Clayton Stroope, 2008

 

Written by: Jason Perlman

 

Hey, how’s it going?
Just sitting here adding up the number of items that were stolen from me here in Montreal. Our van got broken into and basically they took all our personal shit.

 

I thought Canada was supposed to be the nice country!
I know. You know, the tour was going great and we parked the van on the side of the venue and we came out and it was gone. We were stupid for leaving our stuff right there, but they took three of our backpacks and basically all of our computer shit was in there.

 

Hopefully no music was lost on one of those computers.
No, just some embarrassing pictures but hopefully the battery runs out before they find those.

 

Well, I hate to have to ask you mundane questions after that, but I am going to anyway. As far as a live show, it just sounds on the self-titled CD as if this music would transfer really well in a live venue.
That was something tough because 90 percent of that record was recorded in our basement, which is also where we practice.  And once we signed with Wind-Up Records we had a chance to remix everything and remaster some things. Mark Endert, who did the first Maroon 5 record and The Fray and others remixed the record and sonically it sounded amazing. And what you were talking about is what freaked us out. We were all like, “Crap, now we have to bring this live.” But we have been touring a lot this past year and the coolest compliment we get is when somebody comes up and tells us we sound better than on the CD or at least just as good.

 

When you got the chance to remix and remaster, how hard was it to take a song and realize that it was as good as it was going to get and to just leave well enough alone?
It’s different in every setting and it’s different for every song.  There are some songs that we just labored over and we were there at two in the morning with your face inches from the computer screen wondering to which 10th decibel we should turn done the high hat. Then there are other songs where you just don’t get into the minutia because you get this version that is like, “Whoa!” and you just don’t touch it.  Angels on the Moon, our single, we recorded there in our basement, in our practice room, and we had this raw basement version of this song.  And that version that we sent to Wind Up Records is what we ended up getting our record deal on.  And It didn’t matchup sonically to the A-list recordings out there and it freaked us out because we knew they were going to radio with it and it freaked us out. So we went into the studio to try and beat the version that we had and we got back this polished version and we just didn’t like it. So we dumped it and stuck with the basement version. Sometimes you just know you have something and shouldn’t mess with it, but it is usually a tricky call.

 

How cool was it that you could go into a million-dollar studio, totally polish a single and still be able to use the recording you want?
It is awesome. We went through a pretty lengthy showcasing schedule to major labels and dealing with that nightmare of setups and rejections. But we ended up in the best place we could have. With Wind Up records, they are an independent label and they are dedicated to their artists and very supportive of the music. They believe in the songs so much that the president of the label heard that new version and didn’t even get to the chorus and turned it off right away. He was in total agreement with us. But they give us a lot of independence and were there musically to guide us and help us, but in the end, it was still our call. We couldn’t be happier being with Wind Up.

 

I remember talking to a band, and I cannot remember who, but the band was so focused on sounding perfect they forgot about emotion. And when the producer wanted to use a take that wasn’t perfect, but that gave him goose bumps, it got them thinking about the emotion of music as well. How was it for Thriving Ivory to deal with perfection over emotional connection?
I think all those things go into the making of a record. There are a couple of solos in the record where we went for the very first take of Drew out guitar players. It was just the very first take and it was like we just hit record and off he went. But it was because it was so impromptu and candid it just came out better. Even at the end of the take he asked the engineer, “You are not going to keep that one, are you?” But hell yeah we kept it because it was perfect. Then there are times that you want that perfection, you need that drum track to be perfect. There are some songs that we shoot for that and some we weren’t. In the beginning of Hey Lady we tracked that song at a studio in LA on a piano that Coldplay used, Jackson Browne and The Eagles used, so on the intro Scott goes to play a lick and you can hear the piano bench squeak. It was really loud but we kept it in there anyway. So I think you need to have both. A totally perfect record would be boring and a totally sloppy record would just be sloppy, but a good combination of both can make a great record.

 

You mentioned being in the studio and using a piano Coldplay and Jackson Browne have used. There has to be times where you sit back and think, “Wow, look how far we have come.”
Yea, there are moments. But over the past six months things have been moving so fast that it is easy to get lost in it and not sit back and reflect. But there are moments where you take it all in to kind of go, “Wow!” I mean, things like hearing yourself on the radio for the first time or seeing yourself on TV, that was weird and still is weird. Going into the studio where we recorded that piano, that was a trip. There have been bands that we have gotten to play with that we are huge fans of. We just did an acoustic show with Sara McLaughlin a couple of weeks ago. So there continues to be moments like that. The progress for us has been somewhat gradual so we still get moments like that where we are blown away and taken aback for a second. But hopefully we will always have those moments. If I got used to it then it would probably become boring.

 

One thing for a band that is considered pop rock is that there is no “realism.” That the bans is only striving for commercial success rather than musical integrity. Has Thriving Ivory felt that?
I try not to worry about that, although I know what you are saying.  There is just no winning because if you go on iTunes, we are listed as alternative. We just jumped to No. 13 on the iTunes alternative charts. I think for those people who want to put a label on us will figure it out for themselves. The big thing for us was the six years before we had a record deal. We were just a touring band touring the west coast and selling our own CDs independently and just playing live shows. So our mentality is a CD is a way to get the music to people to get them to come to a show. We are a live band and I think once people come to a show and check it out, they realize we are five guys who have been together since the beginning. Nobody is a hired musician and if people were thinking along those lines, that perception should be changed for them. But the live show is the most important thing to us.

 

You are coming into Columbus to play a radio show, so it is not your tour or a tour you are billed on. Does that affect how the band thinks about the performance or even how the band does perform?
Those are always interesting because it is just who the radio station wants to have on the bill so it may not be the best matchup in your mind. But a lot of times that can get us more pumped because we want to be different and we want to stand out and win new fans over so we will probably go into that show even more excited and more energetic. We know they will know the single, but there 11 other songs we can bring home and try to win over new fans. So we always see it as an opportunity no matter who we are playing with. Before we had a record deal we played with anybody we could. We played with heavy metal bands and reggae bands and it never seems to be a perfect match, but every opportunity is a good one.

 

So you are playing with Katy Perry and I am just going to assume you have kissed a girl and that you liked it.
[Laughing] I have, but not Katy Perry, though. Although we have played with her in Charlotte, North Carolina and she is such a nice girl. She is from Santa Barbara where we started out and her sister is a fan of the band.

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