Jamie van Dyck of cinematic rock band Earthside recently took the time to chat with us about the band’s upcoming debut full length “A Dream In Static”. The record has been released on CD and digitally on October 23rd, 2015, with a vinyl release to follow. Read the interview below!
1. Thanks for joining us today. From my understanding, Earthside came about as a progression from your previous band, Bushwhack. Can you tell the readers a bit about how Earthside was formed, and the decision to record a full-length record came about, even before you played a single show?
Jamie van Dyke: With Bushwhack we felt like we’d run our course both creatively and we felt like we hit our ceiling as far as what we could accomplish. Almost like our history was holding us back. We wanted to just start anew, I think there was a stigma attached, in Bushwhack we had just been in college the whole time and in different locations, and I think it was symbolic more than anything. Also, we felt like that name had kind of worn off on us, so Earthside felt like something we could re-define ourselves with, re-invent ourselves with and we were looking to make more ambitious music and we felt that another element of disappointment with Bushwhack was we felt that the local scene we were part of couldn’t really propel us any further than it already had, so we wanted to also take a different approach which was sort of incubated for a while so we could make the record we want, make the connections we want, the collaborations we want, work with the people we want, and build it up sort of silently and in the background, and then just appear as “Hey, we’re Earthside!”. We’ve been working on this for a while and it kind of feels like a project that’s already on the scope of a national act. You know, a label signed act and just jump on the scene right away like that. It seemed like a lot of other bands that had some success, it feels like they came out of nowhere and it made us wonder if maybe the model of just grinding the local scene isn’t the best thing for us and that the best thing we could do is really showcase our compositions and our creativity and make the record we really want and write the music we really want and then take our time with it and really hone it, and then just show up as like “Hey you’ve never heard of us, but this is what we can do.”. That was our approach.
2. I think a lot of times the bands that do start small in the local scene and build up from there tend to get a following, but they don’t get nearly as big as the acts that just come out of nowhere – which is what you’re planning to do. Of course you’ve released two songs already of “A Dream In Static”, namely “Mob Mentality” and “The Closest I’ve Come”. If you go on YouTube, they have over 50,000 views between the two of them and the video alone for “Mob Mentality” which came out about a week and a half or two weeks ago has about 15,000 (now 25,000) views which is insane for a band when this is the second song you’ve ever put out.
JVD: We feel that way a little, yeah. We’re pretty excited about its initial launch for sure, the reception out of the gate has been really great and it obviously helps when you have a guest vocalist like Lajon from Sevendust and I’m sure there’s a decent chance your line of questioning was going to go there at some point, but having some headline worthy things in there; working with an orchestra, the dancers. I think the early adopters and the sites that cover our kind of music were really enthusiastic. Having them fully backing us right out of the gate has really helped us reach a lot of people very quickly.
3. How do you think you can capitalize further on the success of this video and who you’ve been working with to create this masterpiece?
JVD: Well first of all, thank you (laughs). Second of all, oh man, how would I capitalize on it? I think it depends on what you mean, right now obviously we’re doing it to propel us into the album release and with the album there will be more people involved and that will help; the other vocalists and other collaborations and other songs that can also go to work for us. As far as this video and this song, I think it really shows the breadth of what we can do and that we’re really, really ambitions and that we like reaching out and collaborating across disciplines, across genres. That way, I think it sets us up to do whatever we want in the future, creatively, which is very important to me. I don’t want to be a band that’s pigeonholed as “they do this.” A lot of bands have a sound and I don’t know if we even have a sound, somebody could say that’s a weakness, but we have an ethos. We have something about us that says we’re this creative enterprise that goes where our hearts and our ears want us to go, and we’ll do whatever it is that we feel musically turned on by. I think “Mob Mentality” sets us up to either go in a more film score direction, to continue to collaborate. This time it was with dancers, who knows what other visual artists we might collaborate with, Maybe we score a film at some point, maybe we go in a more classical direction, maybe we go in a more traditional rock direction, but we’ve laid the groundwork where any direction at any moment is possible and I think we like having that artistic freedom.
4. You describe yourselves as cinematic rock, is that part of the film score idea, or something different?
JVD: It’s at least an acknowledgement that our music naturally would fit in that realm in a sense that it’s highly emotional and dynamic. Therefore I feel like we have the tools to paint an emotional arc or tell a story with our music. The difference between scoring a film and writing these pieces is our music comes first in these cases, so we can tell whatever story we want with our music and then any visuals that come around it are basically sound tracking us. I think by showing at the same time the whole palette that we have, the colour palette of sound and dynamic and emotion that we have available to us, it does mean that the inverse process is possible too where somebody comes to us with something, whether it be a film or some other visual art or non-visual art, and we can then take our music and be inspired specifically by whatever object or enterprise or project it is and map our music onto that. Kind of react to what we’re seeing or feeling based on that.
5. If you scored a movie in the past, which do you think it would have been, or which would you have preferred?
JVD: It depends on if it was me scoring it by myself or Earthside as a whole with our rock band instrumentation. I’m trying to think of my favourite movies, what would we have been appropriate for. Doing the first Matrix movie would have been sweet, but the soundtrack that already exists for it is also sweet. Or like Memento, or something like that; something that has the action but also the psychological aspects. I think that combination, where it’s a psychological thriller aspect, that genre would be a good fit for us where there’s intensity but also a cerebral aspect to it.
6. I think Memento would be a great choice, especially how it all plays out since it’s a huge mental time-warp basically.
JVD: We would musically want get in on the mindfuck, so to speak [laughs].
7. Can you give us a quick description of the musical experience of each member of the band?
JVD: Frank, Ben, and I were the original three so I’ll start with us. Frank and I grew up together, so a lot of our upbringing musically was through each other. He and I both took lessons at Suzuki, he actually started on violin and I started on piano, and then he moved to piano and very quickly got better than I did and I moved to guitar [laughs]. We were in bands together ever since we were, like, 10 or 11. He went to college at Berklee College of Music for a year and a half before feeling like it wasn’t the right fit for him, but I’m sure he got a lot out of that year and a half. He moved on to Hampshire where he explored music on more his own terms. Hampshire College is a more laissez-faire style school as far as letting you have a lot of academic freedom.I did music at Yale, where the music department had very much a 20th century classical feel to it as far as the composers they would expose you to like Ligeti, or John Cage, George Crumb, composers like that. I’d never been exposed to that, and at first I kind of resisted it because I felt like they really didn’t respect the rock music that I was really obsessed with, and I felt like the rock music I liked was as high brow because it was Porcupine Tree and Radiohead, stuff like that. I felt like they were still not fully respecting it so it was kind of a push and pull. Actually, “Mob Mentality” came out of that experience of them finally acquiescing to let me do rock projects and me saying “Well if I can do a ten-minute full orchestration, maybe you’ll take it seriously.”. This project actually came out of wanting to prove to Yale professors that rock music could be more cerebral than they were giving it credit for. By that time I think they had come around and I’d come around that they just wanted what was best for me and wanted me to see what I could gain from learning about that music and I was not insecure anymore about how they felt about my music, so I was more open to it. That was a little detour there from your question, but it was the story of how “Mob Mentality” started, it was my senior thesis, so it was worth nothing. Ben, at age three, he was in a day-care and he got kicked out of the day-care because they thought he was so disruptive and ADHD. He just kept banging on things and they were just like “this kid’s maybe like violent, he’s got anger issues, definitely ADHD, we don’t know he hasn’t hit anybody but he just keeps bashing things, and we’re just like afraid to have him around the other kids.” So Ben’s parents were very concerned, they took him to his paediatrician, who actually happened to be my paediatrician growing up too, who I also adored. The paediatrician talked to Ben about it, and observed him, and talked to Ben’s parents about it. I believe the story goes, the paediatrician said to the parents “Well, I have some very concerning news,” I don’t know if those were the exact words, very serious news and they’re really terrified “Oh god what is it?” “Your son is a drummer. You’re going to need to buy him a drum set, you’re going to need to wall off a part of your house or a room in your house, soundproof it as much as you can, get him drum lessons, yeah he’s afflicted and it’s bad.” Sure enough, the paediatrician was right because now Ben is a phenomenal, phenomenal drummer. Not a super violent angry person at all, he just likes to hit things in rhythm, and hard. So it’s funny our paediatrician when Ben was like three or four was able to nail him that well.
Ryan is four years younger than me, and three years younger than Ben and Frank, and we only met him in the last five years, so his upbringing we know a little less about. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and plays probably an instrument in any string family you can come up with. He just finished recently at Hart School of Music, University of Hartford’s music conservatory; I believe it was a music technology program.I should say about Ben, for most of his life he’s been just a drummer, but one change from Bushwhack to Earthside is Ben has been much more involved in the creative process and learning about music outside of just rhythm and meter, getting more into harmony, melody, timbre and composition. It’ all hands on deck now in the compositional process now, which is awesome.
8. Thank you for giving us that insight into each of your lives.
JVD: I think I gave you more than 30 seconds, but oh well.
9. That’s totally fine, I think the story about Ben will be big a hit… No pun intended.
JVD: (laughs) Oh yeah, I was going to say! Right on.
10. Thank you so much. The record drops on October 23rd, and it’s called “A Dream In Static”.
JVD: We hope you all love it, we certainly do. It’s an up-and-down journey, so we’re going to take you for a rollercoaster ride of emotions when you check it out. If you have an hour to immerse yourself, we ask that you please do. Let yourself be emotionally vulnerable to the ride we want to take you on. Thank you so much for having me on, James.
– James Cross