When Drew Andrews isn't busy being a part of various musical acts he spends his time... well, being Drew Andrews.
As a contributing member of acts like Via Satellite and the ongoing music project The Album Leaf, Andrews has played a role in the creation of numerous albums. But with a solo EP just on the horizon (Playing Birthday Games available on iTunes on October 26th), and a sophomore full-length slated for early 2011, Andrews is stepping away from other outfits for awhile and getting back to the basics for a bit.
With a show tomorrow at Gypsy Lounge in Lake Forest (playing alongside Mphase and Paul Layton) Andrews is looking forward to his new material... and some quality Mexican food.
Heard Mentality caught up with Andrews while on the road for a Quickie.
I love touring, but after enough years I don't think it's necessarily easier. I'm back to crashing on floors and hustling PBR again, which is pretty rad. Touring takes a certain person who loves it and wants more of it to succeed as a growing type of band. This particular tour has been incredibly refreshing and fun for me, and I believe the band has really grown both in performance and just plain having adventures together. We were chased out of a hotel by frantic conspiring tweakers; stood under the clear, silent, and expansive night sky of West Texas; placed bets on tables, bought mix discs off of street hustlers, and played some pretty sweet shows along the way.
When you tried your hand at going solo a couple years back, especially after playing with other musicians for awhile, was that an easy transition to make? Was it a bit lonely at first?
It was definitely a shift. And maybe not quite lonely, but certainly a solitary act. Writing songs in a room on my own without any pretenses of what something should sound like began a very solitary, yet very freeing, time in my life. I actually really enjoyed treasuring these songs I had for awhile in my own way, not sharing them as long as I could. It gave me the chance to focus on how I want my art to be tossed out into the world. Now, having my band Spectral Cities, it is truly great being able to continually actualize new and odd types of songs.
What does working solo allow you to do that working with a group doesn't, and vice versa?
I hear a lot of hooks and parts and arrangements in songs. It sucks when I listen to the radio, I end up throwing out alternate melodies all the time, wishing the song did something different. I thrive best having an unrestricted space, to throw shit around in and see what sticks and what doesn't, try to make odd unorthodox instrumentation frame a pop song. Challenging myself to develop in my knowledge of other instruments helps to inform me in the discipline of songwriting; "discipline" sounds so awful and serious, but I do take it all sort of seriously.
You've done a fair amount of international touring over the years. Do you feel your music is embraced differently by fans overseas?
I definitely do think music is received differently in various parts of the world, for sure! In the U.S., most people like hot and heavy and pulsating rock or dance or hip hop. Flashing pans. Some kid singing who jumped right off the cover of the checkstand magazine. That's how it is! But I don't do that. In my opinion, in the States, it can be a fight to convince people your art is valid and relevant and entertaining, when everybody is flipping screens on their phone while talking to you. In Asia and across Europe, there is a wide and respecting audience across the continent for songwriters of all kinds, which has been doing pretty well for me! I would like to live in Europe someday for a while.
You were involved in the music project The Album Leaf in the past. How did you first become involved with the project's lead, Jimmy LaValle? Also, The Album Leaf released a new album earlier this year but you didn't appear on it. Do you have any plans to continue contributing to the project in the future or is your departure final?
Jimmy and I have a long history which is much more of a friendship than it is a professional relationship. I met him right when he was preparing to leave Tristeza and finding a new groove in life, much before Sub Pop, when the nights were full of Miller High Life, cigarettes, cutting beats at the home computer and trying to record without neighbors being bitchy. I was already a songwriter when I first met Jimmy, and I only planned to stay on with Album Leaf for one or two years to help him out to start a band for the "In A Safe Place" cycle... but it got to be so much fun that I stayed for seven more! I am focused on my own art stuff totally for now, but if it could work out to do shows in Album Leaf, I would certainly play some songs with some of my best friends again.
You're following up your solo debut ("Only Mirrors") with an EP ("Playing Birthday Games") at the end of the month. How is the EP different from the material on your solo? Also, why go the route of an EP rather than making it a part of your upcoming full-length sophomore release?
When I make an EP, it is pretty rough and DIY, while still going towards good production value. I record all the parts myself in various locations and make it happen. When I made Only Mirrors
there was no band yet; just me figuring it out, through patchwork, seeing what kind of sounds might work weirdly in these kind of songs. I was starting over. Playing Birthday Games
gave more of an informed idea of the possibilities of songs working together as one. I really love recording records. I always am working on a giant soup-pot of tunes where some seem to work together for certain albums, and others need to marinate a bit longer to draw out the goods. I am a purchaser of, but ultimately dislike, the culture that buys singles or another few songs but shuns the album for, usually, financial reasons. I still like bundles of songs together, LPs and EPs, it seems like still a fitting and coherent way to share your art by. I try to make albums that sound different from each other and occupy contradicting worlds.
Along those lines, your next full-length is reportedly slated for an early 2011 release. Is that still accurate and, if so, what can fans expect to hear on the album that they haven't heard from you before?
Well, for one, this unreleased album is very personal to me and I am very happy with it! I think the new album is much more driving and dynamic than anything I've recorded yet. As a Southern California native, I went deeper back into a lot of old "California Sound" records from the early to mid-seventies. I leapt into the new record with a sort of focus on a more classic feel, and I think we got it! It feels nice, to me, to continue parts of older traditions of the culture you come from. All the silly genre names thrown around for what's hot these days, like "chillwave" for example, seem passing and crappy to me. I'd rather get wise from older folks and older albums, I suppose.
You've been on the road for almost three weeks now. What are you looking most forward to doing when you get back?
I am going to destroy some Mexican food as soon as I get back home! Mexican food is pretty much no good anywhere else in America except in Southern California. When people say there are places in other towns that are authentic they are either reaching for it and/or lying! There is a little Mariscos taco truck in my neighborhood in San Diego that has killer ceviche. I think I might try to get that together right... about... now.
Drew Andrews w/ Mphase and Paul Layton