Miles to Spare
"In the end it's about finding balance"
I'm no professional-anything, let alone wannabe 'music journalist', but for a hot minute now, this travel-log has expanded just a bit more to share what some offensively talented local artists, dreamers, do-ers, wanderers, and musicians are up to.
Inspired & the Sleep is a psych-lo-fi-pop band that sprouted out of the sands of North County San Diego in 2010. In the splash zone of the Pacific Ocean, and within arms reach of second-hand smoke, Inspired consists of Max Greenhalgh, Bryce Outcault, & Zach Elliott, among a handful of other musicians that pitch in some teaspoons of jazz, when they pass through town.
A couple weeks ago, I got to catch Max and Bryce just after they touched base back home after their first out-of-state tour Coming Up for Air in mid November - for about 10 minutes...8 once you get past the interruptions from friends and bystanders (if you want to get real exact and shit) outside a local show at the 'Silver Cloud Lounge'. I haven't seen or heard from Max since the recent Outside Lands Festival where he was sneaking his slick body between fences and "security guards"... but no one was really in any right mind to function properly, so... maybe all that really matters is the victory...
The images throughout our said-amateur-chat consist of crashing their band practice in all it's rarity. Located in a warehouse-turned-brewery/recording corner, Max's echoes playing off the walls with the distortion and effects of knobs and buttons, singing pop songs while educating me on Kratum, a chinese herb that gives the equivalent body-high as acid.
M: Have you had it before?
K: Not Yet
Zach arrives and sets up his drums between a distressed cabinet, and chipped piano while filling us in on his day... while Max finally gets off the little carpet he spent the last hour hunched over, pacing around the front room in a figure-8 as Bryce finally comes in and starts to corner me into the make-shift bar behind with amps, keyboards, and wires.
K: Alriiiiight, first and foremost, how was tour?
M: So much fun, the thing is every day you meet new friends, see new places, and new culture... it's like a sensory overload when you are already so used to a certain place - it's exciting. And everyone is so accommodating to traveling bands.
K: Could you name a favorite venue y'all got to play at?
M: Well we did a lot of basement shows, and those are fun... but there was this one place in Rock Island, Illinois called Rozztox - a bar/cafe/VHS store and above it was a hostel, so that was pretty cool.
[Max disappears into the sea of sweaty people to grab a beer]
K: You find any obstacles to overcome, being together 24/7?
B: Like... uh... the whole endurance, I mean being on your best behavior...
K: Behavior? So, how would you say yours is?
B: Well... uh, really quiet
K: So Max, I asked Bryce about any significant obstacle you guys may have had being on tour
M: Obstacle? like the hardest thing on tour?
K: Yes while being together all the time, sure on tour
M: Um, I think staying healthy, but I thought we were all pretty well-behaved working together... except I would freak out if people would use my stuff and like not put it away, or I do them a favor of letting them borrow my shit like...
K: Like what?
M: Ahh like my laptop, shit like that, cables or something
K: Why would they want to borrow your laptop?
[Bryce snickers as Max begins to get pretty worked up]
M: Because Zach really wants to watch a movie, and is all fucking stoned, and he's like... [grumbles, mumbles, and shakes his hair] We got a lil pissy at each other, but we never really broke out into any big arguments or anything like that.
B: I think the biggest thing is the messiness
K: Messiness? Even though you're staying at hostels or friends
B: No, I just mean in the car
M: ...the car got pretty messy after a while
B: Max and Zach tend to be ...
[slight pinch of minutes of arguing to where I can't decipher what the rest of that sentence would have been]
M: Anyway, I purchased a 2004 Honda Odyssey Supreme vehicle for touring, and it was the best purchase I could've made- there was plenty of space, and we fit all our gear, with 4 of us in the van comfortably
B [excited]: The best part is, it's 80 miles when the gas light turns on!
M: We were driving home from Flagstaff and we reached this stretch of land where there was no gas station for 100 miles or so, and lo and behold our gas light comes on and we made it 80 miles
K: That's impressive
B: With miles to spare!
K: To do anything that you want with it
M: So that was a pretty exciting fun fact that we never knew about...
B: We were freaking out for a lil bit
M: Oh yeah we thought we were sooo screwed
K: So, could you compare Coming Up for Air vs. TEENAGER... TEENAGER seemed a lot more raw, was that just the style you were looking for at the time or?
M: TEENAGER was done at home, and it was all pretty much just me and help from some other friends playing things here and there... Bryce and Zach weren't even a part in the slightest I don't think. CUA was sort of a longer process, we had a live band together doing all these songs and had all these arrangements, so it came together from there.
[People start leaving, and hugs get thrown around like confetti]
K: Is this still on?
M: I paused it for you
B: Where are you going?
JOSH: There's like a fucking 20 minute wait
B: There's a what?
K: A what?
M: He needs to tinkle
K: OK anyways, it was mostly a home thing, without Bryce or Zach, you and other friends playing this or that...
M: Yeah, yeah lots of loop-based stuff, very lo-fi, wasn't done at a legitimate studio... I mean it was done in my room, or on the staircase, something like that. And CUA, we did the drum tracks at Studio West, and we jumped around home-studios, and other studios...definitely a longer process and more thought out.
K: Where would you say you draw your inspiration from? Did it differ between the 2 albums, or something ongoing?
M: Well, we play some songs off TEENAGER, but we don't play them like they are on the recordings at all, we kind of take the idea of the song and reinterpret it. I think the live thing is so much different from the recorded thing in every sense for every band that you see. Like there are bands that play exactly to their record... but when you're at our level I don't see the point in doing that.
K: Lyric-wise some of it seems somewhat serious but you have this upbeat tone, is that something you just want to maintain in the experience?
M: Yah, alot of times, lyrically the sadder songs are the faster more upbeat ones and visa versa
[Josh returns from his tinkle down the street]
JOSH: I WAS IN THE BAND FOR A WHOLE DAY
M: Josh was in our video shoot
JOSH: I WAS, I WAS IN THE BAND
M: It was pretty beautiful, he did a great job I will say
K: Excellent, so, how does the album name CUA correlate with any of the tracks?
M: TEENAGER or CUA?
K: CUA, your most recent one you've been focusing on for tour the last 3... 3 1/2 weeks? Right?
B: 4 weeks
M: More like a month. Lets just say a month! I mean, ya, CUA I think we were kinda just bouncing names around, and we've already been bouncing on the San Diego image so much and I thought it was so interesting that when we left, (it was our first time playing outside of CA) and played in Oregon and we got so much feedback from people saying that we 'sounded a lot like San Diego'. Which I thought was really strange, like what do you mean? Cause we've never gotten that before. And here, we got that a lot. CUA is kind of like a big aquatic theme with that whole EP specifically, and the artwork and all that.
B: It kind of worked, I mean with the whole Southern California vibe, and us growing up by the beach and kind of having that inspiration into our music. CUA just went with it and like Max said keeping with that aquatic theme.
M: And I think that's something you can't really avoid, with how we grew up and where we both work... being around the beach so much, we kinda roll with it and people outside of California think it's really cool. CUA could be rather hopeful.
K: Is that what you'd like the feeling to be?
K: So what's the story behind 'You love to be Broken'?
M: That's another song that's sad, but rather upbeat... We'll play house parties and do shows like that, and that seems to be everyone's favorite song - the most dance-able. I guess the actual meaning is the habitual things that you do to make yourself not... function, and how it's so repetitive sometimes, that it would seem that like you love to do that.
K: Almost like excuses?
M: Yeah, like an excuse
K: Do you find you experience that a lot...
M: I think everyone does, I think it's part of being human
B: All the lyrics are kind of a mystery
K: It's mostly you Max?
M: Yeah, it's all me
K: You've definitely gone through a lot with this band and members changing... you and Bryce so far standing the longest
B: We're kind of the only core members since..
M: We do have people jump on and play with us, like Ryan Linvill, and Kevin Corsare does keys with us... I feel the band is very, especially after this tour, and all the time we've spent together in practice it's kind of got this 3 piece course goin. Zach, as much as he likes to be MIA sometimes, he is very much a part of it, and it definitely feels like a 3 piece
K: And so how'd you guys find each other?
M: I knew Bryce in high school
B: We met freshman year
K: Aww like across the hallway?
M & B [in unison]: We sat next to each other in 3 classes, in a row
B: And we fell in love
M: We didn't have much of a choice... and Zach I knew through some musician friends in San Diego, and he comes from a different style, very into jazz, so it's been a little adjustment having him come play with us, but he adds that element
K: The influence of jazz
M: Yeah, it really suits us well, and then Ryan Linvill, Zach's buddy, the Sax player, goes to Berklee School of Music, when he's in town we do shows with him, and our buddy Kevin was playing keyboards here and there
B: He may come jam again, we'll see
M: You'd be surprised how hard it is to make people show up to band practice, and I feel that you don't really need to be that good of a player, as long as you're punctual, then you can be in any band
B: It's like a part time job, if not close to full time at some points like especially on the road you're putting in hours on hours and a lot of commitment. It's hard enough to get all 3 of us together when we do to even rehearse, so finding another member is near impossible to have all these schedules align and to meet up, and everyone to find the time to practice again and again - it's really difficult.
K: Anything in the near future coming up? Any projects you're focusing on now that you've been home...
M: We got some music videos coming up which should be really cool, just finished mixing a newer song, and going to record another one... I think we'll probably have some singles and an EP coming up.
B: A lot of behind the scenes work
M: We're gonna be the band that never really ever puts anything out... like... Oh you'dlove to hear us wouldn't you?