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Interview: The Greeting Committee

As fans were filing into The Basement on June 25, I had the chance to catch up backstage with the members of The Greeting Committee: Addie Sartino (lead vocals, guitar), Brandon Yangmi (lead guitar), Pierce Turcotte (bass, saxophone, vocals), and Austin Fraser (drums). Currently on tour opening for MisterWives, the band had an off night, and played a headlining show in Columbus as part of CD102.5 and PromoWest's $10.25 Series. Check out our review of the show and more photos here.

Sean O’Connor (Listen LIVE Columbus): So glad you guys are back in Columbus.

Addie Sartino: We're so excited to be here!

Sean: This is the third time in less than a year that you guys have played here I think?

Brandon Yangmi: Has it been less than a year?

Sean: Yes it was. It was the end of July is the first time.

Brandon: And that was our first headliner show too.

Sean: Was it really?

Brandon: Yeah, that was our first actual headline show outside of home. Which was a crazy show to have as your first.

Pierce Turcotte: And like third time being at this venue too. We were upstairs for (CD102.5) Fall Fest, now back in The Basement.

Sean: That's okay, it's a cool venue. Twenty One Pilots played here on Tuesday night.

Addie: Yeah, there's Twenty One Pilots tape from where their mics were, and I was like "Aw, that's pretty cool."

Sean: So since we're talking about Columbus, what makes this a good city to play? You guys have been all around now, so...

"Columbus is kind of by far the best place, honestly"

Addie: Definitely the people. I don't want to hurt anyone else's feelings, but Columbus is kind of by far the best place, honestly. Like the people, there's just a different energy here, and everyone is super excited and it makes it way more fun for us for sure.

Brandon: Also, just CD102.5. And like you see the energy, they have ComFest going on over there, right? We were just over there, and it's just like how many people are over there hanging out for a three day festival, and how it's all just volunteer work and everyone's just doing it for the love of the music, and enjoying each other's company. I just thought it was really cool.

Austin Fraser: There's like no corporate sponsors whatsoever. I thought it was cool.

Brandon: And then people just putting up their tents and selling their stuff. Local business.

Sean: So the new EP, Meeting People Is Easy, has been out for three months now. This time you guys went out to L.A. to record, right? And the first EP, It's Not All That Bad, you recorded that in Peyton's basement (Peyton Marek, The Greeting Committee’s friend and General Manager).

Addie: And Austin's...

Sean: So how was the whole process this time around this?

Brandon: Yeah, it was a big step up. So you go from Peyton's basement, and Austin's unfinished storage room to going to where Frank Sinatra recorded. Because we did it at Capitol Studios is where we recorded it. So it was a huge difference. I don't even know how to explain it.

"I would rather the bar be set high,

that way we can do our best reach for it."

Addie: I feel like the history of that put a positive pressure on us and made it a bit more exciting. I think it was a very creative space to be in, knowing that that many people had been there. And the people we were working with was a much larger team. We worked with a guy named Tim Anderson and a guy named Chris who were awesome. They were really great during the whole experience. I like the idea of when you're in an area where the bar is set high. I would rather the bar be set high, that way we can do our best reach for it. If the bar is set low, then you're not really reaching, therefore you're not getting the most out of the experience.

Brandon: It was cool, though, playing, and them being like "hey, your guitar tone sucks, let's fix it." And I'd be like, "Awesome! Yeah, let's fix it."

Sean: But you guys still did the live band recording, as opposed to individual tracking, right?

Brandon: Yeah, it was like a little bit of a mix. The first song, "Velveteen," is different tracks because of the effects. But we did live recordings as a whole band for the rest of the EP. But then there are some sections where we would punch in, like outros, if we didn't get it right in the other take. But, yeah, it was pretty much the full band the whole time.

Pierce: And that kind of felt like the most natural way to go at it, coming from the basement. I feel we really like the live sound We got out of our first EP. In a way to try to emulate that we went with the live recording again. Not that we will always go with the live recording, but that's definitely the way we thought we could best emulate that. It'll probably differ between each record we would put out. But for that specific album it felt like the right transition.

Sean: Especially working with a new team this time... I mean we've all heard bands where you hear their record and it's like “alright that's cool,” but then you go see them live and it's like a whole different experience totally and you're like "why didn't you put this onto the record?"

Addie: That's the only thing that worries me about track-by-track recording, which is something we're definitely discussing a lot as we write this full-length. But, being open to new ideas, and as long as the energy does come through...for me, when we were doing my recordings I sang over every time. But my vocal recording is done with all of the instrumentals are done. I just sing over that. So, it doesn't affect me as much, but I definitely want to be able to feel the energy in the songs we record.

Brandon: I think some songs we'll do different tracking and then like all together on some songs, it just depends. I don't know...I felt like we did a decent job of getting that live feel , but then also there are still people who come up to us, and say "Oh it's a lot different live than the record."

"There's a huge difference between singing into a microphone in your room by yourself and playing a live show where everyone is being awesome and dancing"

Addie: Which, I mean, it always will be. There's a huge difference between singing into a microphone in your room by yourself and playing a live show where everyone is being awesome and dancing and giving you the energy you want and need.

Sean: Did it help, this time around, that most of the songs you've been playing on the road for a while? Do you think that helped the process that they were road tested?

Addie: I noticed that especially when I went out by myself to record "Elise," our single that we recently released, and I recorded that after writing it without playing it live at all. Then I played it live twice and I was like, "man I could've gotten a way better recording just from having that experience. So I think it makes a huge difference.

Brandon: You kind of start figuring out like the pieces to cut like "is this dragging on too long on." Yeah, I think it definitely helps, and it helps just going in and having the chops to play it in the studio, since you've played it so many times as Addie was saying, you get a better performance out of it.

Austin: It's almost like getting the audience's opinion on a new song by reading their energies for it.

Sean: So you brought up "Velveteen," and when the EP showed up in my iTunes at midnight, and that was the first track I thought it was really interesting. Where did that come from because it's so cool, and being instrumental?

Brandon: That was random. We had some extra time on our hands in the studio.

Austin: Kind of a last second decision.

Brandon: We weren't originally planning to actually do it.

Addie: Not in the studio, but the song wasn't written randomly. The recording process was though.

Brandon: The only thing we had was just the chord structure. Then we added a bunch of the random stuff in the studio.

Addie: The way that all got started was the girl who does all of our artwork, her name is Hampton Williams. Her and I set out to do a project where we wanted to have a video playing while we opened the set, and we wanted it all to be live. But I made a compilation video, but I don't know if it could be put out because of copyright issues. It's just got a lot of intimate scenes in it and it goes with the chord progression and everything. Because. It wouldn't match up with what we put on the EP, but the way we wrote it originally it would.

Brandon: So we were scoring it to a compilation of film was the point of it. And then like I guess we were in the studio, we were only in the studio for like four days. But then we had some extra time and then we just decided to just start messing with it and recording, and they just kept giving us guitar pedals and stuff. I was like "Yeah, let's play the saxophone on it, and let's just keep adding this and that.

"I think all records should have an instrumental track,

I love that stuff."

Addie: I think all records should have an instrumental track, I love that stuff.

Sean: I think it turned out really cool, and I think it's a great way to start the album.

Addie: We heavily debated whether it was going to be the beginning or the end.

Brandon: The label wanted it not to be the beginning because they wanted to catch people with a catchy song. But they let us do what we wanted in the end.

Sean: But I think it transitions really nicely into "Naive.

Addie: Yes, exactly. That's what I thought.

Sean: When the EP came out, and "She's A Gun" was the first single off of it, you guys sent out personalized notes to a bunch of radio stations. That was one of the neatest things I've ever seen.

Brandon: We were just sucking up and playing the field. (laughing)

Addie: He didn't write shit! I wrote all of them! We're just lucky you.

Sean: I thought you had to be the one writing Addie. Whose idea was that? Was that your idea?

"Lesley James is a beast, she's just such a bad-ass, so cool."

Addie: I like things to be personal, as much as they can be. I think that plays heavily into the way that I like to reply to almost everybody on Twitter. I mean I like to reply to everybody, it's just that sometimes I can't think of something to say back so I just don't. Every radio station we sent a letter to was a station that has played a big role in us being able to play these shows and get attention. Those are people that played "Hands Down," and actually put it in rotation. Because there's a big difference. You know we get a lot of radio stations that play us once, but putting us in rotation, that's how we get attention. In all honesty, CD102.5 in Columbus and 96.5 The Buzz in Kansas City are really the biggest supporters of us by far. Which is so awesome, and that's why I think Columbus is so fun for us to play. Lesley James is a beast, she's just such a badass, so cool. We wouldn't be here without them. Because we have off days and we emailed them and asked if they would have a place for us to play, and she was like "Yeah, here you go," and set it up. I just think it's really important to be personable, to thank people, and to actually practice being grateful. I don't want to get to a point where it's difficult to be humble or grateful for things. I just want that to be natural because it should be. And I remember a big turning point for me with that whole mindset was we played a festival in Kansas City, and I won't say who, but there was this band and they weren't very nice to us. And it was really bizarre to me because at that point we'd only played with MisterWives and the Mowgli's which are to of the nicest music groups you can get. So I said something to our manager, and he said "you know a lot of other bands have a chip on their shoulders because they're not higher up on a festival, or they're not getting the attention they think they deserve." That was something we talked about, and from then on I was like "I don't ever want to be like that."

Sean: So, talking about that, you guys have played with a lot of cool bands recently MisterWives, Judah & the Lion, and Tennis. Who has been the most fun to hang out with when you've been on the road?

Brandon: They’re all honestly, all the ones that you just said, are all sweethearts.

Addie: We've had a couple not great experiences, but all the bands you said, plus The Mowgli's were so awesome. I'm not going to say we're best friends, but I'm pretty close with Colin Dieden (The Mowgli's). So that was cool to tour with him. But our relationship stems from more outside of that. I kind of look at him like a big brother/mentor because he writes songs and does it outside of The Mowgli's which is something I want to do. We're having a lot of fun with MisterWives right now though. And Judah & the Lion, they were great, I mean Judah (Akers) wore our shirt on stage. They were the most grateful band, they really blew us away, and also set an example of how we want to be. The last night of tour we ended up at the same restaurant and didn't know it, and they bought our table dessert which was really cool. They always go out of their way to see us when they come to Kansas City.

Sean: Has anybody given you really good advice?

Addie: When we played Buzz Beach Ball, MisterWives told us not to play with backing tracks. They say "do the live thing!" And Mandy Lee is very uplifting of me, and I talked to her about this a couple days ago -- they were the first band we played a real show with, two years ago so it's crazy that we're touring with them now, but I remember that my dad pulled me aside and told me that "you need to get energy like her," basically giving me this big pep-talk. And I told her that story, and she was just laughing and saying how proud she was of how great we're doing. That's not advice, but it was really cool that she was so uplifting.

Sean: So, I want to go back to "She's A Gun" and the music video because that that turned out really cool with the old style video game. At the start of that, when you guys each come on, you each have a little tag line. Are those true? It says Addie is "the brave one."

Brandon: I don't even know what they are.

Sean: Okay, it says "Addie, the brave one.

Austin: No not true.

Brandon: Austin is definitely "the hungry one."

Sean: Pierce, it says "the scaredy cat.

Pierce: I'm scared of plenty of things, but...

Addie: No, I'm definitely really scared.

Brandon: What was mine?

Sean: Yours was "the troublemaker"

Brandon: Maybe...

Addie: We didn't come up with the tags...That's a good question though.

Brandon: Sorry we had a bad answer.

Sean: That's all right, there's no bad answers. So, this will be the third time I've seen you guys, the fourth if we count The Big Room. During your live shows, you guys are pretty intense onstage. How do you keep that up every night?

Addie: A lot of protein powders I'd say (laughing) and a pre-workout...No, um...

Brandon: Pasta before every show, lot's of carb-loading.

Sean: Is it just like a switch you turn on when you walk out there?

Brandon: You always try to give it your all, but some nights it's harder to give it your all than others.

"We try to play every show the same, whether it’s for

ten people or for a big crowd. "

Addie: For as much as we don't want it to be based on the crowd, there is that element. We try to play every show the same, whether it’s for ten people or for a big crowd. I pull from a lot of artists I grew up watching. I love to see weird things onstage. I like intensity, and I think, for me, I feel like I can be more of everything when I go onstage. But like Brandon was saying, it's different, sometimes it's easier to give it your all than it is other nights.

Brandon: I just play. I don't think about it too much.

Austin: (laughing) It's all about those pre-show poops.

Sean: So even though the new EP has only been out for three months I got to ask you about the future and you mentioned it a little bit - working towards a full-length album?

Addie: Yeah, we're working on writing it right now. So we've got a couple things written or half written right now.

Brandon: We've got a lot of half written.

Addie: Yeah, we're trying to figure things out. You can definitely see in our second EP the things we're experimenting with. Like we all love jazz music and the bluesy things we got to do with "Dancing To Nothing At All" and "Someone Else." I would love to carry that stuff over, but we've also got stuff like "Naive" where it's very indie-pop, and "She's A Gun" and "BBC" that are heavier. I love all of those, so I want those to carry into the album.

Brandon: And I think we'll expand a little bit more too, and maybe try more stripped down things also. I'm just saying bullshit because I don't know what we're going to do. Really this is just what I'm hoping for. Now we're just writing, and hopefully the next thing that we do release is a full-length.

"My favorite song on albums is almost always the really slow one"

Addie: I would love for there to be another instrumental track. I was just saying to Austin earlier that I have a couple songs written on the piano. It's something we'll all discuss, but I'd love to have a track where I get to slow down. I really liked getting to do that with "Elise." That's kind of the direction I came from, it's not the direction I'd want to go only and forever. I love that this band helps me expand on that, but it's definitely something I'd like to touch on because my favorite song on albums is almost always the really slow one. That's just how I am.

Brandon: We just try to make a variety that sounds coherent.

Sean: Any possibilities of vinyl releases?

Addie: Oh my gosh, we pushed for it! It's not us, we've definitely tried. We've tried to do it on our own, but when you only have two EPs it's just not really a possibility.

Brandon: I imagine that on the full-length we'll get a vinyl pressing. The label would probably let us do that.

Addie: Honestly, I think if we get a petition and show Harvest maybe that'll work. I've definitely been trying really hard though because I love vinyl. When we went to Nashville, we went to Third Man Records, and Brandon, Pierce, and I got in the booth and did like a minute-long vinyl pressing version of "I Don't Mind." It would be really cool to share with people.

Sean: So, I've got to ask two questions of Brandon. You and Austin jam and post videos sometimes online,is that just you guys hanging out being crazy?

Brandon: People are actually watching those? Yeah, it's just hanging out, being bored but trying to do something more productive.

Sean: And what's with the squirrels Brandon because it freaks me out?

"I take care of squirrels, I raise squirrels sometimes."

Brandon: Hah, now it's just pictures of my dog all the time. I take in injured squirrels and raise them and then once they're about 12 weeks old I'll let them go and they always come back so I always feed them. I take care of squirrels, I raise squirrels sometimes. They're really good pets actually, but I let them go once they're old enough to live in the wild. I don't try to keep them contained. That's funny, no one's ever asked me about that. The last squirrel I loved so much, but then I had to let him go because I went on tour.

Sean: Lastly, what music are you guys listening to right now?

Addie: The new Lorde album. I love the new Lorde record so much.

Brandon: On this tour specifically, I've been listening to the first Adult Jazz album, they're really good.

Austin: I've been listening to Adult Jazz and a lot of Robert Glasper and the Robert Glasper Experiment proper class for. The. Last. Forgot. To.

Pierce: For me it's been a lot Cure, Smiths, and Jeff Buckley. A little oldish stuff.

Sean: Alright, thank you guys so much.

Addie: It was so much fun, these are by far the best questions we've ever gotten.Thank you!

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