The !? Interview!?

April 26th, 2010

Figment News:  Is it hard being in a band with symbols for their name?

Katie Stuart: It’s not too hard. We’ve had some fun figuring out how to say it, but, in all honesty, it’s kinda hard to dislike such a unique name.

Jacob McIntyre: The name can be a bit of a hindrance sometimes, but how ubiquitous the symbols are makes it such an awesome band name. We have people ask how to pronounce it and we laugh because the whole idea of shock and disbelief wrapped up in two symbols epitomized our whole feeling of singularity.

FN:  Your band seems to have formed almost by accident.  Sort of a slow combination of musicians with various levels of talent and different skills.  What part did that play in your sound?

Harry Stuart: Jake and I always played around with music, but didn’t have enough talent. We got lucky to pick up Zach, who really injected the edge we needed to be successful. Katie just made everything perfect, because her more classical learning in music and vocalization made sure we had legit vocals and in turn, a legit band.

KS: I’ve always sung, but it wasn’t til maybe our second release I really had bass under control. Zach and Harry kinda directed the music, I sang and I always thought Jacob lived too much in the moment to really notice the way we were going. He figured that out eventually, but the whole band is just one of those special coincidences where everything just fell into place, forming some hard rock/alt. rock/pop rock mismatch that sounded pretty great.

JM: Everything just came together. Harry’s love of modern alternative, my love of classic rock, Zach’s fascination with punk and Katie’s infatuation with pop rock and dance pop made something kind of odd but marketable. I guess it just kinda happened.

FN:  Zach, you joined the band after you were kicked out of your high school band following what you describe as an unfortunate incident involving a car, the school’s principal and a reciprocating saw.  Care to elaborate?

Zach Russell: Ha ha. No, not really. It was a senior prank, and maybe I got a little out of hand with the saw. Everything smoothed out, but the details will not be known outside of upstate New York.

FN:  Your band has a very consistent visual identity, especially on your early albums where you typically used a letterbox format on your album covers.  Are you actively involved in your album cover designs and who is the chief architect of your visual identity as a band?

JM: Funny you should ask, because it’s mostly Harry and some guys at 8755th Street Café Records who do it. We mostly “ooh” and “ah” over his work, but he often felt he doesn’t get his due credit.

HS: Some graphic artists for 8755th and I make the covers, but, despite what I tell everyone, I only visualize while the artists find or take the pics and exercise their creativity on the computers to come up with our artwork. We liked the letterboxes due to their simplicity and the image, but have gotten very lucky to have some guys who can do almost anything. I will tell you we have another letterbox album somewhere in the future.

FN:  Your newest album “Oh, New York!” is a tribute to your hometown of NYC, what’s it like trying to break out of such a crowded musical scene?

KS: Awesome. Jacob and I both grew in Brooklyn, Zach up in Syracuse til high school and Harry was in New Jersey. It was tough, but we were able to get enough going early to get the eye of Herbert Nickerson at 8755th, who really was able to lift us out of the ocean of New York and put us on the map.

JM: I’d say it was rough, but we were able to draw off of our combined experience of New York State and City to get some exposure and attention, which thankfully was enough to land us a record deal and the rest is history.

ZR: It’s a lot like hitting a grand slam at Shea. You know eventually everyone is going to get on base and someone is going to hit the ball out of park, but it was more of a challenge getting every on and finally getting that pitch we needed. Herbert Nickerson threw us the right pitch and we were able to get the grand slam and onto the national stage.

FN:  You are the top selling band on Figment, what does that feel like?  Do you feel a pressure with every successive release to live up to that success?

HS: It’s immense. While we absolutely love the status and our absolutely amazing fans, every album has to beat the standards those same fans have. We know we have to shock them with our music, but sometimes it gets crazy and we can’t do music until we step back and give it all another thought. We’ve gotten through a lot, this band has, and the expectations we’re held up to makes all the difference.

JM: Every time we record we feel pressure. We know that the fans we have maintain some rather lofty expectations, and we always try our very best to not only meet them, but to make sure we make them love us even more. It’s never easy, but we preserve and through that we’ve gotten great success.

FN:  How does a band like !? continue to grow and build a fan base?

ZR: The fans. Simple as that. They love us and support us and it just grows. Without them, nothing would happen.

KS: I think it’s the fans. Yeah, they pick up an EP of ours, but it’s their ability to tell friends and get the word out is what makes the difference. I guess we’ve gotten lucky and advertising has done some, but I really think it the fans.

HS: All things being equal, I think it’s tough not to say is the fan base itself that perpetuates our growth. Granted, every release garners some attention, but the effort our fans put into supporting us through sales and feedback is what makes us better and makes them even greater fans.

FN:  You’re in the middle of the “This Is Our Time To Rock” Tour. What’s it been like playing all over Europe and the States?

JM: Apart from the lack of sleep? Ha, it’s pretty fun playing with all them, but the schedules both with the Jupiter Archives’ tour earlier this year and Death Face’s tour we signed on with is rough. “Nothing to Prove” was a blast with EA and tJA, but we had the quickest turnaround ever to get to play with Death Face and this great ensemble while touring everywhere. Right now were in Canada, and it’s great fun.

KS: Tiring, but awfully fun. We’ve been on two tours this year, playing partially on the “Nothing to Prove” Tour in January and then moving on to the “This Is Our Time To Rock” Tour, which is great fun, but tiring. Everyone is so nice and friendly and the experience is something you don’t always get, visiting the world and meeting so many new people.

FN:  It’s quite a range of bands you’ve shared a bill with this year, bands as diverse as The Jupiter Archives, The Conspirators, Fragment Shelter, Eccentric Arcade on “Nothing to Prove” and then Whispers to the Fallen, Speed KingGothicEvil, Drifter and Death Face on “This Is Our Time To Rock”.  Were you actively involved in helping to put these tours together, and if so, why did you pick each band?

HS: Herbert mostly shopped around and got everyone he wanted for the “Nothing to Prove” tour, something he hoped would prep us for all the other tours we’ve had or are going through or will go through if that’s the case. EA was amazing and The Jupiter Archives are some of our new best friends, but everyone that toured there was a band we knew was great and has amazing potential. Herbert knows how to pick bands for touring.  As for the “This Is Our Time To Rock” Tour that’s all been put together by the Death Face camp.  They’ve done a great job and it’s been fun playing with such a wide variety of artists on that tour as well.

FN:  Every one of your albums has a sort of thematic “synopses” in the liner notes.  Who writes those and do you start with that idea and then write the music or does the music dictate the theme?

RS: It’s the funniest thing, because it’s often Harry’s album covers that decide our course. He finds something cool like a picture, comes up with an idea we all understand and it falls together with the music. Jacob writes the summaries to match the idea or feel of Harry’s pic or whatever he has while we progress through writing songs, which occasionally do impact some things music wise.

JM: I write them, but almost always because of the ideas Harry comes up with for album covers. His idealism with the artwork makes the mood, and my writing and our subsequent music ties it all together. I guess it’s kind of funny, but that’s just the way we work.

FN:  Do you consider yourself a “metaphysical” band?

HS: I guess. I’d never use “metaphysical” to describe us, but it works, especially because we do have that kind of musicality and outlook that is more internal and quizzical than probably everything else out there. It’s a new look, I suppose, but, honestly, I have never really considered us “metaphysical.” Perhaps more insightful and intellectual than some alternative bands, but probably not “metaphysical.”

RS: Occasionally, but not out loud. We do tend to drift towards more abstract music concerning with existence and truth, but it’s often too grounded in our reality to be considered purely “metaphysical.”

FN:  Any advice for any of the other up and coming bands on Figment?

HS: Try. Don’t give up because of one bad release or one mistake with an album. Your fans will forgive you and the true fans will only make you better.

JM: Be creative with your music. There are way too many bands today that focus on death or drugs or sex. I get it, that’s music for some people, but remember, creativity makes you stand out more and makes you more successful than you’d ever dream.

ZR: Live it. Music is an art. Make your art you, not something fake or stupid. And never give up. It’s even more stupid than fake music.

KS: Enjoy making you music. Sometimes you hit a rut and that’s expected, but don’t quit just because of that and don’t lose the passion of you love for music. You make music because it’s fun and because you like to. Don’t forget that or this career will just be a waste.

FN:  What’s next for !?

JM: I don’t know. We’ll see. I get the feeling the music might change just a bit to stay with the times, but we’re still touring too much to really get a feel on the future. We might make some music with The Simulations, but that’s just hearsay now.

HS: A new leaf. I get the feeling our direction might change, and it’s possible that our band’s personnel might be shifted around, but nothing too drastic. !? is here and that’s not going to change.

KS:  It’s been thrown around that 8755th might make a new band, with me teaming with some famed 8755th musicians for some new music for a new decade. But we’ll see about that. I love !?  too much to leave right now.

5 Responses to “The !? Interview!?”

  1. TMTYTF Says:

    Great interview from one of the best bands on Figment and clearly the top ACTIVE band on the site too! Fragment Shelter and Drifter have both really enjoyed performing alongside you guys.

    BTW, I already gave a shout out to !? but Katie, would you like to be featured on an upcoming Stonekrank side project for a song on the first album? You really won’t regret it

  2. ChildofAlma Says:

    Incredible interview. You guys really are one of the top 10 bands on figment, and one of the only >>>>ACTIVE<<<< bands on said list. Rock on dudes.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^ Whispers to the Fallen says hi.

  3. frizbee Says:

    Fantastic interview. I’m surprised it’s taken this long to see this interview crop up, cuz if anyone deserves it, it’s !?. I’ve been a huge !? fan from the beginning, and getting to play with them both at Fiestaval and on the Nothing To Prove tour was incredible. EA would love to work with !? again in the future. Keep up the great work, guys!

  4. theHoseman Says:

    I concur! Great interview…very insightful. I feel like I know the cats in !? a little more intimately…yet they somehow retained a bit of their mystery.
    Keep the great albums coming! All of us here at UncleDuffRecords love ’em!

  5. Declan Says:

    The best band I ever can think of besides the real band . But anyway James Hatter and the rest of Speed King says hi

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