The Narrative is currently one of the best dual vocalled indie-pop bands out there right now. So it may surprise you that they are unsigned. Even without the support of a label, the band released one of the best records of 2010 with their self-titled record, and has received critical acclaim by quite a few publications. The band is currently on the Vans Warped Tour, promoting themselves on one of the smallest stages. The two members agreed to sit down with me and answer a few questions, on topics such as labels, Kickstarter, the costs of touring and recording, Warped Tour, and much more that you can read below.
Firstly, can you introduce yourselves?
S: I’m Suzie and I play keys and sing in The Narrative
J: And I’m Jesse and I play guitar. I sing too, I forget about that.
You guys released a very well received album in your self titled without any label support. Are we expecting to hear the next The Narrative album on a label?
S: I guess we’re not really sure quite yet. We definitely wouldn’t say no if we found a good label that…
J: The problem is that nobody wants us.
J: We’ve had some small talks with certain labels but nothing too concrete. I think we’d be excited about putting out a record with a label.
S: It just has to be the right label. Definitely has to be the right label.
Do you two play all the instrumentation on your recordings, or do you find outside musicians to play the instruments you aren't as skilled with?
S: For the last record we had a friend of ours help on bass and our old drummer obviously wrote the parts on drums. But for this new stuff we’ve been recording we have kind of done everything on our own and we’ve sorta left some of those elements out for now but I imagine in the future we will enlist some talented pals to help us fill in the gaps.
So you guys are currently recording new material?
S: We recorded two new tracks for our Kickstarter promoters and once we completely finish those we’re going to be sending them off to them. Then once we get off this tour if we’re not touring more we’ll start to record even more.
Are there plans to record an EP or a new full length any time soon?
J: We don’t have any definitive plans about what we are going to release or when but I do think recording new stuff is on our mind. We’ll probably get to that some time in the new future but we’re not sure what yet. Also if we started to work with a label that would affect what that would be drastically so it’s hard to say.
How do you guys write your songs? Is it a collaborative effort or does one of you write it and let it progress from there? And how do you decide who sings which part on each song?
J: For the most part one or the other of us will sort of write a song and then bring it to the other person and we’ll work it out further and hopefully make it better unless it doesn’t need anything to make it better. For the most part whoever wrote the song is usually who ends up singing it but a lot of time we write parts that we think “oh, it’d be cool if the other person sings this instead” so sometimes we do that also. All and all it’s a mixed bag, sometimes a song will get written in a completely different way than what the norm is. For example, the song “Trains” off our self titled, basically I wrote some lyrics and just sent them to Suzie and she just laid down a piano part and kind of landed on the vocal melody that was very similar to what I had in mind and that song just fell together without it really being completely written by one of us. It was a lot more of a team effort.
How did you get the idea to use Kickstarter to fund the tour with Eisley?
J: We just saw that it started to really take off for musicians to be able to fund their arts and we thought that it was a really cool concept and the tour with Eisley wound up being something where we wanted to do it but they couldn’t give us any kind of guarantee on the tour but we were excited about it anyway and we thought how are we going to make this work and we thought we’d give that a try. It was just an overwhelmingly positive response. Our fans really pulled through and we were able to do the tour because of that. Without it, there’s no way we would have been able to do it.
There’s still a lot of controversy regarding Kickstarter. There’s plenty of people that think that bands use it because they’re “too lazy” to get the money or that the band members need to work another job or something to keep on touring.
J: I think in general people don’t spend enough time thinking about that everyone’s not in the same situation. You can’t assume what someone is able to do. I’m sure there are some people that are taking advantage of it, but I think that those people that are against Kickstarter usually assume that everyone’s taking advantage of it and that it’s a broken system. That’s not true. They say things like “these people don’t have jobs.” I work a full time job with benefits and I still couldn’t afford to tour. It’s hard enough to pay the expenses whether it’s food or an apartment or anything and if you want to make music too, sometimes you need to find other ways to do that. I think that it’s worth it in a scenario in which you have people that really want you to tour or make a record or whatever and they’re excited about donating towards it. I think honestly, if you’re so against Kickstarter then just don’t use it. Don’t donate to artists that are using it and that’s it. Solves your problem.
Are there any other creative methods that you are thinking of either promoting yourselves or doing releases?
S: There are other sites like Kickstarter. I don’t think we have any solid plans on using any of those in the near future. I think this tour for us is sort of a big promotional opportunity so right now our focus is there. And also we’ll be putting out a vinyl so we’re putting the word out online about that but I don’t think we’ll necessarily be looking to raise money quite yet again.
J: Sometimes you don’t get a say in what comes your way or when it comes your way. You know, the Eisley tour kind of just popped up on us and we were like “this is an awesome opportunity, we wanna do this.” Right now we can’t do it on our own. If we had a label, great, they would have basically been our Kickstarter. Essentially the fans became our label in that case. Most of the time, especially with recording, you can plan it out a little better and it doesn’t just say “hey, if you wanna do this you need to do this right now and you have a few weeks to make it work” and we’ll probably be able to plan financially for that. We’ll see what happens. Warped Tour we had a little more time to plan for, but it was an enormous expense. It’s definitely drained our bank account pretty hard.
S: We’ve been trying to figure out how to transfer money to our band account for the last week and a half because it’s at like 100 dollars. And meanwhile we’re on this big tour that’s traveling across the United States with like sixty or so bands and people don’t realize how much it is. I had one of those sleepless nights where I sat around calculating what everything costs at the end of the day. Being on this tour has cost about $25,000 so for those people that are wondering why we didn’t work for this…
J: And this is just us, the smallest band. I can’t even imagine, I mean I know the mainstage bands have labels supporting them but they have to pay that money back and for some of them it must cost $100,000 or more to do this. Probably a lot more than that.
S: Even putting out a record, people don’t think about the expenses that go in to putting out anything really. They just like to think that they know the whole story when they don’t. Putting out our record cost us like $15,000, and we’re an independent band. You want to go tell me to get a job? Well, I already have one, thank you.
How has Warped been for you guys?
S: You know, it’s been good. There’s definitely a lot of exposure. A lot of people who have never heard of us are coming up to us to find out about our music. It’s also hard in a different way in that people don’t really know us so they’re looking for the other bigger named bands that they already recognize on the schedule. It’s definitely competitive to win people’s attentions and even harder to win their hearts. It’s kind of amazing how many people just brush you off like you’re just nothing and you don’t matter. You may as well be invisible.
J: They’re on a mission to see whomever they want. Also, we’re totally different than most of the bands in this climate. There’s a large portion of people just want to see a certain kind of music and we are not that kind of music. But I do think that there are enough people here that would really love our music also so I don’t feel that we’re wasting our time. And I also think that as an experience and meeting people and networking, it’s really valuable.
Any final words?
S: Check us out on our website www.thenarrativemusic.com. We also are on Facebook, at www.facebook.com/thenarrativemusic. I suppose we have a Myspace as well and if you look you can find it, but those are the two best places to find information on us. We’re all really friendly, so if you’re coming to Warped Tour in the near future, come visit us. We’re usually hanging out around the tent almost all day. If you get there and one of us is not there, it’s probably lunch or dinner time, so most of the time we’re there and happy to socialize. We’re good people
J: Stay positive.
I'd like to again thank The Narrative for taking up their time to answer my questions. As I said earlier, the band's self-titled record is fantastic, and is worth buying. The band is on the Warped Tour until the tour's end, and their set is a must see. Go check out their music on the sites they state above, and go by their tent if you happen to be at Warped Tour this year.