About to begin touring to promote their first release in two years, The Graduate’s Corey Warning took some time to speak with me about the new album, being without a record label, and Devo.
Mind Equals Blown: Why “The Graduate?” Were you just fans of the movie, or is there more to it than that?
Corey Warning: No, it was just a little ironic, because of all the stuff at college. You know, pursuing the band. It wasn’t really based off the movie. Matt [Kennedy] came up with the name and we were all like, “Oh, ok!” because we were more interested in trying to make music and playing shows.
MEB: In 2008 your label, Icon, folded, and last May you were picked up by Razor & Tie. Most bands don’t get signed once, let alone twice, so you guys are sort of a commodity in that respect. What kept you going after being dropped by Icon?
CW: Afterwards, we were really interested in making more music and we weren’t really through being a band. We had a couple of songs we were working on that we were really interested in, and that’s really what kept us going the whole time. We wanted to see how things would play out. We got lucky, but we worked hard.
MEB: Was it awkward transitioning from being signed to unsigned to signed again?
CW: A little bit, I guess, but not as much as you might think. Towards the end… before Icon closed its doors, we were pretty much on our own anyway. I mean, we weren’t really getting a whole lot from them for a while. It’s a little bit harder, not having that financial backing – it’s kind of a big expense. We’re not a bunch of rich kids or anything like that. That was the hardest part – spending time writing while we’re all working in different cities. I think that was the biggest reason why it took the record so long to get finished.
MEB: How did Razor & Tie approach you about joining the label?
CW: They had been talking to our management for a while, and they were interested in hearing what the songs were going to come out like. We had made some plans with Brian McTernan to spend some time at his studio and record some demos with him, so we went in there and went over a bunch of songs that we had written. He was interested to see if we could write some new stuff on top of what we already had, so we went back and ended up writing about six songs and recording them. Once we sent Razor & Tie the songs, that was pretty much it.
MEB: Did you play any live shows during your unsigned period?
CW: Yeah, a little bit. We did a really short headlining run, and we played a few shows in Illinois. Not a whole lot, though. Actually, we’re going to be leaving on tour next week, and our first show is going to be the first one we’ve played in six months.
MEB: So you’re looking forward to playing higher-profile gigs again?
CW: Yeah, definitely. I mean, we’ve been off of it for a while. Touring is one of the things I think we’re really good at, so it’s going to be nice to get back into our element again.
MEB: Apart from writing the new material, what’ve you guys been up to since 2008?
CW: Haha, we’ve really just been working. I don’t know if that much – I’ve been working on the side doing floor installations. A couple of guys were working at a catering company. Our drummer, Tim [Moore], was driving an ice cream truck this summer. Nothing too exciting, besides writing music and getting ready to go out on tour – that’s really the exciting stuff… Oh yeah, I got married! Haha. I guess I should probably mention that, otherwise it’s going to sound bad.
MEB: Only Every Time features a lot of atmospheric elements. Were you at all influenced by working with Brian McTernan (producer)?
CW: Yeah, he was almost like the sixth member of our band for this record. He helped us with a lot of writing, and we worked with him on Anhedonia, so he already knew what our band was all about. We joke around and say that sometimes we think Brian gets our band more than we do.
MEB: Were the atmospheric elements and ambiance worked out prior to or during the recording process?
CW: It’s a little bit both ways, actually. There are a few songs that already kind of had that. We knew the direction we wanted to go before even getting into the studio with Brian, so I think that he just kind of helped us push it a little bit farther and really give the album its own feel.
MEB: Did you go into the recording process with a different set of musical influences than you had recording Anhedonia?
CW: Yeah, definitely. When we wrote Anhedonia, we still had our own tastes in what we were listening to, you know, everybody was listening to their own stuff. After Anhedonia we toured for like, two years straight and it was a lot different. We had all five of us plugging in everybody else’s iPods and listening to different music. I think all of us have expanded our influences.
MEB: “Pull Me In” is a really powerful song. Where did the inspiration for that come from?
CW: The piano intro to that song had been written a really long time ago. It was something that Matt wrote, and nothing really happened with it after that. So we were going through our catalogue of unfinished songs, and Brian had pulled that one out and kind of smacked us all upside the head and said, “Why did you guys stop working on this, this is great!” So the guys sat around and worked out some music, and I flipped through a notebook and looked at different lyrics that might fit for it. It just kind of came together out of a song that weren’t even planning on finishing.
MEB: Only Every Time was a two year effort. Is your next record going to be a similarly long process, or are you going to strike the creative iron while it’s hot?
CW: I sure hope that it doesn’t take us that long to write the next record, but I don’t want to speak too soon. We didn’t think that this record was going to take this long either – we thought we were going to get our recording budget and go back to Baltimore and hit it hard for a couple of months and be done. I mean, you never really know what’s going to happen, but let’s hope not because it was a long time coming for this one.
MEB: Fun question time! Do you have any guilty pleasure bands?
CW: Franz Ferdinand… oh, and Devo.
CW: Yeah, Devo!
MEB: Any crazy gig stories?
CW: I was just at Lollapalooza this past weekend. We played in 2007, and we were really, really excited to do it. You know, it’s a big Chicago thing, and we were still a brand new band. For us to play Lollapalooza so early in our career was really exciting for us. We had been on tour for months before, and when we were playing our set, we’d do this percussive thing where we would all pull out an extra drum. I had this snare stand that kept collapsing on me all tour, and it would really frustrate me. Lollapalooza was our last gig for a few weeks, and we were going to buy some new equipment when we got home. So, I went backstage and I started breaking the snare stand because I was sick of it and it was my way of getting back at it. So I threw it on the ground and it broke in half, bounced up in the air, came down on my head, and cracked my head open. I ended up having to go to the hospital and get a bunch of staples in my head after one of the biggest shows we had ever played.
MEB: If you had the chance to pick three bands to form the ultimate tour with, who would they be?
CW: Right now, I think our favorite bands are The National, Arcade Fire, and… let’s say Devo. I think a tour with Devo would be pretty awesome.
MEB: If you could suggest a band for our readers to check out, who would it be?
CW: … Oh man, I feel like this should come easy to me. Oh, there’s this band out of Springfield called What’s Fair (http://www.myspace.com/whatsfair) that not a lot of people know about because they just refuse to play shows. They’re a really good unsigned band from our neck of the woods. They’re playing a couple shows with us early in the tour.
MEB: This fall you’re going on tour with Ludo. This being your first tour in two years, what are you most looking forward to?
CW: Just playing the new songs, actually. It’s been six months since our last show, let alone our last real tour. We’ve been so used to playing songs from our last record that are a couple years old now that it’s really refreshing to have some new material to go out and play around with. We’ve been rehearsing for a couple weeks now, and I was really surprised about how excited I’m getting to play all these songs.
MEB: Thank you very much for talking with me. Are there any last things you’d like to say?
CW: Our album is up for pre-order right now, and we worked really hard on it, so we hope you go out and buy it before, or on, the release day. You can download our new song, “Don’t Die Digging,” for free from our Facebook or from our email list, and we just posted a new song on our MySpace. Thanks a lot!