And they have been in a band together for more than a decade. Singer Brandon Whalen, guitarist Nick Crawford, guitarist Jeff Fedel and bassist Jason Bower formed the group back in 2007; they recently brought on their old friend Justin Trujillo to drum, and the musicians are busy working on a soon-to-drop album.
Watch the video for their new single, "Blame," below, and read on for their conversation with Westword.
Westword: What brought this video to life?
Justin Trujillo: We knew we wanted to do something funny, but we didn’t know what to do. One night we were goofing around on Google and saw awkward family photos.
Brandon Whalen: They called me with the framework for the idea, and I was immediately like, "That sounds really dumb [laughs]." But the more we talked, we thought that'd be really funny. A $300 trip to Goodwill later, it worked out.
Can you talk to us about “Blame”? What was the songwriting process like?
Whalen: A lot of our songs end up being about a relationship, one way or another. Maybe not a specific one. That's just where we draw a lot of energy. ["Blame"] is one of those scenarios where two people can't stop nipping at each other, and it turns into a huge thing. I think all of us have been through those kinds of relationships.
Crawford: Even with each other, trying to write a song, you can get caught up on one little part and are blaming one person, and the other person says, "Well you can’t do this."
Speaking of collaboration, how is it getting to work with one another?
Crawford: We've all known each other for so long. Jeff and I went to high school together. We've been a band for almost eleven years.
Whalen: It was fun doing this record with Justin, because we were doing a lot of writing on our own and building songs on the computer and making them trying to work live when we could get everyone in the room. When Justin showed up to do drums, he was like, "No, why'd we do that? Everyone come in here and play them, and if it sucks, we'll do something else." And we were like, "Oh, yeah, that’s how bands write songs [laughs]."
Jeff Fedel: Justin put a lot of spin on the sound that we were doing already and made it bigger — in a way, heavier. We rekindled the fire.
Trujillo: I just hit harder because I need drum lessons.
Fedel: Well, it made the record, the man.
Trujillo: I’m compensating for the fact I don’t know how to play drums.
Whalen: He’s being modest. [All laugh.]
What are some of your own musical influences?
Whalen: I'm a huge fan of pop music in general, so that's always taken our various influences and tied it together. At the end of the day, we are writing a song instead of a jam. I think it works well, because we draw influences from everywhere, from like the weirdest, heaviest metal...
Crawford: ...to Luke Bryan.
What themes beyond relationships do you find yourself writing about?
Crawford: Getting old. That's the whole theme of the record, in a lot of ways.
Whalen: Personal battles to overcome like dealing with anxiety, family relationships and friendships you should be taking better care of, so it's a really introspective record.
Crawford: We are in different places from when we started the band; whereas then we didn't have as many things to worry about, now we're in our thirties and kind of can't fuck around anymore. Soon we're going to be in our forties. If you fuck around, you fuck around – pretty soon you’re not around.
Trujuillo: We're going to be making some hilarious videos when we're forty.
Fedel: That’s all we'll be doing then.
Whalen: I'm in a way different position, because now I'm married and have a kid, and that brings its own source of anxiousness. Am I a good enough person to have all this? And that influences the songwriting a lot. I feel I have to hold so many things together, to keep the band going and keep my family going and provide and all that.
How do you think Denver supports its musicians to help with that anxiety that comes from trying to keep it all together?
Whalen: I think the Denver crowd is a big, emotional support.
Trujillo: You never go alone even if you do go alone, because you always have friends there.
Whalen: It's kind of crazy. We can call folks up and be like, "Hey, we want to do this," and we got that network built up. It’s good to be home and have that to draw on.
Crawford: It's also us trying to be that step, to help to give that next stone for a younger band to step on to. When we were younger, it was super-crucial when other bands that were doing more than we were took us under their wings.
What are some bands that were mentors to you?
Whalen: The Epilogues is the first one that comes to mind. Photo Atlas.
Crawford: Even a band like 3OH!3 have always been supportive.
Earlier, you said you can't fuck around anymore. What are some previous stories of such fuckery?
Whalen: We still do a lot of fucking around.
Fedel: Now it's just verbally. We verbally assault each other.
Whalen: Jeff lost his shoes in California one time. We were on tour with Nick Thomas from Spill Canvas. We played a show in San Diego, and we had to get back to L.A. because we were staying with our booking agent at the time, and we didn’t want to get back so late that we ruined their night, because they had work the next day.
Right as we were packing up the van, Jeff goes, 'Yeah, I’m leaving with these people. We're going to the beach. Bye." We could not get a hold of him the next day. We had no idea where he was.
Crawford: I was with him.
Fedel: We were drinking wine on the beach. It was a great night. I put rocks in my shoes and my wallet on a rock, and this rogue wave — totally rogue — came out of nowhere and totally ate the rock. I just watched my life float away into the water. I tried to chase it, but you can’t really chase things in the water when they are disappearing...
I had to live the rest of the tour just really broke and shoeless. I had to go buy a pair of new shoes the next day and get the guys to loan me some money.
Whalen: Apparently, I'm prone to having night terrors when I’ve barely slept and been drinking several nights in a row, so there’s been a lot of times where I wake up and just go somewhere and don’t know what I’m doing.
Fedel: We were staying at a high-rise in Chicago and Brandon just walks out the front door, without his shoes, wallet, phone.
Crawford: In downtown Chicago. No shoes, no phone, no entrance back into the apartment.
Fedel: He had to walk to a Walgreens to call somebody. He didn’t have any change. He came back and just waited until 5 in the morning.
Whalen: That was the worst night of my life.
Fedel: All of us slept great.
How have you seen the Denver music scene evolve over the years you’ve been involved?
Fedel: It stays young, and I keep getting older.
Whalen: There’s still momentum. In recent years, there's a trend of people moving away and moving to Nashville or L.A., and that bums me out. What we need is that upper tier of industry support. Labels, management companies, licensing companies to start and flourish in Denver to get that network support.
Crawford: There's a huge market for that to be gained. You don't have to move to L.A. There’s plenty of talent here.
Whalen: [Musicians] are taking emails from folks after they get a song that is hot online and
I think it takes that, and it's a band going, "You know what? We will play Red Rocks every year, support organizations like Youth on Record and build that next tier in Denver."
How do you keep things new? What’s the foundation of your band?
Crawford: At the end of the day, we enjoy making music and have crazy strong friendships built between each other. Even during times where it seems like we are losing momentum or trying to gain back something we had lost, what kept bringing us back to the room was, we really like doing it.
Trujillo: You could say that or just say beer. It keeps everything interesting.
Whalen: Every show is a new experience. ... I got to crowd-surf at Illegal Pete's at our UMS set, and I’m really proud of that, because I didn't think Illegal Pete's could ever have a show where someone was crowd-surfing.
Crawford: I didn’t think Illegal Pete's could hold the people in the venue, and I didn’t think the people in the venue could hold you!
My Body Sings Electric and the Unlikely Candidates, 6 to 10 p.m. August 16, Levitt Pavilion, 1380 West Florida Avenue, free.