Any last words?
Dow: We had a guy who managed us for a moment he told us a few very helpful things. One of things that was most important was that as radio was getting smaller and smaller for musicians in our genre that you want to make sure that you aren’t dependent on radio. With everything that we’ve done at this point right now is that we’re building fans and we’re working by word of mouth and by people who see us and sharing with everyone else. Right now I think that is the best thing we can do ‘cause it is working and it’s getting bigger and better every day. With that said, it’s without radio. So if we can go ahead and build a very solid fan base, which we are doing right now on our own, without radio, then we’ll make it and never be dependent on our next single to make our money. We can continue with those solid fans that we’ve had from building our fan base, by going through the grind and staying at fans houses and barbequing with them and keeping it personal; which is what we try to do.
For more information on Within Reason, After The Crawl or to find out where they will be performing next, visit www.withinreasonmusic.com.