The Company We Keep: The TVD Interview

Winding down their first official tour in support of their upcoming 7″, Michigan’s The Company We Keep took the stage at Reggie’s Rock Club Tuesday night. Although experienced individually, as a group The Company We Keep is brand new to the scene.

Officially made up of Brian Southall (The Receiving End of Sirens), Justin Pierre (Motion City Soundtrack), Branden Morgan (Misery Signals), and Amy Brennan, the band recently teamed up with Drexel University’s MAD Dragon Records and Motion City Soundtrack, to be the first of five bands released in a new 7″ series entitled, Making Moves.

We were able to sit down just before the show with guitarist Brain Southall, who originated the project as a solo effort, to chat a little bit about the band, the tour, and the upcoming record.

With the Making Moves series 7” as your first official release, can you tell us a little bit about that, and recording with MAD Dragon records.

It was awesome. I was super skeptical, to be honest. MAD Dragon Records is mostly a student-run label, through Drexel University, and we didn’t know anything about it. It was just “Come to the school, you’re going to record in the studio, and there are students who are going to engineer it.” Without knowing or seeing anything, that just sounds like a nightmare, but it was great. The guys that engineered it were amazing, and I was blown away by how it came out. It exceeded all of our expectations tenfold.

Is there a full-length debut in the works?

Yes? I hope. I really hope. We have probably 15-20 songs as a band. Probably two years ago is when Justin (Pierre) and I finally started demo-ing everything, and at the time we were way too ahead of ourselves and optimistic. We thought “Oh, we’ll just record this all in my basement, and it’s going to be awesome.” We ended up changing singers, and didn’t like how anything came out. So, we have all of the music to do a full-length record; it’s just a matter of someone wanting to fund that process and make it a reality.

How was the tour and playing live together for the first time?

It has been interesting. We don’t all live in the same spot, so there is no opportunity for normal rehearsal like a lot of bands will do. I think that we did five days of rehearsing before we left, which seemed like enough, but it’s still like we haven’t ever played together—any of us. I feel like last night was really good, the second to last show (laughs). We haven’t totally blown it at all; we haven’t been terrible. We’re not great yet, but we’re pretty good.

You were at SXSW for a few shows, right?

Yes, we were. Chaos.

That’s what I’ve heard, that it’s just complete madness down there.

I often realize that when I start talking about things like SXSW, I sound very negative, and I don’t like that. I’m not a man who enjoys being sweaty, so that is my main motivation for most things in life—not sweating. SXSW is just full of sweating. But it’s awesome. We were happy to do it, and we played in front of people that would have never heard of our band.

Can you give us a little background on the group, and what your songwriting process has been like?

The origin of this thing was just a solo project that I was going to do. I was just doing some music, and then I started working for Motion City Soundtrack and touring with them. Just through playing my own music too loud on the bus, Justin started to hear things, and liked some things, and asked me to send him things. It turned into me sending Justin a song, and he would record some vocals for it. Then we were like, let’s make this a band, but obviously we can’t have Justin be the singer. He already sings in two other bands, and has no time. It was a decision from us that if I wanted this to be a full-time band, he can’t sing in the band.

We just started compiling songs, as many as we could, and it took us about six months to try and find someone whom we liked as a singer. We demoed 12-14 songs, and just realized that it wasn’t the exact right fit. We started over, and did demos with at least six or seven other girls that we were trying. Then we met Amy a month or two before recording, if even that long. We just met her last minute, and she was perfect. She had the exact voice that we always kind of wanted, but didn’t know better. We didn’t know what the band was.

The original demos are really chill, electronic music, and so we kept looking for someone that had an Emily Haines kind of voice. Something soft and pretty. Then we started playing the songs loud, and I was like, I want to pretend that this is a grunge band. I want to be loud and dirty, and we need someone with a throat.

Every song will always start with me on my laptop, fairly chill, stripped down, and quiet. It then builds and builds, just because I am terrible at not adding things to songs. If all of the songs were how we originally recorded them, it would be such a mellow record. Mostly pretty, ambient stuff.

When we do a full-length, I definitely want to touch on more moody, atmosphere stuff and some Portishead-type songs. Pay a little tribute to the stuff that inspires me to write the songs, before I listen to too much Nirvana, and it gets too loud.

Keep your eyes open for The Company We Keep’s contribution to the Making Moves 7” series, due out April 24th on Mad Dragon Records.

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