Dead Letter Circus
KUOI caught up with Dead Letter Circus on their first North American tour supporting Animals As Leaders. We had a great chat with Rob Maric, DLC’s main axe man.
Anthony Saia: Hey man, good to catch up with you on the road. Where are you right now?
Rob Maric: We’re about 5k’s from Albuquerque right now, which is like 2 miles I think and we’re pumped. We did like an eight-hour drive or something like that.
Anthony: Oh dude, that’s gnarly.
Rob: Yeah. Two shows left on the run, so, 27 down, two to go. We had one day off around show five and then it was basically 24 shows left in 24 days between five and 10 hour drives each day. It’s been pretty tiring. You wake up, drive for a long time, eat, play, find a seedy motel and just repeat: Groundhog Day style. It’s been great.
Anthony: So, being that you guys have to travel so much on the road, what music do you guys listen to when you’re rolling down the interstate?
Rob: Uhm, well, we’re not really prepared. We didn’t bring the appropriate iPod cabling to hook it up to the stereo so we’ve just been listening to the CDs of the bands that we’ve been touring with. Fortunately they’re amazing bands. We’ve just been playing them over and over. Animals As Leaders, Intronaut and Last Chance To Reason. We’ve just been cranking it and its brought us closer to our touring buddies. Normally though, we listen to anything really depending on what we need. Sometimes you need to pump yourself up for the drive so you don’t fall asleep so you crank something Refused or Tool or Deftones and sometimes you just need some relaxing, soothing energy so you put on some Bob Marley or something. The Police? Anything. Whatever gets you though the drive basically. Sometimes you need some cheesy radio hits. We crank of the radio to the local radio stations and listen to some cheesy 80s pop or some country.
Anthony: Like Wilson Phillips or something?
Rob: [laughs] Yeah! Sometimes “real” music doesn’t work for you so you need the cheesiest of cheese like 80s love ballads. Whatever keeps you driving through the night.
Anthony: Right on man. So, this is your guy’s first actual U.S. Tour, right?
Rob: Yeah. We came over here a couple of years ago to do some showcases in L.A. but we never did any touring. This time, though, it’s a tour. It’s a monster tour. We’ve never done anything like this. Even the bands and the veterans touring with this tour – none of them have had a tour this brutal. It’s the most inefficient routing you can imagine. It’s like zigzagging across the country. If you actually look at the cities on a map you’d say that this could have worked a lot smoother but I guess it just all comes down to booking different nights. It’s always a juggling act to get venues – especially to get them to line up one right after the other. It’s been good though. This one will kick our ass so any tour we do will seem like a holiday.
Anthony: Wow man, yeah, that sounds a little rough – but it probably isn’t as bad as being signed by Sumerian Records and doing a tour. How did that end up working out? I mean, I assume they really dug your guy’s sound but do you think they are trying to branch out too? I’m not surprised, just shocked a little.
Rob: Well, yeah, basically both of those things. I mean, you’re right to feel that way. My first reaction was like, I don’t really want to be on a label that specializes in metal acts but as we got to know them and we talked to them, their enthusiasm – they just seem like they are really smart, switched on guys that are just kicking ass at what they’ve chosen to do and now they are looking to branch out like any smart business people are and at the same time, they are passionate about music. They listen and love a lot of styles of music and they have just happened to take off in a more metal-based scene. Yeah, they were genuinely enthused and we spent a lot of time talking with management and once we got to know them a bit more personally it all made sense. So yeah, they want to branch out and they love the band and that’s it, really. There were other labels that were interested but to be honest, it’s a tough time. Bigger labels are hesitant to sign new artists unless you’re a big pop act because of the whole economic situation, so, it was a fortunate case that a wonderful label with a lot of enthusiasm were probably the best option in so many different ways that we just went ahead with it and they’ve been great. It’s been like a dream come true.
Anthony: So you mentioned Deftones, earlier. Are you a fan? Chino just put out his new EP, Crosses.
Rob: We have the Big Day Out Tour in Australia and we were on that. We kept bumping into him. We were actually talking about music and electronic stuff that everybody really likes. The guy obviously has really good taste – you can tell by what he creates. We were talking about M83, yeah. . .those guys are a big influence on us.
Anthony: Speaking of electronic music, when I was listening to your guy’s record, there was a track that definitely has some Massive Attack style on steroids. Was that intentional or is there any influence there?
Rob: Yeah. That’s one of our all-time favorite artists / bands. Well, I don’t know if you’d call them a band because they’re electronic but we absolutely love them. A couple of their albums show up in our top five albums of all time, personally. So, that influence is definitely an accent. We try to incorporate that wherever possible. We love that kind of music as we think that when you blend it with rock music, it’s a nice step forward rather than a constant reflection on rock music of the past that several other bands likes to do at the moment.
Anthony: No complaints here. Now, this record just dropped in the U.S. but it has already been out in Australia for a year?
Rob: Yeah, time flies! A year, that’s right.
Anthony: So are there any plans to start writing a new album then and are you guys planning on working with Forrester [Savell] again?
Rob: Yeah. We already have some – we call them seeds. Whenever we have a little song idea, whether it is one little bit of music or half a song, we call them seeds and we definitely have a good handful of seeds for the next album and a vague direction of where it might go but we haven’t had time to really knuckle down and develop them because of all the crazy stuff going on. There’s a good chance that we’re going to work with Forrester again. We might use him in conjunction with a big U.S. mixer just to go with that larger than life mix that you get when you work with one of the big boys over here to it but we have a great relationship with Forrester and we’re not ready to move on from that yet. We feel like we have unfinished business. The first album was kind of a result of a lot of juggling and trying to meet deadlines. Experimenting – we’d like to do the next one in a lot more organic, natural, flowing fashion and maybe after that we may start hunting down U.S. producers to come over here and see what happens there.
Anthony: In regards to your recording style, you mentioned that you were pushing deadlines with the first record, but what about this one? How did you go about recording this album in particular?
Rob: It really varies from song to song. Some of the songs were a couple of years older than the other ones. The earlier ones are more organic, y’know, just hit record in the rehearsal room and come in with a song idea or a guitar riff and we all start jamming and we keep playing until something special happens – which could take a hour, it could take a week if we keep coming back to it and we just expand on it from there and songs like ‘One Step,’ ‘Big,’ and ‘Here We Divide’ sort of came together like that, then there are other songs that were completely developed in the studio. There were a couple that Kim worked out from start to end like ‘This Is The Warning’ and ‘The Design’ – he worked with Forrester on that one. Some songs we’d go into the studio and jam with each other in front of Forrester. Anything goes really. Sometimes I’d go away and work on a guitar bit and come back with a whole different idea for a song. We all have ProTools going, chopping things and just playing with technology. We get lost in it sometimes, but we try not to get overwhelmed with options. I think in this era of rock music, whatever you can do that gives you a chance to sound a little bit different is a great thing.
Anthony: Definitely. So, what inspires your song writing personally?
Rob: Uhm, I don’t know, really. I guess it kind of changes all the time. In the earlier days, I was inspired by other artists like your favorite bands and your favorite guitarists and all that sort of stuff but as you sort of forge your own sort of sound and you can kind of build yourself a sort of musical Swiss Army knife, you start to become more influenced by things around you in life, in relationships, things that make you angry or make you sad – but I guess we’re at that point now where we are driven artistically. That’s a good place to be in too. Not having to worry too much about what sounds like this artist or that artist, just letting it come out and I guess trying to make a statement with music. I mean, we are in a position where we can say some things. Maybe one day become a band that people maybe listen to but more right now it’s about making music that gives you goose bumps – even if the lyrics don’t mean anything.
Anthony: I definitely ‘get’ the record and get those goose bumps. You guys are definitely doing well for yourselves.
Rob: Thank you very much. We’ve got so many friends in Australia that have kind of gotten to the level that we’ve gotten to – sort of moderate success as far as you can go on the Alternative Rock kind of scene and then they go to America and often it doesn’t resonate over here so we never expected anything over here so everything is a bonus to be actually touring over here and having people know us is an amazing bonus and to have you guys support us is really appreciated.
Anthony: Speaking of touring, I was watching an interview earlier today that Kim had done and he said that you guys might be coming back over to the states sometime in November – Do you have anymore news that you might be able to shed on that or is it kind of under wraps?
Rob: Nothing, really. Since we are still geared up with what’s going on here we just signed with a booking agency and they are trying to wheel and deal to try and get us on a tour with our kind of crowds. There’s a chance that we might come over here with a much heavier tour which might be with like Dillinger [Escape Plan] – there’s a slim chance of that. Ideally, we’d like to get on tour with a band like Chevelle or something like that where we’re there would be potential fans of the band as opposed to the metal crowd which are cool but the odds of them walking away remembering you a couple hours later are not great- which isn’t that great but on this tour they’ve been really receptive and supportive. But yeah, we’d really like to come over and do that kind of tour but don’t really know exactly what’s going to happen yet. I’d say we’re going to be over, we’re just not sure what kind of tour its going to be on.
Anthony: Fair enough. So, you guys have done a handful of shows in the U.S. now, what has been your favorite venue here so far?
Rob: Definitely The Key Club in L.A. It’s just a really good venue with really great sound and a big stage. The crowd was awesome so it was just a great night for all the bands. Hopefully one day we can come back and play it on our own.
Anthony: Alright man, cool. I’ve never been to that venue but I’ve heard its great. So, two more questions for you – one of which is a little ridiculous, but yeah, first of all, do you guys have any hobbies aside from playing music?
Rob: Yeah, I’d say the biggest hobby of this tour is the guys bought some BB guns and have just been shooting each other endlessly the whole tour [laughs]. That’s the number one hobby in DLC at the moment.
Anthony: Okay, and also, I found you guys on Twitter and it says you guys fancy yourselves good Mario Kart: Wii players?
Rob: Oh! Yeah! [laughs] One of the biggest distractions while writing and creating the album was our obsession with playing Mario Kart: Wii. Yeah [laughs] we got good. We got very good.
Anthony: Who’s your favorite driver?
Rob: I prefer the top speed guys like Bowser or Donkey Kong – if you’ve got the skills to stay on the road. Kim likes Yoshi but I’m a Donkey Kong guy.
It was definitely a good time chatting with Rob as Dead Letter Circus were wrapping up their first North American tour with Animals As Leaders and Intronaut. As Rob said, the band might be coming back in November of 2011 so keep your eyes peeled. Special thanks to Kodi at The Syndicate and George from Sumerian Records for hooking it up.