Scholar - Sound In The Signals Interview & Track By Track

Scholar's new album is out today! It can be purchased: HERE. We have a big feature today with them. I had the chance to do an interview with Scholar and the band also did track by track for  us for their new album. You can check out both after the jump!

Your new album,“Choose Adventure”, comes out November 12, 2013. Can you tell me a little about the recording process of the album and how long you guys have been working on it? 
We’ve been working on this thing for years, almost too long.  Some of that is because we had to find our new vocalist, but mainly it was a budgetary issue. The process itself was great, especially when we could save up and afford to record for a week at a time. The studio is a fun environment full of toys, live turtles, and wonder. We filmed the entire process over the course of 2+ years, and will be putting together some documentary stuff that delves a little deeper into the band, the record, and our history.  

The album is packed with really good songs. One song in particular I think really stands out as a favorite of mine is "The Rift." What was the song writing process in particular for that song?
 Funnily enough, that song stemmed out from a riff I wrote back in like 2003, and the song has been through a few iterations since then, but we’re proud to finally have finality to it.  Robert (our now bassist who used to be front man) wrote and sang the first version, in fact.  Brian Moore actually recorded the first version back in 2005 as well, so that was fun to revisit it in 2011.  Glad you like it!

I really like the album artwork and the title for the album. Why did you decide on “Choose Adventure” for the title of the album and how did you decide on the artwork?  
We struggled for a month or two with the title and eventually Rob came up with something close to the final title, it was whittled down to “Choose Adventure”. We work with two really great artists – one is in our band, Robert, he plays bass and sings backups – and the other is Will Perkins, an amazing comic book artist and creator (check out www.bewarecomics.com!) – Will designed the logo based on the feel we wanted to invoke, which was something very adventurous and youthful, we wanted the art to make you feel like you were about to watch an Amblin movie, like E.T. or The Goonies, and be a kid again.  We play an older style of pop/punk and like to mix it with a cinematic approach sometimes (like “Run Home, Jack”), so we love the way it came out and think it fits the album and idea of Scholar perfectly.

For anyone who hasn't heard your band. What track off your new album do you think best defines you as a band and why? 
I would say “A Hot Dog for Your Buns” – because it has a title that lets you know how we roll with humor, and it is the first song we had written together with Jon, our new singer, and it was a very collaborative process.  So, it really includes each piece of the pie.  Usually our songs are written musically by Jon or I, and then we all add and change little things, Hot Dog was all of us, right out of the gates.

You guys have been getting some really good support from some of the major music websites and you seem to be getting some really good feedback. When you guys first got together and started writing music did you expect the type of response you are getting now?  
Not really.  I mean, I’ve always known we write good songs, especially based on what our influences are – but, to send out emails/letters/smoke signals, and actually get some responses from people and places we’ve been a part of for a decade or more is very humbling and appreciated.  We really just want to travel and play our music for people, so hopefully we can parlay good word-of-mouth into that, and get by with a little help from our friends.  That’s what it’s all about, anyways, right?

I've heard people say you capture some of the classic pop-punk sound that they feel like has been missing from the genre. What have been some of your influences both new and old that have influenced your songwriting?  
We’re really glad people are picking up on that and support it.  I think everything has it’s time again, and we love this type of music so much, we just always want to play it.  That doesn’t mean we won’t evolve, but Scholar will always play some brand of pop punk that doesn’t really take influence from the new school bands, but we can all transcend that, so playing multi-genre shows is always awesome.  We love a lot of new school pop punk bands, but our influences will always be old school Fat Wreck Chords bands, Older Blink 182, and stuff like Strung Out, and a lot of 80’s music. I grew up listening to the Ramones, but I also grew up with a brother who loved Metallica, and a sister who loved the Beatles and Genesis, and you’ll hear some of those influences when we get a little cinematic, which we have been known to do.

After the album comes out what do you guys have lined up for the rest of the year or what all do you have coming up for the first part of next year?  
Literally all we want to do is release music and tour.  We already have almost 8 songs in the works to record and release a new EP, so we’ll probably be putting the finishing touches on that at the end of the “Choose Adventure” cycle, and hopefully we’ll have gained some fans that stick around for it.  We are looking into a few weekend warrior tours with some killer bands, and our plan is to hit up the west coast in the late winter/spring ’14.

I guess that about wraps it up. Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have any closing comments you'd like to make? 
Thanks so much for the support and being interested enough to ask us questions.  Thanks for helping to keep music alive! 

Scholar Track By Track:

1. Locke Syndrome –  
James: Rob and I used to love the television series “Lost” (don’t waste your time after season 3), and the character of John Locke in particular.  I think he exemplifies everything that is punk rock – he represents a life that isn’t always the worst, but a lot of times pretty rough, being an outcast, but never letting it get you down.  To keep your wits about you and forging through by believing in yourself and other people. Using all of the negativity you’re surrounded by to rise up and leave your mark on the world. To orchestrate, or be a part of something that unites people, a movement that underlines family and friends.  It’s about finding that place, and keeping it with you to make your own light and shine it on other people.  I think that all comes out in the song, its super-fast, and hits really heavy, and closes out with a pretty finite sentiment.  We thought the title was fitting because in some ways, being dealt that hand in life is like a syndrome, one to overcome.

2. Fray –  
Jon: Lyrically “Fray” is about sticking up for yourself, being a leader and not a follower.  It’s also about learning from other people’s mistakes, but never applying it to your own mistakes.

3. The Rift –  
James: “The Rift” is a pretty basic song, lyrically, about coming clean to a lovely lady you want to get all up with, so you tell her… and she’s all like, “No.”  The character in the song is definitely singing about the mature road though, saying “It’s no big deal, we can still be friends, I regret it, but whatever, it’s cool.” And wishing you can take it back; but, knowing that if it changes things for the worse, you won’t be taken advantage of, even though you can accept whatever happens. There’s a fine line between appreciation and deceit, and being aware of it helps us grow, in my opinion. Musically, the riff came about out of nowhere one day when I was messing with some different tunings.  I went into one that I’m told Dashboard (Confessional) uses a lot for pretty chords – and since I like keeping pretty chords dirty, that riff was the first thing that popped out.  The rhythm fell behind it and it all came together in a matter of minutes.

4. Do Your Best to Fly, Kid –  
James: “Fly kid” is very much the sister-song to “Locke Syndrome” in that it tackles the same subject matter.  It’s about picking your chin up and not taking things so seriously. That it’s okay to be human and need help from others, that’s where the line “Not everyone’s an island on their own, find your shore” comes from.  If you’re lucky enough to be born into a place with opportunity, love, and freedom— use that to realize how amazing your life really is in comparison to the people who really need a hand.  Live your life in stride, because it probably isn’t that bad if you’re rocking an iPod full of music.

5. It’d be Easier to Believe You (if your pants weren’t on fire) – James: This song title has been around since the first iteration of Scholar circa 2005.  We always thought it was funny to play on that whole TBS/Brand New long, pat-on the-back song title thing because it can get so repetitive, no matter how clever the title is.  The positive lyrics stand to reject all of the bullshit we’re fed on a daily basis.  Be it from politics, fakes, phony magic spring water – any of that waste, and expressing that it’s possible to break the spell and wake up.  That maybe we can make it so humanity has more to do than worry about who’s got the biggest arsenal, or skinniest jeans, and break away from the hype.

6. Makeshift –  
 Jon: Lyrically, “Makeshift” is about the paranoia that sets in when you know your significant other is sleeping around, but you can’t exactly prove it until it’s too late.
James: “Makeshift” is a song Jon brought to the table from his previous project, Speakeasy, and it’s such a heavy song!  When I heard the first mix it literally blasted into my ears, it’s simple, it’s a rock song, and it ended up being one of my favorite songs on the record.

7. I Wish I Knew How to Quit You –  
James: “Quit You” is a song that, I think, combines all of our influences from early Blink-182 to 80’s John Hughes movies (ie: The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles) and really defines the sound of Scholar, at least on this record.  The riff is one of the oldest I’ve ever written, and Rob and I actually sung (very poorly) on an original demo version years back, so we’ve always wanted to re-vamp it into a real knock-out, an ode to the glory days of pop punk.  The verses hit really hard, and the bridge sweeps into this really melodic, pretty section, very early Blink inspired.  Mike really exceeded our expectations with his ridiculous drumming too. Lyrically, I set out to write a tip of the hat to all of the great 80’s teen comedies/romances.  It’s written from the perspective of John Cusack in Better off Dead, but draws influence from all of those films.  It’s about acting on unrequited love, winning the girl, and saving the day.
Jon: “Quit You” is about stopping the fact that you’re holding back and taking action on something before it makes you bitter, ‘cause either way it could.  You never know until you try.
8. Run Home, Jack –  
James: “Run Home, Jack” itself, is a line from the Spielberg movie “Hook” with Robin Williams as Peter Pan (I hear the body waxing sessions alone took them over budget),and it speaks to the importance of keeping your inner child about you.  It’s almost a story about a spiritual-like messiah saving humanity, but in the end everyone is capable of helping and saving themselves.  It’s a pretty hopeful song, and the choral arrangement in the bridge really supports that idea with the line “When all seems lost, and never to be found, the happy thoughts we hold on tight to will help us guide the way back home.”  All you need is a happy thought, and knowing that home truly lies with the things you love.  We had so many guest vocalists come in to the studio for that choir part, it was awesome.  Ian (Mclean, from Darkhorse, a great band worth checking out) provided some killer featured vocals to the bridge.  This is one where some of the cinematic influences we have up our sleeves come into play.  I tell Brian things like “I want to hear stars and feel magic”, and he gets really confused, but we always come up with some pretty awesome sounding textures. 
9. A Hot Dog for Your Buns –  
Jon: This is about being reminded of how easily relationships… the battle of the sexes, can self-destruct.  It’s about how two people can spend time building something up, and just end up f*****g hating each other.
James: Jon tackled the verses to this one, lyrically, and I wrote the choruses about dealing with the implosion of a meaningful relationship.  Or at least one that started out that way.  “This house of memories is burning down, and there’s no way to put it out” pretty much sums it up.  It’s like “Whelp, there’s no saving this, if there is a fail-safe I don’t have it.  Sorry babe, but this isn’t where I parked my car.”  Musically this song is special because it’s the first we all wrote together at a practice shortly after recruiting Jon. It’s just exploding with that energy and excitement of getting to continue as a band (Jon replaced original front man, Steven Blaqart in 2012) and get back to work.  The title was a joke at first, Jon and I we’re grilling and writing in a cottage over a nice romantic weekend, but we figured “Let’s just keep it”, personally, I thought it would be interesting to see if people would listen to it and not judge a book by its cover.
10. No, Yes… No. –  
Jon: “No, Yes… No.” is about being indecisive, and also continually making the decisions you know aren’t the best, but feel so good to make at the time.  Well, every time.
James: Jon wrote this song in like a day, and it was one of the last to make it to the record.  I remember he had like two days to write lyrics and sing them, and I think like a lot of things that happen quickly, it’s a killer song.  It has this underlying “80’s” rock feel that I think suits the song incredibly well.  This song also ends the record because it makes a great bridge to what’s coming next from us, but unravels with the sense that “we’re finally done.  We finally get put this record out!  Hope you liked it, the end.” 
***Purchase the album on the band's official Bandcamp page: SCHOLARNY.BANDCAMP.COM

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