This Wild Life on "Low Tides" and Moving Forward: "The Album Feels Like Letting Go."
Interview by Nina Schirmer
After stepping into the studio with a completely open mindset, This Wild Life have upped their game and emerged stronger than ever, both in their live performances and new album Low Tides. After experimenting with different sounds and guitar tones, the duo, made up of Kevin Jordan and Anthony Del Grosso have proven themselves to be more than just an acoustic group. As their pop-punk roots continue to influence their stage presence, This Wild Life have found it easy to energize crowds and perform sing-alongs that have radiated throughout venues during their current tour in support of the new album.
When the band took the stage at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, the excitement in the room was palpable. Between the beautiful lighting that flowed with the songs and the addition of a new live member, which added extra instrumentation to the set, fans were completely absorbed in This Wild Life’s performance and singing along within moments.
But long before they took the stage that night I caught up with Kevin and Anthony, who gave some insight on their songwriting process and what went into the creation of the emotionally powerful Low Tides.
The Prelude Press: So you’re currently in the middle of your headlining tour with Have Mercy and Movements! How has tour been treating you so far?
Kevin Jordan: Really good! We’re going out and seeing how much progress we’ve made in each city and we’ve actually played a lot of new cities on this tour that we haven’t really been to before and it’s been going really well. Even the crowds that are on the smaller side are so energized and the sing-alongs are so crazy that it’s been so much fun.
You’ve been playing a bunch of your new songs off of your new album Low Tides. Would you say the reaction has been great for the new songs as well?
Kevin: Yeah and I think you could actually tell from the beginning of the tour, and we’re only a couple weeks in.
Anthony Del Grosso: The tour started on the west coast which would be the loudest for us because of our hometown.
Kevin: But they’re singing noticeably louder show to show for the new stuff so it seems that the record is picking up and it’s getting out to more people.
Anthony: You can tell more people are listening to it everyday.
As a band you’ve had a lot of experience with touring. What are some of the absolute essential do’s and don’ts of tour?
Kevin: We try to be really, really professional. We try to show up to venues early and as a band the biggest thing you need to focus on is having good working relationships with everybody working at the venues, whether it’s the promoter or the sound people or the lighting people. Being able to communicate with them and know what needs to be done is so important and so for us we delegate the work between the two of us, and since there is only two of us in the band to really do all the work that needs to be done, we just kind of don’t step on each others toes and we delegate work.
Were there any specific songs that you were really excited to play live on this tour?
Anthony: Anything new. We’ve played off of Clouded for so long now.
Kevin: And we wrote Clouded over three years ago so from the time that we wrote and recorded Clouded to the time it came out was about eight months so to the people who heard Clouded the day it came out it was already eight months old and we’ve gone out and played hundreds of shows since then.
Anthony: The first song that we released called, “Pull Me Out” on Low Tides, we wrote that song like a week after we recorded Clouded so technically that song we have had done for an insanely long amount of time and we never got to play it live because we won’t play a song that no one has ever heard live. So now it’s finally fun to play the song. We added another member to the live show and it’s really cool to bring him in. We also resurrected a song called “Pink Tie” that we haven’t played in a long time. We added a little part at the end with our third member to be on drums so stuff like that is a lot of fun. We wanted to play a song we haven’t played in a really long time. I think we were just hitting people up on Twitter saying, “Does anyone want to hear this song? I don’t know if anyone cares.” But then the reaction to that was great.
It must be refreshing for you and your fans to be playing new songs.
Anthony: Yeah! If you’ve seen us in the past two years you’ve probably heard us play, out of six or seven songs, we have to play the same four every night so it’s good to be able to change it up for a lot of people.
What were some of your goals going into the studio to record Low Tides?
Kevin: I think we went into it a lot more open minded than we did with Clouded. Between Anthony and I, and our producer Aaron Marsh, we kind of had three different ideas of what we wanted the record to sound like so we all kind of had to compromise to make a record that we’re all proud of and happy with. In general, we were scared to try too many things with arrangement like adding too much drums and stuff. We wanted to just keep it the two of us on stage and be primarily just two acoustic guitars together. Throughout the record we definitely added more arrangement with keys, strings, a little bit of percussion but for this record we definitely had more courage to explore all of those different things and to me the big part of it is - well there’s two parts to it. A) We’ve been listening to a ton of music since we wrote Clouded three years ago so obviously our taste has changed over time and, B) we’ve been out touring these past couple of years with a lot of different bands, seeing what live shows look like for totally different artists and we wanted to be able to elevate our live show and have more dynamics to our set with energy and more arrangement.
Anthony: We wanted to make it darker too and moodier. We were very into that for the new record. We tried to do that at least. I don’t know if we succeeded. But we tried!
Would that be found in the guitar tones and the more mellow sounds?
Anthony: Yeah there’s a lot more electric guitar and a lot more reverb. There’s some music that you can just listen to and it has a feeling to it musically, and we tried to do that on this record. We just really wanted it to be moodier than Clouded which I don’t think you can do with just an acoustic guitar.
Where did the inspiration to begin exploring those different kind of tones come from? Was it from seeing a lot of bands live while touring and getting inspiration from their sets?
Kevin: We haven’t really toured with a band that sounds like what we’re going after.
Anthony: But there were bands that we’d just listen to and when writing new songs, we were just messing around with it. When writing we actually don’t agree on a lot of stuff which is kind of crazy. I kind of feel like that’s how we have our sound because we both see the band in two different directions but when it came to the new one it was like, “I think the album should be moodier and almost darker.” And he was like, “Yeah me too!” It wasn’t like a five-hour argument that I thought it would be [laughs].
Yeah! I mean it must be easier to decide because there’s only two people in the band. It’s not like there’s five of you.
Kevin: It actually makes it harder because there’s no tie breaker in the band.
Anthony: Yeah there’s not majority vote it’s just like, “I want it this way!” and “No I want it this way!”
Anthony: Yeah then it’s like, alright I guess we’re screwed [laughs].
Flip a coin!
Anthony: Yeah, more members would make it easier, for sure.
I’d love to hear about the songwriting process for this album. You’ve mentioned how you added more electric guitar and you have really unique guitar tones that are really highlighted with songs such as Hit The Reset and Red Room. Did you write a lot mainly in the studio? How did a lot of these songs start out?
Kevin: We demo everything before we go into the studio. We have to be prepared.
Anthony: It drives me nuts when I hear stories of the Red Hot Chili Peppers going into a studio with no songs and record an album within three weeks. How? We have to demo everything. I mean we probably had twenty songs, fully demoed before we even went in. Then we showed them to people and then we cut it down and we picked the songs to go in with. Things change in the studio but if you heard “Hit The Reset,” at first it was terrible GarageBand production that me and Kevin are doing on laptops that doesn’t sound like it is now but at least we have the idea. Then we talked to the producer about what we need to do and what he hears from it. We lay out everything. Kevin writes all the lyrics and everything is done before we go into the studio.
Kevin: Sometimes I’ll leave out a verse and we’ll write that on the spot and I think I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with that since we’ve been writing more. But typically we’re very prepared before we go into the studio.
Who did you say you worked with on this album? I know you’ve worked with Jeremy McKinnon in the past.
Kevin: We only did three songs with Jeremy and that was just a re-release for Clouded but both Clouded and Low Tides were produced by Aaron Marsh. Low Tides had additional production by a guy named Jason Suwito who also mixed the records so it’s kind of been the four of us. Low Tides was a bigger collaboration of the four of us than Clouded was. Clouded was just the three of us but for Low Tides we wanted to bring in our friend Jason to help.
Anthony: He’s in an electric band and knows electric tones more than we do.
Kevin: He’s better to chase down more of those darker tones and synth tones that we wanted.
Anthony: We know guitar stuff but the world of synths and computers is not our specialty and that’s his. Especially on a song like “Hit The Reset” he brought in a great snare sample and helped make the song sound cooler than just our GarageBand.
That must’ve been a lot of fun to explore and be able to mess around with the different sounds.
Anthony: Yeah and when it’s a little out of our element and expertise it’s cool.
Kevin: It’s exciting when you envision what a song is going to sound like and you do a demo of it that obviously doesn’t sound all that great but it gets the idea across and it’s really exciting when you finally see it come together with these great sounds.
Anthony: Especially with strings. Aaron, the main producer, is amazing with strings and we do our GarageBand and have our notes, and since he’s studied it he knows how to go in and out and put the strings together and that is so cool to me. He played trombone on the record and I never thought we would have trombone on one of our records.
Kevin: We kind of joked about it at first. We were like, “Let’s try it man! Pick that thing up!” And then he played it and we all were like, “yeah that works!”
Anthony: It was so cool. That’s like probably one of my favorite things on this entire record is having that.
Kevin: It’s on two songs!
Anthony: We have it on “Red Room” and I never thought that we would be playing that type of song five years ago in pop punk band that’s for sure.
I want to discuss the emotional aspects of the album. There can be a lot of vulnerability in music when you put your heart and soul into it. What’s the experience like for you being able to record something that really means a lot and then putting it out there and even realizing how others relate it to it?
Kevin: I think it’s scary at times and I always write vocals, lyrics, and melodies separately just so I’m in a space where I don’t feel judged so I can try things and sing words where I can decide later if I’m actually going to put it on a record or not. I have noticed it with me personally that I am a pretty non confrontational person with a lot of people in my life at least but in songwriting I have definitely addressed things that I wouldn’t say to people’s faces in person.
Anthony: The ultimate subtweet.
Kevin: Yes! The ultimate subtweet [laughs].
Anthony: You never thought of that too [laughs].
Kevin: Well if you subtweet somebody and you get fifty retweets it’s like, yeah I got ‘em! If you subtweet somebody in a song, you get like five million streams or something [laughs].
Wow, that’s awesome [laughs].
Kevin: Yeah that’s something that I’ve noticed for me is that it’s definitely given me and outlet for expressing some of the things that I’m not necessarily comfortable with doing on a one-to-one level and I know how silly that is because broadcasting something publicly should be harder but for me it’s easier.
Music can definitely have multiple meanings to different people. Are there any specific meanings that you would want listeners to take away from this album?
Kevin: For me, I don’t really think about the end user when I’m writing a song. I don’t think about how people are going to perceive my lyrics or anything like that. For me it’s very personal and I think it’s awesome how people can interpret things in their own way and for me, sharing music is so important.
Anthony: There is a message in the album but I don’t think it was intended. This album is more about letting go but that wasn’t the intention. I think it was when we listened to all of it and we were trying to think of album names and we were both talking about it, and I don’t write any lyrics so I’m looking at it kind of like you guys would, purely outside. The album feels like letting go and that’s the vibe that I personally get from it. The thing that Kevin tries to do is make songs very open to interpretation and we’ve had people come up and say, “man this song was about my drug addiction.” That’s not what we wanted to write the song about but if you write it open enough people can interpret it any different way.
Where did the album name originate from? I have a guess.
Anthony: Oh, I’d love to hear this [laughs].
I know you guys are from California so I was thinking the West Coast and the beach had an influence to the name and the artwork.
Kevin: The artwork was inspired by the album title. For me the album title came from the idea of repetition and to me the concept of water is cleansing. When the high tide comes in, it washes everything away from the shore and it takes it all out to sea, and during low tides the shoreline is exposed. To me, lyrically the songs can be pretty exposing. In a lot of the songs I’m talking about things that I do repetitively that are for better or for worse in my life or just situations that are in my life that feel repetitive. That’s where I linked it to and I liked the idea of a fluid, darker visual element.
So I was a little off [laughs].
Kevin: [Laughs] I mean I think if we lived in the Midwest I probably would never even think of something like that.
Anthony: But did you notice the moon cycles on the album?
Anthony: Alright! So you get points for that! I don’t think a lot of people noticed that as much as I thought. At least my friends didn’t but they’re old and dumb [laughs].
"When the high tide comes in, it washes everything away from the shore and it takes it all out to sea, and during low tides the shoreline is exposed. To me, lyrically the songs can be pretty exposing." - Kevin Jordan
When you guys first started out you were originally a pop-punk band, but then you found your niche with the acoustic style you have today. As you look back, how would you say those pop-punk roots inspire you today whether it’s performing or writing?
Anthony: Not with writing, but it does with performing. Especially with Clouded, I think that we could’ve been sitting down and played those songs easily and I don’t think anyone would’ve thought anything of it. It’s just an acoustic group. But we never wanted to do that. Ever. We always wanted to perform and we always liked the energy. I could never think about sitting. Even if we did a performance like that now, it would be so weird to me to just sit down and play. We always wanted to be moving and especially now at our live show we’re just trying to get more energy and more movement. I feel like that’s not what an acoustic group would say.
Kevin: Yeah we’ll get to the venues sometimes and the venue guy asks, “So where do you guys want chairs?”
Anthony: I think that’s one hundred percent because of our roots. I’ve been to like no acoustic shows in my life. Maybe like one Dashboard Confessional show but that was this year so for my entire life I never went to acoustic shows. We went to hardcore shows and Senses Fail shows back in the day and that’s what I wanted to play. We just happen to have two acoustic guitars [laughs].
Venues have actually asked you if you needed chairs?
Anthony: Yeah people would always think that, which I mean I don’t blame them because that’s what you think.
Kevin: If the promoter heard the songs he’d say, “Alright, yeah get a couple of stools up there and a couple of guitars!”
Anthony: And by no means do we run around or do anything crazy but we try. We’re not just going to headbang because that would look really stupid with acoustics [laughs].
Since you’re on the East Coast and in Philly I gotta ask. Wawa or Sheetz?
Anthony: Yeah, I grew up in Pittsburg too so I’m a Sheetz person but Wawa is better. Sorry to anyone from Pittsburgh.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk today! Is there anything else you would like to add?
Kevin: Come out to see the remaining dates of the tour. It’s been really good and the opening bands, Have Mercy and Movements are incredible. It’s a really dynamic bill and I think all three of our bands are playing for new people every night and it’s a great package that’s out.
THIS WILD LIFE TOUR DATES:
10/11 Detroit, MI - Shelter
10/12 Chicago, IL - Subterranean
10/14 Denver, CO - Cervantes Other Side
10/15 Salt Lake City - The Complex
10/17 Oakland, CA - Oakland Metro Operahouse
10/24 Paris, FR - Espace B
10/25 Lyon, FR - Kraspek Myzik
10/27 Madrid, ES - Moby Dick
10/28 Manresa, ES - El Sielu
10/29 Barcelona, ES - Sala Razzmatazz 3
10/31 Modena, IT - La Tenda
11/01 Zurich, CH - Eldorado
11/02 Munich, DE - Sunny Red
11/04 Stuttgart, DE - 1210 Zwölfzehn
11/05 Koln, DE - Tsunami Club
11/07 Amsterdam, NL - Melkweg
11/08 Antwerp, BE - JH Kavka
11/10 London, UK - St Pancras Old Church
11/11 London, UK - Boston Music Room
11/12 Southampton, UK - The Joiners
11/13 Bristol, UK - The Exchange
11/15 Birmingham, UK - Asylum
11/16 Glasgow, UK - King Tuts
11/17 Newcastle, UK - Think Tank
11/18 Manchester, UK - Sound Control
11/19 Leeds, UK - The Key Club