Building a reputation as a new band is always of pivotal importance, so it's great when that reputation continuously grows. For Fueled By Ramen's Vinyl Theatre it's all about their vigorous live shows that showcase a fierce passion that's both intoxicating and riveting.

Ken Grand-Pierre got to meet up with the guys of Vinyl Theatre (Keegan Calmes (Vocals/Guitar), Josh Pothier (Bass/Vocals), Chris Senner (Keyboards), and Nick Cesarz (Drums) ahead of their show at Bowery Ballroom with Smallpools to discuss touring, making a debut album, and what lies ahead in the future.



After seeing you live a couple of times I've been able to surmise that playing live is what you do best. There's an exuberance that you showcase on stage that not many other musicians convey with their live shows. When you guys first started the band was it a deliberate thought - 'hey we need to be a really good live band?'

Keegan Calmes: I think it kind of developed for us because at first we were only worried about being able to actually play together, and as practice would go along we just ended up really enjoying ourselves more and more. It then became the standard for people to see us and go 'wow you guys really look like you're having fun up there.' That just ended up making more sense to us as we continued to write. That of course the songs you're writing should energize you in some way.

Josh Pothier: We really wanted to find a way to convey the kind of passion we have on our records onto our live show.

Keegan: And to make sure we feel as tired as possible on stage [laughs]. I think we knew if we didn't do well on stage if we come off stage and we're all not trying to catch our breaths.

Do you feel that after playing live a couple of times you started to get inspired by being on stage and brought that into writing process?

Keegan: Yeah I think so, especially with our album Electrogram. The album definitely represents the live show in a way, and we couldn't believe that we were able to bring that kind of energy into the basement we recorded the album in [laughs].

I saw you guys open up for Twenty One Pilots last year and I remember looking you up after, and you're right, Electrogram does have that live sound. It's also a very loud album as well but in a good way. Something else that I thought was really cool was how most of your influences were contemporary acts such as The Killers, Two Door Cinema Club, Death Cab, and things like that. Do you feel you felt influenced from those acts from growing up on their music or from seeing them live?

Josh: It's music we grew up on, and also a thirst for new music. It's not that we're always looking for new music to grab from but I think it's important to feel a sense of inspiration towards the world around you, especially when you're on tour. On this tour we've been listening to a lot of Bear Hands.

Keegan: I love the fact that they have so many intricacies going on yet they still sound organic. They're one of those bands that just constantly surprise you with how talented they are, especially with their song 'Bone Digger'. The drum on that sounds automated but you can tell it's someone playing it, and I love that.

When you went into the studio for Electrogram, do you feel that you knew how you wanted the album to sound or was there an aspect of 'wingin' it' while you were in the studio?

Keegan: It was a bit of a mesh of compilation really. So we had already released some of the tracks, like 'Gold', and 'Breaking Up My Bones' was already released. We took our favorite songs, and then some of our newer songs and just made a cohesive album out of it. Looking back now it feels a lot more accidental than it was, but I'm happy with it. Especially because keeping the older songs ended up making a lot more sense than we expected.

Now you guys are on tour with Smallpools, what's been a difference between this tour and the Twenty One Pilots tour? Also what have been some similarities?

Nick Cesarz: Similarities have been a bit more then differences oddly enough. We've been so lucky with the bands we've toured with in that they've been really good to us and super helpful. Both bands have been just very accommodating and making sure that we get greenrooms, and that everything at the venue is all right for us. I'd say the positives so outweigh the negatives, I can't think of any.

Keegan: The only real difference has been venues really. On this tour (with Smallpools) the highest venue cap is 900 I think. Last year at Twenty One Pilots we were as likely to play a venue of 1000 and then 4000 the next day, it was crazy. Especially playing in their hometown (Columbus, Ohio). It's just a different type of tour because of the stage sizes, but the energy is comparable because the crowds of smaller venues just make up for everything in such a great way. I love seeing the faces of people in venues like this (Bowery Ballroom).

Chris Senner: It's nice to have more room to move on stage though [laughs], especially since we move around so much.

Now that you've had the chance to live with Electrogram for a while how do you feel about the album right now?

Keegan: I feel really proud about it and a lot more... I think I feel more happy/proud towards the album now than I did when we finished it. After playing it so many nights in a row it's just really brought it home for me and has made me feel really attached to it. Also seeing how people have rallied behind it has been great. I love getting to end our sets with 'Breaking Up My Bones' as well, that song is just such a punch and to me it's a great representation of what the album is. The album feels new to me every night, even though we've played it loads.

That's especially great since making an album can be such a tedious process.

Keegan: Yeah, that's really true. The great thing about being in this band though is that we practice so much, to a bit of an insane degree. We've always been like that, even before getting signed. Even on the last tour with Twenty One Pilots, I think we'd rehearse our whole set like four times just to make sure we got it right. It's a massive challenge to make sure you have all your songs right and because of how we play live, doing that would just exhaust us.

Was rehearsing that much a collective decision among the band?

Keegan: I think for us we usually collective agree on ideas that are good and make sense, and perfecting the set was something we all felt was important a 100%. I think at this point we're all open with each other to the point where we wouldn't hesitate to shoot down someone's idea haha. And then the person with the bad idea will go 'yeah I was just kidding....' [laughs].

Josh: Also, even though there's four of us in the band we've never had an instance of it being two against two or three against one. If just one person objects to something we kind of unanimously agree to find a different way of doing whatever it is rather than having one person be unhappy.

That's a great thing to see. I've read about how Brandon Flowers of The Killers and Nick Cave would bring ideas to their bands and have to deal with their band mates being brutal or shutting them down, so it's great you guys can be diplomatic. Something that's really stuck with me is that they're a lot of different opinions on what it means to 'make it' but watching you guys on stage makes me feel as though you have, because you're having such a great time on stage. There's a lot of gratitude you guys express on stage that's just brilliant.

Keegan: Thank you! I think that gratitude is just us always being grateful towards... I mean without this, without music, we wouldn't be able to travel and meet new people and that's become so important to me; being able to do that. We used to have dead-end jobs and because of those jobs we couldn't go on tour much. It meant a lot to us that venues in other cities and states would even want us to come out and play, because of our jobs it would feel like a sign of faith that the venues/fans would have in us and that would just energize us a lot. We're extremely grateful towards being signed because now we can just focus on being in a band.

It's funny as well because so many people see a band that's signed and assume that it's super easy, when in reality it's actually just more work. It's not that you get signed and everything magically happens for you, it doesn't work that way for anyone really.

Keegan: Yeah, at times it does feel a bit strenuous but it's a grind that just reminds you how precious all of this is to me. I could be waiting tables right now wishing that I was playing music but instead I'm talking to people like you and fans, and all of that will help me play more music. So to me, there isn't anything better then that. We try to take every opportunity we can, any chance to work.

I'd imagine that since you had old songs that made it onto Electrogram that it means you guys have never stopped writing since then. When it comes to the next record, do you feel like you can tell where the inspiration for it will come from?

Keegan: That's a great question... a lot of it is from myself actually. We've all brought ideas to the table for the next record but after playing Electrogram for so long it's made me realize that I really want to write songs that are personal and show that side of the band as well. But not just me, I want it to be about our personalities and our lives. I think the goal, if there is one, is to just have an album that's as relatable as possible. We want to have songs that are uplifting and songs that are... well... sad [laughs] - but having songs like that will just bring us together I think.

Chris: Also, I think that we definitely want to make a more 'rock' album, an album that's just a bit straightforward.

Josh: Yeah, we just always want to be moving forward. We love Electrogram but wouldn't want to make an Electrogram Part 2. We want to keep evolving and developing.

Do you feel that there's been any albums or songs you've come across recently that have informed the next album in some way? The funny thing about influences is that people tend to forget the importance of the word. An influence isn't someone you 'rip off', it's just an instance of seeing a new way of how to do something.

Keegan: Definitely. I think we've been so open about our influences in the past that it... I don't want people to hear the next album and try to pick apart where the sounds are coming from if that makes any sense? I will say that we've been a lot more influenced by newer bands, specifically about four or five new bands. It was the kind of thing where it happened to us all separately, us finding these bands, and then we'd come together in rehearsal and just think 'wow what those guys are doing...wow.' When that happens it just makes you want to do better and that really is a great feeling. It's just great being able to hear new music and feeling more inspired by the tone of the sounds rather than the style.

What's become your favorite song to play on stage while on tour? After seeing you guys live on stage, one would end up thinking that it'd be all of them...

Chris: [laughs] it changes for me every night. I think it'll always be 'Breaking up My Bones' for me though, just the reaction we always get from that song is huge. Also opening up with 'Shine On' has been great.

Keegan: When it comes to playing these songs live, I've found that it's the audiences reaction to them that'll make the song of the night for me. Whatever song they end up feeling the most excited towards will just make me feel so damn happy. Sometimes when we have more room on stage Chris will do a handstand on his piano and seeing the crowd react to that has always been a favorite moment of mine.

Nick: Gold is also a great song to play live because I think it shows people how much of a rock band we can be and just wins them over if they weren't already sure.

Lastly, with being such a young band now I was curious to know what you guys make of all this chatter about streaming, and TIDAL, and Spotify?

Josh: We've always taken the approach that it's more important to have people hear your songs rather than worry fully on the money. When we started we had a Soundcloud page where we'd put everything up for free and I think that is what really helped us to get noticed, the fact we clearly just wanted to be heard over everything else.

Keegan: People latched on because the mood of it was 'hey you don't have to buy our music on iTunes, you can just listen to us.' And even with that people would still want to buy our music on iTunes and they still did. I think it's great that people are streaming songs because it makes you care so much more about the live show, and that just makes me more excited than it doesn't honestly.


You can visit Vinyl Theatre by heading here.