What else can I say about SPEAK other than the fact that they rock my socks and limbs off? These synth-pop Austinites have got that insanely infectious modern ’80s sound that will make anyone with a right mind groove all night and then some. I had the awesome privilege to chat with Jake Stewart (drummer) while the band was here for their la residency, and let me just say this dude has got just as much of a rad personality as he does raw talent.
How’s your 2014 going so far?
It’s been very busy, but a lot of fun. We played on New Year’s Eve and haven’t stopped for a breath since. The record is finally done but that just means we’re spending time working up new songs to play live and creating more material for the release, like videos and covers (we just did one for Moby).
How did you guys start making music together?
We’re all native Austinites and have been kicking around the scene there since we were kids. Troupe, Nick, and I went to the same high school, where Troupe and I were drummers in the Jazz Band. This is also where the band originated, in late 2005. Before then, Nick and Troupe had played together in another band, but they wanted to take the music in a different direction – so they asked me to join up. At the time we were called Jupiter-4, after the retro synth Troupe played. Joey came along in 2008 while he and Nick were both studying classical guitar at the University of Texas. This prompted us to change the name, and SPEAK was born.
What inspired the name for SPEAK?
The fact that our prior name was nigh on impossible for people to remember or spell correctly. I consider it homage to a couple of my favorite bands, Talk Talk and the Talking Heads. Also, Lindsay Lohan.
How would you describe your musical style?
If The Who were Maximum R&B, I’ll presume to call us Maximum Pop. It’s heavily layered – three-part vocal harmonies over a blend of vintage synthesizers, modern softsynths, electric guitar played with classical technique, and hip hop-inspired drumbeats.
Which artists have influenced you and your style the most?
Prince. Radiohead. Kanye. Wilco. Cut Copy. Stevie Wonder. Peter Gabriel. Sam Cooke. The Beach Boys. Dr Luke. The Police. The Beatles.
Your sophomore album is due out this year, are you guys excited? What can we expect from it?
It’s a long one: 14 songs and nearly an hour runtime. We spent two years on it, so it’s also pretty dense sonically. There are a lot of parts crammed into each song, and we hope that people will enjoy discovering more on repeat listens. For one track we recorded a single guitar part over a hundred times and it didn’t even make it into the final mix! But there’s also a song we did in a one take, playing together in our cutting room. The recording process had a lot of variety to it and I think that translated directly to the album.
We already released one single, Peaks, and will be putting out more very soon!
Are there any major differences between the next album and ‘I Believe in Everything’?
We recorded “I Believe In Everything” with a producer in a traditional studio environment. This album we produced all ourselves at our home studio. The do-it-yourself approach is a double-edged sword, though. We could (and did) spend as much time as we wanted to get it sounding right, but there was a lot of trial-and-error. We had limited recording equipment, but it’s actually very inspiring to be forced to find ways to overcome the challenges of no-budget home recording. We tried to wring a big studio sound out of our bedroom set-up and we’re excited to see how people react to it.
You just ended your residency at Bootleg Bar, any other plans (tourist-y or business) you guys had for your 3 week stay in Los Angeles?
We’re shooting a video for an upcoming single. On the drive to LA, we stopped to film at White Sands in New Mexico. We’ve also been to the Angeles National Forest and Chinatown for a couple scenes. It’s good fun, but certainly a challenge because we’re doing it ourselves and are by no means professional filmmakers. Patience is key. And the magic hour.
Otherwise, we are enjoying the lovely Los Angeles life! Juice for breakfast, beer for dinner.
TS: What are your favorite spots in Austin to…
Eat: El Primo. Best breakfast tacos in town! Accept no imitations, this is the place.
Drink: Draught House, an incredible pub with dozens of taps (including their own microbrew) and authentic beer garden. Also, Brew & Brew – a favorite of ours to get a beer and a coffee before shows downtown.
Chill: Technically it’s also a place to drink, but our main haunt is Donn’s Depot on far west 6th Street. We’re there pretty much every Monday night. Usually, it’s just us and a few dozen septuagenarians watching the iron man, Chris Gage, slay the piano. Chris is Troupe’s stepdad and an incredible musician; sometimes we are fortunate enough to share the stage with him.
Have you guys made any resolutions for the new year? Have you broken any already?
It’s not an official resolution, but I’m carrying a pen and notebook with me everywhere I go. It can be awkward to pull out in the middle of a conversation, but it helps to capture our flights of fancy when we’re out and about. Also trying to kick my meth habit. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Any other big plans/projects for the rest of 2014?
There is an exciting collaboration that we’re a part of, but I can’t say what it is just yet! It’s an exciting project and the announcement should be coming soon so keep your eyes peeled..