The Road, The Reason And The Traveler
It’s no secret that the past two weeks have been nothing short of amazing for Yonkers based band And The Traveler. The trio just released their debut album entitled The Road, The Reason (which is a double disc), they packed The Studio at Webster Hall for an album release party and performance AND they’re setting up for another big show at Greenwich Village venue The Bitter End on July 26th. Between all the important gigs and practicing Max, (lead vocals and guitar) Donald, (drums, backup vocals) and Josh (Chapman Stick, backup vocals) managed to find time to share some beers and some laughs; not to mention talk about the past, present, future AND the traveler (see what I did there).
ML.com: Tell me about the formation of And the Traveler.
Josh: Max and I have been living together for…way too long (laughs) maybe about four or five years now. We moved from this one apartment into this big house with a ton of people and it gave us a space to practice music. So I came to him with this idea that I had, we started writing songs and it just kind of took off from there.
We had a couple of other members but that all fell through. I use to play guitar and Max would play drums and sing. Then I picked up the Chapman Stick and played that and guitar full time and we were looking for a drummer. Max got on the guitar, I got on the stick and at the time Donald had a fucking cast on his hand.
ML.com: Why’d you have a cast on your hand?
ML.com: Cool! I didn’t know you skate.
Donald: Yea man! I fell trying to do a heelflip on a bank. The day I got the cast put on I was actually on my way to the post office and I caught wheel bite and I was totally oblivious to what was going on and I sprained my whole shit really bad.
Right before that I had met Max skating.
Donald: He was like “Hey man, come over to my house we’re having a show.” So I came through, got REALLY stoned and watched Max’s band play. It was trippy, weird as hell and I just knew I wanted to be a part of it. It was cool watching Max play drums and sing. I think it’s very difficult when you are doing more than one thing. It’s the same thing with Josh. He’s playing two rhythms at once. You have a dude who’s belting out opera style vocals and you’re trying to keep a steady rhythm. I thought to myself “This is cool and I want to be a part of this and make it better.”
It had potential to be so much more. It wasn’t punk or metal it was just…more.
Max: Josh and I were feeling really limited as musicians and we just looked at each other and were like “Yo, screw that! We should be able to do whatever we want.” So the first song we wrote together, which was Groove City, was written without drums. So we wrote this funk/power rock ballad and we were like “Are we allowed to do this? Of course we are because we can do whatever we want!” and now we play funk, we don’t care.
We had this crazy idea that we were gonna try to write and live record 6 songs in 2 days. We managed to do four (All I need is You, You Can’t Save Me Now, Groove City and Metropolis) and then we did this other weird thing where we were just jamming. So, we rehearsed heavily and I called Donald and told him we needed someone to mark beats and I knew he was good.
(Looks at Donald) What YOU don’t know is when you jammed with Josh he didn’t like you. (All Laugh)
Donald: The first time I jammed with Josh I stuck the drumstick up my cast.
Max: I was like “This dude doesn’t know how ill he really is!” So eventually he (Josh) was into it and I put it into this thing
called And the Scrabbler which was this free flow thing from take to take and you can listen to live versions of our songs. For as raw as it is I love listening to it, I STILL listens to it. The last thing we wrote we were just jamming and Donald wrote this core progression and I was singing this thing. One of the vocal lines in the core progression became the core progression on the vocal line for the last song on our record. So we wrote the last song on our record the first time all of us wrote together.
Donald: So what you’re saying is that I wrote Standing Waves.
Max: You did! You forged it from your anus and a hot press!
Donald: Sounds uncomfortable
Josh: It was actually really beautiful.
Max: Josh and I worked for four years really hard and intensely but the band started a year and a half ago. Josh and I were just preparing ourselves by going in crazy musical directions for this moment. We were playing multiple instruments and we weren’t meant to play them; we were meant to do this with this permutation of people.
ML.com: I believe it. It seems like things worked out in an almost cosmic fashion.
ML.com: I love how you guys keep referring to your sound and just how important it is. When I try to describe your sound to others I would say “There like Vampire Weekend mixed with Panic! at the Disco’s Pretty. Odd.”
Josh: Cool! Thanks!
ML.com: How would you guys describe your sound?
Max: I think that our sound is completely derivative of the three of us as musicians paired with the content of whatever we are playing. We play the content of our music. Our music is the content we want. If we need a certain song to have a certain emotion and it just so happens that a Queens of The Stone Age, cut time punk kind of thing was going on then that’s how we tell that emotion. We decided in the moment that that’s how the song is gonna be. We decided Circles was gonna be this Foo Fighters/Queen of the Stone Age mash-up thing; like punk shit.
It’s jazzy, it’s funky, its rock/alternative rock fused with jazz and funk. At the end of the day, especially in the future, it gonna be content driven.
Donald: Progressive music man! It’s just music from a bunch of genres that we all really like and try to incorporate into our sound. We all dip our feet in such different types of music which has been so fun.
Max: Hell yea! Me and Donald are super into metalcore and punk rock. We’ll be signing Taking Back Sunday and Brand New all day long. Donald and Josh pair up on all that techno music. Me and Josh geek out on jazz and classical music.
Donald: It’s fun to be able to play a funk song and then a heavy ass punk song.
Max: We’re gonna be condensing it…I don’t know. We’re only gonna get better…I hope. It would suck to keep doing something over and over again and keep sucking at it. I would say we’re doing better than that because our old songs and our old recordings were cool…but they fucking SUCKED!
Max: It’s like really liking raisins but only like…one day out of the week…and you gotta eat it out of a turd!
ML.com: Oh gosh!
Donald: It’s so funny to hear all of this because you guys look back at this stuff because you guys wrote it but this is music I wanted on CD because I dug it so much.
ML.com: So your debut album, The Road, The Reason, was just released so congrats on that! Tell me a little about the album creation process.
Josh: It just grew. First it was this little thing. This album is actually the second half of the story. It just got bigger and bigger and now we have a really obese child.
Max: Josh and I wrote an entire record’s worth of material that never got released and we were like “We’re not doing this again!” We tried to fit this other member into it and redoing it but it just tanked. Then Donald joined and we we’re on the whole “we can do whatever we want to do” thing. So I looked at Josh and Josh looked at me and we’re like “Star Wars?” it was like “they don’t have to know, they don’t know what we know, who gives a fuck what they know!” That how the development of the story went.
Donald: I never thought or knew that it was gonna be that long. We were playing these show for a really long time and we would consistently practice. We practiced about 2-3 times a week.
Max: For at least 3-4 hours
Donald: And we would write these songs and the guys would stop for an hour and talk about where we were in the story. The story wasn’t complete so we were kinda just going along. When songs were written they were fitted to the place of the record. We wrote out these big sheets and it all came together but dude that shit was so long! Looking back at it now, we wrote like sixteen songs and we were like “we’re not gonna do this much” and “a CD can only hold about seventy something minutes” then, like Josh said, it just kept growing.
As we grew as a band, the story grew too. The ideas started getting better, they were more cohesive and making more sense. We moved a lot of the different parts around too.
Max: We went into a whole pre-production process. It was like the highest of the high and the lowest of the lows. I can remember losing sleep trying to plot this story out and seeing the minutes like “you’re running out of space on the CD!” but I don’t really think about the lows because it’s really special to hang out with two dudes and make music. It’s like an explosion of creativity and we just dive in and Donald gets pissed because he doesn’t know what part is next and Josh and I are like “DON’T CHA SEE IT, DON’T CHA SEE IT!!” and we make it then we do a full run through and we’re like “what was that?”
As we grew together it solidified it. For me, singing the story over and over again to hearing Donald’s input to Josh helping me refine it to Josh and I arguing about killing off our second protagonist for over two years, the whole thing just worked out SOOO well. It really feels like a living, breathing entity and the book does such a good job enforcing it.
Donald: Everything came together at a good time too. The expected recording date for the record was in April and we had expected to drop the record in October. Then that was pushed back to December, and then it just kept getting pushed backed. We did all the instruments on the record in twelve days but there were still all these little details.
Josh: Max and I worked for like six hours a day for a couple of days to finish the lyrics of this record.
Max: We would wake up; go in the living room…
Josh: And we’d just fucking…sit
Max: And I’d be like “this is what I’m feeling” and explain my emotions and be like “this is the melody line.” He’ll say some words and I’ll be like “That’s cool but I literally need THIS note to be on THIS vowel. I need a word with THIS vowel.”
Josh: It always came down to what we are trying to say. What is supposed to be said right now…to make it not bullshit.
Max: We wanted it all to be very meaningful. I actually recorded half the record and destroyed it all. It just felt wrong. All I Need is You and Circles took very long. Josh and I are an insane team; he just kind of knows what I want. We dropped an 8 vocal part in a half hour flat and wrote it simultaneously.
Max: And I’m like “Does this vocal line work, Josh? Does it go with this chord?” and he’s like “Oh yea! I’m a computer!”
Max: So then I’m like “what about this, what about that” and Donald has this look on face like “dude, I’m gonna fucking kill you” then Donald slips in and he’s like “man, I can do this” then HE’S doing it too and were like “Whoa, we’re computers!”
So the process was crazy!
Donald: We ended up having the release in May. We have a music video that’s well on its way to being released. We have this book that would not have been ready otherwise.
Josh: The day it was ready we had to go down to Southern Jersey to pick them up.
Max: The artwork was done two and a half week before the album was supposed to drop. So Josh and I took the synopsis that I was developing and the artists been working on and put it down into an actual story.
ML.com: You guys keep bringing up the story, the artwork, the book and all their importance. Can you just elaborate a bit on each and what exactly makes them so important.
Max: Originally, Josh and I thought that we would have this band be a performance art band, which was wrong.
Josh: So Wrong!
Max: For me, the story wasn’t good enough just being a story in music. I wanted to make it more real. If we couldn’t be a performance art band then we needed to have an aesthetic experience to coincide with the music because the music was telling way too much to just be sonically heard.
So I have this friend whose an amazing artist and I told him “dude, I’m always looking for original artwork, here’s this song and some lyrics” and he drew us our first picture of Metropolis which actually became the cover to our record.
ML.com: What his name?
Max: Josh Warren. He’s ill.
Max: So yea I personally though we needed an auxiliary to tell the story better. To me this is an album you’re gonna want to OWN, see in front of you, look through it and explore; the book helps you do that even more. Then we had this documentary made, we’ve dabbled in these extended jams with our friends. For me, musical improv along with vocal improv come along with the emotional impotence of the story.
We’ve talked about having live painters. We’re gonna have these dudes paint this mini bus that we want to buy to make this whole art experience.
Max: It does all come down to the music and that’s the most important thing but it’s cool to help some homies out along the way and have a good time.
Josh: Yea…I think Max hit the nail on the head. I know as a composer the way I judge my music is if somebody who wasn’t me brought me something, would I think it’s cool? There are some parts in this album that I’m really proud of because I listen to it and I think “Hell yea! That was really well composed! “I’m just psych to have something I can be proud of!
Max: We had a CD listening party the day the record dropped. We had some friends over and people were listening to the record and the people who know this shit and what we do and how hard we work at it were listening and I would ask “Hey, do you want a book?” and the second they opened it they just…got it. They know the words and all of a sudden they’re reading the story and it literally becomes so clear.
All we get is “what’s underground,” “who’s the girl,” “why And The Traveler.” Someone actually asked me why And The Traveler today and I told them “read the book.”
Max: But it’s a line from the original story I wrote. I can remember Josh brought this thing to me and we started jamming. We wrote the second to last song for the first record…first, always happens this way. I was like “I feel like it’s this bar, like…this smoking bar thing” and Josh is like “cool, what happens next?” and I was like “NOOOO! How did he get there?” Then all of a sudden we wrote this other thing that turned into the second song on the record. Then all of a sudden we started filling in the blanks and it was like “and the traveler this, and the traveler that” and we were trying to think of a name I said “Maybe we should go with And The Traveler. It’s all over this thing I wrote.
ML.com: Shout Outs?
Donald: My parents, my friends, my girl, my bandmates, and I every musician I ever played in a band with that broke up because all of those bands were never the right bands and it was never the right time. This is the one time in my life where I can confidently say that if I were to give up everything I was doing and say “fuck it, I’ll be a bum for the next year and do this” I’ll have no problem; no regrets.
Josh: My Dad, my sister, anyone whose listened to the music and liked it. It always comes as a surprise when people are like “Hey! I really liked your music!” I’m usually like”…yea?” So thank you so much for liking what I do.
Max: Shouts to ML.com for doing the interview.
Donald: OH! Everyone who donated a penny to or Kickstarter. Thank you so much!
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