The newest addition to the Solid State lineup, Idaho metal quartet The Ongoing Concept, is set to release their rookie full-length album Saloon next Tuesday. MEB staffer Tim Dodderidge got to chat with vocalist/guitarist Dawson Scholz about what exactly this debut has to offer, and how the record and other events in the band’s circle of thought and influence may help pave the path for a long, supportive career just like that of other Solid State acts.
You guys played part of the Vans Warped Tour this summer. I hear everything didn’t go as hoped.
Yeah, we started off with the notion that we would be playing to the line every day. We had this whole setup, and basically we had all of our gear on big casters so we could wheel them and get set up. We spent like two weeks practicing setting up really fast and we were able to do it in like 10 minutes – get set up and be playing for the crowd. But we were only able to do it like four times out of the 10 times that we played. Most of those were because the venue wouldn’t allow us to play there or the line would be single file and there would be a road or something, so we would just find places to play.
A lot of the times, we would just like pester people to buy stuff just so we could make it to the next place. So we ended up losing a lot of money because of it. And we were in Salt Lake City and the lead spring on our trailer snapped, so we couldn’t go anywhere and we just decided to go home. We live in Idaho, and it just all happened really nicely where we weren’t too far from home. It would’ve really sucked if we got all the way to the east coast and that had happened. It was a blessing in disguise.
Wow, that’s crazy.
Yeah, it was definitely an experience. I don’t think I would do it again. But we met a lot of people, and we made a lot of new fans just from all of it. It definitely was beneficial to an extent, but I definitely wouldn’t do Warped Tour again unless we were kept on it and played every day.
I’ve read some YouTube comments about your guys’ come-up. What was that like? It seems like it was a big struggle for a while.
Oh, yeah I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’ve read that comment. I don’t know who that was actually. No, it hasn’t really been a struggle honestly. We just do our own thing. I mean, yeah it’s taken a while for us to get noticed I guess, but people have actually really liked our band for a long time. We used to be really progressive – like Dream Theater-style bands – back about three and a half years ago. At that point, people kind of thought we sucked because they didn’t want to hear 15 minute-long songs and stuff.
Then we totally changed our sound and started doing this style of music. From that point on, we’ve had really supportive people. We have never really hung with the scene. We’re not really friends with anyone in the scene. We just play and leave. We normally stick around and talk to everyone, but we don’t really hang out with these people after shows and stuff. There’s just so much drama that goes on in Spokane – and probably any scene in general. Yeah, I mean, it was a bit of a struggle to get noticed and we were DIY for a really long time, but things have really been great here.
That’s good to hear. Your new album, Saloon, comes out soon. For metal fans who haven’t heard you guys, what makes you a breath of fresh air worth checking out?
I feel like we play a very interesting style of music. I mean, we’ve got screaming and stuff, but I feel like every song on the album is pretty different. “Cover Girl” is probably one of the heavier songs on the album. So I feel like every song on the album has its own special place. I think people enjoy that because you can listen to the album all the way through and not get bored. What made me try so hard with this album was thinking, “How many records come out anymore that you can listen to all the way through and actually make it?” So I spent a really long time making sure I could do that with this album. That’s what I think makes it stand out from other albums that people put out these days.
The record has a lot of lyrical themes that relate to originality. What kind of statement are you trying to make?
As far as originality, we’ve definitely gotten some crap about that. It’s kind of been taken the wrong way with that song – “Cover Girl.” The music video kind of makes us look a little arrogant, which I kind of screwed up. Well, I didn’t screw up, but I didn’t realize it would go in that direction when we released it. Basically what we’re trying to state is that we’d much rather have people create new music than have people cover everyone else and kind of make it big on not being original. Even if someone is a generic band, at least they’re creating something. That’s kind of what we were shooting for with that.
Other lyrical points on our album deal with struggles we’ve had in our lives – like “Class of Twenty-Ten” is about high school stuff, “Failures & Fakes” is about someone we dealt with in the past who was very full of himself. Each song is just very personal but also calling people out. We’re never trying to seem better than anyone because we’re not. I think it’s a humble lyrical album for sure, but it definitely calls people out at the same time, if that makes sense.
Yeah I get that. It’s kind of a shame people are taking the whole “originality” theme the wrong way. I mean, sometimes people on the Internet can just be like that.
Yeah, well I think people just sit behind their computer and just make any accusation they want because they’ll never be confronted about it. I tried to make a behind-the-scenes video that kind of explains it better so people would stop saying that. I think it’s also kind of blown over a bit, now that our two other songs have come out. People have started to realize that we’re not really meant to be original or anything like that. We’re just trying to state that we’re sick of people copying everyone else. That song was written by me and my brother [Kyle Scholz, keyboardist/vocalist]. I wrote it about two separate things and he wrote it about his own thing, and it can be taken in different ways. We’re definitely not saying we’re original (laughs). No one’s original anymore in all reality.
How did you decide upon Saloon as the title of the record? It kind of feels like a setting or a concept, too.
With “Saloon,” it’s like one of the first songs we wrote and it was such a movie-sounding track to me when I was writing it. I always think of a song as a movie, and I try to think of it as a music video kind of thing, and that’s just how I went with “Cover Girl” and stuff like that. So when writing “Saloon,” I was like, “Dang, this song is like movie material almost.” I had a vision for what I want to do for a music video in the future. So we started doing stuff like the intro with the whole bar scene with dialogue, and we were like, “This is so cool, it just kind of reminds me of some kind of movie.” I just thought that it’d be awesome to have it revolve around that. At the time, I was hoping to make “Saloon” our first music video to shove the theme in people’s faces, but it didn’t work out that way. I still really like the idea of Saloon in general. It doesn’t really have any theme or meaning in our lives. We just called it that and thought it would be awesome. Yeah, I don’t know.
It’s definitely interesting.
We started writing this record back at the beginning of 2012, so I’m trying to re-think all of this stuff that was going around in my mind at the time – which was such a long time ago. It will be almost two years in November when we started writing the very early parts of our record.
You have a list of influences on your Facebook page and I pretty much love all of those bands. Are those all groups you grew up listening to? How did they influence you?
Yeah, I mean, we change our band all the time. I really try to not listen to bands when I write. I didn’t listen to music for like six months while writing this record, as I hate sounding like someone else. A lot of bands don’t influence me in writing, but bands that I like to listen to are Deaf Havana. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them. Is that one on our Facebook? It might not be on it.
Yeah, I see them on here.
Bring Me the Horizon is great. I just like how they’re always changing. T.J. [Nichols], our bass player, loves Underoath and Emery and all of the Solid State bands he grew up with. I’m kind of more of just a rock fan, so like Deaf Havana and Don Broco. I like Stray from the Path, too. They’re a big influence as well, I can say. And then letlive., of course. As far as live performance goes, letlive. is definitely a big-time influence. The same goes with The Chariot and stuff like that.
The one that stuck out to me was Bruce Hornsby. That was kind of surprising – a bit out of place, but still cool.
That was music we grew up with. Kyle, my brother, who’s a vocalist, plays piano, and he grew up playing Bruce Hornsby. We used to listen to him all the time. Just his very melodic style of playing piano is just very upbeat-sounding and just very – it’s hard to explain, but it’s really melodic, and the way he incorporates the piano with rock music. He was one of the first people I heard that did that. So we’ve always been influenced by the way he’s at a piano and made it not like a forefront to an album, but a rhythm to an album as opposed to someone just going crazy on a piano. That guy’s definitely a big influence. The same goes for Todo. We used to listen to Todo all the time back in the day. Yeah, just a lot of bands, a lot of random bands, have influenced us. Jonny [Lang], for example. I love Jonny mainly because he knows how to make orchestra music very cinematic, and I love cinematic music and stuff like that.
What does the band have planned for this fall? I assume you’re going to be on the road promoting Saloon?
Yeah, we’re going on tour with Wilson and The Greenery for a while. We’re trying to get on some more tours for October and November. It’s definitely hard – being such a small band – trying to get on tours right now. All we really have is a music video, so until the album comes out, we’re probably just going to be getting on smaller tours until we can get our stuff pitched to a bigger band. It’s tough at first, that’s for sure. We’re trying to spend most of our free time doing more music videos. Since we do them ourselves, I have the means to do them at any point. It makes it really cool, just being like, “Hey, do you guys want to do a music video this week?” And then we do it.
What do you hope for with the future of The Ongoing Concept? I mean, just from your name it sounds like you’re trying to make a long-lasting statement.
Yeah, we definitely are very into concepts, I guess. We’re just trying to bring something that people can hold on to – not just people who see our band for the first time. We want to make that person love our band to the point that they want to know everything about us. And we can bring them stuff that they can really grasp and be like, “Oh man, these guys are trying to do something many people don’t catch the first time.”
Yeah, there’s a lot of detail and stuff.
I mean, I don’t know what we’re going to do with our next record. We might somehow make it be connected with this album. We’ve kind of found our trend in our music videos to have a suitcase in every video. It’s little stuff like that – we’re definitely into concepts, and we never meant to have a name that’s based around that. We just want to make a very long, supportive, lasting career of it, and definitely not be one of those “minute fame” bands. We just want to be loved for a long time and have a very supportive fan base – even if we do it slow and don’t get huge instantly. I’d much rather have a supportive fan base than instant success.
I can definitely see that kind of lasting success in the metal scene today – especially with a lot of Solid State bands.
Yeah, that’s why we were so stoked that they wanted to sign us. I look at so many other bands, and, like, August Burns Red is still going, and they’re still selling so many records. You just wonder, “Why haven’t they just dropped off the face of the Earth like so many other bands?” I think it’s because they’ve figured out a way to captivate people. People just fall in love with a band, and you don’t just do that instantly. You do that over time. I don’t know what it’s going to take for that to happen, but I want that to happen to us at some time or another. That’s my goal.