Following their return, Copeland played some headlining shows after supporting Paramore this spring. Staffer Tim Dodderidge spoke with frontman Aaron Marsh before the Lawrence, Kan. date about the group’s return and mindset after working on other projects. The two also discussed the recently-released alternate album Twin and the resurgence of active music listening through vinyl.
MEB: How’s the tour been going so far?
Aaron Marsh: It’s been good. It’s good. Yeah, we did about a month with Paramore, supporting Paramore, and now we’re kind of headlining on our way back.
What have the crowds been like? Do you notice any differences now compared to before you went on “hiatus”?
Well yeah. I mean, our fans are definitely older, as are we. Yeah, we just did a tour with Paramore, so those were kind of younger fans.
Bigger stages, I bet.
Bigger stages, bigger rooms. But it was fun. It seemed like their fans seemed pretty open to us. We met a lot of neat kids. I guess the differences now, the big difference now is social media. We came up kind of before you needed to be social media savvy to be a band. So we aren’t as as, like, skilled at social media interactions as a lot of bands. A lot of bands are just so on it. Yeah, we definitely have to be very deliberate about it, like, “Oh, we should post something today”, whereas the younger bands, they have a natural intuition about it I think.
Well, you had MySpace back in the day, but that was probably about it.
Yeah, we even started touring before MySpace. We networked on MP3.com before. We would network with bands on there and play shows. Yeah, I guess then MySpace…even then, we weren’t super active on MySpace. It wasn’t necessarily make-or-break for a band in those days because it was so new. We just kind of did our thing. We had a MySpace, but we never really used it.
You all worked on different projects for a while before coming back together. I feel like it would be difficult to get everybody on the right page again after all of that. Was that the biggest challenge?
No, actually that was probably the easiest part.
Yeah, I think because we all had the chance to do other stuff, I think it made us a little more relaxed with making Copeland records. No one was trying to force their hand creatively. It seemed like we were all kind of in it together. Yeah, it was pretty easy.
This is a question discussed on a recent podcast about Underoath and rumors of an anniversary tour. Did you ever worry about angering fans who paid a lot to see you on your farewell tour, or even letting them down by carrying the project on too long when they were content with the records you did put out?
As far as people being upset about…?
…about coming back. It’s like with the Rolling Stones, they keep playing and keep playing. Is there ever a worry about that?
No, every once in a while we’ll get comments like “farewell” tour with air quotes around the “farewell”, as if we were planning to break up for five years and then get back together. But that’s always in jest. It’s not anything anyone’s actually concerned about. People that are coming to see us now are just glad we’re back, I think. Honestly, we didn’t think we’d even be on tour. When we started making the record, we said, “Well, we’ll just make a record and put it out and then just carry on with our normal day-to-day lives and not tour”. But I think the deeper we got into making the record, the more we felt it needed to be heard by people. If you don’t tour, it’s kind of like you just made a record kind of in a vacuum and it’s not going to be heard by folks. So yeah, here we are, out on the road.
The band’s always had really calming, atmospheric sound, but on the new album, Ixora, it seems a lot more pronounced. Would you say that sort of chill vibe represents the kind of picture you wanted to paint with this record?
Yeah, I think that’s a really good way to say it. I think the “calming” vibe that was present in the rest of the records is definitely like an overreaching thing on all the songs now. Yeah, I feel really good about what we made. I feel like we kind of landed in a nice spot. As you were saying, we were all doing other projects in the meantime. So it was like, whereas before, we would make a record, tour, and then make another record, and this time, we made a record, toured, then broke up and made a bunch of other records with other people, and then got back together. So I think we kind of benefited from that experience of making records with other bands in the downtime. I was producing records and the rest of the guys, they were producing and mixing some on their own and they had a band called States that they did a couple records with.
So all of the experiences with those bands and producing and stuff kind of brought all these different vibes?
For sure. Yeah, I think we just had a few more tricks in our arsenal than we would have if we made our fifth record right after You Are My Sunshine.
Yeah and being from Florida, the album was produced in your hometown, and the art is a photo of the ocean. Would you say that was a big influence, the setting of it all?
I think so. Yeah, I kind of envisioned this record kind of being immersive, just having this all-around kind of “sinking” feeling. So that was present in the artwork and it was present in the lyrics. The bonus disc for the deluxe album, it was called the Twin. It was just an alternate version of the record, and the idea is that you can listen to the alternate version as a stand-alone piece or combine the two records. You can hit play on both CDs at the same time and it would create a surround sound version of the record, like a 4-channel quadraphonic. So even up to there, we were thinking of this immersive sound quality. It kind of carried us through every aspect of it.
I think it’s something that works too, with all of the layered vocals and instrumentation. So Copeland has always thought of their work as art more than anything. With the alternate album, what sparked that idea, and what would you say is “artistic” about it?
For me, it was more of a “Can I do this? Can I make something that can stand on its own and be complementary and play in harmony with the record”? So it was almost like a challenge I gave myself, more as a producer than anything. It was a lot of just coming up with ideas that would complement the original record and also play on their own, stand on their own as their own piece. Yeah, I think it was almost like CrossFit for a producer, like an intense mind workout (laughs). It was a creative thing, but there were also lots of limitations that I put on myself. I’m having to remake this song. The structure is set. I can’t deviate from the structure. I can’t deviate from the chord progression too much. I can’t deviate from the melody. So what do I do? Basically, it was all trying to figure out, “What will this record be if it won’t be what we just made”?
Vinyl’s making a resurgence as well, and many of your albums — including the new one — have been pressed recently. With that and the alternate disc, how are you getting people more involved in the music they listen to? It’s a day and age where it’s hard for the music to stand alone, there has to be other things.
Yeah, so I guess with the resurgence of vinyl, people are just listening to music again. I think it got the point where people wouldn’t listen to music unless it had a lyric video or a music video or some kind of, like, visual aspect to it. Yeah, I mean, I feel like that’s a good thing. I think it’s creating a more active listening experience. But what am I doing to make people engaged in music? I don’t know if there’s anything I can do except making the best music I can (laughs). We’ll probably have a couple music videos for the record, but yeah, I think I’m pretty much at the mercy of the listeners.
I think the physical aspect of coming back, too. People want the artwork, they want the disc.
That’s what I’m talking about. Music for a while became something that was going on while you were doing something else. You’d put on your playlist or whatever and then do whatever you were going to do, so music was kind of getting devalued as background noise. The resurgence of vinyl…when I was in high school, I remember people would call me and be like, “Hey, what are you doing” My answer would be, “I’m listening to music”. Like, that was my only task at the moment. Like, “Hey, what are you doing”? “I’m listening to music”. I mean, when was the last time you can say that? Usually I’m cleaning the house or doing something…
…yeah it goes along with the whole “multitasking” thing.
Yeah, and I feel like to some extent, with vinyl, you have a very tactile product, you have to flip it halfway through or maybe three times if it’s a double LP. You’re having to flip the record. It’s not as easy when you have to operate the arm. It’s all these little things that make it a more active experience people are connecting with. And it sounds great too, but the average listener isn’t maybe necessarily as aware of the dynamic range of vinyl versus digital. But I think they all appreciate the fact that they’re taking a more active approach to music. I think that’s refreshing for people. So hopefully it’s refreshing for people.
Yeah, it’s refreshing to me, so…(laughs)
Where do you hope to go from here? Do you see Copeland continuing for a while or are you just taking it slow for now?
Well, I think maybe both. I don’t think we’re ever going to be a full-time band where we’re just year-round hustling like we were before. When Beneath The Medicine Tree came out, we played over 600 shows in two years. So we’re way far from being that again, because I have a family and two kids, Brian has two kids, so I think we’re going to take it slow no matter what. But at this point, as long as there’s an audience, we’re probably going to still have an itch to make records. I mean, I own a studio. Really, it’s a matter of having money to get it mixed and time to write songs. But yeah, as long as there’s people willing to hear records I think we’re probably going to be willing to make them.