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Transfer Interview

The curse of the opening act. People probably haven’t ever heard of you, most likely not bothered enough to listen to any of your songs before they got to the gig. The venue might still be half empty when you get on stage, people are getting beers, chatting with friends, playing with their smart phones, maybe not moving at all, most likely only bobbing their heads and applauding politely, if at all. The usual conditions for an opening act. A thankless task? So you think... Whenever these conditions are turned around, though, and the audience is wrapped around the opening act’s little finger, and beers and smart phones and conversations with your friends aren’t that important anymore, and the main act’s merchandise is already being packed away while the opening act is still selling and signing their album like hot cakes, now, that’s when my curiosity gets provoked and I have to get to know this band. So, who are Transfer?If you’ve lately been to any BRMC shows in Europe, went to SXSW or maybe saw any of the latest shows of Brandon Flowers, White Lies or the Kaiser Chiefs, you might already have encountered Transfer, a dynamic rock four-piece of San Diego, California. And you’ll know instantly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you’ll get your chance of getting to know them a bit better now and trying to catch one of their shows before they’ll retire to sunnier climes again.Having released two albums (Faded Signal in 2006 and Future Selves in 2011) already and looking at their list of awards they have already been bestowed in their hometown one could assume that it was high time they stepped out of the shadows of those main acts and got more recognition in these parts. So be it!I met Matthew Molarius (guitar, vocals) and Andy Ridley (drums) before their show in Luxembourg.I already got quite a good impression from watching you open for BRMC in Amsterdam. Even after hearing your songs only once, one can figure our that you’ve got a steady, great Rock sound going on, but when I sat down at home and really listened to your album, I found out that you have a lot more to offer, really. There’s much more variety on the record, referring to sounds and kinds of different songs. Is it a conscious decision of yours to present the more “approachable” kinds of songs so that people open up to you more easily when opening?Matthew: In a live sense, you mean? Well, kind of, we figured out that if the audience that’s there isn’t aware of us for the most part on these opening gigs we tend to try and keep the tempo up. Just so there’s not a whole lot of time for everyone to kind of lose focus on what we’re doing. It’s just like blasting them in the face as fast as we can (laughs), so we can get as much energy out there as possible. And also, you know, we’re put in this position to kind of get people excited for the main act that’s coming on. So we figured out over time that the more uptempo songs do that more than the slower songs.Andy: And with the slower ones... sometimes it gets lost in translation. You kind of write off the opening band unless they’re loud and you’re kind of bobbing your head. Nobody really wants to hear the deep cuts of the album necessarily when you’re the opening band. It took us a few shows, I mean, we’ve done other tours where we kind of changed the set around a little bit, to see what people respond to, early in the days. Our stuff, it’s not like we’re deciding to have five Black Sabbath songs and throw in one of our own. You know, there are all different variations of what is Transfer, I guess.And I mean, even when you’re the main act and you tend to play slower songs or acoustic songs, you still get that a lot, that people are chatting during those songs.Andy: And when you’re the opening act, it times that by fifty! (laughs) We used to decide to pull out an acoustic guitar and thought “Let’s take this set down for a few minutes”, but...Matthew: Not that we wouldn’t prefer to, I mean, some of those songs are our favourites that we’ve written, but we just can’t afford to with such a limited time period. Yeah, and it sucks. I feel bad for the audience when people are chatting over the top and other people are trying to pay attention. It’s a real drag.I always feel like punching them.Andy: Sure. You should do that!(Matthew laughs.)I should start a riot? You’re sure about that?Matthew: Yeah, we’ll support it!This next questions tends a bit into the same direction. There’s lots of piano and string sounds on your last album. So is this not doable on tour, would you have to bring too many instruments?Andy: We have done that before, this was a choice that we made for this tour. A lot of our new stuff also has keys and strings in it, too. Being a four-piece band... Our bass player actually plays piano and so often we’d do a change over where Matt would play bass and sometimes you see the size of some of those stages... And, you know... Being an opening band, again, it’s sometimes tough to bring in a keyboard, piano. We have done, up until this point, but given the kind of set that we wanted to play we decided it might just be best to keep it a four-piece rock sound that we have. And as Matt was saying, we love doing those other songs too, it’s a whole different thing. But being a poor-ass band playing, sometimes you don’t have the money to bring the extra guy on the road to play keyboards and sometimes space and set-up time. Last time we brought a keyboard over to Europe it was a US keyboard and one of the local guys just plugged it straight into a British power and blew the keyboard. So things like that happen, so it’s just another thing to worry about. But maybe on the next tour we’ll expand it a little bit.Matthew: It’s a matter of being economical with our time and our, you know, resources and pull it off the best way we can.While I was listening to your album I was thinking “I can imagine them playing a big venue with a string quartet, like the Royal Albert Hall”. Would that be something you’d like to do?Matthew: Absolutely!Andy: We actually did that in San Diego. Not at the Royal Albert Hall and not with a string quartet (laughs) but in San Diego we often play with additional musicians, we bring horns and strings and... You know, cause in San Diego we’re doing our own show, we might play for an hour and fifteen minutes, a longer show, so we kind of try to get as creative as possible, and strings and as many people as we can find that fit on stage and...And you’ve got your home base cheering.Andy: Yeah, it’s good, I love it, especially in San Diego a lot of people will know a lot of that type of tunes as well, so it’s... People actually expect us to play these songs. And as we’re a relatively new band over here... But yeah, I’d love to play the Royal Albert Hall, so yes, and yes, the string quartet, so if you could make that happen, that would be great!Sure, I’ll just make some calls.(Laughter)Andy: Perfect!Talking about England, I saw this video of you guys in the Abbey Road Studios performing “Wake To Sleep”. You were all wearing a suit and a tie and I got this Beatles feeling. Was that what was going on with you as well?Matthew: I don’t know... We were pretty blown back and humbled by the whole experience. Just, I mean... I’m a huge Beatles fan and just being in that room was a little overwhelming. But we just tried to get through it without making any mistakes pretty much, you know? (laughs) It was a kind of time-sensitive issue and, like I said, we were a little bit in awe of the room and just the experience alone was incredible.Andy: We didn’t make any concious efforts to dress up particularly, it just happened to be the clean clothes that we were wearing that day.Matthew: (laughs) Yeah!Andy: Maybe if you come to another show we might be dressing up a little bit... Usually, as the tour goes on, T-shirts start coming out, shorts, flip flops...Matthew: (laughs) Yeah, the fewer options of laundry the more casual it gets, I guess.So would you say that you’ve really got some British influence going?Matthew: I’d say so. Yeah, I mean, we all tend to meet, kind of meeting of the minds, on certain artists, like Sabbath and the Beatles and the Stones and Pink Floyd and kind of that dynamic rock’n’roll of the 60s and 70s. So I would say yeah, there’s some of a British influence going on in some of our music.With that particular song, during some parts I was thinking “This could be a Bond theme!”.Matthew: (laughs) Oh! Okaaaay...Andy: That’s a great idea!Matthew: Maybe you can sort that out for us as well...Andy: Actually, do that first, and then we’ll do Royal Albert Hall.So screw Adele, I’ll get you guys do it. Actually, you’ve got a new single out called “Still Bad Blood” and there’s this lyrics video for it. And I was thinking “Somebody must have had quite an irritated skin after that video shoot”. Who was the lucky fella?Matthew: (laughs) That was me. I was also thinking that you were taking the idea of that old Bob Dylan video for Subterranean Homesick Blues a step further. Was that the initial idea or where did it come from?Matthew: Not necessarily the Bob Dylan thing, although I have seen that video. It’s a cool one. But it was one of these ideas that we decided we needed a lyric video, something that would show the lyrics to the tune and we’d gone over a couple of things and it just kind of came to that. It wasn’t really a plan, it just kind of morphed into that and it started to look kind of cool and so it just happened, I guess.Andy: It’s bizarre to me how many people do lyric videos. I’m not cool enough to have paid that much attention to lyric videos so when the suggestion came up, I was like “Err, that’s not...” and then you look online and there’s like every big band has done some kind of lyric video. It about how you deal with this creatively, you can do that kind of karaoke thing with the dot on the top or you can take a piece of paper and write it on there and film. I guess that’s the trick then to feel a little bit more creative.Yeah, and I mean, it looks really cool in the end, I liked it.Matthew: Thanks.There’s this one bit of lyric in there that goes “You wanna be different... what happens when they really know you?” Is this about fake identities nowadays? People trying to be especially cool, like this phenomenon going on on internet communities, Facebook, Twitter, you name it?Matthew: Not necessarily, not specifically. I mean, I try to kind of present certain lyrics metaphorically, so if that’s what it means to you and that’s how you relate to it the best, then that’s fine. But that wasn’ the specific reason. But it is, it’s kind of about creating some sort of false identity or being something that you’re not. And that’s where that came from. It’s about pretending, it’s about faking it.Andy: If we told you who it was about, then it would spoil the whole surprise.Yeah, but I mean that’s always the same with lyrics, isn’t it? It’s about what they mean to you personally, while you’re listening to it. Andy: Like somebody, they had been thinking it means one thing and then all of a sudden you tell them it doesn’t mean that and you blow their whole...Matthew: You ruin it.Yeah, you probably do.Andy: It’s about Matt’s fascination with Michael Jackson. He’s over it.Matthew: (laughs) Finally!Congratulations!Matthew: (laughs) Thanks! Took a looong time...Okay, so you already told me that there’s not a new album coming out at the moment...Matthew: We’ve got one recorded, actually. We just finished three new songs when we were in London last week. We went to the studio and we had some time off, cause we had a break from this tour. And we’ve got three more, so we have an album ready in the can, so they say. So we’re just kind of getting last mixes back and we see the light at the end of the tunnel on the record and it’s a pretty exciting time, as far as that’s concerned.Andy: The politics of putting out an album nowadays involves more than us just making music and putting it out, unfortunately. So, get it done, find a place to put it out, so it might take a few months to roll out, but technically we have enough songs for an album.Matthew: And then some.Andy: Aaand another one. (laughs)Potential b-side...Andy: Yeah, we’ve got a trilogy coming out...Matthew: The Transfer box set. Digitally remastered...So you’ve got your own publishing company or your own label, is that true?Matthew: We’ve got our own publishing company that we basically house all of our songs under, but as far as a record label... I mean, what does an own label do any more than put out the record online? So that’s not necessarily the case.Andy: We had a label with that album. We had a deal for that one album that we put out and it wasn’t a very pleasurable experience. I think, if the right people come along and want to work it, I think it’s a good thing. But I think people jump into bed with labels for the wrong reasons sometimes, because it’s kind of what you’re supposed to do. And essentially labels are just banks that loan you money at a ridiculous rate and you constantly spend the rest of your life trying to pay it back to them by trying to sell records. But I think it takes more than that to help you put it on, so we learned a good lesson on this last album. So that means we’ll probably sign another shitty deal (laughs) and talk about it again. Trying to be smart about this one, you know...I was just trying to get together how this works, so if you have your own publishing company, you own the rights to your songs whereas with a usual record deal that’s not the case?(Small excursion to the world of music publishing and ownership...)Andy: It’s about more longevity in your own publishing.I mean, it’s a strange idea, your own work doesn’t even belong to you anymore...Andy: Most people have that. [...]Matthew: It’s kind of a vague thing, intellectual property rights, it’s a grey area and a lot of times bands won’t understand what that really means and wind up getting a bad deal when they sign a contract. And then they don’t own their own material. Not to say that working with publishing companies, if it’s the right situation, wouldn’t be beneficial. It just depends.I saw a photo of you guys and it said “Band stretching”. So is that a kind of band ritual, that you stretch before a show?Matthew: Yeah, warming up.Andy: You gotta stretch before you go on stage! One of the members of our band has severe problems trying to stretch. Our bass player has a ridiculous lack of ability to touch his toes with his hands.Matthew: He’s got like this range of movement. (imitating someone who can’t really bow forward at all) His hamstrings are too tight.Andy: His hamstrings are super tight and it’s completely bizarre so we constantly try to get him to do it, but we think it’s gonna snap one day.Matthew: We don’t want him to pull a hammy on stage, you know.Andy: At first you’re just like “Ah, come on, push, push, go, go!” but then he has to bend his knees, so... Actually, we happened to be caught by Tessa [Angus, photographer], who toured with us for a little bit and it happened to be one of the stupid things we were doing at Brixton Academy, I think.Matthew: She caught us in the act, stretching it out! Nobody pulled a glute that day, so it worked out...Are there any other band rituals that you’ve got going on? Like a band hug before you go on stage?Matthew: Kebabs at two a.m.! (laughs)Andy: Eating really badly, bad diet. Hm... we probably do some things, but it’s part of what we do so I can’t think of anything else right now...As I understood it you already did a lot of touring through Europe with several bands [e.g. Brandon Flowers, White Lies, Kaiser Chiefs]. Was there something really impressive or a funny story that happened while you were around here?Andy: The Abbey Road experience was... We met Paul McCartney that day. And just the whole experience, doing that show, being in Abbey Road, in a part of it, and then sitting in Studio A? Studio One? And then Paul McCartney would walk by and come back and start a conversation with us.(I sit there open-mouthed...)Andy: Yeah, that’s pretty much what we did, we all just sat there and froze.I mean, what do you say or do when Paul McCartney comes up to you?Andy: Stare at thim. Matthew: Yeah, I have no idea what I said, actually. I short-circuited completely. And I didn’t come to for another two hours when we were already on the road. Like “What the hell just happened?!” (laughs) I think I was knocked out. Like I was dreaming.Andy: It was good.Was he nice?Matthew: Yeah, he was cool.Andy: And show-wise, we’ve had a lot of good shows. Poland, of all places, has been really good to us. For the shows we played there people showed up early and packed out.Matthew: Paris on this trip was pretty amazing for us. Great crowd. One of the bad things that happened to us was that breakdown-scenario in Prague. Our bus broke down and wouldn’t go any further... that was a less positive experience. Turned out all right, though.Is there anything that you miss when you get home again after a tour?Andy: It’s nice just being over here, just shows, that’s what we make music for, play shows, play for people. When you get home you always have this decompression of being on tour, you know. You wake up every day with the same five, six people around you, you spend the time in a van, you spend time in this room right here, you go play a show, you have some more other connections and when you get home it’s... It’s a good thing, because you’re back home again. But I think it creeps in there you miss the whole just being on the road. You know, we complain about it when we’re on the road and when we get back... You know, meeting new people... You call back home and complain to somebody after you’ve just played two sold out shows in Paris, Zurich, Vienna and it just doesn’t make sense to other people. You kind of put it in perspective when you get back, but while you’re doing it, it’s like “Oh my God, the catering is terrible today!” (laughs) You know... As far as specifics I don’t miss the smell of our van, I don’t miss driving.Is there anything that you are specifically looking forward to on this tour?Matthew: I’m looking forward to playing Germany!Andy: We love Germany.Matthew: We’ve never been to Vienna. The last time after the Prague-breakdown experience we had to skip the Vienna show, so we’re looking forward to that. And then at the end of this tour we meet up with friends of ours, a band called Tribes, in England and we have three shows with them. They were touring with us on the Kaiser Chiefs tour and we became pretty close and they’re good buddies so we’re looking forward to seeing them. So, yeah, there’s a lot of good still to come. We’re excited about that.Transfer are: Jason Cardenas: Guitar (acoustic), Guitar (electric), Vocals | Matthew Molarius: Guitar (acoustic), Guitar (electric), Vocals | Shaun Cornell: Bass guitar, Keyboards, Vocals | Andy Ridley: Drums

Transfer Interview

Photo: Tessa Angus

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