Something Corporate : Interview
: Chicago: 02.04.2003
by Dave Dalka
Photo courtesy of Barry Brecheisen
Music Frisk's Dave Dalka
was fortunate enough to catch up and interview Andrew McMahon, the new
age piano man of Something Corporate, before a recent show here in Chicago
at the Cabaret Metro. I found Andrew to be very interesting, thoughtful
and to possess a maturity level way beyond his age. In 2003, I certainly
look forward to receiving this album advance when the next album comes
out later this year and seeing them again shortly thereafter. Now, without
further delay -- Music Frisk’s interview with Andrew McMahon of
MF: Besides Elton John
and Billy Joel, what other keyboard or piano based music has influenced you?
McMahon: There are several.
Ben Folds, later on Coldplay, definitely had a big effect on me. There’s
little things you hear and you are like a sponge when you start playing
and I paid really close attention to a lot of things early on, like
the Beatles and Billy Joel.
MF: When did you learn
to play piano and at what point did going rock with it happen?
McMahon: It was kind of a result
of a family member passing away. I just sat down and started playing.
It was more like a coping thing, I had always written little poems and
stuff when I was a kid, so I just kind of used it and channeled melody
in poems into songs based on chords that I had learned and that is kind
of where it began.
MF: So you were able to
channel that energy…
McMahon: Yeah, definitely!
I did it eight hours a day after that. It was definitely the most effective
and easiest way to roll through thoughts and things like that. I later
took some classical piano lessons, but I was mostly self-taught.
The Window,” what does that album title mean?
McMahon: It came off a few
hour conversation the band had trying to name the record really close
to the release of the record. The recurring theme throughout the record
kind of came from a lyric in “I Want to Save You”, so she
could leave without being detected or whatever. We kind of liked the
sound of that and weren’t sure we wanted to represent that theme,
that rebellion in a sense, but things that a lot of us do when we are
younger and trying to find our own way. That was something Josh said,
spit out, “Leaving Through The Window.” It seemed right,
right when we heard it the first time.
MF: Did you expect it
to be as successful as it was and that you would be doing a co-headlining
tour on your first album?
McMahon: It’s hard to
say. Part of us I think in the commercial sense I think we thought it
would be more successful and I think in the credible grass roots touring
sense that we are in right now, it wouldn’t be as successful.
It was like, kind of a reverse. I think we thought we had a really good
record on our hands that would appeal to radio a lot more and it didn’t
really work out like that based on extraneous things and whatever but
it ended up we were much more successful in and area that we didn’t
think we would be and probably the area that is most important that
we are, which is building something from the ground up and nurturing
it, rather than trying to make a tree out of a seed the next day. I
think that’s where we benefited the most from recording this record.
MF: The song “Konstantine”,
it’s almost every Something Corporate fan’s favorite, yet it’s
not on the album. What’s up with that?
McMahon: Well we recorded a
version of it to be put on a Drive-Thru Records sampler a while ago.
To be honest, to us we had finally created the definitive version of
it. We had done a handful of live recordings of that song that had kind
of circulated. Never really approached it in the recorded form and we
did and it was the one that everyone got their hands on and obsessed
over and made this huge, weird, little cult thing about “Konstantine”.
You know what I mean? When it came to recording the record, it was like
we have one of two options, either we stick a song on a record that
is gonna stand out like a sore thumb because it doesn’t sound
like the rest of the album, because we loved the recording of it. Or
we re-record a song that our core group of fans had become so obsessed
with and to be honest, even if you make a recording better, you can’t
necessarily please the people that heard the first version of it. Where
we were willing to a couple of songs that we thought would have more
of a mass appeal and kind of reach out there, not to say that “Konstantine”
doesn’t. I think we kind of felt this song was sacred in a sense
by the way it had been treated by our fans that it seemed a little more
important to us I think to maintain the integrity of the song without
changing it and also maintain the integrity of the album without putting
something on it that really would completely change the record and not
so much for the best of the record. To us it would be like an album
and “Konstantine”. Since “Konstantine” is so
available and the internet exists and there’s places where it
exists. If kids really like it, they can get it… The
limited time sound clip of Andrew's Konstantine answer has expired,
please visit your favorite Something Corporate message board to find
someone to obtain it from! Stop by quicker next time, OK?
MF: In fact, just for
kicks, I played that song for a few older “Elton John” type fans
that had no idea who Something Corporate was and they really liked the song…
McMahon: That’s really
cool to know!
MF: I’ve heard you
are starting to work on some new material already. What direction do you think
Something Corporate will progress, back to a “Konstantine” type
of sound, a different direction or do you not even know yet?
McMahon: I think to progress
backwards it not really, you know what I mean, I don’t think we
are trying to go backwards in any way. We are always trying to grow
and do something new. I think to us, every one of our songs is a piece
of our puzzle of us growing and developing and whatnot. It’s hard
to know what the new record will be like. I think there’s a lot
of material written for it. We are going to go in and start recording
it in April. We can’t wait because recording is probably our favorite
thing that we could do. We are going to do what is natural. It would
be almost silly to project because I’d be wrong one way or another,
or at least I’d be guessing. Until we sit down in that room and
start playing these songs, I don’t think anybody is going to know
what it will sound like.
MF: I’ve been told
you have a new single “Punk Rock Princess”…
McMahon: In Europe. It’s
strictly an international campaign; we’re not being releasing
it in the states. The international company was real excited by it.
To me, it’s like a song like “If you C Jordan” that’s
a bit sophomoric in its appeal. I personally think there’s a valid
version of that song that’s a lot more serious and has a completely
different vibe. As far as the way it’s recorded, I think it’s
a great single, but we didn’t want to follow up a song like “If
you C Jordan” that was out here with another one of those songs
and risk that that would be our identity.
MF: So you have some templates
of what those new songs will be like. How does the song writing process work
with you guys?
McMahon: Really more the band
element of it; more of an arrangement element. I write most of the songs
in the band, Josh writes the rest, like 3 songs on “Leaving Through
The Window”. I’m sure it will be similar on this record
as well. We kind of both write kind of individually. I know a lot of
bands do it differently. From my perspective, because song writing started
off as such a personal thing and it was for the 11 years I’ve
been doing it, it is really hard to change that. I don’t really
write a particular way, but the one thing that is consistent about it
is that it’s very, very personal and very much my own process.
Since the band has been progressing and whatnot, we all of the sudden
now the way we approach songs is just to take almost the bare form of
a song and just bring it and flush out a million different ideas for
the arrangement of it. That’s why I say it’s hard to tell
where it will go. I know how the songs sound on the piano and I know
how the vocals and lyrics, I know what those are all like but once we
all get in there and sit down in the studio it becomes such a collaborative
thing that a song can really develop and become something you weren’t
expecting when we are all there moving it along.
MF: What are some of your
most interesting experiences you’ve had either at shows or interacting
with fans that strike you as unique?
McMahon: I think just the dedication
of fans to our band and the bands surrounding the scene that we’ve
kind of been brought up in, is amazing. It’s what, 10 or 15 degrees
out there and you have a line around the block of kids to see the show.
To me that something that I did as a kid, I don’t mean kids, I
just mean as a showgoer, I always use that term. When I had time and
I was going to see shows every week, like I’d be the one in the
front of the line, sitting there freezing my ass off to go see a band.
To me the most interesting thing about it is the fact that people are
doing that now for our band. That’s the most flattering thing,
almost the most rewarding thing about it. It’s one thing when
people go out and buy your record because yeah it’s like a financial
commitment in a sense, but it doesn’t require more than go buy
it. A lot of people don’t even listen to a record if they buy
it. But when someone is willing to dedicate an entire day of their lives
to waiting in line to see you play for 60 minutes or 30 minutes or whatever
it is, to me it shows that your music has an impact on people. It is
a wild thought to think that our music has impacted people the way music
impacted us when we were young.
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