Interview: Joseph Ferocious (of Cymbals Eat Guitars)

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    If you haven’t heard Why There Are Mountains then stop everything and get to it. The debut from Staten Islander’s Cymbals Eat Guitars is ambitious to say the least combining post, prog, and every other kind of sonic rock into a dynamic and genuine package. I recommend “Some Trees” or “Wind Phoenix”, but really you can’t go wrong with any of the selections. This has caused quite a stir up in the music community, landing them some key gigs around the U.S. and Europe.

    Speaking of gigs, the band is just a week away from embarking on their biggest tour to date that will take them all over the U.S. and eventually into Europe by winter. Did I mention that they are supporting The Pains of Being Pure at Heart for the first stint? Not to shabby. Now even though they are in the middle of planning out the long trek, guitarist, vocalist, and general front man Joseph Ferocious took some time to answer a few questions.

    You guys have been on the road for quite a bit now, and it’s my understanding that it’s your first really big tour, so how has the been going for you?


    Joseph Ferocious: Well actually we are just leaving. Our first show on the tour is in Boston on September 5th at the Middle East, that will be the beginning of the national tour. We have just been doing little mini tours and one offs throughout the summer, so we are not on our official national tour yet. We did a fly out to Seattle for the KXT BBQ, we went to London early in the summer, and 80/35 in Iowa, but this will really be the first extended road trip for us, 30 days. So yeah, we are as ready as we will ever be for it. We Just played a really good show at the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg on Thursday, and we are very excited to go out. I’m really getting into The Pains record more so it’s nice to be touring with a band who’s music you really enjoy.

    The record is absolutely amazing, and it’s made a serious impact since it’s release. How’s all the attention been for you?

    JF: It’s great, but in the beginning it was worrisome. Back in March we might have not have been fully prepared to deliver everything live but the timing just all seemed to work out so that as bigger opportunities came up we were able to incrementally rise to them. I guess that’s the name of the game if you’re a young band like we are, and I guess we have risen to justify the acclaim of the record I guess. But it’s been good though, and we are very grateful to the media outlets and people and critics who have latched on and really given us support.


    Now as for translating your music live, your record has a lot of different elements in it. How much of that will you be bringing with you on the road?

    JF: Well the money situation being what it is for us, we can’t really afford to do the ruckus dressing like a Broken Social Scene or whatever else. We won’t be bringing horns with us on the road, we’ll be touring as a quartet, you know, guitar, keyboards, bass, drums. Our plan was to try and get a horns section for one of the bigger shows in New York like the one that just past, The Brooklyn Bowl, but that didn’t work out. Hopefully during CMJ. We are playing a show and hopefully we will have a horns section for that, for the flourishes in “Indiana”, and “And the Hazy Sea”. It’s really, for us now, a matter of picking the most important hooks and parts and stream lining it, getting everything we possibly could with four people. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it so far, especially for as over-dub heavy as the record is.

    As for writing and creating the record, how was it to record and pull all those elements together? What’s the writing process for you guys?


    JF: I’d been writing some of these songs, “Wind Phoenix”, “The Living North”, and “And the Hazy Sea” actually towards the end of my high school career, so it’s been what they say about making a record, the first one takes twenty years, the second only one or whatever. It took a long time for me personally to get all the songs together, but now the process is a little different for us because now we’re doing it all live, and I just bring my parts and the lyrics, and maybe structural ideas, and everybody else sort of flushes it out, but it was entirely different when we were making the record. I had a really strong idea of what each song should sound like and what each sequence was going to be, and that the over all flow of the record was what I wanted.

    We just did our best to get that on record. But things change when you work in the studio and you work with a producer. We worked with Kyle, and he had a way of really refining, but at the same time allowing our vision of the record to shine through completely. So a lot of the parts on the record, guitar parts, some of the keyboard parts, are being played for the first time. We were just like “oh we really like that, and we’re going to learn it so I can play it live!” We weren’t really a real live band when we were making the record last summer. It’s all sort of progressed since then.

    You guys are still very new, how did it all come together?

    JF: Matt (Miller) and myself have been playing since forever in cover bands in high school. He was going to college in Pennsylvania, and he transferred in (referring to Fordham) when we were both entering our sophomore year. At that point in the summer of 2007 we had been demoing songs that would become Why There Are Mountains, and the next step was to start playing live shows, and refine things. I just hit up Craig’s List for a keyboardist and a bassist and a second guitarist. The first three people that I grabbed off of there were the people who started playing shows with us, and obviously they are no longer with us, but that is how it began two years ago now. Neil (Berenholz) joined the band in April 2008 after he and our producer Kyle saw us actually at Arlene’s Grocery. Our keyboardist Brian (Hamilton) replaced our former keyboardist who played on the record, Dan Baer. There have been personnel changes and all that, but mainly it’s been Matt and me since high school.


    So you will be on the road for 30 days, will you extend it into next summer, or just see how things go?

    JF: Well we’ve got that tour that ends October 5th in Philadelphia at the First Unitarian Church. We are going to Europe, back to London. We are doing a couple of dates with The Flaming Lips, opening for them. We got the Rolling Stone weekender, and we will be back for Termini, which Wilco and The Flaming Lips are playing at. In December we are doing Primavera in Spain. After that hopefully another national tour throughout February leading up to South By, and then we will see. As of right now, those are our definite plans. A fun long winter, but we will be much better after it.