I had the opportunity to catch up with Arizona’s Anarbor while they were out on the On Your Side Tour with A Rocket To The Moon, Valencia, and Go Radio. I talked to guitarist Mike Kitlas about The Mixtape EP, Mike Posner, The Words You Don’t Swallow, Summer touring plans, and much more.
MEB: Anarbor recently released The Mixtape EP , who came up with this idea? You have some remixes of your own songs, a remix of a Mike Posner and La Roux song, one Versaemerge did, and the Weezer cover.
Mike: It came about because we were all big fans of music. We were trying to think of cool ways to show our versatility as musicians. We thought it would be kinda cool to come up with this mixtape idea, similar to what hip hop artists do to showcase their talents in different forms. Our goal with the mixtape was to show kids and our audience that music isn’t supposed to be done just one way.
What we did with that was we took songs from pop sensation Mike Posner and La Roux, who has that indie/techno vibe, and we made those into rock songs, to show kids that a good song is a good song. We took those songs, sampled choruses for them and thought it would be a really unique thing to do for kids out there to listen to.
Kids these days are really into music, and we have to keep the music relevant. Bands wait too long to put out new music and it’s a bummer because kids always want more. It was a fun thing for us to do to show kids what we do when we are in between writing songs.
Choosing “Hash Pipe” from the Weezer Catalogue as the one song of theirs to cover must have been tough with their incredible discography. Were there any other songs you were throwing around the idea of covering?
We have many ideas of bands and songs that we would really like to cover. Right now we are in the process of doing Mixtape 2 and we’ve got some really cool ideas for the cover we are going to do on that. Talking about Weezer, they are one of my favorite bands. Being able to do a Weezer song and show our respect for them is really cool. It was fun getting to tinker the song.
For people who know the track but haven’t heard our version, we put our own little style to the song and our own type of charisma. We really tried to showcase a great band. We love Weezer, we love their songs, and we think they are great songwriters. We wanted to pick an artist we respected. That’s what we are planning to do with Mixtape 2.
It’s been a year since you’ve released The Words You Don’t Swallow. You recorded this album and the Free Your Mind EP with Mike Green (Paramore, The Matches, Set Your Goals), a man who Set Your Goals said was the “7th member of their band” in the recording process of their latest record. To work with him on the EP and then the debut full-length, what did he bring to the table?
Mike Green is one of my favorite people we’ve ever worked with. I love that guy to death. He is a great producer, he’s not overbearing, and he’s completely 100% on the same page with the band. When we were working with Mike it was like just sitting down with the guys. It never felt like we were forced to go in any direction. He truly took our band’s thoughts and interests completely into account to make a record we were all personally happy with.
A lot of bands will go in with producers and let them write songs for them or get them different material and do all the work. When we went in with Mike it was nothing like that. We brought him all of our songs and said “this is what we’ve been working on.” We really sat down and tried to put out the best songs that we had. That was our goal.
Mike is always a super respectful dude. Amazing musician, great guitar player, songwriter, everything. Getting to sit in the same room with him and have a nice brainstorming session was an honor and we were stoked. We were super happy with The Words You Don’t Swallow and we will work with Mike in the Future.
With the sound of The Words You Don’t Swallow, Anarbor is a band who tours with a lot of pop-rock bands. In the same sense, it wouldn’t be too far off to see you guys on tour with bands like Weezer and radio rock bands. How do you feel about it?
Exactly. That’s our goal. We consider ourselves an alternative rock band. It’s truly what we are going for. The scene is saturated with a lot of poppy, neon, tight bands. That’s not bad, but it’s a trend. Rock n’ Roll will never die.
At times The Words You Don’t Swallow reminds me a lot of classic rock from the ’60s and ’70s with the riffs….
Yes, we are a guitar-driven band. We pride ourselves on that. One thing about our live show and our record, everything you hear on record is being played by a human, being played by one of our band members. Every time you come to a concert all the vocals are being sung and all the instruments are being played. All the bands we play with can’t say that. Everyone is up there with their ipod plugged in with 12 tracks running to make them sound good.
We could literally set up in a garage and play the exact same set as we are going to tonight. A lot of bands can’t say that. We are a garage band, and a rock n’ roll band. There are two guitars, a bass, a drum kit and some singers.
Knowing that and seeing this with some of the bands you are touring with and having kids absolutely love it, how frustrating is it for you to see this, even if some of the fan bases are younger audiences?
How our band has approached it is we never look at it as frustration. We never look at it that way. You need to be optimistic and show the kids the light; you can still get up there, rock n’ roll and tear their faces off. If you take that negative approach and if you do get down on yourself, that will affect your band, your mindset, attitude, and your whole touring. Touring is really tough as it is. You are away from your family and friends. To have extra baggage like that, it will kill you. The way we look at it is going out there and showing kids the light.
Speaking of showing the light, who are some bands growing up that really showed you the light and made you want to play music?
I was influenced by classic rock artists like Tom Petty and Steve Miller from my parents, and artists like Eric Clapton who were around the family. I’ve known our entire band since I was 13 or 14. I’ve been friends with Slade since Kindergarten. We used to go to shows and see bands like Homegrown, The Starting Line, original pop punk like that. Another is New Found Glory. One of my favorite bands is Taking Back Sunday.
We were very much fans of the Drive Thru Records bands. A lot of that played into it. Even bands like Allister, we grew up on that. It was about not giving a fuck what you wear, just going up there and having a good time. Nowadays I think people think about how straight their hair is or how good their vest looks.
You were on the entirety of the Vans Warped Tour and shared a bus with Mike Posner. At that point, he hadn’t even broken out yet. How crazy was that to see?
He broke right at the end of the tour. It went from “Oh hey, who is this guy and what is he doing?” to “Holy fuck! Who is this guy?” It was amazing and we saw it right in front of our eyes. It was awesome.
It reminded me a lot of Katy Perry and 3oh!3 back in 2008.
Yeah man, it was a very similar thing. With Katy it was also like “Oh, who is this chick?” to someone who was massive.
Could you see yourselves hopping on a bigger tour with Mike Posner in the near future?
Oh yeah man, for sure. Mike, his crew and our band and crew got along so well. They were an awesome group of guys. We are still friends with them. When we were home a couple of months ago we got to see him at our big amphitheatre in town. I’d love to do a big college tour with him someday. That’s a big goal of ours- to be able to play college shows. Awesome crowds.
Your song “Let The Games Begin” has been used all over the place, for Major League Baseball, NFL, The Hills, and some other things. How surprised were you that people caught on to this song and thought it was so infectious?
Man, honestly it’s one of those things that we were so lucky. I distinctly remember writing that song. We had no idea it would be used in the markets it’s been in. We didn’t write it as a game song. It’s been used in so many sports things where it is used as a “Let’s start the kickoff,” “first pitch” and whatever else it was used for. It is so cool to see our music can be used in so many different markets.
When we wrote that song we were writing about something that was completely different. It’s great to see how versatile our music is and how it can be used in different tight markets. I remember being home with my dad and seeing it on ESPN. That was the first time I had seen my dad so proud. It was awesome.
Being from the Arizona area, are you a huge Cardinals/Suns/D-Backs/Coyotes fan?
I’m probably the least into sports in the band but Anarbor as a whole are huge sports fans. All the members are super into sports. Of course I support and follow our Arizona teams. If you had any other member in here they would talk to you for days about sports (laughs).
Anarbor has been a band since 2003. How did growing up in Phoenix help shape you guys as band, to the point where you are now doing nationwide tours?
Great question. It really taught us you have to fucking work for everything. You just can’t expect things in life. You hear that all the time from your parents and your teachers growing up, but I never realized it fully until I started playing in this band. As you said, we’ve been touring since 2003 and we’ve been a band for 8 years now.
We have completely worked our asses off and to see it paying off now is an awesome, awesome thing. My advice to anyone is you need to get out there, spread the music and keep on trying. Nobody is going to hand you anything in life and honestly, if we can do it, you can too.
After this tour, what do you guys have planned for the Summer of 2011?
We play the Zumiez Couch tour. We’re playing the west coast dates because we are a west coast band. It’s an event where it’s different skate teams and skate companies and they’re held at malls across the US. It’s similar to Warped Tour except it’s at malls. It’s skate-sponsored events and music all day. That starts at the end of May.
After that, we have a headlining tour with support that is still being worked out. Dates are going to come out soon. July/August tour!
Something I like to do is I get the bands we interview to choose a song from their catalogue and a song by any other band.
Mike’s Anarbor Song: “I Do What I Do”
Mike’s Artist Choice song pick: Northstar: “Pollyanna”
They are an old band that aren’t active anymore. We’ve been jamming them a lot in the van recently. They remind me a lot of Taking Back Sunday. They were a fucking awesome band.