We've had a thing for Evangelicals ever since we heard that wonderful debut album of theirs, So Gone. What we wrote about it a few months ago still sums it up best. It's a record that gets a lot of play in my stereo. Hot on the heels of a busy fall, we had a few minutes to kill with Evangelicals leader Josh Jones, who let us know all about what was going on with the band.
Getting ready for tour?
Uh, I probably should be, shouldn't I? (Laughs) But I usually save that time for the day before.
How are things with Evangelicals these days?
Oh, they're good. It's really, really busy for us this fall. The way we've got it mapped out, when we're not touring, we're recording, so I have to flip back between the two modes. It's been really busy, but that's a good thing, being busy with something you love, right? It beats being busy doing something you hate.
So are you just touring the US, or are you going to Europe?
Well, the closest we're getting to Europe is Montreal. (Laughs) I wish we were going to Europe. Maybe some time in the future, but nothing is planned for Europe right now.
You mentioned that you're about to start recording. I understand your debut was pretty much you working by yourself.
Yeah, a lot of that is true. A lot of that stuff was done...you know they say you have your entire lifetime to make your first record and a year to make your second, and in a lot of ways, that's true. A lot of the record was me recording songs, hoping and wishing for a band that didn't exist yet. I took the Field of Dreams message to heart when making the record, "If you record it, the band will come…" (Laughs)
Talking about recording, how do you think your new music will be different, now that Evangelicals is actually a band, as opposed to you simply writing and recording songs under the name Evangelicals?
I think it is a little more focused. When you're working by yourself, you can sort of trip off, and no one is there to reign you in. When making the first record, I was thinking, "Fuck it, maybe this stuff will never be played live, so let's forget about worrying about that part." In the back of my mind, there's a little bit of a sense of "Okay, it would be nice if we could play this live…" So I think it's a little more focused this time, but I think it sounds a lot more like a real band in some ways.
So will you be performing a lot of new material on this upcoming tour?
Yeah, we've been playing one new song from the record, one called "Skeleton Man." I think we'll probably have one or two more songs we'll work into the tour. For us, though, all of the songs we're playing are from the first record. They're like ten years old to me, but brand new to everybody else. I sometimes forget that people in New York City haven't heard these songs before.
With the material you're working on now with the rest of the band, will we see more of an input from the other members, in terms of writing and performance?
Yeah. A lot of it is still me sitting in front of a computer. That's the nature of the equipment we have; we don't have a studio, we don't go into studios, we have our own. So a lot of it is still me sitting at a computer, so the nature of that makes it hard to be collaborative. It's hard for two people who sit at a computer to be like, "uh, make that edit" or "Stop this part here." In that sense, at the end of the day, it's still the same. But as far as arrangements and the writing, it's definitely been more of a band effort.
I'm sure that takes the pressure off of you a little bit?
Yeah, it does! It's nice, but if people say, "man, the new record sucks," I'll say, "hey man, it wasn't MY fault!" (Laughs) Nah, that's not the case, we're all a part of it. But yeah, there's something really nice about having a band.
You guys befriended me on Myspace before I had a chance to hear your music, and when I did, I thought, "Man, these guys make some really nice indie-pop." And then Sean, the other mastermind behind Mundane Sounds, informed me that he saw you live and bought your CD, and when I described your music to him, he said "That's not how they sound live at all." He wanted me to ask you how you reconcile your tricky, cut-up production styles on the album with your live show.
Hmm…a lot of that stuff, due to modern recording, you can't do a lot of that stuff live without backing tracks, playing to prerecorded music. We've never wanted to play to pre-recorded music mainly because we like the elements of chaos in the live show, so what we feel like whatever we have to sacrifice to play live, whatever we play from the record that we can't play, instead of remaining true, we try to make up for it with some sort of controlled chaos on stage. Definitely, the live show is a lot more pummeling than the album, yeah. We try to make it sound like the record, but I don't know what we would have to do, other than get two or three other members in order to do that. But it's so cheap to have three members in a band, it makes sense. (Laughs)
Considering the contrast between your live act and your record, does it sometimes feel as if Evangelicals is a bit of a schizophrenic band?
When the record was being made, I had never performed that stuff live before, so definitely the live element had no influence on us in terms of recording until recently. That had never had an influence until we started playing live as a band, and then when we became a band, we started to play a shit-ton of shows right off the bat, so I think it's definitely influenced us onw. I think one of the things I've learned from making this first record and then going out and playing our record live is that what works on a record doesn't work live and what works live doesn't work on record. I think a lot of times it's that element that makes you change your songs when it's time to make your record. When you're playing live, it's much more immediate, and when you play live, you can do three-minute instrumental breakdowns that are awesome and leave people blown away, but then when you throw that shit on a record, people get bored with it rather quickly and move on to the next song. I think it's cool to have different elements like that, when bands come from two different places like that.
With this album you're working on now, do you notice a definite difference in the style of your compositions? Are they less "all over the place"? When I described your record, I said it sounded like a band that's on the verge of falling apart, but within the realm of that, it was really exciting, and then when you started singing these really sugary-sweet vocals, it all just worked. Obviously since you are doing a lot more live, do you think that element comes into play a lot more now with the songs you're working on—do you notice a difference?
I notice that difference, yeah. The way you described the record as almost falling apart is pretty accurate. That record's also been described as "the sound of the Shins having a band fight." I like that! I like that element of chaos. The new record sounds like that, except more focused. (Laughs) I've been listening to Rocky Horror Picture Show a lot, and a lot of early to mid 70s glam, so I think the new record is definitely going to have a more theatrical element to it.
Do you think that those who have heard the first record, when they hear your new record, will think, "Wow, is this the same band?" Would you say that it's a radical change?
Oh yeah, yeah. I think it's pretty different. Obviously it is the same guys writing the songs, so it still sounds similar in that regard. In between these two records, I've saturated myself with a lot of music and I've tried to focus a lot more on writing. I think it's going to be different. Now if you're asking if you think it'll be like, "Oh man, what happened to these guys?" I don't think that will be the case, because I don't think many people have bought the first record! (Laughs) I'm not too concerned about ditching or losing our old-school Evangelicals fans, because I don't know how many of them there actually are—my mom, maybe! (Laughs)
You're going out on tour with Serena Maneesh and Wovenhand, and that's a pretty diverse bill. On one hand, you have this loud noise band, and the other you have dark, gothy country-folk. I think it's a great bill.
I agree, I think it's a pretty cool lineup, too. We'll see. Sometimes I feel like we're the hyperactive little brothers of some of these more serious bands, so we'll see how the crowds take to us. I think it'll be fun.
Being from Oklahoma, how do you feel about those comparisons to Flaming Lips?
Well, ya know, unless we were making hard-core gangsta rap, or if we were Toby Keith or something, I think we're always going to get those comparisons. The Starlight Mints were labeled that way from day one and I don’t think they sound anything like Flaming Lips. But I think it's pretty cool, actually, when people say "Oh, these guys sound like the Flaming Lips" and "wow, these guys sound like the Starlight Mints." It helps to build a musical legacy for Oklahoma, and maybe it's some reason for people to come here and make Norman, Oklahoma a better place. People come here and think, "oh shit, the Flaming Lips" and "oh shit, the Starlight Mints" and start to think, for some odd reason, that it's a really weird place with really cool music going on, and that's a good thing. I think I went to my first Flaming Lips show when I was twelve, and at that age, getting your mind blown, it's great. And it's cool, too, to have your favorite bands to be living just down the street. I think it's extremely flattering—I can see where some bands might be annoyed by those kinds of comparisons to a more popular band, but, for me, I think it's kind of fun. And, ya know, I think it's kind of inevitable and it comes along with the territory.
Since the comparisons have been made in the press, have you had any feedback from the Flaming Lips about what you do?
Oh yeah! Those guys are my friends, and I don't know if they've read things that say such things, but they have seen us play and are aware of what we do, and what goes on. We're playing a show with them in September. I think they have an idea about us. (Laughs)
So do you have an idea about as to when the new record will be out?
We're trying to have it out by next summer. It's a very fall-sounding record. When I say Rocky Horror Picture Show, a lot of it is about weird ghosts, monsters, and nightmares, so that by the time the fall rolls around people will have heard the record and will be ready for it. We're trying to make the ultimate fall record over here.
Evangelicals' debut record, So Gone, is available now on Misra Records