The Story Changes + Let Go Interview and Album Review

Let me try to explain this as sensitively as I possibly can. You see, when an edgy, pop-rock band from Ohio, and an indie rock trio from Arizona love each other very much, they spend a lot of special time together. And when both bands decide that the time is right, they record a full-length split album in a home studio basement that combines the musical quirks of each respective band into a collaborative kick to the face of musical genius.

Alright, fine. I guess an album isn’t REALLY “birds and bees” conversation-worthy, but I will admit that after spending days listening to Analogies, the masterfully created lovechild of bands The Story Changes and Let Go, I could do with a cold shower and a nice shot of hard liquor right about now.

Before we get to album-praising, let’s learn a little more about the two bands attributing their talents to Analogies. I recently got hold of Mark McMillon (lead vocalist and guitarist of The Story Changes) and Scott Hessel (drummer of Let Go) for some Q and A.

ES: When and where did the two bands first start playing?

Mark: The Story Changes started in 2004 in our hometown of Dayton, OH.

Scott: We’d like to think that we are cosmically joined to the Story Changes and formed at EXACTLY the same moment.  Alas, Let Go was formed in 2005, give or take.

ES: What inspired the both of your band names?

Mark: We took our name from a line in and early song of ours called “the War”. We made a list of probably forty names that we all liked, but couldn’t decide.  A friend of the band suggested “The Story Changes” from the song (which was not on the list, haha) and we loved it.

Scott: After we had exhausted all of the possibilities of throwing random words together and picking out of a hat, the band finally landed on an old song from Jamie and Chris’s band (The Stereo) called “Just Let Go.”  We shortened it to “Let Go” and the rest was history.

ES: What makes your music stand out from the other bands of today?

Mark: We’re just trying to write honest rock songs that make us happy and are something that we would listen to. We listen to a lot of current music as well as older bands, but I think our music comes off a lot more connected with past loves like Hot Water Music, Seaweed, and Samiam than it does with the more current stuff coming out.  I think that sets us apart because a lot of the bands I’m hearing these days all sound the same.

Scott: We would like to think that we are part of the “Crabcore” movement, but they won’t have us.  We tend to play the Rock AND the Roll, which sets us apart from countless bands who only can only pick one genre. Everybody in the band is influenced by literally every kind of music.  Jamie is the songwriter and listens to a lot of Chopin, for instance.

ES: How would you describe your respective live shows?

Mark: The songs make for an energetic and fun live show.  We’re a two-piece (drums and guitar/vocals) with majority of the sound and focus based on the two of us, but we play live with loops and assorted wizardry to provide the bass and other added noises. Our favorite thing about being in a band is touring and playing live. We have a lot of fun on stage and I think people pick up on that. It seems to set the mood of the show in general, FUN.

Scott: Our shows are wild.  Sometimes, we invite our audiences to come up on stage and sing with us; other times, we encourage them to just throw rotting fruit at us and jeer.  You really never know what you will get on any given night.

ES: The last time I checked, Arizona and Ohio were a good 1500 miles away from one another. How did you guys become such close bands (and friends) despite the distance?

Mark: I’ve known Chris and Jamie of Let Go for quite a while from touring and crossing paths on the road over years. .  Jamie ended up producing and engineering two full length records for us in 2005 and 2007.  We did a ton of touring with Let Go and always had a great time.  All three of those guys are some of our favorite people! Great band and solid guys all around.

Scott: I’m still dubious as to who The Story Changes is, really.  I mean, we know we’re on this CD with them and we SUPPOSEDLY toured with them.  Yeah, right!  All of this stuff sounds like an urban legend to me.

I put the rest of the interview at the bottom of this feature, so be sure to check it out.

Now that you’ve become better acquainted with these two musical aficionados, I would like to shift your attentive eyes (and ears, duh) to Analogies, the highly anticipated album best described as a musical to-and-fro, wherein which listeners claim witness to one of the best back-and-forth collaborative efforts since the invention of the swing. A wonderfully crafted, no bull example of what memorable rock albums should strive to be.

The opening track, TSC’s “Move Forward”, is a perfectly balanced equation, consisting of equal parts hard rock with solid vocals and catchy rhythms designed for bobbing heads. Follow it up with Let Go’s dance-rock-stravaganza in “The Great Mistake” and you can already begin to see the incomprehensible equilibrium moving from band to band. The sheer awesomeness of the album follows through from beginning to end, and everywhere in between.

To listen to this album and deny the simple fact is one of the most successful split albums of 2009 would definitely grant you a swift kick to the mouth. Many of the songs featured on the album itself were written pre-production, without any major influence of one band on the other during the writing process, and yet the songs STILL hold an uncanny balance of musical style. Maybe Scott was right about that whole “cosmic alignment” between the bands, after all.

If you’re looking for an album to impress your friends with your kickass taste in music, Analogies is available for download here , and if you have ANY sense of moral fibre within your body, I strongly suggest you get to whippin’ out them credit cards.

Best Tracks? From TSC, check out “New Ground” and “Constellation”. From Let Go, try “Smoke and Mirrors” and “Two Feet on the Faultline”

Buy or Download? Try downloading one of the tracks mentioned above. If you like it, you’ll for SURE love the rest of the album.

Now, please sit back and enjoy the remainder of the interview! It gets pretty awesome, I must admit.

ES: Did having another band there during the song writing process change the way you chose to put your songs together?

Mark: We had already been working on a batch of new songs when the initial plan came together to do the split so a good chunk of our contributions were already written beforehand. We did, however, put a lot of thought into narrowing it down to what songs to include from the dozen or so unreleased ideas we had accumulated. I think our main concern was including songs that flowed well with Let Go, but were diverse enough to represent a little bit of everything we’ve done and where we’re heading.

Scott: I would like to add that Let Go also originally wrote “You Got Lucky.”  Tom Petty still owes us a ton of royalty money.

ES: Where did the idea of a split album come from?

Mark: We’ve known Let Go for years and have done quite a bit of touring together. I’m not sure when the initial idea of doing a split came up, but I know we’ve been talking about it forever.  Things seemed to really start going into motion for the project late last year. It just seemed like the timing was finally right for both bands and the label and we were all pretty excited to put it together.

Scott: The other cool thing is that we are putting out a line of “split” t-shirts.  As in, ACTUALLY RIPPED-TO-SHREDS!  Nobody’s got anything on us when it comes to marketing.

ES: How would you define the genre of the album?

Mark: I would just say rock all across the board. The closest subdivision I can think of is power-pop :)

Scott: It really depends on whom you ask.  I would like to think of it as the best RAP record we’ve ever made, but I’m biased.  Jamie would probably claim he’s never written a better concerto.  That’s the charm of this CD…everyone will hear it differently.

ES: The album is essentially a back-and-forth from one band to another. Was there a single overall theme behind the songs?

Mark: I think it flows together as a cohesive album exceptionally well, especially for being a split, but I think the song themes vary quite a bit and there isn’t an overall unified theme to the lyrics.

Scott: Let Go is the yin to The Story Change’s yang.  When we toured together, we bonded like little furry kittens.  This CD reflects that bond.  Excuse me while I go weep.

ES: If you weren’t playing in your respective bands, where do you think you’d be right now?

Mark: I’m sure I would be doing something involved with music at some level. I work as a carpenter when we’re home from tour with downtime. I worked in the field with my family since I was super young, so I’m sure I would probably be doing that full time if I wasn’t doing this band.

Scott: We would all be looking at hard prison time.  But, seriously.

ES: Can fans expect a tour out of the both of you any time soon?

Mark: We just got home from six weeks of collective touring through U.S. this summer.  We’ll be back out in October and are starting to get some plans together now for the tail end of the year into 2010. This last run over the summer was one of the best tours I’ve ever been on, so much fun.  We met up with Let Go in Arizona and did a one off joint album release show out there. It was great seeing them play the new songs live and celebrate the release together. It was a highlight of the summer for me.

Scott: Let Go is entertaining offers for a European tour, followed by a Japan tour, followed by a tour of Universal Studios.

ES: Bests and worsts of the recording process?

Mark: I absolutely love being in the studio, so it’s extremely hard to pick a best.  I really enjoy hearing the songs build from the demo versions all the way up to the finished project. I would say my favorite thing is hearing the mixes back for the first time when it’s all done.  My least favorite part of being in the studio is probably the last day.  We’ve been pretty lucky and on schedule for the most part, but there’s a little stress on the last day in the studio knowing that you have to get done.

Scott: Best: Hearing Jamie yell through the headphones at me that I’m done with my take and it sounds good. Worst: Yelling at Jamie that I can’t hear him through my headphones.

ES: A lot of artists have some pretty weird habits when they’re in the studio (ex: eating only green foods, not showering, etc). Who was the weirdest out of both bands?

Mark: Hmm, other than going to get a lot of caffeine every morning, I can’t think of any other consistent habits that any of us have in the studio. I tend to drink an insane amount of water in the studio to keep my voice up to par, but that’s about it.

Scott: I also drink an incredible amount of water while recording.  This has led to most of my drum tracks to be completed in VERY short bursts…for personal reasons.

ES: The single best touring experience of both bands?

Mark: For me, it’s all the friends we’ve made over the years from doing this and traveling so much.  The split kind of represents that in a way.  Let Go are some of our favorite people and we’ve had so much fun over the years with them.

Scott: All kidding aside, playing in Japan is awesome.  There are some big Let Go fans there and we are lucky to have them.

ES: Any special messages you want to give to your fans?

Mark: Thanks so much for your continued support. You have no idea how much it means to us. We would love to hear from you! Write us here or here. Please check out ANALOGIES here as well as the newly launched album site!

Scott: If you are on the Interwebs, you can get all of the latest info on Let Go here. We love our fans and hope to have candlelit dinner with each and every one of them soon!

Brennan Schnell

Brennan Schnell is a Concert photographer in the Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto area. He also currently hosts a video podcast on Macgasm.net, Takes photos of many things, and is an avid tech geek. His work has appeared at TorontoLife, TSN, Vistek, Gawker, AskMen, and the Ottawa Citizen. He started EastScene in 2009 to help spread the word of amazing bands. Contact him at bschnell (at) eastscene (dot) com.



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