Wed, 22 May 2013 10:43:29
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On their debut album The Creep is Born, New Jersey quartet Creeptones conjure up a fuzzed-out sound that's got Smashing Pumpkins-size bombast and Queens of the Stone Age-esque swagger to spare. Simply put, they're the most exciting unsigned alternative rock band that the East Coast boasts right now. It's as fascinating as it is fiery, and it burns in the best way possible. The second you hear it, you'll feel it.
In this exclusive interview, vocalist Carmine Stoppiello talks The Creep Is Born and so much more…
What ties The Creep Is Born together for you? Was there one consistent vision for the album from the get-go?
Our roots go deeper than our debut album, which is important I think. The band truly began in 2008 when I was fresh out of high school, attending community college. I had this feeling the whole semester that I was wasting really important time. The only years in your adolescent life where you really have the opportunity to shoot for the stars without any consequence—no wife, no bills, and no kids. Things I still don't have much of. When I made the decision that I was going to pursue a serious band. From that very moment, my time would either be squandered at parties pretending I went to college, or spent building the structure of what could someday be successful band. Thankfully the two ran into each other.
The Creep is Born [iTunes link], for us at least, was an album that suited our beginning. We had written about 25 songs, and these ones were the ones that finished themselves. After with our four man lineup for a year, in the summer of 2011 we decided that it was time to record an album. Our guitarist (Johnny Vines) was studying and working with a man named Jeff Levine (Organist for Joe Cocker) who runs a studio in Long Branch, Organic Studios. Johnny picked it up fairly quick. We spent two weeks in his basement recording it. He spent the entire summer and nearly all his free time mixing it.
To answer the questions more directly, in terms of what ties it together for us, is that genre-wise, it is all over the place. We've had trouble describing our sound (like many artists) and the songs on this album conjure that. There are songs like "Thanks for Betraying Me" and "Xanxabar Man", which draw from harder rock and punk, "War Fly" has a southern rock influence, "Skeleton Man" is funk, "Dead Phone" has a 60's rock revival feel, and "Back In a Few" is a twist on modern Rock/Pop. After the albums completion, we had second thoughts about if we had done enough to make it feel like an album, rather than a collection of songs on the same disc. In hindsight though, it does its job, because the music we've been writing recently has connections to the different styles of music presented on The Creep is Born. The only difference now, is that we're starting to get better at meshing the style's and feelings together more coherently. Looking back, we are proud of the album. It took a year to release. By the end of that year it received a mention in ObscureSound.com's 50 best albums of 2012, more than two years after the songs were written.
As far as vision was concerned- it speaks for itself. We were young artists trying our best to be "professional". We were babies compared to how long some bands stick together and evolve or creeps fresh and wet out of the cocoon, bound to make mistakes, bound to trip and fall. We did plenty of both, but we learned hard lessons. We're always learning.
Is it important for the songs to conjure visuals? It seems like very cinematic music.
I'd say overall, visuals are exceedingly important. Before you can put an image in someone's head though, they need to be paying attention to the words. They need to feel the music before they actually listen to it. It happened to me this week, listening to the new Phoenix album. I had it on repeat, humming and singing along after the third or fourth go-around. I realized I hadn't been listening to the words as stories with beginnings or endings, but more so as streams of phrases and musical themes, which was perfectly enjoyable and enough, but when I dug deeper and started analyzing what they meant to me, it was even more rewarding as a listener. I think that to get a visual in someone's head, we try to paint pictures through feelings and emotions, rather than phrases that talk about a specific event or happening. To give an example, instead of talking about someone's over-sized sweater and trying to force an image, we might talk about how their sweater seemed like it was falling off their body and try to attach a few meanings behind a single phrase. We try to write for a variety of situations so that it doesn't alienate everyone else who can't relate to whatever it is we're attempting to talk about.
What are the stories behind "Thanks for Betraying Me" and "Xanxabar Man"?
To ask this question, you are either A. A very keen listener, B. God imposing his power on us foolish mortals, or C. already know that both songs were written about the same person. Without saying names, a friend and someone who is still our friend was going through some substance abuse issues. If you're alive and aren't blind to world around you, you probably know someone going through it too. It's rough, for everyone involved. Xanxabar is a play on words and a metaphor for a place that is filled with chaos and negativity. Xanax is a drug that should not be combined with drinking. The song's delivery is anger. "Why are you still doing drugs? Why can't you stop! I've tried to help! I am DONE helping." It's about being young and angry that you can't change people who are doing the wrong thing.
"Thanks For Betraying Me" is written more broad but it stemmed from the same person "Xanxabar" Man was written about. It relates to the people in life that don't have time for other people's opinion or ways of thinking (You're talking to me like I'm a robot, a computer, taking orders, speak when spoken too). A general malaise about the chances they have as people to be caring and objective to everybody before they meet them (instead of trying to figure it, I don't mind, it's their time). It is completed with a boast in the face of negativity (Come on, you couldn't stop us but you tried).
What artists shaped you? Who did you listen to as a kid that you still dig?
The Beatles are our truest influence. They were the perfect storm, everything fell into place, nearly everything they did was not only universally popular, but critically acclaimed. They defined an up-and-coming genre, and invented a new way of being a band. Then they ended their career with a swansong that summed up their homerun in music. 10 years together, and they wrote enough music to still be the most popular band of all time 50 years later. That's quite the achievement. We're not the first person to name the Beatles as a prime influence, but if you are bold enough to even dream you could be like them at all is blasphemy in music. You get told to shut up and write more songs—probably just told to shut up. Play a thousand gigs before anyone knows your name. It's been 50 years since they became famous, and not once has anyone ever on earth mentioned a band that could touch the caliber of what they did. I won't say that I'm assuming Creeptones are that band, we're far from that and we can only be flattered if someone compares us to them, so I remove my band mates from this statement. If people really believe there can never be "better than Beatles", they need to remind themselves of imagination. Things need to be thought of before they exist. If you are the only person who believes in something, and believe in it truly and with love, you own it. No one else can take that from you. I find trouble answering this question because I'm afraid of the flak my honest response will send me. I'm typically a really easy person to get along with, and shy away from conversational topics that spark a debate. Maybe enough time has passed where people are starting to move on. But something should be said, I think I am just afraid that the Beatles are finally started to fade as a cultural deity, and I am making a bold statement to prove their relevance. As far as the way they made people feel in life, it was always positive. I don't want that to disappear. So I guess I try to write with similar intention. Make people happy and positive enough to make small changes in their lives and the lives of others. If we all did that more, things might seem a little warmer in the winter.
If you were to compare your album to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
I might be the worst person to ask this question to. If you gave me a list of top one 1,000 movies of all time, I've most likely only seen only about fifty or so of them. I can't count the number of times people have been talking about a movie and I've walked out of the room. My excuse is usually that I'm saving them up for when I'm old and can't move so well, but it stems from the fact that I never watched movies as a kid and growing up. I was playing video games and using the internet. I'm sure there are tons of people who did those things too, but I replaced movies with music as far as time spent.
So this album is like Star Wars: Episode IV on repeat, thirty nights in a row during high school, falling asleep to it and wanting to put in The Empire Strikes Back, but you can't because you didn't finish the movie the night before. It is a hero's journey—over and over again. You're young and blind to the adventure you are bound to go on. You're trying to adapt to the conventional ways of living but realizing you are destined for something else—because you want to be. And you make it that way.
What's next for you?
We want to utilize our time and technology to do things that bands haven't done yet and set groundwork for the way we work from the ground up and into the next chapter for us. Consistency is key, and we want to be ahead of ourselves at every possible turn. To see what is coming and respond to it. This is all too broad maybe. We have ideas to take full advantage of being able to directly access people at any time. I don't know why the internet isn't being used like that for music yet. The way it should be. Not talking about just updates and blogs and here's what I had for breakfast. If you don't have a Facebook profile because you're against the false connection, but you try to provide one on your Bands page, you can be doing a better job of connecting with people. The farthest bands will go is a live stream of a concert. Great, but where are the new ideas?! The issue for us right now, is that we are lacking two important things to make the ideas in our head a reality. The first is money and it's obvious, but the other is reaching a big enough number of fans that would be willing to be a part of the experience we would like to present. So for now, next for us is to write more music. Try to make it as best as we possibly can. Share it with the world and get out as much as possible. Be interesting and stand out. Those two things sound incredibly blah, but nobody is performing live and NOT trying to be heard. We want to get people excited about music and help grow the music community in our hometown. We can achieve that and the musician's in our area would agree. Toms River has been a breeding ground for talent and it's undeniable. There is something special about this place. You can go all over the country and not find something that is just like it.
How did you enter the current competition and what can you say about it thus far?
I saw a Facebook Ad about it. Hard Rock Rising! Submit to be a part of the world's largest battle of the bands! It caught my attention. To be honest, I normally really dislike competitions like this. It typically breeds negativity among artists, you secretly despise the good music because you think it's got a chance to "beat" yours. Terrible ethics as a musician. Couple that with the fact that typically, you have to sell tickets to rounds and you are in effect working as an underpaid, under-trained promoter. They rope you in with a prize that is not nearly worth the effort, and you leave the thing feeling disjointed and confused about what you just did.
That being said, this competition featured NONE of those negative aspects. You didn't have to have a huge following, or pawn off someone else's guitar to make up ticket money, so you can win a battle of the bands and really seal the deal with the devil by signing a music contract that stunts your growth as independent artists. Aspiring artists: Do it on your own. If you are asking if you need a record label, you don't yet. If you can bypass that stage altogether, you are doing yourself a big favor. This is the internet age. It will only get easier.
We made it through an online local voting round to determine which bands would play at our local Atlantic City Hard Rock Cafe. There were two live battles, and we placed first in both of them. The bands were good. Cheezy and the Crackers stood out, regardless of whether they asked people to vote for a different band in the last round or not. We still think they are great.
The last and most testing of all was the global voting round. 96 winners from almost every Hard Rock Cafe in the world, voted into a top 25. We made 9th place. It sounds much easier than it was, as it was easily the most stressful and trying month of our lives.
From the minute we knew we had made it into the final 96 (March 28th), we had exactly 25 days to prepare a strategy to get enough votes to move on. I think we literally did everything possible. We emailed hundreds of blogs, recorded a new song just for the purpose of it being voted on and being new, with accompanying art by Nico Lucido, contacted local and college radio stations, newspapers, television, and prepared a Facebook campaign that would hopefully reach a large amount of people. It all worked. In one month, we received more good press than in the past 4 years. This interview included. We were advertised by Hard Rock Cafe on South Jersey's 103.7 WMGM, featured on 1400 AM WOND's Marc Berman Show, written about in 4 newspapers including the Asbury Park Press, played live on FM radio 4 night's in a row by 95.9 the WRAT's Maria Mar, and with tremendous help from our friends and family, reached over 100,000 people in one week. It has been the most exciting thing to happen to us, but it didn't come out of thin air. We made connections and told our story. That's all. It just worked. We worked hard, and it paid off. At the time of writing this, we're only two days away from possibly winning the prize of a lifetime, and one that would invariably send us flying into whatever direction we choose. We'd get $10,000 in cash, $10,000 in new gear, make another album, go on a 6 city world tour, and open for a hometown hero of ours, Bruce Springsteen, across the pond at the Olympic Stadium in London. We'd be performing the same place Paul McCartney did last summer. To do that would be an affirmation of anything we ever dreamed of, because that's something we didn't even have the salt to come up with. It's too real to be written. Win or lose, we are going to continue to try and provide ourselves and the rest of the world with something worth being heard. We've been reaching more and more people as time is passing and we hope that they can identify themselves with the only message we know how to send; We don't have much time on this great earth, let's spend it wisely and get along. Love is endless. Tap into it and change heart before you change mind.
Have you heard Creeptones?
For more info, visit the band's www.creeptones.net.