November 29, 2012

Interview with Infantree

Infantree, an indie rock group from Southern California, just released their second studio album, Hero's Dose, to great reception and praise. Not only are these four guys the nicest crew around, their sound together is just so entrancing, with poetic lyrics, beautiful harmonies, and excellent musicianship by all members. The band has since then toured with Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and will continue promote their new album at shows in Los Angeles the rest of this year.

(From left) Donald, Matt, Jordan, and Alex of Infantree at Outside Lands
We were lucky enough to kick back with the band after their awesome set at Outside Lands, where we chatted about their new album, embarassing moments, how they got their name, and more! Read below to see what these four killer musicians had to say, and while you're at it, listen to the soothing sounds and lovely harmonies in one of my favorite Infantree tunes, "Forgive Me First." Also, click "read more"  to see Infantree on Conan performing "Fibber"!

Infantree - "Forgive Me First"
 
Your second album was just put out a couple months ago, how do you feel the reception has been so far?

Alex: Pretty awesome, definitely better than the first one!

Donald: That’s all you can hope for.

Alex: We’ve been getting a kick out of it, for sure.

Matt: Yeah, we’ve been getting a lot more college radio play.


Do you approach festival playing any differently than small, intimate settings?

Alex: Oh heck yeah, definitely. We secretly hate the sound at festivals [laughs]. It’s never as full as a small room, because the sound just goes, there’s no walls. A lot of times, especially because festivals are fewer and far between, we’re not used to that sound once we get there, so we kind of have to acclimate as we go. We don’t have a sound guy, so we just kind of do it. But it’s been fun. The main thing is that if people are there or not. And luckily, at festivals, people show up, or at least that’s been happening now.

Donald: Yeah, and it’s tougher when you have the first slot. So the fact that as many people showed up today was great.

Jordan: I feel like I try to keep the beat simpler at festivals, cause the little things kind of get lost. It’s just a different sound.


Have you all been playing music together for a long time?

Alex: Yeah. We kind of freak out about that, anytime anyone asks us about that I have been saying the same answer for the past four years, which is four years, but it’s definitely been longer than that. Me and Don have been playing music together since 9th grade. And we met Matt in 10th or 11th grade, and then we met Jordan after high school, but he was still in high school.

Jordan: I was a junior.

Alex: So yeah, it’s been about four years for the four of us together.

Donald: Yeah, we’ve gone through other things but the four of us...


Alex: I like to think of it as two and half years working for real. Even now, we don’t know what the hell we’re doing [laughs]. Music is a hard thing to really know how to approach. More so in the past two years we’ve really started to understand what we’re trying to do at least, and trying to get “there.”

Matt: We played Outside Lands in 2009, and that was the first real festival-style show we ever played, so starting from then until now is when we really started to hone in on what we’re trying to do.


What’s been your most embarrassing onstage moment thus far?

[Everyone laughs]

Matt: [laughs] Probably the last festival we just played.

Alex: This question is just so perfect [laughs].

Matt: We played in upstate New York in Turin, at Moe.Down, and we’re all checking our instruments and everything’s fine. And then, we get onstage and it’s like, “Let’s do this!” because we’re not really used to the jam band scene but we’re trying it out. And I go to start playing my guitar and there’s just no sound at all coming out of the amp. It was not like the amp was off or anything, I just think one of the tubes blew out. And for the whole first song, I’m like playing my guitar and nothings happening...

Alex: And we had started the song [laughing].

Matt: And I was like, “Wait, wait, guys, wait!” and they just started it. And I was like, “OK, I guess I just have to mime that I’m playing” and after the song I’m trying to fix this, so I plug the cable into the amp, and it’s the worst feedback I’ve ever heard in my life.

Alex: And it lasts for like a minute. So we finished the first song, he hadn’t even played his guitar yet, and it’s just like “WAAAA” and everyone’s like, “...yeah!” [imitates audience slowly clapping] “What the fuck just happened...”

Donald: And in addition to that, all our shows before had been 40-45 minute sets, and we go there and they wanted us to play for an hour and a half. No warning, 90 minute set is in our contract. And we’re just like, “Oh, shit...”

Alex: When it’s the contract, you can’t get paid unless you play for 90 minutes! [laughs]

Donald: It was like, “Let’s extend the song and kind of pretend we know what we’re doing.”

Alex: There were a couple of major fails where we’d try to end it at the same time but we’d never done this before. So they would end it and me and Don would be like, “Fuck! We didn’t end it, did we!”

Donald: We don’t have an organ player or a keyboard player so it’s tough to make those transitions as smooth as they can be...[laughs]

Matt: I mean, we survived. [laughs] We just needed more time to prepare. If we’d known it was going to be an hour and a half, we could have definitely attacked it the right way. But instead it was just, “Let’s take this 40 minute set and play the solos twice as long.”

Donald: And even that was barely enough to cover it.

Matt: Totally. They were like, “OK, you have time for two more songs,” and we were like, “Oh, thank God!”

Where did your band name come from? Is it just something that popped into your head and you thought, “It’s kind of cool”?

Alex: Pretty much! Again, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing, we just wanted a really good name and we didn’t any of the ones we had. One night, I was up really late and I was like, “Woah, that could be cool,” and I was writing down different of versions of it. It used to be a bunch of different words, it was longer than just Infantree, but I won’t even go into that ‘cause those were just stupid [laughs]. It just ended up being cool, and I came to practice and was like, “What about this?” And we were like, “Okay, sure.” And I feel like even in the beginning, it wasn’t like we were sure, it was just the coolest thing we’d thought of so far. It didn’t pigeon-hole us in any way that we really didn’t like, it was actually pigeon-holing in a way that we all felt could conflict in the future with other peoples’ opinions of us. You might not like that our name is Infantree and the way that it’s spelled but we kind of like that conflict, and we want to stir that argument, and more and more, we’ve grown into it.

Matt: It means more as time goes on.

Alex: I don’t think we understood how much we were going to like it right at the beginning, and we’ve slowly realized that it meant something to us.

Matt: It’s really cool that as time has gone on, it wasn’t, “Eh, our name could’ve been better,” we’ve actually been more into it.


What’s next for you guys? Are you going to continue touring and then work on music later, or are you continuing to write music as you tour?

Alex: We’re always writing, there’s really never a time when we’re working on something. But whether we get to flesh it out in real time kind of depends on the song. We played a new song today, it’s not on anything, but sometimes it’ll just click really quickly and we’ll be able to play it live. But, other times, we don’t want to put it out yet because we’re like, “Ah, it’s not done,” you know?

Jordan: In October, we have a month off. We’re playing a few shows in LA and then we’re going on tour with Neil Young.

Alex: Oh yeah, that’s what we’re doing. We’re really stoked.

Donald: So we’re going to spend some time getting prepared for that.


Has touring been everything that you expected it would be?

Alex: Fuck no! [laughs]

Matt: Definitely not.

Jordan: We call it the “Valiant Struggs.” Everyday is a struggle [everyone laughs].

Donald: It’s rough. But then something good happens and it makes up for all the bad stuff.

Matt: Generally, the second we start to play you kind of forget about the 12 hours you had to drive to get there. It’s definitely very rewarding, and that’s obviously why we came here again. But there’s definitely points when you’re driving through Texas for two and half days of nothing and you get to the show and there’s 13 people there...

Alex: It’s give and take. But it’s weird, the tour we just did was just one-offs. We played this festival in Turin, NY and then we played [Outside Lands] two days after. But really the whole tour was based around those two shows. So the shows prior to them on the East Coast were really just what we could find on the way to justify doing those festivals. They weren’t planned as best as they could’ve been, to say the least. And, we were also going through a lot of shit at the time, we weren’t really expecting much out of any of the shows. But it’s really cool when you are nowhere that you’ve been, ever, and there’s still someone that showed up for your show that knows the band, we’re always surprised by that. That helps us keep going.

Matt: We found ourselves in Houston playing this in-store show at a record shop, and two or three people actually knew the lyrics to some of our songs and that was just very heartwarming.

Donald: It’s like a validation.

Alex: Without that, it would be pointless [laughs].


What bands are you most excited to see at Outside Lands this year?

Matt: Jack White, definitely.

[Rest of the group agrees]

Alex: Stevie Wonder, for sure.

Donald: We’re just happy to be back in California, we just flew in last night. It’s kind of insane.

Infantree performing "Fibber" on Conan

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