Something Corporate Interview : Chicago: 02.04.2003
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 Something Corporate…
MF: Besides Elton John and Billy Joel, what other keyboard or piano based music has influenced you?
Andrew 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?
Andrew 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…
Andrew 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.
MF:“Leaving Through The Window,” what does that album title mean?
Andrew 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?
Andrew 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?
Andrew 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…
Andrew 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?
Andrew 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”…
Andrew 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?
Andrew 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?
Andrew 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.