MEB editor Joe Ballard recently caught up with Charlotte, North Carolina’s up-and-coming alternative rockers Carson for a chat. They discuss the band’s brand new album Leap, working in the studio with AJ Perdomo and Cody Payne of The Dangerous Summer, album artwork and much more.
First off, congratulations on releasing the new album! Leap has been a long time in the making, so how does it feel to finally get it out to the masses?
Words cannot describe. It just feels really good. The band started in late 2009 and it’s been a roller coaster ever since. It’s insane to look back on everything we’ve been through together. We grew from teenagers to young men and woman through the writing of the nine songs on Leap. Only bands can really understand what it takes to get to the point of putting out your first album. We’re stoked to finally release it so that we can resolve that chapter of Carson and open up the next one.
How was the writing/recording process for Leap different to the process for the self-titled EP?
Well a few of the songs on Leap are actually from our first EP, they were just remastered. So that part of the album was just us recording some of the first songs we’ve ever written. Looking back, we had no idea what we were doing. We just knew Jamie King [Producer] was the real deal so we saved up and we recorded with Jamie King.
For the other songs on the album, we started with rough ideas and then were lucky enough to work with AJ and Cody from The Dangerous Summer. It helped so much to have established musicians/songwriters come in to help with melody, structure, etc. I think any band, no matter how huge, can benefit from an outside perspective. We wrote those songs and then recorded with Jamie King again. It was such a good experience the first time around so it was only natural to go back. He’s so savvy with all the equipment and gears. He knows everything. He’s the nicest, funniest dude. You just want to be his friend. Record with Jamie King.
Do you have any upcoming tour plans in support of the new album?
As of now, we do not have tour plans. All we want to do is tour on this album but recent events have kind of put the future on hold for a little bit. We’ll let you know when we know. Stay tuned for an exciting announcement in January-February!
For readers who haven’t listened to your music before, how would you describe your sound to them?
Fun. Dynamic. Emotional. Real. Evolving.
Where did the name Carson come from and is there any special meaning behind it?
Taisha [Bethea, vocalist] came up with the name at one of our first practices. We were brainstorming and using band name generators, but nothing was sticking. She threw “Carson” out there because her best friend’s little brother’s name is Carson. We liked it. It was short, sweet, and easy to remember. It sounded like a brand. It was something bold that we could never outgrow.
Taisha: Critics and fans have often compared your vocal style favorably with that of Hayley Williams. But who are some of your biggest inspirations/favorite vocalists?
I have no idea what you’re talking about haha. Yeah we get Paramore a lot, but that’s cool with us. We’re some of the most normal people. We’ve had to work for everything we’ve accomplished. The fact that music fans can so easily compare us to a band as talented and accomplished as Paramore tells us we’re on the right track.
Some of my favorite vocalists are Aaron Marsh, Anthony Green, Kenny Vasoli, Alanis Morissette, and Stephan Jenkins. No matter what, those five will always be on my list but I’m always searching for new music. I don’t want to be a one-trick-pony singer. I will always try to evolve.
How was the experience of working with The Dangerous Summer’s AJ Perdomo and Cody Payne in the studio? Any fun stories to share?
Alright so we recorded our EP, and that was great, but we wanted to do something bigger. So we thought…producer. It was just complete luck that we were able to get in touch with those dudes through one of our good friends. We were a little worried at first that they’d just come in, tell us we suck, change a bunch of things around, whatever. But that wasn’t the case at all. AJ and Cody were super laid back and easygoing. No egos. Just genuinely nice people who happen to be really talented (check out their album War Paint). We showed them a bunch of music we had been working on and they helped us choose the strongest songs. We went to our practice space and hashed out all the parts for four days. AJ helped Taisha a lot with melody and got some high notes out of her that we couldn’t. Cody gave us advice on structure and some individual parts.
Overall, I think they taught us simplicity. Before working with them we tried way too hard. We wanted to have cool parts but did not always see the big picture of the song. They helped us to chill out and finish the ideas even if the drums weren’t super intricate or the guitars weren’t all over the place. Songwriting with five individuals is already a challenge so we were shooting ourselves in the foot by overthinking everything. Take advantage of the first instinct. Less is usually more. Those are lessons we’ve used in writing new material now and I think people will be able to hear it.
And funny stories… Cody fell down the stairs one night haha. That was pretty funny. He didn’t get hurt otherwise that wouldn’t have been funny. They’re just funny dudes in general. Go out to one of their shows and talk to them. Guaranteed giggles and goofs.
The album artwork for Leap (which readers can see here) is a beautifully detailed picture of an elderly man’s face. Who created the piece and how do you feel it ties in with the album?
A guy named Lee Herrera did our artwork. He’s the guitarist of a band called Hrvrd, who are also from Charlotte. They’re recently signed to Equal Vision Records. Check them out if you haven’t heard of them (www.hrvrdmusic.com). They’re a huge influence and one our favorite bands to see in the area.
Lee has done art for a lot of other bands/musicians and it all looks awesome. We loved his hand-drawn stuff. It’s so signature and unique. All we told him was that we wanted the art to convey passage of time since the album represents us growing, changing, and developing as a band over the past four years. The bearded, aged, caveman-looking face was what he came up with and we all loved it. It’s not what you’d expect from a girl-fronted band and that’s cool to us. Plus, the face ended up looking a lot like how our bassist Robert [Lee] will look in about 50 years. Destiny. Had to use it.
The first single from the album, “Keep Calm,” is also the closing track. Was it a conscious decision to put it at the end and if so, what was the thinking behind it?
We just wanted the last track to be upbeat and fun. This is only the beginning of our band. We’re excited and we want other people to be too. “Keep Calm”‘ is a party to play so it seemed fitting.
As we’re getting to the end of the year, what have been some of your favorite albums released in 2012?
Mumford & Sons: Babel
Circa Survive: Violent Waves
Every Time I Die: Ex-Lives
Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d city
Dead Sara: (self-titled)
The Avett Brothers: The Carpenter
Carson has won the ultimate music lottery and gets to tour with any three bands (dead or alive) of your choosing. Which three bands would you choose?
Shaggy. Limp Bizkit. Alter Bridge.
Any last words for all the Carson fans out there?
We’re thankful for everybody who has supported us along the way and may support us in the future. Genuinely. It feels awesome to work towards and be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
You can buy Leap on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby. We’re on Spotify too. If you’re struggling in this economy as many are, download it and pass it along to at least five other people. Keep in touch. Merry Early Christmas. Happy Early Holidays. Stay tuned for some exciting things coming in the near future. YOLO.
Ben, Peter, Robert, Shaun & Taisha
You can check out all of Carson’s social networking goodness through the links below!