Interview With: Driver F

With their new album, Chase The White Whale, receiving tons of praise all over the place, I was really looking forward to having a conversation with Driver F. Last night, I racked up some phone time talking with front man Tyler Welsh (vocals, keys), Nathan Parrish (bass) and Juan Lopez (trumpet) of the Austin outfit. Check out our epic conversation:

Jessica, PopWreckoning: First off, I wanna say that I love the record. It’s fabulous! You already know that, but it never hurts to hear it.
Tyler Welsh: Thank you. Thank you so much!
PW: The note that came with it was so cute!
TW: When we send it out to press, we try to make it personal. Not a mass [mailing] kind of deal.
PW: Yeah, that’s awesome. I really appreciated that. AbsolutePunk.net feels the same way about the record. Just today you guys announced that you’re being featured on their “Unsigned Showcase” with the full album streaming and the new video [for “Two Words, Mr. President: Plausible Deniability”] available for download. There’s already been lots of love on the thread for you, so how psyched are you guys about that?
TW: It’s a dream come true, you know? I, personally, have grown up reading that website everyday of my life since I was 16. Just to be on the front page, we got excited about that a couple weeks ago, but as an exclusive, that’s just huge. You can’t put that into words, how big it is.
PW: Absolutely. I read that for a long time, too, and I’m really stoked for you guys to be featured on there. Speaking of the video, I just watched it the other night and it’s awesome. Who came up with the concept for that and what was it like to shoot?
TW: We all collaborated on all of it, but the main idea came from…we were just talking about stupid movies from the 80s. I don’t know if you’ve seen…[turns to Nathan and Juan] What’s it called?
Nathan Parrish: Over The Top.
TW: Over The Top starring Sylvester Stallone.
PW: Oh, no. I never saw that one.
TW: The entire movie is an arm wrestling movie.
PW: [laughs] Nice?
NP: He’s a professional arm wrestler. And he turns his hat like Tyler does in the video.
TW: I was like, “That was the dumbest idea I’ve ever seen. We should make a video out of that!”
PW: I’m pretty sure there’s a Sly Stallone movie where he stars with Dolly Parton and sings. I think that might be dumber [laughs]. But arm wrestling’s definitely up there. The video was great, though. I really dug it.
TW: We just wanted to make it really entertaining and fun. We just went all out on the jokes and laughs.
PW: Mission accomplished. Growing up, who were your musical influences and what encouraged you guys to first start playing instruments?
JL: Well, it would be pretty different for all of us. Me, playing the trumpet, I really didn’t start listening to rock music until, maybe, I was a freshman in high school. It was all Blink182. I wanted to be in a band, but I was like, ‘man, I don’t play guitar or anything.’
Then I moved to the Woodlands and I met all these guys my sophomore year of high school and they asked me to be in a band with them. I was like, ‘sure. Playing trumpet — I guess that’s pretty cool.’ I hadn’t heard of ska, really, until then.
NP: We actually initially started out as a Less Than Jake, ska, third wave ska group, pretty straight up. Those bands, like Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake, were real influential to us in that way. I guess once we got out of high school and moved to Austin, we really started to move away from that. It just got to a point where we try to avoid being labeled “ska” if at all possible.
Also bands like Saves The Day, Say Anything
JL: Taking Back…
NP: Yeah, Taking Back Sunday, Brand New; people like that have been influential to us. We write everything as a group, so this comes out, but we all have pretty diverse tastes. Like I really love Old 97’s. I’m pretty sure I’m the only guy in the band that’s into that kind of stuff. Jeremi [Mattern] the drummer and I, when we were recording, we listened to a lot of Motown when we were recording this album [Chase The White Whale]. We try to stay diverse.
PW: I know it’s been mentioned that you guys faced some obstacles before you could really come together really as a band. Can you talk about some of those obstacles and how you overcame them, or is it just too personal and I shouldn’t be asking?
TW: Uh, it is too personal. It was kind of an industry kind of thing. What happened as a result of it really messed a lot of our lives up. We had a lot of people around us telling us some things about plans we had made. We thought we were gonna go do a couple things here and there, and so a lot of us dropped out of school and quit our jobs. We were all waiting for this big moment to come and we just had a lot of people around us that weren’t being 100% honest.
It’s put a lot of stress on us for, I’d say, about a year. A good year where people were telling us, ‘oh yeah, you’re gonna go out on tour in two months. Don’t worry. Two months.’ So we made plans to go out on tour and two months go by, and nothing’s happened. So, as a result, we all became really stressed out. When you’re 20 and you don’t know where you’re gonna be in 2 weeks, that’s kind of an identity crisis.
We just took all the pressure and all the stress and we took it to writing. Along the way, there’s also individual struggles, but as a band that’s what really pulled us together. The moment when we realized that we don’t need anybody to make this album, we don’t need any money, we just need to make this album any way possible. That moment that we decided just to go to the studio and do it on our own, that was probably the biggest weight off our shoulders.
PW: Well, I’m glad that you guys ended up working it out. I’ve had and friends of mine have had shady experiences with people in the industry, too, and it sucks. They’re everywhere, though. It’s a shame. Hopefully it never happens to you again.
TW: Especially the Gatsby’s [American Dream] self-titled album…if that rings a bell? Which is all about the stuff that we went through. And there’s a lot of personal stuff that I don’t necessarily want to go into, but a lot of us were dealing with family and friends. Being real life. It’s just life, you know?
PW: Yeah, that’s totally fair. But thanks for recounting what you did. For the new album, what did you learn from creating the first album, Not Home Yet, that you were able to apply to Chase The White Whale?
TW: That’s a good question! There were a lot of things.
NP: For Not Home Yet we did a lot of pre-production, well our producer Jim Vollentine came into our practice space and he really helped us out with, like, songwriting. We would have extraneous parts that we didn’t need in there and he would be like, ‘why are you guys doing it like this? The song would be better if you cut this out.’ Opening up hooks, writing hooks and really thinking about how we’re writing songs instead of just sitting down and playing chords until we were like, ‘that’s a song!’
Recording Not Home Yet, and that whole process, really helped us out in how we write music now. When we started pre-production on Chase The White Whale, Jim came in and he made a comment, ‘wow! You guys know how to write songs now. It’s not just a bunch of parts thrown together.’
JL: Less is more is the big key. That’s what we learned, especially in writing horn. For me and Andy [Rector], the trombone player, just trying to write parts that weren’t jazzy or ska. It had to be different. It had to be unique. That was one of the hardest parts. With Not Home Yet, we just played stuff that didn’t really make any sense.
TW: And I would say on a lyrics standpoint for me, I kind of had a loose theme in Not Home Yet, that isn’t really evident. When I sat down to write the songs for Chase The White Whale, I had a very focused vision on what I wanted to do. I learned how to incorporate things in more than one song. Play them out throughout the album. Tell a story through an album.
It was a long time between when we actually wrote songs for Not Home Yet and when we recorded songs for Chase The White Whale. I’m thinking four years maybe. We grew up not only musically, but personally. It was a big change.
NP: Also, this whole process of being in a real, professional studio… Before Not Home Yet, we recorded at a guy’s house or in some sketchy strip mall in the middle of nowhere. For Not Home Yet, we got to work with a real, bona fide, he does this for a living producer. We got to record in a really great recording studio. We learned a lot about how that works, you know? We got to be more comfortable with that setting when we came in to record Chase The White Whale. More comfortable with the idea that maybe we’re not going to use our own amps and guitars. Just the whole process of how we record everything.
TW: We’re talking way more than you are. We love to talk!
PW: No, that’s totally fine. It makes for a better interview! You’re the subject, you’re more interesting. To promote the record, later this summer, you guys are going on a national tour. What’s it been like trying to set up the tour and what can fans expect to see in the venue?
TW: It’s been really cool setting it up, because our friends Kingsley, from Lubbock, Texas, have done 3 or 4 national tours. They took us under their wing when we approached them and were like, ‘we wanna tour with you guys.’ They know a lot of the ins and outs of a lot of different venue promoters and whatnot. It’s been awesome just watching it come together; it’ll be our first tour out of state and for that long. It should be fun.
As far as what they can expect…you can listen to the record and kind of get a sense the energy, but repeatedly after so many shows, the one thing we get over and over is, ‘where is this energy coming from?’ We’re non-stop the entire concert.
PW: Yeah, I totally saw that on the DVD. I really cannot wait to see you guys live!
TW: That’s not exaggeration. We didn’t just do better things for those shots. We give every ounce of energy that we have per show. People can expect an overall awesome show and a good time.
PW: I have to be out of town the week you guys are in Doylestown, which is literally 15 minutes from my house, and I’m SO bummed! So you’d better make sure you come back to Philadelphia, OK?
TW: We’re gonna try as much as possible.
PW: If you need a place to crash, I’ll set you up and everything. All 6 of you.
All: Aw, thank you!
PW: If you could set up your ultimate dream tour, if you opened or headlined, who would you want to be on the bill?
TW: Can these bands be existing still?
PW: Just run with it. Wherever it takes you. Years ago, everybody dead, whatever you want.
TW: I’m gonna pick one band, and I’m gonna let the other guys pick another band. I don’t think we’d headline it.
NP/JL: No!
TW: No, we don’t headline this show. But I’m gonna say Led Zeppelin is the headliner for the night. Which the original lineup and everything.
NP: The Beatles. See, I would have them headline. I dunno.
TW: The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.
NP: I would pick their minds after every show.
JL: I really don’t know. Off the top of my head, bands that I’ve always wanted to see, but will probably never see…Gatsby’s American Dream. I would love to play a tour with them because they seem like they’d be pretty cool guys to tour with.
TW: Completely different bands!
[all laugh]
PW: That’s OK. That’s why it’s your ultimate dream tour. Totally fine. Actually, somebody I asked before picked Led Zeppelin first: ‘Definitely Zeppelin and I wanna be able to sit in on the show and play with them!’
TW: You gotta have the Zep.
PW: It’s mostly dudes, though. Every guy I know has a Led Zeppelin phase in their life, but not so much with girls. I dunno what it is.
TW: It’s heavy rock. They invented that whole genre. I think.
PW: What are you guys currently listening to? New, old, whatever you got goin’?
TW: I can’t even think about what I’m listening to right now. Oh! I’m listening to Crime In Stereo‘s newest album, Crime In Stereo Is Dead. That’s what I’ve been listening to a lot. Also, Four Years Strong. I’ve been listening to that album, quite embarrassingly, because it’s just so catchy. I can’t avoid it. And then, one that I can just never seem to put down is Minus The Bear‘s Highly Refined Pirates.
PW: Yeah, that’s a good one.
TW: I just got it on vinyl and it sounds great. Oh, I’ll let the other guys answer, too.
NP: Just recently I picked up the new Death Cab [For Cutie] album and I’ve been listening to that the past couple of days. Also, I really like the new Atmosphere album. I’ve been listening to that a whole lot, just listening to the songs and trying to figure out what he’d talking about.
JL: Me, a lot of Kanye West Graduation. That’s a pretty good album. I saw him live a couple weeks ago and it was the most unreal live show I’ve ever seen.
PW: I’m so jealous! He’s gonna be here on Saturday night but I already have two concerts I have to go cover so I can’t go.
JL: Aww, best night of your life, that’s for sure. [pauses] What was the question?
PW: [laughs] Who are you listening to?
JL: Oh yeah, Kanye West. A lot of Kings of Leons, the newest album, Because of the Times. That’s a really cool album, just the way the production’s done on that album.
TW: I’ve also been listening to Weatherbox‘s album, American Art. They’re on Doghouse. They remind me of early Say Anything, the good Say Anything.
PW: So now the most important question…to, uh, me anyway…I’m headed down to Austin City Limits this year so when are we hangin’ out and can I crash? [laughs]
TW: Sure, but it’s 5 bucks a night aaand you have to cook for yourself and the bathrooms are never clean. Six guys live here.
PW: I’ll cook for all you, that’s fine.
TW: Yeah! If you’re cool with that, then we can work something out.
PW: Sounds good. I’m stoked. I’ve never been to Austin, so if you wanted to play tour guide, that would be sweet.
TW: Best city on Earth.
PW: That’s what I hear. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna fall in love it and have to move there immediately.
TW: That’s what happened to all of us and that’s why we’re here.
PW: Where’d you all grow up, in Texas?
TW: Yeah, we all grew up in Texas for most of our lives, mainly in the north Houston area, around the Woodlands. When it came time to go to college, we all made sure we made our way to Austin, one way or another. It’s been a great experience here.
PW: It’s the music capital, you can’t go wrong.
TW: We’ve definitely had opportunities to play in front of people that you don’t get in any other city and it’s helped us.
PW: Have you played at Austin City Limits or South By Southwest at all?
TW: We’ve played at a couple of South By Southwest shows, but not official showcases. And we haven’t played at Austin City Limits yet, but we’re working on that.
JL/NP: [laugh]
PW: Well you should play this year when I there since I can’t see you in Doylestown. I hear that the day shows at South By Southwest are more fun to play, though.
TW: Yeah, the day parties are where it’s at, ’cause they’re free and there’s free adult beverages. Definitely less pretentious. And the people who actually care about the music are there, not just industry people.
PW: I wish I’d thought about it before, but we didn’t really technically start PopWreckoning till this past January. We didn’t have the foresight to get down to Austin for March because we didn’t really think we’d get so big so quickly and that people would take us seriously.
TW: Day parties are awesome.
PW: We’ll definitely be there next year though. Anything else you guys wanna mention?
TW: Just go to our MySpace page. The album is on iTunes and CDfuse.com. Pick it up and it’ll change your life.
PW: Thanks so much for talking with me, I had a good time!
TW: Any time, any time.

It’s more than accurate to say that these dudes are awesome and I’m stoked for my Driver F guided tour of Austin. Check them out on MySpace and pick up their CD on iTunes or CD Fuse or, hell, both! You will not be disappointed.

Driver F: website | myspace | Chase The White Whale review, buy on iTunes, CDFuse | AP.net Unsigned Showcase | watch “Two Words Mr. President: Plausible Deniability”

*Photo: Aubrey Edwards

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One Response

  1. […] F: website | myspace | Chase The White Whale review | interview with Kingsley: myspace Sterling Witt: website | […]

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