Q&A with Jonathan Graves of Corbu
2016 is a year of firsts for the NYC-based duo Corbu. On top of the release of their stunning debut album, Crayon Soul, the band is hitting the road with Bloc Party this fall, kicking things off on September 13th at The Ogden Theatre in Denver, CO - a venue three times the size of the largest room Corbu has ever played. To say that they're excited would be an understatement, but there is also a childlike wonder when it comes to Corbu, a desire to reach one's full potential and find limitless creativity. It's safe to say that the duo is off on the right foot, and this fall only promises to launch them even further.
Read what Jonathan Graves had to say about Crayon Soul and Corbu's upcoming tour dates below. Tickets for Corbu's first show supporting Bloc Party in Denver are still available HERE. To catch them at an upcoming show, CLICK HERE.
Interview by Dom Vigil
Can you tell us a little bit about Corbu for any readers who may not be familiar?
We’re a band from NYC, obsessed with Carl Sagan and all things you might associate with him. Our dream gig would be to play in a planetarium.
You guys just recently released your new album, Crayon Soul. What do these songs mean to you?
Everything, really. It’s our debut album, so our whole lives are embedded in it.
There’s a theme in there about the struggle to hold on to the most innocent, open-minded part of yourself. It’s not something I was conscious of while we were writing, but it was pretty obvious after we finished.
When we're little, like toddler-age, everyone has a limitless creative ability. You’ll hear kids in strollers going down the street, singing well-written choruses that they’re making up on the spot. Part of that comes from sense of openness, and a vulnerability that we shut down as we go through life. You have to get things done and pay your rent. To some extent, these songs are about trying to keep that channel open, while functioning in the world you live in.
Crayon Soul is very much visual as it is audio and the music video for “Battles” is incredible! Why were the visuals important for this album alongside the music?
Thanks! The visuals are always important for us, but they took a step forward with this album. Amanda and I wrote an Adventure Time-inspired story to go along with the record, and the artwork became our way to communicate that. In out heads, it's a full-length music video for the entire album.
We'll probably never get to make the entire movie, like Daft Punk did with Discovery and Interstella 5555, so we're using the artwork as snapshots from it. You could look at my mini-videos and Daniel Cordero's music videos as direct excerpts from the film. Crayon Soul isn't a concept album, because all the music came first, but the story helped us glue everything together in a way I didn't know was possible before.
What would you like listeners to be able to take away from Crayon Soul?
I want it to take them to a place in their head that’s disconnected from their work and their emails, and bring them back to themselves a little. We’re all too busy and being pummeled by white noise all the time. As far as art/entertainment, it takes something really alien and immersive like Stranger Things or Twin Peaks to help pull me out of all that. Hopefully this record can be that for other people, in some small way. In the end, I just want it to make people happy in a way they haven’t experienced a million times before.
How do you feel you’ve grown with the writing and recording of the album?
I think we know who we are a thousand times more than we did before. It really helped to work with Abe Seiferth, who recorded the album with us. He’s a fan of all music we love, and was invested in what we were doing, but the fact that he’s not around 24/7 gave him a neutral perspective. It made things a lot clearer when I could see our strengths and weaknesses through his eyes, and I became more comfortable with them. There’s also the confidence boost of knowing we made the record we wanted to make, and that we’re capable of carrying something like this through to the end.
You guys are going to be kicking off tour in Denver on September 13th with Bloc Party - what can fans expect from your upcoming live performance?
With one exception, we’re only performing songs from Crayon Soul, and trying to wrap everything we do in the vibe of the album. We’ll be surrounded by the artwork and wearing the light-up outfits that Amanda made for us, which are reflected in the video for our song “Battles.” Everything we do has to be different than what we’re used to seeing at a live show, in some way. It’s not nearly as much fun otherwise, for us or the people watching.
What are you most excited about on your upcoming tour?
The Ogden Theatre is about three times bigger than the largest venue we’ve ever played, so that’s exciting! It’ll be interesting to see how we translate to a bigger stage, and I’m sure we’ll learn a lot from seeing how Bloc Party does things on tour.
I’m most excited to play our music in front of so many people that have never heard it before. We spent a lot of time locked away and making the record, so connecting with people has become the theme of everything lately. One of the best feelings I’ve ever had was at our album release show in New York, where the crowd sang the lyrics to “Battles” louder than I could, and drowned me out. It makes you feel like you’re actually communicating with someone, and it means something to them.
After these dates, what does the rest of 2016 have in store for Corbu?
We’re playing our first festival at Austin City Limits on September 30th, which will be another new experience for us. After that, we’re hoping to release some remixes we made for other artists, and confirm new tour dates. We’d love to take a trip through the East Coast and the U.K. as soon as possible.
When you release a debut album, no one knows who you are yet, but then something crazy happens like Bloc Party taking you on tour. So we never know what will happen next.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
If anyone wants to find out more about us, the best place to start is our Instagram (http://instagram.com/corbucorbu). The visual side of things is half of who we are, so it’s a good entry point into what we do. We also have a great community of people around us there, so if you click on any of the comments, you might find some other artist you’ll fall in love with. And listen to Crayon Soul all the way through with the lights off, if you can.