Interview with Thriving Ivory
by Andrew DeWitt & Blaire Nichols
Thriving Ivory are on the road in support of their self-titled release Thriving Ivory, featuring the majestic new single "Hey Lady" and their hit "Angels on the Moon." Virgin Mobile LIFE is here to take you up close and personal with an exclusive interview with Paul Niedermier (drums), Bret Cohune (bass) and Drew Cribley (guitar & backing vocals)
The band will be taking photos from the road using the x-tc phone and uploading them to their MySpace and Facebook using Virgin Mobile's brand new service MyPix, so be sure to add Thriving Ivory as a friend so you can check out their tour photos.
One lucky winner will also get a phone call from the band, signed copy of their self-titled debut, t-shirt AND the x-tc phone used by the band to load up with tour photos just for you. As if all that is not enough, the grand prize winner will also get $50 worth of airtime from Virgin Mobile. Three runner-ups will each receive a signed copy of their self-titled debut and t-shirt. Enter now for your chance to win-download Thriving Ivory's "Hey Lady," "Angels on the Moon" or any tone from their self-titled debut on your Virgin Mobile phone now for your chance to win or click here to enter online (no purchase necessary)!
VM: What, if any ringtones or ringbacks do you have set up on your phone?
Paul: I always like to have some hip hop as my ringtone. Anything with a fatty beat. I mean, you want to feel good when your phone rings and a fat beat always puts me in the best mood. If I ever want to switch it up, I resort to my back up ringtone, Shiny Toy Guns "Money for That."
VM: What was the first record you ever purchased? What was the most recent?
Bret: The first record I bought was Guns 'n' Roses Use Your Illusion I. I had Appetite for Destruction already, but a girlfriend had given it to me. Most recently, I purchased The War's Waving White 5-song release.
VM: What was the first Thriving Ivory band practice like? What songs did you play?
Paul: My first practice with the band was actually an audition. I went over to Scott's house with my Jeep packed with my drums ready to go. I brought over a ridiculously unnecessary amount of drums, cowbells and whistles and I think the first song we played was "Unhappy." Soon after that, I think we wrote a song called "Sweet Misery". If you search hard enough, you can probably find it somewhere deep, deep in cyber world.
VM: For your self-titled debut album you worked with some extremely talented producers including Chris Manning (Santana, Metallica, Third Eye Blind) and Howard Benson (Daughtry, My Chemical Romance, The All-American Rejects, Seether). As a young band those are some big names to work with. What was the experience like being in the studio with producers that have history working with such great talent?
Bret: Our self-titled album was originally done with Chris Manning before we were signed to Wind-up. We borrowed money from our parents and found Chris because he is a Bay Area local. So in 2005 and 2006 we recorded 12 tracks up in the Oakland hills in the basement of Drew's house. We made Chris drag his studio up there with him. We did everything there: guitar, bass, vocals, and piano (Drew had the family's baby grand piano in the house). Chris worked out of his home studio up in San Rafael to finish up the tracks. In 2008, we had the chance to re-record some tracks and record one new track "Alien" with Howard Benson down at his Bay 7 Studios in LA. The two experiences were very different and taught us a lot about how to be productive in the studio. With Chris, we spent hours recording our parts individually, doing take after take. A lot of blood and sweat went into making those first recordings with Chris. With Howard it was cool to be in a big time studio that was making big time music. They had everything you could imagine equipment wise and could make anything sound amazing. So recording was in a sense easier. Being a young band it was really great to have had the chance to work with not just one but two very talented producers on one album.
VM: Tell us a little about your album, Thriving Ivory? What are your favorite tracks on the record?
Paul: Our album is a collection of our best songs. The album front-to-back tells somewhat of a story. A lot of the songs are purposely left to the listeners' interpretation of what the song means. My favorite songs on the album are "Alien" and "Secret Life" and my favorite songs to play live are "Long Hallway With A Broken Light" and "For Heavens Sake."
VM: After such a positive experience with Thriving Ivory, your first studio album, what do you think you would do differently or the same on your next album?
Drew: Yeah there are a couple things that we're gonna focus on changing for the next record. The songs for our first one were written over our first six years as a band so I expect the next one to sound a little more cohesive since we've kind of come into our style over the years. Also in the past we've applied somewhat the same formula to a lot of the songs on the album and I think that we have grown a lot as a band since then and are gonna show some different sides of Thriving Ivory on the next one.
One thing that will definitely remain the same is that we are still trying to write the best songs that we can, while at the same time keeping them modern and epic.
VM: Are there any artists that you are especially interested in collaborating with in the future?
Paul: The artists we would like to collaborate are the artists that we look up to and respect. On that list you would find U2, Coldplay, Aqualung, Switchfoot, and many others. I'm sure it would be a lot of fun to work with someone outside of our genre sometime, like Jay-Z or The Roots. I have no idea what that would sound like but something good would have to come of that, right?!?
VM: What is the creative process like for you guys? What do you find most often inspires your songs? And when and where do you do most of your writing?
Bret: Scott does the songwriting, so all the songs start with him. He writes all the time and draws on everything for inspiration; life, people, experiences or just even a line from another song can spark it for him. Sometimes he starts with the lyrics and sometimes he starts with a melody. Once a song is put together and Clayton has gone through and worked out the lyrics with Scott they put the song down as a demo. Sometimes we lay down our parts on the demos, but most of the time they are a reference for everyone else to learn the song. We've been together long enough to know what to play that is going to work with our sound. Then everyone gets together to work out ideas and work out the kinks. We've been playing the songs off our current album for a long time. So we have a whole bunch of new songs that we've been working on for a long time that are still just demos waiting to be made into an album that we're really excited about.
Drew: Usually Scott and Clayton will work on a song and put together a rough demo of it and then bring it to the rest of the band who will write their parts. Then we come together and play it as a band and flesh out the arrangements and tweak parts, etc. Inspiration can come from a lot of different things. Probably most often it's other bands, but also movies, books and personal experience. You have to be open to all the influence that's around you. Most of the writing takes place when we have down time, but we also do it on the road in hotels or on the bus occasionally.
VM: "Angels on the Moon" was a big hit for you and "Hey Lady" is off to an awesome start. Has the success you've seen with these songs changed the way you approach your music or the band in general? How so?
Paul: We are very happy with the success of "Angels on the Moon" and excited to see what happens with "Hey Lady." In our eyes, most of the songs on the album could go to radio. We appreciate the success we've had and believe that the rest of the album is right up there with "Angels on the Moon" and "Hey Lady." We, of course, want to release the best songs we have. As for the future, I don't think we'll change the way we work based on what has happened with our first two singles. When those songs were written, we weren't shooting for what radio was playing at that time. We absolutely never want to be a flavor of the week kinda band. When you try re-writing the hits from your last record or what's selling at that moment, that's when you get off track and lose fans. You want fans that are genuine and will last.
VM: Early on in your career you played some pretty legendary venues in the Bay Area including The Great American Music Hall and the Independent. What have been some of you other favorite places to play?
Bret: We have played all the great venues in San Francisco. In addition to the ones mentioned above, we've gotten to play at Bottom of the Hill, Slim's, Café Du Norde, and most recently The Fillmore. All of those places were very good to us for a lot of years while we were in the Bay Area. Being on the road the last year and a half there are definitely some great venues out there that we love. The Midland Theater in Kansas City comes to mind and the Bowery Ballroom in New York is awesome.
VM: You are spending the summer doing an extensive tour of the US. Are there any other countries that you would especially like to tour in?
Drew: Yeah we would love to make it over to Europe and go to just about any country there. Also Australia would be amazing, or Japan. It always seemed like a great way to see the world even if we bounce from one city to another. Hopefully in the not too distant future we'll go international.
VM: What can fans expect from a Thriving Ivory show?
Paul: We take pride in our live show. We don't want to be one of those bands that puts a lot of hard work into making a good album and then sucks live. We like to hear from our fans and newcomers that we sound just as good as our record if not better. Of course, we want to satisfy our fans but always want them coming back for more.
VM: We've heard that you will stick around after shows talking to fans and signing autographs until the very last fan has left. That's awesome! What about the experience of being one-on-one with the fans is most important to you?
Bret: We love our fans. They have truly been the sustaining force for us over the last 7 years that we have been together. We feel like we have really dedicated fans out there, the type that will drive hours to come to shows. So it's easy for us to give our time back. Most of the time all they want is a signature or just a hug. Sometimes it means later nights when you're tired, but the rewards you see returned are immeasurable. Hearing the personal stories from our fans is the most important thing about having that one-on-one experience. It's amazing to hear how a song might have helped someone get through a hard personal experience. With "Angels on the Moon," we hear a lot of stories from cancer patients and survivors and that is just mind blowing for us.
VM: Everyone has a guilty pleasure band that they're somewhat embarrassed to be a fan of. What are yours?
Bret: Everyone in the group definitely has their guilty pleasure band. Paul's would be Carrie Underwood. Drew's would be Fall Out Boy. Clayton is really into Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, Scott's would have to be Katy Perry and mine is Avril Lavigne. I know some of the guys would kill me for letting their secrets out.
VM: Has anything about fame especially surprised you, good or bad?
Drew: I'm surprised sometimes at how normal it feels. When I've idolized people it seems like their lives are so interesting and full of mystery but really things haven't changed too much for us, besides the fact that there are more people at the shows and they want autographs and pictures now
VM: What is your favorite food?
Paul: Sushi. Period. Nothing beats that. And in this order: a bowl of miso, shot of Sake, spider roll and large Sapporo.
VM: If there was one thing you wanted Virgin Mobile users to know about Thriving Ivory what would that be?
Paul: The "Hey Lady" ringtone is the ringtone of the summer. It's the new black. Haha. But serious...We are just a group of California guys who enjoy what they do. We are so thankful to be in the position we are in and are extremely grateful to all our fans. See you all at the show!!!