Photo by CHRIS SEMBROT
BY TOM BECK It’s beginning to feel like great indie bands out of Philly are a dime a dozen anymore, and like racist assclowns seeking the Republican nomination, its getting difficult to keep track of them all. But there’s countless reasons why you shouldn’t get discouraged, and CRUISR is one. Andy States is the brainchild of Philly’s token indie-pop band, which, as of yet, hasn’t quite broke the the ranks Philly scene setters like Hop Along and The Districts. But they’re working on that, and with appearances at the Wells Fargo Center opening for Imagine Dragons and an upcoming tour with MisterWives in their favor, it won’t be long until every music geek in Philly knows CRUISR’s name. We’re here to help with that. In advance of CRUISR’s show Saturday night at the TLA with fellow Philly bands Cheerleader and Cold Fronts, we got frontman Andy States on the horn to discuss local rock, noisy neighbors and Imagine fucking Dragons.
PHAWKER: So, CRUISR originally started out as a solo project, right?
ANDY STATES: Yeah. It started out with me just kind of working on it in my bedroom. I would basically just kind of do self-produced demos at home, and then what happened was, I was in the middle of doing that and then I reached out to this guy named Jeremy Park, who ended up producing the record, but he had done the first record Youth Lagoon, which is a record I love. And basically I found this guy’s blog and he was talking about how he made the record, and I reached out to him — sort of to just get his opinion on my stuff and a little bit of help. I offered to pay him to teach me a little bit, and he was kind of like ‘dude, let me produce this.’ He was really into it, so that was a super exciting moment, because as a musician you work on stuff constantly and a lot of times you never feel it going anywhere, so that was the first little moment where you felt like it was going somewhere and then we released it a few months later and it picked up steam from there and became a full project.
PHAWKER: What made you want to take it and turn it into a full-fledged band?
ANDY STATES: The first thing was doing it live. We got inquiries from labels and stuff and they’re asking what the live show is like. And I had no one with me. I never played the songs out [live]. So I had multiple people being like, ‘you should probably get a band together so you can do it live.’ So I reached out to Jon first, who’s our drummer, and he knew Kyle, our bassist, and then we met Bruno later on. But I think the main goal initially was just to do it live, and I wanted everybody to be a little bit more invested in the band than just kind of a live band, so it’s interesting because I still do a majority of the writing, but every song I’m working towards integrating the other guys more and having them be more a part of the writing process.
PHAWKER: So did you always envision it as a full-fledged band or were you doing it more because the labels were all like ‘Yo, you need a band.’
ANDY STATES: I mean, in my head, I don’t know if I ever knew exactly — I mean, for me, I think I’ll always maintain this creative control for the most part, but I think it’s sort of similar to a band like Tame Impala, where it’s like one person who’s really the producer or the creator of the songs and he’s pulling in these other musicians in to help him out. I don’t know exactly — as far as collaboratively — where it’s going in the future. I mean, it’s definitely more of a band now. But yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know if I really have a good answer for your question.
ANDY STATES: Yeah.
PHAWKER: Was that in an apartment in the city?
ANDY STATES: Yeah, the weird thing about it is when I was looking for a place to move, my rule is that I needed some kind of space where I could be loud and not bother people. And that mostly was just for the writing process, because I find it hard to write songs when I can’t turn it up a little bit and sing full volume — it helps me kind of hear the future of the song or where this one’s going if I can hear music that sort of matches how loud my voice is in my head. But that was a big thing for me. I wanted to live in the city — the culture in Philly is great. It definitely enables artists. It helps you grow and meet people. But the side effect is that is the lack of privacy or recording space, so that was kind of my first step into finding a spot where I could make a lot of noise. I’m actually sitting in our rehearsal space in Fishtown. And it’s like super hot in this room, but I was working stuff out. It’s nice to finally have an actual room to do this stuff in.
PHAWKER: So how did that work? Did you not have neighbors or something? Cause I would imagine making all that noise in an apartment in the city, somebody’s going to complain.
ANDY STATES: Yeah, the thing that I’ve always done is just given my neighbors my phone number, and anybody I know that’s going to hear it, I’m like please, please, just shoot me a text that way it’s not awkward at all and there’s no, like, banging on the wall or anything. And then people will text me — usually it’s only at night and people are trying to go to bed and stuff. But in the apartment I had, it was only a corner unit and we were on the top floor. So the only people that could hear me were the people that were below me, and I had a roommate that kind of shielded me off from the rest of the building almost. It was weird, because you could hear the people below you very easily, and so I know they could hear me in there at all hours of the day, just working on this stuff.
PHAWKER: So everybody was pretty cool about it for the most part?
ANDY STATES: Yeah, and my other neighbor — he knows the melodies to all the songs. And we became friends so that’s kind of how it goes. You kind of befriend your neighbors a little bit. But he knows a lot of the melodies to all the songs but he doesn’t know any of the words because he’s heard it through a wall so many times, which is kind of funny.
PHAWKER: So another thing I wanted to touch on is that you guys play a pretty pivotal role in the Philadelphia music scene, which has gotten a lot of attention from national and international press for just the sheer amount of indie talent it has. What’s it like being a part of that?
ANDY STATES: It’s honestly, it’s a big compliment that you would say that. I definitely feel that we’ve made our mark in Philadelphia, and generally Philadelphia knows who we are. It’s hard to put into words. I just feel very grateful and very lucky to even have that notoriety at this point. There’s so many bands that I love from Philly that I feel like are more definitive of the Philadelphia music scene, and I know when I started I was kind of — I feel like a lot of the bands pull inspiration from each other, but I kind of put myself in a vacuum when I’m writing and trying to not sound like anybody else. I think maybe we’re like the poppy band from Philadelphia if I had to guess.
PHAWKER: Well, what are some of those other bands you guys like from the scene?
ANDY STATES: Well, I think Hop Along is an awesome band. I ran into Frances, who’s their singer, the other day, and they’re all amazingly talented people and their music is just amazing. Strand of Oaks as well is one of my favorites. Everybody knows about The War on Drugs as well — I feel like they’re kind of old news at this point. But also, our friends’ band too — this band called Cold Fronts. There’s so many. But the thing is is that all my social life as become centered around music. So everyone I know is in a band. Which is kind of a beautiful thing too because in New York, a lot of times I perceive it as more competitive and more, like, half decent bands seem like a dime a dozen. Here, people get genuinely excited every time there’s a new project that has potential. So that’s cool. Philly sort of cultivates the scene in that way.
PHAWKER: So, in another interview, which was a few months old, you said that your favorite show that you’ve played so far was Firefly. Do you prefer a festival atmosphere for shows?
ANDY STATES: It’s not so much that I would prefer festivals, and I would probably say that I have a new favorite show, and I think those shows are the ones where the people are the most supportive. Even if you’re having the worst performance ever, or even if you’re having a bad day, if you go on stage and then all the people know your work and are dancing and singing along, that will become your favorite show ever. I feel like it doesn’t even matter about the city or the space or the environment you’re in. It’s much more about the reaction from the crowd and how involved you are with them and they are with you. And then there are some shows where you’re just trying to get through it and not fuck up, and then other shows where you get lost in it because the crowd is there with you. So I would say our first year at Firefly was very much like that, and we just played a show at Highland Ballroom where it was the first time I could hear people singing over me, which was amazing.
PHAWKER: Speaking of big places to play, you guys opened for Imagine Dragons at the Wells Fargo Center a few months ago. What’s it like getting to play arenas, even if you’re only the opening band?
ANDY STATES: Yeah, so I think the interesting thing is that at a certain point, the number of more people doesn’t have as much of an effect as you would think. We were definitely out of our element playing that arena show. We had never played a show that size before — I think it was close to 20,000 people. And on the tours we had gone on supporting, we’d play to like 3,000 people a night, and I remember that being a huge jump. You know, the sheer amount of people there that didn’t really know who you were, and they’re just finding out about you, or you’re just kind of in the way, you know, they’re waiting for the headlining act. But I think it’s crazy at first, and then hopefully you learn how to handle it, and from then on you start getting more comfortable with yourself and seeming more comfortable on stage. But it’s really just an unreal experience among anything I had ever imagined it. It’s kind of like, the thing you picture when you start as a musician, like ‘oh, maybe one day I’ll know what that feels like to stand up in front of a microphone in front of how many thousands of people.’ And it’s amazing to say just that you’ve done it, and it makes you really feel a sense of accomplishment. So yeah, it’s hard to put into words.