On a rainy day in LA I roll into the recording studio just as Shiny Toy Guns finishes up a set. With me is Carah and Chad, whose less than energetic moods are reflected in the weather. The topic at hand is the new album and the music business.
How much time do you have logged into this new album?
Chad: Months and Months.
When did you start writing it?
Carah: Jeremy and Chad have been writing parts of this for two or three years now.
Chad: Some of the pieces have a few months, some of the pieces have a few weeks. Each piece of the record has its own story.
Simply titled “III”. Is that it or will that change as the release date approaches as some bands often do?
Carah: No, it’ll be three.
Chad: It’s sort of more like three lines. In an artistic way, it represents three symbols.
What is the release date?
Carah: We don’t have a specific date. Late spring/early summer.
Is all of the content done?
Chad: Pretty much.
What does it look like in length?
Carah: It looks like twelve songs.
Chad: We might have the iTunes LP extended play for this album.
Carah: We’re not sure what that will be yet, though.
That would be cool to see an extended version.
Chad: A new trend that started in the last year or so is that you can put out your album and pay X amount more and get a remix and video and bigger package.
Is that to counter the rise in music piracy?
Chad: Yeah, it’s less likely for them to find a torrent of the B-sides than the album, and you can’t get the B-sides unless you get the whole album.
How do you approach piracy as a band?
Carah: It’s just part of the game now. You just have to embrace it.
Chad: We haven’t been around for 20 years, so we haven’t felt the weight of it like bands like Metalica have.
You haven’t felt the recent shift in the music industry?
Chad: Our first major label release was 2006 on Universal. Even before then record, sales had been on a continuous downhill slope. Back in the day it would be like, “What the fuck, you band tanked because you only sold 3 million records.” Now Puff Daddy can come out with this smash hit and people will be like, “You just passed a million, hope you get to two.” It’s just a different world.
You guys did a cover of “Major Tom” for a commercial. How does that work in terms of revenue for the band?
Chad: It is different in terms of a cover. It’s something that all bands need to do now in order to make it, because the album sale is simply a souvenir of the band you love. You have to now develop the experience of the show, the content, the viral videos, the whole experience. You can’t just make records and not tour.
Definitely, for the bands I truly like I’ll buy the albums at the shows and maybe get them signed. I’m sure you guys sell a lot. Another recent change in the music industry is in live performances. There is now a higher expectation of what to see. Like in Vegas style clubs where they have massive lights and sound systems and fire breathers and go-go dancers and Cirque du Solei shit going on. Do you feel pressured during performances to keep up?
Chad: The pressure starts before we play because we have to think of something that is our own and is really bad ass, that we can afford to do and that is easy to travel with. Our friends went out and saw a band called Coco Rosie. Cool band. They have two lamps with colored lamp shades and that was the whole show. For the same price I went and saw the Yeasayers and they blew me away with all of these weird things they have like lights inside their drums they were all moving around like…
Cool novelties then.
Chad: Yeah, just cool shit. What is the band with the girls who were dolphin heads?
What? No idea.
Chad: Some hipster band from Brooklyn. All of a sudden, five beautiful girls in bikinis and dolphin heads run out and do this little thing. I don’t know if it was at every show, but it’s just weird shit like that. You can’t just get up there and play the guitar anymore. You need more stage presence.
A lot of bands have their own light shows now. Nosaj Thing does this awesome custom light show, although when I talked to him he admitted it’s tough to pull off and not practical to take on the road. We can talk about The Adicts and how they consistently give off over the top performances with confetti and beach balls and the whole shebang.
Chad: The best show I’ve ever seen was Ramstein in New York.
Ramstein, with the crazy pyrotechnics?
Chad: Yeah. I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. The lead singer owns one of the biggest pyrotechnic companies. But it was Madison Square Garden, their first show in years, so it was a pretty high bar they set in my head.
With that in mind, what were you guys thinking about doing on stage for your next tour?
Chad: Honestly, we haven’t even had time to talk about stuff like that.
Carah: We’ve always been focused on flashy lights and stuff.
Chad: Some of the shit laying around in our office, like a modified CO2 gun tied to a motorcycle…
Some people take it too far. This band at Warped Tour, Green Jelly, the singer had a pig on his codpiece and shogun shoulder pads and stuff. He just looked ridiculous. Real quick, can I ask you what was the reason for juggling around the members recently?
Chad: It’s Carah’s fault.
Carah: It definitely was not. When the first album came out we toured very hard for three or four years playing eight or nine hundred shows.
Wow. That’s impressive.
Carah: Yeah, we really went for it. Then we had a communication breakdown and forgot why we were all friends. Then there was the great divide, as we call it, where they had another singer. And now I’m back.
We love having you back. Even though you look sad and gloomy.
Carah: Why do I look sad and gloomy?
Chad: Carah and I were in the studio until three last night. And then we had to be up at eight this morning.
Carah: We’re just really hungry.
Chad: I wish I had some enchiladas.
Let’s get some enchiladas and then continue this interview.
Chad: There is no way we can interview with enchiladas in front of us.
How do you prepare for an international tour? Obviously the last tour tore your other band mates apart and I hear that spending such a large amount of time with each other will drive you crazy.
Chad: It’s all about breaks.
Carah: Breaks keep morale high. It’s mental very strenuous. It’s not like we’re out partying before we get onstage every night. And no matter what, we need to give it our all on the stage every time.
Chad: You need to get in the psyche in your head before you step on that stage as well. I look at it almost as a war.
Carah: You can’t put your guard down.
Chad: Everyone from the General to the Private has got to be ready to die for what they’re out there for.
Who is the General?
Chad: Jim, our manager. He buys the beer.
Does it get a little redundant getting in that same psyche before you perform?
Carah: No. It’s all ritual.
Chad: There is a lot of redbull. A lot of teeth brushing. A lot of make-up. You have to get into this pattern of Tonight.
Carah: You realize, even though you don’t know anyone at the show, they are here to see you perform and that is what you are here to do.
Chad: Here is the thing about a tour. We will be on the road, like four days on and one day off. That’s just the ground tour. Then when you get a song on the radio each radio station wants you to appear on their show to play an acoustic performance or a festival. Every part of the country had their own version. So between radio shows that take up our days off and live performances, we just need to get lucky and in any time we have off, force it to be a break. Stop the bus, everyone showers, fly to your girl, fly to your guy, play with homeless people.
Carah: As stuff comes in that is important, it has to be done.
Are you guys going to be playing or attending SXSW this year?
Chad: We are going to be there, but we are not ready to reemerge live yet.
Carah: We have a couple months to go.
Chad: It’s either get the record done right or right now, and we want to do it right.
What is your long term plan for the band? How long will Shiny Toy Guns be around?
Carah: We’re going to do it until it stops being fun.
Okay, Brett Farve.
Chad: I’ll keep playing anywhere. We’ll be in our 50’s playing at bars in Vegas.
I would watch that. Or just playing on a street corner? Like Monotonix, if the venue kicks you out, go play on the street. But they sadly don’t do tours anymore. Or exist. Did you record this album entirely here in Hollywood?
Chad: Most of it, yeah. This is out little office. The studio in Riverside as well. And Sweden.
Carah: We don’t even need to be in the same studio all at once wince we can e-mail each other parts of a song.
Chad: Remember when Puff Daddy did that recording with Jimmy Page in like’97. P Diddy called up Jimmy Page who played guitar live in real time through a satellite in front of a crowd.
I imagine you lose a bit of quality through the satellite, especially in those early days, but that doesn’t make it any less cool of a novelty.
Carah: Yeah, it’s a cool idea.
One of the coolest performance novelties I’ve seen was during the Electronic Daisy Carnival last year where they had a thousand foot projection screen and some guy back stage playing guitar and the licks he would play on guitar are linked to the visuals appeared on the screen. I can’t fathom how that worked.
Carah: They have screens on the guitar you can interact with. It must be something like that.
Who are your influences for this last album?
Carah: We can talk about being influenced by everything we see in life and friends and family.
Chad: Sonically, lots of stuff. We’ve always been influenced by electronic dance music as well as retro music.
At your next show I’m going to start a mosh pit.
Carah: I’ll be on stage like, “Circle pit!”
No one will know what you’re talking about.
Chad: We have people mosh to our ballads.
I’ve seen dubstep mosh pits. People will hurt each other whenever a breakdown is imminent. What venues do you prefer, small and intimate or large stadiums?
Carah: There is definitely an appeal to both. It’s cool to be a part of the crowd at a small venue but large stadiums make you feel really powerful, although your kind of isolated from the audience. You can’t even make out the faces.
That’s all of the questions I had for you guys. Thanks for chatting with me.