10 Questions with | Better Weather
Better Weather combines fresh ear-catching melodies, grooving drum and bass, lush vocal harmonies, poetic lyrics, and a wall-of-sound production style featuring a french horn, to craft their sound. Songwriter Skyler McCoy serves as producer and engineer. Indie Boulevard managed to catch up with Skyler and talk about debut single, production process, upcoming plans and more.
IB: Hello Skyler and everyone from the Better Weather Band. It's great to meet you guys and thanks for talking with us. You are entering the musical arena with a very powerful debut track "Too Close for Comfort". Skyler, how long have you been making music and what is your musical path that led to the formation of Better Weather and the release of "Too Close for Comfort"?
SKYLER: Thanks - I wanted to go to school for music production and engineering, and vaguely wanted to write music at some point but hadn’t done so yet. I knew I had a bit of musical talent - I discovered I have perfect pitch when I was 16 and sang in different honor choirs in high school - but up until that point I was mostly untrained. I came to school with more knowledge about recording, mixing, production, the technical side than the musical side, but that all changed when I met Trevor and then the rest of the guys in the band.
IB: Tell us about the other members of the band. How did you guys get to know each other?
SKYLER: Here is the band personnel: Trevor Freed (keys, bass, saxophone, etc.). Zach Regin (french horn). Will Eisenberg (bass, keys, guitar, etc.). Sean Perman (guitar). David Vincent (drums). We all go to the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music. There was a school performance opportunity and Trevor was interested in playing, so we started thinking about who to get involved and how to make it happen. We asked Will and Sean to play because we had jammed with them before, and I thought it’d be cool to have a french horn in the band because that’s not super common. Zach was my classmate so I asked him and he said yes, and Sean knew David was a drummer so that’s how he got involved. We played a couple covers for that performance and realized it was fun to play together, our tastes were compatible, and then we started thinking about writing original music.
IB: In your debut single, "Too Close for Comfort," you tell a story. Is it based on a poetic love breakup or is there a real story that inspired it?
SKYLER: It’s based on lived experience and artistic influences. In the Tame Impala song “The Less I Know the Better”, he sings about a complicated relationship… knowing you may not ever end up with someone and realizing you’ve got to move on, taking back your power that you somehow gave away at some point, yet still sort of wishing and hoping that things might go your way in the end, and that song was really on my mind when writing Too Close for Comfort because I was able to relate to that situation. I like the narrative turn I ended up taking, not being a victim of heartbreak but instead carrying on and being pragmatic about the way I deal with life. It’s like I was cheering myself up in song form.
IB: "Too Close for Comfort" is so fun and light. You can forget all your problems, relax and enjoy life with this song. Speaking of which, congratulations on your debut single! Tell me how the song was written?
SKYLER: Thanks—that was the goal! It was really a combination of circumstances. One was that we had just started the band and needed things to play, needed to craft a sound, and had a bunch of ideas for what the music should sound like. It made sense to feature the french horn, for example, because we just put together a band that had a french horn.
Another was that I was participating in a songwriting workshop via School of Song facilitated by Robin Pecknold (of Fleet Foxes). I was in the habit of creating, of forming songs, thinking about what made them work, especially lyrically because I had never written lyrics before, and happened to come up with a basic part on my dorm mate’s acoustic guitar which I then threw on a Pro Tools session and went to work on. I actually used the drum stem from a Fleet Foxes song for the general groove of this one, but remained focused on making it its own song as the process went on. I was whistling possible melodies and that’s what helped me come up with the french horn part, then I made the vocal melody pretty similar to that and the lyrics were informed by what made sense with the melodic phrasing I had come up with (thanks, Robin). I knew I wanted to have an impactful moment in the song, and that’d feature vocal harmonies because that’s a sound we love. The words “too close for comfort” were the crux, the first to be written, and it was like a puzzle from there, I just had to make it make sense.
IB: Let's talk about the technical part. How did you achieve such a clean mix? Did you do everything yourselves or did you have help or advice in producing the song? We are really interested in your opinion, because the technical part is not the most pleasant for some musicians, but it is an essential part of music production.
SKYLER: I am primarily a producer and engineer, I have spent hundreds of hours practicing recording and mixing, studio and live, since I was a freshman in high school. I recorded and mixed all of this song, with the help from really great gear - API console, Neumann tube microphones, etc. - at my school’s recording studio. It helps to have good spaces and gear, but it also helps to have such talented musicians in the band. I’m not an expert at writing guitar parts or drum parts, for example, but I’m in the room with guys that know their instruments well and can work with me to find what’s right for the song.
I really wanted it to sound natural, with reverb and some warm distortion/vintage tones, so recording was pretty straight-forward. For the people who really want to know, I mixed in the box with plugins, mostly on headphones. The goal was to stick to the basics and get it right. My vocal chain was a Neumann M147 with an API pre, subtractive EQ and an LA2A, sent to reverb and delay — all pretty standard processing. The mix, I’d say, is mostly a result of the clean arrangement. One of my favorite producers, Phillip Etherington, once gave a good word of advice for up-and-coming producers: listen to a lot of music you love, and wonder about it - something along those lines. A lot of music I love has a lot of instruments doing a lot of things, but everything has its spot and plays its role well at all times throughout the entire song. To me this seemed to be how the best of producers and artists think about creating music. They’re like Michael Jordan and I wanted to make my game more like theirs.
IB: Do you plan to release a music video for the song "Too Close for Comfort"?
SKYLER: Nothing is planned for a video as of now - but that could easily change! We are always trying to think of ways to make the music as engaging and impactful for others as it is for us. A video could help with that - plus they’re just cool.
IB: Music and art bring pleasure, but few know the difficulties an artist faces along the way. The music industry becomes even more difficult when you're an independent artist and have to do everything yourself. How do you deal with such difficulties?
SKYLER: I’ve personally come to terms with this reality quite a bit in the last year. I’ve adapted the mindset that everything is learnable, or figure-out-able as I like to say—and knowing who to ask for what help or what favor is key. The band is so skilled, being all classical- or jazz-trained instrumentalists with such a wide variety of tastes, that making the music comes naturally. I’ve done my best to learn about production techniques and creative workflow so that we can sound our best and work our way to higher levels of musical and artistic quality. I wanted to have a lot of music written and prepared so that we could have a large enough live set to play shows regularly, and we’re turning the page to that chapter right now. Booking and promotion are not our strong suits, and without a manager or label it’s tough to be seen or heard, but we’ve learned as much as we can about how to get the music out there so others can enjoy what we’ve created.
IB: The debut single is just the beginning, and I feel that you are serious. What are Better Weather's plans for the future? Will there be a LP or EP?
SKYLER: The debut Better Weather LP is deep in the works. Almost every song is written, we’re in the production/recording phase for the rest. Upwards of 12 songs. Our goals are to have lush, cinematic production, poetic-yet-direct lyrics that are singable and expressive, and all sorts of instruments, a wall of sound. Strings, flutes, lots of french horn, more vocal harmonies, guitars, synthesizers, everything.
IB: Are there any live performances planned? Where and when will the new single be heard live?
SKYLER: We plan to be booking and playing shows - new songs all the time - in Denver this spring and after. Nothing has been booked or announced yet but we will share on our Instagram - @betterweather_band - and Facebook when the time comes.
IB: And the last question. What is Better Weather's Band #1 album of all time?
SKYLER: Crack-Up by Fleet Foxes. It’s perfect in every way, I’ve listened to it far more than any other album, and Robin says it’s his favorite too. Pet Sounds is a distant second.
TREVOR: It Is. by JMSN. “JMSN can seduce you with his ethereal atmosphere right before he cries out in ecstasy with deep passion. On top of that, his lyrics are both personal and profound. He followed up It is. with another major album Whatever Makes U Happy, and for me that is JMSN.”
ZACH: The Answer by Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns.
WILL: Choose Your Weapon by Hiatus Kaiyote. “A perfect combination of jazz, funk, and r&b makes for over an hour of the most re-listenable music I’ve ever heard.”
SEAN: The Universe Smiles Upon You by Khruangbin. “It grooves.”
DAVID: Ordinary Corrupt Human Love by Deafheaven. “Somehow manages to combine metal and shoegaze into a cinematic and beautiful, albeit depressing album.”
SKYLER: We’ll definitely be making a Spotify playlist with all of our picks.
Single ‘To Close For Comfort’ by Better Weather available on all digital platforms. Read our «To Close For Comfort» review.
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