Q&A with Ryan Hendrix of Colourmusic

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My first interview with Ryan Hendrix, one of the co-founders of Oklahoma's Colourmusic, didn't happen for one reason or another. But he more than made up for it the second time around. He was incredibly generous with his time, and extremely interesting and honest, too. These qualities come through in our profile of the group, timed to advance its December 17 headlining appearance at the hi-dive, as well as the massive Q&A accessible below.

At the time of our conversation, Hendrix was in Colourmusic's studio space in Stillwater, which he describes with good humor, especially as it applies to Other Lives, an acclaimed local combo with a Radiohead connection. After giving more details about the Stillwater scene, he talks about his upbringing near Oklahoma City; the influence on him of his ex-hippie-turned-Republican dad; his love for the music of Brian Eno (and his hatred of Eno's latest collaboration with David Byrne); the Yamaha keyboard responsible, in his view, for Eno's decline; his use of an early song to win elective office; an Oklahoma State University video that tells the tale of his early friendship with Nick Turner, a British exchange student turned Colourmusic partner; his creative clashes with Turner, and the evolution of their songs-inspired-by-colors concept; the underrated influence of Wes Anderson films on the indie-music scene; his fear that Colourmusic's current sound, captured on a long-player dubbed Orange, is too limiting; the songs that point in the outfit's current direction; and the greater incorporation of material from the other musicians in the quartet, Nick Ley and Colin Fleishacker, who add new hues of their own.

And now, without further adieu, allow Hendrix to shred -- conversationally, that is.

Michael Roberts (Westword): Are you in the studio right now?

Ryan Hendrix: Yes, we are in the studio right now. But our studio is not very sexy, I must say. We record everything ourselves, and our studio is a retail store space in the downtown part of Stillwater. I happen to live there whenever I'm in town.

WW: You live in the studio space?

RH: Yeah, I live in the studio space. It's very tiny, but we all really like it. It has the right kind of feel to it, and we're really comfortable there - and right now, everything's coming out really well. Our songwriting is actually a lot easier than it was on our first record, so far. There are really good vibes for us right now.

WW: Who are your neighbors on either side? The other businesses?

RH: On the left side is a huge business - sort of like an Office Depot, but a locally owned Office Depot. It's called B&C Business Products. They're too far away from us - there's an alley between us - to ever really have any conflicts. But just to the east of us is another band from Stillwater. They're called Other Lives, and they're doing really well. They're the only band signed to the TBD label, which Radiohead is signed to. They just had a big feature on them in Filter magazine, and I think it's really funny, since both of our bands are really good friends. We've been friends for years, and now we're both getting some sort of national attention at small levels - and we're next-door-neighbors. And we're the only bands in Stillwater that are sort of arty. We're considered indie bands, so it's cool, really cool. I joke that we're on Stillwater music row. But their space is twice the size of ours. They think they're so cool (laughs).

WW: I assume you don't have to worry about making too much noise for them. Or do you?

RH: It's funny you say that, because we're incredibly loud and they're incredibly quiet. When they're rehearsing, we'll be like, "Are they in there? Are they rehearsing?" Because you'll hear a drum every once in a while. And we're like this blistering, fuzz-bass, extreme-drums explosion. I think we bug them from time to time.

WW: But not so much that they come over and shake their fists at you?

RH: No. They'll come over and look at us like, "Oh. You're rehearsing." It's pretty funny...

WW: You mentioned that you guys aren't the typical Stillwater bands. So how would you describe the typical Stillwater band?

RH: There's a band called Cross Canadian Ragweed, and they're the kind of band whose music you would have expected from Stillwater. They call it Red Dirt here. I don't really follow it, so I don't really know how it's viewed nationally. I guess you'd call it Americana - sort of a rootsy form of country music. There are artists like Jason Boland and the Stragglers, and a band called No Justice. I don't know if they're necessarily all from Stillwater, but they play there all the time, and for a long time, that was kind of the music scene in Stillwater - which makes sense to me. I always wished it was a little bit more like rockabilly. I thought that would be the perfect sound for bands from this part of the world - to have that almost kind of '50s vintage rock sound. But it's more country. Because country has always been the biggest export from Oklahoma than anything.

Outside of that, there has developed a sort of indie scene in Stillwater. And I feel weird saying that there's a scene, because I don't know what a scene is. We're just friends. There's probably about fifty people who all know each other and making music and hanging out and doing stuff for fun. Socializing and all that kind of stuff. But it's cool stuff. The bands are all really cool and everybody's pretty ambitious. They all want to do something. So it's a cool environment, for sure.

WW: Has an audience developed along with that quote-unquote scene? Are you able to make some pretty good money playing in your hometown instead of having to go elsewhere?

RH: Oh, yeah. The only problem is, it's a college town, so people leave every six months. They go to Oklahoma City or Dallas or wherever they're going for their jobs. You kind of pull in people until they leave. But basically our bands pay for our road trips from the shows we do in Stillwater. We do rather well there, and there's two really great venues in town for our bands. One is called Vault Video, and it's just a video store, but the guy who runs it love Stillwater. He's from L.A. and he moved to Stillwater to raise his family and he really loves it. He wants to create this local scene, and so there are bands playing there all the time. And the other one is Eskimo Joe's. I don't know how familiar you are with Stillwater. Have you ever heard of Eskimo Joe's?

WW: I'm afraid what I know about the Stillwater scene is from having interviewed Cody Canada from Cross Canadian Ragweed late last year - and I don't think he mentioned Eskimo Joe's.

RH: I imagine they play at bars like the Tumbleweed, which are more country. It's more of that kind of sound. I don't think they even care about us. But Eskimo Joe's has gotten behind most of the indie bands in town and given them an opportunity to play. It's a really great place, because they don't charge a cover and they pay the bands. They're a really great venue for Stillwater.

WW: Were you born and raised around that area?

RH: Mmm-mmm. I grew up in a small town called Piedmont, which is about twenty miles northwest of Oklahoma City. I had a smalltown life, but I never was really excommunicated from the city. It was no big deal to go to the city. You'd go there all the time. But where I lived, it was essentially farmland. It's actually a really beautiful part of Oklahoma. And then when I got to college age, I moved to Stillwater to go to school there, and I never really left. I like the town and I like the environment. It's a really kind of mellow place to live, and I personally appreciate mellow. I like mellow.

WW: Could you tell me about your family?

RH: My dad is a pretty interesting guy. I call him an ex-hippie. He was a radio DJ, and once he turned off Richard Nixon on the air. He was like, "We don't need to hear from that guy for a while!" And now he's a card-carrying Republican. I tease him because he's got Fox News on all the time. But he started the first underground FM station in Oklahoma. He's a very interesting guy. As soon as he had kids, he sort of changed directions and went the opposite way. He has an advertising agency in town and he does mainly radio and TV production. I've learned a lot of basic concepts of music production from him...

WW: When you say "in town," are you talking about Oklahoma City?

RH: Yeah, Oklahoma City. And my mom has basically taken care of us. I think the creativity of our band, at least when it comes to me, comes from my mom's side. You'd think it would come from my dad, because he's done all these radio things, but my mom's a really kind of an eccentric person. She's really interesting. And then I have two brothers. One's a doctor and the other one's the accountant. And I'm the homeless one (laughs).

WW: You're the one your folks worry about...

RH: Yeah, I'm the one they worry about. Absolutely.

WW: Given your dad's background, I imagine you heard a wide variety of stuff in the house as you were growing up. What kind of stuff did you hear?

RH: I listened to a lot of my dad's music. He wrote music, and so I would listen to him. I really developed a sense of being critical about music in a way that most people aren't used to growing up with him, because he'd play me his music all the time. I'd listen to a lot of the Beatles and Neil Young and his music. And then, when I'd get in the car, I'd listen to the worst, cheesy, Whitney Houston-Phil Collins '80s pop. I loved all that stuff. But I changed. I really fell in love with music when U2 released Joshua Tree and I heard "Where the Streets Have No Name." I fell in love with that song. I remember hearing that and being changed - like, "That's the song I've always wanted to hear."

U2, I think, is one of the bigger influences on me personally, because they've opened me up to a lot of different music. But really, my true influence, the one who I really feel is the guiding star for us is Brian Eno. Brian Eno had a huge influence on U2, and his conceptualizing has had a huge influence on what we try to do, how we try to think about music. We don't necessarily think about music in terms of genre or even in terms of popular culture. We think of it more in terms of conceptualizing. Almost a kind of painting approach, or even sculpting. That's kind of my musical story. I'm still really influenced by Brian Eno - although I think his last albums have been the worst albums ever made (laughs).

WW: The worst albums ever made?

RH: They're terrible. I thought the one he made with David Byrne [Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, released earlier this year] was really bad. And I love the guy. I'll buy everything he makes. I don't care how bad it is. But Brian Eno needs a Brian Eno (laughs).

WW: So do you like his '70s-era solo albums, like Another Green World and Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy?

RH: Oh, yeah. I think the rock records are two of the best rock records ever made. There's never been rock records as mutant as those. They're incredible. And I love all the ambient stuff. I love all his work in the African genre and how he started to take these ideas and fly with them. I think I stopped loving the music he made around 1985-ish, when it became a little bit artificial. But I'm really a fan. I've read every interview with him that I can find. And basically, I've deduced that the problems came in when he bought this one particular keyboard. That's when I stopped liking his keyboard.

WW: Which keyboard?

RH: It's a Yamaha DX7. And the funny thing is, I have the same keyboard. It's just a really cheesy sounding keyboard. It's hard to take the sound seriously.

WW: So how are you able to play that keyboard in a way that doesn't take you down the wrong path?

RH: I haven't. I haven't used it yet. I want to. I want to try it, because it's a pretty amazing keyboard. It's one of the first real, true digital keyboards. But I just can't figure out how to use it yet.

WW: So it's kind of sitting in the corner leering at you - tempting you to wreck your career?

RH: Exactly! That's the absolute truth (laughs).

WW: How old were you when you started to play your own music, and write your own music?

RH: I was seventeen years old, and the very first musical experience I had is - well, I loved grunge rock. My dad had guitars around me all the time, but I never really enjoyed it until he got a distorted guitar, and I would listen to him play it - and I thought it was so cool. So I started out playing Stone Temple Pilots songs. But my first real musical adventure was, I ran for student council president in my high school, and instead of making a speech, I went up and played guitar. And I won. I destroyed. I totally destroyed. I thought I was a rock star. And that had a major effect on me. It was the first time I actually used music to gain something in my life.

WW: Was it an original song? Sort of a speech in a song?

RH: Yeah. I made it up. I played some kind of chord progression in E-major. It was kind of copying Smashing Pumpkins. It was sort of quiet, and then all of a sudden, I stomped on the distortion pedal. And I won. They told me it was a landslide.

WW: I think you're the first musician I've heard of who got into music not to get girls, but to gain electoral office...

RH: (Laughs.) I like that! Yes, exactly. Speaking of that topic, I've never wanted to use music for social reasons, in the sense of getting laid or anything. I've never thought about it that way. I had an interesting conversation with the lead singer from British Sea Power [Scott Wilkinson, also known as Yan]. We toured with them for a few weeks, and I was asking questions about how he writes lyrics - what his process is like. And at some point, religion came up, and he said, "I don't care at all about religion. I don't think of religion. I don't think about God. But people in America do." And he's right. Even people who are atheists here are just as interested in religion as people who actually are religious.

Everybody talks about the topic. And I think that's an interesting cultural aspect about America, especially in Oklahoma. In my hometown, where I grew up, you had religious confrontations on a daily basis. I was Catholic, not that it matters - but as a Catholic, I needed to be saved by the local Baptist church. There were constant confrontations - but music was always a religious mode for me. I always found it kind of a safe place to have religious feelings. And obviously liking U2 connects to that. So I think music has always been that place where I've found meaning in life. I wouldn't be able to say I make music for spiritual reasons in any specific way. We're not a Christian band. I always joke that we're trying to be a Pagan band. But we're not related to any of those kinds of aspects of how people tithe, and the religious aspects of the music. We're not like that. But I think, for me, the meaning of my existence has come to that.

WW: So the band, in a sense, is a sacred place for you?

RH: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely.

WW: We talked earlier about Oklahoma State University, and in preparing for this interview, I was surfing around the Internet and came across this page on the OSU site called "Orange Connection." It had videos from prominent alumni. And although the site wouldn't let me look at the videos - I had to be a member or something - they showed thumbnails of the people who had made the videos. There were lots of OSU graduates who all seemed to be age seventy and up - a couple of important people in the gypsum industry and things like that. But in the middle of that was a picture of you and Nick [Turner] wearing cowboy hats.

RH: Yeah, that's us.

WW: So what did you say on your Orange Connection video?

RH: The reason we were interviewed is because Nick was an exchange student here a long time ago, in 1997 - and we became friends. And so for OSU, the story is he was an exchange student, we met, we formed a band, and then we got signed, so we were able to actually have a career on some level. So that was probably the history of us becoming Colourmusic, and how he and I eventually started writing songs together.

I really love OSU, but I don't think they really understand us very well (laughs). That's why we wore the cowboy suits - to be a little bit tongue-in-cheek. We were like, "Let's do something that's sort of connected to OSU - but let's wear the most ghastly thing that someone could wear" (laughs). You can find shirts like that all over the place in Stillwater. Horrendous orange shirts and stuff.

WW: Well, no wonder you love OSU. They regard you as a success story on the same level as the guy who changed the gypsum industry...

RH: (Laughs.) How brilliant is that? That is incredible. I love it.

WW: So how did you meet Nick specifically?

RH: It was at an international party. I lived in this weird dorm at OSU. It was like the only dorm that didn't have air conditioning, so it only attracted eccentric people from Oklahoma and international students.

WW: Did they give you any kind of break on the cost?

RH: Yeah, it was cheaper, and that's why there were a lot of international students there. Two doors down, there was this guy from Bosnia, and we became really good friends. A really interesting guy. He was the same age as I was, but he had actually been in the conflict. He'd lived in Sarajevo and had been shot by a sniper. A totally different experience than me. I'm turning sixteen and driving my car and all that stuff, and he's surviving - he's surviving.

Now, all the international students in town - it didn't matter where you were from - would have parties. And he'd invite me to these parties, and I was sitting on the couch during this party thrown by a girl from Kazakhstan, and Nick sat next to me, and I thought he had cool pants. So I said, "You have cool pants," and he said, "Thank you." And I detected he was from England, so I said, "Oh. You're from England?" And he was like, "Yeah." And I said, "Have you ever heard of Aphex Twin?" Because that was my favorite artist at the time. And he was like, "You have not heard of Aphex Twin." And I was like, "Oh yeah, I love Aphex Twin." And that was his favorite artist, too. He thought I was really weird to be from Oklahoma and be really into Aphex Twin.

That started it. The first conversation we ever had was about music. And the conversation continues. He and I are definite collaborators. When we first began as friends, he'd make music and I'd make music, and he'd hate what I did, and I'd hate what he did. But he was so cynical about music in general and so honest that I wanted to work with him. I enjoyed that. Neither of us were really skilled musicians. We could put things together, but we weren't really technicians by any means. And so I kind of tricked him to come out to Stillwater for two months to do nothing but record music. Just he and I were going to make music. And I had rented this old barber shop in town - this pink house that was just sitting there.

WW: Was this after you guys had graduated?

RH: I'd started grad school. I met him here in '97 or '98, and then I went to England in 2000 and went to school there for a while. And then I came back and started buying music equipment - and it was around 2002, I said, "Hey, come out here. Come out here and let's do something together. We'll do something that sounds like Can." (Laughs.) Really arrogant - like that's going to happen. I said, "Let's do something that sounds like Can, and we'll write songs that are based on colors. We'll think of a color and we'll see what happens."

He thought that was an interesting idea, so he came out. And I think we spent the entire summer thinking about pink. And we wrote nothing that sounded like Can. We wrote some really awful pop songs.

WW: So does pink sound like pop to you?

RH: No, it doesn't. Pink is going to be our next record. Pink is just a dirty sound to us. There's something very nasty about it. Back then, we weren't intended to focus only on pink, and we were writing songs that were so gross that we were like, okay, we've got to do something else. So we wrote this song called "Winter Song." And I hated that song. It was so cheesy, and I was like, "What are we doing?" But it was so catchy at the same time that we thought, "Maybe it's a good song," because it would stay in our mind. And the funny thing is, we ended up going in that direction. Basically the presentation of our band to people when they hear our first album is that we're a very upbeat, happy band. And lively. And of course, that's what we were intending to do, and it's great that we got that point across. But that's not all we're intending to do.

Some of the songs drive me crazy. I think it's interesting to go in that direction and really try to create that stuff. But I feel it'd be too one-dimensional to be satisfied with something like that. Some of the songs feel a little one-dimensional to me.

WW: So it's not that you're uninterested in that style? You'd just like the music to have more dimensions that one?

RH: Absolutely. It's basically like, it's fun to go there every once in a while, but I wouldn't want to live there.

WW: And do you feel that you have been living there?

RH: I think we've been living there for way too long. Way too long. That's why we're beginning to work on this next record, and why it's been really great for us. It's allowing us to really go in a different direction - even though in some ways we're going back to where we started, because that's where we were going originally. But yes, I'm very happy to start to sort of move on.

WW: You mentioned earlier that when you first started writing songs together, you hated each other's work. How did you work through that process? And how did you express that hatred? Did you mutter out of the side of your mouth? Or was there actual combat?

RH: We had different cycles of that expression. His tactic was very British and mine was very American. He wouldn't say anything. And I'm a middle child, so I wanted to know every single thing he was thinking. So I'd probe his thoughts to try and figure out where he was coming from. And some source of conflict would develop and I'd probably freak out about it. But we would talk it out.

So how did we get past that? What we did was, we had ground rules. We found areas that both of us found really interesting, and then we moved into those areas. The colors was the first area. Because he hates U2. So it's like, I can't write something that has that sort of emotional ecstasy. I can't have delay guitar, because you're going to start to sound like your favorite band.

WW: Who is the equivalent of U2 for him?

RH: That's a good question. He's very British, so he would like something and then he'd hate it. But My Bloody Valentine is a very important band to him. And I like their music very much - but I think their recordings sound really bad. I don't like lo-fi music. So that was one of the areas we'd fight about. And he kind of came out of the '90s Brit-rock bands, like the Stone Roses...

WW: Happy Mondays?

RH: Yes. That kind of stuff. And that got him really interested in music. And he quickly kind of evolved from that, and into the raw music that he was really into when I first met him. My Bloody Valentine. Arab Strap. Stereolab. He was into a lot of the bigger indie bands by the time I met him. Of course, I'd never really heard many of those bands. I'd heard Stereolab, but My Bloody Valentine, I think the first time I ever heard them was through Nick.

WW: It's fascinating to hear these different influences and then think about the album you two made together. Because it doesn't really sound like either extreme or what I'd think the combination of those influences would end up sounding like. Is it surprising to you as well what you wound up sounding like?

RH: Absolutely. It kind of blows me away. I think the next album will probably have our influences a little more obviously displayed. That's how I feel from the initial songs. But I totally agree. I'm shocked by this record. This first record, it's not necessarily the statement I want to make, but I think it's good, I think it's valid. It's like, you can't say "no" to it, because it's good. It should be out there. It's not something that sums up how I feel, but it sums up how he and I had agreed to work on songwriting.

This record, the Orange album, was definitely influenced by '60s rock. Really short songs. Melodic songs. The only thing I think that was kind of different from '60s music - what we kind of injected - is that we wanted to write music that wasn't really personal. Now, not every song follows that. But as far as the overall aesthetic, it does. In other words, it's not about a person talking about his feelings. It was sort of about an impersonal attitude. Like "Yes!," for example. When I think of that song, I don't think of a person singing about an emotional experience. It's a collective thinking about an emotional experience.

WW: So, for example, dealing with the topic of love with a capital "L" as opposed to a lower-case "L"?

RH: Right. Exactly right. But the actual music is '60s rock because it rolls. The whole thing is kind of a groove. And that's not something I feel like rock bands really do any more. They don't want their music to groove. They want their music to be really linear, and to rock. And '60s bands embraced both aspects. You'd have a really great groove with great rock at the same time. And that, for me, is what we were thinking. That's what we were harking back to in terms of music.

Nick and I, when we started writing songs - this was around 2002, 2003, 2004 - we had felt like we had understood what a classic was because forty years had gone by since the '60s. And we'd been listening to electronic music like Aphex Twin, for example, and we realized that music had dated itself. At that point, glitch music to us was the same thing as hair metal in the '80s. It had kind of gone as far as it could go in the form and now it was kind of a caricature of itself.

I think an influence I don't think is talked about enough are Wes Anderson's movies. I think those movies have had a really huge impact on the way people listen today. I feel one of the bigger movements in music is a kind of retro form. It's not retro in the sense that people are trying to sound exactly like something from 1968. But they're harking back to that style of playing guitar.

WW: And also, he uses music in his films in such an emblematic way. Suddenly, when you heard a certain Kinks song, you saw the world the way Wes Anderson saw it.

RH: Yes, yes. And I think that's had a really profound influence on music. I think listeners have opened themselves up more to it, and musicians have craved to have that kind of organic expression that in some ways have been lost, starting around the '80s. That's when everything was click tracks, everything was perfect. I think Def Leppard's huge record, Hysteria, is such a fascinating piece of art, because it's perfection. But the after-effect of that has been kind of depressing. I think you have this kind of stagnation when everybody's trying to have a perfect sound. Everything perfect creates stagnation. And you see that. People are yearning for that kind of flawed perfection, like you had had in the analog days with all the '60s records. Now people are buying record players and music has kind of come back to that on some level.

WW: Does your sound exemplify that on some level? Do you tend to gravitate toward a bigger, more polished, more anthemic sound, but Nick's there to roughen it up?

RH: Yes. Absolutely. I think that when I try to write a song, I can understand it if I can make it sound big. And Nick, on the other hand, he hears a song when he thinks he can create something that sounds interesting. But through our conversations, through our collaborations, at first it was very difficult. I remember that when we had our first two months. I remember it being very painful. Really painful. And the reason is because I never had a dialogue with a person where I'd be talking about a guitar part. When I'd be writing a guitar part, I'd be thinking, this is me. It wasn't a guitar part. It was me - so if he said, "I don't like the guitar part," I'd hear it as him saying he didn't like me. And we've managed to disconnect that. It's no longer a part of the conversation. If someone doesn't like a particular guitar part, they're not talking about you. It's okay. You're going to be fine. But this can be better. So we have gotten past all that. And both of us have realized that we want to try and take the things that have influenced us to another level.

I've lost the desire to be purely original. That was kind of a pipe dream. That's not really a part of how we think about things now. I think of us as a sort of super-retro band. We want to take things that are really old and bring them back and make them alive again. And I love that. I think it's really a fascinating way of thinking about music.

WW: Is there a song on the current album that points more in the direction of where you're going?

RH: Yes. The sound of "Put in a Little Gas" and "You Can Call Me By My Name." Those two songs are more like the next record than anything else. We're a long-term thinking band, and the song that sounds like the record we're intending to make after this is "Fall Song." I love that song, and I don't think it came out as well as it could have. But that's our future, too. Those are things we have in our mind. We're like, we need to revisit those ideas and see how far we can take them.

We have a very interesting band, because the other two guys in the band - Nick Ley and Colin Fleishacker - had their own band when we met them, so they're kind of their own unit as well. And they bring a lot to the table that Nick and I could never bring. Nick Ley is an incredible drummer. And it's interesting, because we conceptualize about what we're trying to make. We sort of create a portrait of what we're after. And it's amazing about how they're feeding into it as well. If you were to go to one of them individually and tell them, "Write me a song that tells me something about yourself," it wouldn't be the kind of music that we're making as a band. And I think that's a really exciting way to make music. It's not romantic, really.

WW: Some artists try to avoid thinking in a conceptual way about their music. They feel that doing that makes their music feel self-conscious. Clearly, you guys do think about it in that way. So how do you avoid making the music feel stiff and studied?

RH: I don't know (laughs). The only answer I can provide is, all the concepts and stuff are great as a roadmap. But if the songs themselves don't feel right, if they don't feel good, then there's a problem. This is my quote, and it probably sounds kind of pretentious, but this is my quote: Every song that we write, at least one person in the band should be having a pure point of emotional ecstasy from it. I want someone to be getting off. I want someone in the band to really be getting off, and if they're not, we're not doing our job. If one person in the band feels that way, someone else is going to feel that way. I think that's the only way to deal with that.

Ultimately, people are listening to songs. They're not listening to concepts. And concepts are not why people listen to music. But they're what help us communicate. In a way, this whole thing might only be a form of communication we have with each other. I think we're too nice as people, and as a band, that if someone wrote a song that was personal to them, and we didn't like it, we wouldn't have the balls to say, "That's not good enough. I don't want to use it." We have to have these sorts of concepts, so we don't run into that kind of thing. Like, "This is what I think, and I have my opinion, and you have your opinion, and nobody's right and everybody's right." Here, we're able to communicate with each other about things like the feel - like, this doesn't feel like what we're trying to achieve here.

WW: If there's a song where one person is getting off, do the rest of you consciously take on the role of supporting that person's ecstasy? Do you temporarily set aside achieving your own ecstasy to help someone else reach his?

RH: We have a little bit of a voting system that's percentage based, so we kind of get a sense about how much people don't like something? If everybody really doesn't like it, then that person is going to say, "Screw it. We're not going to use this song." But everybody's such an individual in the band, and everybody trusts their instincts. And if somebody really loves something, if it really means something to them, then yes, we're willing to go down the path with them. At worst, that kind of approach can water things down. That's the worst thing that can happen. But at best, you can produce a record that has so much diversity on it that it can be a real listening experience, and where you're not hearing the same song over and over again. And it's worth the risk to try it.

The first album was essentially written by Nick and I, and for the next album, we're incorporating the other guys in the band more and more. I'll be interested to see how it comes out, but so far, it's going better than I expected.

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