Interview by Keira Zhou & Gerry Song
Photos by Keira Zhou
Where did all three of you guys meet?
Aaron: Josh and I met a lot earlier in middle school when we were like 12. We immediately shared love for music with each other, and just got to it. Later on we met Matt playing at a church. Matt played drums there, and then we all basically did the same thing, just at the church.
Did any of you have any formal music training?
Aaron: No. We all kinda like, do it yourself first, teach yourself. Just listened to a lot of bands, musicians that influenced us. We are all very much like, let me just sit down and learn my favorite songs and just keep doing that over and over again, for the most part.
Josh: We (Josh and Aaron) both started taking lessons when we were young, and we both realized that we... didn’t like to do that. Cause when you take lessons, you realize that the person is almost trying to do things slowly, just so that you come back week after week. I just know that me personally wanted to learn more, and I couldn’t convince this guy to teach me faster. So I just ended up bailing on that, cause it’s expensive. We started to learn our instruments right around when the Internet started to become a thing, and YouTube became a thing, and you can find thousands of things that can teach you how to play music. That was when we were between ages 10 and 15.
Speaking of influential musicians, whom do you derive your inspiration from?
Josh: That’s a good question. It’s difficult because in the streaming era, you listen to a wide range of artists. That’s the same thing we do. So there are certain bands we end up sounding sort of like, that we don’t even listen to because of marketing reasons. But the types of artists we derive inspiration from, anything ranging from jazz musicians, obviously to rock musicians, R&B, like Frank Ocean is a huge influence for me personally. Snarky Puppy is an instrumental Jazz band, and they are incredible at what they do and they are definitely giving us a lot of inspiration in how to excel at what we are doing, even though our sounds are very different. Mutemath, that was a band that was really big 2006 through 2014. And they are all producers now. They produced Twenty One Pilots’ most recent record. They are just incredible musicians. Darren King and Paul Meany are producers now. They are phenomenal. We derive a lot of inspirations from them.
Who writes the melody, and who writes lyrics for the songs?
Josh: It’s a very nebulous process. Me, being a vocalist, care more about the lyrics sometime. We try to keep things open when it comes to music. There usually is a seed idea, like I write a vocal part and that’s what the song’s based around, and if Aaron writes a Guitar riff and then that’s what the song is based around. It sort of comes from both directions. We try to keep things open. Because a lot of times, you end up building a song on the elements that you end up replacing. So if I write a guitar part, and I write a song over that guitar part, and Aaron comes in later and takes out my original guitar part, the original idea is gone, but we’ve made a song built on that. So it evolves and every song is written in a different way. We try to make sure we stay as dynamic as possible.
Do you guys ever fight, when it gets to the song?
Josh: We never fight.
Aaron: No. There’s usually a pretty tame post song conversation. We kinda know how we work now, where to play our strengths. When the song is being written, we leave it open for him (Josh) to develop the framework and do whatever he needs to do in terms of production, because there’s a strong vision there. But then he (Josh) always leaves it open after that to be like what we wanna change, what we wanna keep, or is there something you are seeing. It’s pretty democratic.
Matt: I think that at the end of the day, it’s kinda like best idea wins. And as long as everyone’s cool with that, it’s very democratic. It’s just what’s best for the songs, what’s best for the band.
Josh: I think the big thing is just respect. I’ve known Aaron for over 10 years now, and we spent a lot time fighting when we were younger, but we got to the point now that we’ve been with each other for so long and we’ve been writing music together for so long that we know how to communicate properly. We know how to make sure that if there’s a disagreement, we can talk through it.
What was the first time you three performed together? Did anyone screw up?
Josh: Good question. I don’t think so. We repeat things ad nauseam. Cause basically if you rehearse things to the point you are bored doing them, playing live, you don’t mess up, or if you mess up, you know how to get back on track. We actually didn’t perform after our first record was written. If you listen to our first record, it’s a lot of ideas and it’s the sound of us just being in a bedroom studio, trying to figure out what it is we are trying to play like.
Aaron: As josh was saying, basically we practice as if we are playing a show. So our live show is very calculated but you gotta make it seems like its not calculated. That’s the whole trick of performing. We know exactly what things are happening, what cues are, but you gotta make it seems like it’s natural. So every single time we practice, it’s start to finish, we are playing a show.
You are releasing an album on Aug 16th, and you are trying to break this into three parts. What was the idea behind that?
Josh: We grew up listening to full-length records, and falling in love with full length records. By time we put our first record out in 2017, it was brought to our attention that the industry does not put enough an emphasis on full-length records anymore, especially for a new band. If a new band puts out a full-length album, maybe one song will get some attraction and the rest is just kind of trashed. So we needed to come up a way to release a conceptual full-length record but in a way that makes sense in the streaming era. So what we decided to do is break a full-length album into three parts, 5 songs each. So over the two years, we released these two records, and by the time it’s done, it’s one concept record. So that way, it gives people the time to digest the music as it came out and it gives fans the opportunity to watch us as we grew, and watch us as we figure out how to write, as we figure out our sound. So like I said, that first record, it’s us in a bedroom studio, kinda working things out. By the time we made to this last record, we finally found our sound. It’s a lot different, and as people going through these three records, it’s like watching an evolution of a band finding out who they really are.
What can listeners expect in your last album in Youth // Trilogy? How’s it different from the first two?
Josh: It’s our most developed piece of music. It has the best writing that we’ve ever had. It has the best production, has the best engineering. It does feel like our first real record. It feels an actual piece of music that we are proud to put up and stack up against some of our favorite artists. We think that it lives in that way. The subject matter is as heavy as I’ve ever been able to write. The sound is very mature and developed.
Aaron: This burger is great (They are eating). I just feel like it’s the proudest we’ve ever been of any music that we’ve ever put out. We are genuinely excited to show people this music now more than ever. Now we feel like, this is good music, and we feel ourselves speaking though this music, and we feel like it can speak to others and relate to people whether it’s Josh’s lyrics. We just got a lot good hands on it. Nick Goncalves from the band 8 Graves did the production and he brought everything to the next level, which made a whole lot of a difference.
Matt: This is spicy (They are still eating). I think with Youth // 3, it’s definitely our biggest sounding record. Every song feels really communal and inclusive with people. We used a lot of group vocals in the songs; it feels like you are singing with a crowd while listening to the song. They are harder hitting, a little bit more rock n’ roll. They are definitely our biggest sounding songs, and it’s the sound that we’ve been looking for.
Josh: Hopefully Youth // 3 is going to be the highlight the entire Trilogy and really resonate with people.
What do you guys do when you're not out playing music?
Josh: Play more music. We like to keep physically active. We like bouldering; we boulder together a lot. Spending a lot of time playing video games together. We play a lot of Stardew Valley, which is a great game for the nintendo switch.
Matt: Most importantly we are not just band mates, we are all best friends. When we are hanging out, we are hanging out with our friends. It’s not just band stuff. Even if we weren’t making music, we’d still be hanging out everyday.
Josh: It feels like a family and we are so integrated into each other’s lives. And I think that it translates into the music we make, and videos we shoot. We are just living our lives together, in a really cute way. We are like in a long term relationship, very committed (joking).
Josh: Jade Green
If you had to choose your last meal, what would it be?
All you can eat sushi buffet. We are really into the Sushi game right now.
Saint Slumber's new album Youth // 3 is out Aug 16th.